News - USA

 

June 01, 2020

It wasn't just religious liberty that Chief Justice Roberts strangled

The Hill commentary by Andrew McCarthy

Most startling was that Chief Justice John Roberts not only joined the court’s four left-leaning justices (Ruth Bader GinsburgStephen BreyerSonia SotomayorElena Kagan) in declining to uphold religious liberty. Roberts also wrote a brief opinion explaining his decision. That opinion is an eye-opener. Roberts accords the right to worship no deference by virtue of its being a fundamental liberty expressly protected by the First Amendment.

June 01, 2020

Freedom to worship must not be sacrificed to government restrictions during COVID-19 pandemic

The Washington Times commentary by Michael P. Orsi

But while spiritual fulfillment is important, the actual reason religion enjoys constitutional protection is because people of faith feel themselves under an obligation to worship God, and government must not impede their ability to do so. The right exists because of the commitment. Whatever benefits individual spirits may derive are secondary. This is the understanding of faith on which the nation’s Founders — men steeped in scriptural familiarity and the undisputed Christian culture of their time — based the Constitution. 

May 30, 2020

Supreme Court, in rare late-night ruling, says California may enforce certain restrictions on religious gatherings

The Washington Post

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote that the state had imposed unequal restrictions. “The basic constitutional problem is that comparable secular businesses are not subject to a 25% occupancy cap, including factories, offices, supermarkets, restaurants, retail stores, pharmacies, shopping malls, pet grooming shops, bookstores, florists, hair salons, and cannabis dispensaries,” he wrote. That was the issue pushed by lawyers for South Bay Pentecostal.

May 27, 2020

Protecting Our Healers: Courts Must Allow the Federal Government to Enforce Federal Law

National Review commentary by Hon. Dan Coats and Dave Weldon

It is un-American and it is harmful for the patients these compassionate doctors and nurses are serving who would be left without their care.

 

That is why, as Members of Congress, we crafted laws to protect them. The Coats-Snowe Amendment was passed to ensure that doctors, nurses, and medical students would not be forced to provide or participate in abortions. The Weldon Amendment was passed to prohibit recipients of federal funding from discriminating against a medical professional that does not provide, pay for, cover, or refer for abortions.

May 26, 2020

Truth and Religious Liberty

First Things podcast with Mark Bauerlein and Ryan T. Anderson

On this episode, Ryan T. Anderson and Mark discuss why conservatives shouldn’t limit themselves to procedural arguments in the culture war—we need to emphasize our substantive moral commitments as well as our religious-liberty protections.

May 26, 2020

Broad support to protect doctors, nurses from discriminatory firing

Becket

A diverse group of states, Members of Congress, minority groups, medical affiliate organizations, and legal experts recently filed half-a-dozen briefs supporting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) Conscience Rule, which provides federal conscience protections for medical professionals. In New York v. HHS, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is defending Dr. Regina Frost and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) from attempts by states to discriminate against doctors and nurses who refuse to violate their consciences and medical judgment by performing procedures such as abortions or physician-assisted suicide.  This case is now in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

May 26, 2020

Christian Medical Association Physicians Gain Support from Congress and States in Court Fight Against Discriminatory Firing

Christian Medical Association

In New York v. HHS, CMA and Dr. Regina Frost are defending against attempts by states that want to discriminate against doctors and nurses who refuse to violate their consciences and medical judgment by performing procedures such as abortions or physician-assisted suicide. This case is now in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. CMA Senior Vice President for Bioethics and Public Policy and Obstetrician-Gynecologist, Dr. Jeffrey Barrows noted, "As an Ob-Gyn physician, I have delivered many babies of mothers and fathers who specifically sought a life-affirming physician for their care. The conscience rule not only upholds and enforces decades of federal law passed on a bipartisan basis; it also helps ensure that patients will have a choice of life-affirming physicians who match their values."

May 26, 2020

California Church Asks Supreme Court to Block Gavin Newsom’s Coronavirus Restrictions

Daily Signal commentary

A California church has asked the Supreme Court to block California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s restrictions on religious services. South Bay United Pentecostal Church of Chula Vista, California, filed a petition over Memorial Day weekend saying that the Democratic governor’s coronavirus restrictions “arbitrarily discriminate against places of worship in violation of their right to the Free Exercise of Religion under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” according to CNN.

May 15, 2020

New York State To Faith-Based Adoption Agency: ‘Violate Your Beliefs Or Shut Down’

CBN News

The letter provided an ultimatum that New Hope either “revise the present policy and continue the existing adoption program” or “fail to bring the policy into compliance with the regulation,” in which case “OCFS will be unable to approve continuation of New Hope’s current adoption program and New Hope will be required to submit a close-out plan for the adoption program.” While the New York legislature allowed unmarried and same-sex partners to adopt beginning in 2010, it does not mandate that agencies place their children with non-traditional parents. The Alliance Defending Freedom is representing New Hope and says the OCFS is violating the agency’s freedom of religion. “Every child deserves a forever home with loving parents,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeana Hallock.

May 14, 2020

USCIRF Welcomes Decision to Prevent Federal Retirement Savings from Being Invested in Chinese Corporations

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today welcomed the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board’s decision to prevent funds from the federal government employee retirement savings programs from being invested in Chinese corporations. The board had proposed to allow investments in an international fund that included several Chinese companies, including Hikvision, credibly implicated in serious religious freedom violations. In requesting the change, the U.S. National Security Advisor cited religious freedom concerns in addition to the national security and economic factors. “The board’s decision should reassure federal employees that their hard-earned retirement savings won’t fund religious freedom violations in China,” noted USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer. “We should never sacrifice our values for profit.”

May 11, 2020

Supreme Court hears major Church-State case

Becket

“For any faith to continue, someone has to teach the faith to the next generation,” said Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “And under our system of separation of church and state, the government cannot decide who carries out that crucial task. We are confident that the Court recognizes how important a role teachers play in the lives of their students, and will reaffirm its precedent that the government can’t control who teaches kids about God.”

May 11, 2020

Supreme Court divided over religious employers' right to fire workers

USA Today

Associate Justice Samuel Alito, a strong defender of religious liberty, argued that "the function of teaching a religion to new generations is central," even if it's just part of a general curriculum taught by grade-school teachers at religious schools. 

May 13, 2020

The Dangers of the Equality Act

Daily Signal commentary by Alex Richey / Andrea Jones

The legislation passed the House of Representatives a year ago on May 17, 2019, and is one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top priorities. It would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes under the Civil Rights Act, categories that the authors of the law would not have had in mind when it passed Congress in 1964. This change to the Civil Rights Act would impact everyday Americans’ liberty, privacy, and parental and individual rights in numerous ways. One of the first groups that would be affected would be charities—specifically, faith-based adoption agencies and homeless shelters. 

May 11, 2020

Why So Many Governors and Other Local Officials are Violating Religious Liberty

Breakpoint commentary

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued an order that exempted “26 types of secular activities from its gathering ban” but specifically prohibited “churches and other religious services or activities” with 10 or more people, even if they obeyed social distancing requirements. That order only lasted until the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit. The governor has since issued a new order that didn’t single out churches. Still, as ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer said, “It’s a shame that it took a federal lawsuit… in order to finally prompt the governor to issue an order that she could easily have issued in the first place: one that doesn’t… unconstitutionally target churches.”

May 07, 2020

White House Rejects C.D.C.’s Coronavirus Reopening Plan

New York Times

“Governments have a duty to instruct the public on how to stay safe during this crisis and can absolutely do so without dictating to people how they should worship God,” said Roger Severino, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. “Protections against religious discrimination aren’t suspended during an emergency,” he said in a statement on Thursday. “This means the federal government cannot single out religious conduct as somehow being more dangerous or worthy of scrutiny than comparable secular behavior.”

May 07, 2020

What Happened at the Little Sisters of the Poor Hearing Before the Supreme Court

Daily Signal commentary by Melanie Israel

In an encouraging exchange for the Little Sisters and their supporters, Justice Samuel Alito asked Pennsylvania’s lawyer some tough questions. Alito said: "Hobby Lobby held that if a person sincerely believes that it is immoral to perform an act that has the effect of enabling another person to commit an immoral act, a federal court does not have the right to say that this person is wrong on the question of moral complicity.

That’s precisely the situation here. Reading the 3rd Circuit’s discussion of the substantial-burden question, I wondered whether they had read that part of the Hobby Lobby decision."

May 07, 2020

Lankford, King, Colleagues Urge Leadership to Consider Nonprofits in Next Relief Proposal

news release

Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Angus King (I-ME) today sent a bipartisan letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to advocate that they do not overlook nonprofits, charities, and houses of worship in the fourth-phase relief proposal for the coronavirus pandemic. The letter asks the Leaders to consider expanding access to relief and support, increase unemployment insurance reimbursement for nonprofit employees, and strengthen charitable giving incentives to help ease the burdens facing nonprofit employers as well as other types of small businesses.

May 07, 2020

DOJ, Religious-Liberty Groups Fight for Religious Freedom Amid Coronavirus

National Catholic Register

Barr said that there were some rules that “are singling out religion and putting special burdens on religion.” He cited a rule in Greenville, Mississippi, as an example where the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a statement of interest siding with Temple Baptist Church after its members were issued fines of $500 each for attending a drive-in Easter service in which they remained in their cars. Barr pointed out that the city still allowed drive-in restaurants so this was a case of targeting a religious community.

May 06, 2020

Little Sisters ask Supreme Court to protect their ministry to the elderly poor once and for all

Becket

“We are hopeful that the Court will protect us as it did in 2016 and eager to be rid of this legal trouble which has hung over our ministry like a storm cloud for nearly a decade,” said Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the lives of our residents face a real and imminent threat, we are more eager than ever to be able to care for our residents without being harassed by governments.”

May 06, 2020

Governors Can’t Suspend the First Amendment

Daily Signal commentary by Hans von Spakovsky

The executive orders exempted 26 types of secular activities and facilities, including bars and restaurants; libraries; shopping malls; retail stores; airports; hotels; child care facilities; manufacturing, processing, and distribution facilities; and office buildings. People could gather there in unlimited numbers as long as they practiced social distancing. Yet Kelly expressly excluded religious institutions from any such accommodation. Churches, synagogues, and mosques were categorically barred from meeting inside their dwellings.

May 05, 2020

Health workers that volunteered to come to NY during pandemic have to pay state income tax: Cuomo

New York TV PIX11

Health care workers that came to New York to help fight the coronavirus pandemic at its epicenter will have to pay state taxes, according to the governor. He addressed the issues Tuesday at a news conference. "We're not in a position to provide any subsidies right now because we have a $13 billion deficit," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The issue first came up when the temporary hospital in Central Park was being erected by Samaritan's Purse. "Our financial comptroller called me," said Ken Isaacs, a vice president of the organization, "and he said, 'Do you know that all of you are going to be liable for New York state income tax?' "I said, 'What?'" 

May 05, 2020

USCIRF Commends the Criminalization of FGM in Sudan

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomed the decision of the Sudanese transitional government to outlaw the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) by making it punishable with up to three years of imprisonment and a fine. According to the United Nations, nine out of 10 Sudanese females aged 15 to 49 have undergone some form of genital mutilation, which can lead to a variety of physical and psychological problems.

May 03, 2020

Chinese Communist Party Is a Bigger Threat to Humanity Than Coronavirus

Public Discourse commentary by Chen Guangcheng and William Saunders

Also, as with Wuhan, authorities are barricading people in their own homes. In Wuhan, whole families have been found dead in their apartments because they could not get out. Now this is happening in Harbin too. More places are coming under lockdown including—according to local sources—places like Handan in Hebei Province, in Guangdong Province, and Wuhan again. This is despite the authorities’ ordering everyone back to work and telling the outside world that they have the virus under control. The resurgence is directly related to the CCP’s hiding the truth and cracking down on people who tried to share information on the virus. The CCP is taking advantage of the pandemic to carry out its suppression campaign.

May 03, 2020

Department of Justice Files Statement of Interest in Support of Church That Ministers to Underserved Communities

DOJ news release

The Department of Justice today filed a Statement of Interest in a Virginia federal court concerning the First Amendment’s freedom of religion in support of Lighthouse Fellowship Church (Lighthouse), a congregation in Chincoteague Island, Virginia, that serves, among others, recovering drug addicts and former prostitutes. The Statement of Interest is part of Attorney General William P. Barr's April 27, 2020 Initiative directing Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Eric Dreiband, and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Matthew Schneider, to review state and local policies to ensure that civil liberties are protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

May 01, 2020

Barr signals DOJ support for lockdown protesters

The Hill

When Attorney General William Barr this week directed U.S. prosecutors to safeguard civil liberties amid state-level pandemic orders, he signaled Justice Department support for lockdown protesters by highlighting religious and economic rights. In a two-page memo, the nation’s top cop gave the clearest indication yet of the kind of battles federal prosecutors are likely to focus on. In doing so, Barr suggested the Department of Justice (DOJ) might back church groups and those seeking a swifter economic reopening while staying on the sidelines of fights over new limits on abortion and voting access.

May 01, 2020

Religious freedom attorneys pick their battles amid pandemic

Philadelphia Tribune

First Liberty Institute President Kelly Shackelford, whose conservative nonprofit has represented churches challenging drive-in service limits in Kentucky and Mississippi, said his group has discouraged other attorneys from taking virus-related cases that may set unwelcome precedents. The institute has focused on actions that specifically target religious entities, not actions that are being imposed more universally, he said.

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