He's alive! Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng is alive and serving out a prison sentence, according to a report by Compass Direct News. Gao is a Christian whose advocacy for religious minorities led to his conviction in 2006 for "subversion." His condition and whereabouts had been in question until March 24, when Gao's brother Gao Zhiyi received permission to visit the attorney. Jared Genser, president of Freedom Now, told Compass, "It was not a foregone conclusion that he was alive. The United States has worked publicly and privately for Gao's release, but we're looking for the White House, specifically the president and vice president, to get involved, and so far this has not happened." So how is the Obama administration responding? "We're pushing hard," Genser said, "but so far we're not getting a positive response."
19th century digital revolution. The man who figured out how to say anything with ones and zeroes died this week-140 years ago. Samuel F.B. Morse, who invented the telegraph and the Morse code, died on April 2, 1872. According to historian Bill Federer, Morse graduated from Yale in 1810 and became one of America's great portrait artists. "In 1831, Morse was appointed to the first chair of fine arts in America, the professor of Sculpture and Painting at New York University," Federer said. But his mind also ran to science. Morse obtained a patent for his telegraph, but found it difficult to get financial backers: "The only gleam of hope," Morse wrote to his wife, "and I cannot underrate it, is from confidence in God. When I look upward it calms my apprehensions for the future, and I seem to hear a voice saying: 'If I clothe the lilies of the field, shall I not also clothe you?' Here is my strong confidence, and I will wait patiently for the direction of Providence." In 1843, Congress underwrote construction of the first telegraph lines, between Baltimore and the U.S. Supreme Court chamber in Washington. Morse demonstrated the telegraph for the first time on May 24, 1844, allowing Annie Ellsworth, the young daughter of a friend, to choose the first message. She selected a verse from the Bible, Numbers 23:23, "What hath God wrought?"
Old Glory, new ignominy. With the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," some troops are now asking and telling and thumbing their noses at anyone who objects. One such incident unfolded in Afghanistan this week, when a soldier flew the rainbow flag of the Gay Pride movement over his tent. The photo has subsequently gone viral. Another manifestation of the new policy was the picture of a Marine with his legs wrapped around his boyfriend in the March 4 Stars and Stripes newspaper. Letters to the editor in subsequent editions called the photo "disgusting" and "outrageous," but no apologies were forthcoming from Stars and Stripes. According to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, "The decision to fly the flag is even more of a head-scratcher when you consider the Defense Department's obvious scorn for the Christian cross. Last November, in Afghanistan's Camp Marmal, soldiers were ordered to tear down a cross that marked the chapel's entrance because it was "a distinctly religious symbol" and might prove offensive to conservative Muslims. Don't know if the folks at Camp Marmal have noticed, but homosexuality is not too popular in that part of the world, either.
Human rights violations. I couldn't help but note the irony in a news story out of Lexington, Ky. A Christian-owned T-shirt company there is under investigation by the city's Human Rights Commission for refusing to print shirts for a local pro-gay organization. The owner of Hands On Originals refused to do the work because he said it would "conflict" with his Christian convictions. The Alliance Defense Fund has joined the fight. Jim Campbell, an ADF attorney, said, "No business owner should be forced to violate his conscience simply because someone demands it. The Constitution absolutely supports the rights of business owners to decline a request to support a message that conflicts with their deeply held convictions." Yet, the investigation of this Christian business goes on anyway, causing me to ask: Whose rights are really being violated here?