Tag Archives: freedom

Is Tweeting Now a Felony?

Say you want a revolution.
We better get on right away.
Well you get on your feet
And out on the street.
– John Lennon
“Power to the People”

The ominous rise of the surveillance state continues unabated. With each passing day, hope fades that the Obama administration will diverge from George W. Bush’s erection of a police state.

The government’s treatment of Elliot Madison is a case in point. Madison, a 41-year-old self-styled anarchist and social worker, was arrested on September 24, 2009, and charged with violating a federal anti-rioting law. Madison allegedly listened to a police scanner (which, according to the New York Times, is legal) and blogged about it on Twitter to help fellow protesters avoid law enforcement at the G-20 summit taking place in Pittsburgh that same month. (Ironically, just months earlier, the U.S. government called Twitter a boon to democracy after Iranian protesters used it to organize anti-government rallies.)

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Freedom Under Fire

“This is a sad day for the cause of freedom. When the Supreme Court cannot clear their calendar to hear a case of this magnitude, then our freedoms are in jeopardy. Such censorship and discrimination should not be permitted in America.”
John W. Whitehead,
The Rutherford Institute

The United States Supreme Court has refused to hear the case of a high school valedictorian whose microphone was turned off by school officials after she began speaking about the part her Christian beliefs played in her success in life. Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute had asked the Court to hear the case of Brittany McComb, charging that school officials violated McComb’s free speech rights and engaged in viewpoint discrimination when they censored her speech because of its Christian content. The Court issued the order denying the petition without additional explanation.

“This is a sad day for the cause of freedom,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “When the Supreme Court cannot clear their calendar to hear a case of this magnitude, then our freedoms are in jeopardy. Such censorship and discrimination should not be permitted in America.”

In the spring of 2006, Brittany McComb was one of three valedictorians chosen based on their grade-point averages to give a speech at Foothill High School’s annual commencement ceremony. Each valedictorian was provided with “suggestions” for crafting their speeches. However, school officials neither encouraged nor forbade the students to include or exclude religious content from their speeches. In her speech, Brittany reflected on past experiences and lessons learned at school and wrote about the emptiness she experienced from accomplishments, achievements and failures in her early high school years. She then mentioned the fulfillment and satisfaction she later came to experience in something greater than herself, namely, in God’s love, and Christ.

Upon receiving a copy of Brittany’s draft speech, school administrators proceeded to censor her speech, deleting all three Bible references, several references to “the Lord” and the only mention of the word “Christ.” Believing that the district’s censorship of her speech amounted to a violation of her right to free speech, on June 15, 2006, Brittany attempted to deliver the original version of her speech in which she talked about the role that her Christian beliefs played in her success. The moment Brittany began to speak the words, school officials cut off her microphone. Despite extensive jeers from the audience over the school officials’ actions, McComb was not permitted to finish her valedictory speech.

With the assistance of The Rutherford Institute, Brittany McComb filed a First Amendment lawsuit against Foothill High School officials in July 2006. In June 2007, the U.S. District Court for Nevada rejected the school district’s second attempt to have the case dismissed and affirmed that the lawsuit raises substantial claims of infringement of McComb’s right of free speech. School officials subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeals, which dismissed the case, holding that McComb had no right to give her speech, which it deemed to be “proselytizing.”

Despite the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the McComb case, John Whitehead points out that the battle is far from over. “As we see our freedoms constantly under attack, be reminded that The Rutherford Institute continues to defend those whose freedoms are in jeopardy,” stated Whitehead. “In fact, we have two more cases on appeal before the United States Supreme Court. In the first, Nurre v. Whitehead, the courts have ruled that public school students cannot perform Christian music at a graduation ceremony, even without spoken words or printed lyrics. In the second, Busch v. Marple Newtown School District, the courts have affirmed that a Christian mother cannot read a passage from the Psalms to her child in kindergarten, while other parents are permitted to read whatever they choose.”

The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit legal and educational civil liberties organization, provides legal assistance at no charge to individuals whose constitutional rights have been threatened or been violated.

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No Room For Fear

I was anxious to have my daughter and son-in-law over for breakfast. The grandkids would be over too and I was looking forward to squeezing them and planting wet kisses on their soft cheeks. It wasn’t often that they came over for an early morning breakfast. I had dug out an old recipe for homemade buttermilk pancakes. The table was already set and the sausage was warming in the oven. They would be arriving any time.

My concern over the flakiness of the pancakes soon faded as I watched their van come down the driveway. It came to a slow stop just outside the kitchen window. I knew something was wrong and I was overcome by fear. Certainly, I would not have to hear bits of bad news…or would it be the familiar dreaded news again? It appeared that they were arguing but I could not tell for sure. I just wondered why they were not coming in and the feelings of fear continued to mount. Moments passed before the kitchen door opened…I could feel tension in the air. The news I had feared would haunt me again, “Mom, we relapsed again last night.” I felt as though my legs would buckle and it was all I could do to stand. The news was too much. How could I go through this again? I had thought they were doing better, but deep down, did I really believe that? I had high hopes.

We all sat down to eat, trying to pretend that it would be okay and that we could get through this again. I wished I could have bragged about how great the pancakes were and I pretended to enjoy them but nothing was further from my mind. It was all I could do to keep the bites from coming back up my throat. We had to get through this. We were all affected, even the three babies looking back at me from behind plates of half eaten pancakes. They had no idea of the severity of the situation and the thought of it broke my heart. I couldn’t stop the questions from invading my every thought. Did they know what they were about to endure again? How were they going to get through this yet one more time? Why did they have to go through this? Would they be safe? Would they be exposed to the drug abuse? Since their parents had relapsed, would life go back to what it was for them the first time it had happened? A million questions and not one answer. Fear and anxiety robbed me of my senses and all I wanted to do was jump up and run as fast as I could. I had to get away but all I could do was sit…I was angry. I was numb.

Fear, what a horrible thing. In my opinion, there is no other feeling that could be worse. It had claimed me for many years and I could not overcome it. I had feared many things. I feared for my kids as they were growing up; I worried about finances, stresses over my job. But nothing could compare to this. How could my child, one who I loved so much and one who I had invested so much time in, go so astray? Was it my fault? What did I do wrong? Had I not instilled God’s word into her heart as good as I could have? Would my child become so addicted that the addiction would take her away from me? Feelings of failure and the what-ifs haunted me. I was now on a journey of torment, brought upon by my own sin of unbelief. I had to let go of it, I could not fix it. All of the worry was getting me nowhere. It was destroying my spirit and robbing my joy. God was the only one who could take care of it but I was not allowing Him to do that.

Fears had driven me into a spiritually dry place and it was hard to even pray. I often opened my Bible at night and placed it upon my belly as I tried to sleep. Although scripture seemed to run together in my mind and I had a hard time focusing upon it, I felt comfort that upon my belly was the sword of the spirit. It was a protection and a huge comfort for me.

A lot has changed since then. I have learned that you cannot live in fear and in faith at the same time. They are enemies. Fear does not work and it gives you no relief. When we bask in fear and worry, we block the blessings that God has for us. When we worry, we meditate on fearful things and we feed them, fuel the fire so-to-speak. When we feed them, they grow and soon our worries are out of control and are far greater than our minds can safely endure. We instead need to focus on the promises of God and meditate on them day and night. We can cast our fears on Jesus, realizing that He is the only one who can make a difference and the only one who can fix the problems and stresses in our life. We need to believe that God does have everything under control.

Now, when worries come my way and when fear tries to settle in, I just begin to praise the Lord, the maker of the universe and the lover of my soul. When I sing, sometimes to myself or sometimes quietly, I tell God how great He is and thank Him for all the things He has done for me. I choose not to fear and it is a conscious decision on my part. My human side tries to hold on to the fear but I must let it go. Although at times it is difficult to praise – a real sacrifice – but it’s the key to a sound mind. Are these the sacrifices of praise that the Bible talks about? We must know too that Satan will distract us because he knows that God delights in the praises of His people.

God is so big and ready to help. He just waits for us to ask. But we so often hold on to our problems, not trusting God to help us. It is unbelief and it grieves God’s heart. This is something I don’t want to ever do again. I’m learning to totally depend on God, and to trust Him in times of despair. I can’t say I am one hundred percent “cured” and that I don’t fear on occasion, but I have learned to turn it over to God and I do not allow myself to meditate on those fearful things for long. What a comfort it is for me to know that God is always with me. He sees my hurts, my disappointments, and feels my broken heart.

Wow, what kind of friend is that?

Psalms 46.11 (KJV) says that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Also, “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:6 NIV). Lord, keep my mind safe and bring me peace! I love Psalms 16:11 (NIV) where David says “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” That is where I want to be. If I am there in God’s presence and full of joy, there is no room for fear. Praise be to God, my Rock and my Fortress.

Josephine Turnbeck is a financial officer and a mother of two. She enjoys spending time with her famly, working in the yard, and reading a book by the comfort of a warm fire. You can contact her at josephineturnbeck@gmail.com.

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Amazing Grace

Prior to surrendering to Christ, I lived a life that was a lie. I abused alcohol, stole to make ends meet, and lied to anyone who would listen. I was searching for my identity and I thought that someone else held the key to who I was.

At 25 I was a single mother, going through a divorce. I didn’t know how to deal with the pain and anger of my faltering relationship, so I started pretending. I pretended it didn’t hurt, and I pretended I didn’t care. Over time I actually started to believe my own lies.

Eventually, I started to find comfort at bars. I didn’t have to feel the pain, and I didn’t have to accept the truth. Pretending and living a lie became a reality for me.

I was constantly running, and hiding. But the only person I ran from was me. I became so addicted to the atmosphere of the bar, and that lifestyle became my priority. The night-life, the people, the lies, allowed for me to create a person I thought was better than everybody else. This lifestyle satisfied what I thought I needed.

Unfortunately, the addiction became so powerful, that I could not financially survive. At this point, I realized something was wrong, but I wasn’t ready to admit that. I knew I had to fix the problem before it got worse. So I stole.

My financial problems were temporarily fixed, but I felt so guilty for my actions. I just waited for the day that I would get caught. I was so scared. The fear became so much that I started taking sleeping pills. I just wanted to sleep; as long as I was asleep I didn’t live in fear, and I didn’t have to feel the guilt.

On Sept. 6, 2007, I was taken to the hospital for what was called an apparent suicide attempt. I didn’t want to live this way anymore. I was also arrested for my crimes that day. On this day I slowly began telling the truth.

I was sitting in a jail cell the first time I heard the voice of the Lord. I remember hearing him tell me to talk to him, to pray. My response was, “I am not getting down on my knees and praying.” I thought in order to pray I had to be on my knees.

Over the next few weeks I could still hear his quite voice in my heart – he never went away and he never gave up.

I went to a Sunday service at the jail, and it was lead by a Sunday school teacher who would come in and sing children songs to the women. Her final song was “Amazing Grace.” As I sat there listening to that song, my heart opened, and the only thing I could say was, “I am sorry.”

On that day I took accountability for my actions, and finally asked the Lord for help. I wanted to change, but I didn’t know how, since I was in jail awaiting a sentence. I knew that I wanted something different. Two days later by the grace of God, I was sent home on house arrest.

I was fortunate to spend two months on house arrest. I was fighting a prison sentence, and searching for the truth. Limited on what I was allowed to do, my time on house arrest wasn’t easy. But my life changed the day that I walked into West Salem Foursquare.

I was never much a church person. In fact I couldn’t remember the last time I went to church. But when I walked into West Salem Foursquare, I knew I was home. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the first service I attended. I wanted what the pastor so beautifully spoke of. From that day forward I have never been the same. In the weeks following, I met some very important and special people, who not only showed me God’s love and forgiveness, but they also showed me the truth.

On Nov. 29, 2007, I was sentenced to 26 months of prison. On Nov. 30, I walked into Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, more terrified and confused than I have ever been. How was I ever going to survive this? I am not a criminal, I just made some really poor decisions; or as Robert put it, some stupid, stupid, stupid decisions.

I walked into that place a believer. I was like a clinging child on Christ leg. Fortunately, I spent the next year growing and loving Jesus. I was in the word every day, attending services, and surrounding myself around other believers.

I went to court on Nov. 27, 2007 asking for a year and was sentenced to two years, two months. On May 21 of that year, I was accepted in to a drug and alcohol program, which reduced my sentence. I was released on Nov. 19, 2008. Eleven days shy of my one year mark.

That year in prison, allowed me to find out who I really am, to get to know the Lord, and trust in him. I walked by faith every day of my time away, and I still do.

Today I can say that I am honest and true to whom I am. Life since being home has not always been easy, but it’s definitely beautiful.

The Lord has been faithful to me. I am home with my family, who not only supports and encourages me, but also loves me and has forgiven me. I am rebuilding my relationship with my son – the Lord has shown me how to be the mother I am supposed to be.

I can look anyone in the eye today and be truthful. I am who I am today by the Gods’ love and grace.

Stefany Camenisch is thankful for God’s love and redeeming grace. She attends church at West Salem Foursquare and welcomes you to read her thoughts on her blog at www.stefanysthoughts.blogspot.com.

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In the words of the great philosopher Kris Kristofferson, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Well, nothing, that’s all the market left me.

It’s been a roller coaster ride over the last month, watching the daily stock market report. “We’re doomed!” No, it’s ok. “This is the end!” No, this is a great time to buy. You get the picture.
People (most often my wife) ask me, aren’t you worried? Well, the answer is, kind of. Oh, I’m not worried about my investments, or lack thereof. I’m not even that worried about the cost of living going up and my standard of living going down. Truth is there certainly is some room to wiggle. Not that we’re rich by any means. Well, maybe by the world’s standards, we really are.

My friend Al is currently in the Philippines. The people of the village he ministers to are rejoicing over the well they put in on his last visit. Prior to that, they only had running water for a few hours a day. “Fill them buckets up guys.”

The only water stored at my house is the algae green water in my pool. While I choose between chicken and pork, they choose between fish or fish. While I try to pair my pork with the right starch they try to decide how much rice they can spare for dinner. This, of course, is only one example. This scene is played out all over the world. To be sure, many in the world may be in envy of the riches of Al’s village.

So, back in the old US of A, what are we to make of all this? Well, I think for starters, we need to wake up, and realize that the wealth – or maybe, more rightly, the faux-wealth – we have enjoyed in this country hasn’t really brought us the satisfaction we (and our fathers) thought it would. Oh, of course it helps put us at ease when we can meet the basic necessities of life; food, water, sleep, and breathing. That’s the base level of human needs, as told by the famed psychologist Albert Maslow. Next comes physical security, employment, resources, morality, family, health and property. Can’t argue with that.

Next we seek friendship, family, and sexual intimacy. All good. Unfortunately, Maslow never realized that by overindulging in resources and property, we might actually prevent ourselves from successfully reaching the higher levels of the hierarchy of needs. An example of this is when a man chases the next promotion because it will mean even more resources and PROPERTY, while ignoring the needs of his wife and children. In this scenario, everyone gets more, but no one gets satisfied. Even though they think they should be, they find themselves with an empty feeling thinking, “Maybe if I get more…?” Like, a puffed rice cake, more never is enough. In the end everyone’s miserable and no one knows why. After all, we’re meeting our need, right? Love and belonging have given way to things.

So, all this got me thinking. If we can’t put our faith in things, what can we put our faith in? Well, it would be a cliché to say God. Of course, there’s a reason sayings become clichés. When I look back on the history of mankind, I realize it is our faith in God that has made the difference in our satisfaction. Starting with Abraham, it was faith in God that set him apart from all others. Not his goodness. Not his virtue. Not all of his things or successes. It was faith in God. Something bigger than he was. Something more significant than he was. Yes, he could have worked a little harder. Accumulated more property. Been a better person even. Wouldn’t have mattered. Wouldn’t have satisfied.

I just finished watching a couple of videos by Louie Giglio about our indescribable God. In the videos, Louie shows through cosmic examples, how enormous and powerful God is and, consequently, how insignificant and small we all are. The images of the universe truly are eye opening. Through it all, he makes a profound revelation that the universe screams out the presence and power of God. As I watched the images flash through, as Louie explained them, I couldn’t help but realize that the God, who created all of that, really is big enough to take care of me and all my needs. Oh, the world and all its financial crisis’ are still here. It’s just that, now, they don’t seem so very big at all. Maybe Kris was right after all. Freedom really does only come when you have nothing left to lose.


Michael Yoder is a married father of three children. He has been involved in local youth ministry for over twenty years and currently oversees the Youth Program at Bible Center Fellowship in Salem, OR. His current position as the Assistant Superintendent of Transitional Services at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem puts food on the table and a roof over his family’s head.

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Shaking Frustration

I have a confession: I am a recovering frustration-aholic.

I’ve spent the last 11 months of my life feeling like I’m not fulfilling my calling in life, allowing frustration to eat away at me like a moth on an old sweater. I’ve wondered countless times, God, if You’ve given me this great vision for my life, why does it seem it’s not coming to pass?

In the midst of job and location frustration, I set out trying to make God’s will happen in my life on my own. I’ve looked for many other jobs that I thought were possibly God’s calling for my life for now. I’ve considered moving. I’ve even thought about adopting a whole new batch of friends—anything to drown the current frustration out with waves of newness.

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