Baylor fires coach Briles, demotes pres. Starr

WACO, Texas (BP) – Baylor University stripped Ken Starr of his presidency and fired head football coach Art Briles today (May 26) after an independent investigation found "a fundamental failure" to protect students from sexual assault in a years-long scandal.

Baylor Board of Regents chairman Richard Willis expressed horror at the investigation's revelations.

"We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus. This investigation revealed the University's mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students," Willis said in the press release. "The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students."

Effective May 31, Starr will no longer serve as president, but will retain his position as the Louise L. Morrison Chair of Constitutional Law in Baylor's Law School, and will serve in principle as chancellor on terms that are still being discussed, the board said.

The board appointed David Garland, former dean and professor at Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary, as interim president. Briles was suspended indefinitely and will be terminated according to contractual procedures, the board said.

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Texas, 10 other states sue over Obama administration's transgender directive

TEXAS and 10 other states filed suit May 25 against the Obama administration over its directive on transgender student access to public school facilities, firing the first shot in what is likely to be a protracted and messy legal battle over that guidance, Fox News reported.

The suit was filed in a Texas federal court in response to the directive handed down to schools earlier this month that said transgender students should be able to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the lawsuit at a Wednesday news conference, saying the directives represent an attempt by the administration to rewrite the law, the Fox News report said.

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Floyd, evangelicals to meet with Trump

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church northwest Arkansas, is among perhaps 500 evangelicals and other conservatives planning to meet with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump about his faith and values at a June 21 meeting in New York.

Family Research Council President and Southern Baptist Tony Perkins, and United In Purpose leader Bill Dallas,  who partners with nearly 50 groups to uphold biblical principles in the U.S., recruited Floyd among a small group of leaders to spearhead the meeting as the steering committee.

Members of the steering committee will question Trump before the larger meeting, but logistics and details of the gatherings were still being communicated as of press-time, Floyd said. The meeting is billed as an opportunity to share information, values, principles and beliefs.

“We want to talk to Mr. Trump humbly. He doesn’t need to hear us preach. He needs to hear our heart,” Floyd said. “We need to talk to him about what matters to us. The term ‘evangelical’ is not a voting block. The term ‘evangelical’ is a name tag, a declaration of who we are, about various truths of the Scripture.”

U.S. Supreme Court nomination opportunities, the sanctity of human life, religious liberty and racial reconciliation are topics Floyd hopes to address in the meeting. He expects to be able to invite other Southern Baptists to the meeting, he said, but is awaiting details.

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All need religious liberty, Baptists, others contend

ERLC President Russell Moore speaks at a May 23 discussion on religious liberty in Washington, D.C., while Baltimore Archbishop William Lori listens. Photo by Christian PWASHINGTON (BP) – Religious leaders with widely diverse views called for freedom for all faith groups, not just their own, in a May 23 panel discussion sponsored by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Southern Baptist, Roman Catholic, Mormon and Muslim representatives explained to an audience on Capitol Hill why their faith perspectives support universal religious freedom despite the distinctions in their beliefs.

"Our differences are too important to be adjudicated by the state or to be applied through pressure," said Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore, who explained he thought he could speak for the entire panel in making such an assertion.

Religious freedom, Moore said, is "about having the freedom and the opportunity to be genuinely different, to be able to genuinely respect one another and to be able to have disagreements with one another, including about issues that we believe are of ultimate, ultimate significance, while at the same time saying, 'These are not matters of coercion, and we do not need a government referee to come and settle those issues.'

"A religion that needs cultural or political pressure behind it," he said, "is a religion that has lost faith in its deity."

ERLC President Russell Moore speaks at a May 23 interfaith conversation on religious liberty in Washington, D.C. Others on the panel are (from left): ERLC Executive Vice President Phillip Bethancourt; Muslim spokesman Hamza Yusuf; Catholic spokesman William Lori; and Mormon spokesman Dallin Oaks. Photo by Christian PostThe event – titled "Christianity and the Common Good: Religious Liberty and Human Flourishing" – was the latest in the Capitol Conversations series of panel discussions sponsored by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). It came at a time in American life when evangelical Christians and Catholics are among those receiving government pressure to violate their beliefs to use their services for same-sex weddings and Muslims are sometimes facing hostility in reaction to terrorist acts by Islamic extremists.

Each of the panelists explained his faith's basis for supporting freedom for all religious adherents.

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Mo. appeals court orders foundation's return

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) – The Missouri Baptist Convention's governance of the Missouri Baptist Foundation must be restored, the Missouri Court of Appeals – Western District ruled May 24.

The decision is among an array of court proceedings stemming from actions by breakaway trustees of the foundation, with $150 million in assets, and four other Missouri Baptist Convention entities in 2000-2001.

The appeals court ruling, announced by Chief Judge Alok Ahuja, upholds all facets of an October 2014 judgment by the Circuit Court of Cole County ordering the restoration of foundation governance to MBC-elected trustees.

The foundation appealed the trial decision to the Missouri appeals court, which heard arguments in September 2015 and handed down its decision May 24 to end some 15 years of control by a self-appointed, self-perpetuating trustee board. The foundation may appeal the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court – its final option after repeated setbacks in the lower courts.

The appeals court, in its ruling, stated that "the Convention has standing to challenge the Foundation's disregard of provisions of its organizational documents which gave the Convention the right to review and approve any amendments."

The court cited a 1994 charter of the 70-year-old Missouri Baptist Foundation defining it as "a charitable corporation" under Missouri statutes "to support the mission of Missouri Baptists by 'developing, managing and distributing financial resources … as the trust service agency of the Missouri Baptist Convention.'"

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