- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2024

It’s been eight decades since the world learned of the horrors of the Holocaust. Six million Jews died during this terror by Nazi Germany, along with countless numbers of ethnic and religious minorities as well as the disabled.

Jochen “Jack” Wurfl was one of the fortunate ones. He and his brother survived while the rest of his family — their Jewish mother, Catholic father, grandparents, aunts and uncles — were sent to Nazi death camps and died there. 

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In a video interview with The Washington Times and Higher Ground columnist Billy Hallowell, Baltimore resident Mr. Wurfl, now age 91, recounts his survival story — including his association with the Hitler Youth to try to mask his Jewish background — and what he’s learned about antisemitism in the decades since.

Times reporter Sean Salai provides a written recap of Mr. Wurfl’s story here. The Holocaust survivor said there remains one unanswered question: “What is it about the Jews, that the Jews are so bad that they all have to be killed? And no one ever gave me a proper answer, no one.”

Mr. Wurfl also shared his story in a commentary piece excerpted from his book, “My Two Lives,” which recounts his wartime experiences.

Summit aims for global religious freedom push

Contentious issues such as the Middle East crisis, the two-year-old Ukraine-Russia war and almost all cases of modern genocide have their roots in religious intolerance, Ambassador Sam Brownback, co-chair of this week’s International Religious Freedom Summit, told Higher Ground. Boosting religious liberty can help resolve these issues as well as others, he said.

The two-day summit, which opens Tuesday in Washington, will feature Vice President Mike Pence and actress/activist Marisol Nichols among the 75 speakers expected to address sessions and panel discussions.

“This is the most significant human rights movement on the planet today, for the effort for religious freedom,” said Mr. Brownback, the former ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom. “If we can get it moving, it will help the entire human rights project.”

Conflicting portrait of America’s ‘nones’

The 28% of Americans who are atheist, agnostic or select “none of the above” when asked about their religion — a group known as the “nones” — are a complex cohort, a new study from the Pew Research Center revealed last week.

Not all are hostile to religion, nor does everyone in that group deny a belief in God or a “higher power,” the survey reported. A 56% majority of the unaffiliated believe science does more good than harm, but 14% would say the same about religion being more beneficial than hurtful.

A majority of nones share a common view with the religiously affiliated: 83% of the unaffiliated say the desire not to hurt others is key to their choosing between right and wrong, a reason cited by 82% of those who belong to a faith group.

Biden administration wants abortion pill easily available

The Biden administration told the Supreme Court that wider availability of mifepristone, a pill that induces medical abortions, is safe. The high court should support Food and Drug Administration rules to make the medication more easily available, a court filing said.

The Times’ Alex Swoyer reports that the justices will consider the length of time during a pregnancy that mifepristone can be prescribed and whether it can be sent through the mail. A lower court had ruled the FDA’s changes were unlawful.

Oral arguments likely will be heard by the Supreme Court’s justices in the spring and a ruling would follow by the end of June.

Jewish schools face jump in security costs

The Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas in southern Israel has led to a 47% increase in security costs at Jewish schools in the U.S., the Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition said recently. Administrators and the parents who send their children to the schools are feeling the strain.

“I can’t tell you now an exact dollar amount that we’ve needed to increase because it’s all happened pretty quickly, but I do know that we are going to exceed our security budget for this year,” SAR Academy Principal Rabbi Binyamin Krauss told The Times. The money to cover the costs “does have to come from somewhere,” he said.

Parent Natalie Jonas, who with her husband sends their five children to Jewish day schools, remains anxious despite increased security.

“I don’t completely trust everybody around me,” she said. “I want to know that there are people that are specifically assigned to be ensuring my children’s safety and the safety of people who go to synagogue and the safety of people getting together.”

Video: Babylon Bee tackles gender ideology  

The Babylon Bee is a satirical online news site, but its new book, “The Babylon Bee Guide to Gender” tackles a real-world issue, managing editor Joel Berry told Mr. Hallowell in a video interview. The goal, he said, is to encourage people to take a stand for truth on the issue.

Deepfake’ media can pose perils, says pope, a victim

Remember that viral photo of Pope Francis in a “puffy” overcoat and large silver crucifix? It was all over the internet before being revealed as a creation of artificial intelligence.

Last week, the pontiff, who called himself an “object” of a deepfake, warned against the perils of AI and manipulated images and audio recordings. In a message for the Catholic Church’s World Day of Social Communications, Francis said the new technologies pose potential danger.

“Every technical extension of our humanity can be a means of loving service or of hostile domination,” he said.

LGBTQ row prompts exodus from United Methodist Church

Decades of roiling debate over the role — if any — of LGBTQ people in the ordained ministry of the United Methodist Church led to a years-long exodus of congregations that shrunk the denomination by 25%, a new study revealed.

Most of the departing churches are in the UMC’s Southeastern and South Central regions, and the total loss of members works out to 24%, the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary said. One local area, the North Texas Conference, saw 162 of its 200 churches hit the exits.

Church leaders are putting a positive face on the departures, saying through their official news service that “the vast majority” of United Methodist congregations remained.

Atheists tell lawmaker to remove Christian flag

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which advocates for atheism and church-state separation, isn’t happy that Rep. Greg Steube, Florida Republican, has a Christian flag showing a cross on a blue square and a field of white, outside his Capitol Hill office.

“There is no secular or legitimate political purpose to flying the flag in front of your congressional office,” Co-presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker said in a letter “rebuking” the lawmaker. “This flag sends a totally inappropriate message, and for this reason alone it should be removed.”

Mr. Steube’s office did not comment on the demand.

In our opinion

Voting choices don’t define evangelicals. Focus on the Family’s chief of staff, Joel Vaughan, says evangelical Christians “follow Jesus Christ, not man,” and try to “choose the person who we think will best govern” when voting. But voting choices don’t define evangelicals.

“I am up to here with secular journalists, Hollywood producers and religious pundits commenting on evangelical Christians and their opinions on matters of elections and government,” Mr. Vaughan said.

Can Christians vote for Trump? Hard on the heels of the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary — both convincingly won by former President Trump — Mr. Hallowell asks whether Christians can vote for a candidate whose reputed morality has raised questions.

“The reality is that Christians have a choice between a candidate who won’t post mean tweets but will actively pursue policies that fly in the face of biblical morals and ethics or a rude and crude man with loose ethics who will presumably advocate values they herald,” he writes.

Is higher ed off limits? The Times’ “Ask Dr. E” columnist, Everett Piper, answers an educator’s question: Does the former university president’s critiques of today’s schools mean young people shouldn’t seek higher education?

No, Mr. Piper writes. “I am forever grateful for the opportunities afforded to me by a liberal arts education. I am a huge champion of the classroom and its importance to liberty and freedom.”

He said his problem “is not with education, but with what it has become.”

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