We've compiled the top stories of the week. Here's what you need to know:
Trump signs prison reform bill into law
Many evangelical Christians, who have long pushed for reforms to the U.S. criminal justice system, are hailing this week’s congressional approval of the First Step Act.
The bill, which includes efforts to reduce the federal recidivism rate, was signed into law on Friday by President Donald Trump.
“The First Step Act is the most consequential federal justice reform since 2010 and will provide people in federal prison with access to the transformational programming such as drug rehabilitation, skills training, and faith-based education that they need to ensure that they don't end up back in prison," said Faith & Freedom Coalition Executive Director Tim Head.
“This is about getting smart on crime by giving men and women, made in the image of God, the tools to change their lives," James Ackerman, president and CEO of Prison Fellowship, commented.
Withdrawal from Syria could devastate Christian community
President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria shocked his advisers and led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Declaring that “we have won against ISIS” and “beaten them badly,” Trump said, “It’s time for our troops to come back home.”
But many are worried that the withdrawal could be premature and make it easier for Turkish-backed jihadi groups to come into the Kurdish-majority areas of northeast Syria and carry out attacks.
The move, said Johannes de Jong, a Netherlands-based director of Sallux, “means basically that you sacrifice the Christian community of northeast Syria for the Jihadists. If that happens, it is the end of the ten thousands of Christians in Northeast Syria.”
Christian baker Jack Phillips back in court over a cake
Coming out of a six-year legal battle and a win at the Supreme Court this year over his refusal to make a same-sex wedding cake, Colorado baker Jack Phillips is back in another court fight over a transgender cake.
A hearing took place this week, during which the judge said he was “inclined” to let Phillips’ lawsuit against the state over its “continuing hostility toward his religious beliefs” move forward.
The lawsuit was in response to Colorado again ruling that the baker had violated its anti-discrimination act by declining to bake a transgender-themed cake.
“[I]t appears that Colorado will not stop harassing him until he closes down or agrees to violate his faith,” Phillips’ attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom said.
China arrests more Christians, religious leaders decry ‘regression’
After their church was shut down and 100 worshipers were arrested, members of an underground church (Early Rain Covenant Church) found themselves targeted again by Communist officials when they met at different locations.
The worsening crackdown against Christians comes as it was revealed that police are being assessed by the number of believers they detain.
In an open letter, Johnnie Moore, an evangelical and commissioner on USCIRF, and Rabbi Abraham Cooper are urging President Xi Jinping to “put a halt” to the closure of churches and the detention of Christians.
Switchfoot guitarist Jerome Fontamillas who was diagnosed with cancer
Pat Boone's wife whose health is deteriorating
Mary Poppins Returns (Dec. 19)
Restart Your Heart: 21 Encouraging Devotions So You Can Love Like You've Never Been Hurt by Jentezen Franklin (Dec. 18)