As the year comes to a close, many like to reflect on the significant stories that shaped the past twelve months. A number of major events affected Christians throughout 2015, from the U.S. Supreme Court decision opining that states should legalize same-sex “marriage,” to the struggle that resulted to uphold rights of conscience—such as the Kim Davis matter in Kentucky, to the continued terror attacks by Muslims and ISIS supporters—such as the deadly rampages in Paris and San Bernardino.
Christians Faced With a Decision as Supreme Court Upholds ‘Gay Marriage’
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court released a divided 5-4 opinion declaring that all states should legalize same-sex “marriage.” While the court recognized the longstanding definition of marriage as being “a union between two persons of the opposite sex,” the majority opined that “the history of marriage is one of both continuity and change.”
Justices Scalia and Roberts were among those who released dissenting opinions.
“Hubris is sometimes defined as o’erweening pride; and pride, we know, goeth before a fall,” Scalia declared. “The five justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every state violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003.”
“[D]o not celebrate the Constitution” as supporting the decision, Roberts said. “It had nothing to do with it.”
The decision immediately caused Christians and those with religious convictions who work in government offices to consider whether they would comply or resist. Days after the ruling, the entire staff of the county clerk’s office in Decatur County, Tennessee resigned. Judges such as Ohio Municipal Judge C. Allen McConnell refused to “marry” homosexuals because of their convictions not to be a partaker in another man’s sins.
In Kentucky, then-Gov. Steve Beshear refused to provide an accommodation to the county clerks in his state that approached him about the matter as they could not in good conscience provide marriage licenses to homosexuals. Casey Davis in Casey County, Kenny Brown in Boone County, Kim Davis in Rowan County and Jason Denny in Anderson County all expressed their objections to issuing the licenses, and Casey Davis said he would go to jail over his refusal to sin against God if need be.
While Casey Davis was not incarcerated for his stance, Kim Davis, who attends an Apostolic Pentecostal assembly, spent five days behind bars in September when she would not comply with a court order mandating that she provide the licenses. She had requested before the Supreme Court decision that her name be removed from the licenses that her office issues, but Beshear declined to call a special assembly over the concern. While behind bars, U.S. District Judge David Bunning arranged for a deputy clerk to distribute the licenses in Davis’ stead.
The matter caused Christians nationwide to rally in support of the clerk, but some expressed concern that Davis was willing to issue the licenses as long as her name was removed, which was viewed as an unacceptable compromise.
The situation also brought the question to the forefront as to whether Christians in government office should simply resign from their elected positions or remain and interpose to hold back the judgment of God on the nation. In September, over 60 legal scholars signed a statement calling for American citizens and public officials alike to reject the Supreme Court opinion.
Upon Davis’ release, the clerk continued to press for an accommodation, and earlier this month, newly-elected Gov. Matt Bevin issued a decree that the licensing forms be altered to remove the names of the county clerks.
But it wasn’t only Davis who faced controversy over her convictions regarding homosexuality this past year. In September, Oregon Judge Vance Day was placed under investigation for declining to officiate same-sex ceremonies—and soon weddings of any kind—due to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
This month, Massachusetts urologist Paul Church was officially expelled from a Boston Hospital for merely speaking about the health dangers of homosexuality and expressing opposition to the hospital’s ongoing promotion of the lifestyle. Georgia fire chief Kelvin Cochran lost his job as well in January after a complaint was lodged that he had published a Christian book that contained a paragraph that referred to homosexuality as “perversion,” among other sexual acts. A lawsuit over his termination is currently working its way through the judicial system.
A legal challenge is also proceeding as an appeals court upheld a lower court ruling against Colorado baker Jack Phillips in August, declaring that he must make cakes for same-sex ceremonies despite his Christian convictions.
In Oregon, Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein were ordered to pay $135,000 in damages to two lesbians who said that they suffered from “loss of appetite,” “resumption of [their] smoking habit” and “mental rape” when they were told that the bakers could not provide a cake for their “wedding” because it would be a form of un-biblical participation. The Kleins refused to pay the damages, but after the government emptied their bank accounts this month, the Kleins presented a check for over $136,000 (which included interest) from funds donated by supporters.
The Boy Scouts’ decision to allow open homosexuals as leaders this past July also shook Christians and churches this year, as they were forced to consider whether they would continue to allow the organization to use their facilities for meetings or whether they should permit their sons to serve with the group.
Planned Parenthood, the Reality of Abortion Exposed
One of the largest news stories of 2015 that continued throughout most of the summer and fall was the release of a series of undercover videos showing leaders from the abortion giant Planned Parenthood discussing the removal of the organs of aborted children, which are then provided to scientific organizations with compensation.
The first of nearly a dozen videos was released in July and featured Planned Parenthood Medical Director Deborah Nucatola, who nonchalantly munches on salad and sips wine as she talks about adjusting the child so as not to crush certain organs due to the demand for the body part.
“I’d say a lot of people want liver. And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance, so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps,” she explains. [Y]ou’re just kind of cognizant where you put your graspers. You try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that—-you know. We’ve been very good at getting the heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so ‘I’m not gonna crush that part. I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.’”
The second video showed Mary Gatter, the president of Planned Parenthood’s Medical Directors Council, haggling with undercover investigators about the compensation for the fetal organs, laughing, “I want a Lamborghini.” Other footage showed an actual aborted baby being dissected in a dish, with an assistant declaring, “Another boy!” and another video showed an abortionist laughing about how harvesting an intact baby head would be “something to strive for.”
Holly O’Donnell, a former procurement technician with StemExpress, which broke its ties with Planned Parenthood after the videos were released, explained in one video how she was asked to help harvest a brain for StemExpress. She provided gruesome details of how she cut up the baby’s face to get to the brain, all the while the child’s heart was beating.
The videos created an uproar nationwide with thousands of Americans taking to the streets to demand the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Members of Congress also demanded an investigation into the organization’s practices, and several states soon stripped Planned Parenthood of funding, including New Hampshire, Texas, North Carolina, Arkansas, Utah and Ohio.
Earlier this month, the Senate passed an unprecedented vote to federally defund Planned Parenthood. The bill is expected to be voted on in the House next year.
While Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards apologized for the “tone” of the organization’s medical director following the release of the first expose’ video, she denied that the abortion giant was profiting from its “tissue donation program.” However, months later, the organization announced that it would no longer receive payments for the body parts of aborted babies.
Muslim Terror Strikes at Home and Abroad
The terror attacks in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California were two of the largest news stories of 2015.
There were two deadly attacks in Paris this year, with the first unfolding in January as Islamic gunmen killed 12 at the offices of the atheist-led satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The paper had just released a cartoon featuring ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who issued best wishes for the new year. The two jihadist brothers behind the attack were later killed by police, and a third man turned himself in to authorities.
The second attack occurred in November, which appeared to be a coordinated assault on numerous locations throughout the city, including a soccer game, a theater and several restaurants. Witnesses reported hearing gunmen calling out “Allahu Akbar” in gunning down the masses. Over 100 people died in the terror attack.
France quickly retaliated, carrying out a pre-dawn raid the following morning to locate the mastermind behind the attack. Abdelhamid Abaaoud is believed to have been killed along with his female cousin in the raid. France also dropped nearly two dozen bombs on key ISIS targets following the terror onslaught.
In the United States, in May, two Muslim men from Arizona traveled to Texas to carry out an attack on a “draw Muhammad” contest near Dallas. After shooting at a security officer as they drove by in their vehicle, the two were killed by police. A third man believed to have helped plan the assault was taken into custody and is facing charges related to also conspiring to target the 2015 Super Bowl and an Arizona shopping mall.
In early December, a Muslim husband and wife carried out an attack on a holiday party at the Inland Resource Center in San Bernardino, California, killing 14. While officials were hesitant at first to declare the incident an act of terror, investigations soon revealed that assailant Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik had been planning to attack the U.S. before their marriage last year. Malik had immigrated to America from Pakistan and had pledged her allegiance to ISIS on Facebook as the attack was carried out on Dec. 2.
Investigators also found 12 pipe bombs in the couple’s apartment, which they described as an “IED factory.” A friend of Farook is now behind bars for supplying the weapons used in the attack and for plotting a deadly rampage on Riverside City College and motorists on the 91 freeway in 2011 and 2012.
Numerous other Muslim terror attacks took place throughout the year, including at Garissa University in Kenya this past April, where over 140 students were shot dead after being separated by their religion.
“We sorted people out and released the Muslims,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, the spokesman for the group Al-Shabaab, announced following the deadly rampage. “There are many dead bodies of Christians inside the building. We are also holding many Christians alive.”
Al-Shabaab had released an online video in February calling for violent strikes on the Oxford Street shopping strip in London, England, the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.
In April, 15 Muslim migrants were arrested in Sicily after they threw 12 Christian refugees off a boat that was headed to Italy for asylum. According to reports, some Muslims on the boat became agitated when they learned that a number of their fellow travelers were Christians, and began throwing them into the Mediterranean Sea. The Christians tried to form a chain to save their lives.
Dozens of Americans were arrested this year for alleged conspiracy to support ISIS, including an Ohio man who is accused of soliciting the murder of U.S. military personnel, a Kansas man who plotted to bomb a U.S. Army base, six men in California and Minnesota who allegedly planned to travel to Syria to join ISIS, and three New York men who were plotting to kill Barack Obama or “plant a bomb in Coney Island.” Over 50 suspects nationwide were arrested in 2015 on suspicions of conspiring to aid ISIS or carry out an attack on the United States.
Other News Stories That Impacted Christians in 2015
There were numerous other stories that impacted Christians throughout the year, including in June when the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared that a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capitol must be removed because it violated the state constitution’s ban on government property being used to promote a “church denomination or system of religion.” The display came down by night as Oklahoma officials voted to remove the display and not fight the ruling.
In August, a number of pastors sued Houston Mayor Anise Parker after her attorneys subpoenaed “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to [the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance], the petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity…” The request surrounded what is known as Houston’s transgender “bathroom bill,” which allowed those who identified as the opposite sex to use the restroom consistent with their “gender identity.” The ordinance was overwhelmingly repealed by voters in November 61 to 39 percent.
However, in the Chicago area, district officials caved to demands from the Obama administration that a male student who identifies as a female be allowed to use the girl’s locker room under threat of penalty, including the potential loss of $6 million in federal funding. 600 area residents had attended a hearing to speak out on the matter.
In September, Washington football coach Joe Kennedy was placed under investigation by his school district for praying at the 50-yard line at the end of football games, and was later banned from allowing students to join him in his brief personal prayer. However, as he prayed at the end of the homecoming game, both Kennedy’s team and the opposing team, as well as a crowd of supporters from the community, swarmed the coach in support. Kennedy was subsequently placed on leave until he agrees to stop praying on the field. He filed a federal employment complaint earlier this month.
Christians were also in the headlines in October when reports of a deadly shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon revealed that the gunman had singled out Christians for execution. Stacy Boylan, the father of student Anastasia Boylan, told reporters that assailant Christopher Mercer asked each student in his writing class if they were a Christian.
“This man had enough time—I don’t know how much time elapsed before he was able to stand there and start asking people one by one what their religion was,” he explained. “‘Are you a Christian?’ he would ask them. ‘And if you’re a Christian, stand up.’”
“And they would stand up, and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second,’” he continued. “And then he shot and killed them. And he kept going down the line doing this to people.”
Nine students and a teacher died in the attack.
Many of the developments of the year caused Americans to consider questions about truth and morality: What is truth? Who says what is right and wrong? Some argued their personal feelings and opinions. Some contended that no one should ever “judge” others for the decisions they make and say that anything is right or wrong. Some said that “only God can judge” a person—and even then after their death. Others pointed to God’s written law as the outline that mankind has already been provided to judge themselves as to whether their actions are wrong or right—and it is because we have broken that law that every man needs the Savior and to be born again.
While one cannot predict the future, 2015 is likely is an indication of some of the battles that will rage—and become more frequent—in the new year. We at Christian News Network will continue to bring you the news from a biblical perspective so that you may be aware of the issues we face in these modern times and know where the Light of the world is needed the most.
“Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far off. For truth has stumbled in the public square, and honesty cannot enter.” – Isaiah 59:14
“If we shut our eyes against the light of Divine truth, it is just with God to hide from our eyes the things that belong to our peace. … And the sins of a nation bring public judgments when not restrained by public justice. Men may murmur under calamities, but nothing will truly profit while they reject Christ and His gospel.” – Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible