10th Circuit Court of Appeals rules against GuideStone in HHS mandate litigation

DALLAS – The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled July 14 that GuideStone Financial Resources and the ministries it serves in its health plans must comply with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate, which forces religious ministries to violate their faith or pay crippling IRS penalties. Churches and their integrated auxiliaries are exempt from the mandate as religious employers.

GuideStone, its co-plaintiffs Reaching Souls International and Truett-McConnell College, and attorneys from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Locke Lord LLP are studying the opinion to determine next steps, including possible appeals to the full Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals or to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We’re disappointed with today’s decision, which leaves in place the federal government’s aggressive, discriminatory, and unnecessary attack on the core religious beliefs of private religious ministries," said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead attorney in the GuideStone litigation. "The government does not need to take over a church benefits plan to provide abortion-inducing drugs — the most powerful government in the world can obviously distribute drugs without co-opting religious institutions and their health plans."

GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins echoed Rienzi’s comments.

"This is a disappointing decision, for both religious liberty and for the sanctity of life," Hawkins said. "This is a day for all of us to bombard the Throne of Grace with petitions for a favorable outcome on appeal, for strength of resolve, for the unborn in this country and for all of our leaders, so many of whom have turned their back on the founding principles of this country. We are working already with our legal advisors to determine our next steps.

"Today was a setback. It is not the final outcome."

Both Reaching Souls and Truett-McConnell provide their health insurance through GuideStone, the benefits arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. GuideStone has been providing retirement and health benefits to Southern Baptist churches and affiliated ministries like Reaching Souls and Truett-McConnell College for nearly 100 years.

Reaching Souls is an Oklahoma-based ministry that works to train, equip and support African, Cuban and Indian pastors and evangelists. Truett-McConnell College is a Georgia Baptist Convention college.

Source: GuideStone Financial Resources



ABSC's Tucker comments on Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling


We have received a decision from the Supreme Court that has caused great angst. I am deeply grieved that the Supreme Court has taken an unprecedented position to redefine marriage, ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, and has not upheld the Biblical standard of one man and one woman in a relationship for life. However, our hope as believers has never rested in any other source than a Savior that defeated death and the grave, the word of God, and the power that comes from on high.

Arkansas Baptists stand firmly in the belief that God's love and plan for redemption extends to every person, while also affirming the Bible's definition regarding marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Arkansas Baptists support the statement on marriage issued two weeks ago at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting by the current and all past living presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention

One of our concerns is that religious liberty be protected in every way. We are grateful the Supreme Court took the time to affirm the Constitution's protection of our rights to teach and preach the truth of the Bible. It is unclear how the conflict between our rights and the results of this decision will play out in practical terms. This decision's far-reaching implications are too complicated to speculate upon at this time. Our state convention is already consulting with attorneys regarding how this decision impacts our work as Arkansas Baptists.

We move ahead with several firm convictions. First, God has defined the true definition of marriage. His authority outranks any court decision. Second, we must continue to focus on sharing the message of God's love, hope and salvation that applies to every living person regardless of any factors present in his or her life. Third, we need to embrace the vision cast by SBC President Ronnie Floyd – eagerly seeking and praying for a great spiritual awakening in America. Fourth, we must move forward together patiently as a Baptist family working to avoid being distracted from the Great Commission. We are grateful for the Christ-following attorneys in our Arkansas Baptist churches who are working to help us understand the legal complexities presented by this decision.

J. D. “Sonny” Tucker, Ph. D
Executive Director
Arkansas Baptist State Convention



Supreme Court OKs same-sex marriage 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a landmark decision certain to have wide-ranging social, moral and economic ramifications for the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 26 that state laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

Homosexual couples already have the right to legally marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Associated Press (AP). The court's 5-4 ruling means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage. A ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is currently pending.

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Jay Jones named ABN Father of Year

MONTICELLO – Jay Jones, 51, a deacon at First Baptist Church, Monticello, has been named the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN) 2015 Father of the Year.

He was nominated by his 21-year-old son, Brooks Jones, a member of Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, and a student at Arkansas State University, as part of the ABN A Tribute to Godly Fathers essay contest.

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Arkansas must recognize in-state same-sex marriages, says Pulaski County judge

LITTLE ROCK – Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ordered Arkansas officials Tuesday, June 9, to recognize more than 500 same-sex marriages performed in 2014, a move that will allow the couples to receive benefits such as filing taxes jointly, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Griffen  validated marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples after another judge struck down the state's gay marriage ban. The state Supreme Court halted the distribution of marriage licenses to gay couples after a week in May 2014 and is considering the appeal over a voter-approved same-sex marriage ban, the AP reported.

The ruling means the couples can file taxes jointly, appear jointly on a child's birth certificate, enroll together on state health insurance plans or even file for divorce. The state could appeal. Griffen was among those who presided over same-sex weddings in 2014.