On Monday, the Associated Press reported that “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” owners Melissa and Aaron Klein paid their state-ordered damages to a lesbian couple with check totaling $136,927.07 — but that isn’t the whole story.
According to Fox News writer Todd Starnes, who spoke with Melissa Klein a few weeks before Christmas, Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries confiscated all of the money in her checking and savings accounts, including one that had money set aside for her church tithe. They totaled nearly $7,000.
Melissa and Aaron Klein (Sweet Cakes By Melissa/Samaritan’s Purse)
“It was like my breath was taken away,” Klein told Starnes. “I panicked. Everything was gone.”
“We had three accounts,” she added. “I have one account that’s labeled, ‘God’s money’ – our tithing. They just took it.”
It is not directly clear why the $7,000 was confiscated by the state prior to Christmas. Monday’s check of nearly $137,000 included interest accrued for not paying the state on time. According to Starnes, the check was for the full amount owed to the state’s government and was raised through donations to the family.
The damages were awarded in July for “emotional suffering” caused by Sweet Cakes by Melissa for refusing to make a wedding cake two years ago for Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer. The bakers said their refusal was prompted by religious beliefs.
A 2007 Oregon law protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations. The state ruled it also bars private businesses from discriminating against potential customers.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
The deputy director of the ACLU of Michigan said in an op-ed Monday that she refuses to condemn radical Islamic terrorism in order to prove her allegiance to the United States.
Rana Elmir wrote that she’s “consistently and aggressively asked” to condemn Islamic terrorism, and is tired of having her religious views linked to atrocities like the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and in Paris and San Bernardino this year.
“I emphatically refuse,” she wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.
The op-ed was titled: “Stop asking me to condemn terrorists just because I’m Muslim.”
Elmir, who lectures on issues related to Islamophobia, free speech and the intersection of race, faith and gender, asserted that she “will not be bullied into condemning terror perpetrated by psychopaths who misrepresent and distort Islam for their deranged purposes.”
Elmir compared the terror created by groups like the Islamic State and Boko Haram to “the terror advanced by mostly white men,” which she says happens at the rate of one mass killing every two weeks in the U.S. For example, Dylann Roof’s attack on parishioners of a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., Robert Dear’s attack on a Planned Parenthood facility, the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and “the slaughter of moviegoers in Colorado or Louisiana” — none of which she says she was asked to comment on.
Guilt by association is more prevalent in the case of American Muslims, Elmir argued, and the distinction between radical and peaceful Muslims is better made in silence.
“Muslims across the globe are not threats. They are threatened,” Elmir wrote, arguing that Muslim victims are wrongly pressed by politicians and journalists to publicly apologize for “the ideology that contributed to their own persecution.”
Such apologies, according to Elmir, become “admission[s] of guilt” that contribute to further Muslim oppression in America.
“The pernicious disease that is Islamophobia is spreading at home, thanks to a steady diet of repugnant rhetoric and equally misguided policies,” she wrote, citing a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes reported to the FBI in 2014. Condemning Islamic extremism would only serve “zealots who will never be satisfied,” Elmir wrote.
Muslims have been subject to slavery and persecution since America’s founding, she said.
“The first Muslims in the United States were brought over bound as slaves, not immigrants,” Elmir wrote. “While some American Muslims have prospered, many face challenges — poverty, unemployment and undereducation.”
But condemning or claiming terrorism through an apology is the wrong course of action, Elmir concluded.
“Terrorism is not mine,” she said.
H/T: Washington Post
A New Jersey Muslim leader is urging members of his faith to join the U.S. Army and law enforcement agencies including the FBI and CIA, arguing that they should serve their country before asking the U.S. to serve them.
Sheikh Mohamed Moussa, in a sermon earlier this month at the North Hudson Islamic Educational Center, responded to a questions from Islamic-American youth about whether their faith allows them to enlist in the U.S. military.
“This is your country and you are required to serve it rather than wait for it to serve you,” Moussa told the congregation in Arabic. Excerpts of his speech were translated and posted by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Participating in military service is part of a concept Moussa referred to “social jihad.”[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OM0mBOTRLNk&w=650&h=366]
“What does ‘social jihad’ mean? It means that we should join all the charities around, and compete for all the jobs and positions out there,” he said.
“Our youths still ask us: ‘Are we allowed to enlist in the [U.S.] Army?’ Of course you are. This is your country, so why shouldn’t you join the Army? This Army was created in order to protect you,” Moussa said.
Moussa recalled a conversation with a Muslim man who was offered a position as a doctor in the U.S. Marines, but was worried about accepting because he was afraid he might have to fight other Muslims. But the cleric said he told the man he had nothing to worry about, since so many armed conflicts in the world today are being fought by Muslims against Muslims.
“You are a citizen here. Join the police. Why not? Join the FBI. If the CIA will have you, join it. There is nothing wrong with this. These are the country’s institutions. Law enforcement, jobs in education, join whatever you can. This is your country and you are required to serve it rather than wait for it to serve you,” he said.
Muslims should become U.S. police officers, Moussa added, because they have the cultural sensitivity to know “the right way to treat our women and daughters.”
What do entrepreneurs and a pastor dressed as Han Solo have in common? A lot actually.
One of the great things about my job is getting to talk with incredible entrepreneurs and leaders about the strategies and values that make their organizations thrive. I recently had the privilege of interviewing my friend Tim Lucas, who launched a “Cosmic Christmas” campaign at his church, and the results have been incredible.
Tim is a pastor, but he’s also a savvy entrepreneur. He planted Liquid Church eight years ago in New Jersey, one of the most difficult regions in the country for church plants, and it has grown to 3,500 attendees a week.
A scene from Cosmic Christmas. Image source: Liquid Church
Like a business start-up, planting a church takes visionary leadership, the ability to time risks, resourceful strategy, and seamless team building, especially in New Jersey, where church isn’t typically the most talked-about thing in town. This Christmas, however, Tim and his team at Liquid Church set out to change that.
So far, it’s working. CBS, USA Today, TIME Magazine, and the Today Show are just a few of the many media outlets talking about the Cosmic Christmas buzz.
Why? Because on Christmas Eve, Liquid Church had a live nativity that replaces Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus with Princess Leia, Han Solo, and a Jawa. Sacrilege, right? Maybe. But the results have been hard to argue with after 7,000 people registered for their Christmas Eve service, doubling their average Sunday attendance.
What can entrepreneurs learn from Liquid Church and the Cosmic Christmas campaign?
1. Cultural Engagement
When entrepreneurs find opportunities for cultural engagement, they have the opportunity to break new ground. The beginning of that process is usually met with more skeptics and critics than friends and fans. As an entrepreneur, have confidence in the face of this skepticism by making sure that the cultural engagement you’re attempting has its roots in the core of your business.
Tim’s advice is to engage your target audience and consumers with things relevant to them. For Liquid Church, it’s taking the popularity of the Star Wars franchise and leveraging it to show the true story of Christmas.
“It’s not just a hook; we’re taking three weeks of the Christian year to take a popular myth and tell the true story of Christmas,” Tim said. Cultural engagement can be a hook, but its effectiveness is derived from the end product to which it eventually leads.
If your business is local, it may be good to engage with social and cultural happenings in the community around you. Look for ways to link your company to the things your target base cares about.
2. Timing Your Risks
When I first heard of Liquid Church’s Cosmic Christmas, my reaction was “What?!” And that’s exactly what Tim was hoping for. Tim told me, “We’re trying to cut through the noise and commercialism to get people to raise the question, ‘What’s that all about?’ Our answer is very simple. Come and see.”
The risk of the collective “what?!” from the public was worth it to Tim, because it gave Liquid Church the opportunity to say “come and see.”
One of the most difficult parts of entrepreneurship is constantly having to decide whether or not a risk is worth taking. The question is always, “How can I be confident in this risk?” The answer is timing. A well-timed risk can yield incredible confidence and, more importantly, results.
Tim’s ability to take risks in a timely and confident manner is something that was garnered over the course of Liquid Church’s eight year existence.
“We’ve built a trust with our user-base, our congregants. They say, ‘We don’t know how this is gonna fit together, and our pastor is preaching in a Han Solo costume, but we know (the risk) is going to be done with excellence, and in a way that doesn’t hit people in the head – in a way that is winsome.’ So we’ve cashed in on those chips relationally and pick our spots,” he said.
You can be confident in the risks you take when you’ve established trust both inside and outside of your company, and when the risks are well-timed with the direction in which your business is moving.
3. Know Your Origin Story
“I think every company, church, or organization needs a good origin story,” Tim said. “When people are thinking about getting onboard, they want to know your roots – your sense of place in time and history.”
As an entrepreneur, what drove you to begin your business? What is your “why”? What difference is your business making in the world?
Engaging clients with your origin story fosters the idea that they are part of what you’re doing. This also holds true for potential hires and investors. If they are able to see the macro-view of where you began, they will be able to see with clarity and excitement where your company is going. Sharing your story creates loyalty and a unified culture for everyone involved, which in turn will lead to word of mouth, repeat business and internal growth.
Following these three principles is a great starting point for taking your business to the next level. Take risks that are aligned with your company’s overall vision and strategy, and you might find the “Cosmic Christmas” idea that will take your business to the next level.
William Vanderbloemen is the co-author of “Next: Pastoral Succession That Works” and president/CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group, the leading executive search for churches, ministries, and faith-based organizations.
Female Islamic State morality enforcers killed a woman who was trying to quiet her crying baby by breastfeeding it outside, Britain’s Sunday Times reported.
According to the account which quoted an eyewitness who has since moved to Turkey, the atrocity took place in Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria.
Women living under Islamic State rule in Mosul, Iraq. (Screenshot: BBC/YouTube, FILE)
The Times reported that, though she was outdoors, the woman apparently was trying to hide what she was doing by sitting under a tree and tucking the child under her black burka.
However, a member of the Al-Khansaa Brigade, an all-woman patrol that enforces Islamic rules, saw her efforts to feed the baby.
“An [Islamic State] policewoman took the baby, gave it to another woman, and then killed the mother,” a former resident of Raqqa named Aisha told the Times.
TheBlaze is unable to independently authenticate the report.
Al-Khansaa was founded early last year and has drawn women from around the Muslim world, as well as European Muslim women, to join its ranks.
The Australian website news.com.au reported that an estimated 60 British women have joined the group.
The Muslim Student Association at San Diego State University recently issued a list of demands directed at the administration, students and political leaders in an effort to combat Islamophobia on campus.
The demands — which include “a zero tolerance policy explicitly for Islamophobic speech and actions” and mandatory “bystander training” for faculty, staff and students — were posted on the group’s Facebook page after a female Muslim student was allegedly attacked by a white man in a campus parking lot on November 19, about a week after the terrorist attacks that killed 130 in Paris.
A campus police report described the aggressor, who hasn’t been caught, as a white man in his 20s who grabbed the female student’s hijab and made racist comments to her, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
The female student has not been identified publicly, but Hanif Mohebi — executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-San Diego — said he met with the student and offered comments on her behalf.
“The attacker came at the student from behind and choked her with the hajib, or headscarf,” Mohebi told the Union-Tribune. “He told her, ‘Get out of this country.’ That she was a terrorist and that ‘you people bombed Paris.’”
Several comments on the article suggest that the attack might have been a hoax. But less than a week after the alleged attack, the Muslim Student Association staged an anti-Islamophobia rally that gained the support of hundreds of students.
It was at the rally that the Muslim Student Association presented its list of demands:
Image source: Facebook / SDSU Muslim Student Association.
The document demands that local, state and federal political leaders “cease their fear mongering anti-Islamic rhetoric” and “recognize that the dehumanization of refugees and scapegoating of the Muslim faith enables an environment for attacks like this to occur.”
The MSA also demanded that students who witnessed the November 19 attack “step forward and help aid in the investigation.”
The university has yet to provide a formal response to the demands, though members of the administration have seen the list and are “meeting internally and with the students to discuss their concerns,” Beth Chee, an SDSU representative, told The College Fix in an email.
University president Elliot Hirsham issued a statement on the attack: “We unequivocally condemn all forms of bigotry and any efforts to intimidate, harm or demean any members of our community.”
In a twist, Jewish students have accused the MSA of rejecting help from Students Supporting Israel.
Another campus group — Students for Justice in Palestine, which helped organize the MSA rally — allegedly rejected the signature of Students Supporting Israel on the MSA’s list of demands.
“When asked why SSI was excluded from the statement, the response was simple and damning: ‘It didn’t serve the interests of the community,’” Anthony Berteaux, vice president of public relations for SSI, wrote in The Jerusalem Post. “A rally that was supposed to serve as a unified solidarity march against hate became politicized and divided.”
“Out of the over 30 organizations that had signed the document, SSI was the only organization to be excluded from the statement,” Berteaux reported.
SDSU has experienced problems with anti-Israel rhetoric. In 2013, the professor of an Arabic language course eliminated the country of Israel on a map, replacing it with “Palestine.” After a pro-Israel student group called Stand With Us demanded action on the part of the university, SDSU released a statement calling the map “inaccurate” and “unacceptable.”
Police are still searching for suspects who stole a statue of baby Jesus from the nativity of a North Jersey church over the holiday weekend.
Church officials said that this is the fifth theft of this nature to occur in New Jersey this Christmas season.
James Goodness, the Newark Roman Catholic Archdiocese spokesman, confirmed that four other churches in the archdiocese had lost statues of the baby Jesus, and called the thefts “nonsensical.”
Image source: Saint Clare RC Church.
Father Peter Galbick of St. Clare’s Catholic Church in Clifton said the statue was stolen between 7 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday, WNBC reported.
“We are deeply disturbed that some group or person stole the baby Jesus from the outdoor nativity last night … on the second day of Christmas,” a message on the St. Clare RC Church’s website said. “Let us continue to pray for the conversion of sinners, most especially those that did this act.”
The other churches who lost their Jesus statues included Our Lady of Sorrow and St. Cecilia, both in Kearny, Sacred Heart in Lyndhurst and Queen of Peace in North Arlington.
“It’s very sad that someone would look to do this, not just because it’s Christmas, but anytime,” Goodness said.
As police continue to gather information, St. Clare’s has asked people to post photographs of the baby Jesus statue on Facebook.
When a group of Muslim families finished their meals at an Olive Garden on Christmas Eve in Augusta, Georgia, they asked for the check.
But when the bill arrived, it came with a note: “Paid. Merry Christmas, beautiful family.”
Eslam Mohamed posted a photo of the receipt on Facebook where it has been shared more than 19,000 times. Mohamed wrote in the photo’s caption that the group of seven adults and five children were clearly recognized as Muslims due to the hijabs worn by the women and the language they spoke.
“Yes, someone paid for us and wrote those wonderful words on the receipt. I can’t express how this act touched our hearts,” Mohamed said in the Facebook post. “Among all the bad things happening to Muslims and the hate speech that the presidential candidate had made lately, there is still light in the dark, there is still hope within the frustration. All what I can say to who did that, Merry Christmas to you too and God bless such a beautiful heart you have.”
According to Facebook, Mohamed is from Egypt but is studying immunology at Augusta University.
Front page image: Shutterstock
(H/T: IJ Review)
Muhammad was the most popular name given to baby boys in Israel last year, according to figures published Sunday by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.
Image source: Shutterstock
The name of the Islamic prophet secured the top position most likely because one out of every seven Muslim boys born in Israel in 2014 was given that name.
Another non-Muslim majority country in which Muhammad in its various English spellings secured the most popular baby name spot is the U.K.
About 20 percent of the Israeli population is of Arab descent, and the vast majority of them are Muslims.
The most popular baby girl’s name in Israel, Noa, has biblical roots. Noa was one of the five daughters of Zelophehad described in the book of Numbers; she appealed to Moses to inherit the property that would have been due to their deceased father in the Land of Israel.
Moses accepted the argument, setting the stage for women’s property and inheritance rights as Noa and her sisters had no brothers. At the time, males would have been the preferred heirs.
In the wake of the deadly storms that hit Texas this weekend — particularly the Dallas area, where 11 people were killed as tornadoes tore through nearby towns — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Sunday urged “thoughts & prayers” for those affected by the severe weather:
Tragic news out of Texas. Please join me in keeping those impacted by this severe weather in your thoughts & prayers https://t.co/QwSw26o32J
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 27, 2015
While most responded positively to the appeal from the Republican presidential candidate, others got downright nasty after reading it:
— Michelle M (@mmteachswim) December 27, 2015
@tedcruz yup…thinking and praying…that ought to fix things right up. good job Teddy…this is EXACTLY what you were elected to do
— Latikia (@latikia) December 27, 2015
@tedcruz why are you praying after a storm when your God was the one who did it in the first place?
— GOP’ers hate facts (@ccblueyes70) December 27, 2015
@tedcruz thoughts and prayers haven’t worked out too well. I’m going with prayers and thoughts on this one. See if that way works
— Blowhard McGee (@BlowhardMcGee) December 27, 2015