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Ted Cruz condemns Nathan Deal's veto of 'religious liberty' bill

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Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has made advocating for “religious liberty” measures a staple of his platform, criticized Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal for his decision to reject Georgia’s latest version of legislation that would allow faith-based organizations to refuse to serve someone if doing so would violate a "sincerely held religious belief" or to hire someone "whose religious beliefs or practices or lack of either" violate its religion.

It would also allow religious officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages and protect any individual who refuses to attend a marriage that conflicts with his or her faith.

>>Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoes religious liberty bill 

"I thought that was very disappointing to see Gov. Deal of Georgia side with leftist activists and side against religious liberty," Cruz said. "It used to be, political parties, we would argue about marginal tax rates and you could have disagreements about what the level of taxation should be. But on religious liberty, on protecting the rights of every American to practice, live according to our faith, live according to our conscience, we all came together. That ought to be a bipartisan commitment and I was disappointed not to see Gov. Deal not defend religious liberty."

Cruz' remarks don't come as a surprise.

Backers of what became House Bill 757 and the Cruz campaign created somewhat of a symbiotic relationship with each other, hoping that each would get the other across the finish line.

Retired neurosurgeon and former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson also expressed his dismay, quoting the New Testament in a Facebook post:

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.3";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>As a nation founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs; the very notion of this essential ideal is the cornerstone of our...Posted by Dr. Ben Carson on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A group of “religious liberty” proponents will assemble at the Georgia state Capitol Tuesday morning for a press conference -- presumably to push the call for a special session to override Deal’s veto of HB 757. A three-fifths vote by each chamber would be required for the General Assembly to call itself into session.

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But at least until May 3, it may be tough to find lawmakers willing to jump up and support an override session. That’s because the governor of Georgia has the line-item veto and can pencil out specific funding projects in the districts of rebellious members of the House and Senate. 

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoes religious liberty bill

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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

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According to the governor’s office, the bill "doesn't reflect the character of (Georgia) or the character of our people." Deal said state legislators should leave freedom of religion and freedom of speech to the U.S. Constitution.

“Efforts to purge this bill of any possibility that it would allow or encourage discrimination illustrates how difficult it is to legislate something that is best left to the broad protections of the First Amendment,” he said.

Many people have been waiting to see whether Deal would sign the bill. He has received a lot of pressure from gay rights groups and companies, including AMC, Disney and Google, that don't support the bill. The bill triggered waves of criticism and presented Deal with one of the biggest challenges he’s faced since his election to Georgia’s top office.

Several companies and businesses have been vocal in opposing the bill, saying it encourages discrimination.

"The negatives will be unbelievable," Hyatt Regency Atlanta general manager Peter McMahon said.

McMahon told WSBTV that he believed that his hotel could lose $1 million in business over the next 18 months if Deal signed the bill. The Human Rights Campaign called on Hollywood film companies to abandon Georgia if Deal signed the measure, and the NFL warned that it could risk Atlanta’s bid for future Super Bowls.

Deal, who is in his final term, officially had until May 3 to act on the bill.

The measure, which surfaced on March 16, would bar government penalties against faith-based organizations that refuse to serve someone if doing so would violate a "sincerely held religious belief" or hire someone "whose religious beliefs or practices or lack of either" violate its religion. It includes language based on a federal "religious freedom restoration act," which prevents government from burdening religious belief.

Public employees who refuse to perform their duties, such as a probate judge issuing marriage licenses, would not be covered. The bill says it doesn't permit discrimination prohibited by federal or state law.

It also would allow religious officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages and protect any individual who refuses to attend a marriage that conflicts with his or her faith.

The governor’s veto will likely infuriate religious conservatives who considered the measure, House Bill 757, their top priority. This is the third legislative session in which they have sought to strengthen legal protections for opponents of same-sex marriage, but last year’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex weddings galvanized their efforts.

It is also likely to herald a more acrimonious relationship between Deal, who campaigned on a pro-business platform, and the evangelical wing of the Georgia Republican Party. Prominent conservatives vowed to revive the measure next year if Deal chose not to sign it.

Read more here.

Coffee stand workers pray with woman grieving husband

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A Washington woman who was grieving the loss of her husband had no idea that a normal visit to a local coffee stand would change her day for the better.

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"(I) snapped this picture while waiting in line at the Dutch Bros. (coffee stand) today," an onlooker wrote on Facebook. "Turns out the young lady in line ahead of us lost her 37-year-old husband last night." 

The witness, Barbara Danner, said the scene was one of "prayer and support."

According to KPTV, Dutch Bros. employees Pierce Dunn and Evan Freeman were trained not only to provide drinks and items to customers, but also exceptional customer service through genuine connections. 

When a customer approached the service window in tears, a female coworker told Dunn and Freeman, "She's just having a really bad day. Her husband passed."

"As soon as she said that, I was like, 'There's nothing more you need to say. We got this. We're going to do what we do every time we get someone who’s in pain or hurt. We're going to give them our love,'" Freeman told KPTV.

Freeman and Dunn gave the woman a free drink, and then they started to pray with her. 

"Basically, I just said, like, you know, I really want her to have peace over the situation … help the mourning of her and her family," Dunn said. 

That's when Danner took the picture. It has been shared on Facebook more than 100,000 times. 

Coffee stand owner Jessica Chudek said that when she heard about the story, she was filled with emotion, but she didn't know the incident occurred at the location she owned.

"I thought, 'That's great our company does that and we can show love out the window that way.' I started studying it a little more and I said, 'Wait, that's Evan and Pierce! That's my stand, those are my kids!' So it just brought me to tears right then," she said. 

"When I saw the picture, I (was) like, 'This is a normal day at work. We're doing what we do every day,'" said Freeman, who said he never thought the moment would gain viral attention.

"If every single person did an act of kindness or just had a smile on their face, the world would be a completely different place," said Dunn, who hopes to have inspired others. 

Snapped this picture while waiting in line at the Dutch Bros on 138th Avenue today. Turns out the young lady in line...Posted by Barbara Danner on Saturday, March 19, 2016

Mother Teresa to be made saint

Man defends religious rights, wears fox hat in license picture

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An Oregon man's driver's license picture has become the focal point of a constitutional rights case study.

He goes by the name Bishop, and he says he wears a fox hat to honor his religion.

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"I'm a practitioner of the Seven Drums religion," Bishop said. "It's one of the (Native American) Nez Perce religions where we all have a wild animal totem."

Bishop says his animal is a fox, so he wears the hat as a symbol of that spirit wherever he goes.

The DMV office let him wear it when he took his new license picture. However, the application was denied, leaving him without a license for nine months.

"For our facial recognition software to work, we need people to remove any hat or facial gear that obscures their face," a spokesman for the DMV said.

Bradley Steinman, Bishop's lawyer, helped him resolve the case.

"Religious freedom is one of the foundational principles of the United States," Steinman said. "It's one of the things that makes our country the greatest country on the earth."

Bishop said his religious freedoms were violated, so he decided to fight back. He eventually won his appeal, but now he wants to warn others to stick up for their rights no matter what it takes.

"It shouldn't matter if you wear a yarmulke or a hijab or 'a silly fox hat,' as the man at the DMV wants to call it," Bishop said.

Kansas waiter's $20 tip was actually a Bible pamphlet

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Garret Wayman, 17, was excited to collect the $20 tip he saw peeking out from underneath a ketchup bottle on a table when he finished serving a group of customers.

But his excitement quickly turned to anger when he discovered the $20 bill was nothing more than a printed picture on a religious brochure.  

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"Don't be fooled," the pamphlet read. "There is something you can have more valuable than money!" 

Wayman, who works at Mulvane DK, a burger joint in Mulvane, Kansas, works many days a week to pay off $7,000 owed on his car. He said he was excited when he saw the bill because he had never received a tip of that size.

"I was just taken aback because I don't know if you've ever been a server, but whenever you see a $20 tip it's a big deal," Wayman told KAKE.

Some social media users called the incident "un-Christian-like."

"He just left that," Wayman told Tech Insider. "I wanted to tell him that I only make $3 an hour and bust my (expletive) at my job to make way less than I deserve, but he was gone by the time I had the chance to."

Read more here.

U.S. military members comfort Muslim girl afraid of deportation

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U.S. military members have a message for a Muslim child who is terrified that she’ll be deported: “I will protect you.”

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Melissa Chance Yassini, founder of the Dallas-based Unity Movement, shared her daughter Sofia’s fears on a public social media post:

“Sad day in America when I have to comfort my 8-year-old child who heard that someone with yellow hair named Trump wanted to kick all Muslims out of America. She had began collecting all her favorite things in a bag in case the Army came to remove us from our homes. She checked the locks on the door 3-4 times. This is terrorism. No child in America deserves to feel that way.”

The post has been shared more than 23,000 times.

Talk show host Montel Williams shared Yassini’s post on his officially verified Facebook page and responded with a message of support.

"It's beyond tragic that this young woman worries about being expelled from her own country based on her faith. Let us never forget many of those who founded this country were fleeing religious persecution - for us to now engage in it, to make a child feel like this, is essentially spitting in the face of the Constitution and those who sacrificed so much so that we can be free," Williams wrote. 

U.S. Army veteran Kerri Peek responded to the post and launched a heartwarming movement.

“Salamalakum Melissa!” Peek commented with a photo of herself in uniform. “Please show this picture of me to your daughter. Tell her I am a Mama too and as a soldier I will protect her from the bad guys.”

Peek then wrote a post on her own Facebook asking other U.S. servicemen to show their support for Sofia.

Then #Iwillprotectyou went viral:

Click here to read more and view more tweets.

Sad day in America when I have to comfort my 8 year old child who heard that someone with yellow hair named Trump wanted...Posted by Melissa Chance Yassini on Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Posted by Melissa Chance Yassini on Monday, December 14, 2015

I need your help my friends. Will you help me please?? I am asking all my friends in the Armed Forces, Active or...Posted by Kerri Peek on Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas message sparks controversy at fire station

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The holiday spirit is normally alive and well this time of year in Oakville, Washington, a town of 700 people that is not accustomed to controversy.

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But when volunteer firefighters at Grays Harbor Fire District No.1 put a biblical message on their sign, someone complained.

The fire commissioner ordered that the sign come down and the Christmas tree be turned off. 

“This is just sort of asinine,” said Oakville resident Richard Hawkins.

When the fire station posted the story on Facebook, hundreds of people responded.

"They're all around the world: Australia, Sweden," said firefighter Shawn Burdett. “Merry Christmas is not a bad word.” 

The decision to put up the Christian message was made by five officers at the fire station. While the sign and tree are on public property, they were paid for with private donations.

"No tax dollars (were used), zero,” said Burdett. 

Residents became frustrated, saying that the voice of one should not speak louder than the voices of many. 

"I couldn't believe that one person could deny everybody Christmas," said resident Tim Newby. 

“The reason for Christmas is Jesus Christ, my gosh,” said community member Shirley George. 

On Monday night, about 200 residents met with commissioners.

"I would venture to say they would not get re-elected and I would actually venture to say they would struggle to get a vote," said Burdett.

The sign was restored after a 2-1 vote by the commissioners.

School apologizes after teacher asks Muslim student if she's carrying a bomb

The parent of an eighth-grade Muslim student at Shiloh Middle School in Gwinnett County, Ga., is angry after an incident in which a teacher asked his daughter if she was carrying a bomb in her backpack.

Abdirazik Aden, who was born in Somalia, said that on Monday, his 10-year-old daughter was going to class when a teacher stopped her and asked what she had in her bookbag.

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He said his daughter told her books. The unidentified teacher responded by asking her if she had a bomb in her bag.

“My daughter wanted to know why she was asking her that,” he said. He said his daughter was upset when she called to tell him about the incident. He went to the school to see what happened and was told by an assistant principal that it was a mistake.

“I was upset,” said Aden, who lives in Snellville and works as a truck driver and grocery store owner. “I was going to take my daughter out (of that school)."

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“We are from Africa, we are Muslims, we live in America,” he said. “I didn’t teach my children to hate people or to think they are better than other people. I don’t want nobody to treat them like that.”

Sloan Roach, spokeswoman, for Gwinnett County Public Schools, confirmed the incident happened.

“The remark was not appropriate, but based on their conversation and investigation,” school officials don’t believe it was made with “ill intent,” Roach said.

She said it was a regular teacher, not a substitute, who made the remark. The teacher was trying to get the students to put away their backpacks quickly and made the remark to the student that was basically, what do you have in there, a bomb?

The school’s principal, Eli Welch, conducted an investigation and spoke with the teacher and the parent.

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Roach said the principal has followed up with the family and apologized. School officials are also continuing to talk to and work with that teacher.

The incident follows heightened anti-Muslim rhetoric across the nation following the attack in California at a holiday party in which 14 people died. Donald Trump, who is seeking the GOP nomination for president, has also talked about a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

The incident “shows the level of Islamophobia impacting people’s relationships with one another,” said Yusof Burke, board president of the Georgia Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Obviously a teacher and a student should have a unique kind of relationship … It’s very disturbing to see.”

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