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


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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.

13 mins ago

State Sen. Whatley predicts Auburn, Alabama football ‘will go on as originally planned’ despite COVID-19 spike

With 37 days to go until Auburn and Alabama both kick off the 2021 football season, COVID-19 is creeping back into the picture of everyday American life.

However, State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn), whose district includes Auburn University and an economy that relies in some part on the annual football season, said he was not expecting any disruptions resulting from COVID-19.

During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5, Whatley said he expected all of Alabama’s Division I colleges to play as planned and touted the vaccine passport ban passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey earlier this year.

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“Back to Senator Orr’s bill that I supported, I think that one puts it into perspective — you know, you can’t do that,” he said. “You can’t require a vaccine passport. And I think that the football will go on as originally planned. Auburn and Alabama said they are both planning on full open tailgating and full open football season. I’m looking forward to that and I’m looking forward to that economic boost that will hit Lee County, hit East Alabama, hit the whole state of Alabama once you pour in all the colleges and universities that play Division I football.”

Whatley also predicted it was a “foregone conclusion” Auburn would go 12-0, play for the SEC Championship and play in the college football playoff on the way to winning the national championship under new head football coach Bryan Harsin.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

13 hours ago

Birmingham-Southern College to impose fee on unvaccinated students

Unless students of Birmingham-Southern College are vaccinated against COVID-19, those who attend the private liberal arts school will be forced to pay a $500 fee “to offset continual weekly antigen testing and quarantining.”

In an email sent to students, the college announced its pandemic protocols for those returning to campus for the fall semester. In what appears to be an effort to encourage students to receive the vaccine, BSC told students it will levy a monetary charge against those who are unvaccinated. The school cited the need for funding to be applied toward COVID-related mitigation measures as a reason for the charge.

The email reads in part, “Due to the lack of federal funds for pandemic precautions this term, all students will initially be charged $500 for the fall term to offset continual weekly antigen testing and quarantining. Students who are fully vaccinated prior to the beginning of fall term will receive an immediate $500 rebate.”

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The college announced in the email that it has also set separate move-in dates for vaccinated and unvaccinated students.

The College Republican Federation of Alabama (CRFA) has condemned the move as discriminatory against students who have chosen not to receive the vaccine.

“The College Republican Federation of Alabama condemns this obvious attack on students who are not vaccinated,” says CRFA chairman Clint Reid. “While vaccines are an important tool in the fight against COVID-19 we are still a free society where one should not be held at ransom to the tune of $500 if they do not feel the vaccine is the best course of action for them. We call on Birmingham-Southern College to drop this outrageous fee.”

The college’s email goes on to direct students who have been immunized against the virus to complete a “Vaccination Report Form.” BSC stated that the school’s goal is to achieve an 85% vaccination rate among students, faculty and staff.

Portion of the email sent to BSC students as follows obtained by Yellowhammer News: 

Birmingham-Southern College did not respond to a request for comment. Yellowhammer News has inquired with the Attorney General’s Office regarding the legality of BSC’s guidelines and will provide updates accordingly.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

14 hours ago

Tim James: A house divided against itself cannot stand

Last week the discussion of COVID vaccination burst into the news and ripped the scab right off the wound exposing the divide among Alabamians about whether to vaccinate or not. We all know there can be tense moments among friends and family when the vaccine topic comes up especially when there are differing opinions in the room.

Well, last week the discussion hit a fever pitch on a grand scale and landed on the front pages of the national news outlets. According to news reports, in Alabama, there are about 2.5 to 3 million people that have CHOSEN NOT to take the vaccine out of the state’s population of 5.1 million. Approximately 60% of all Alabamians have made this their personal health choice.

I am writing this letter today to express my distaste for those bent on shaming people in which they disagree on the vaccine issue. They divide Alabamians into two classes: the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. The media’s contempt is in overdrive for anyone that dares to disagree and not blindly follow the government directives. So, they shame by spewing their poison proclaiming the unvaccinated are the problem. Their assertion of “Blame” by extension means the unvaccinated are responsible for the spread of COVID. If you want to blame someone or something, blame the virus and the makers of it. As everybody knows, it was not the bats.

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The problem is not the unvaccinated, but rather those spawning division among the population. It’s the BLAME GAME.

They shake their fingers in the face of millions of Alabama citizens for refusing to take the vaccine and are beside themselves when everyone does not fall in line like sheep. I guess the unvaccinated are the “New Deplorables.”

I’ve listened to their shaming long enough and felt it was time to stand up for millions of Alabamians that have made their decision, over the many months, NOT to take the vaccine. I fall into this category; however, like most families I have family members that have chosen TO take the vaccine. Alabamians know full well what is going on in their communities, local hospitals, nursing homes and churches. They are not ignorant to the medical realities and associated risks. Neither are they reckless or selfish.

Every unvaccinated person has considered whether to take the vaccine for months. They have discussed the matter with others, prayed about it and even may have tolled back and forth on the decision. In the end, their “call” was to not take the vaccine for their own personal reasons. I can’t help but wonder why so many vaccinated people lecture everyone else when they themselves have marginal health risk as they are the vaccinated class.

Has it occurred to them that their shaming is certain to follow children into the classroom in the form of bullying? Do they care about young women in childbearing years who are rightfully cautious about what goes into their bodies? It’s ironic that people that CHOOSE NOT to take the vaccine are labeled dissenters even though they are the majority in Alabama and cross all races and political lines.

Going forward I want to encourage people to take a deep breath and stand back from the situation. COVID, of course can be lethal, but at the same time the odds of fatality are extremely low. This is one of those times when we must not succumb to fear. Fear is the root from which anxiety and worry bud.

Fear is a weapon used to manipulate the public, and the press is its enabler. The Lord speaks to the issue of fear through the Apostle Paul. “For God hath not given a spirit of fear but of power and sound mind” – 2 Timothy 1:7

I also would like to take this opportunity to say something about Governor Ivey’s statement last week concerning unvaccinated Alabamians. She said, “It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

The unvaccinated people represent approximately 60% of the population in our state. The Governor’s comments triggered uncontrollable elation and gaiety from politicians and news anchors at CNN, NBC and others. As one could expect, President Biden and Dr. Fauci were ecstatic at Alabamians being scolded by their Governor over this issue. I believe the Governor’s comments were off-base. I also believe she likely misspoke in the heat of the moment; something any of us could do. As we navigate forward, we need to lower the tone and not take the bait of those whose goal is to sow seeds of division amongst Alabamians.

I have a message for the American press corps concerning their hysterical, fear-based coverage of the pandemic.

It’s a quote from Edward R. Murrow, the great broadcast journalist during the first half of the 20th century.

He effectively warned his fellow journalists what would happen if the free press became compromised. He wrote: “No one can terrorize a whole nation unless we are his accomplices.”

Tim James, the son of former Gov. Fob James, is a Greenville, Alabama businessman. He was a 2010 GOP candidate for governor.

14 hours ago

Regions names Jason Isbell senior vice president of state government affairs and economic development

Regions Bank has tapped one of the state’s foremost experts on banking law and government affairs to serve as senior vice president of state government affairs and economic development.

Jason Isbell comes to the Birmingham-based bank brandishing nearly two decades of legal and government affairs experience in the public and private sectors.

Elizabeth Taylor, head of government affairs and economic development for Regions, highlighted Isbell’s depth of knowledge and relationships throughout the industry.

“Regions Bank has a strong history of working with government leaders and other stakeholder groups on issues impacting our associates, customers and communities,” Taylor said in a statement to Yellowhammer News. “Jason Isbell brings a wealth of knowledge and experience on a variety of financial services matters to this role. His work building relationships and navigating a myriad of legislative issues will serve us well. We look forward to his service advancing economic development opportunities that move our communities forward while also building on the strong relationships we have in the areas Regions serves.”

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Isbell most recently worked with Maynard Cooper & Gale where he represented a wide array of clients, including Regions, as an attorney and lobbyist in the firm’s Government Solutions Group.

Prior to his time at Maynard Cooper, he held the position of vice president for legal and governmental affairs at the Alabama Bankers Association (ABA). Isbell was charged with implementing ABA’s legislative and regulatory agendas at both the state and federal levels. He honed his skills in public policy during his 11 years in state government, first as a fiscal analyst for the Alabama Legislative Fiscal Office and then as general counsel to the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Isbell is a member of the Faulkner University board of trustees and is a graduate of the school’s Thomas Goode Jones School of Law.

Regions Financial Corporation recently reported $748 million in second quarter earnings. The company cited strategic decisions in high-growth areas, such as Florida, Texas and Tennessee, as contributing to those earnings.

Isbell noted the momentum of the bank’s growth and influence throughout its footprint as he prepares for this new endeavor.

“I’m excited to represent an institution with such a rich history and stellar reputation,” he told Yellowhammer News. “Regions Bank is poised to continue making a positive impact on communities in Alabama and beyond. I’m grateful for this opportunity and look forward to being part of the Regions team.”

Isbell is set to officially join the bank in mid-August.

RELATED: Joia M. Johnson appointed to Regions board of directors

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

15 hours ago

State Rep. Wes Allen: Biden administration’s mixed message on COVID shows he doesn’t put Americans first

The Biden administration is issuing warnings to Americans regarding the increasing number of COVID cases across the country. Calls for a return to mask-wearing and social distancing are becoming more frequent from the President and his advisors.

Businesses, large and small, fear the possibility of mandated shutdowns that plagued our nation last year. Parents are wondering if they will be forced to face the inadequacies and challenges of remote schooling again. These are all worries that are being forced upon law-abiding, tax-paying Americans by the Biden administration.

But it goes further. Our northern border with Canada remains closed to non-essential travel for fear of spreading the virus. Biden and his team cited concerns over the Delta variant as the reason for banning travel from 26 nations including most of Europe, South Africa and Brazil.

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This all seems like a concerned President who is trying to save our nation from the death and damage of a pandemic. But a closer look at Biden’s policies proves that his concern is not for Americans and he has little to no desire to stop the spread of COVID from coming across our border.

His policy that allows thousands of illegal immigrants to move freely across our southern border and into our towns, neighborhoods, restaurants and schools without any regard for their immigration status or their COVID test results prove that the Biden administration doesn’t care about America or Americans. Is the health of Americans, the success of our economy and the fate of our schools and health care system of any concern to this President or his advisors?

I think not.

State Rep. Wes Allen is a Republican candidate for Alabama Secretary of State.