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A pastor’s perspective on Alabama Attorney General’s ‘Faith Forum’ at Briarwood


Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

NEW WHITE HOUSE FAITH AND OPPORTUNITY INITIATIVE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I want to take you to an article out of World Magazine, headline “Donald Trump Announces New White House Faith Initiative.” The president marked the National Day of Prayer last Thursday with a Rose Garden ceremony announcing the creation of a new White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative.

“The office will focus on protecting religious freedom, guaranteeing the faith-based and community organizers that form the bedrock of our society have strong advocates in the White House and throughout the federal government,” the president said. The White House later will appoint a special advisor who will lead the office and make recommendations to the administration.

IS THIS A NEW ERA?

Harry, indeed, we’ve gone through an era where it seems there’s been a real hostility from the federal government toward evangelical Christianity. While we don’t know the final outcome of creating this new office at the White House, nonetheless, it looks like it is a positive sign.

Harry, I also know that Briarwood has recently been involved in a faith forum and you had both national and state officials in attendance talking about many of the issues that affect our nation and how the church might be involved in those issues.

DR. REEDER: Coming out of the Reformation was a glorious, wonderful insight that the three spheres — church, state and family — are interdependent but should never be hierarchal and one should not use the other, although all three affect each other. You don’t use the power of the state to enforce the church and the church does not co-op the power of the state for itself.

That was understood and that’s been developed and the fruition of it was this marvelous American experiment which says here are the three spheres — church, state and family — and individuals operate in those three spheres and the state’s job is to protect the free exercise of religion and then, in the free exercise of religion, you speak to the matters of the state in order to maintain and mature those basic principles of freedom and law.

The founding fathers said, “We don’t want a national church, but we want the church to speak to the nation.” Evangelicals, while they have personal and moral concerns in the present administration, on the other hand, they see some wonderful advancement in policy and appointments.

IT’S WISE TO ALLOW CHRISTIANS TO CONTRIBUTE TO GOVERNMENT AND LIVE OUT THEIR FAITH

Some very thoughtful and effective believers that find themselves in these positions by appointment in this administration and then some initiatives like the one that you’ve mentioned in which Christianity, in general, and evangelicals, in particular, are invited into the public square because the administration is declaring: We need your input in some of these matters and we want to support you in that.

And we actually had that experience on a local level. We were asked by the state attorney general in Alabama, Steve Marshall, he wanted to host about five forums reaching out to “people of faith” and reaching out to the churches on some of the issues facing the nation, in general, and the state, in particular. Some of those would be security and safety and another one would be the opioid epidemic. We hosted it.

Tom, it was an amazing time — I’m still amazed by it. And I don’t know whether simply to tip my hat to Washington, or Montgomery or to both but, most of all, I tip my hat, of course, to my Savior and His kind providence that lets events like this happen.

GREAT FOCUS ON HOW CHURCHES CAN HELP IN OPIOID EPIDEMIC

Our attorney general, Steve Marshall was very clear and he said, “We need the churches involvement in this opioid epidemic. You have no idea the depth of the problem that we’re facing in Alabama and even more in some states.” And he said, “Now, here’s what you can do for us,” and then when he finishes, he said, “Most of all is your work of evangelism.”

And then, from Washington, this very articulate and insightful lady began to give us the challenges and, three different times, she said this, “Now, look, our programs can help, our programs can retard the opioid epidemic, our programs can assist in all of those things but we can’t solve it.” And she just said, three different times, “It takes the Gospel of Jesus Christ to convert someone.”

And then they had a guy come in who gave a testimony. I’ll tell you, it took a long time to get through his testimony because there was a deep, dark path. This opioid epidemic is unbelievable in its devastation and how it’s accessed so quickly through prescription drugs. And then he gave this and how he got into it, and how easy it was to go deeper and deeper, and the destruction in his life, his marriage, his family, his children, his job, everything. And then God, by His grace, brought someone with the Gospel and another person into his life brought him to saving faith in Christ and now his life has been rebuilt.

It was a wonderful testimony and then, basically, she says, “See what I mean? Now, we were doing many things to help him, but that’s what it takes. We need you.” Now, she not only was right, but to hear someone from Washington saying that to us — articulate, insightful.

PREPARE FOR EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL THREATS TO CHURCHES

Then the expert that comes in about security in churches and he says, “Now, listen, there’s an external threat that people can come in with a gun,” and then he said, “Now here’s how you can set up your church.” And then he said very insightfully, “But your greatest threat is not from the outside.”

Now, as you know, Tom, I’ve had death threats — I understand all of that. He said: You know your greatest threat’s not from the outside; it’s from the inside. Let me tell you where it is. Churches are volunteer societies. You’ve got volunteers in your youth ministry, your children’s ministry and the nursery ministry and your greatest concern is to set up a proper process that doesn’t inhibit volunteers but does rightly screen them.

We work on the basis of volunteers. That can be a point of entry for someone who wants to manipulate the process in terms of predatorial behavior.

SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT BE IN OUR CHURCHES?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Is there anything that the church ought to be leery of with the federal government coming into the church? For example, I know a lot of people say, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get prayer back into schools?” The problem is who’s going to be leading the prayers?

HARRY REEDER: Here’s what you need to understand: You don’t want the government to fund religion because, once they fund it, they’ll control it, but you don’t want them to prohibit religion. And, if there are public funds that are accessible, then it’s fine to make those accessible but you’ve got to realize that it’s accessible to you, then they’re accessible for the Jewish synagogue and they’re accessible for the Islamic temple so you’ve got to understand that the government cannot pick winners and losers.

However, for me, that’s not a problem. I love to get in the game and compete. Let’s see what the Gospel does for people who are in addictive behaviors and let’s see what the man-made religions do for those in addictive behaviors. I’m all for that. Just give us access to the prison, give us access to the schools.

Don’t mandate people to have to participate in a “religious initiative,” but open the door for it and let’s see what that does in those institutions. We don’t want formal funding, but if there are facilities and things that are available, let’s get in and let’s all compete in the matters of life — just keep the public square open. And that’s what the government is supposed to do.

IT’S PROGRESS THAT THE GOVERNMENT REALIZES FAITH MATTERS AND CAN CHANGE SOCIETY

And I’m thankful for a government that understands this is not going to be solved by prisons and sentences and regulations. We need prisons, we need sentences, we need regulation — we need all of those things, but what it’s going to be solved is with what gets to the heart and these people had enough sense to say the Gospel gets to the heart. It doesn’t cosmetically change things through manipulative therapies; it is a heart change and that means a life change. When the heart changes, then lives change. When the heart changes and lives change, then communities change.

We don’t see changes unless people’s hearts get changed and the only thing we see changing that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What a glorious time it was and I’m grateful we could do that.

And, again, I want to say to all of our listeners that any time that we can be of help by sharing our screening process and evaluation tools, we are more than happy to do that because we do need to understand the statistical likelihood of somebody walking in with a gun — not that that doesn’t need to be a concern — but that’s very small compared to people that would come into churches looking for volunteers and use that as an access for predatorial behavior. And any way that we can help our brothers and sisters, we would love to do that.

COMING UP FRIDAY: A CONTROVERSIAL BIRTHDAY

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, on Friday’s edition of Today in Perspective, we’re going to recognize a birthday — the 200th birthday of an individual that, when his name comes up, there are a lot of different responses.

DR. REEDER: There were statues to this man that were torn down in the 1980s and now we have an 18-foot statue that was financed and erected in Germany to him last Saturday so let’s take a look at that individual and that celebration from a Christian world and life view. And let’s let our folks just think about now who are we talking about? We’ll tell you tomorrow.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

14 hours ago

State Auditor Jim Zeigler eyeing 2020 run against Doug Jones for U.S. Senate

Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler has announced an exploratory campaign to “test the waters” for a potential 2020 United States Senate seat occupied by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).

In a press release, Zeigler says the exploratory campaign “will gauge support and ability to raise the funds to get our message out.”

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Zeigler said he plans to tell people in his exploratory campaign that “the federal government must cut out waste and mismanagement.

“Our national debt now exceeds $21 trillion dollars – and growing,” said Zeigler. “No one is standing firm to rein in spending, balance the budget, and start gradually paying down the national debt.”

Zeigler also insisted he can play watchman in Washington D.C.

“I can play a similar role of watchman in Washington,” Zeigler declared. “While Alabama government can waste millions, the federal government can waste billions.”

He added, “There is not a Jim Zeigler-type in the U.S. Senate – there is not a watchman against waste. We badly need a watchman for taxpayers. Just the interest alone on the national debt is becoming harder to pay each year. Someone needs to stand up. No one is doing that. I stood up in Montgomery and would do so in Washington.”

Zeigler, who is now term-limited and cannot run as state auditor again, was elected as state auditor in 2014 and re-elected in 2018. In 2018, Zeigler received 61 percent of the vote.

“My number one priority is of course to do the job as state auditor, and I’ve been working on that all day every day, even today,” Ziegler said.

In order to challenge Jones, Zeigler must make a decision before a November 2019 qualifying deadline.

The primary for the U.S. Senate seat will be held in March 2020, and will establish which Republican will face off with Jones in the November 2020 general election.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

15 hours ago

Mazda-Toyota site selection team tells the story of how they chose Huntsville

The world-class site selectors who handled the Mazda-Toyota project have told the inside story of how Huntsville was chosen, praising the city and Alabama’s long term prospects in the process.

In a podcast series, the site selection team from JLL Chicago recently discussed this tremendous accomplishment for the Yellowhammer State, which Made In Alabama called “one of the most coveted industrial prizes in years.”

Meredith O’Connor, a JLL international director, concluded, “As a state, they get it. They’re ready. I think we’re going to continue to see success in Alabama for these types of uses.”

Officially coined “Project New World,” the now-under-construction Mazda-Toyota venture in Huntsville stemmed from a rigorous, fast-paced site search. The team at JLL revealed the key factors that separated Alabama from other suitors for the sprawling assembly plant that will employ 4,000 workers producing 300,000 vehicles annually.

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One of the most striking revelations from the site selectors is how elite a level the state’s economic development and business climate have reached.

“Huntsville was ultimately selected because they were ready, willing and able. The site shows years of thoughtful preparation, and the city has ample advanced manufacturing expertise,” JLL noted in a project profile, separate from the podcast.

They added, “It’s a place where two savvy automakers will collaborate, fortifying a shared competitive advantage as technology companies continue to focus on the industry as one ripe for disruption.”

Interestingly enough, this historic project, however, did not actually start out with that massive scale of two giants coming together.

Initially, its secret code name was “Project Mitt,” and the project involved only Toyota. The JLL team at first examined potential sites spanning 500 to 1,000 acres, but the game completely changed when Mazda joined as a partner in the venture.

“That scope became much larger. We covered a lot of ground in terms of states that could qualify, although once Mitt became Project New World, several states were eliminated due to the scope and size of the project itself,” O’Connor explained.

Wide disparity between Alabama and most of the nation

Throughout much of last year, O’Connor and her renowned site selection colleagues worked closely with both Toyota and Mazda on the search, narrowing down a list of possible sites that originally numbered 300.

There were many factors to analyze that separated real contenders from the rest, including “workforce, operating environment, site specifics, logistics, incentives, and quality of life, among others.”

The team faced an ambitious timeline for a project of such magnitude and had to move quickly, as Mazda-Toyota wanted their new plant to be up and running by 2021.

“Before our first flight was booked, we made sure we understood what was important to our clients – Toyota and Mazda – from site specifics to the softer requirements of cultural fit and others,” Christian Beaudoin, JLL’s director of research, outlined.

Their process was cutting edge and adds to the objective credibility of their praise of Huntsville and Alabama.

“Our research team turned those requirements into an algorithm using data analytics to define labor and site requirements, and then we started a cross-country search,” Beaudoin added.

Beaudoin said the site selection team’s “high-level screening model” aggregated over 100 data points involving individual sites and then provided a ranking.

After the data work, the team members physically embarked on site visits that took them to 20 states over an intense six-week span.

Engineers from the two automakers joined them on “operational tours.” They viewed sites from helicopters, talked to human resources managers in cities to get a true sense of the respective labor markets, explored whether there was a Japanese school nearby and even sampled dishes at local Japanese restaurants.

After the data screening process and this round of visits, the list of potential sites dropped rapidly, as economic development agencies struggled to meet requirements that seemed off the charts. Most places around the nation are simply not on Alabama’s level when it comes to meeting the needs of modern industry.

One quote from O’Connor in the podcast was especially revealing, as it pertains to this state-by-state economic development gap.

“I think we all got the same types of calls from individuals saying, ‘Are there too many zeros in this column?’ If you just removed one zero, it made sense to them, but in some cases, there were two extra zeros. It was just things they had never seen in their career,” O’Connor advised.

Alabama is working again

As 2017 wrapped up, only two sites remained – Huntsville and a competitor in North Carolina.

The site selection team at JLL recognized that Huntsville offered many advantages. For one, the site was already assembled, and it also offered a large buffer zone so the plant could fit like a glove with the community.

Plus, the economic development specialists working the project in Huntsville and across the state were responsive at all times.

“There were days where we worked 18, 19 hours when we got down to the end of this. They never wavered. They were with us. They didn’t care what time of the day it was,” O’Connor shared.

Then, there is a huge advantage that the Yellowhammer State has built over time – Alabama’s booming auto industry has a network of suppliers that few states can even fathom. This includes original equipment manufacturers.

“There are reasons there are multiple OEM’s in their state,” O’Connor emphasized. “As a state, they get it. They’re ready. I think we’re going to continue to see success in Alabama for these types of uses.”

Combine all of this with the nation’s best business climate and overall manufacturing sector, the Port of Mobile, an ambitious workforce development plan and the work of the University of Alabama System, and Mazda-Toyota came to call Alabama its sweet new home.

If these site selectors are correct, these types of successes could begin to snowball.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

16 hours ago

Mo Brooks questions Trump administration’s reaction to lawsuit about counting illegal aliens in the census

Republican Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-5) and Attorney General Steve Marshall have filed a suit against the federal government and their plans to count illegal immigrants in the 2020 census and use those numbers for congressional reapportionment, as well as the allocation of federal funding.

An adverse decision for Brooks, Marshall and Alabama would most likely cost the state a congressional seat, untold federal dollars and an Electoral College vote. States that have welcomed illegal immigrants are poised to benefit from their inclusion, and if this is allowed, it would incentivize policies that bring more illegal immigrants to those states.

Brooks appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” Tuesday and said counting illegal immigrants on the census would result in American citizens losing out on representation while illegal immigrants gain power and influence.

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He added that members of Congress would become more inclined to pander to those who advocate for more illegal immigration.

“These large non-citizen populations in the state of California have an adverse effect on all the rest of us because they’re taking congressional seats from the rest of us,” Brooks explained. “[T]hat is the equivalent of about 25 or 30 congressional seats that are being taken from law-abiding states and given to those states that, by in large, are sanctuaries for illegal conduct.”

The Department of Justice helmed by Trump appointee and acting-Attorney General Matt Whitacker has asked federal courts to dismiss the lawsuit on a procedural basis for lack of standing. This move leads one to believe they will fight this lawsuit in court, a decision that has Brooks “baffled.”

“I am baffled that the Trump Department of Justice, at least in this instance, would side with sanctuary cities,” he said. “I would hope that they would do what you’re supposed to do as an attorney representing the United States of America, analyze it, and do what I have done. And that concludes that the 14th Amendment for the United States Constitution and Equal Protection Clause guarantees that no one citizen’s vote will be worth any more or less than another citizens vote.”

He argued the decision by the DOJ harms Americans and empowers pro-illegal immigration states.

“[W]hen you count illegal aliens in the census count, that redistributes Electoral College votes, and that redistributes congressional seats, those jurisdictions – particularly those who are sanctuary cities or sanctuary states – their citizens get more power per vote because there are fewer citizens in each of those Congressional Seats and the difference is the illegal alien headcount,” Brooks stated.

You would think Brooks would find a common ally in the current administration with a president who has made his campaign and administration about protecting Americans first and reigning in our out of control immigration policy but it does not appear to be heading that way on this issue and Alabama could lose out big time.

Listen here:

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

17 hours ago

Marshall confirms: Clark Morris to replace Hart in leading Special Prosecutions Division

On Tuesday, Attorney General Steve Marshall officially confirmed Yellowhammer News’ reporting that Anna “Clark” Morris will lead the office’s Special Prosecutions Division.

Morris is a longtime federal prosecutor who currently serves as first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. She will officially take over the AG’s Special Prosecutions Division, which investigates public corruption and white-collar crime, on January 7.

“I am delighted that Clark Morris has agreed to lead my public corruption unit,” Marshall said in a press release. “She is universally respected throughout the law enforcement community and is the kind of hard-nosed prosecutor you want on your team. Her work ethic, professionalism, and integrity are visible to those with whom she interacts on both sides of her cases.”

Marshall continued, “Public corruption continues to be a scourge on our great state, and I am confident that the people of Alabama will be well served by Clark in this role.”

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Marshall also highlighted that the move will boost the crucial working relationship between federal and state law enforcement and prosecutors in Alabama.

“Clark is not only highly experienced, but she also commands a strong working relationship with the U.S. Justice Department. Her addition to our office will make the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Division more effective in partnering with federal law enforcement to target public corruption – a goal I have sought since I first took office in 2017,” Marshall explained.

U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin also noted that Morris’ appointment will enhance combined Federal/State efforts to combat crime in the Yellowhammer State.

“Mrs. Morris has been an incredible asset to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and her absence will be a huge loss. However, her new position at the Attorney General’s Office creates an opportunity for a partnership that we have not seen in years. Her leadership and judgment will serve the State of Alabama well, they are lucky to have her,” Franklin said.

Morris is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). She has served as an assistant United States attorney in both the Middle and Northern Districts of Alabama. In 2013, she was named first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District and has served two presidential administrations in that role. Her vast prosecutorial experience includes work in the White-Collar Crime Unit of the Middle District’s Criminal Division. Morris also served as acting U.S. attorney for the Middle District from March 2017 to November 2017.

A native of Alexander City, she is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law (JD).

The role leading the Special Prosecutions Division became vacant when controversial Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart resigned on Monday morning.

Marshall has named James Houts as the interim chief for the Special Prosecutions Division. Houts is the former chief of Criminal Appeals for the Attorney General’s Office.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

18 hours ago

Solar farm proposed in Wiregrass would be Alabama’s largest

An energy project proposed for southeast Alabama could become the state’s largest solar farm.

The Dothan Eagle reports that Houston County commissioners have approved a 10-year property tax abatement for about 1,000 acres of land selected for a huge solar array.

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Matt Parker of the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce says the move allows NextEra Energy to project its potential costs and could help land the $75 million project for the area.

Parker says solar panels would cover about 600 acres of land, with additional acreage for buffers and other facilities.

He says the solar project could begin producing power in about three years.

NextEra Energy is based in Juno Beach, Florida.

It has a large solar array in Lauderdale County that provides power to the Tennessee Valley Authority.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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