Idaho Police Arrest 3 at Outdoor Church Worship Event in Defiance of Mask Mandate

Police in Moscow, Idaho, arrested three people Wednesday for violating social distancing rules as their church sang hymns and Bible psalms outdoors — an event held, in part, to protest the city mayor’s mask mandate, which runs to January 2021.

Officers arrested Gabriel Rench, Rachel Bohnet, and Sean Bohnet, according to Moscow Report, a local independent news outlet. A video uploaded to social media shows Bohnet, a local music teacher, and his wife telling officers they refused to comply with an inaudible order. Moscow Report says the apparent infraction is that they refused to show identification.

The Moscow Police Department’s daily activity log lists the reasons for the arrests as “public health emergency order” violations. 

Footage of the couple’s arrest shows the church body singing the hymn “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” as officers place them in handcuffs.

Rench is a co-host of CrossPolitic, a Christian political talk show, and a candidate for county commissioner. “You guys should not be doing this,” he told officers as they walked him to a squad car. “And doing this kind of crap for the mayor, this is embarrassing. You guys are stronger than this.”

Released that same day, Rench appeared on his talk show to discuss the arrest, playing extended footage of his conversation with officers. One of his companions is heard telling the officers “We backed you guys” at recent Black Lives Matter protests advocating to defund the police. “They didn’t send you [to enforce social distancing] with BLM to go do that when they said defund you guys. We backed you guys.”

“I got booked in jail; I was in jail for about two hours,” he said. “And as they were de-booking me, or whatever they call it, I’m walking out and I go by their office, which is right next to where I’m getting booked out. And there’s three deputies in the officer, and two of them aren’t wearing masks and sitting right next to each other. And I said, ‘hey, should they get arrested?’”

The Lewiston Tribune reports that about 150 people attended the event, organized by Christ Church — a Reformed evangelical church famous for its outspoken pastor Doug Wilson, an author who debated atheist Christopher Hitchens in the 2000s.

The paper quotes a Christ Church pastor as saying the event was a “statement” against the city’s “largely groundless” laws:

The Rev. Ben Zornes, a Christ Church pastor and organizer of the event, said the church hosts psalm, or hymn, events about once a month at places like Friendship Square, East City Park or a house. Zornes said Wednesday’s psalm sing was also a fitting way to show that residents want a return to normalcy in the face of COVID-19.

“We wanted to make a statement we’re ready to head back to normal,” he said, claiming it is time to start pushing back against “largely groundless” laws — referencing the mask order — that are being passed and enforced without giving heed to what residents want.

Wilson accused Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert of hypocritically flouting the city’s mask mandate, writing about the arrests on his personal blog:

[L]ast Monday night, our city council extended their masking mandate into January. This, despite the fact that our county, Latah County, has had zero hospitalizations, and there have been zero deaths. We are not facing a medical emergency here. This has become increasingly obvious to every unbiased observer as time has gone by.

The second factor is that just a few weeks ago, there was an outdoor wedding here, presided over by our mayor. At least one of our council members was in attendance, as was law enforcement. Masks, however, were not in attendance. If there was no virus hazard at that wedding (and there was not), then there was no virus hazard at our psalm sing yesterday (as there was not). If anyone is interested in pursuing that issue, I understand that weddings frequently have photographers at them. I have seen evidence of just such a photographer. By having his police department enforce his order, our mayor is not enforcing an order that we don’t believe has merit, but which he does. No, not even close. He is enforcing an order that he does not believe in either.

So we have every right to protest the high hypocrisy involved in all of this. Not only so, but I believe we have a responsibility to do so.

On the CrossPolitic broadcast, Rench said the psalm sing event was about asserting individual liberty. “Is it about the masks? Kind of,” he said. “But it’s not. It’s way bigger than that.”

“It’s about the direction our country is going,” co-host Toby Sumpter chimed in. “About us rejecting Christ, rebelling against Christ… if you can riot in Portland, for how many days? A hundred days? If you can have CHOP or CHAZ or whatever it was in Seattle, and all of that going on — and the police are hands off, getting defunded. And if you can have a Black Lives Matter rally in Moscow, Idaho, in the middle of July — completely unharassed — and then you have a few hundred Christians singing praises to Jesus and they’re getting arrested, what has happened to your country?”

Source: https://www.breitbart.com/faith/2020/09/24/idaho-police-arrest-3-at-outdoor-church-worship-event-in-defiance-of-mask-mandate/

Report: China Forcing Poor Citizens to Trade Faith for Welfare Checks

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is leveraging economic restraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic to coerce increasingly desperate, low-income Chinese Christians to renounce their faith or lose welfare benefits, human rights magazine Bitter Winter reported on Friday.

The economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic has hit China’s low-income households hardest, many of which rely upon state-funded welfare benefits to survive. In recent months, the CCP has reportedly forced Christians across the country receiving state-funded welfare benefits to remove religious symbols from their households and replace them with images of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong; some are told to renounce their faith altogether. If Christians refuse, the state cancels their welfare payments, according to the magazine.

In April, the government of a town administered by Linfen, a city in northern Shanxi province, ordered officials from all local villages to “remove crosses, religious symbols, and images from the homes of people of [Christian] faith who receive social welfare payments and replace them with portraits of Chairman Mao and President Xi Jinping. The officials were instructed [by the CCP] to annul the subsidies to those who protest the order,” Bitter Winter reported.

Under the officially atheist Communist Party regime, China tolerates just a handful of religions, including Catholicism and “Christianity,” which the CCP refers to as the Patriotic Three-Self Church. Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam are also ostensibly allowed, though in practice the CCP discourages religious worship by creating hostile conditions for people of faith, especially Christians.

A Three-Self church member living in a Linfen-administered village during the CCP’s crackdown on Christians there in April told Bitter Winter that local officials visited his home and “tore down all religious couplets and a calendar with an image of Jesus … and posted a portrait of Mao Zedong instead.”

“Impoverished religious households can’t receive money from the state for nothing—they must obey the Communist Party for the money they receive,” the man recalls a CCP official telling him.

In the southeastern province of Jiangxi in April, the municipal government of Xinyu City “withdrew a disabled Christian [man’s] minimum living subsidy and a monthly disability allowance of 100 RMB (about $14),” according to the report.

“Officials told me that we would be treated as anti-Party elements if my husband and I continued attending [Christian] worship services,” the man’s wife told Bitter Winter.

In the central province of Henan’s Weihui City, a widowed, Christian single mother caring for two sons says the government canceled her welfare payment in April after a CCP official ordered her “to sign a statement renouncing her faith and destroy all Christian symbols in her house” and she refused to comply.

The Communist Party regime has long preyed upon impoverished Chinese Christians. In 2017, Breitbart News reported that the CCP threatened to withhold poverty relief packages from rural Christians if they failed to replace religious iconography in their homes and houses of worship with images of Communist Party leaders, such as Xi Jinping.

In addition, the CCP has used the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to shut down and even demolish Christian churches left empty by bans on large gatherings.

Source: Brietbart

Churches Across U.S. File Lawsuits Against Democrat Governors

Churches across the country are filing lawsuits against Democrat governors who are not including them among the “essential” services that may immediately “reopen” as states move away from their coronavirus lockdown environments.

Oregon, California, Virginia, and Maine churches and faith leaders have filed lawsuits claiming the governors do not have authority to extend, indefinitely, stay-at-home orders against them. Failure to consider the churches as essential as liquor and box stores, they assert, amounts to discrimination and a violation of their First Amendment rights.

In Oregon, three Republican lawmakers have joined a lawsuit filed by ten churches and more than a dozen faith leaders on May 6 against Gov. Kate Brown (D), demanding they be permitted to reopen their houses of worship.

Willamette Week reported Monday State Sen. Dennis Linthicum and State Reps. Bill Post and Mike Nearman signed on as petitioners.

“We are very concerned that churches and other places of worship are not being treated in the same manner as, say, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Target, Walmart and other large corporate stores,” Post said. “I was in my Keizer Lowe’s this past Saturday, and there were well over 1,000 people in the store at one time.”

The lawsuit notes, according to the Baker City Herald, that because Brown has not convened the state legislature since declaring a state of emergency on March 8, further emergency orders are unconstitutional.

“Because governor failed to avail herself of the constitutionally prescribed procedure, her initial executive order declaring the public health emergency, issued on March 8, 2020, terminated by operation of law on April 7, 2020, and all subsequent executive orders implementing or extending the original order are legally null and void,” the lawsuit states.

“She’s giving herself powers to infringe on constitutional liberties in perpetuity,” said Ray D. Hacke of the Pacific Justice Institute in Salem, which represents the churches and the individuals. “And she can’t do that.”

A Christian congregation in Chula Vista, California, and its pastor have also filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and other officials, claiming the coronavirus stay-at-home orders are unconstitutional.

The Thomas More Society filed the civil rights lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, asserting:

California is one of only eight states whose response to the COVID-19 pandemic has included no accommodation for—hardly even a mention of—the religious rights of its citizens. Now, with the pandemic stabilizing, California has moved from “Stage 1” to “Stage 2.” In the first part of Stage 2, beginning on Friday, May 8, retail and manufacturing may begin reopening—but not places of worship.

“The Governor continues to shutter synagogues and churches with no end in sight,” said Charles LiMandri, special counsel for the Thomas More Society and partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP.

“After weeks of government suppression of their religious freedoms, our clients have said enough is enough,” he added. “The First Amendment still protects their right to freely exercise their faith, even during a pandemic.”

Lighthouse Fellowship Church on Chincoteague Island in Virginia has also filed a reply legal memorandum in the federal lawsuit against Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for violating the religious freedom of churchgoers on Palm Sunday.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia had previously denied the church’s motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction without a hearing.

Liberty Counsel represents the church, which especially provides outreach to drug addicts, the mentally ill, and the poor.

Police officers entered the church on Palm Sunday and issued a summons to the pastor, informing him all members of the congregation would receive a summons if the church held service on Easter Sunday.

The case also drew a statement of interest from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“We must balance the First Amendment with protecting the health and welfare of people, but picking an arbitrary number of 10 people for every church is not the answer,” said Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel chairman.

“Governor Ralph Northam has clearly discriminated against Lighthouse Fellowship Church which does not have internet and cannot flip a switch to broadcast online,” he added. “Pastor Wilson protected the health and safety of the 16 people. Yet because the church had six more people than the 10 allowed by the governor, the pastor is being criminally charged. This unequal treatment of churches is insane.”

Liberty Counsel also represents Calvary Chapel of Bangor, Maine, which filed an appeal to the U.S. District Court after it denied a temporary restraining order against Gov. Janet Mills (D) for banning in-person and stay-in-your-car church services.

Mills has allowed liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries, and big box stores to be considered as “essential” entities that may accommodate gatherings of people without threat of arrest.

Liberty Counsel noted in a press statement:

The Maine State Police, acting under the direction of Governor Mills’ orders, have publicly declared that they would enforce the orders and have threatened to impose criminal sanctions on those found in violation of them, including any gathering for worship, regardless of whether the church meets or exceeds the state social distancing and hygiene guidelines. The criminal penalty is up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for violating her executive orders.

“The state has no authority to dictate the form or manner of worship for every church or house of worship,” Staver said. “This discrimination reeks of government control and violates the First Amendment.”

Source: Breitbart News

YouTube Bans Christian Broadcaster TruNews For ‘Hate Speech’

Christian pastor Rick Wiles’ channel TruNews was permanently banned from Google-owned YouTube on Thursday for “hate speech.”

“It was only a matter of time, YouTube finally canceled our channel,” Wiles said on his show Thursday. “What was our crime? They accused us of hate speech.”

“Of course, there is no such thing as hate speech — it’s a crime that was invented by the political left several decades ago,” he said. “What it really means is free speech that somebody doesn’t like.”

Wiles said the “final nail in the coffin” according to YouTube was their February 12 interview with Israeli News Live’s Steve and Jana Ben-Nun titled, “Christianity Vs. Evangelical Zionism.”

Wiles said he got hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of free bandwidth off YouTube and plans to conduct “business as usual” on their own website.

“Nothing they do to stop us will succeed, in fact, the more they try to destroy us the more God will bless us, the gates of hell will not prevail against his Church,” Wiles said.

“YouTube has finally banned #antiSemitic outlet TruNews, and we hope other social media platforms will follow suit,” Anti-Defamation League head Jonathan Greenblatt said Thursday on Twitter.

The Anti-Defamation League last year put TruNews on what many have called a “hit list” of 30 Christian and right-wing channels they demanded YouTube ban for “anti-Semitism.”

Greenblatt said in the past that the ADL works with Google and Facebook to “tweak their algorithms” and “redirect” searches through AI to protect people’s right to “not be harassed or hated.”

YouTube’s decision to ban TruNews came one week after they decided to permanently ban Christian conservative commentator Nick Fuentes for “hate speech.”

YouTube appears to be following a policy paper I covered from “researchers” led by professor Neil Johnson of George Washington University released in August which called for a slow but steady stream of mass bannings of right-wing dissidents on social media to avoid “inflaming the entire hive” by generating too much pushback.

The paper recommended tech giants ban “small clusters” of dissidents “at random” to “weaken the cluster over time without inflaming the entire hive.”

Source: Infowars

Report: India Suffers ‘Record Number of Violent Attacks Against Christians’

The number of violent attacks on Christians in India has been steadily increasing during the administration of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Telegraph reported Sunday.

The report suggests that it is precisely “the prime minister’s Hindu nationalist agenda” that has fueled the rise in attacks on Christians manifesting a “worrying trend” of religious intolerance.

New data “shows a record number of violent attacks against Christians across the country,” the Telegraph noted.

By all accounts 2019 was a very difficult year for Christians living in India, as Breitbart News has reported, and 2020 promises to be as bad if not worse. In the first quarter of 2019, hate crimes and targeted violence against Christians in India showed a jump of 57 percent over the same period in 2018, according to report released at the time by the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).

The persecution continued unabated through the year, and Indian Christians faced one of their most difficult Christmases in memory, suffering numerous acts of targeted persecution, according to a report from International Christian Concern (ICC).

The growing intolerance toward Christians severely curbed Christians’ ability to freely celebrate the Christmas holiday, ICC said, and many were forced to adjust their Christmas celebrations accordingly, due to “a fear of being attacked by Hindu radicals.”

Sunday’s Telegraph article recounts the story of Christian pastor Jai Singh, who was assaulted by a mob of some 200 Hindus chanting anti-Christian slogans in the village of Bitchpuri, which has a Christian population of some 120 souls.

The mob, instigated by members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an all-male paramilitary youth wing of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), beat the pastor along with his 15-year-old son and dragged him to the village square.

“They hit me with their fists and then took me into the temple and beat me with sticks, before stretching my legs back as far as they would go,” resulting in two broken feet and permanent nerve damage to his legs, Rev. Singh told The Sunday Telegraph.

As is typical in such cases, Pastor Singh’s assailants have filed trumped-up charges against him for “attempted conversion” in an apparent attempt to silence him.

“We are living in constant fear and after hearing about the attack, many local believers renounced their faith,” Singh said.

“But for me it just made my faith stronger and I pray to God to forgive the people who attacked me,” he added.

According to the latest data, the year 2019 saw a record 328 violent attacks against Christians in India.

More than 300 Christians were detained without trial for their faith, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a faith-based legal advocacy organization, while numerous businesses, homes, churches, and schools were looted, torched, or vandalized. The ADF has registered a 220 percent increase in violent attacks on Christians since 2014 when Mr. Modi came to power.

Yet while 328 violent attacks were reported to officials, only 36 of these resulted in police filing a case. Not one of the incidents has resulted in prosecution.

Indian Christians trace their history back to 52 AD, when the apostle Thomas reached their shores to evangelize those living there. Presently there are some 28 million Christians in India, who comprise 2.3 percent of the overall population.

Source: Breitbart