Tag: Religious Liberty

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Religious Liberty Should Prevail

 

This past week in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, the Supreme Court re-entered the dangerous minefield at the junction of religious liberty and anti-discrimination. The current dispute arose when Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services announced that it would no longer refer children to Catholic Social Services (CSS) for placement in foster care because CSS refused to consider same-sex couples as potential foster parents. CSS was, however, prepared to accept into its foster care all children regardless of their sexual orientation. After prolonged negotiations with the city failed, CSS sued. It seeks, in the words of the Third Circuit, “an order requiring the city to renew their contractual relationship while permitting it to turn away same-sex couples who wish to be foster parents.” The Third Circuit upheld the position of the city.

Resolving this delicate confrontation requires a return to first principles. Let’s start with the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion, as elaborated in Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith. Alfred Leo Smith, a drug guidance counselor, was denied unemployment benefits after being terminated for consuming peyote, a controlled substance, as part of a religious rite. The court held that his religious beliefs do not “excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the state is free to regulate.” The First Amendment did not require Oregon to accommodate Smith’s religious practice. Any neutral law of general applicability was acceptable, notwithstanding its disparate impact.

Notably, the word exercise is broad enough to cover not only Smith’s use of peyote but also CSS’s adoption policies. Accordingly, under no circumstances should Philadelphia be allowed to pass an ordinance that requires the Catholic Church to ordain women as priests, or to offer family aid services paid from its own funds to same-sex couples. The question in Fulton is whether CSS’s free exercise rights are forfeited when the city supplies public funds and matching services to CSS and the children it puts up for foster care.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Jay Greene, the Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, and Jason Bedrick, the Director of Policy for EdChoice. They discuss their timely new book, Religious Liberty and Education: A Case Study of Yeshivas vs. New York, about the recent battle between Orthodox Jewish private schools and New York’s state government over the content of instruction. They explain “substantial equivalency” statutes and their potential impact on a wide array of private and religious schools, as well as on parental rights, K-12 education policy, and religious liberty in America. Bedrick and Greene draw comparisons between substantial equivalency regulations and the bigoted, 19th-century Blaine Amendments that were recently weakened as a result of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. They express concerns about growing interference by state departments of education, regardless of the paltry level of funding they distribute to private schools through Title I, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or other programs.

Stories of the Week: In Baltimore, the school district has formed a promising partnership with the Recreation & Parks office to give more than 1,000 students in-person access to their virtual learning lessons, in small cohort groups meeting in schools and rec centers. A New Hampshire town tuitioning program offers financial support to rural families who choose secular private schools for their children – but not to those choosing religious options. In the wake of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, does that distinction still pass constitutional muster?

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard continue coverage of COVID-19’s impact on K-12 education, joined by Tim Keller, Senior Attorney with the Institute for Justice, which has been defending school choice from legal challenges, largely from state Blaine Amendments, for 30 years. Tim describes IJ’s work on behalf of the plaintiffs in the high-profile Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the impact of the pandemic on the timing of the ruling. They explore the case’s prospects for success, and some potential political and legal responses in the event of a favorable outcome. They also delve into the national implications of another recent case in Maine, involving families battling a long-standing state law prohibiting public tuition payments to religious school parents. Tim also shares the backstory of Arizona’s popular Empowerment Scholarship, an education savings account program that he helped design and defend.

Stories of the Week: Despite COVID-19 school closures, the College Board will move forward with Advanced Placement exams; but will the increased security measures enacted to prevent cheating raise controversy? Around the world, temples and churches have emptied as a result of the pandemic, but religious leaders are using technology to stream their services, and help congregants celebrate Passover and Holy Week even in the absence of physical connection.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Attorney General Barr warns of “totalitarian democracy”

 
Attorney General Bill Barr

Attorney General Barr gave another important, if willfully underreported, speech. The full text is posted on the Department of Justice website. You can read every word below, with key passages highlighted.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Make the Democrats Talk About Sex

 

Yes, really. I mean the meaning of “sex.” The leftists in the House of Representatives passed a resolution purporting to extend the deadline for passage of a Constitutional amendment that had failed for lack of ratification by the specified deadline. The Democrats did so as part of election politics. The Senate Republicans should seize the opportunity given them, rather than playing into Chuck and Nancy’s hand.

Democrats want to run this year as women’s rights advocates, even as they destroy the rights of actual girls and women. It is time one party stood up for girls and women against the patriarchy in dresses. The ERA, if passed as currently written, will be weaponized by the left, reading their cultural agenda through the word “sex.” Nevertheless, the recurring story we will see and hear for the next nine months will be that a bunch of old white men, led by Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, are standing in the way of women’s equality. It does not have to go this way.

The Democrats almost slipped the ERA by us back in 1972-1973, whereafter Phyllis Schlafly mobilized effective opposition. Eventually, several states reversed their ratification. Yet, the Democrats intend to claim in court that a state cannot un-ratify, so they get to collect every state, with the more recent passage by Virginia making the magical 38th state, adding the already redefined amendment onto the end of the Constitution, trumping all previous language—especially the First Amendment’s religion clauses.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara talks with Montse Alvarado, Vice President & Executive Director of the Becket Fund, about the implications of the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court school choice case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the pervasiveness of 19th-century, anti-Catholic Blaine amendments across the country, and some of Becket’s legal victories in high-profile religious liberty cases. Montse also offers encouraging insights from a recent Becket poll on younger generations’ commitment to religious freedom. She shares the inspirational stories of human rights champions recognized by the Becket Fund, such as former Cuban religious dissident and political prisoner Armando Valladares, and the Nobel Prize-winning writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

Stories of the Week:

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Conservative Is As Conservative Does

 

Trump thumbs upPresident Trump is the most conservative president of my lifetime, including President Reagan. This is true, as a matter of fact, across all three of the legs of the old conservative coalition stool: economy, national defense, and social conservatism. With an impressive record of promises kept, despite the worst efforts of Democrats and Conservatism Inc., American voters have a real choice in 2020.

President Trump has done more to strengthen NATO, as opposed to papering over other nations’ hiding under our nuclear umbrella and so shifting the burden onto our taxpayers and our cities under ICBM target designations. He has, without a massive military build-up (despite his hyping of our latest purchases), imposed more economic pain on bad actors (Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran) than any president since at least Reagan, and done so to the advantage of American working families. President Trump’s policies have paid off in growing NATO member states spending at least 2 percent of their GDP on their own defense, from two to eight members, outside the United States. This satisfies Americans’ basic sense of fairness, building a reasonable basis for continued commitment to an alliance that is finally showing signs of taking itself seriously. Such a substantial demonstration of commitment also serves notice to Russia and China that NATO is not a paper tiger.

President Trump has similarly pushed the United Nations to really live up to its fine phrases, its written aspirations. Far from abandoning the world or merely patronizing other nations, he has treated them as adults, as sovereign states who are entitled to pursue their interests while we pursue ours. He made that point again in hosting an on-camera meeting of the U.N. Security Council members. Read or watch the remarks and you will see even China engaging in a mutually respectful manner.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Attorney General Barr Speaks up for Religious Liberty

 

AG BarrOn Friday, 12 October 2019, Attorney General Barr spoke at Notre Dame Law School. Notre Dame Law School advertises itself as America’s oldest Roman Catholic law school:

At the nation’s oldest Roman Catholic law school, students of diverse backgrounds are encouraged to broaden their social, spiritual, and personal lives while honing their intellectual and professional skills to serve the good of all.

Attorney General Barr took them seriously, and used the forum to deliver a call for defense of Christianity in the public square in the face of all-out attacks from militant secularists. I am pleased to see that the whole text of his remarks is posted on the Department of Justice website [emphasis added]:

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Roadrunner President

 

TrumpRoadrunnerPresident Trump wears me out just following his schedule, and I’m two decades his junior. He seems to thrive on constant motion. Moreover, the motion is directed, purposeful.

Consider the past week: 17-25 September. President Trump went into the heart of political enemy territory to raise money, then created visuals of real new wall construction, then met with the Australian Prime Minister, set up the Democrats and their media arm, showed he was on top of disaster response in Texas, joined Prime Minister Modi in a large arena venue like a couple of rock superstars, celebrated an Australian opening a new manufacturing plant in Ohio, publicly defended religious liberty on the global stage, placed the globalist climate fraud in perspective, told the world the future belongs to patriots in every land, got multiple international agreements signed, acted as the caring friend of two feuding nuclear powers, demonstrated real transparency, exposed real corruption and collusion, and tied it all up with a bow in a level-headed tour de force press conference Wednesday morning.

Let’s break that down. I’ll break out each phase with bold and underlined section headers, so we do not get lost.

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One thing I can thank “big tech” for is the algorithm that led me to the Huguenot Chronicles. There are three books in the Chronicles Merchants of Virtue, Voyage of Malice, Land of Hope,  there is also a prequel that I have not read yet so I do not further mention it in this review. […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Christian Cake Artist Again Defeats Colorado Bureaucrats

 

Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission announced Tuesday that it will dismiss its latest charges against cake artist Jack Phillips. You might remember Phillips from his victory at the US Supreme Court last summer. With SCOTUS’s backing, why on earth would the state of Colorado attack Phillips again?

The cake artist first came to prominence when he declined a custom design to celebrate a same-sex wedding in 2012. Same-sex marriages were illegal in Colorado at the time but the state’s Civil Rights Commission punished Phillips anyway. After that case had proceeded for five years, the high court agreed to hear his case. That same day, an attorney demanded Phillips design another custom cake, this time to celebrate a gender transition. This same attorney also asked for a cake with satanic themes and images. In accordance with his religious beliefs, Phillips politely declined both.

After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Phillips, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission decided to attack him on this new charge. Instead of watching another case slowly creep through the courts, attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom went on the offense, suing the bureaucrats for their anti-religious bias.

Member Post

 

The push to foist Newspeak upon Middle America’s unconverted heathen is now in full force, as recent events in Ohio and Virginia attest. (Frankly, I’m surprised that such controversy would erupt so deep within red America. Perhaps the administrators in Portsmouth and West Point felt an extra need to demonstrate their progressive bona fides.) In both […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. AG Jeff Sessions’ Remarks at the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Summit on Religious Liberty

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is speaking tonight at the Alliance Defending Freedom’s annual Summit on Religious Liberty. Here are his remarks as prepared for delivery. You can watch his speech via livestream here beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Thank you all for being here. On behalf of the President of the United States, Donald Trump, I want to thank all of you for your work for and commitment to religious freedom at such a time as this. As President Trump said to the National Prayer Breakfast last year, “freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also…under threat all around us…I’ve never seen it so openly [threatened].”

This is a problem around the world.

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America cheer the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of a Christian baker who was sued for not customizing a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony but note the ruling focused on this particular case rather than broader issues of conscience and religious liberty. They also cringe as Bill Clinton still sees himself as the victim in the Monica Lewinsky scandal and scolds an NBC reporter for even bringing it up. And they’re incredulous as President Trump boldly announces he has the power to pardon himself and Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, contends Trump could not even be indicted for killing former FBI Director James Comey while still in office.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. In Big Ruling, SCOTUS Endorses Freedom Over Compulsion

 

The Supreme Court upheld the First Amendment Monday, ruling in favor of Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakes in Lakewood, CO. In a narrowly crafted 7-2 opinion, the court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated hostility to Phillips’s religious beliefs.

Although Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion was full of the woke posturing we’ve come to expect, had this case gone the other way, religious liberty would have suffered greatly. This ruling was a necessary brushback pitch to overreaching bureaucrats trying to stamp out diversity of thought and belief.

It would be ludicrous for government to force Jewish artists to create paintings celebrating Easter or force atheist artists to promote Hindu beliefs. Either would be as offensive as forcing Muslim bakers to cater a pork barbecue.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recipe for a Wedding Cake

 

In his famous poem “Ozymandias,” Percy Bysshe Shelley describes the head of the tyrant’s statue lying in the desert sand:

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

Ozymandias’ nameless sculptor had one thing in common with his innumerable brother sculptors, painters, and other artists throughout the ages: he was not well-positioned to turn down the job. Had he suggested to the king’s agent that his religion and his conscience really did not permit him to honor the king with his artistic talents, presumably the sculptor’s head would have hit the sand long before the king’s statue did.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

In response to a strong but unsupported reply I made on a comment on a @richardepstein post Let Them Bake Cake , @tommeyer rightly challenged me: “That said, do you think that [Justice Anthony Kennedy’s] career can be summarized as a ‘secular supremacist project of effectively outlawing biblical Christianity.’” Preview Open

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Let Them Bake Cake

 

Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips.
In its 2015 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Colorado Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in favor of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which sanctioned Jack Phillips, a devout Christian and the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, for violating the Colorado Antidiscrimination Laws (CADA). His offense: refusing for sincere religious reasons to prepare a custom-made wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a gay couple. His insistence that he enjoyed the First Amendment protections of freedom of religion and speech were roundly rebuffed—as were similar claims in the 2013 New Mexico decision in Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock and the 2017 Washington decision in State of Washington v. Arlene’s Florists, Inc. The Commission then ordered Phillips “to take remedial measures, including comprehensive staff training and alteration to the company’s policies to ensure compliance with CADA.”

So Phillips had to submit to the state’s regulations if he wished to remain in business. But why this compulsory re-education program? Phillips does not insist that Colorado limit marriage solely to unions between one man and one woman. He only resists providing them services that go against his religious conscience. He routinely supplies his gay and lesbian customers with off-the-rack items for use in same-sex marriages. And he has courteously directed his gay and lesbian customers to other establishments that supply services for same-sex weddings. Phillips thus tolerates and accommodates the practices of others with which he does not agree. But the Colorado Commission decidedly does neither.

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OK, this time I checked before I posted, and nothing came back. I am Christian. I regularly attend a “Bible-centered” church in Houston. I do not understand why many evangelical Christians are so fervently for President Trump. I admit that I find Trump vulgar, distasteful and not especially effective as a politician. I did not […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. This Chaos Without Tradition

 

New “traditions” are entrenching themselves in America. Spontaneous one-man Civil Rights movements and the desecration of historical monuments have become authoritative expressions of the character and legacy of our society. Of course, these are not real “traditions.” They are the product of the fiery passion of democracy, the ardor of Jacobin fiends who have redefined what it means to be American. This is the chaos of a country without Tradition.

Tradition is a gift–an inheritance handed down over generations and not particular to any one person, family, or nation. It includes the mores of ancestors, and their heroes and holidays (as we had in this week’s Columbus Day) that express shared historical foundations. Tradition addresses the little things, like the proper attire at an evening party, even as it maintains great institutions, like the family, marriage, and religion. Though it cannot be explained by pure reason and logic, Tradition is in harmony with Nature, allowing us to better understand man’s origins and the world around us.

Today, however, Tradition is deemed senseless superstition — an arbitrary and expendable personal preference to be rejected at every turn. One cause of this has been Americans’ shared overreaction to the tumult of the Civil Rights Era. Generations formed in the ’60s and ’70s were riveted by the great courageous heroes of this movement and, of course, the natural justice of its cause. But after relentless revisions of history, future generations have failed to learn many other aspects of our culture’s past that are worthy of reverence — historical virtues without which the Civil Rights Movement would not have been possible. Thus, when we welcome immigrants now, we seem so ashamed of our past that we prefer that they bring their own identity, heroes, language, and mores with them rather than share ours as their common inheritance.