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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Oklahoma bans abortions in bill that opens door to felony charges against doctors who perform them

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Legislature on May 19 passed a bill that would effectively ban abortions by subjecting doctors who perform them to felony charges and revoking their medical licenses — the first legislation of its kind, according to media reports.

In a year in which states have moved to outlaw abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, to ban the main surgical method used in the second trimester and to shut down abortion clinics with regulations, Oklahoma’s bill is the most far-reaching, The New York Times reported.

The measure, which passed the Republican-dominated Senate by a vote of 33 to 12, will be presented to Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, who will have five days to sign it, veto it or allow it to take effect without her signature.

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Baby Jake: Couple cherishes preemie son

From left, Dr. Robert Arrington, Jacob Woods holding Jake, Dr. Robert Lyle and Michelle Woods. Arrington and Lyle were two of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital neonatologists who treated Jake. The Woods are expecting another child.Jessica Vanderpool
Special to the ABN

ASHDOWN – Jacob and Michelle Woods, members of Oak Grove Baptist Church, Ashdown, understand how precious life is – no matter how small and frail it begins.

When their son, Jake Daniel Woods, was born seven weeks early with life-threatening complications, the couple was left completely dependent on God as they waited to see if their child would live.

Michelle Woods’ pregnancy had been picture-perfect for the first 33 weeks. Then, on March 3, 2014, her doctor noticed she was “measuring big” and carrying extra fluid.

She said her doctor told her that while this could be cause for concern, it could also be normal and that she should return the following week for another ultrasound.

But just two days later – despite the fact that she wasn’t due until April 23 – her water broke, and baby Jake was born in the wee hours of March 6.

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Supreme Court ruling good news for GuideStone, ministries

DALLAS — The U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion May 16 ordering the government to work out a solution in the contraceptive mandate cases that would actually protect the religious beliefs of objecting religious organizations, including GuideStone and the ministries it serves. The Court vacated the lower court decision that had gone against the religious organizations and ruled that the government cannot fine the ministries as the cases proceed.

No ministries served by GuideStone have been fined; a temporary injunction has been in place since December 2013, preventing the government from enforcing the mandate or applying penalties against ministries served by GuideStone’s health plans.

Churches and closely related auxiliaries of churches were exempt from the mandate from the outset and were not at risk of penalties.

“We are thankful, first and foremost, to the Lord for this decision,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. “We appreciate the diligence of our legal teams in working through the legal and constitutional issues that were raised as well as for the men and women of the Supreme Court who took seriously their oaths of office. This is a good day for which we are thankful.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents GuideStone in the case, called the development a victory for religious freedom.

“The Court has recognized that the government has changed its position,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund. “It is crucial that the Justices unanimously ordered the government not to impose these fines and indicated that the government doesn’t need any notice to figure out what should now be obvious. There is still work to be done, but today’s decision indicates that we will ultimately prevail in court.”

Hawkins noted that the Affordable Care Act has created challenges for the health care industry as a whole but GuideStone continues to work on behalf of its participants.

“The federal health care law continues to create challenges for all who provide medical plans,” Hawkins said. “Despite the headwinds caused by regulations out of the law, GuideStone remains committed to providing high-quality and affordable medical coverage in 2017 and beyond.”


Obama administration directs public schools to allow transgender access to restrooms

WASHINGTON –  The Obama administration is planning to issue a sweeping directive telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.

A letter to school districts will go out Friday, adding to a highly charged debate over transgender rights in the middle of the administration’s legal fight with North Carolina over the issue. The declaration — signed by Justice and Education department officials — will describe what schools should do to ensure that none of their students are discriminated against.

It does not have the force of law, but it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.

Click to read more at the NY Times ...