Son of sheriff’s deputy arrested in connection with historically black church fires: report

Son of sheriff's deputy reportedly arrested in connection with fires at historically black churchesCops on Thursday were investigating if hate was the motive in the case of a man arrested Wednesday in connection with several intentionally set fires that burned down three historically black churches in the past two weeks, police said.

Holden Matthews, 21, faces three counts of simple arson of a religious building on the state charges. Federal investigators are looking into whether hate motivated the fires. Matthews is the son of St. Landry Parish Deputy Roy Matthews.

Holden Matthews, 21, was arrested Thursday, April 11, 2019, in connection with suspicious fires at three historic black churches in southern Louisiana. 

Holden Matthews, 21, was arrested Thursday, April 11, 2019, in connection with suspicious fires at three historic black churches in southern Louisiana.  (Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal via AP)

The first fire took place last month at the St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre on March 26. The second happened April 2 at the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, while the latest came two days later at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, also in Opelousas.

After observing the crime scenes and speaking with investigators, Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., told The New York Times that the “method of each burn is notably the same.”

CHINESE OFFICIALS BURN BIBLES CLOSE CHURCHES, FORCE CHRISTIANS TO DENOUNCE FAITH AMID ‘ESCALATING’ CRACKDOWN

FILE: Firefighters and fire investigators responding to a fire at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Opelousas, La. 

FILE: Firefighters and fire investigators responding to a fire at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Opelousas, La.  (Leslie Westbrook/The Advocate via AP)

The three churches of predominantly black congregations were empty at the time of the blazes, and no injuries were recorded. The NAACP has labeled the church burnings “domestic terrorism” and racially motivated.

At a Thursday news conference, State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said the threat to the community “is gone now.” He also called the fires “an attack on our God and our religion.”

Lousiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said “these were evil acts.”

Court strikes down school dress code rule that kept girls in skirts

The traditional-values dress code policy of a North Carolina charter school was tough.

Now, it’s also unconstitutional, based on the ruling of a federal judge.

Charter Day School in Leland had a dress policy that forced girls to wear skirts, skorts or jumpers that are knee length or longer, WECT reported. Failure to comply could have meant discipline or expulsion for the young students.

According to WECT, the parents of three children, ages 5, 10 and 14, filled a lawsuit along with the Civil Liberties Union against Charter Day.

STATE LAWMAKER WANTS A SCHOOL DRESS CODE FOR PARENTS: ‘YOU’D BE SURPRISED AT SOME OF THE STUFF WE SEE’

“All I wanted was for my daughter and every other girl at school to have the option to wear pants so she could play outside, sit comfortably and stay warm in the winter,” Bonnie Peltier, the mother of a former Charter Day School student, told WECT. “We’re happy the court agrees, but it’s disappointing that it took a court order to force the school to accept the simple fact that, in 2019, girls should have the choice to wear pants.”

Students play outside Charter Day. The school's dress code was  deemed unconstitutional

Students play outside Charter Day. The school’s dress code was  deemed unconstitutional (WECT)

The lawsuit also maintained that skirts restricted the students’ movement, inhibited their participation in play and made it tough to sit on the floor.

U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard found the policy in violation of violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

STUDENTS STAGE WALKOUT TO PROTEST SCHOOL’S DRESS CODE BAN ON DO-RAGS

The school’s founder and the architect of the dress policy, Baker A Mitchell Jr., said in an email that the policy was intended to promote “chivalry” and “traditional values.” Mitchell wanted “to preserve chivalry and respect among young women and men,” and offered the 1999 Columbine High School massacre as a motivation for a return to simpler times.

Chinese Authorities Blow Up Popular Megachurch

China Aid footage of the destruction

Crackdown in 2009 that ended with the arrest of church leaders.

Those church leaders were given prison sentences of up to seven years for charges of illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order, according to state media.

There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China, many of whom worship in independent congregations like the Golden Lampstand. Millions of Christians, Buddhists and Muslims also worship in state-sanctioned assemblies.

But the surging popularity of non-state-approved churches has raised the ire of authorities, wary of any threats to the officially atheist Communist Party’s rigid political and social control.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed under China’s constitution, so local authorities are often seen as using technicalities to attack unregistered churches. Charges of land or building violations and disturbing the peace are among the most common.

The state-run Global Times newspaper reported the official reason for the demolition was the building did not hold the necessary permits.

“A Christian offered his farmland to a local Christian association, and they secretly built a church using the cover of building a warehouse,” a government department official was quoted as saying.

Religious groups must register with local religious affairs authorities under Chinese law, the report said, adding the church was illegally constructed nearly a decade ago in violation of building codes.

Pictures distributed by ChinaAid showed the church’s steeple and cross toppled in a large pile of rubble.

“The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights,” said ChinaAid president and founder Bob Fu.

He added: “ChinaAid calls on the international community to openly condemn the bombing of this church building and urge the Chinese government to fairly compensate the Christians who paid for it and immediately cease these alarming demolitions of churches.”

A pastor at a nearby church, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he saw large numbers of paramilitary police on Tuesday surrounding the area around the church, which was being taken apart by heavy machinery. He later heard a loud explosion.

The Golden Lampstand Church was built by husband and wife evangelists Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli as a permanent home for their followers.

The couple had been preaching around Linfen since 1992, establishing congregations in improvised spaces such as factory dormitories and greenhouses.

Though authorities did not block the church’s construction, they later cracked down on it, and the couple and other church leaders were sent to prison.

ChinaAid said authorities also demolished a Catholic church in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province, on Dec. 27. Officials smashed crosses and confiscated statues, the Eucharistic altar and other religious artifacts as they demolished the building with heavy machinery, the organization said.

The demolition prompted more 100 church members to protest in front of government offices this week. 

Hamas TV Station Calls for ‘Death to Israel,’ Israel Declares it a ‘Terrorist Organization’

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister and defense minister, signed a declaration this week that calls a Hamas TV channel a “terrorist organization.”

The Israel Security Apparatus and the Defense Ministry said the Hamas TV channel, “Al Aqsa,” was using the station “to recruit militants to its ranks.”

The ISA said Palestinian broadcasters and journalists were using cues on the air to try to recruit Palestinians with Israeli ID cards to carry out attacks from inside Israel.

“Declaring Al-Asqa TV a terror organization is a precise labeling,” said Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a media watchdog group.

“Al-Asqa TV promotes all the components of Palestinian terror, including murder of Jews, suicide bombings, kidnapping of soldiers, bombing our cities and destruction of Israel.”

In one recording of the station, a Hamas music video aired on the channel and said, “Strap on an explosive belt … O Martyrdom-seeker, respond to Al-Aqsa’s call… send them to Hell… Let fire burn them, turn them into body parts, roast them.”

In another broadcast, the station featured an Arabic song that said, “Expel the thieving occupier from the enraged land of Jerusalem. Rid your house of that one, that Zionist in his humiliation. Write ‘death, death, death to Israel’ with flowing blood. And with the bleeding body cause death, death, death to Israel.”

The TV station was bombed by IDF military in November, but the station reportedly began broadcasting from a new location soon after, according to The Jerusalem Post.

California May Evict 84-Year-Old for Bible Study in Veterans Home

The California Department of Veterans Affairs is threatening to evict an 84-year-old widow from her California Veterans Home if she continues to hold Bible studies, according to her attorney.

The woman, Artis Breau, has volunteered as a chaplain and led Bible studies over the past decade.

The controversy began last September when one of the residents said he had trouble sleeping after having a conversation with her about heaven and hell. Officials with the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) labeled it elder abuse and emotional abuse, according to the Pacific Justice Institute.

Her volunteer status within the chaplaincy program was suspended in December. Then, on March 1, CalVet told the Pacific Justice Institute that Breau would be subjected to an “involuntary discharge” from the home if she continued leading Bible studies.

Breau believes officials are skeptical of her because she is an evangelical Jewish believer in Christ.

“CalVet’s treatment of this widow is shameful,” said Pacific Justice Institute attorney Matthew McReynolds. “Throughout this process, we have been deeply disturbed not only by the lack of constitutional guidelines, ineptitude, and lack of due process in the investigation, but even more by the notion that discussing religious views on the eternal state of the soul is somehow elder abuse or emotional abuse.

“Our client’s husband fought for his country to preserve the freedoms now being threatened by CalVet. Our veterans deserve better.”

Breau was a civilian employee in the office of the chief of staff of the Army at the Pentagon during the Korean War. Her husband served in World War II and the Korean War.

The Pacific Justice Institute is considering a lawsuit.

“This shocking attack from the State against our client’s exercise of religious convictions is deeply disturbing,” said Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute. “The State seeks to punish Artis based on non-existent directives, and deprive her of a personal ministry to the veterans who have benefited from her religious services for years. Artis isn’t fighting just for herself, but for the Gospel and for the residents who are unable to fight for themselves against the State’s attempted intimidation.”

Teacher Apologizes after Demanding Fourth-Grader Remove Ash Wednesday Cross from Forehead

Teacher Apologizes after Demanding Fourth-Grader Remove Ash Wednesday Cross from Forehead

When an elementary school student in Utah walked into class on Wednesday, he was shocked when his teacher told him to wipe his Ash Wednesday cross off of his forehead.

According to Fox News, fourth-grader William McLeod – seemingly the only Catholic in his class – walked into class on Wednesday with a cross of ash upon his forehead. McLeod told the outlet that many of his classmates asked him what was on his forehead and he happily explained to them that it was to bring him “closer to God” on the first day of Lent.

When his teacher noticed the symbol, however, she decided to pull McLeod aside a demanded he remove the cross from his forehead.

McLeod told Fox News, “She took me aside, and she said, ‘You have to take it off.’ She gave me a disinfection wipe — whatever they are called — and she made me wipe it off.”

Later that day, the fourth grader’s grandmother, Karen Fisher, received a phone call from the school’s principal informing her of the incident. Fisher told Fox 13 that she was “pretty upset” about what had happened to her grandson. The teacher who demanded McLeod remove the cross also called the grandmother later that day to apologize.

Fisher told Fox 13 that during her conversation with the unnamed teach she “asked her if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment, and she said, ‘No.’”

According to McLeod, the teacher sent him a note later that day with some candy apologizing for making him wipe the ashes off of his forehead, noting that she hoped they could move forward from the incident.

A spokesperson for the school district commented on the incident noting that he was unsure of how or why the incident even happened. He added, “When a student comes in to school with ashes on their forehead, it’s not something we say, ‘Please take off.'”

UN Report Accuses Israel of “War Crimes” While Hamas-led Attacks on Border Intensify

“The cry “Violence!” Shall no more be heard in your land, Nor “Wrack and ruin!” Within your borders. And you shall name your walls “Victory” And your gates “Renown.” Isaiah 60:18 (The Israel Bible™)

A United Nations report released on Thursday claimed Israeli soldiers were guilty of “war crimes” when firing at Hamas-led rioters rushing the security fence separating Israel from Gaza.

“The commission has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” said Argentinian legal expert Santiago Canton, who chaired the UNHRC’s commission of inquiry into the protests. “Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel.”

The 22-page report comes after 11 months of Hamas-led March of Return riots. The three-person independent Commission of Inquiry issued by the UN Human Rights Council said more than 6,000 people were shot by IDF snipers using live ammunition, 189 of them fatally.

“The Commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognizable as such,” the report claimed. The report noted significant violence by the rioters but claimed they did not pose an “imminent threat,” concluding that the protests were peaceful.

“The demonstrations were civilian in nature, with clearly stated political aims,” the statement said. “Despite some acts of significant violence, the Commission found that the demonstrations did not constitute combat or military campaigns.”

The report did blame Hamas for using aerial incendiary devices against southern Israel. The report was based on 325 interviews including 15 from the Israeli side. The Israeli government refused to cooperate with the investigation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the report reflected the council’s “obsessive hatred” of Israel.“The UN Human Rights Council is setting new records of hypocrisy and lies stemming from its obsessive hatred toward Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. Hamas is the one firing missiles at Israeli civilians, throwing explosive devices and carrying terrorist activity during demonstrations on the Gaza border,” Netanyahu said. Israel won’t allow Hamas to violate its sovereignty and hurt its citizens and will preserve its right to defend itself. IDF soldiers will continue defending with determination Israeli communities and civilians from Hamas and other terror organizations funded by Iran, which declares its intention to annihilate Israel,” the prime minister added.

Senate may reprimand Trump in addition to revoking his border emergency

breaking us news

Senate Republicans are holding active discussions about whether to amend a resolution revoking President Trump’s border emergency in a way that scolds Trump for the way he asserted authority over the federal budget to fund his border wall.

Senators made it clear Monday that Republicans are still debating whether they have the authority to add any language to the House-passed resolution, and if so, what they might add. But some confirmed that there is talk about hammering home in the resolution that the Senate is not happy with Trump’s move.

“There is a lot being talked about,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., told the Washington Examiner. “I have heard discussion about trying to express concern about separations of powers issues and maybe reining some of the powers back. It’s been all over the map. My sense is it won’t come together.” [ Source: Washington Examiner (Read More…) ]

US deploys THAAD missile defense system to Israel

Prime Minister Netanyahu hails Terminal High Altitude Area Defense as a sign of U.S. commitment to Israeli security • “Together with our defense systems, we are stronger is dealing with threats emanating from all areas of the Middle East,” he says

The deployment, which began in March, was intended to test the U.S. military’s ability to rapidly deploy such weapons around the world, said a spokeswoman for U.S. European Command.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the arrival of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system as a sign of the U.S. commitment to Israeli security.

“The American THAAD system is considered among the most advanced systems in the world, and together with our defense systems, we are stronger in dealing with threats, close or distant, emanating from all areas of the Middle East,” he said.

The move comes amid increased tensions between Israel and Iran over Israel’s bombing campaign in Syria and comments in which Iran’s foreign minister said he could not rule out the possibility of military conflict between the two countries.

The U.S. military said the decision to rapidly move the THAAD system to Israel was intended “as a demonstration of the United States’ continued commitment to Israel’s regional security.”

“THAAD is the most advanced integrated air and missile defense system in the world, and this deployment readiness exercise demonstrates that U.S. forces are agile and can respond quickly and unpredictably to any threat, anywhere, at any time,” U.S. European Command said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin, the biggest U.S. arms maker, builds and integrates the THAAD system, which is designed to shoot down short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Raytheon, another U.S. firm, builds its advanced radar.

As part of the deployment, U.S. forces will work at various locations in Europe, the United States and in Israel to operate the system in close cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces, it said. U.S. officials declined to say how quickly the system was moved to Israel from its home base at Fort Bliss, Texas.

IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the deployment differed from previous simulated U.S.-Israel joint military exercises and involved tactical coordination on the ground.

He said all of the components of the THAAD system were at an air force base in the Negev desert, in southern Israel, and would soon be moved to an undisclosed site in southern Israel.

“The advantage from the Israeli point of view is that we have an opportunity to integrate it into our systems and simulate different scenarios,” he said.

The IDF said the deployment was defensive in nature and not related to any specific current event.

Saudi Arabia agreed in November to buy 44 THAAD launchers, missiles and related equipment from the United States in a separate deal valued at $15 billion.