Tag: Religious Liberty

The Supreme Court’s Playground Scrape


A recent Supreme Court decision sheds light on an important tension in the religious clauses of the First Amendment of the Constitution. In Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, a church’s application for a grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to resurface its playground with poured rubber made from recycled tires was turned down solely because of the church’s status as a religious institution. The Missouri DNR held that it was bound by this provision of the Missouri Constitution:

That no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion, or in aid of any priest, preacher, minister or teacher thereof, as such; and that no preference shall be given to nor any discrimination made against any church, sect or creed of religion, or any form of religious faith or worship.


David French of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America celebrate the Supreme Court decision that upheld a portion of President Trump’s travel ban, overturning lower court rulings. They also applaud the SCOTUS decision in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church against the State of Missouri in a religious liberty case. And they question Pride Month’s “inclusivity” as LGBT members of the Jewish community are ejected from a Chicago pride march for having the Star of David on a rainbow flag.


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Spiritual Success and Repealing the Johnson Amendment


President Trump declared his desire to do everything in his power to protect religious liberty in a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. The beginning was rather brash, as he declared his desire to attend for “the next seven years,” which earned him some laughs. After being introduced by a friend from The Apprentice, the president asked for prayers for Arnold Schwarzenegger, his less-than-successful successor on the show. He then he turned serious. After explaining how his mother taught him from the family Bible, he spoke of the importance of “spiritual success” over material success.

He declared his desire to overturn the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which effectively silenced minsters from speaking out on political matters through provisions in the tax code. This is not the first time Trump has called for its repeal. For example, he spoke about it in an interview with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo last summer. And the Atlantic reported on it in August.


The Darker Side of “Civility”: Or, After the Hangover of the Al Smith Dinner


Al-Smith-DinnerThe hangover from last week’s surreal edition of the Al Smith Dinner is finally wearing off, and things still look ugly. Host Timothy Cardinal Dolan says it was an “awkward” meeting between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who shared a dais with Dolan at the old televised dinner raising money for New York Catholic charities. Yes, obviously awkward, Your Eminence, but wasn’t it a tad awkward for you to be there, too?

Wasn’t it especially awkward for Your Eminence when Hillary, opponent of all that is Catholic (except liberal Jesuit heresy) said, “We need to get better at finding ways to disagree on matters of policy while agreeing on questions of decency and civility?” Dolan instead would agree, as he responded to calls to permanently cancel the dinner by saying, “nothing can ruin the event” as it is “America and the Church at their best.” Dolan is gravely wrong.


The Government’s Civil Rights Bullies


Microsoft Word - 20160908 Peaceful Coexistence 1pmEarlier this month, the US Commission on Civil Rights issued its report Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties. The report, which was occasioned in part by the same-sex marriage debate, tries to determine the correct relationship between antidiscrimination laws and the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion. Currently, persons of religious faith have been legally charged with discrimination under state antidiscrimination laws for refusing to provide their individualized services to same-sex couples because they sincerely believe that marriage is a relationship existing only between one man and one woman. The question is: should they be granted a religious exemption?

The report’s title, Peaceful Coexistence, conveys, perhaps unintentionally, a grim social reality in the United States. Historically, of course, it described the uneasy relationship between the US and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. In that context, the phrase described how two nations, organized under radically different principles, could avoid the dangers of mutual annihilation through nuclear warfare.


Arizona AG 7, Freedom from Religion Foundation 0


Packer-PopeThe head of an Arizona agency visited France a few months ago, and offered to take employees’ “special intentions” on his visit to the Catholic holy site of Lourdes. Department of Economic Security Director Tim Jeffries’ email noted that he is a member of the Order of Malta, which is focused on “global works for the poor and the sick” and asked employees to reply with their intentions if they were comfortable doing so.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (headquarted in Madison, WI, because of course they are) was deeply offended by the director’s kind offer and declared it a violation of the First Amendment (PDF).


Religious Liberty Under Siege in Mississippi


Religious LibertyLast month, Judge Carlton W. Reeves of the Northern District of Mississippi handed down an extraordinarily misguided decision in Barber v. Bryant by issuing a preliminary injunction against House Bill 1523, Mississippi’s newly passed religious liberty law, just minutes before it was to go into effect. The court found that House Bill 1523 likely denied the plaintiffs—a diverse group of supporters of same-sex marriage—their rights under Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, and, furthermore, established preferred religious beliefs, violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Phil Bryant, the governor of Mississippi, has filed papers in the Court of Appeals to dissolve that temporary injunction. State Attorney General Jim Hood has declined to join in that defense of the Mississippi law. As someone who gave some brief advice and encouragement to Mississippi’s appellate lawyers, I think that their motion should be granted, given the major points of principle that it raises.

To put matters in context, HB 1523 was the latest effort to provide explicit protection of religious liberty and moral conscience for those individuals who are opposed to same-sex marriage. At no point does the legislation limit the right of any person to participate in a same-sex marriage, which would be an obvious nonstarter given Obergefell v. Hodges, a highly dubious Supreme Court decision, which held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed that right to all persons. House Bill 1523 does not seek to dislodge or compromise that decision. Indeed, it would have been dead on arrival if it had attempted any such maneuver. But as is often the case, no one quite understands the scope of a particular constitutional right until its correlative duties are accurately specified.


The Stand in Iowa


shutterstock_348035177I suppose we could at least say “We told you so,” though I fear the phrase has lost the sense of smug, self-satisfaction it had when we were younger. Now, I once again see myself empathizing with Jeremiah, who had to constantly tell the people of Jerusalem how bad things would get while competing with many false prophets, even as things went exactly as Jeremiah predicted.

If anything, the current situation in Iowa only confirms what had been long predicted: The government — through bureaucracy and extralegal panels — has moved to compel religious organizations (including churches) to comply with the new progressive political morality. The religious concession supposedly in the laws isn’t even that, as a government hostile to religion and religious thought is now in the business of deciding what constitutes a legitimate religion. The more vocal and aggressive wing of the LGBT movement controls both that movement as well as the media. They will suffer no opposition, and require endorsement. Everything not forbidden is compulsory.


SCOTUS: No Free Exercise of Religion Allowed in Washington State


shutterstock_171501734There was a lot of noise this week about how the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a Texas law that imposed regulations on abortion clinics, but there was little notice of a more important ruling. In Stormans v. Weisman, the Supreme Court declined (5 – 3) to hear a petition on a Ninth Circuit case out of Washington State that affirmed a state law requiring all pharmacies to stock and dispense the “Plan B” pill, which can act either as an emergency contraceptive or an abortifacient.

The Stormans own Ralph’s Thriftway, a grocery store/pharmacy with two locations a couple of miles apart in Olympia, Washington. Despite the Ralph’s employees’ willingness to refer customers to any of the 30 other nearby pharmacies that stock the drug, Washington State is determined that traditionalist Christians must not be allowed to run a pharmacy that does not stock the pill. That is unfortunate, because the Washington State law is a clear violation of the Stormans’ First Amendment right to the free exercise of their religion. Writing for the dissenters (and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas), Justice Samuel Alito writes:


Report: Pope Francis Met With Kim Davis


From the NYT:

Pope Francis met secretly in Washington last week with Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who defied a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, her lawyer said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. Francis gave her rosaries and told her to “stay strong,” the lawyer said. Ms. Davis and her husband, Joe, were sneaked into the Vatican Embassy by car on Thursday afternoon, according to Ms. Davis’s lawyer, Mathew D. Staver. The couple met for about 15 minutes with the pope, who was accompanied by security, aides and photographers. Mr. Staver said he expected to receive photographs of the meeting from the Vatican soon.


Actress Launches Failed ‘Gotcha’ Moment on Ted Cruz


A minor celebrity named Ellen Page had a brilliant idea. She would go to some flyover state called “Iowa,” find dumb, evil, bigot Senator Ted Cruz, and confront him over his backward views on gay rights. Better yet, she would bring her own camera crew to document every second of her courageous destruction of the christofascist Texan and the snake-handling hill people he represents. America would finally see a white Hollywood millionaire standing up to small-town evangelical bakers and octogenarian florists.

Unfortunately for Page, Sen. Cruz had no clue who she was and never realized he was supposed to be intimidated by the 28-year-old.


Protecting Inmates From Dangerous Ideas


shutterstock_69674647Christianity is no longer permitted in Kentucky’s juvenile detention centers.

Chaplain David Wells was told he could either sign a state-mandated document promising to never tell inmates that homosexuality is “sinful” or else the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice would revoke his credentials … The Kentucky regulation clearly states that volunteers working with juveniles “shall not refer to juveniles by using derogatory language in a manner that conveys bias towards or hatred of the LGBTQI community. DJJ staff, volunteers, interns and contractors shall not imply or tell LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful or that they can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity.”