Beliefnet News

Kevin Dooley/

Kevin Dooley/

God could soon be making an appearance in every public school in Florida.

Following the deadly Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the Florida House of Representatives has passed a bill that would require all schools and administrative buildings to display a powerful message: “In God we trust.”

The bill was approved in a 97-10 vote after Democrat Rep. Kimberly Daniels sponsored it. Daniels pointed to the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman as evidence of the need for more God.

“Our schools need light in them like never before,” she said, likening God to that light. “[The] real thing that needs to be addressed are the issues of the heart.”

Daniels said she had a vision earlier in the week, “I believe it was God, and I heard a voice say, ‘Do not politicize what has happened in Florida and do not make this a thing of division’,” Daniels continued to speak about God. “He’s not a Republican and he’s not a Democrat. He’s not black and he’s not white. He is the light. And our schools needs light in them like never before.”

Daniels, who also runs a ministry, said the bill is “so simple, just sating put a poster up to remind our children of the foundation of this country.”

The bill would take effect July 1, 2018. It’s also not clear yet if the bill will also clear the Senate and be signed into law.

With little surprise, the proposal is being met with resistance from atheists and others who determinedly advocate for the separation of church and state.

Florida House Rep. Carlos G. Smith disagreed with Daniels, saying that he believes the “In God We Trust” proposal be inappropriate.

“Let’s keep a clear separation between church + state,” Smith tweeted. “Forcing our public schools to post ‘In God We Trust’ in a conspicuous place is inappropriate. I don’t care if it was a Democrat who sponsor the bill. I vote based on core values, not party lines. I vote No on HB 839.”

Passage of this bill came one day after lawmakers in the Hose did not pass a motion advancing a bill to ban assault rifles.

Student survivors of last week’s attack have said that they want more than “thoughts and prayers” and are turning their frustration and anger into activism. Around 100 traveled to the state Capitol to amplify their calls for gun control. They are also planning a mass rally March 24 in Washington, D.C., to demand an end to gun violence and school shootings.

What are your thoughts? Should ‘In God we trust’ be a clear message in all schools? Do you think God is missing in our public schools today?


Jorge Láscar/Flickr

Church leaders have said that they will finally reopen the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Wednesday, after shutting it down in protest due to a newly proposed tax plan that was to impose taxes on church properties in the holy city.

Several major denominations, including the Roman Catholic and Green Orthodox churches, said in a joint statement that the church would reopen after being closed for three days. The Israeli tax plan had enraged religious leaders, and took action by shutting down one of the most important holy sites right ahead to the busy Easter season. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is believed as the site where Jesus was laid to rest.

In addition to shutting down the church, leaders released a letter accusing Israel of conducting a “systematic and offensive campaign” against Christians and trying to “weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem.”

The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that a professional team would meet with church representatives to find a solution regarding municipal taxation of church assets that aren’t houses of worship. Church leaders welcomed the “constructive intervention of the prime minister” as written in a statement.

For now, “the Jerusalem municipality is suspending the collection actions it has taken in recent weeks,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. The Jerusalem municipality had recently issued orders to tax commercial church properties such as hotels, saying they shouldn’t enjoy the same tax breaks that houses of worship do.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat stressed that his decision affected only the commercial properties not houses of worship, and said other cities followed similar practices worldwide.

“As the mayor of the city of Jerusalem, my goal and role is to make sure people pay their taxes,” he said in an interview. “We have no negative or bad intentions here.”

The statement from Church leaders said “the churches look forward to engage” with the team to ensure Jerusalem “remains a place where the three monotheistic faiths may live and thrive together.” The churches accused Barkat of undermining the status quo and acting in bad faith. They say their non-church properties still serve religious purposes by providing services to pilgrims and local flocks.

In addition to suspending tax collection, Netanyahu’s office said that proposed legislation governing the sale of church lands in Jerusalem was also being suspended.

Ouria Tadmor/Eilat Mazar

Ouria Tadmor/Eilat Mazar

Archaeologists in Israel made a groundbreaking discovery this week. They say that they have found a seal mark that may bear the signature of the biblical Prophet Isaiah.

The 2,700-year-old stamped clay artifact was found during excavation at the foot of the southern wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. It is inscribed with the name Yesha’yah[u] (Isaiah) in ancient Hebrew script.

According to the Bible, Isaiah was a counselor to the Judean king Hezekiah, which would make the find logical.

In ancient times a seal stamp, or bulla, was used to authenticate documents or items.

Dr. Eliat Mazar led the team that found the seal mark linked to the biblical prophet. The artifact was found among undisturbed Iron Age remains outside an ancient royal bakery.

“We found the eight-century B.C.E. seal mark that may have been made by the prophet Isaiah himself only 10 feet away from where we earlier discovered the highly-publicized bulla of King Hezekiah of Judah,” said Mazar in a statement.

The discovery was made as part of the Ophel Excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. But due to damage of the inscription, it isn’t possible to positively identify the seal. While the bulla is marked with the Hebrew name of Isaiah, it is followed by “nvy.” In order for “nvy” to spell out “prophet,” it would need to end with Hebrew letter aleph, but the damage makes that unclear.

“The absence of the final letter…requires that we leave open the possibility that it could just be the name Navi,” Mazar said. “The name of Isaiah, however, is clear.”

Isaiah’s close relationship with King Hezekiah is described in the Bible’s Second Book of Kings.

“If it is the case that this bulla is indeed that of the prophet Isaiah, then it should not come as a surprise to discover this bulla next to one bearing King Hezekiah’s name given the symbiotic relationship of the prophet Isaiah and King Hezekiah described in the Bible,” said Dr. Mazar.

The seal mark is just the last fascinating archeological find in Israel. There have been a number of archaeological breakthroughs this past year.

Earlier this month, for example, experts revealed that they had uncovered a rare multicolored Roman mosaic featuring three toga-wearing figures during excavations in the ancient city of Caesarea.

In January, archeologists announced the discovery of a large 1,500-year-old pool and elaborate fountain at the site of an ancient church near Jerusalem.

Last November, new evidence dated Christ’s tomb in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Roman era, matching historical records.

Archeologists also uncovered a stunning 1,500-year-old Christian mosaic in the ancient Mediterranean coastal city of Ashdod-Yam, now part of the modern city of Ashdod.

Other finds include the skeleton of a pregnant woman, dating back 3,200 years, in Israel’s Timna Valley, at a place once called King Solomon’s Mines. In October 2017, archaeologists in Jerusalem announced that they have uncovered a new section of the Western Wall that had been hidden for 1,700 years. Also in 2017, an ancient Greek inscription was found on a 1,500-year-old mosaic floor near the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Mazar’s article about the seal has been published in the Biblical Archaeology Review.

AR15_A3_Tactical_Carbine_pic1Two weeks after a deadly school shooting at a Florida high school took the lives of 17 people, the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Pennsylvania is holding a ceremony blessing couples that own an AR-15 assault rifle. This already controversial event is made even more divisive by the fact that the shooter in Florida used an AR-15 rifle. The ceremony is also being held a mere half a mile away from Wallenpaupack South Elementary School. Local parents, already on high alert after the Florida school shooting, have said that they do not feel it is safe to have an event with so many powerful weapons so close to an elementary school. “I would consider keeping my child home,” said local parent, Liz Zoccola. “It’s scary.”

Kendra Hanor, another parent, agreed. “I wish they wouldn’t have it at all. I don’t think there’s a good time to have it, especially this close.”

Church leaders, however, intend to go forward with the ceremony. The blessing ceremony was planned before the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, and church leaders say they are taking precautions.  “All of the weapons in the ceremony will be checked to make sure they are unloaded, with a zip tie so that no bullets can be inserted,” said Richard Panzer, the president of the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary.  “We are inviting local and state police to be on the premises, so that everything goes safely.”

The Pennsylvania ceremony is meant to focus on each couple’s commitment to defend their home and the coming kingdom of Cheon Il Guk, the kingdom of God referenced in Revelation. Hyung Jin Moon, one of the church leaders, believes that guns are the “rod of iron” described in the book of Revelation. Those coming to the ceremony will take a pledge of defense and have been told to bring an AR-15 or “equivalents such as an AK semiautomatic rifle, representing both the intent and the ability to defend one’s family, community…” Couples who wish to participate but do not own a gun were told to bring a $700 gift certificate to show that they plan to buy one.

“These actions to participate with crowns and a rod of iron/gift certificate are signs of attendance, sovereignty and vigilance to protect God’s coming nation of Cheon Il Guk,” the church said. “They are also a foundation of faith and substance to unite with the Second King [Hyung Jin Moon] who is advancing God’s providence at this time.”

The ceremony has made headlines across the country in the wake of the Florida school shooting. As the debate over gun control heats up, the blessing ceremony has the potential to become a lightning rod. Either way, it is unlikely to simply fade into the background given the current climate.