Albert Mohler

Kentucky Baptist orphanage ponders opening its hiring to open homosexuals

Albert Mohler
By Albert Mohler
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November 7, 2013 (Albert Mohler) - Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27).

Back in 1869, Baptists in Kentucky established a “Home for the Helpless,” seeking to serve orphans and other homeless children. Like so many other Christian churches and denominations of the era, Louisville’s Baptists saw the need for an orphanage to provide care for parentless and abandoned children, who before the establishment of orphanages were housed with adults in almshouses. The Home for the Helpless became the Louisville Baptist Orphans Home, and its charter established its mission to serve “orphan and destitute children.”

Those Baptists saw the orphanage as a Christian duty in response to a biblical mandate. The orphanage was a direct extension of Christian conviction, and it was operated under a board of Baptist control. In 1953, the Louisville ministry merged with the nearby Kentucky Baptist Children’s Home, and the two became the Kentucky Baptist Board of Child Care. A 1986 “Covenant Agreement” between the child care ministry and the Kentucky Baptist Convention called for the ministry to operate “in keeping with Christian principles and the dream of the founders of child care in Kentucky.”

That pledge is now very much in question as reports indicate that the ministry, now renamed Sunrise Children’s Services, is poised to change its hiring policies to remove any barrier to homosexuals and lesbians working as employees of the ministry.

The proposal came to light as the Western Recorder, the Kentucky Baptist newspaper, reported that the Sunrise board had discussed the matter in a specially called meeting held in August. That news, which stunned Kentucky Baptists, came after years of assurances from the ministry and its president, Bill Smithwick, that current hiring policies would remain in place. As the paper reported, “Up to now, Smithwick has consistently told the KBC mission board and convention messengers that Sunrise would continue defending its right to discriminate based on sexual orientation in on-going lawsuits.” Those lawsuits include an action filed by a lesbian worker who was terminated in 1998. That lawsuit was dismissed by the courts, but the terminated employee later filed a legal challenge to state funding of any institution that teaches religious beliefs. The State of Kentucky agreed to a settlement in the case, but Sunrise refused to accept the settlement, according to the Western Recorder.

When contacted by the paper, Smithwick refused to talk about the proposal and offered a rather belligerent response: “I don’t think Kentucky Baptists need to know something until there is something to know. Right now, my comment is, there’s nothing that Kentucky Baptists need to know, and all this [publicity] will do is hurt us.”

Subsequently, Kentucky Baptist leaders learned that  Smithwick’s August presentation to the Sunrise board had explicitly called for the employment policy to be changed. Smithwick set out several options for the board, making clear that retaining the policy would require the termination of additional employees. In turn, he warned that Sunrise would likely lose major secular funding sources in the business community, suffer further adverse publicity, “and close our doors.” He also told the board that he expects the federal government to mandate the employment of homosexuals in the future, and probably the near future. This is premised on the fact that Sunrise receives millions of dollars each year in government funding.

Smithwick then set out a second option whereby Sunrise would “tough it out until the Federal Government mandates employment of homosexuals” and “then change our employment practices after losing years of time and money spent to build our brand.”

Lastly, Smithwick proposed a third option: “Change our employment practice.” He declared that Sunrise “is not a church, or a religious institution” and argued that the organization cannot operate at current levels without government funds. Then, after arguing that Sunrise is not a religious institution, he assured the board that, even if the policies are changed, Sunrise would “continue to share the Gospel through Bible studies, worship attendance, etc. to residents and staff.”

Included in Smithwick’s argument was his personal statement that he would “rather homosexuals see the love of God through us than be denied employment by us.” He closed by offering the strange analogy of a missionary serving in Iran who wore a head covering out of respect for Muslims, apparently missing the point that no biblical command or biblical teaching is violated by wearing a head covering.

Kentucky Baptists were not alone in their shock over the Sunrise proposal. An attorney who had represented the terminated lesbian employee told The Courier-Journal (Louisville), “This is very surprising. They were very adamant that they wouldn’t hire gays and lesbians.” He is right, they were adamant about the matter and, at least until the board votes later this week on Smithwick’s proposal, they still are—at least officially.

All that can change in short order. Bill Smithwick is absolutely right about one aspect of this matter: there is every likelihood that governmental coercion on these issues is coming. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is expected to pass in the U.S. Senate in coming days, and the Obama Administration has threatened to accomplish much the same by executive order. It is hard to imagine how an entity that describes itself as “not a church or a religious institution” can claim an exemption under such a legal mandate.

There is truth in the claim that Sunrise Children’s Services, along with thousands of similar organizations and institutions, will have to face a hard choice: serve Caesar or serve God. This becomes inevitable once an entity becomes dependent on financial support from the government. That is why Baptists have historically—and rightly—insisted on nonparticipation with government funding. Participation means dependency, as the financial situation of Sunrise Children’s Services makes clear. Smithwick told The Courier-Journal, “The Baptist support, totaling $1 million each year on a $27 million budget, is very much needed, but Sunrise cannot sustain itself without the partnership of state and federal and fundraising dollars.”

The choice faced by Sunrise, soon likely to be faced by a host of similar organizations, is to get smaller or get secular. The instant an organization takes government money it is transformed into an instrument of the state. What Caesar funds, Caesar controls. This is a hard lesson, and one likely soon to be learned by Christian institutions that have been taking government money and have grown dependent on those funds.

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This will not end with children’s homes. A good many Christian colleges and universities have grown dependent on funds flowing through federal student aid programs and similar forms of government funding. What happens when they face a similar choice? The math will not work in their favor. A hard choice will have to be made, and we will soon see who will stand on conviction and who will act to save their funding.

The question does not stop with funding. Soon after Britain passed antidiscrimination legislation like ENDA, Christian adoption agencies were basically put out of business. They were given a choice to sever ties with their churches or go out of business. In Massachusetts, the legalization of same-sex marriage meant the end of the adoption work done by Catholic Charities, since they could not and would not violate their convictions. In Illinois, the work of Catholic Charities in foster care and adoption came to an end in 2011, and the admired organization gave up millions in government funding because they would not violate their convictions.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, himself a Catholic,  made the coercive power and intention of the state clear when he declared that a refusal to recognize same-sex civil unions as equivalent to heterosexual marriage for adoption and foster care: “They have a law in Illinois. It’s the civil unions law. I signed it into law. We’re not going back. Any organization that decides that because of the civil unions law that they won’t participate voluntarily in a program, that’s their choice.”

Some choice. In October of 2011 the state transferred more than 1,000 children from the care of Catholic Charities to secular agencies.

According to Baptist Press, only four or five of the 23 Baptist children’s homes associated with state Baptist conventions do not receive government funds. Bryant Millsaps, president of Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes, told the news service that his agency had not accepted government monies in its 122 year history. And he explained why: Receiving government money is “almost like being dependent on a drug. You get hooked on it, and getting unhooked is very, very difficult. And in some cases it’s impossible.”

The board of directors of Sunrise Children’s Services faces a hard choice, but the choice is not just between several policy alternatives. They will decide to serve God or to serve Caesar. Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, urged Sunrise to step out in faith, even if it means losing massive funding. He urged the agency “to dramatically scale back its work in order to be faithful to Scripture and to model biblical values in front of hurting children.” As for Kentucky Baptists, they will find a way to serve children and keep their convictions, assures Chitwood: “Either way, I am confident Kentucky Baptists will always minister to hurting children and will do so through a ministry with biblical values.”

When asked about the payment of taxes, Jesus famously responded, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). We dare not render to Caesar what belongs rightly and only to God.

Correction 08/11/13 at 9:02 EST: The original headline of this article had erroneously stated that Sunrise Children's Services was considering allowing gay adoption. LifeSiteNews apologizes for the error. 

Reprinted with permission from Albert Mohler

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received millions in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

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If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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