Christians in Nepal Welcome Vote for Secular Government; Religious Right in U.S. Still Want Christian Nation

Read this report regarding the recent vote in Nepal to make the nation neutral on religion. Hindu nationalists in Nepal took the streets after their constituent assembly rejected a proposal to make Nepal a Hindu nation.
Then read this press release on Nepal’s vote by the group who represents Gospel for Asia. While I have written many things about GFA (and have much more to write), on this matter, I agree with Yohannan. The vote is a win for religious pluralism.

Gospel for Asia Founder Dr. K. P. Yohannan had issued a call for prayer in June asking that, “God’s people will be granted freedom to worship.”

“The Lord has answered our prayers for our brothers and sisters in Nepal,” Yohannan said. “Please continue to pray that peace and unity would prevail in this nation. Pray also for the leaders and decision makers who are working night and day on the constitution, to be filled with wisdom as they move forward.”

Yohannan expresses happiness that Christians will be able to worship freely. Of course, theoretically, this means that people of all faiths and no faith will be able to follow their conscience without political penalty or disadvantage.

Now read this Christian Broadcasting Network article on David Barton’s and George Barna’s new book, U-Turn. In that article, George Barna said:

He [Barna] pointed out a key reason for the success of early America.

“If you try to understand what made America great, it was a dynamic partnership between church, family, and government,” he explained.

And by church, he means Christianity.

Historically, however, there never was a partnership between any church and state in the national government. State governments did away with them gradually as well. John Adams said it was flattery, delusion and self-deceit to claim Americans are God’s chosen people.

More recently, David Barton told Glenn Beck that, in America, the order of law is God’s law, then the Constitution, and “then it’s the consent of the governed.” And when David Barton says God’s law, he refers to the Christian Bible. Many of the founders believed that the Bible was God’s word, some didn’t. Their collective wisdom was to leave those matters to individual conscience.

In the real world, the founders wisely allowed no religious test for those serving in the national government. The Constitution declares itself to be the law of the land with no mention of any higher law, religious or otherwise.

Christians in Nepal are glad for the vote of their constituent assembly to protect religious freedom of conscience via the vote against a national religion. Christians in America should also be happy today for the wisdom of our founders to do the same thing.

U. S. Customs and Border Protection Reports Aggressive Enforcement of Cash Smuggling and Smurfing Laws

In May and June, I wrote posts about cash smuggling on the part of staff and students affiliated with Gospel for Asia (link, link, link, link, link). GFA leaders gave individual travelers envelopes of cash containing $4500 which was to be carried in personal belongings and then given to Believers’ Church headquarters in India. Since the travelers traveled in groups, the total amount of unreported cash was often over the $10,000 allowed by law. Travelers may take any amount of cash out of the country but any amount over $10k must be reported to Customs and Border Protection. Breaking up the total amount into smaller portions carried by individual travelers in a group to avoid detection (sometimes called “smurfing“) is illegal and can result in seizure of the cash and sometimes criminal charges.
After my reports on the practice, GFA leaders said they stopped sending cash to India via student groups, telling staff they were told by their auditor (Bland Garvey) that the practice was legal. Bland Garvey referred me to their attorney who refused to confirm or deny GFA’s claim. Inexplicably, GFA has remained publicly silent about the reasons for cash smuggling or how the donations were used.
In the mean time, U.S. Custom and Border Protection has aggressively enforced laws on cash smuggling. On the U.S. CBP website, numerous press releases detail enforcement actions related to cash smuggling. For instance just yesterday, USCBP reported the following activity:

LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agents at the Laredo Port of Entry seized $266,000 in unreported currency in an outbound enforcement action this weekend at the Gateway to the Americas Bridge.

 “Our outbound team maintained their vigilance, utilized their keen inspection skills and seized a significant load of unreported currency,” said Port Director Joseph Misenhelter, Laredo Port of Entry.  “Seizures of unreported currency like this one remove the profit potential from possible illicit activity and help advance our border security mission.”

Stacks of bills totalling $266,000 in unreported currency seized by CBP officers and agents at Laredo Port of Entry
From the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website

The interception occurred on Saturday, Sept. 12 while CBP officers and Border Patrol agents conducting outbound (southbound) inspections at the international bridge referred a 2007 Chevy Equinox driven by a 22-year-old U.S. citizen from Dallas, Texas for a secondary inspection.  CBP officers conducted an intensive secondary examination of the vehicle and discovered packages within the vehicle that contained $266,000 in unreported currency.

CBP officers seized the currency and the Chevy Equinox.  The driver was turned over by CBP officers to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents for further investigation.

Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the U.S., however, if the quantity is more than $10,000, they will need to report it to CBP. “Money” means monetary instruments and includes U.S. or foreign coins currently in circulation, currency, travelers’ checks in any form, money orders, and negotiable instruments or investment securities in bearer form. Failure to declare may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest.

According to their website, CBP seises just over $650,000 each day in illegal cash:

CBP seized $50,510 in unreported U.S. dollars and Chinese yuan from a family that arrived Saturday from China after the family reported possessing $3,000.
CBP seizes $650,117 in undeclared or illicit currency every day. There is no limit to how much currency travelers may bring to, or take from the U.S. However, federal law requires travelers to complete financial reporting forms for any amount that exceeds $10,000 in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency.

Since I last reported on cash smuggling, CBP has reported several other actions relating to smuggling (list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list, list,  and smurfing (list, list, list, list). In GFA’s situation, some groups carried over $100k in cash without reporting the cash to U.S. Customs or Indian Customs.

Are Conservatives Rethinking David Barton?

Maybe.
Reacting to the news that David Barton had been appointed to head up the Ted Cruz supporting Keep the Promise Super PACs, Messiah College historian John Fea wrote this:

Recently I have been in conversation with some Christian conservatives who have decades of experience as Christian Right insiders.  These Christians are growing more and more concerned about Barton’s views of the American past and are worried that they have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to their understanding of the American founding.  Stay tuned.

Several months ago, I heard similar rumblings but then Barton started appearing at various conservative events and now he is picked to run the Cruz PACs. So it is hard to tell which conservatives are feeling they have been “sold a bill of goods.”
And the “bill of goods” isn’t just about “America’s founding.” It is about HIV/AIDS, PTSD, crime rates, Obama’s record on prosecuting child porn, Obama’s Thanksgiving proclamations, and Barton’s own NCAA basketball career.
Staying tuned. In fact, I’ve been tuned for about three years. Not sure what is taking so long.
Paul Harvey today seemed to rejoin the fray. That’s good.
 
 

Kim Davis Controversy: KY County Clerks Association Doesn't Have a Position on Marriage Licenses Without a Clerk's Name

Kim Davis is back to work today and media, protesters and a lesbian couple have been there too.
According to the AP, a deputy clerk, Brian Mason has assumed duties of handing out the marriage licenses. A lesbian couple did pick one up this morning with the phrase “pursuant to federal court order” in the place where the clerk’s name should be. Davis and her attorneys aren’t sure they are valid.
I contacted the Kentucky County Clerks Association last week to learn the organization’s position on leaving off a clerk’s name. Contrary to some media reports, the KCCA has not taken a final position on the matter, according to Bill May, spokesman for the organization.
While Davis doesn’t intend to interfere with what Brian Mason decides to do, she will not allow her name to be placed on a license which may mean the licenses aren’t valid in KY.
 

Ted Cruz Asks: When Have You Bled for Conservative Wedge Issues? Do You Have Clinton Fatigue?

Thanks to David Barton, a lot more people will now be watching what Ted Cruz donors are saying via the Keep the Promise Super PACs.
Just today, Keep the Promise One dropped an ad on You Tube. Cruz gets passionate about gun rights, the Iran deal, Obamacare, and immigration.
How can you tell a true conservative? Apparently, they have bled for conservative principles.
[youtube]https://youtu.be/74vbycOal-Q[/youtube]
Sounds frightening.
The Keep the Promise plan for Cruz to win proposes that Cruz will do better among Hispanic voters than Romney did, but that he also needs to do better among married whites over 40. Given that Hispanics tend to favor Obama’s executive orders on amnesty more than white voters, it seems Keep the Promise has decided which way to wedge, at least at this point in the process.
The Super PAC also dropped an ad aimed at Iowa:
[youtube]https://youtu.be/hPSjXrjcCO4[/youtube]
Really? Cruz, a career politician is grouchy about career politicians?
And then there is this “ad” which coins a new diagnosis – Clinton fatigue.
[youtube]https://youtu.be/JTPLQ9pjdVc[/youtube]
I’ve seen dumber things, but not today.
 
 
 
 

Office Depot Reverses Course and Apologizes for Denying Order for Anti-Abortion Prayer

The CEO of Office Depot has apologized to a woman who was denied service at the store to print an anti-abortion prayer. Now the CEO says he will print it if she wants to return.
Maria Goldstein asked a Chicago area Office Depot to make 500 copies of an anti-abortion flier. The store refused citing what they claimed was language of persecution of pro-choice people. The company originally defended the action but after the news hit the Drudge Report, Office Depot’s CEO got involved and apologized in a statement Friday.
This story draws comparisons to Christian bakers and florists who have refused to provide services to same-sex weddings. Goldstein sought legal counsel and “felt discriminated against.”
Psychologist Gordon Allport once said “the role of religion is paradoxical. It makes prejudice and it unmakes prejudice.” 

Pastor of Willow Creek PCA Kevin Labby Apologizes and Clarifies Matters in the Case of Tullian Tchividjian

UPDATE: Tchividjian advises on how to recover from failure.
Kevin Labby told me today that they are “working within our Presbyterian system to satisfactorily address the issues associated with Tullian’s [Tchividjian] entrance into the Willow Creek Church family.”
To that end, Labby posted an apology and clarification on the Willow Creek blog today.

Greetings Brothers and Sisters in the Lord –

First, I want to apologize for creating confusion regarding the nature of Tullian Tchividjian’s employment at Willow Creek Church through a poorly chosen title for his position. That fault rests squarely with me. Please forgive me. We will be choosing another in due time, one better reflecting his limited role with us.

Second, I want to reiterate that we recognize the propriety of the South Florida Presbytery’s decision to depose Tullian Tchividjian from ordained ministry as a teaching elder. Also, and as stated previously, Tullian’s position does not involve responsibilities unique to the office of teaching elder. His work with us is as a non-ordained support staff member.

Finally, I appreciate your continued prayers as we endeavor to care for Tullian and, by extension, his family during this difficult time.

Sincerely,

Kevin Labby, Senior Pastor
Willow Creek Church

Tchividjian’s title was “Director of Ministry Development” which sounded like a ministry position and one which might require ordination. In his post, Labby clarified those points. What seems clear is that the Tchividjian’s role with the church continues.

For all articles on Tchividjian’s new position, click here.
 

Gospel for Asia Reneged on Pledge Not to Take Loans or Money from Mission Field to Build New Headquarters

GFA HQ FrontIn May 2010, Gospel for Asia’s CEO and founder, K.P. Yohannan, told GFA staff that GFA might move from Carrollton, TX to Wills Point, TX. A month later, GFA acquired 350 acres which would eventually become the site of the current compound. As reported previously, GFA began building the project without sufficient funds in hand to complete it. In April 2013, GFA leaders realized they were very low on cash and approached City Bank in Lubbock for a loan. According to GFA COO, David Carroll, the City Bank was willing to loan the money but before that happened, a board under the control of Believers’ Church in India took a loan there and then sent almost $19.8 million as a gift to help GFA complete the office buildings (link).
I have since learned that GFA borrowed $11.5 million from City Bank in Lubbock in July 2014.
In May and June of 2010, GFA staff were informed that GFA had initiated a process of acquiring land for a new headquarters and compound. During these meetings, staff were told that the move would save millions and be cheaper for staff living expenses (neither of these claims appear to be true which will be addressed in future posts). In addition, staff were told that GFA would not divert money from the field nor take loans to help construct the headquarters. However, as we have seen, GFA did both. In October 2013, nearly $19.8 million was wired to GFA from a source in Asia (later disclosed to be Believers’ Church, headed by K.P. Yohannan). In India, GFA is an arm of Believers’ Church. According to GFA’s David Carroll, Believers’ Church took a loan which allowed them to give the $19.8 million to GFA in the U.S. to complete the headquarters. In one act, it appears that GFA reneged on the earlier promises to staff. Then another loan was taken by GFA in the U.S. in 2014.
Below listen to Yohannan’s statements to staff in 2010.

One of the main complaints from former staff is a feeling of betrayal over the policies portrayed by GFA leaders and that which actually happened. The story that is emerging about the move to Wills Point is quite different than what was described at the time.
What might be more serious even than misleading statements to staff are the the misleading statements in the 2013 audit conducted by Bland Garvey. The $19.8 million payment from Believers’ Church in India to GFA was clearly a related party transaction with financial repercussion both in India and the U.S. However, the “anonymous” gift was reported in a different section of the audit:
GFAGiftIndiaBC
This description does not alert potential donors or potential lenders (e.g., City Bank in Lubbock, TX who loaned $11.5 million to GFA) that the cash to help build the buildings actually came from a related party (Despite his claims to the contrary, Yohannan is listed in legal documents in India as the managing trustee of Believers’ Church). Some donors might wonder why funds are so urgently needed on the field if a beneficiary of GFA’s work can turn around and give such a large gift with assurances that it can be repaid very quickly. A bank might view the credit worthiness of GFA differently if it is known that an anonymous donor is really a related party.
The ECFA review of Gospel for Asia is supposed to be completed by October when GFA is supposed to answer all outstanding questions. Looking forward to that.

PAC Backing Ted Cruz Bashes Romney; Pushes Wedge Issues to Bring Out White Voters

The PAC backing Ted Cruz calls Mitt Romney a “terrible candidate” and believes Cruz will be able to turn his Cuban heritage into Hispanic votes if he wins the GOP presidential nomination. In a report titled, “Can He Win?” the PAC now headed by David Barton is sharply critical of Mitt Romney and his campaign for the presidency. CNN posted a link to a slide show with the same content back in July, but that link now is dead.
KtPRomney
The report repeatedly tells readers, “In 2012 a terrible candidate with a terrible campaign almost won” and then refers to Romney’s performance among African-Americans and Hispanics. Here is the Colorado analysis:
KtPColorado
 
Given Cruz’s Christian nation positions and the addition of very un-Libertarian Barton as head of the Keep the Promise PAC, my opinion is that this is wishful thinking.
A big part of the Keep the Promise strategy is to use wedge issues to get white voters to stay in the GOP fold.
Cruz GOP Must
What will bring out the white voters? According to Keep the Promise, Common Core, Immigration, Future not Past, National Security and Foreign Money. Honestly, I am not sure how Cruz is going to drive up white and Hispanic vote at the same time if his wedge issue is immigration.
Readers, do you think this PAC will bring home a Cruz victory?
 
 

Ted Cruz Speaks At David Barton's Legislative Conference

The Keep the Promise Super PAC now being run by David Barton is not supposed to collaborate with Ted Cruz or his campaign. Thus, Cruz can’t be criticized directly for the fact that the PACs supporting him named Barton as the head of day to day operations. However, Cruz can be criticized for lending his credibility to Barton’s work when he speaks at Barton’s pastors briefing. Cue Alan Noble’s article on how to revitalize young conservatives.


These events will now be scrutinized very carefully.