The United States, along with China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom has inked a nuclear agreement with Iran. Responding to concerns that the release of American hostages, including American Christian pastor Abedini Saeed, was not part of the deal, President Obama said that tying the release of Americans to the deal would give Iran extra leverage for additional concessions. The question remains whether America, and the world, can trust a nation that takes hostages.  (Source )

The State of Oregon has ordered that Christian bakers must pay a lesbian couple $135,000 for emotional damages caused when the bakers refused to make the couple a wedding cake. Additionally, the state imposed a gag order on the bakers, ordering them not to defend their refusal. This is the largest fine of its kind imposed – so far. The complete order is available here.

The bakers intend to appeal the decision as it effectively destroys their business. One may think that if the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby protects the free exercise rights of business owners, the bakers will win. However, Hobby Lobby relied on the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act which only protects against federal laws. The bakers were punished under state anti-discrimination laws. Similar business owners in Oregon will have no legal protection unless a state-level RFRA is passed. But obtaining state-level RFRA legislation is made more difficult by the breadth of the Hobby Lobby decision. Lawmakers fear that large businesses could use it to discriminate under a pretext of religious freedom.

Over 2,500 delegates from over 160 countries to the Seventh-day Adventist Church General Conference Session meeting in the Alamodome last week voted overwhelmingly to clarify that the church believes in marriage only  between "a man and a woman,"strengthening language in Fundamental Belief number 23, originally drafted in 1980. The language previously said "marriage partners." Adventist churches seeking an extra level of legal protection from potential future litigation might consider adding a reference to this belief in their facilities and wedding contracts.  The Adventist Church has a representative form of church government, and delegates meet every five years to decide on doctrinal and administrative issues. The clarification was scheduled to be voted on prior to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

The California legislature has shelved a controversial assisted-suicide bill (SB 128) under pressure from both secular and religious groups. Bill authors could not garner the votes to move it out of the health committee and issued a statement that they would work with members of the Assembly to "ensure they are comfortable with the bill." While some churches remained silent on the issue, the Catholic Church was actively involved in opposing the bill, "We cannot allow California to become a place where we respond to human suffering by simply making it easier for people to kill themselves," wrote Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez.  In the words of a statement from Californians Against Physician Suicide, there "are not just concerns  coming from the right or center right, these are concerns coming from the left and center of the political spectrum." At present, physician assisted suicide is only legalized by statute in Oregon, Vermont, and Washington state.

Last July, Pope Francis called on Christians to consider a return to the traditional practice of not working on Sundays as it makes it hard for the poor who are forced to work on Sundays to prioritize their family lives. "Maybe it's time to ask ourselves if working on Sundays is true freedom," the Pope said according to the New York Daily News. The Pope is scheduled to make a highly anticipated, and unprecedented, speech to both houses of the U.S. Congress on September 24, 2015. Expected topics include economics, the environment, and immigration among others. The Pope is not expected to address doctrine and some expect him to take a softer approach on hot button social issues.

After an undercover video (Washington Post)  surfaced showing a Planned Parenthood executive discussing how to abort fetuses in a way that preserves their organs, the federal government and several states are launching investigations into its practices. In the video, between the executive and pro-life activists posing as biotech firm representatives, the executive says, “We’ve been very good at getting 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.”

While some is presumably for medical purposes, the executive also says, "Some people want lower extremities, too. I mean that’s simple. That’s easy. I don’t know what they’re going to do with it, though."   Acknowledging that trafficking fetuses is a federal crime, she says, "At the national office, we have a Litigation and Law Department which just really doesn’t want us to be the middle people for this issue right now. But I will tell you that behind closed doors these conversations are happening with the affiliates."  (Video)

While abortion advocates have argued extensively that fetuses are nothing but "clumps of cells" Planned Parenthood recognizes that they are in fact identifiable bodies.While the human life of unborn babies might not be valuable to them, the human bodies are. If this information makes you cringe and you find it repulsive – that's because it is.

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