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Christian Victims in Oregon

By John Stonestreet
Published in "BreakPoint" on October 7

Christians around the world are often the targets of violence. But here in the U.S., is that even possible? It is.

On Anastasia Boylan’s fourth day in the Writing 115 class at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, an armed man wearing body armor shot the professor and demanded that any of the cowering students who were Christians stand up.

Boylan was among those who did so, and the gunman shot her. She fell, wounded, and then pretended to be dead. Then she heard the shooter say to another student, “Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second.” Anastasia is in the hospital now, recovering.

This report comes from one of her parents. Others have reported that according to Mercer’s online writings, he “hated religion.” Nine people, plus the shooter, died that morning.

In a time when followers of Christ in other parts of the world are beheaded or crucified for their faith, or driven out of their homelands as refugees, some Christians in the West have been far too quick to use the word “persecuted” to describe the decreasing tolerance for Christianity and Christian conviction in the public square. And yet the shooting in Roseburg reminds us that, as Paul told Timothy, anyone who wishes to follow Christ in this world will face hardship.

Now some critics have dismissed the idea that a mass shooting targeting Christians could even happen in America, and some have questioned the report that the Oregon shooter targeted Christians as the eyewitnesses have reported.

Ed Stetzer, my friend and co-host for “BreakPoint This Week,” offered very helpful guidance in a column published last week in USA Today.

In it, Ed, who is also the Vice President of Research at Lifeway Christian Research, acknowledges that not every report of Christians being targeted turns out to be true. Nonetheless, Christians and churches have been targeted in incidents in Fort Worth, Colorado Springs, and in Charleston in recent years. In fact, Lifeway maintains a research database for church shootings, as does the FBI. The point is, these things do happen, and Ed offers then what we ought to do.

First, Christians need to be ready to stand, to “give an answer for the hope that we have.” Indeed, if the unthinkable happens, are we prepared to give an account of our faith as Anastasia Boylan did?

And second, we need to be quick to forgive, as our brothers and sisters in Charleston incredibly demonstrated earlier this year. Their response made a jaded nation sit up and take notice. “When evil came knocking, forgiveness answered,” as Ed wrote. “The entire nation was touched by the words of victims’ family members toward Dylann Roof just days after that awful tragedy, offering forgiveness and the gospel they knew.”

Third, we have to trust God in the face of inscrutable tragedy. “Evil is real and terrible,” Ed writes, “and God does not give us all the answers—but He does give us Himself. And in times like this, God is all we have, and He is enough.”

As Camden McAfee said in the wake of Roseburg, “…what sets Christians apart from the rest of the world is our unshakable hope in a sovereign God who means all things for good— especially life’s most painful things.”

Finally, we must call for justice amid tragedy. Ed had some gentle, yet firm, words for society at large. “I understand the United States’ cultural tension in which Christian-held values do not always align with current popular opinion,” he writes. “But the truth is, the irreligious in our culture must de-escalate hateful rhetoric toward Christians, no matter how vehement the disagreements between us.”

Ed calls on all sides to tone it down so that we can move toward a more just society. “I am not saying we don’t criticize,” he writes, “but we must not demonize. When we demonize others—Christians, Muslims, gays, African-Americans or whomever—we give mentally unstable or hate-filled people additional justification to kill.”

That’s a good word in USA Today from Ed Stetzer. And you’ll hear more from Ed and me on this topic this weekend when you tune in to “BreakPoint This Week.”


Unruh Fires Up Crowd at Sept. Black Hills Area Luncheon

110 passionate patriotic people joined us on Wednesday, September 16 for our Black Hills Area Luncheon. With some anticipation, they had gathered for the good food, fantastic fellowship, and to hear Dr. Allen Unruh speak about the faith of our Founding Fathers and the impact of that faith on the most exceptional culture in the history of this planet. The attendees were not disappointed.

The venue was Bible Fellowship Church, and what a fantastic host those folks were. Thanks to the Bible Fellowship Church and their team who made sure everything was perfect for the event.

Even before we had packed up and left the building, we were already getting requests for Dr. Unruh's presentation. We are pleased to provide this powerful session in its entirety below!


September 3 S.F. Luncheon Marks Attendance Milestone

The FHA was honored to welcome a record 92 patriots to our luncheon in Sioux Falls on Thursday, September 3. The venue was the Linwood Wesleyan Church, and their team could not have been more of an asset. We are so thankful to Pastor Bob McHenry and his staff and team for their hospitality. The keynote speaker for the event was South Dakota’s (and CitizenLink’s) own John Paulton. His address to the group should be posted next week for those wanting to view it. We were also blessed to have Sandy Brockhouse from John Witherspoon College as a guest speaker as well. As we say regularly, our team of volunteers and our Sioux Falls Area Representative, LaVonne Fossness make pulling off an event like this look easy!


FPC Annual Conference at Focus on The Family

On July 27-31 FHA Executive Director Dale Bartscher and several of their Staff and Board Members gathered together at the Focus on the Family campus in Colorado Springs for a much-awaited ‘Family Policy Council Annual Conference’.  The Family Heritage Alliance, representing South Dakota, is a proud member of this national network of independent, allied organizations in our mission to shape public debate and formulate public policy by engaging state, city and county elected officials, community leaders, and grassroots activists.

What a blessing to have in attendance leadership from FOCUS, CitizenLink, Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council.  This was a time of fellowship and collaboration towards building a stronger, national family policy alliance!

This year’s conference was the best in recent memory.  Each morning began, as it should, with a time of worship and devotion led by  Del Tackett, of ‘The Truth Project’ fame.  Strategic planning and break-out sessions inspired those in attendance to be encouraged and to think LARGE when it comes to championing Faith, Family and Freedom back in our home states.  The conference highlight came when the leadership mantel of CitizenLink was flawlessly passed, from long time FHA friend Tom Minnery, to their new CEO Paul Weber.

Currently there are 38 Family Policy Councils (including the FHA of South Dakota) who are Associated with these four national organizations.  I am reminded of the words of Helen Keller who rightly said, “Alone we can do so little – together we can do so much!”


July 17, 18, 19 Hills Alive Tent Was a Huge Success

Well, HILLS ALIVE 2015 is now history and it will go down in the RECORD BOOKS as one of the greatest so far.  Record attendance, a 3-day event, beautiful weather and the busiest and most blessed FHA Tent to date.  Our tent was a place of prayer, laughter, tears, serious issue discussions and cold water :)    

We have to thank our Tent Volunteers — Amy & Greg Willson, John Dennis, Kris & Faith Ellingson, Amy Wagner, Scott and Ruthie Craig, George and Carol Black, Janet VanHouten, Brendan Culverhouse (Intern), Elli and Joel Schwiesow and Larisa Duprey (Intern)!  

Three area Pastors had their names drawn for a NIGHT’S GET-AWAY in the Hills:  Scott Craig (Big Horn Canyon Community Church);  Wayne Titus (Valley Community Church); and Josh Boner (Calvary Baptist Church).  Our FHA Data Contacts have grown like never before.

The ‘Faster Pastor’ trophy was awarded to Bob Hower live on the main stage in front of a huge crowd!  Congrats, Pastor Bob!

Click here to see all the pics of the event on our Facebook Page


July 15 Sioux Falls Luncheon

On July 15, FHA was joined by 88 passionate patriotic partners at Sioux Falls’ First Evangelical Free Church for a luncheon featuring Dale Bartcher and Qusi Al-Haj. We so appreciate the hospitality of the First E-Free crew and especially Pastor Randy Anderson. As always, Qusi’s story regarding his experience as an immigrant to this country was touching and held the crowd on the edge of their seats.

We can’t thank enough our new security team in Sioux Falls for their dedication and hard work and without LaVonne Fossness and her tireless efforts on the ground in Sioux Falls, projects like this would be next to impossible.


July 22 BH Area Luncheon

On July 22, 162 patriots and FHA partners rallied in Rapid City at the FHA Luncheon held at the Cathedral of OLPH. Bishop Robert Gruss was such a gracious host and the Cathedral staff did such an amazing job.

Guest speakers were Corey Brubakken (Pennington County Sheriff's Office Captain) and Representative Steve Hickey. They addressed Human Trafficking and PayDay Loan Centers Ballot Initiative respectively.

We so appreciate Pastor Mike Brandt providing lodging for Steve and Kirsten Hickey. Also, special appreciation for the army of volunteers who made the day a success and Amy Willson who does such a great job keeping all the plates spinning.


The SD US Congressional Delegation STANDS STRONG!

A few weeks ago, when the Supreme Court defied thousands of years of history and radically redefined marriage, many on our side of the aisle began to say the “fight is over,” and we should give up trying to defend this sacred institution. They could not have been more wrong. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who rightly said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Many are taking a stand for the HARD RIGHT against the EASY WRONG. Three such persons are our South Dakota Congressional Delegation. The FHA and our partners do hereby publicly thank our US Senator John Thune, US Senator Mike Rounds and US Representative Kristi Noem for their principled verbal and written support of traditional, natural marriage presented within hours of the Supreme Court’s tragic decision on a vote of 5 to 4.

Both Senator Thune and Senator Rounds have signed on as co-sponsors of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) and we fully anticipate that Representative Noem will be co-sponsoring FADA soon in the House. FADA would prevent the federal government from discriminating against individuals, organizations, and small business owners who affirm marriage as between a man and woman. FADA would prohibit the federal government from penalizing persons for their personal moral or religious beliefs in natural marriage in federal employment, grants, contracts, tax treatment, and other programs. Stay tuned to the FHA for future developments on FADA as it moves forward in the US Senate and House.


Attorney General Jackley Stands Strong on Marriage

In the wake of the recent SCOTUS ruling on marriage, the inevitable conflict over religious liberty is heating up quickly.  It is gratifying to know, as the lines are drawn, that South Dakota has an Attorney General who is not just watching our back, but out in front where the real action is.

As evidence to this fact, please read the following recent press releases from the AG's office:

Attorney General Jackley Joins Other Attorneys General to Protect Religious Freedom

PIERRE – Attorney General Marty Jackley and 14 other State Attorneys General announced today they have sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to take steps to protect the tax-exempt status of nonprofit religious organizations. During oral arguments in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. was asked if religious-affiliated institutions could have their tax-exempt status revoked if they opposed same-sex marriage, Verrilli said “it’s certainly going to be an issue.”

“The newly recognized federal constitutional right to same- sex marriage must and can peaceably coexist with other longstanding constitutional rights of freedom of religion and speech. There is no need to infringe upon either individual or religious freedoms in carrying out the directive of the U.S. Supreme Court. As Attorney General I will work to both ensure common sense solutions and vigorously protect the right to freedom of religion,” said Jackley.

The letter states that by stripping tax-exempt status from religious organizations in this way- a severe consequence that could force groups to exit the public square- would be an unprecedented assertion of governmental power over religious exercise. The letter asks Congress to modify the Internal Revenue Code to prevent the IRS from revoking the tax-exempt status of nonprofit religious organization that disagrees with the decision in Obergefell.

Those signing on to the letter were Attorneys General from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Attorney General Jackley’s Response to ACLU on Same-Sex Marriage

PIERRE – “It is disappointing to learn that the ACLU, who in their own words, works to “defend and preserve the Constitution’s promise of liberty for everyone in our country”, is now choosing to place certain Constitutional Rights ahead of others.

As South Dakota’s Attorney General, I do not have the luxury of ignoring the long-established law requiring Constitutional Rights to coexist or overlooking federal requirements calling for reasonable accommodations to protect the Constitutional Rights of all individuals.

As Attorney General, it is not my intent to ignore established law and sue a county or arrest a county employee for exercising the well-established Constitution Right to the Freedom of Religion given that same-sex couples have been and are receiving marriage licenses in South Dakota. Rather than accepting the ACLU’s position, I support commonsense solutions protecting everyone’s Constitutional Rights in South Dakota which ensure same-sex couples continue receiving marriage licenses as now required by law,” said Attorney General Jackley.


A Thousand Patriots Attend FHA Agenda Event

Monday, July 6, 2015 FHA was joined by a thousand patriotic friends for our Showing of the movie "Agenda". After the movie, we were blessed to have Lt. General Jerry Boykin (Executive Vice President of Family Research Council) and the producer of the movie, Curtis Bowers speak and answer questions.

The movie "Agenda - Grinding America Down" lays out in crystal clear detail, the communist, socialist, and progressive agenda to undermine America as it was intended by our Founding Fathers.  If you haven't seen the movie, regardless of your politics, you owe it to yourself to view it.

A special Thanks goes out to Wes Hotchkiss who performed two musical numbers for us.  Also, we are so thankful to Bob Fischer, without whose assistance and connections, this project could not have gained the kind of traction it had by event night!

We are hoping to have the video of the question and answer segment up for your viewing soon.  Stay tuned.

Click here to see additional pictures on our Facebook page.


FHA Joins NDP Friends at Soggy Rushmore Event

Sunday, July 5, 2015 found us hanging out with our Black Hills Area National Day of Prayer friends at Mount Rushmore for the annual Monumental Hour of Prayer. Hundreds braved the weather and attended what was almost a rained out event. As is always the case, Lt. General Jerry Boykin (retired) held the room in the palm of his hand. He was joined by the "Agenda" movie producer Curtis Bowers.

We are especially grateful to Amy Wagner, the B.H. Area N.D.P. Coordinator, for her leadership and hard work on this event.

To see additional pictures from the event, click here for our Facebook Post.


Celebrating Family Events East and West

Most folks who know Family Heritage Alliance are aware of our annual Celebrating Family events. We hold one in Sioux Falls, and one in Rapid City. It is one of the few yearly FHA events in which the focus is just to make family memories, eat good food, and hang out with awesome people. In Sioux Falls, our host was Thunder Road and in Rapid City, it was The Ranch Amusement Park. We are so grateful to these two fine businesses for their support of FHA and their partnership with us on this project. They donate hundreds of ride tickets which are given free to the attendees of the event.

On June 13, 185 folks attended the record setting Sioux Falls event. We had an army of volunteers helping us with the details, eleven all together. Our Sioux Falls Representative, LaVonne Fossness was such an important part of pulling all this together. Thanks LaVonne! Special thanks goes to the corporate sponsors of Celebrating Family East. They are: Walmart in Sioux Falls, Eddie Ehlers - Remax Broker Associate Realtor, Pro Force Services, K J ‘s Electric, Norberg Paints, Dr. Larry and Lois Lounsbery, Michael Monson – Best Choice Independent Insurance Services, Oscar DeVries – Insurance Connection, and a handful who asked not to be identified. The Grand Finale of each Celebrating Family Event is our infamous Faster Pastor Go-Kart race. We had eight racers this year with Pastor Tyler Tufte of the Sioux Falls First AG Church taking home the trophy.

Father’s Day, June 21 saw attendance for the Rapid City event go well beyond 600. As in Sioux Falls, we had an army of volunteers helping us on everything from moving, to cooking, the checking folks in, 14 in all. Our executive assistant, Amy Willson was so valuable in keeping all the plates spinning on the Rapid City project. Thanks Amy! Special thanks to our Celebrating Family West corporate sponsors: Qdoba, Coca-Cola, KSLT / KLMP Christian Radio, Family Thrift Center, Wendy’s Restaurant, Walmart, and Arctic Glacier Premium Ice. We had 15 ministry leaders racing in the Rapid City version of the Faster Pastor race. Congratulations to Pastor Bob Hower of the Piedmont Foothills Baptist Church for taking home the trophy.


Soldier's Wind

If you have ever been on a sailboat, you have likely noticed that sailing is just hard work.  It takes a passionate sailor with some serious skill to navigate and steer a craft as the wind propels the boat along.  The stormier the conditions, the more advanced nautical skills are required to get craft and crew safely to harbor.  In the days of the tall ships, sailors would on occasion use the term “a soldier’s wind”.  That term referred to conditions so favorable for sailing that the captain could literally turn the wheel over to a soldier who had little to no nautical skill.

I think for many in this country, the last decade of the 20th century saw mostly a soldier’s wind.  The economy was not horrible, the country held a solid position of strength and leadership among the world nations, and morality seemed battered but on an even keel.

We aren’t experiencing a soldier’s wind any longer.  The gale force threats of insurmountable national debt, a tattered foreign policy, and a government tearing constantly at our first and second amendment rights, has many proposing our vessel is lost.

Well, first off, all is not lost.  Not yet!  However, we really do need all hands on deck.  The Family Heritage Alliance has proven time and time again that we have the skills and passion to navigate the storm and promote and defend the values you cherish here in South Dakota and in Washington D.C. as well.

If you will pardon my stretching the sailing analogy just a little further, we have come to call the months of June through August, the Summer Doldrums.  In a very real sense, the winds of financial support that propel our ship die down significantly as people are distracted by vacations and camping, trips to see family and outdoor activities.  Truthfully, few are paying much attention to current events.  As our working capital tends to wane, the work demanded of us remains constant.  As I write, the United States Supreme Court’s decision on Friday radically transformed what it looks like to be a Christian in the United States.  Gender is being redefined even here right now in South Dakota by the South Dakota High School Activities Association.  The list goes on.  So does the mission of Family Heritage Alliance.

We have two requests for you.  And yes, the first one has to do with money.

  • What we are doing day in and day out is expensive, and if you could donate toward this effort, it would help us defray these expenses.
  • Secondly, please make a commitment to pray for our efforts through the summer “doldrums”.
For those donating, $30.00 or more, we have a token of our appreciation to send you.  It is a book by Todd Starnes called: “Dispatches from Bitter America: A Gun Toting, Chicken Eating Son of a Baptist's Culture War Stories.”  

We are so sincerely appreciative of your involvement in protecting and promoting Faith, Family, and Freedom!


Dale Bartscher
Executive Director
Family Heritage Alliance / FHA Action


Answering Islam Conference

Approximately 300 people were in attendance for the “Answering Islam” conference held at the Ramkota on July 5th and 6th. Keynote speakers were:

  • Shahram Hadian, former Muslim now a Christian pastor who runs the Truth in Love Project and is dedicated to speaking on a variety of critical issues facing our nation.
  • Tom Wallace who runs “Fortress of Faith” radio program on AFR and was a missionary to the UK who saw the growth of Islam and the death of Christianity in that nation.
Both speakers spoke openly about issues facing our nation including ISIS, Shariah Law and the assault of our religious liberties just to name a few. Many people left the conference with a new understanding of what our nation is facing along with practical solutions on how to love and engage Muslims for Christ.

The sponsors of this event were Big Horn Canyon Community Church, KSLT Radio, KLMP Radio, Black Hills Area National Day of Prayer, Family Heritage Alliance, Act For America, and Aglow International.

Amy Willson, our Executive Assistant and local coordinator for Act for America, was so instrumental in pulling this conference together.  Thanks Amy!


Watchmen On The Wall Report

Executive Director Dale Bartscher, Pastor / Representative / FHA Board member Scott Craig, and Pastor Larry Paulsen and his wife Melodie made up the South Dakota delegation to Watchmen on the Wall 2015. This event (May 20-22), held at the D.C. Hyatt Regency is hosted each year by our partners at Family Research Council. The goal of the event is to rally pastors and ministry leaders to stand in the public square for Biblical values and encourage their flock to do the same. Nearly 700 pastors attended this year’s event, and it was particularly gratifying for the Family Heritage Alliance because two of our leadership were invited to take part in the program. Dale was invited to lead a breakout session entitled “Ministering to Public Servants.” Scott was invited to speak from the main stage. You can click here to get watch the various presentations from Watchmen on the Wall 2015.

Scott and Dale spent time with Senator Thune, Senator Rounds and Representative Noem at which time a FOUNDERS’ BIBLE was personally presented to each of them. This took place during the ‘Capitol South Dakota Coffee Hour’ which occurs on Wednesday mornings at the US Capitol. Dale took time to travel to the Washington, DC, office of Concerned Women for America (CWA). While there he spent some quality time with one of America’s most respected women in leadership - Penny Nance. Penny is the President of the CWA and will be the Keynote Speaker for this fall’s Western SD Stand Banquet on Tuesday, October 13 in Rapid City.

In addition to the encouragement, fellowship, and speaking opportunity, this year’s Watchmen on the Wall provided Dale the occasion to once again renew his friendships with such national leaders as Tony Perkins, President of FRC; General Jerry Boykin, Vice-President of FRC; and Rafael Cruz, father of Senator Ted Cruz.


The Dead End of Sexual Sin


Faith and Hope Community Breakfast

The Family Heritage Alliance was one of a host of sponsors and organizers responsible for this year's Faith and Hope (Rapid City) Community Breakfast.  Around 380 community leaders gathered for good food, prayer, and the opportunity to hear Walt Wilson.  Walt has had a colorful career and his resume' is a long one.  He served in the US Marines, and afterward had a hugely successful career in Silicon Valley, including some time as an executive at Apple.  He now runs Global Media Outreach which is a network of websites that have brought the word of God to 1.3 billion people in 132 countries.


Citizen Magazine Features Work of FHA

Editor’s note: As Communications Director at FHA and FHA Action, I walk a rather fine line. On the one hand, I don’t want our communications to come off boastful or self-promoting. On the other hand, we have a host of folks who invest their hard earned money in the work we do, and they need to know that they are getting maximum bang for their buck. So, please consider the following, not as boastful, but as humbly submitting to our donors (both current and future) the quality of the work done by FHA and FHA Action.  --John Dennis

For an actor or director to receive an “Academy Award of Merit” (or as it is commonly known -- an Oscar) is a pretty big deal. It is a big deal for several reasons of course, but maybe the most significant of all is the fact that the award is granted by over 5,000 film industry leaders. In other words, the folks who know the film industry the best have stamped their approval on the film maker’s work. It’s one thing to get a nod of approval from a casual movie goer, but when your peers approve, that’s means quite a lot more.

In the world of public policy from a Biblical worldview, no one knows the landscape better than Family Research Council (FRC), Focus on the Family, and CitizenLink. Back in October, FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, complimented the work of the FHA and especially the leadership of our Executive Director, Dale Bartscher. This week, CitizenLink’s magazine “Citizen” hit the newsstands, and in it was a gracious four page piece by Matt Kaufman entitled “Squelching the Slave Trade”. The article focuses entirely on the work of the FHA and the network of people and organizations with whom we work closely in the fight against Human Trafficking. The article discusses our partnership with folks like Pastor Scott Craig, Tess Franzen, and many in the law enforcement and legal communities.

In the world we live in, we don’t get awards. That’s probably a good thing. However, we do get the reward of knowing we are promoting and protecting the core values on which this nation was founded. We like that. And once in a while, we get a nod from leaders in our field. We would certainly be doing this work regardless, but it serves to remind those good folks who support our work that they are investing in a hard-working organization and getting a good return on that investment.

I wish I could give you a link to an online version of the article, but as of this writing, I couldn’t find one. So you may just have subscribe to Citizen (click here).