Pastor Harry Reeder: If Supreme Court gets Colorado cake baker, same-sex marriage case wrong, it will be culture tipping point


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TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, I want to take you back to a story that we’ve covered several times on this program, but it’s finally come to fruition in the sense that the Masterpiece Cake Shop case has gone to the Supreme Court.

 Jack Phillips, a baker in Colorado, was ordered by lower courts and by a civil rights agency in Colorado to bake a cake for a gay wedding, but he said it went against his religious beliefs.

 Interestingly, this baker said to the couple that wanted him to bake a cake for their wedding, “I’d be happy to make you a birthday cake. I just can’t make you a wedding cake.” Oral arguments took place this past Tuesday.

DR. REEDER: And he also offered to sell them any cake that was made, but that he would not participate in bringing his artistic expression to a wedding cake to celebrate a “same-sex marriage” – a legal but mythical fabrication in terms of actuality.

He lost his case in court and he brought it to the appeals court, which would not hear it, but then appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. And I believe it’s very interesting that this Supreme Court chose to hear this case.

This is a monumental case. This is one of these tipping points in our culture. Oral arguments become a time in which you see the layout of the case from the perspective of the two contending parties, but you also begin to get a sense of the justices as they respond to the oral arguments.

The crucial point in this nine-member Supreme Court is going to be Justice Kennedy. It’s going to be interesting to see how he works with this.

He has really been at the forefront of promoting the “New Drive” or “New Sexual Liberties” or “Sexuality as a Civil Liberty” – what I would say is a civil liberty for sexual anarchy – as he now supports the expression of sexuality throughout the culture outside of marriage and in any way expressed as long as there is consent.

Freedom of Speech

On the other hand, Kennedy has been an ardent supporter of free speech, which is one of the two dynamics involved in this case.

Tom, this case goes right to the First Amendment. There are six affirmations in the First Amendment. Now, let’s realize something: our country fought for its independence and won it, it ordered its independence with the Constitution and it then maintains and matures that independence through the Bill of Rights.

And the most important of the Bill of Rights has clearly been the First Amendment with its six affirmations, including association and two, in particular: the free practice of religion and freedom of speech.

We’ve got a situation in our society in which all of the major religions deal with sexuality within marriage so, when you freely practice your religion and then you conform to that religion in the public square and as you contend for it in public life that’s going to bring you in conflict with today’s civil liberty of sexual anarchy.

We also have burgeoning in our society another idea, that is, “I am born with a civil right to go through life and never be offended by someone’s speech.”

Well, my goodness, if you have the freedom of speech and the so-called right to never be offended, you’ve got a train wreck just waiting to happen.

Some people, as they’ve exercised freedom of speech, such as, “I believe what the historic position has always been – that sex is between a man and a woman in the context of marriage,” – that can now be said by those who want to practice sex outside of marriage as hate speech or as offending speech and now we’ve got a freedom of speech issue, as well, and that’s exactly where Mr. Phillips finds himself.

He says, “Out of my deeply held religious convictions, I cannot participate in the making and producing of a wedding cake that celebrates a direct violation of what I believe concerning marriage and what I believe concerning sexuality. And then, secondly, this is a matter of speech for me because artistic expression is speech.”

Just food?

Now, the pushback is even columnists like George Will are making comments such as, “Hey, look, it’s just food.” Well, no, it’s not just food. He is more than willing for anybody to come in and buy a cake and, by the way, he’ll do a birthday cake for these folks or another cake, but you just asked him to do a specific cake and apply his expressiveness in that so that he now becomes a participant in the celebration of same-sex marriage.

On the basis of free speech, you can’t make me say something through my artistic expression that I don’t want to say, which is to celebrate same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships. And, secondly, the freedom of religion, these are sincerely held beliefs that I am free to practice my religion, which is not only to put sex within marriage, but not to celebrate sex outside of a Biblical understanding of marriage – one man, one woman for one life.

All you have to do is just simply go take a look at what’s on the front page of the website of Mr. Phillips. People wouldn’t pay $8,000.00 and $10,000.00 for any cake. When they pay $8,000.00 and $10,000.00, they’re saying, we want a wedding cake, and this is what we want it to say and we want it to be unique. I am sure he has sheet cakes that they can go use it in their wedding celebration all they want to.

And you’ve got to remember, when this took place, in the state of Colorado, same-sex marriage was not even recognized.

These two men had had to leave the state to get married in Massachusetts and then they came back and wanted to celebrate their marriage back in the state and they demanded that he participate.

It wasn’t even recognized legally, but yet the Civil Rights Commission and Agency in the state of Colorado says that he is violating the civil right of sexual anarchy.

And I want to remind our listeners of something: The Constitution of the United States would have never passed without the Bill of Rights and the Bill of Rights would have never passed without the First Amendment.

The First Amendment and its six affirmations – and the first two were the free practice of religion and freedom of speech – those particular freedoms were so crucial that there was very little debate because everyone knew that was crucial, not only to the well-being of the nation, but for the colonies to participate in the union of this nation and a compact.

You wouldn’t have had a nation without the Constitution, you wouldn’t have had the Constitution without a Bill of Rights and you wouldn’t have had the Bill of Rights without the First Amendment and I will say, if the Supreme Court gets this wrong, I believe this is very likely the unraveling of the compact of this nation, functionally.

Now, whether it ever happens legally or politically, I don’t know, but without that First Amendment, there is no way that this nation can maintain the rule of law and the very essentials that this nation was founded upon in terms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Tom Lamprecht: Harry, is there anything to be learned from the fact that the Court of Appeals didn’t hear this and, yet, the Supreme Court went ahead and pulled this case all the way up to their court?

DR. REEDER: Yeah, well, I think there is something here. I think you’ve got the conservative pull on the Supreme Court, particularly in light of President Trump’s recent appointment, that they were willing to hear this case even though an appeals court didn’t.

Everyone’s freedom of religion is at stake

I don’t think the appeals court heard it because of the liberal bent of that particular appeals court and they simply wanted the lower court ruling to stand, therefore, they weren’t going to hear it. They didn’t think they needed to hear it and they didn’t think there was any reason to hear it because of where they would rule and the progressives, or judicial activists, that dominate that appeals court. That domination is not true now on the Supreme Court so they are willing to hear it.

However, Tom, let’s make this very clear again: What you have is the matter of expression and the free practice of religion. If this case is lost, Jack Phillips will lose the free practice of religion.

What will be said is, “You can believe what you want to as long as you believe it privately. You cannot freely practice it any longer in the public square.” Secondly, his artistic expressions are going to be coerced into doing something that his religion would not allow him to do and now he will have to participate.

And make no mistake as to all of those who are watching this from an evangelical world and life view, you will not be able to hide – this is going to search you out in your life and in your vocation.

You are going to have to decide who is Lord. Is Caesar Lord or is Jesus Lord? Will you bend to that or will you, like Mr. Phillips, be willing to stand even under the threat of enormous penalties that would actually take away his business? Will you do that or not?

Tom, let me just say one final thing: Please pray for Mr. Phillips. I really feel a kinship as an Evangelical brother and I feel for him, but I also feel for our country if this crucial case goes the wrong way.

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

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

Ledbetter: Alabama’s teachers are standing tall with return to classroom instruction

All of the personality traits, values and life lessons that we carry with us as adults were shaped and instilled in us by the people we encountered in childhood. For many, the strongest influences came from our schoolteachers, who opened new worlds of knowledge and taught us skills that remain with us today.

Consider for a moment the music teacher who taught you to play an instrument, the math teacher who led you to a love of numbers, the history teacher who brought to life the stories of our nation’s past, or the English teacher who inspired you to love great literature.

Teaching is one of the few professions whose impact continues to last for decades after the individual who does the job retires.

As many children across Alabama are preparing to return to school even while the coronavirus pandemic continues, teachers have never been more important or vital or deserving of our deepest appreciation.

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Returning to brick-and-mortar school instruction will, hopefully, restore a sense of normalcy to our children’s lives in these decidedly abnormal times.

A return to the classroom and even resuming the online instruction that some are adopting will also help our students maintain their education progress and continue the important social and emotional development that interaction with their peers and instructors allows.

Our English second language learners will receive the communication skills they need in order to better assimilate, and many low-income students will receive the healthy nourishment from the school lunch program that might be denied them at home.

Given the current circumstances and environment, I recognize that some of our public school employees may have a sense of trepidation about returning to school, and that is certainly understandable. Wearing a face mask to do something as simple as shopping for groceries, paying for gas or walking into a restaurant offers all of us a constant reminder that COVID-19 is a very contagious virus.

But our teachers and educators are setting their concerns aside and answering the call to duty.

I know that Gov. Kay Ivey, State Superintendent Eric Mackey and the staff of the Alabama Department of Education took great care in developing the “Roadmap to Reopening Alabama Schools,” and local school boards are being equally diligent in creating and implementing their own safety guidelines.

The importance of sanitization will be stressed more than ever before, and billions of dollars made available to Alabama through the federal CARES Act will help ensure that any resources that are needed to reopen schools safely will be readily available.

As the majority leader of the Alabama House, I can also offer assurances that the legislature stands ready to pass legislation or make appropriations that are necessary to ease the return to classroom instruction once we are in session.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an even deeper appreciation of the frontline heroes who have remained on the job and provided the most essential services throughout the crisis.

Doctors and nurses in our hospitals and health clinics; grocery store and other retail employees; law enforcement officers, emergency workers and firefighters; postal workers; sanitation workers; restaurant personnel; and those in dozens of other professions are among those who continued working even when times were their toughest.

I am proud to say that the teachers, school nurses, administrators and support personnel in Alabama’s schools also rank high upon the list of those who have stood tall, and their already invaluable service to our state is even more important to students and parents in each of our cities, towns and crossroads today.

Helen Keller, one of Alabama’s most inspirational figures, once said, “It was my teacher’s genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact which made the first years of my education so beautiful. It was because she seized the right moment to impart knowledge that made it so pleasant and acceptable to me.”

As I close by wishing everyone a safe, happy and healthy school year, we would all do well to keep Helen Keller’s words in mind.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) serves as majority leader in the Alabama House of Representatives

5 hours ago

Alabama Ag Commissioner Pate gives update on unsolicited seed packages from China, urges public to stay ‘vigilant’

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) Commissioner Rick Pate gave an update Monday afternoon on the spate of seed packets from China that people across Alabama have received in recent weeks despite never having ordered anything.

Pate said that after the state seed labs had performed tests on the packets they had collected from individuals across Alabama, and none of them proved to be dangerous.

“Right at 50% of them proved be some kind of weed flower … 41% were vegetables, and 9% were herbs … we found no noxious compounds, no dangerous compounds,” said Pate at the event.

However, he warned, “They might send out the first seeds that weren’t treated with anything, have a sense of security come about, and then later send something out that could be harmful.”

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The commissioner further urged members of the public to refrain from planting any unsolicited seeds and continue to report them to the Department.

“At the very least something criminal has gone on here,” stated Pate, referencing laws that prevent seeds from being moved across state lines without being inspected by the relevant agencies.

Pate said his department had collected 252 seed samples as of Monday morning.

A total of 385 individuals in all but 11 of Alabama’s 67 counties have received one of the packets, according to information relayed at the press conference. State workers will be collecting the remaining samples soon.

(AL. Dept. of Ag/Contributed)

“Because we’ve got such a good food and drug lab, because we’ve got such a good seed lab, we knew this was inside of our comfort zone,” Pate said of the decision to conduct the seed tests in-house as opposed to shipping them to the federal government.

Andy Tipton, division director of Food Safety and Ag Compliance, said that 25 states had reported similar seed packets showing up at consumers’ doorsteps. He added that the ADAI was turning over all relevant info to the FBI, who were monitoring the situation.

Pate further told Yellowhammer News that one of the prevailing theories remained that the cause was an internet seller running a scam to artificially inflate their customer numbers and create opportunities for fake reviews.

He ended his press conference saying, “We have no idea the reason for this happening, but it doesn’t mean we can stop being vigilant.”

Any Alabamian still receiving one of the packets can report it here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

6 hours ago

Alabama basketball star John Petty returning for senior season

University of Alabama star forward John Petty, Jr. will return for his senior season, the player announced on Monday.

The Huntsville native was a second-team All-SEC honoree this past season, after leading the Southeastern Conference in three-point percentage.

Petty was considering entering the 2020 NBA Draft, however he decided to return for a final season in Tuscaloosa after evaluating his prospects. Another college season could see Petty lock down his chance at being a first-round pick.

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Tide head coach Nate Oats released a statement on Monday afternoon celebrating Petty’s return.

“It’s great to have John back for his senior year,” Oats said. “He is certainly one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country which is extremely important to us with how we play.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal. Let’s get to work!” the coach concluded.

Follow along with the Bama men’s basketball program here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

State of Alabama, University of Alabama System officials unveil GuideSafe app aiming to keep schools virus-free

Key figures from Alabama’s government and university systems joined to announced the new GuideSafe platform that bills itself as the key for students to safely return to college campuses amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The GuideSafe platform will help the state fulfill its promise to test every single college student before they return to campus, and the platform will provide a space for ongoing health monitoring throughout the semester.

The unveiling took place over videoconference, where State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John and other key players detailed the importance of GuideSafe to the upcoming semester.

GuideSafe was developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and tech company MotionMobs. It will be provided to any educational institution in the state that wishes to use it.

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Governor Kay Ivey apportioned some of Alabama’s CARES Act funds for the development of GuideSafe and the universal free testing for college students.

St. John on Monday praised Ivey’s “decisive action to provide funding” for the testing initiative and other campus reopening measures.

(Click for higher resolution version that will open in new tab)

GuideSafe will be accessible via app on smartphones and tablets and via web browser on any computer. Students will be invited to join the platform in the coming weeks.

One of the key features of the GuideSafe app is that it will track the location of students via smartphone and then inform them if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“This new app – using Google- and Apple-led technology and created by UAB faculty, staff and MotionMobs for the people of Alabama – is a necessary tool in our effort to return to college campuses safely this fall,” said UAB President Ray Watts.

The app also allows students and faculty to report symptoms as they experience them, and get directed to a nearby testing site if necessary.

“The combination of these tools enables every participating college, university and K-12 school to engage faculty, students and staff regarding on-going monitoring of symptoms, exposure and risks of acquiring COVID-19,” said Sue Feldman, professor and director of graduate programs in health informatics at UAB.

A general factsheet on GuideSafe is available here.

Watch:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

6 hours ago

Trump fires TVA board chair after outsourcing uproar

President Donald Trump on Monday announced that he was removing the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board chairman, Skip Thompson, an Alabamian.

Thompson, a resident of Decatur, is the president and CEO of Corporate Billing, a subsidiary of Birmingham-based National Bank of Commerce. He previously served as the president and CEO of both First American Bank in Decatur and First Commercial Bank in Huntsville, as well as serving on the board of Decatur Utilities.

Trump appointed Thompson to the TVA board in 2018. He was elected chairman of the board last year.

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The president on Monday cited TVA’s plan to outsource information technology jobs overseas as the reason for firing Thompson and one other board member. Trump warned the other board members that they would be next if the outsourcing continued. The president also called on them to replace the organization’s CEO, who Trump said was making far too much money.

The president added, “Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: ‘You’re fired.’”

The TVA is the electricity provider for much of North Alabama. Self-described as “a corporate agency of the United States,” it is regulated at the federal level and not under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) applauded Trump’s move on Monday.

“TVA fires AMERICANS & hires cheap foreign labor,” the North Alabama congressman tweeted. “TVA executive salaries EXORBITANT. TVA=NO competition, unlike private sector execs who compete to earn profits to earn pay… WAY TO GO [President Trump]!”

RELATED: Doug Jones: ‘The TVA has lost its way’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn