Double Standard

March 30, 2012

The parents of two British students murdered in Florida have criticised President Barack Obama for his lack of compassion over their sons’ deaths.

His failure to respond to three letters sent to the White House was because there was no “political value” and not worthy of a few minutes of his time.

They spoke out as teenager Shawn Tyson began a life sentence after being found guilty of the murder of James Cooper and James Kouzaris last April.

The 17 year old, who shot the men as they begged for their lives, will die in prison.

His conviction of first degree murder carries an mandatory life sentence without the chance of parole.

The powerfully built teen even looked bored as emotional DVD presentations about the dead men prepared by their grieving parents were shown in court.

Tyson, who has the word ‘Savage’ tattooed across his chest didn’t show a flicker of emotion, slumping in his seat as he was forced to watch a montage of photos showing the victims from early childhood to young men.

Two close friends of the dead men who had attended the eight day trial in Sarasota, Florida. had also delivered highly emotional impact statements to the court prior to the sentencing.

Paul Davies and Joe Hallett spoke of the “living hell” they and others who knew the men had suffered since the murders.

During the eight day trial they had been shown graphic crime scene and autopsy photos shown in court.

Later speaking after Tyson was jailed Davies and Hallett lashed out at Mr Obama saying the deaths of their friends was “not worthy of ten minutes of his time.”

Davies said:”We would like to publicly express our dissatisfaction at the lack of any public or private message of support or condolence from any American governing body or indeed, President Obama himself.

“Mr Kouzaris has written to President Obama on three separate occasions and is yet to even receive the courtesy of a reply.

“It would perhaps appear that Mr Obama sees no political value in facilitating such a request or that the lives of two British tourists are not worthy of ten minutes of his time.”

The rebuke follows Mr Obama’s personal intervention into the shooting in Florida of a young black teenager by a white-Hispanic neighbourhood watch captain.

The death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin has sparked nationwide protests with his supporters claiming he was victim of a racist attack.

Mr Obama entered the controversy last week by saying if he had a son he would have looked like Martin.

The alleged assailant in Martin’s death has not been charged with any crime having claimed he was attacked first and used Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law to shoot in self defence.

The criticism of the US President was made on behalf of the Cooper’s parents Stanley and Sandy, from Warwicks, and Peter and Hazel Kouzaris, from Northampton by Davies in a statement read outside the courtroom.

The parents of the two victims did not attend the trial but they had access to the proceedings from a live video feed.

The filmed interview of the Kouzaris’s was played to the court while a message from Sandy Cooper was read out by the prosecutor.

The victims close friends delivered an emotional impact statement with Hallett telling Tyson he hoped he would be haunted by his actions.

He told him: “Imagine them being killed. Now try to imagine that they died because someone creept up on them and shot them numerous times for no good reason. Welcome to our world. Every night you go to sleep, every morning you wake up, I want you to think of my friends who you murdered. Their images will be imprinted on your conscience up until your very last breath in life.”

Alarming News

March 29, 2012

The video begins with Mark Mackey opening his Bible.
“Good morning, everyone,” he says to a crowd of 15 onlookers waiting outside the Hemet California Division of Motor Vehicles. “I would like to read a little bit of the word of God this morning.”
The video, shot in February of last year, ends with Mackey’s arrest.
“You can preach on your own property,” an officer from the California state patrol tells Mackey as he leads him away in handcuffs. “Folks, this is what the United States is coming to,” Mackey says to the crowd, who were standing outside waiting for the DMV to open. “You can talk about anything you want, but you can’t talk about the Bible.”

Mackey is a reverend with Calvary Chapel Hemet, a conservative Christian church that practices an “evangelical ministry,” requiring public testimonials and Scripture readings.
Church officials believe Mackey was arrested because of “Christian bigotry.”
The officer who made the arrest disagrees, claiming he arrested Mackey for preaching to a public audience who had no choice but to listen.
“You’re not allowed to preach here,” he told Mackey, “because this is a captive audience.”
Mackey’s lawyer calls that “ridiculous.”
“That doesn’t make sense in America,” says Robert Tyler of Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a non-profit law firm which defends Christian Liberties. “If the doctrine of the captive audience is going to apply broad brush, no one is going to be allowed to [preach in] a public park…that’s not America.”
Tyler also points out Mackey was cited for “impeding an open business,” but he points out the DMV wasn’t even open at the time.
“The DMV was closed,” he said. “They had no business arresting him.”
Not so, observes constitutional attorney Dan Conaway, saying those waiting for the DMV doors to open have no choice but to listen to Mackey.
“He’s creating an intimidating situation for people who simply want to get their drivers licenses renewed,” says Conaway, who says it’s OK to preach in public, but not when your listeners can’t leave.
“He does not have the right to intimidate others and force them to listen and impede their ability to do normal business activities such as going to the DMV.”
Tyler points out that the “captive audience” statute requires more than simple intimidation.
“Mackey had to be threatening them. Is reading the Bible threatening?”
Tyler says that, in the end, Mackey has simply been charged with trespassing.
How can that be trespassing?” Tyler asks. “This is a public place. He was not blocking or impeding anyone. He was standing over 50 feet from the entrance. This is crazy.”
Mackey sees it in biblical terms.
“The devil is holding everyone captive to do his will,” he said as he was led away. “Repent, and trust in Jesus Christ. Judgment Day is coming, folks.”

Our Thoughts Online

March 28, 2012

  In today’s culture, the Internet and social media accounts, such as Facebook, have exploded into our lives, in such a way that we are constantly checking them and updating our statuses.  The reason why this topic has become so important to me and why it should be discussed further is two-fold, one, to help address my and others’ addiction to it, and two, to encourage me and others to think wisely about the time spent and what is posted online.   

 

  I check my Facebook account multiple times during the day.  Why do I do it?  What benefits are there for me in seeing what others have posted?  How do I come across to other people when I am constantly on my iPhone?  In what ways, am I dealing with this addiction?  How does this addiction affect my family time?

 

  I have (someone in mind), who posts everything she thinks or sees.  She has no filter.  On the other hand, I believe I do, especially for the job that I hold.  I have been trying to change my ways, in the frequency that I check my account and what I post.  I have made it priority to never complain or speak poorly of others, especially my wife online.

 

  Knowing what I know now, I am concerned for our youth and all, that what they post can and will be used against you.  It could be a simple complaint at work.  It could be what you feel about the government at the time.  It could be something more harmful, like stalking your former girlfriend or boyfriend.  It could be a comment that you “love” someone that you are currently dating, but in all reality, you could be broken-up a few weeks later, and then have to explain to your fiance, a year down the road, why you wrote that you “loved” him. 

 

  I hope you see where I am coming from.  These thoughts are a bit scattered, but I hope this gets the point across.  If not, the point is, we are all accountable for our words.  So, think wisely, before posting your thoughts online. 

 

  Maybe this will spur someone to think better and to post an article or blog to further my position.

Q for the Day

March 23, 2012

How are Christians holding the line against the culture or how are they getting sucked into it?

Resurrection Hymn

March 13, 2012

See What a Morning

Verse 1
See, what the morning, gloriously bright,
With the dawning of hope in Jerusalem;
Folded the graveclothes, tomb filled with light,
As the angels announce Christ is risen!
See God’s salvation plan, wrought in love,
Borne in pain, paid in sacrifice,
Fulfilled in Christ, the Man, for He lives:
Christ is risen from the dead!

Verse 2
See Mary weeping, “Where is He laid?”
As in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb;
Hears a voice speaking, calling her name;
It’s the Master, the Lord raised to life again!
The voice that spans the years, speaking life,
Stirring hope, bringing peace to us,
Will sound ’til He appears, for He lives,
Christ is risen from the dead!

Verse 3
One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit who clothes faith with certainty,
Honor and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned with power and authority.
And we are raised with Him, death is dead,
Love was won, Christ has conquered.
And we shall reign with Him, for He lives,
Christ is risen from the dead!

Church Foreclosures

March 9, 2012

Why do you think this is happening?

By Tim Reid

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Banks are foreclosing on America’s churches in record numbers as lenders increasingly lose patience with religious facilities that have defaulted on their mortgages, according to new data.

The surge in church foreclosures represents a new wave of distressed property seizures triggered by the 2008 financial crash, analysts say, with many banks no longer willing to grant struggling religious organizations forbearance.

Since 2010, 270 churches have been sold after defaulting on their loans, with 90 percent of those sales coming after a lender-triggered foreclosure, according to the real estate information company CoStar Group.

In 2011, 138 churches were sold by banks, an annual record, with no sign that these religious foreclosures are abating, according to CoStar. That compares to just 24 sales in 2008 and only a handful in the decade before.

The church foreclosures have hit all denominations across America, black and white, but with small to medium size houses of worship the worst. Most of these institutions have ended up being purchased by other churches.

The highest percentage have occurred in some of the states hardest hit by the home foreclosure crisis: California, Georgia, Florida and Michigan.

“Churches are among the final institutions to get foreclosed upon because banks have not wanted to look like they are being heavy handed with the churches,” said Scott Rolfs, managing director of Religious and Education finance at the investment bank Ziegler.

Church defaults differ from residential foreclosures. Most of the loans in question are not 30-year mortgages but rather commercial loans that typically mature after just five years when the full balance becomes due immediately.

Its common practice for banks to refinance such loans when they come due. But banks have become increasingly reluctant to do that because of pressure from regulators to clean up their balance sheets, said Rolfs.

“A lot of these loans were given when the properties were evaluated at a certain level in 2005 or 2006,” Rolfs said. “Banks have had to reappraise the value of these properties, whether it’s a church or a commercial office building. Values have gone down, so the loans cannot continue in the same form.”

The factors leading to the boom in church foreclosures will sound familiar to many private homeowners evicted from their properties in recent years.

During the property boom, many churches took out additional loans to refurbish or enlarge, often with major lenders or with the Evangelical Christian Credit Union, which was particularly aggressive in lending to religious institutions.

Then after the financial crash, many churchgoers lost their jobs, donations plunged, and often, so did the value of the church building.

CONGREGATIONS IN TROUBLE

Solid Rock Christian Church near Memphis, Tennessee, took out a $2.9 million loan with the Evangelical Christian Credit Union at the beginning of 2008, to construct a new, 2,000 seat, 34,000 square-foot building to house its growing congregation.

In the middle of construction, the economy crashed. The church raided its savings to finish the project, but ended up defaulting on the loan.

The ECCU foreclosed and put the church up for auction.

“We are still fighting this,” a church spokesman told Reuters. “We have filed for bankruptcy to stop this foreclosure and to restructure our debt.”

At the iconic Charles Street African American Episcopal Church in Boston, Massachusetts, churchgoers and clergy accuse the bank of being unwilling to negotiate.

The church is being threatened with foreclosure and a March 22 auction by its lender OneUnited bank, America’s largest black-owned bank.

The bank says the church, which was founded in 1818 and played a major role in the anti-slavery movement, has defaulted on a $1.1 million balloon loan that came due in December 2011.

A balloon loan is a long-term loan, often a mortgage, that has a large, or balloon, payment due upon maturity. They often have very low interest payments and require little capital outlay during the life of the loan due to the large end payment.

The church is also involved in separate litigation with OneUnited involving a 2006 loan of $3.6 million that financed the refurbishment of two buildings into a community center.

“We want to refinance and we want to pay. It’s doable, we have the means to do it but we can only do it if they actually sit down and talk to us,” said the Rev. Gregory G. Groover Snr, the church’s pastor.

Groover said the church did not default by missing monthly payments, but is in trouble because the loan ballooned.

“We don’t have a million dollars to pay off the loan. I don’t know what church does. The idea of auctioning off a church is senseless,” he said.

In a statement provided to Reuters, OneUntied said it was not its practice to discuss the details of “any discreet customer relationship”.

“It is not the practice of the Bank to exercise collection remedies including foreclosure in the absence of good cause. We trust the community will not rush to judgment without full knowledge of all the facts,” it said.

Axel Adams, an Atlanta, Georgia official with the Rainbow PUSH coalition, the civil rights and economic justice organization led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, said he had seen a “tremendous increase” in churches facing foreclosure.

“And some pastors have not notified their congregants,” Adams said. “They are fearful that if they do, they will lose congregants prematurely.”

Flat Rock Church in Lithonia, Georgia, which dates back to 1860, took out an $850,000 balloon loan with Sun Trust Bank in 2005 to fund a new 300-seat church.

In May 2010 the loan became due. The bank foreclosed and the church is due to be auctioned off next month.

“The bank has refused to negotiate and to this day I just don’t know why,” said Binita Miles, the church pastor.

A spokesman for Sun Trust said: “We view foreclosure as an action of last resort. We have been working for several years to address the issue with the client in hopes of avoiding foreclosure.”

There are more than 300,000 churches in the United States.

“The church foreclosure market isn’t anything extraordinary,” said Rolfs. “It’s simply another byproduct of the credit bubble.”

(Reporting By Tim Reid; Editing By Jonathan Weber and Michael Perry)

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Failure or Success?

March 7, 2012

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

-Francis Chan

Angry and Insulting

March 3, 2012

Feb. 28, 2012: A new soccer field for detainees at Camp 6 in Guantanamo Bay
At a time of record deficits, a new soccer field for detainees at Camp 6 in Guantanamo Bay is just getting the finishing touches — at a cost of $750,000 to taxpayers.
The project was the highlight of a tour Tuesday of the detention camp for reporters at the facility covering the arraignment in a military court of Majid Khan, a former Baltimore resident and the the only legal U.S. resident on trial at Guantanamo.
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In this April 27, 2010, file photo, reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, a Guantanamo detainee’s feet are shackled to the floor as he attends a “Life Skills” class inside Camp 6, the high-security detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base.

The project began in April 2011 and is due to finish this spring. The detainees will now have three recreation facilities at Camp 6, which is home to “highly compliant” detainees who live in a communal setting.
In addition to an indoor recreation field and the existing outdoor recreation field, the new soccer field — selected because it is such a popular sport with detainees — is half the size of an American football field.
The new field has been specially constructed so that the detainees “have maximum access” — about 20 hours a day. Special passageways allow the detainees to pass into the new recreation yard without being escorted by the military.
On the tour, a military police representative who asked not to be identified by name said allowing high levels of activity outdoors helped reduce behavioral problems at the camps, and it also limited the amount of interaction between detainees and the guards.
Since the detention camps opened in 2002, some half dozen cases have been prosecuted — four ended in plea agreements with minimal jail time.
Khan, accused of being hand-selected by Sept. 11, 2001, mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for a second wave of attacks inside the U.S., including a plot to blow up gas stations, is expected to cut a deal. He is also implicated in an assassination plot against former Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff and a car bombing at the Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2003.
His appearance will be the first time anyone outside the U.S. military or intelligence community has seen him since his capture after Sept. 11 and transfer to secret prisons formerly maintained by the CIA.
Even some of President Obama’s most ardent supporters suggest the administration seems eager to close the camps and reduce the detainee population, and plea agreements with minimal jail time are a sweetheart deal for all involved.
Detainees like Usama bin Laden’s personal cook and his driver are spending less time in prison than American citizens prosecuted in federal courts on lesser charges.
By example, Zachary Chesser of Charlottesville, Va., who was convicted for making threats against the creators of “South Park” and for supporting a Somali terror group, but who never fired a shot on the battlefield, is now serving a 25-year sentence.
By contrast, Omar Khadr, who killed an American soldier on the battlefield in Afghanistan is nearly half way through his eight-year sentence at Guantanamo, and may finish out his term in Canada.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder, testifying about the Justice Department budget on Capitol Hill, said the recidivism rate for Guantanamo detainees overall is in the mid-20s. But the recidivism rate for those transferred during the Obama administration is 7 percent. Holder acknowledged that part of that comparison may be because the former detainees have been out for a shorter period of time, but also because the determinations about each of their release had to be unanimously approved by a task force.”

The Appearance Of…

March 1, 2012

“Believe it or not, only 7 years ago, TSOs went by a more deserving title, “airport security screeners.” At the time, their title and on the job appearance consisted of a white shirt and black pants. This was fitting because airport security screening is exactly what’s required of the position. However, this is no longer the case.

In the dead of night, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) administratively reclassified airport security screeners as Transportation Security Officers. The TSA then moved to administratively upgrade TSOs uniforms to resemble those of a federal law enforcement officer. They further completed the makeover with metal law enforcement badges. Not surprisingly, government bureaucrats at the TSA left out one crucial component during the artificial makeover – actual federal law enforcement training as is required of Federal Air Marshalls.

While TSOs may have the appearance of a federal law enforcement officer they have neither the authority nor the power. If a passenger brings a loaded gun or an explosive device into an airport screening area there is nothing a TSO can do until the local police step in to save the day.

If TSOs are truly our nation’s last line of defense in stopping an act of terrorism, then the TSA should immediately end the practice of placing hiring notices for available TSO positions on pizza boxes and at discount gas stations as theyhave done in our nation’s capital. Surely, this is not where our federal government is going to find our brightest and sharpest Americans committed to keeping our traveling public safe.”