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This Dog Won’t Hunt: Texas’s Wrong-headed Argument against Clergy for the Condemned

National Review by Eric Rassbach and Chris Pagliarella

But Texas’s otherwise stellar religious-liberty record suffers from one black mark: prisons. Over the years, our firm, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, has been opposed to Texas in prisoner religious-liberty cases involving access to communion for a Greek Orthodox prisoner, access to kosher food for observant Jewish prisoners, and, most recently, access to clergy for prisoners condemned to death. That last issue is back before the Supreme Court this week in Gutierrez v. Saenz.

HHS Issues Final Rule to Align Grants Regulation with Nondiscrimination Statutes Including Those Protecting Religious Liberty

U.S. Dept. Health and Human Services

"The HHS grants regulation furthers the Department's commitment to deregulation, protects the free exercise of religion, and relieves burdens on faith-based organizations seeking HHS support for their important work, especially as we seek to maximize opportunities for children to be adopted by loving families," said HHS Chief of Staff Brian Harrison. This final rule requires grantees to comply only with applicable nondiscrimination provisions passed by Congress and signed into law, instead of also requiring compliance with nonstatutory nondiscrimination provisions.

Department of Justice Announces Joint Final Rule Regarding Equal Treatment of Faith-Based Organizations in Department-Supported Social Service Programs

U.S. Department of Justice

“The freedom to exercise religious beliefs is a cornerstone of our Constitution and the federal government must uphold this right for all Americans. The Constitution and Federal statutes require all agencies of government to treat religious groups fairly,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “This joint final rule is another in a long line of steps this Administration has taken to restore and protect religious liberty and ensure equal treatment for people of faith.”

HHS Office of Civil Rights Facilitates Safe Clergy Access for Patients at Mt. Sinai Hospital During COVID-19

U.S. Dept. Health and Human Services (HHS)

The Mt. Sinai visitation policy applies to all seven of its hospital locations, including Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Under the updated visitation policy, visiting clergy are to comply with the safety policies in place, which include COVID-19 screening, proper use of hand sanitizer and hand washing, and wearing of an approved face mask. Visitors are required to visit during designated hours, unless an exception, such as an imminent end-of-life situation, applies.
Roger Severino, Director of OCR said, "We commend Mt. Sinai Health System for modifying its policy to clarify that patients can receive safe clergy access for religious purposes during the COVID-19 pandemic." Severino concluded, "We applaud the hospital for ensuring that it will treat the needs of the body without sacrificing the needs of the soul."

California churches lose last-ditch bid to lift worship restrictions for Christmas

Washington Times

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected late Thursday a San Diego-area church’s request to lift a state ban on indoor worship for Christmas, all but extinguishing the last hope of California churches hours before the Friday celebration.
Charles LiMandri, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, said he would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene after a three-judge panel denied the emergency motion to lift temporarily California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Ninth Circuit has yanked the joy of Christmas away from South Bay United Pentecostal Church and its congregants,” Mr. LiMandri said in a statement.

Trump administration's religious freedom actions summarized

U.S. Dept. Health and Human Services

President Donald J. Trump has kept his promise to defend the constitutionally protected right to the free exercise of religion. His Administration has repeatedly stepped forward to protect those whose religious freedom is under threat and to ensure that faith-based organizations are treated fairly. [Click "More..." button to read highlights document.]

History Shows Our Passion for Freedom Runs Deep

Heritage Foundation by Katharine Cornell Gorka

Winston Churchill said, “The future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope.” As we wait to be allowed to return to our churches and synagogues, we should remember that small band of 30 citizens in Flushing, New York, and remind ourselves that the American commitment to liberty does not depend on singular individuals such as James Madison or Thomas Jefferson, or on a president or governor, but it depends fully on the love for liberty each one of us holds and the lengths we are willing to go to uphold it.

Discrimination Against Churches Didn’t Have a Prayer at the Supreme Court

Heritage Foundation by Emilie Kao

These unfair restrictions also take a toll on public health. America faces an onslaught of “deaths of despair.” The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reported 1 in 4 millennials contemplated suicide during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. surgeon general had already warned that "social isolation is a major public health crisis, on par with heart disease or cancer." For Americans suffering from loneliness and isolation, belief in the transcendent bolstered by relationships can serve as a final barrier from going over the brink. As David Litts of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention says, "Where there's faith, there's hope, and where there's hope, there's life."

U.S. appeals court blocks NY governor's limits on religious gatherings


In a 3-0 decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, the Orthodox Jewish group Agudath Israel of America and two synagogues in enjoining New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Oct. 6 attendance caps at “houses of worship.”
The governor limited attendance to the lesser of 10 people or 25% capacity in “red” zones where the coronavirus risk was highest, and 25 people or 33% capacity in slightly less risky “orange” zones, even in buildings that seat hundreds.
Circuit Judge Michael Park said the plaintiffs established irreparable harm by showing the restrictions impaired their free exercise of religion.

First freedom agendas


Already Biden has indicated one of his first actions in office will be to rescind the Mexico City policy, a rule Trump reinstated after the Obama years prohibiting U.S. foreign aid to groups that provide abortions or abortion referrals. The move will alienate many Christians and shift protections away from religious believers who oppose abortion in underdeveloped countries. Intent on writing his own presidential chapter, Biden will have to contend with a formidable momentum on international religious freedom the Trump administration created.

Religious Liberty Is Under Assault, Even in the United States

Crossroads with Faith McDonnell

Religious liberty is under assault around the world, and not just in Mainland China and countries under totalitarian regimes, but even in the United States where censorship and government policy are whittling down freedom of belief. To learn more about this we’ve invited to speak with us Faith McDonnell, Director of Religious Liberty Programs and of the Church Alliance for a New Sudan, at The Institute on Religion and Democracy.

35 Countries Sign Declaration Saying “There is No Right to Abortion”


Vice President Mike Pence led a pro-life event at the White House yesterday where he announced two major pro-life developments on the domestic front — the Trump administration denying $200 million to California for forcing Christians to fund abortions, and a lawsuit against the University of Vermont for forcing a nurse to kill a baby in an abortion. But Pence also announced an international pro-life development as well: more countries signing a declaration saying there is no right to kill an unborn child in an abortion.
Christian Medical Association Director of Federal Government Relations Jonathan Imbody told he was delighted by the additional countries signing the document. He praised the work of HHS’s Special Representative for Global Women’s Health Valerie Huber in coordinating the work that has resulted in the Declaration.
“Valerie and her colleagues including Garrett Grigsby and others at HHS, and Secretary Mike Pompeo and colleagues at the U.S. Department of State, have accomplished one of the most significant international life-affirming successes for women’s health and the sanctity of life in recent history. By making this Declaration an official international document, their work ensures that this landmark, life-honoring statement of principle endures beyond the shifting winds of administrations.”

Trump Will Withhold $200 Million in Tax Dollars From California for Forcing Christians to Fund Abortions


“If California wants to provide abortion services, it can do so,” said Roger Severino, who directs the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services. “What the state is not free to do is force people to pay for other people’s abortions.” Following the announcement, the Christian Medical Association told it appreciated the Trump administration taking action.
CMA Director of Federal Government Relations Jonathan Imbody said “The HHS action against the state of California sends a strong message that no state, no matter how large and no matter how radical the abortion views of its leaders, can unilaterally nullify federal conscience protections. For some reason, the abortion industry and its politician allies seem fixated on forcing Catholic nuns to participate in abortion through insurance coverage—from the Little Sisters of the Poor to the sisters of the Missionary Guadalupanas of the Holy Spirit. This radical trampling of conscience is contrary to our most fundamental, Constitutional freedoms of thought, speech and exercise of faith.”

Free at last in California


In the first successful challenge to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pandemic restrictions on churches, a California state court found the total ban on indoor worship unconstitutionally inhibits the free exercise of religion. Bakersfield Superior Court Judge Gregory Pulskamp on Thursday blocked Newsom from enforcing the order against Fr. Trevor Burfitt and the Catholic parishes he oversees, including congregations in Kern, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Los Angeles counties. Burfitt’s attorney, Christopher Ferrara of the Thomas More Society, slammed the idea that “churches are somehow more dangerous viral vectors than any of the litany of ‘essential businesses.’”

Judge rules against California church again


The Supreme Court decision that restored freedom of worship to Brooklyn congregations does not apply to California’s COVID-19 restrictions, a federal judge ruled late Monday. U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal said the state’s ban on indoor worship did not compare to the New York rules or Nevada restrictions tossed out by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The difference? California allows church gatherings outdoors in unlimited numbers, the judge said.

What to expect on the religious scene in 2021: Experts cast their sights on the year ahead

National Catholic Reporter

The Rev. Johnnie Moore has served as an informal adviser to the Trump administration. He's president of The Congress of Christian Leaders. "Religious freedom will also be a unifying principle for those finally acknowledging China's inexcusable behavior — especially its genocidal persecution of Muslims, Buddhists and Christians. The record 43 million U.S. evangelicals who voted in 2020 may become less of a singular fixation in American politics but will be no less of a potent force in the public square. The smartest leaders will finally see the broad issues of concern to this community as a key to solving long entrenched challenges in American life, resulting in unique issue-oriented alliances. Corporation leaders in LA and New York may descend from their ivory towers and start to see the rest of the country again. They'll find it's a very traditionally religious place."

Churches Appeal to SCOTUS for Religious-Liberty Protections, Amid Increasingly Strict COVID Restrictions

National Catholic Register

Joe Davis, counsel at Becket Law, a religious liberty law firm that represented Agudath Israel protesting Cuomo’s COVID restrictions, told the Register that the court’s decision in the case “is going to have a very powerful impact” on future religious-liberty complaints against COVID restrictions.
“There was a sense that governments could get away with a lot of discriminatory restrictions on houses of worship and the courts, at least in the beginning of the pandemic, weren’t intervening much,” Davis said, “so this is a really important decision in terms of the court laying down a marker that the First Amendment and freedom of worship doesn’t yield even during a pandemic.”

Where are the justice warriors for religious freedom?

Maine Wire by Melissa Baker

So I ask, where are the justice warriors for religious liberty? There seems to be a justice warrior for every cause under the sun, including ones not actually protected by the Constitution. But when it comes to religious liberty, nobody in NYC seemed willing to stand up for their faithful neighbors.
Shouldn’t we be asking why chief executives are allowing nonessential activities to occur while placing burdensome restrictions on constitutionally-protected activities, like exercising one’s faith? People can pack into a liquor store with masks on but can’t do the same thing to attend a religious service and worship their god?

Bob Menendez Blocks Rick Scott’s Religious Liberty Resolution

Florida Daily

The resolution has the support of the Family Research Council (FRC), a religious conservative group. Travis Weber, the FRC’s vice president for policy and government affairs and the director of the Center for Religious Liberty, expressed his support for Scott’s resolution.
“FRC supports this resolution which is, sadly, necessary,” Weber said. “Religious liberty has been coming under increasing attack in recent years and this trend is unfortunately continuing to happen during the COVID pandemic. As this resolution points out, houses of worship are being shuttered even though most are taking every health precaution. Yet they are needed now more than ever, as they bring hope and help to their communities in tangible ways. They should not be treated as second-class institutions when they are so clearly central to the protections of our first freedom!”

Trump Invokes Saint Thomas Becket In Defense Of Religious Liberty. Expect The Opposite From Biden-Harris

The Federalist by John Daniel Davidson

At the same time, it’s unnerving to think how diametrically opposed to this view the incoming Biden administration will be. Although he professes to be Catholic, Biden has already indicated he will once again target religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, as the Obama administration did, in an attempt to force such religious orders to participate in state-funded abortion.
And Biden’s soon-to-be vice president, Kamala Harris, is an open anti-Catholic bigot. She infamously imposed an unconstitutional religious test on a nominee for the federal bench in 2018. When Brian Buescher was nominated as a District Court judge, Harris inveighed against him for being a member of the Knights of Columbus, asking, “Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed a woman’s right to choose when you joined the organization?”

Department of Education Announces Joint Final Rule Regarding Equal Treatment of Faith-Based Organizations in Department-Supported Social Service Programs

U.S. Dept. Education

Today, December 14, 2020, the Department of Education announced a joint final rule with eight other agencies — the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Agriculture, the Agency for International Development, and the Department of Veterans Affairs — to implement President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13831, on the Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative (May 3, 2018). This rule ensures that religious and non-religious organizations are treated equally in Department-supported programs, and it clarifies that religious organizations do not lose their legal protections and rights just because they participate in federal programs and activities.
“Religious liberty is a bedrock founding principle that this Administration consistently demonstrates its commitment to vigorously defend,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Pro-lifers, religious liberty advocates sound alarm over Biden HHS pick Xavier Becerra

FOX News

"President-elect Joe Biden’s choice of Xavier Becerra to run HHS is a gross insult to Catholics," said Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with the Catholic Association.
"Becerra spent years tormenting the Little Sisters of the Poor in court, trying to force them to pay for things like abortion pills against their consciences," McGuire said. "He also led efforts to force pro-life pregnancy resource centers to advertise for abortion. Thankfully both of his efforts failed at the Supreme Court. But Becerra is outright hostile to religious liberty and Biden’s choice of someone so openly anti-Catholic is an affront to the faith that he so frequently invoked as part of his campaign."

Supreme Court continues to block state COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings

USA Today

"Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten," the court's conservative majority opinion said in the New York case. "The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty."

Christian School Will Continue to Fight for its Religious Liberty Against Kentucky Governor’s Unlawful Shutdown of In-Person Classes at Faith-Based K-12 Schools

First Liberty

First Liberty Institute will continue to challenge any Governor Andy Beshear executive order that prohibits private religious schools in Kentucky from holding in-person classes for grades K-12. The Supreme Court of the United States today refused to grant emergency relief against the Governor’s order due to timing.
“While we would have liked the Court to rule on the merits today, we appreciate the Court’s specific invitation to us to seek an injunction if the Governor decides to reissue his unconstitutional order on Jan 4th. Rest assured, if the Governor does so on Jan 4th, we will file against him immediately,” said Kelly Shackelford, President, CEO, and Chief Counsel to First Liberty Institute. “The courts need to send a message to Governor Beshear and government officials around the nation that our God-given rights are still protected, even in a crisis, and especially from irrational and discriminatory government orders. The First Amendment protects religious education just as it protects worship.”

HHS Announces Joint Final Rule Regarding Equal Treatment of Faith-Based Organizations in HHS-Supported Social Service Programs

U.S. Dept. Health and Human Services

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a joint final rule with eight other agencies—the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Agriculture, the Agency for International Development, and the Department of Veterans Affairs—to implement President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13831, on the Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative (May 3, 2018). This rule ensures that faith-based and secular organizations are treated equally in HHS-supported programs, and it clarifies that faith-based organizations do not lose their legal protections and rights just because they participate in federal programs and activities.
“Faith-based organizations, Americans of faith, and civil society organizations play a vital role in providing Americans with access to healthcare and human services,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

Justice Samuel Alito remarks on religious liberty

Federalist Society videotaped event

"It pains me to say this, but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right."

Final Rule Published to Implement Legal Requirements for Religious Exemption

U.S. Department of Labor news release

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) today released its “Implementing Legal Requirements Regarding the Equal Opportunity Clause’s Religious Exemption” Final Rule, which will be published in an upcoming edition of the Federal Register. This rule will encourage the full and equal participation of religious organizations as federal contractors. Religious organizations, many of them small nonprofits, provide such essential services as feeding the hungry, supporting refugees, and educating our nation’s students.

Why We Plan to Get Vaccinated: A Christian Moral Perspective

Public Discourse by Arbo, Mitchell and Walker

Yet individuals who use the vaccine are not guilty of cooperating with or perpetuating intrinsic evil. Finally, a prior or antecedent intrinsically unjust act could be appropriated for proportionately beneficial ends. We should concede the ethical validity of vaccine use, while not ignoring the problematic origins of its development.
From a moral point of view, it is important that individual conscience not be violated. Individuals may have personal reasons for temporary or indefinite refusal. Perhaps a person might wish to see better long-term evidence, for example, or might delay vaccination so that more vulnerable members of the population may receive it first.

New Jersey flirts with radical abortion bill

Washington Examiner by Jonathan Imbody

Similarly, more than four in five people, according to a Heart and Mind Strategies poll, believe that "healthcare professionals should not be forced to perform procedures against their moral beliefs." Yet, the New Jersey bill contains no provision to protect healthcare professional, conscientious objectors who could lose their jobs simply for following the life-honoring tenets of the Hippocratic oath.

Is Receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Ethical?

Public Discourse by Jonathan Imbody

While agreeing that end users have no direct causal connection to others’ illicit acts, that fact alone is not in our opinion sufficient for arriving at a clear-conscience decision to receive this specific vaccine. Such a conclusion requires weighing relative harms and benefits.

2020 religious freedom index published


Across dimensions, three themes emerge in this year’s Index:
1. Americans weather storms anchored by faith. Americans are anchored in their opinions on religious freedom, just as religion sustains them through difficult times.
2. Religious identity cannot be quarantined. Religion is part of who Americans are, not just something they do. Respondents support protections that reflect the reality of religious identity.
3. Leadership gaps in defending racial justice and religious freedom. In two areas–religious communities advocating for racial justice and elected officials prioritizing religious freedom–the Index reveals a significant leadership gap.

Americans View Religion as an ‘Identity,’ Not a ‘Hobby.’ Policymakers Should Take Note.

Daily Signal by Nicole Russell

There are many interesting insights to come out of Becket’s Religious Freedom Index, as well as a couple of surprising truths. Namely, it appears that the pandemic has forced society to realize an ugly truth: People think state officials view their religion as a “hobby,” rather than as an identity.
One of the key findings is that Americans believe “religious identity cannot be quarantined.” In other words, “Religion is part of who Americans are, not just something they do. Respondents support protections that reflect the reality of religious identity.”

Justice Alito and warning signs

Telegraph Herald by Cal Thomas

On the erosion of religious liberty, he said: “It pains me to say this, but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored, right.” As evidence he mentioned how we have moved from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by Congress in 1993 to the recent persecution by the Obama administration of The Little Sisters of the Poor for their refusal to include contraceptives in their health insurance. The Catholic nuns prevailed in a 7-2 court ruling, but Alito believes the threat to the free exercise of religion remains all too real.

The final religious freedom moves President Trump could make

Deseret News

“Americans of faith play an essential role in providing health care and human services to so many vulnerable people and communities, and President Trump is dedicated to removing every unfair barrier that stands in the way of this important work,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a January statement explaining proposed adjustments.
Like Azar, [president and CEO of First Liberty Institute] Shackelford believes the policy updates would ensure that faith-based organizations aren’t asked to jump through more hoops than their secular counterparts. Currently, some religious groups decline to participate in government programs out of a fear that they’ll be required to refer people to organizations they find morally objectionable, he said.

Social conservatives prepare to battle Biden

Washington Examiner

“At this point, the Senate is the firewall against wholesale structural change in the United States,” said Timothy Head, executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “It can hardly be overstated how important it is to retain a Republican majority in the Senate.”
When Biden takes office, Trump executive orders on abortion and religious liberty will surely be scrapped. “Most of us expect to see the Mexico City policy reversed,” said Head, referring to an executive action banning federal funding to international family planning organizations that perform or advocate for abortions overseas. The policy changes every time control of the White House shifts from one party to the other. There are other bills social conservatives would need to organize against. There is the Freedom of Choice Act, which seeks to codify Roe v. Wade, and the Equality Act, which would similarly write protections for sexual orientation and gender identity into federal civil rights law.

Appellate ruling scraps conversion therapy bans in Miami Beach, cities across Florida

Miami Herald

The ruling stems from a 2018 lawsuit filed against Palm Beach and Boca Raton by two therapists, Roberto Otto and Julie Hamilton, who said they practice speech-based conversion therapy to minors in the county. They argue the laws, passed in 2017, infringe upon their right to free speech and religious liberty. The Orlando-based nonprofit law firm Liberty Counsel, which advocates for Christian values, filed the lawsuit on their behalf. Matthew Staver, the firm’s senior pastor and chief counsel in the case, said he objected to the use of the term “conversion therapy” to describe the practice.
“The counselor is like a GPS and the client has the right to choose the goal of counseling,” he wrote in an email. “Like a GPS, the counselors do not impose their predetermined course on the client.”

What Christians can Expect From Joe Biden And Kamala Harris

First Things by Kenneth Craycraft

In addition to these policies that violate the religious moral sensibilities of most Christians, a Biden-Harris administration will also directly assault religious liberty. Harris has been a strong supporter of the Do No Harm Act in the Senate, and she will almost certainly make it a priority in the new administration. The purpose of the Act is to subvert, if not practically eliminate, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and similar legislation in many states.
Among other things, [RFRA laws] protect Catholic hospitals from being forced to perform abortions or transgender surgeries, or religious schools from hiring teachers and other employees who take public moral positions that are contrary to the tenets of those religions.

LGBTQ-Rights Group Wants Biden to Restrict Religious Liberty

Caffeinated Thoughts

So if a Christian school requires students and faculty to abide by biblical standards for marriage and sexuality, the Human Rights Campaign believes those institutions of higher learning should be denied accreditation. If the school contradicts “science-based” curriculum standards (whatever that means and whoever sets those), they could also lose accreditation.
They also want to use Title IX to force colleges to include transgender “women” to utilize housing, facilities, and athletic programs designated for biological women. For Christian universities, this contradicts the truth that God creates human beings as male and female. (It also neuters the purpose of Title IX.)

Christians in the Middle East need us

Daily Journal by Kathryn Jean Lopez

The most shocking and yet unsurprising thing that Archbishop Warda said at the conference, which was dedicated to Walther, was to share with us his fear as he watches the growing hostility to religion in the United States. He knows how that story ends. He's living it. These things are the calling card of tyranny, he said. We must learn from him and be lovingly defiant in the face of it.

Catholic bishop vows to fight NY court's upholding of abortion-coverage rule


New York's highest court this week upheld a state regulation requiring that workplace health insurance cover "medically necessary abortion services." The ruling ended a four-year effort by Catholic organizations and other religious groups to overturn the regulation based on religious and moral objections. In response to the state Court of Appeals' decision, Albany Diocese Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger said Wednesday he will press the issue with the United States Supreme Court on constitutional grounds.
"There is far too much at stake in terms of religious liberty and freedom of conscience to allow this to stand," Scharfenberger said. "It is an issue that affects people of all faiths, not just one faith … the freedom to choose to protect life is being violated by unconstitutional regulations forcing the insured to pay for its destruction."

Supreme Court blocks strict COVID-19 restrictions on New York houses of worship

USA Today

"Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten," the court's unsigned majority opinion said. "The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty." It was a reversal from earlier actions taken by the high court in response to state restrictions on organized religion during the coronavirus pandemic.

Will The Supreme Court Finally Defend Religious Liberty From Pandemic Tyrants?

The Federalist by Jonathan Tobin

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and its ultra-Orthodox Jewish clients beat New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in October. Can they make it two in a row? The rights not just of one faith community but all people of faith, who believe the First Amendment wasn’t somehow repealed during the coronavirus outbreak, are at stake in its advocacy in the case of Agudath Israel of America v. Cuomo.
The lawsuit challenges the right of Cuomo to enforce a discriminatory “cluster initiative,” which singles out predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn for lockdown closures of synagogues, religious schools, and holiday gatherings even though only blocks away restaurants and schools were allowed to remain open.

Justice Alito: Worried about religious liberty? Follow news in higher education

Times Record News

"Today, it would be easy to create a new list entitled, 'Things you can't say if you are a student or a professor at a college of university or an employee of many big corporations.' And there wouldn't be just seven items on that list – 70 times seven would be closer to the mark," said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, via Zoom, addressing the recent Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention. Discussing religious beliefs, he argued, has become especially dangerous.
"You can't say that marriage is the union between one man and one woman," he noted. "Until very recently, that's what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now it's considered bigotry."

For Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court upholds religious liberty

The Hill by Andrew McCarthy

What a difference a one-justice swing in the Supreme Court makes. Late Wednesday, the high court, in a 5-4 ruling, granted two religious organizations an injunction, relieving them from the suffocating restrictions that New York’s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, had imposed on community worship.

Former Air Force chaplain claims he was discriminated against for preaching sermon against sexual immorality

FOX News

"I preached a sermon, according to my constitutionally-protected religious beliefs, on 'do not commit adultery,'" Cizek told Fox News, insisting that the Scripture passage that he read was straightforward and that he further depicted it to mean "if you are having sex with someone with whom you are not married then you need to stop." The sermon came at an especially sensitive time when the base was still reeling from the fallout of a widescale sex scandal.

Is Receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Ethical?

Public Discourse by Jonathan Imbody and Jeff Barrows

So, with millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on the verge of distribution to American citizens and people worldwide—immediately following FDA emergency approval—what do we know of the vaccine’s ethical considerations, given controversies with some vaccines over the use of cell lines from aborted babies? In brief, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was not developed or produced using any tissue from an aborted child, though it did make use of a biological assessment tool that relies on a cell line (HEK-293) derived from an aborted baby in 1972. Ethical considerations including loving our neighbor, the unavailability of ethical alternatives, and distance in participation and time from the original unethical act make this vaccine a candidate for morally licit use.

Argument analysis: Justices sympathetic to faith-based foster-care agency in anti-discrimination dispute


Justice Clarence Thomas suggested that the case involved both contractual relationships and licensing, in which the city would have less latitude. Windham responded that licensing is indeed different, and the city has less leeway, because the city is trying to regulate an area – foster care — in which religious organizations historically have played a large role. She stressed that CSS is not trying to tell the city how to run its internal affairs; instead, the city is trying to tell CSS how to run its internal affairs.
Justice Samuel Alito was clearly sympathetic to CSS. He told Neal Katyal, the lawyer representing the city, that “if we are honest about what’s really going on here,” the case is “not about ensuring that same-sex couples in Philadelphia have the opportunity to be foster parents.” Rather, Alito contended, Philadelphia “can’t stand the message that Catholic Social Services and the archdiocese are sending by continuing to adhere to the old-fashioned view about marriage.”

Biden projected winner, rollbacks on pro-life and religious liberty protections expected

Catholic News Agency

Biden pledged during his campaign to roll back bans on foreign aid to groups promoting or performing abortions, and to rescind religious liberty protections enjoyed by groups who object to the federal contraceptive insurance mandate— both things that can be done by executive order. But the Biden campaign also pledged to enshrine abortion protections into federal law and to pass far-reaching gender identity protections into law — those measures will be unlikely to be enacted if Republicans control the Senate.

The Impact of Psychological Man—and How to Respond

Public Discourse by Carl Trueman

Words are, to use the hyperbolic jargon of our cultural moment, instruments of violence because injury is conceptualized in psychological terms. This is why speech codes are now so important. Even the accidental use of an inappropriate pronoun can be seen as an assault on someone’s person because it is seen as a denial of their identity. Policing language thus becomes central to a society constituted by psychological selves. The net result of this is that matters once considered basic social goods such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion become problematic.

The Faithful Voters Who Helped Put Biden Over the Top

New York Times by Michael Wear

While exit poll data will continue to adjust as the final votes are tallied, we already know that Mr. Biden’s outreach has been vindicated. Nationally, he won 23 percent of white evangelicals, closing the gap from 2016 by 11 percentage points (from 64 to 53). This amounts to a swing of well over four million votes nationally, which accounts for much of Mr. Biden’s lead in the popular vote. While there has been significant discussion of Mr. Trump’s gains among Black and especially Hispanic voters, Mr. Biden more than made up for those losses with his increased share of white evangelical support.

Equality Act hangs in the balance as Democrats falter in Senate races

USA Today

Biden has vowed to pass the Equality Act within his first 100 days in office, an unexpected commitment as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic. To do that, however, he will need the backing of a sharply partisan Senate. The bill easily cleared the Democrat-dominated House last year. Its chances of surviving the Senate, where it looks like Republicans will maintain control, is questionable.

Qualifying Free Speech Out of Existence: Dare to Speak and the Danger of Polite Self-Censorship

Public Discourse by Allen Guelzo

Nossel is not any more enthused about the prospect of privately owned digital platforms—such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter—stepping up to censor inconvenient utterances. “Pious pronouncements by tech company CEOs about free expression,” she complains, “come off as self-serving,” and she is fearful of the “risks associated with commissioning the world’s most powerful companies to exercise vast and unprecedented controls over speech.” In the face of widespread demands for such censorship, Nossel argues that free speech is essential to self-government, promotes tolerance and personal autonomy, catalyzes progress, and serves as the foundation for all other freedoms.

The Lincoln Proposal: Pro-Life Presidents Must Take Ambitious and Bold Action to Protect the Constitutional Rights of Preborn Children

Public Discourse by Foster, Pecknold and Craddock

The Constitution vests the president with “[t]he executive power” to take decisive and conclusive action within the domain of the executive branch, including its subsidiary departments and agencies. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution requires the president to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Additionally, Article II, Section 3 directs the president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” This provision imposes a twofold duty: first, an independent responsibility to interpret the Constitution and the laws of the United States, and then second, to faithfully execute them. The president’s interpretive role is implicit in and antecedent to the power of execution. Relying on his constitutionally prescribed oath and his Take Care Clause interpretive authority, the president should fulfill his duty to faithfully execute the guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution by issuing an executive order recognizing preborn persons as constitutional “persons” entitled to due process and equal protection of the laws.

Bishop Chairmen Urge the Supreme Court to Preserve the Right of Catholic Foster Care Agencies to Serve


“Catholics have been called to care for children who have been orphaned, or whose parents face unique difficulties in providing care, since the earliest days of our faith. We serve all children in need, without regard to race, religion, sex, or any other characteristic. We have done this for centuries, long before any government, because we believe every single person – especially the marginalized and powerless – deserves to experience the love of Jesus and be part of a family. The same core beliefs about human dignity and the wisdom of God’s design that motivate Catholics to serve the vulnerable also shape our convictions about sex, marriage, and the right of children to a mother and a father. These commitments are inseparable."

No choice on school choice


Three families in rural areas of Maine without public high schools can send their children to private school but not Christian school on the government’s dime, an appeals court ruled Thursday. The decision “allows the state of Maine to continue discriminating against families and students seeking to attend religious schools, and we will immediately appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Tim Keller, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represents the parents.

Supreme Court Tackles Religious Freedom in Foster Care Case


The reason that the outcome of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia is so potentially important goes back to another Supreme Court decision from 1990. In Employment Division v. Smith, Justice Antonin Scalia determined that a state or local law could restrict religious freedom, as long as it does so in a way that equally applies to everyone. The only way such a law can be challenged under the Free Exercise Clause is if it violates some other right. In a way, Employment Division v. Smith turned religious freedom into a subset of the freedom of speech, rather than the “first freedom” it truly is.
Yesterday, the lawyers for Catholic Social Services not only asked the Court to rule in their favor but, also to overturn Employment Division. This would force state and local governments to abide by the same standard as the federal government, justifying any infringement on religious freedom by showing that a compelling interest is being served in the least restrictive way possible.

Barrett will join Supreme Court to hear blockbuster religious freedom case

ABA Journal

The case is Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, to be argued Nov. 4, just one day after Election Day. In Fulton, the justices are reviewing Philadelphia’s decision to exclude Catholic Social Services, an agency of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, from its foster care system over the church agency’s refusal to abide by the city’s nondiscrimination policy. Catholic Social Services argues that it has a First Amendment free exercise of religion right to decline to certify same-sex couples for foster parenthood because of the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage.
“Catholic Social Services can’t provide foster care endorsements for same-sex couples, but if [such] a couple ever asked—no one had—they would instead help them to find a foster care agency with expertise in serving LGBTQ couples,” says Lori H. Windham, a senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the law firm representing the religious agency.

HHS, DOJ Officials Address Religious-Freedom Issues Amid COVID Regulations

National Catholic Register

In general, Roger Severino, director of HHS’ Office of Civil Rights, noted that when it comes to COVID restrictions, “We don’t want to be in a position where houses of worship are somehow treated as uniquely dangerous when it comes to transmission of the virus. If you are singing in a loud voice, if you are praising God, it doesn’t make it any riskier than if you’re singing in a Broadway musical or if you’re protesting. We want to make sure that there’s proper respect for religious liberty and protecting people’s health by saying this is what you can do to be safer without having to dictate particular modes of religious worship, especially when there’s a risk of being uneven, of preferring secular versus religious."

Statement by U.S. Secretary of Labor Scalia On International Religious Freedom Day

U.S. Dept. of Labor

“Today’s commemoration of International Religious Freedom Day reminds us that Americans can be deeply grateful to live in a nation where religious freedom is rooted in our founding ideals and protected by the law of the land. Today is also a reminder that many people around the world do not enjoy the freedom to practice their faith, but instead face persecution for their religious beliefs. We particularly recognize the Uyghur Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities in China who have been forced into state-sponsored labor and re-education camps by the Chinese Communist Party. Last month, the Department of Labor took steps to combat these exploitive labor practices by releasing its biennial list of goods produced under conditions of forced labor. China topped the list at 17 goods – four more than any other country.”

DOJ focuses on religious hate crimes

U.S. Dept. of Justice

The Department of Justice has had two guilty pleas and one indictment in the last month in cases involving threats and alleged threats against places of worship and congregants. In October 2018, the Department launched a hate crime website to provide information and links to resources. The Department’s Justice Technology Information Center has developed a Safeguarding Houses of Worship page that includes an app for law enforcement to use in working with faith communities as well as other useful resources for places of worship and law enforcement. The Department is also providing technical assistance to law enforcement agencies on hate crimes through the DOJ COPS Office’s Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance Center.

Federal court orders District of Columbia to permit church’s outdoor worship service

U.S. Dept. of Justice

The church filed suit against the District of Columbia and its mayor in U.S. District Court on September 22, alleging that the imposition of a 100-worshiper limit, even for outdoor worship services with social distancing and masks as the church proposed, violated its rights under the Constitution and RFRA, in light of the mayor and District’s allowance and often celebration of outdoor protests numbering in the thousands. On October 2, 2020, the Justice Department filed a Statement of Interest supporting the church’s claim. On October 9, a federal court in Washington, D.C. granted a preliminary injunction to allow Capitol Hill Baptist Church to go forward with its plan to hold outdoor worship services for its 850 members.

Vermont’s barring parochial student from college course program violates Constitution, Department of Justice argues

U.S. Dept. of Justice

Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Claire Murray argued for the United States as friend-of-the-court in the case, A.M. v. French, that excluding the student from the program on the grounds that she attends a religious school violated the Free Exercise Clause. Vermont’s “Dual Enrollment Program” provides high school students the opportunity to take up to two college courses while still in high school, with tuition paid by the State. The program excludes those students without public high school in their district who choose to attend private religious schools.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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


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.

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.

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.

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.

Protecting Females in Sports and Just Telling the Truth


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.”

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.

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


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.

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.

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.

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.

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


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.

Conservative students appeal case, argue U. of Minn. used official policy to suppress, censor Ben Shapiro event

Alliance Defending Freedom

On behalf of the clients, ADF attorneys filed a lawsuit in July 2018 challenging the constitutionality of the policy, which university officials used to restrict, relocate, and downsize an academic lecture delivered by Shapiro and hosted by Young America’s Foundation and student group Students for a Conservative Voice. The university justified its discrimination because, as one official said, Shapiro’s speech would be “controversial.”
“No university official has the authority to suppress viewpoints simply because of how someone might respond to it,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom.

Court bars Madison school district from deceiving parents about children’s claimed gender identity

Alliance Defending Freedom

The lawsuit, filed in February by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys together with lead counsel from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, challenges a school district policy that instructs district employees to assist children of any age to adopt a transgender identity at school upon the child’s request without notice to or consent from parents, to conceal from parents the fact that school personnel are doing this unless the child “consents” to the parents being told, and even instructs district employees to conceal these facts from parents. WILL and ADF attorneys represent multiple families at the school district in challenging the policy, which violates constitutionally protected parental rights.
“It should go without saying that school district staff should be honest with parents, especially when it comes to critical matters concerning their children, but we are pleased that the court has issued an order now requiring it,” said ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks.

Families and children affected by Supreme Court case share their stories


“So many people don’t understand how hard it is to care for foster children—up to half of foster families quit within the first year. It’s no wonder that so many successful foster parents say that the support of their faith community and the religious agencies they partner with has been a vital resource,” said Naomi Schaefer Riley, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute specializing in child welfare and foster care issues. “ tells the stories of these families, bringing a face to an often faceless problem. This case is about ensuring the greatest number of stable, loving homes is available to our nation’s most vulnerable children.”

Supreme Court to decide the value of First Amendment rights


Becket has just filed a brief at the Supreme Court in support of a college student who was threatened with arrest by police at Georgia Gwinnett College when he tried to share his faith with his classmates. In Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, two campus police officers told Chike Uzuegbunam they would arrest him for disturbing the peace if he continued to speak and share religious literature with his classmates – even though Uzuegbunam was standing inside one of the college’s tiny “free speech zones” at the time, which make up less than 0.0015% of campus.

US Department of Defense Strengthens Religious Liberty Protections for Service Members

Christian News

The policy document, “Religious Liberty in the Military Services,” released earlier this month, states that the military “will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs (conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs) which do not have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order and discipline, or health and safety,” and “[a] service member’s expression of such beliefs may not, in so far as practicable, be used as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.”

There should be no religious test for the Supreme Court

Robert A. Sirico in Dallas Morning News

The nomination of Barrett is a challenge and opportunity for an America presently in need of soul-searching regarding the scars of intolerance and bigotry, which have been with us since the American founding. As we were commended by the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, we would do well to turn to the founding itself to overcome the tensions within it. After all, the Constitution itself speaks against religious bigotry in stating that, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Ought such a “religious test” now be used to disqualify nominees?

Religious liberty advocates have high hopes for Supreme Court cases

Washington Examiner

But a situation like that is unlikely to arise with Fulton, said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket. Because Trump's two nominees have increased the conservative majority — and because, in recent years, even liberal justice have sided with them on religious liberty — he expects a success for CSS in Fulton, with or without Trump's pick. "Religious liberty has not been a nail-biter, 5-4 issue at the court in recent years," he said. "It has been one that has been able to command super-majorities most of the time, and I would expect that to continue no matter who’s on the court."

COVID-19 exemptions continue to spark debate over religious liberty, public health

Dallas Morning News

Attorney General Ken Paxton, who sat next to Abbott during the freedom rally, added to the debate by issuing a guidance letter on July 17 stating that religious private schools can determine when to reopen without any government interference. Paxton said imposing mandates on religious private schools would violate the U.S. and Texas Constitution as well as the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Why Amy Coney Barrett will strengthen religious liberty

Kelly Shackleford in FOX News

Yet, there is a certain quality to Judge Barrett that likely caught the attention of President Trump and much of America: her quiet conviction born of rigorous thought. The judge, about whom Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., complained in 2017 for having “dogma” living “loudly within,” responded to such outrageous bigotry with peaceful resolve. In her three years on the bench, unlike Sen. Feinstein, she has been unbiased and fair.

Democrats’ Anti-Catholic Bigotry Is All about Abortion

National Review by Alexandra DeSanctis

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), referring to Barrett’s Catholic faith. “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.” Here, of course, Feinstein was hinting at the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.

Americans prefer a rational, respectful discussion of the issues


A USA Today commentary entitled, "Transgender scare tactics are back on the Republican agenda" unfortunately employs scare tactics and loaded language ("harmful, cruel, and just factually inaccurate") to mischaracterize in one broad stroke what are often sincerely held differences of persuasion on transgender issues. For example, in a recent national survey, faith-oriented medical professionals note the importance of fact-based biology in treating patients while also affirming that they "care for all patients in need, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identification, or family makeup, with sensitivity and compassion."

First Amendment to the Constitution also protects the free exercise of no religious beliefs


Quoted in a news report, Atheists bash DeVos' campus free-speech rules, the president of American Atheists displays a perilous ignorance of how the First Amendment protects their own beliefs, foolishly lambasting a new Department of Education campus free speech and religious exercise rule. The rule simply requires public colleges and universities to provide religious student groups the same rights, benefits, and privileges that other student groups enjoy.

Watching China's persecution should cause us to protect religious freedom in the U.S.A.


If today the government can shut down religious belief, speech and exercise, tomorrow the government can shut down any other belief, speech and exercise. Just as we resolve to oppose China's ruthless suppression of religious freedom, so too we ought to advance religious freedom in our own country, regardless of our persuasions.

Life, Liberty, and the Supreme Court


On today’s episode, we present a recent panel discussion held by the North Carolina Family Policy Council examining the Supreme Court’s most recent decisions dealing with religious liberty, abortion, and gender identity. What are the implications for the Church, for law, for our culture? The host is John Rustin of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, with panelists John Stonestreet, Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation and Matt Sharp of the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Why (and How) Christians Should Vote


Second, we should compare their company, because every candidate comes with others. In particular, every president comes with a few thousand others: appointees who run departments, advisors who offer counsel, and judicial nominees who will be on the bench for decades. And just about every candidate comes with a political party, which has their own set of rules and expectations not to mention a platform that party intends to advance. Finally, we should compare candidates’ stated policies, because policy matters. Policies are based on ideas. Ideas have consequences. Bad policies built on bad ideas have victims.

New Dept. Ed rule: “Students should not be forced to choose between their faith and their education”

Freedom2Care blog

ollowing up on the President's executive order safeguarding students’ First Amendment rights on college campuses and universities, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has announced a final rule to protect students of faith on public and private campuses nationwide. As the White House explains, the rule contains four provisions to protect religious liberty and free speech.

Liberty and Justice for All: An Open Letter to Fellow Citizens in Defense of American Institutions

National Review

Civilization is fragile. If religious institutions and beliefs are marginalized and mocked, the indispensable civilizational supports for a free and decent life will quickly vanish. In a plural society like America, people are free to pursue their own paths to truth. But a truly plural society cannot abide the deliberate attempt to undermine, and even destroy, churches and synagogues. A pluralism that denies the legitimacy of religious faith and practice will not produce a “diverse” America; it will, instead, produce a tyrannical America in which the freedom of conscience is lost, the inherent dignity of the individual is denied, and the strongest support for just and moral living is erased. As Alexis de Tocqueville noted, despotism can do without religious faith, but freedom cannot.

Vaccine mandates vs. religious beliefs — the legal arguments for the upcoming coronavirus lawsuits

Paragould Daily Press

Recent guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suggests that a request to be exempted from an employer’s flu vaccination mandate based on “sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observances” would be protected under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The guidance doesn’t explicitly state that the same rule would apply for COVID-19 – because there is no COVID-19 vaccine at this time – but it seems clear that the commission would prefer that “employers consider simply encouraging employees” to get vaccinated.

Trump administration to implement free speech rules for colleges


The US Education Department on Wednesday promulgated rules which formally implement a March executive order from President Donald Trump seeking to ensure that students’ First Amendment rights are protected on college campuses. The Sept. 9 regulations require that a public institution “not deny a religious student organization any of the rights, benefits, or privileges that are otherwise afforded to other student organizations.” Under the new rules, public institutions who receive federal grants must comply with the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech, association, press, religion, assembly, petition, and academic freedom.

Religious Liberty Has Nothing To Do With The Satanic Temple’s Campaign To Tear Down Pro-Life Laws

The Federalist by Jordan Lorence

The Satanic Temple’s “Religious Reproductive Rights” campaign will expand to more states this fall. But contrary to the recent speculations of some, The Satanic Temple will continue to fail in its efforts to use religious liberty to strike down state laws regulating abortion, as it failed with its initial foray in Missouri, because of the group’s poor understanding of laws protecting religious freedom.

US Justice Department supports Indianapolis archdiocese in religious liberty case


After the archdiocese was sued by a former teacher at a Catholic school, who was fired after attempting to contract a same-sex marriage, a state trial court in May denied the archdiocese’s motion to dismiss the case, and in June ordered the archdiocese to turn over documentation related to the case. The archdiocese then appealed to the Indiana supreme court to dismiss the case.

“The United States has a substantial interest in religious liberty,” the DOJ said in its Sept. 8 brief in the case.

The continuing fight for religious liberty in the age of COVID-19

Courier Journal by Jeremy Dys

When U.S. District Judge Gregory Tatenhove placed a temporary restraining order on Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s unconstitutional attempt to halt in-person worship during the COVID-19 pandemic, he did so with the following moving language: “The Constitution will endure. It would be easy to put it on the shelf in times like this, to be pulled down and dusted off when more convenient. But that is not our tradition. Its enduring quality requires that it be respected even when it is hard.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Delivers on Promise to Protect Free Inquiry and Religious Liberty

U.S. Dept. of Education

Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos delivered on her promise to protect free inquiry and religious liberty on campus by publishing the Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities final rule. The new rule will ensure that public institutions of higher education uphold fundamental rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that private institutions of higher education adhere to their own policies regarding freedom of speech, including academic freedom. The final rule also ensures the equal treatment and constitutional rights of religious student organizations at public institutions and provides clarity for faith-based institutions with respect to Title IX.

Could religious exemptions trump a COVID-19 vaccine mandate?

The Conversation

Recent guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suggests that a request to be exempted from an employer’s flu vaccination mandate based on “sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observances” would be protected under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The guidance doesn’t explicitly state that the same rule would apply for COVID-19 – because there is no COVID-19 vaccine at this time – but it seems clear that the commission would prefer that “employers consider simply encouraging employees” to get vaccinated. That said, there is a provision under the law that would allow businesses not to honor this exemption if it created “undue hardship.”

University Shouldn’t Punish Me for Not Addressing Male Student as ‘Ms.’

Daily Signal by Nicholas Meriwether

I found it necessary to file a grievance against the university for violating my First Amendment protections of speech and religious freedom. My objections to the student’s request were based on my own philosophical and religious convictions, which the university blithely ignored. I also believe I should have a certain amount of freedom, within my own classroom, to determine the exact language I do and do not use when teaching my class. The university denied me that freedom, as well. And it also denied my grievance. That left me with no choice but to file suit through my Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys.

Why should the nonreligious care about religious freedom?

Freedom2Care by Jonathan Imbody

The Vatican's Faustian secret compact with China and the scandalous silence of Pope Francis regarding the plight of several Catholics who by contrast courageously stand against the tyrannical Chinese Communist Party raises a fair question: If religious organizations kowtow to tyrants at the peril of religious freedom, why should the nonreligious even care?

Judge refuses to stop MacArthur’s church from meeting


MacArthur filed a declaration just before the hearing calling the restrictions on worship a misuse of state power: “The utter unnecessary deprivation of all our people by completely shutting down the mutual love and care that sustains our people in all the exigencies, pressures, and challenges of life, was cruel.”

Religious Liberty Will Prevail Over the Pandemic | Opinion

Newsweek by Jeremy Dys

Churches, synagogues and mosques began carefully meeting in-person once again. It turns out, as Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove observed, "If social distancing is good enough for Home Depot and Kroger, it is good enough for in-person religious services which, unlike the foregoing, benefit from constitutional protection."

In new term, Supreme Court once again takes up religious liberty

National Catholic Reporter

"All of the court's religion-related decisions harmonized around the principle that, despite all our honest and deep-seated disagreements about important questions, robust protection for religious dissenters is essential to our living together in a pluralistic society," said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket, a religious liberty law firm, and law professor at The Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law.

Why Religious Pluralism and Religious Literacy Matter for the Future of Religious Freedom in America

Public Discourse by Andrew Graham

Religious pluralism does not require one to abjure or even downplay any truth claim or cultural commitment. Rather, by “religious pluralism” I mean the condition where individuals, associations, and institutions in a diverse society may peacefully and publicly think, speak, and act according to their deepest beliefs and core values—whether stemming from traditional religion or secular conscience—without fear of social, political, or legal reprisal.

Why Finding Justices Who Will Overturn Roe v. Wade Hasn’t Been Easy, And What to Do About It

Public Discourse by Ed Whelan

I would divide prospective justices into two categories. Type 1 consists of candidates who like to be liked, or who desire to be admired, or who are eager