Thursday, May 10, 2018

Three US Citizens Are Home Safe and America Gives Thanks

THE RELEASE OF THREE AMERICANS BY NORTH KOREA IS THE DAY'S BEST NEWS. As we say "thank you" to Kim Jong-un, we should also be saying "thank you" to God for their release. • • • THE RELEASE. President Trump announced Wednesday morning that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was returning from North Korea after successfully negotiating the release of three American citizens. Trump tweeted : "I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting. They seem to be in good health.” • Fox News provided some details about the three men. Kim Dong Chul, a South Korea-born US citizen and former Virginia resident, was sentenced in April 2016 to 10 years in prison with hard labor after being convicted of espionage. He reportedly ran a trade and hotel service company in Rason, a special economic zone on North Korea's border with Russia. He was detained in 2015. Tony Kim was detained at Pyongyang's airport in April 2017 and accused of unspecified "hostile acts" against the regime. He taught accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. In a statement, Kim's family thanked "all of those who have worked toward and contributed to his return home." Kim Hak Song, an ethnic Korean born in China, was detained in May 2017 for "hostile acts." He worked in agricultural development at an experimental farm run by the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, which was founded in 2010 with donations from Christian groups. • Their release is especially good news when we remember the tragic fate of another American detainee, Otto Warmbier, who died in June 2017 just days after he was brought back to the US unable to walk or speak and with severe brain damage. He had been arrested in January 2016 and accused of stealing a propaganda poster and was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor. • President Trump also announced he would travel to Andrews Air Force Base to personally welcome the three freed detainees home to the United States. The President tweeted : “Secretary Pompeo and his ‘guests’ will be landing at Andrews Air Force Base at 2:00 A.M. in the morning. I will be there to greet them. Very exciting!” • President Trump also had words of praise for Secretary Pompeo, who has been in North Korea twice in the past few weeks in preparation for the upcoming presidential summit with Ki, Jong-un : “Also, good meeting with Kim Jong Un. Date & Place set.” Earlier, Pompeo told officials in Pyonyang that the US is committed to working to achieve peace and denuclearize the Korean peninsula : “For decades, we have been adversaries. Now we are hopeful that we can work together to resolve this conflict, take away threats to the world and make your country have all the opportunities your people so richly deserve.” • Kim also met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in China on Tuesday, the second meeting in recent months, and he met this month with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in South Korea. During that summit, the South Korean president and Kim discussed denuclearization and declared a formal end to the Korean War. The North Korean regime has also claimed it will end its nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile testing program. • The National Review called the release "a sign of potential goodwill for the upcoming summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Trump, the first meeting of a sitting President and a North Korean head." National Review noted that Secretary Pompeo told Kim Yong Cho, the NK official responsible for South Korea relations who welcomed Pompeo to Pyongyang : "There are many challenges along the way. But you have been a great partner in working to make sure our two leaders will have a summit that is successful." Kim Yong Chol welcomed Pompeo, saying : “Everything is going well in Pyongyang now. I hope the United States also will be happy with our success. I have high expectations the US will play a very big role in establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula." But, Kim Yong Chol stressed that : "This is not a result of sanctions that have been imposed from outside,” referring to tough sanctions recently imposed on the country by the White House. The United Nations sanctioned textiles, coal, iron, seafood, and some crude oil among other products in an effort to slash income sources for the North’s nuclear weapons program. Last Sunday, a spokesman for the NK Ministry of Foreign affairs had warned the US about spreading the idea that the sanctions catalyzed North Korea’s possible denuclearization. Such talk is a “dangerous attempt to ruin” the progress toward peace and could set the countries “back to square one,” the spokesperson said. • • • NATIONAL PRAYER DAY. It seems appropriate to note that May 3 was National Prayer Day in the United States. President Trump used it to unveil a massive faith-based initiative -- an executive order that creates a new faith-based office to partner with religiously affiliated groups and help provide them with government grants. The event yet again raised all kinds of speculation about the strength of the President’s faith. The Washington Post was unsubtle in their headline : “Amid Stormy Daniels news, Trump announces faith-based effort on National Day of Prayer.” • That was in the bad taste we have come to expect from the Post and other mainstream media on anything that concerns President Trump. • However, wrote that "the fruit of the Trump White House has been an administration that’s publicly emphasized faith like none other in recent memory." It has also led to a new emphasis on prayer inside the White House, as Vice President Mike Pence revealed during an interview with CBN News. Pence told the Christian news service : "There’s prayer going on on a regular basis in this White House. And it’s one of the most meaningful things to me, whether it’s public meetings or not, I’ve lost count of the number of times that the President has nudged me, or nudged another member of the Cabinet and said, ‘Let’s start this meeting with prayer.’ ” During the CBN interview, Pence also highlighted the administration’s new faith-based policies : “This is really about making sure that as we develop policies for the country, that we are always making room for those inalienable rights, the free exercise of religion that Americans cherish." • Sadly, the Freedom from Religion Foundation has sued the Trump White House over a Bible study that Pence has had a part in organizing. The FFRF sued because it wants to “determine whether or not the Bible study uses government resources, whether staffers may feel coerced into organizing or even participating in the religious event, and to ascertain government access granted to Capitol Ministries, a group that seeks to evangelize elected officials.” FFRF also claimed in the lawsuit that the Department of Housing and Urban Development wasn’t giving them the fee waivers that they wanted in order to dig up more information about the Bible study. FFRF noted that : “The pious affair is apparently co-sponsored by Vice President Mike Pence." The list of Bible study attendees includes officials whose appointments FFRF objected to because of their inability to keep their personal religion separate from their public office : Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and, of course, Secretary Ben Carson, the surgeon whom President Trump tapped to run Housing and Urban Development.” The article noted : "Yes, to these people, a Bible study in a work environment means you can’t keep your personal religion separate from public office. They also noted, for obvious reasons, that “Trump himself rarely makes an appearance. Well, whatever. I’m not Trump’s creator and I know not his personal views on God or whether or not his public views on God are merely for popular consumption. What one can say is that his administration has been great for the protection of religious liberty and the sanctity of life. Prayer is also back at the White House, something that surely makes the FFRF and the ACLU unhappy but which conservatives can take solace in. Say what you will about the President’s private beliefs, but his presidency has been a lot better for Christians than eight years of Obama was or four years of Hillary would have been. And, quoth Matthew 7, 'A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.' That’s something we ought to meditate on when talking about the President’s faith." • • • DEAR READERS, when we give thanks for the return of three Americans from labor camps in North Korea, we cannot help but reflect on the Christian attitude that emanates from the Trump White House. It has renewed the meaning and importance of the basic tenet contained in the First Amendment to the Constitution : "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." And, what Congress cannot do, no other group can do either -- however they clothe themselves in the words of the First Amendment without having any sensitivity to their true meaning. • While we cannot presume to say that God is favoring the Trump administration and its works, we can say that God loves everyone, including those who love Him and seek to do His work on Earth. • How different that is from the anti-Christian aura that tainted everything in the Obama White House. Vestiges remain of those difficult years. Amazon, for example, recently barred the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom from taking part in their Amazon Smile program. Amazon shamefully allows the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center to determine which groups are and aren’t allowed to take part in Amazon Smile. Openly anti-Semitic organizations remain in Amazon Smile, while ADF is barred from the program. An Amazon spokesperson couldn’t say whether Amazon considers the SPLC to be an unbiased arbiter. Amazon Smile is a charitable program that allows nonprofits to recoup a small fraction of the money their supporters spend through Amazon. ADF, which specializes in First Amendment law and has won cases at the Supreme Court, is barred from Amazon Smile because the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center labeled ADF a “hate group.” Unlike ADF, hardline Islamic groups are allowed to participate in Amazon Smile -- including the Islamic Center of Jersey City, whose imam called Jews “apes and pigs” and requested Allah’s help in killing them “down to the very last one,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is able to take part in Amazon Smile, despite a 2009 federal court ruling stating that the US government has “ample evidence” of ties between the group and Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas. The similarly named Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) is also an Amazon Smile member. ICNA promotes the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and has ties to a radical Pakistani political group, Jamaat-e-Islami. The ADL has criticized ICNA for giving a platform to extremists. The Nation of Islam’s New York headquarters is eligible for donations through Amazon Smile. Amazon Smile users can also donate to Muhammad Mosque No. 24, an arm of the Nation of Islam located in Richmond, Virginia. The group advocates for black nationalism and is open about its affiliation with Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam. A Nation of Islam affiliate in Springfield, Mass., is also participating in the program. The group blames Jews in the media for “crucifying” prominent black people, including Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby. Farris, ADF’s CEO, described the SPLC as “a discredited fundraising group that fills its coffers by attacking veterans, Catholics, Moslems who oppose terrorism, and even nuns." Farris added : "SPLC is not a neutral watchdog organization. Instead, it raises money by slandering people and organizations who disagree with its views. ADF is one of the nation’s most respected and successful Supreme Court advocates, working to preserve our fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience for people from all walks of life.” Amazon's spokesperson was incoherent when asked it about whether Amazon considers the SPLC to be unbiased, answering : “I can’t really speak to that. It’s the organization that was, kind of, when this program came about, in order for customers to -- in order to lend a way to customers to give and support the charities close to them, it’s -- yeah, I don’t know; I can’t speak to that.” • The First Amendment also guarantees freedom of speech, and Amazon should be particularly thankful for that. • As we give thanks for the release of the three Americans held by North Korea, we should pray for President Trump, Vice President Pence, and all the members of the Trump administration who are trying to lead America and honor God through the application of their Christian values every day.

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