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USA News

Colorado’s COVID-19 Restrictions on Churches Violate Constitution, Federal Judge Rules

Denver Post

Colorado’s COVID-19 public health orders that limit the number of people who can attend indoor religious services and require worshippers to wear masks at all times are unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Domenico ruled last week that state officials cannot enforce mask-wearing mandates or some limits on the size of gatherings at Denver Bible Church in Wheat Ridge and Community Baptist Church in Brighton.
“The Constitution does not allow the State to tell a congregation how large it can be when comparable secular gatherings are not so limited, or to tell a congregation that its reason for wishing to remove facial coverings is less important than a restaurant’s or spa’s,” Domenico wrote in the 44-page order.

Clergy access to patients during pandemic: Religious discrimination complaints resolved

HHS Office of Civil Rights

Today, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announces the resolution of two religious discrimination complaints ensuring clergy access to patients for religious purposes during the COVID-19 pandemic, one involving MedStar’s Southern Maryland Hospital Center (MSMHC) that is part of the MedStar Health System, and the second one involving Mary Washington Healthcare (MWHC) in Virginia.

Leftist 'Rights' vs. Your Freedom of Conscience

Frank Wright in Townhall

While his argument focused largely on religious liberty, Madison’s use of the phrase “the dictates of conscience” highlights the broader and more general applicability of freedom of conscience—which undergirds all our God-given freedoms. Thomas Jefferson, whose letter to the Danbury Baptist Association was widely quoted on the question of church and state, speaks even more powerfully about freedom of conscience in that same letter: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions."

Patients Can Receive Safe Religious Visitations During COVID-19

US. Dept. HHS - Office of Civil Rights

In the first matter, in July 2020, OCR’s Conscience and Religious Freedom Division (CRFD) received a complaint from a mother alleging that after giving birth alone at MSMHC, she was separated from her newborn child because she had tested positive for COVID-19 upon admission to the hospital. Shaken by the involuntary separation, the Complainant requested that a Catholic priest be allowed to visit her newborn son to baptize him, but according to her complaint, the hospital denied her request due to a visitor exclusion policy adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Religious Freedom Isn’t Hypothetical, Federal Judge Tells Washington State

Breakpoint

In Washington, becoming a foster parent requires more than proving financial capacity and the ability to provide emotional support. It requires agreement with the state on what it means to care for foster children “developing, discovering, or identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning.” So, in the process of becoming licensed to care for their own great-granddaughter, the Blaises were asked to react to hypotheticals such as “what if H.V. wanted to undergo hormone therapy to change her sexual appearance,” or “wanted to dress like a boy and be called by a boy's name.” Again, remember H. V. is one-year-old.

No Arrests Made After Violent Antifa Attack Hospitalizes Pro-Free Speech Demonstrators In San Francisco

The Federalist

The protest, organized by “Team Save America” and Philip Anderson, was intended to “protest Twitter which it said squelches conservative speech.” The protest began peacefully, but as Anderson mounted the stage to begin his speech, anti-fascists dressed in black “surged the area, outnumbering and attacking those gathered,” according to the Associated Press. Among those injured was Anderson, who suffered a knocked-out tooth from Antifa who attacked him “for no reason,” a Trump supporter, and at least three San Francisco police officers who were assaulted and injured with pepper spray and caustic chemicals. Multiple people were taken to the hospital.

Amy Coney Barrett Will Protect the Constitution

Stephanie Taub in The Daily Signal

Barrett made known her commitment to protecting the Constitution over legislating from the bench: “We shouldn’t be putting people on the court that share our policy preferences, we should be putting people on the court who want to apply the Constitution.” This should give all Americans confidence that precious freedoms such as religious liberty, free speech, and the right to bear arms are safe in the hands of someone who would hold in high regard the Constitution that secured these blessings of liberty.

Twitter’s Censorship of the New York Post Is Un-American

David Harsanyi in The Daily Signal

I still don’t support removing liability protections for Big Tech for both ideological and practical reasons. At this point, the only way to change things is to build your own outlets and platforms. Yet, marketplace decisions by powerful, cronyistic companies can also be fundamentally authoritarian, and it’s completely reasonable to object to them.

Judge enjoins District of Columbia from impeding worship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church

U.S. Department of Justice

“Yesterday, in the heart of our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., a federal district court ruled that the fundamental right of all Americans to worship endures during our COVID-19 response,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “Last night’s decision is a victory for religious liberty and the rule of law.
The Justice Department’s statement of interest was filed in Capitol Hill Baptist Church v. Bowser, a case challenging the District of Columbia’s refusal to allow outdoor worship because of the city’s COVID-19 restrictions. The suit challenges the permit denial under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The suit alleges that while places of worship are limited to 100 people at outdoor worship services, these limits do not apply to, among other things, outdoor protests and rallies accommodating thousands.

Court hears arguments on damages for RFRA violations

Baptist Standard

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Oct. 6 that people whose rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act have been violated should have access to the same legal remedies—including monetary damages—as those protected under other federal civil rights laws. ‘Appropriate relief’ for civil-liberties violations has always included damages against officers, and RFRA is no exception,” according to a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. The BJC, along with the Christian Legal Society and others, filed the brief arguing RFRA always was intended to allow for monetary damages.

Protecting Religious Liberty in the Military

ACLJ commentary by Wesley Smith

The new directive from the Pentagon declares that “Service members have the right to observe the tenets of their religion or to observe no religion at all.” It also forbids service members from requiring chaplains to “perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain.” In other words, chaplains enjoy the free exercise of religion, too. Military doctrine does require chaplains to provide for religious rites, and so forth by finding another religious professional to accommodate the service member if they personally cannot do so due to their conscience or religious beliefs.

Protecting Females in Sports and Just Telling the Truth

Breakpoint

Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler is seeking to address the issue once and for all with a new bill called the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act.” Just recently introduced in Congress, the bill stipulates that allowing biological males to participate in girls’ sports violates Title IX, which bars sexual discrimination in schools that receive federal funding as a way of protecting female sports. Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma is another of the bill’s sponsors. “Permitting biological males to participate in women’s sports,” says Lankford, “rejects the very spirit of Title IX, which was intended to create an equal playing field for women and girls.”

Re-examining religious liberty with Tanvir v Tanzin

Asma Uddin in The Hill

The case involves three Muslim men who say that F.B.I. agents put them on the No-Fly List as a way of coercing the men into spying on the Muslim community. The Muslim plaintiffs believe that spying on their religious community violates their religious beliefs and sued the FBI agents under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a federal law protecting religious freedom. Under RFRA, they argued that the FBI forced them to choose between their religious beliefs and being subjected to the punishment of placement on the No-Fly List. The specific issue in the case is whether the plaintiffs can sue the FBI agents for money damages under RFRA.

U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs appeal by official who opposed gay marriage

Reuters

The justices turned away an appeal by Kim Davis, who no longer serves as Rowan County Clerk, of a lower court ruling that allowed the lawsuits to proceed. But two conservative justices who voted in dissent against legalizing gay marriage in the court’s landmark 2015 ruling said in an opinion released as part of Monday’s action that the case, Obergefell v. Hodges, continues to have “ruinous consequences” for religious liberty.
“Davis may have been one of the first victims of this court’s cavalier treatment of religion in its Obergefell decision, but she will not be the last,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in an opinion joined by Justice Samuel Alito.

Supreme Court judges say Obergefell a 'problem' for religious liberty

CNA

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito on Monday said that the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling is already posing problems for religious freedom.

“By choosing to privilege a novel constitutional right [to same-sex marriage] over the religious liberty interests explicitly protected in the First Amendment, and by doing so undemocratically, the Court has created a problem that only it can fix,” the justices wrote in an opinion published Monday.

“Until then, Obergefell will continue to have ‘ruinous consequences for religious liberty,’” they warned.

The ACLU used to defend religious freedom. Now, they target Catholic adoption agencies.

Montse Alvarado in USA Today

The morning after the election this November, Becket will be arguing on behalf of Catholic Social Services at the Supreme Court. The charitable arm of the Catholic Church in Philadelphia, Catholic Social Services, is the first choice of heroic foster moms like Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch — single women of color who between them have fostered more than 40 children. They chose to partner with Catholic Social Services because of its stellar reputation and because if affirms their own religious beliefs.

USAID is putting religious freedom front and center

John Barsa in Washington Examiner

Partnerships with faith-based organizations like Samaritan's Purse, Catholic Relief Services, and Yazda carry out this important work on the ground. And through our New Partnership Initiative, we’re working directly with local humanitarian groups for the first time. America has always been a voice for the persecuted, and we will continue to champion the cause of international religious freedom until all are safe to worship freely.

Remarks by Vice President Pence at Faith in Leadership: The Need for Revival

White House

We’ve also taken steps to respect the conscience rights of doctors and nurses and teachers and religious charities all across America. And it was this President and this administration that ended the assault on the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the Supreme Court made it permanent just weeks ago.
...But I believe more than ever that people of faith should pray. And coming here today, I want to encourage you: Practice that prayer in a renewed way.

Protecting First Amendment Rights to Free Speech and Religious Freedom

Emilie Kao in The Daily Signal

The Trump administration has taken productive steps to protect and promote the ability of Americans to live out their faith in the public square. An October 2017 Justice Department guidance set the tone for the entire federal government, instructing agencies and executive departments to accommodate religion in government activities “to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law.”
Specifically, the Justice Department guidance clarified that the free exercise of religion includes the right to act as well as the right not to act pursuant to religious beliefs, that both organizations and individuals enjoy this freedom, and that Americans do not forego this freedom when they enter the marketplace or public square or when they interact with the government.

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International News

Int'l Religious Freedom Day: Religious freedom in the age of COVID-19

U.S. Dept. Health and Human Services

October 27, 2020, 1-2 PM EDT

A VIRTUAL EVENT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

ROGER SEVERINO
Director, Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services

CLAIRE MURRAY
Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General
U.S. Dept. of Justice

SAMUEL BROWNBACK
Ambassador at Large for International
Religious Freedom, U.S. Dept. of State

ANDREW BREMBERG
Permanent Representative of the U.S. to the Office of the United Nations and
Other International Organizations in Geneva

KRISTINA ARRIAGA
Former Vice Chair for U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and
Executive Director for Becket Law

To view, go to: www.hhs.gov/live

Conversation: Religious Freedom in Turkey

USCIRF

Thursday, October 15, 2020
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Virtual Event

Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual event about religious freedom conditions in Turkey. This special event will highlight recent and ongoing religious freedom concerns in Turkey, including the conversion of historic former churches such as the Hagia Sophia and Chora into mosques; governmental and societal targeting of religious minorities; and the ramifications of these developments and practices for religious minorities throughout the country.

Combatting Online Hate Speech and Disinformation Targeting Religious Communities

USCIRF

Wednesday, October 21, 2020
10:00 – 11:30 AM
Virtual Hearing
Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual hearing about how some governments use and enable others to use social media platforms to sow disinformation and hate speech that target religious communities and incite violence against them.

USCIRF Releases New Report about Attacks against Houses of Worship and Religious Leaders in Burkina Faso

USCIRF

Burkina Faso Factsheet– In the context of the upcoming presidential election in Burkina Faso scheduled for November 22, 2020, this factsheet details the drivers of and responses to attacks against religious institutions in Burkina Faso in recent years, including threats to houses of worship, religious ceremonies, and faith community leaders. Burkina Faso was long viewed as a bastion of religious tolerance and interfaith harmony in west Africa. Yet, in recent years religious freedom conditions in Burkina Faso have worsened, with the country facing interrelated security and humanitarian crises. Attacks on both Muslim and Christian houses of worship and religious leaders have spiked as jihadist and other militia groups have expanded their area of influence throughout the country. The government has struggled to rein in the violence and bring about accountability to perpetrators, and poor performance and misconduct by government affiliated forces are exacerbating the situation.

USCIRF Releases Factsheet on Rohingya Refugees in Southeast Asia

USCIRF

Rohingya Refugees Factsheet – This factsheet highlights the conditions of Rohingya refugees in Southeast Asia. While the majority of Rohingya refugees have fled from Burma to Bangladesh, a significant number have escaped to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Some Rohingya refugees have managed to successfully settle in Southeast Asia, but others have faced discrimination or other religious freedom violations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments in the region have been less willing to admit boats with Rohingya refugees. This factsheet also explores the role of regional and international actors in addressing flows of refugees within Southeast Asia.

USCIRF Releases Factsheet on Rohingya Refugees in Southeast Asia


USCIRF

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a new report on Rohingya refugees who have escaped persecution in Burma:
Rohingya Refugees Factsheet – This factsheet highlights the conditions of Rohingya refugees in Southeast Asia. While the majority of Rohingya refugees have fled from Burma to Bangladesh, a significant number have escaped to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Some Rohingya refugees have managed to successfully settle in Southeast Asia, but others have faced discrimination or other religious freedom violations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments in the region have been less willing to admit boats with Rohingya refugees. This factsheet also explores the role of regional and international actors in addressing flows of refugees within Southeast Asia.

USCIRF Releases Ritual Slaughter Factsheet Highlighting Range of Restrictions across Europe

USCIRF

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report on ritual slaughter laws and the range of restrictions across Europe:
Ritual Slaughter Factsheet – This factsheet shows the spectrum of restrictions on ritual slaughter in Europe, and provides information on the impact that such regulations have on religious freedom in select countries. Pursuant to international human rights law, religious freedom extends to the observance and practice of religion or beliefs, including dietary regulations. European Union laws and regulations require stunning before slaughter to protect this right, but countries are authorized to make their own regulations concerning “slaughtering in accordance with religious rituals.”

USCIRF Releases New Report about Religious Tensions and Fulani Communities in West and Central Africa

USCIRF


The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report on religious tensions and Fulani communities in west and central Africa:
West and Central Africa Factsheet – This factsheet explores the role that religion plays in escalating violence committed by and against Fulani communities in west and central Africa. Predominantly Muslim and historically associated with cattle herding and livestock rearing, Fulani communities – one of the largest ethnic groups in the world – stretch across the African continent from Senegal to Sudan and have been both the victims and perpetrators of violence against civilians in many countries in recent years. Although the extent to which religious ideology contributes to driving this violence remains a subject of debate, the trend of increasing violence by and against Fulani groups is clearly aggravating religious tensions in countries such as Nigeria and the Central African Republic.

Pompeo, in Rome, pushes criticism of religious freedom in China

Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attacked China's record on religious freedom on Wednesday, during a visit to Rome that has been overshadowed by his criticism of the Vatican for pursuing closer ties with Beijing. "Nowhere is religious freedom under assault more than in China," Pompeo told a symposium hosted by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, saying the Chinese Communist Party was looking to "to snuff out the lamp of freedom ... on a horrifying scale".

Ambassador Callista Gingrich: Trump administration defends international religious freedom

FOX News

n September 2019, President Trump hosted the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom at the United Nations and called upon both the international community and business leaders to work together to protect religious freedom around the world. And on June 2 this year the president signed the first-ever executive order to instruct the entire U.S. government to prioritize religious freedom. Under this order, the United States will allocate at least $50 million per year for foreign aid programs that advance international religious freedom. The Trump administration has also partnered with local and faith-based organizations to aid vulnerable religious minorities.

US ambassador issues religious freedom warning at UN event

CNA

In a review of the developments of global religious freedom in the past year, Ambassador Sam Brownback noted that the U.S. has “urged governments to make sure members of religious minority groups are not discriminated against during the pandemic,” whether through scapegoating of minority groups for the spread of the virus or unnecessary restrictions on their access to worship. He also stated his concern of the increased use of technology to restrict religious freedom.

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