If you think Christians are not being persecuted in the UK, you need to read on. Steve Loha sold watches and mobile phone cases for 15 years at his stall at Chichester market. As a Christian, he would sometimes also give tracts to customers, using his opportunities to share the good news about Jesus with those he met.
But in May 2017, after a customer complained about one of the tracts, Steve’s licence was revoked with immediate effect, meaning that he could no longer trade at the market. With the help of the Christian Legal Centre, Steve challenged the decision and on Friday 20th July, a county court judge ruled in Steve’s favour, saying that his removal was illegal. He told the court that his criminal career began in his teens after “a series of family tragedies brought me to despair”. While in Winchester prison, he was invited to attend chapel by a fellow inmate and found himself drawn to Christ.
Becoming a Christian turned his life around. He abandoned his criminal lifestyle and began a new life as an honest small businessman and evangelist. He started trading two days a week at Chichester market, selling watches, mobile phone cases and other accessories. He built up a regular clientele of local customers and would sometimes enter into conversations, sharing his conversion experience or offering a tract:
“People were asking me for more tracts, and I had opportunities to give tracts out, so they can read the literature, and come back and ask me questions about it.”
All of that was lost in May 2017, when a customer who worked for the local council made a complaint about the content of a tract to the market manager – who in turn told Steve that his licence had been revoked with immediate effect. The next day, Steve attempted to reconcile with the manager and with the customer who complained by offering an “unreserved” apology for any offence caused by the tract. But the manager replied five days later to say that he would not change his decision. He said “the literature was extremely homophobic and unacceptable. In today’s world religious oppression, fanaticism and persecution is rife. Anything that supports or encourages them must be eradicated.”
You may be wondering exactly what was offensive about the tract that Steve gave to the customer.
The tract in question, published by Chick Publications in the U.S., was on the topic of homosexuality. It portrays the need for all people to turn from their sins and find forgiveness in Christ – focusing particularly on homosexuality and some of its consequences. The message is undoubtedly stark as it challenges both the practice of and the ideology behind homosexuality. It is not particularly comfortable to read. But the fundamental message of the tract is true – the events portrayed can and do happen, and there is a need, just like with any other sin, to turn to God in repentance and faith for salvation.
Steve, knowing his own background and the need for all people to be forgiven, gave out tracts to make known the hope of salvation in Christ. But one of the many people who received tracts from Steve made a complaint, and Steve’s livelihood was at stake. It wasn’t just his reputation and clientele that Steve lost. The company which runs the market, Bray Associates, runs most of the market places in this part of England – meaning that it wasn’t simple to set up shop somewhere else.
Steve got in touch with the Christian Legal Centre and asked for help. Generous donations from supporters meant that we were in a position to help him, taking the management company to court for breach of contract. We give thanks to God that on Friday, the judge ruled in Steve’s favour, awarding damages. But the case isn’t over yet – the management company’s legal representatives are applying for permission to appeal the ruling. Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, commented:
“This decision makes a welcome change from a worrying trend we have seen in many recent judgments which sought to justify removal of Christians from their jobs and livelihoods for purely ideological reasons. In this case, however, the judge had the courage to uphold the rule of law. Steve Loha stands for some of the most precious things in humanity – honest hard-working enterprise, courageous evangelism, and genuine repentance of sin. He deserved justice, and we are very privileged to have served him in securing its triumph.”
Speaking of the Christian Legal Centre, Steve said:
“I would never have got this far if it wasn’t for CLC. They helped as a family to do what was right. They felt it in their hearts to support me and I pray God blesses them amazingly, and abundantly, for the work they are doing – to stand up, to give an account, to help Christians as a family.”
Iran Blocks Nearly All Internet Access
Iran imposed an almost complete nationwide internet blackout on Sunday one of its most draconian attempts to cut off Iranians from each other and the rest of the world as widespread anti-government unrest roiled the streets of Tehran and other cities for a third day, The New York Times reported.
The death toll for the three days of protests rose to at least 12; hundreds were injured; and more than 1,000 people have been arrested, according to semiofficial news agencies like Fars News.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last word on all state matters, called the demonstrators “thugs” and endorsed the government’s decision to raise prices it sets for rationed gasoline by 50 percent as of Friday and by 300 percent for gasoline that exceeds ration limits. Even after the price hike, gasoline in Iran is still cheaper than in most of the rest of the world – now the equivalent of about 50 cents a gallon.
In a speech on Sunday, Khamenei said he would support rationing and increasing gas prices because heads of three branches of government had made the decision.
Khamenei also acknowledged that Iranians had taken to the streets to protest and that some had died – however, he blamed the protests on monarchists and opposition groups trying to destabilize Iran, the Times added.
The widespread discontent on display across the country marked yet another crisis for the country. Iran has been struggling with an economic crisis after the United States exited a nuclear deal and reimposed harsh sanctions that ban Iran’s oil sales.
HASC Chairman Claims Legislation to Create a Space Force in 2020 ‘Still Possible’
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said last week that negotiations on the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act are “proceeding reasonably well” but he expressed doubt that the NDAA will include language to authorize a Space Force as a separate military branch, SpaceNews reported.
“It’s still possible but by no means guaranteed,” Smith told reporters on Capitol Hill last week. When asked for specifics, Smith said, “I don’t think it would be helpful for me to make predictions.”
The biggest sticking point in the NDAA negotiations is language in the House version of the bill that restricts the use of military funds to pay for the wall that President Trump wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border, SpaceNews adds.
There are other dealbreaker issues. The authorization of a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces is one of them, Smith said. Other contentious matters include extending the “war powers” legislation that authorizes the president to use military force, and allowing transgender people to serve in the military.
Smith said the House and Senate NDAA conference in recent weeks worked on compromise language on hundreds of provisions and “reduced the stack significantly, and we’re down to a few really contentious issues.”
Smith characterized the Space Force as a “higher echelon” issue that is proving divisive. Both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate continue to have reservations about the administration’s Space Force proposal, said Smith. “There is bipartisan concern on the proposal and bicameral concern about the specifics of that proposal.”
The House version of the NDAA creates a Space Corps and is closer aligned with what the administration proposed. The Senate bill would rename the Air Force Space Command the U.S. Space Force and does not specifically authorize a sixth branch of the armed forces.
Smith noted that the House has been a proponent of a military space branch since 2017 while the Senate had adamantly opposed it. “In their bill they didn’t have the same language that we did. But the president has persuaded them to look at it differently.”
Gunman Kills Four at California Backyard Party
Police in the California city of Fresno were investigating a mass shooting at a football game party on Sunday in which at least 10 people were shot, killing four, with five others left in critical condition and another wounded, Reuters informs.
Three men died at the scene and another died at a hospital, Fresno Deputy Police Chief Michael Reed said in a late night news conference. Six more were hospitalized, he said.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this thing,” Reed said. “This was senseless violence. We’re going to do everything we can to find out who the perpetrators were and bring them to justice.”
A gunman walked into a backyard and started shooting at a south Fresno home, where a gathering of about 35 family and friends was watching a football game before 8 p.m., said Reed. Neighbors soon flooded 911 dispatchers with calls for help, Reuters adds.
The suspect fled the scene and police were combing the neighborhood for witnesses and possible security camera footage, police said. Police did not release further information about the shooting in the city about 200 miles (320 km) north of Los Angeles, except that the dead were men between the ages of 25 and 35.