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CLS Submits Congressional Testimony
Friday, February 13, 2015

 

Center for Law & Religious Freedom Director Kimberlee Colby submitted a written statement to the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives,Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice for the hearing:“Oversight of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.”  Professor Carl Esbeck, CLS board member and former Center director, also filed a written testimony to the committee.

Video celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

November 16, 2013 marks the 20th Anniversary of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which CLS was instrumental in bipartisanly passing.  Our friends at The Becket Fund have created a wonderful video to commemorate the occasion.

View this video here.

Another victory for HHS Mandate challengers in Seventh Circuit
Friday, November 08, 2013

View the complete decision here.

DC Circuit holds HHS Mandate Unconstitutional as to Religious Owner of For-Profit Business
Friday, November 01, 2013

View the full decision here.

CLS Joins Inter-Faith Comment Letter to Strengthen Religious Liberty for Federal Employees
Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Along with 19 other organizations, CLS added our name to a letter addressed to Ms. Jeanne Jacobson of the US Office of Personnel Management regarding the principle that American workers should be allowed to take time off for religious observance without risking their jobs. 

Read the full letter here.

Two CLS Briefs Defending Religious Liberty
Monday, September 23, 2013

CLS filed briefs in two religious liberty cases this week.  

In its amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court, CLS argued that a Massachusetts law that prohibits persons (with some exceptions) from knowingly entering a public street or sidewalk within 35 feet of an abortion facility violates the First Amendment.  Within that zone, individuals are subject to fines or jail for entirely peaceful speech, including distributing pamphlets, holding signs, or praying.

Prepared by Professors John Inazu and Michael McConnell, the CLS brief argues that the basic presumption that speech on sidewalks and streets cannot be banned should be understood to protect freedom of assembly as well as freedom of speech.  Beginning with William Penn's arrest for giving a sermon on a London street, the brief examines the close historical ties between religious liberty and freedom of assembly.

The brief was joined by:  the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; American Bible Society; National Association of Evangelicals; Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA; Christian Medical Association; International Society for Krishna Consciousness; Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance; and the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod.

In its amicus brief in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee), CLS supported Christian business owners' challenge to the HHS Mandate's requirement that they provide insurance coverage for drugs to which they have religious objections.  Groups joining the brief are: the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions; Prison Fellowship Ministries; Association of Christian Schools International; National Association of Evangelicals; Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; the C12 Group; and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance.

Standing Together for Religious Freedom
Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Stand Up For Religious Liberty

Christian Legal Society CEO David Nammo and many other religious leaders and organizations joined with others in signing an open letter expressing opposition to the Department of Health and Human Services' contraceptives mandate, saying it "continues to breach universal principles affirmed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws." The letter calls on HHS to expand conscience protections to cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services.

Click here to see the letter in pdf format.

Hobby Lobby Wins in Tenth Circuit En Banc
Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Tenth Circuit just gave Christian business owners a big win against the HHS Mandate. Hobby Lobby and its sister organization, Mardel, which runs Christian bookstores, refuse to provide coverage of drugs they believe cause abortion and, therefore, violate their religious beliefs.

The Christian Legal Society filed a brief in support of Hobby Lobby on behalf of: Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, Prison Fellowship Ministries, Association of Christian Schools International, National Association of Evangelicals, Ethics  & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, and The C12 Group.

The district court in Oklahoma had denied preliminary injunctive relief in December.  A three-judge Tenth Circuit panel denied an injunction pending appeal, and Justice Sotomayor denied relief. The Tenth Circuit then agreed to hear the appeal of the denial of the preliminary injunction en banc.

Today the Tenth Circuit "hold(s) that Hobby Lobby and Mardel are entitled to bring claims under RFRA, have established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm. But we remand the case to the district court for further proceedings on two of the remaining factors governing the grant or denial of a preliminary injunction.”

The Supreme Court Issues Two Marriage Rulings
Thursday, June 27, 2013

In United States v. WindsorNo. 12-307, Justice Kennedy writing for the five-justice majority ruled that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated the due process and equal protection principles of the Fifth Amendment.  While the majority acknowledged that Congress sometimes must define marriage for federal purposes, it ruled that Congress could not "seek[] to injure the very class New York seeks to protect" -- despite the fact that no State, including New York, recognized same-sex marriage at the time DOMA was enacted by bipartisan majorities in both Houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Clinton.  One major concern is that a ruling based on equal protection grounds under the Fifth Amendment, which is closely related to the Fourtheenth Amendment, may lay the groundwork for eventually applying this to the states.  Thankfully, however, marriage continues to be a state by state decision.The United States Supreme Court issued two rulings today regarding the abiltiy of the federal and state governments to define marriage as between one woman and one man.  While striking one section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the Court claimed to leave the States free to define marriage as between one woman and one man.

In Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144, Justice Roberts, writing for a five-justice majority, ruled that the supporters of Proposition 8 did not have standing to appeal the district court's ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.  (California's governor and attorney general had refused to defend the voters' constitutional amendment.)  This vacates the Ninth Circuit's decision. Further legal proceedings will determine what happens to marriage in California, but the decision is limited to California. 

Christian Legal Society filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court explaining why re-definition of marriage is likely to harm traditional religious believers' ability to live their faith in the public square.

CLS Board Member Sally Wagenmaker on the front lines of IRS Scandal
Thursday, May 16, 2013

Todd Starnes of Fox News reported today about Sally Wagenmaker's efforts in representing Coalition of Life Iowa and Christian Voices for Life of Fort Bend County, Texas.  From FoxNews.com:

"The Internal Revenue Service allegedly told an Iowa pro-life group they had to sign documents promising not to protest or picket Planned Parenthood and they told a Texas pro-life organization they had to promote abortion, according to documents obtained by Fox News.

“The IRS was concerned about advocacy,” said Sally Wagenmaker, special counsel to the Thomas More Society. “The (agent) said picketing and protesting is not allowed.”

She said the IRS’s role “should only be to determine whether organizations fit the section 501(c)(3) test for ‘charitable, religious, or educational’ qualification, not to inquire about the content of prayers, protests, and petitions.”

It’s high time that the IRS be called to account for its workers’ potential to trample on our constitutional rights, through such ostensibly innocuous means,” Wagenmaker said – hinting that this may only be the tip of the iceberg of IRS abuses.

An IRS spokesman said they would look into the cases.

Wagenmaker was representing Coalition for Life of Iowa and Christian Voices For Life of Fort Bend County, Texas. Both groups were seeking tax exempt status. Their requests were eventually granted but only after they sought legal help from the Thomas More Society.

In 2009 the Coalition for Life received correspondence from the IRS raising questions about their prayer activity – specifically outside Planned Parenthood clinics.

“You then asked … to have all Coalition Board members sign a statement that the coalition will not ‘picket’ or ‘protest’ outside of Planned Parenthood or similar organizations and will not ‘organize’ others to do so,” Wagenmaker wrote in a letter to an IRS representative known only as “Ms. Richards.”Wagenmaker said the IRS’s demand was clearly a violation of the pro-life group’s constitutional rights.

“It really concerned me there would seem to be this protection of Planned Parenthood,” Wagenmaker told Fox News. “They had revenues of $55 million and the Coalition is just a group of volunteers.”

The attorney wrote in her letter to the IRS that their demands “come perilously close to violating the First Amendment constitutional rights of the Coalition’s supporters.”

“The IRS’s delay and questioning of the Coalition’s tax-exempt, legitimate activities constitutes unnecessary and prejudicial interference with the Coalition’s legal right to a tax-exempt determination,” she wrote.Wagenmaker said the IRS’s dogged pursuit of the Coalition was “intimidating” and “heavy-handed.”

In the case of Christian Voices, the IRS implied that the group had to include pro-abortion balance to their programming.

They were directed to explain whether the group’s educational programs educate both sides of the issues.

“Your question implies some sort of legal duty to provide a balanced presentation of educational information,” the attorney wrote.

She said it was incredible to think that the government wanted to require a pro-life group to give equal access to pro-choice groups.

“You can’t push an organization around like that,” she said. “You can’t impose your own out-dated, improper, unconstitutional views.”

Shortly after Wagenmaker began pushing back – the groups got their exemptions approved.

“They just needed someone to stand up for their rights and push back,” she said.

 

Religious Liberty Win In The Eleventh Circuit
Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Christian Legal Society filed an amici curiae brief last summer in Rich v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, to protect a Jewish prisoner's ability to observe kosher dietary requirements.  The brief was joined by Prison Fellowship Ministries and the National Association of Evangelicals.  Today the Eleventh Circuit ruled in the prisoner's favor.

The federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") requires any prison that receives federal funds to accommodate prisoners' religious observances.  A prison may avoid RLUIPA’s requirements by not taking federal funding or by demonstrating it has a compelling reason, such as prison security, that justifies a refusal to accommodate a specific prisoner’s religious request.

CLS's brief argued that prison officials failed to justify denying kosher meals to Jewish prisoners.  Although the prison claimed that kosher meals would cost too much, in reality, the prison increased its funding by respecting prisoners' religious needs in exchange for federal funding.

The brief was prepared and filed by Roger Brooks and Carrie Bierman of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP.  The Eleventh Circuit encompasses Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

CLS Continues to Advocate for Christian Business Owners in Gilardi v HHS
Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Christian Legal Society filed an amicus brief today in support of the right of Christian business owners to follow their religious convictions when providing employee insurance coverage.  The brief was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Gilardi v HHS. Brothers Francis A. Gilardi and Philip M. Gilardi, who own and operate Freshway Foods and Freshway Logistics, want to “run their business in accordance with their religious beliefs and moral values,” said Edward White, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, representing the Whites.

The brief explains why the HHS Mandate’s definition of “religious employer” sharply departs from the American bipartisan tradition of respecting religious conscience rights.  Joining the CLS brief are: Association of Gospel Rescue Missions; Prison Fellowship Ministries; Association of Christian Schools International; National Association of Evangelicals; Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; the C12 Group; and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance.

CLS files Amicus Brief in in Legatus v. Sebelius
Tuesday, April 30, 2013

CLS filed an amicus brief today in support of Christian business owners' rights to follow their religious convictions when providing insurance coverage for employees.  The brief was filed in the Sixth Circuit in Legatus v. Sebelius.

Written by Center Senior Counsel Kim Colby, the brief explains why the HHS Mandate's definition of "religious employer" sharply departs from the American bipartisan tradition of respect for religious conscience rights. Joining the CLS brief are: Association of Gospel Rescue mission; Prison Fellowship Ministries; Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; the C12 Croup; and the Religious Freedom Alliance.

The brief can be viewed here.

HHS Mandate Opportunity, Assisted Reproductive Technologies Survey
Thursday, April 04, 2013


Monday, April 8, is the deadline for submitting comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the February 6, 2013, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.  CLS continues to regard the proposed rule to be inadequate.  The definition of "religious employer" is far too narrow and excludes many traditional religious employers, including religious colleges, hospitals, and ministries.  The proposed "accommodation" for these employers, by which HHS proposes to make insurers or third party administrators pay for drugs that violate the employers' religious consciences, is considered an economic charade by many observers.

Comments need not be lengthy or comprehensive and may be submitted electronically to http://www.regulations.gov, by midnight Monday.  Feel free to find ideas in the CLS amicus briefs linked below.

Center Update

In March, CLS submitted three amicus briefs in support of Christian business owners' rights to follwo their religious convictions when providing insurance coverage for employees.  The briefs were filed in the Third, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits.

The brief explains why the HHS Mandate’s definition of “religious employer” sharply departs from the American bipartisan tradition of respecting religious conscience rights.  Joining the CLS briefs are: Association of Gospel Rescue Missions; Prison Fellowship Ministries; Association of Christian Schools International; National Association of Evangelicals; Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; the C12 Group; Patrick Henry College; and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance.

SURVEY INVITATION

Finally, we also wanted to invite you to take part in a multimulti-national online survey of attitudes and practices among Christians of assisted reproductive technologies.  multi-national online survey of attitudes and practices among Christians of assisted reproductive technologies.  The study is sponsored by the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. The primary investigator of the study is Dr. Megan Best, an Australian physician and recent author of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (Matthias Media, 2012). You can access the study here until it closes on April 30. The study received ethics approval both in the U.S. and Australia. Please feel free to promote the survey to others as well.

CLS Files Brief in the Seventh Circuit
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

CLS filed an amicus brief today in support of Christian business owners' rights to follow their religious convictions when providing insurance coverage for employees. The brief was filed in the Tenth Circuit in Grote v. Sebelius.

The brief explains why the HHS Mandate's definition of "religious employers" sharply departs from the American bipartisan tradition of respecting religious conscience rights. Joining the CLS brief are: Association of Gospel Rescue Missions; Prison Fellowship Ministries; Association of Christian Schools International; National Association of Evangelicals; Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; the C12 Group; and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance

 

CLS Files Briefs in the Sixth and Tenth Circuits
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

CLS filed two amicus in HHS mandate cases. The briefs support of Christian business owners' rights to follow their religious convictions when providing insurance coverage for employees. The brief was filed in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius the Tenth Circuit (Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming) and Autocam v. Sebelius in the Sixth Circuit (Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee).

The brief explains why the HHS Mandate's definition of "religious employers" sharply departs from the American bipartisan tradition of respecting religious conscience rights. Joining the CLS brief are: Association of Gospel Rescue Missions; Prison Fellowship Ministries; Association of Christian Schools International; National Association of Evangelicals; Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance. The C12 Group, an organization that equips Christian business executive, joined the brief in the Tenth Circuit.  

 

CLS Files Brief in the Seventh Circuit
Tuesday, February 05, 2013

CLS filed an amicus brief yesterday in Korte v. Sebelius to support Christian business owners' rights to run their business according to their religious convictions. The brief was filed in the Seventh Circuit.

The case is one of nearly 40 cases challenging the constitutionality of the HHS Mandate, a federal regulation that requires employers to provide insurance coverage for Plan B and ella. While the Mandate exempts a handful of "religious employers," the exemption is so narrow that most non-profit - let alone for-profit -- religious employers do not qualify for the exemption.

The brief explains why the HHS Mandate's definition of "religious employers" sharply departs from the American bipartisan tradition of respecting religious conscience rights. Joining the CLS brief are: Association of Gospel Rescue Missions; Prison Fellowship Ministries; Association of Christian Schools International; National Association of Evangelicals; Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Patrick Henry College; and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance

 

CLS Files Brief Today To Protect Congregations' Worship Services
Friday, October 12, 2012

Today CLS has filed a brief in support of Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College in their joint challenge to the "HHS Mandate."  The Mandate is a federal regulation that requires employers to provide insurance coverage for Plan B and ella, which many regard as abortion-inducing drugs.  While the Mandate exempts some "religious employers," the exemption is so narrow that these religious colleges do not qualify as "religious employers."

Eleven groups joined the CLS brief to explain why the Mandate’s definition of “religious employer” sharply departs from the bipartisan tradition of respecting religious conscience rights.  Joining the CLS brief are:

    • Association of Gospel Rescue Missions
    • Prison Fellowship Ministries
    • Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
    • Christian Medical Association
    • Association of Christian Schools International
    • National Association of Evangelicals
    • Queens Federation of Churches
    • Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic of the Anglican Church in North America
    • Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
    • Patrick Henry College
    • Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance

 

Religious Groups File Brief to Protect Religious Liberty in New York City
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Religious organizations, many of whom represent hundreds of New York City religious congregations, filed a brief today to protect religious groups’ right to rent school facilities on the same basis as other community groups.  The New York City Board of Education discriminatorily excludes any group that wishes to meet for a “religious worship service” on weekends or in the evenings,

Organized by the Christian Legal Society, the friend-of-the-court brief was joined by thirteen other religious organizations: Council of Churches of the City of New York; Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; Brooklyn Council of Churches; Queens Federation of Churches; American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York; National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA; General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists; National Association of Evangelicals; Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; American Bible Society; Anglican Church in North America; Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing; Synod of New York, Reformed Church in America.  The brief was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York, No. 12-2730. 

Traditionally, congregations have rented school facilities for their religious worship services when they are beginning to meet, have outgrown their old facilities, or have suffered flood or fire.  While most school districts welcome congregations’ rental of empty facilities on weekends or evenings, for seventeen years, New York City’s Board of Education has labored to bar such religious groups. 

The brief filed today urges the Second Circuit to protect New York City congregations’ religious liberty to meet for religious worship services on weekends in empty public schools and to uphold the injunction entered by the federal district court on June 29, 2012.

The brief was written and filed by Frederick W. Claybrook, Jr., Esq., and Thomas P. Gies, Esq., of Crowell & Moring LLP. 

The Christian Legal Society is a nationwide association of Christian attorneys, law students, and law professors and can be visited at www.clsnet.org.

 

CLS Files Amicus Curiae Brief in Rich v. Secretary, Florida Dept of Corrections
Thursday, August 09, 2012

Christian Legal Society filed an amici curiae brief yesterday in Rich v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, to protect a Jewish prisoner's ability to observe kosher dietary requirements.  The brief was joined by Prison Fellowship Ministries and the National Association of Evangelicals.  

The federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") requires any prison that receives federal funds to accommodate prisoners' religious observances.  A prison may avoid RLUIPA’s requirements by not taking federal funding or by demonstrating it has a compelling reason, such as prison security, that justifies a refusal to accommodate a specific prisoner’s religious request.  

CLS's brief argues that prison officials in this case failed to justify denying kosher meals to Jewish prisoners.  Although the prison claims that kosher meals would cost too much, in reality, the prison increases its funding by respecting prisoners' religious needs in exchange for federal funding. 

The brief was prepared and filed by Roger Brooks and Carrie Bierman of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP.  The case is before the Eleventh Circuit, which covers Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

 

Two Wins for Religious Freedom in the Public Schools
Friday, June 29, 2012

This week CLS participated in two court victories protecting religious liberty in public schools in New York City and Spartanburg, South Carolina.

A New York federal district court today issued a permanent injunction requiring New York City’s Board of Education to stop discriminating against churches that wish to rent school facilities for weekend use on the same basis as other community groups.  For over 15 years, the Board has tried to deny churches their First Amendment right of equal access to government facilities otherwise available to other community groups.

CLS’s amici brief in support of Bronx Household of Faith was joined by several co-amici, including the American Bible Society; National Association of Evangelicals; Council of Churches of the City of New York; Brooklyn Council of Churches; Queens Federation of Churches; American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York; National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA; General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists; and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Rick Claybrook and Bruce Zabarauskas of Crowell & Moring prepared the brief.  An expedited appeal to the Second Circuit is expected this summer, in which CLS will again file a brief.

In the second victory, the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of a public school district accepting elective credits for high school students’ participation in a released time program in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  If the Establishment Clause challenge had been successful, public schools’ acceptance of credits for students transferring from religious private schools might have been challenged next.   

Jim Lehman and Jay Thompson of Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough LLP in Columbia, South Carolina, filed an excellent amici brief on behalf of CLS and its co-amici the National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education, National Association of Evangelicals, and Advocates for Faith and Freedom.

 

Education and Religious Groups Release Guidelines Regarding Bullying and Freedom of Expression in Public School
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Today Christian Legal Society joins a diverse group of religious and education groups, as well as two highly respected academic centers, to release a new publication Harassment, Bullying and Free Expression:  Guidelines for Free and Safe Public Schools.  After months of deliberation, seventeen organizations reached a commendable consensus for protecting freedom of expression while also punishing bullying and harassment.  

The guidelines’ purpose is to assist public school educators in their dual mission of protecting all students from bullying and harassment while simultaneously respecting all students’ legitimate freedom of expression, including religious speech.  These guidelines provide teachers and administrators with balanced, reasonable criteria for protecting our Nation’s commitment to freedom of speech and religious liberty while protecting all students from harmful bullying and harassment. 

“The guidelines offer a valuable tool for teaching students to respect other students’ ideas and values, including religious beliefs, which may differ from their own,” said Kim Colby, senior counsel for the Christian Legal Society.  “Most importantly, the guidelines reinforce the vital cultural and religious pluralism that is essential to our democracy.” 

The remarkable consensus was achieved in large part due to the leadership of Charles Haynes of the Religious Freedom Education Project of the First Amendment Center and Marc Stern of the American Jewish Committee.  “These two organizations have performed a valuable public service with the publication of these guidelines,” noted Ms. Colby.

Besides these two organizations and the Christian Legal Society, other organizations endorsing the guidelines are:  American Association of School Administrators, ASCD, Center for Religion and Public Affairs at the Wake Forest University Divinity School, Christian Educators Association International, Hindu American Foundation, Islamic Networks Group and its Affiliates, Islamic Society of North America, Muslim Public Affairs Council, National Association of Evangelicals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Council for the Social Studies, National School Boards Association, Religion Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. 

The Christian Legal Society is a nationwide association of Christian attorneys, law students, and law professors and can be visited at www.clsnet.org.

 

CLS FILES BRIEF TODAY TO PROTECT CHURCHES' WORSHIP SERVICES
Friday, April 20, 2012

Christian Legal Society filed a brief to protect the right of New York City churches to rent school facilities for their weekend religious worship services.  The amici brief was joined by nine other religious organizations in support of the churches’ free exercise of religion.   Joining Christian Legal Society on its brief are the Council of Churches of the City of New York, Brooklyn Council of Churches, Queens Federation of Churches, American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, National Association of Evangelicals, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, American Bible Society, and Christian Legal Society.  CLS Board member Rick Claybrook and Bruce Zabarauskas of Crowell & Moring prepared the brief.

Many congregations rent school facilities for their religious worship services, either on a short-term or long-term basis, when they are just beginning to form, have outgrown their old facilities, or have suffered flood or fire.  While most school districts welcome churches’ use of their facilities on weekends, for seventeen years, New York City’s Board of Education has tried to ban churches from meeting in the public schools on the weekends.  In a recent decision, the Second Circuit allowed New York City’s Board of Education to target “religious worship services” for denial of access, even though hundreds of community groups rent school facilities for a variety of uses. The decision applies to New York, Connecticut, and Vermont, but could easily spread across the country.

Last December, the Supreme Court refused to review the Second Circuit decision, despite the urging of CLS and its amici to consider the churches’ free speech claim of equal access to government facilities.  In January, however, the Supreme Court issued its robust decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School, which enforced the Religion Clauses’ protection of churches’ internal governance.  In February, Bronx Household of Faith asked the district court to consider its free exercise claim, which had not been ruled upon earlier, particularly in light of Hosanna-Tabor.  In March, the district court issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the New York churches and is now considering issuance of a permanent injunction, which the brief filed today urges the court to do. 

 

Senate votes against Blunt amendment protecting rights of conscience
Thursday, March 01, 2012

Today, by a vote of 51-48 the Senate decided to table the Blunt Amendment. The Blunt Amendment would have amended the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the 2010 health reform law) to protect rights of conscience. The amendment provides that mandated health plans need not cover items or services contrary to the religious beliefs of the issuer, purchaser, or beneficiary of the plan. The amendment also allows health plans to safeguard healthcare providers’ rights of conscience.

On February 29, CLS's Center for Law and Religious Freedom sent a letter to all senators expressing its support for the amendment named for its lead sponsor, Senator Blunt of Missouri.The religious liberty community, including CLS’s Center for Law and Religious Freedomunited in opposition to the extremely narrow exemption. On February 10, the President announced a "compromise" that simply made the narrow exemption final and left the previous policy in place. The "compromise" was to allow some religious employers an additional year -- until after the election -- to comply. During this time further discussions are to occur with an Administration that has been tone-deaf to religious liberty concerns.

Last August, the Administration announced regulations requiring all employers' health plans to cover contraceptives, including drugs that many consider to be abortifacients. The exemption for religious employers is limited to religious entities who serve only persons of the same faith, employ only persons of the same faith, and inculcate religious values -- a redefinition of "religious employer" that leaves Christian colleges, hospitals, homeless shelters, and even many churches unprotected.

The religious liberty community, including CLS’s Center for Law and Religious Freedomunited in opposition to the extremely narrow exemption.  On February 10, the President announced a "compromise" that simply made the narrow exemption final and left the previous policy in place.  The "compromise" was to allow some religious employers an additional year -- until after the election -- to comply.  During this time further discussions are to occur with an Administration that has been tone-deaf to religious liberty concerns. 

 

The Center Files Brief Urging Supreme Court to Protect Religious Student Groups
Tuesday, January 17, 2012

CLS's Center for Law and Religious Freedom filed an amici brief today with the United States Supreme Court, urging it to protect student religious groups’ right to choose leaders who agree with the groups’ religious beliefs. The Ninth Circuit has ruled that a public university may exclude religious student groups from campus because they have religious requirements for their officers and members.

In a decision reported at 648 F.3d 790 (9th Cir. 2011), the Ninth Circuit held that a public university could apply its nondiscrimination policy to deny recognition to a Christian fraternity and a Christian sorority because of their faith requirements for leaders and members. The panel observed that CLS v.Martinez did not reach the question of the application of nondiscrimination policies to religious student groups. The court went on to conclude, however, that the Martinez analysis should nonetheless be applied and held that the First Amendment was not violated by the university’s exclusion of the two groups -- unless the groups show on remand that the university applied the nondiscrimination policy unevenly, by recognizing other groups that violated the nondiscrimination policy, while excluding religious groups because they were religious.

Judge Ripple of the Seventh Circuit, sitting by designation, concurred because he agreed with the panel that its decision in Truth v. Kent School District compelled its result (which it does not), but then proceeded to provide an outstanding explication of why viewpoint discrimination occurs when a university applies nondiscrimination policies to prevent religious groups from selecting leaders who agree with the groups’ beliefs.

To understand the larger context of the case, please read this article by Kim Colby.

 

The Center Files Brief Urging Supreme Court to Protect Religious Student Groups
Tuesday, January 17, 2012

CLS's Center for Law and Religious Freedom filed an amici brief today with the United States Supreme Court, urging it to protect student religious groups’ right to choose leaders who agree with the groups’ religious beliefs. The Ninth Circuit has ruled that a public university may exclude religious student groups from campus because they have religious requirements for their officers and members.

In a decision reported at 648 F.3d 790 (9th Cir. 2011), the Ninth Circuit held that a public university could apply its nondiscrimination policy to deny recognition to a Christian fraternity and a Christian sorority because of their faith requirements for leaders and members. The panel observed that CLS v.Martinez did not reach the question of the application of nondiscrimination policies to religious student groups. The court went on to conclude, however, that the Martinez analysis should nonetheless be applied and held that the First Amendment was not violated by the university’s exclusion of the two groups -- unless the groups show on remand that the university applied the nondiscrimination policy unevenly, by recognizing other groups that violated the nondiscrimination policy, while excluding religious groups because they were religious.

Judge Ripple of the Seventh Circuit, sitting by designation, concurred because he agreed with the panel that its decision in Truth v. Kent School District compelled its result (which it does not), but then proceeded to provide an outstanding explication of why viewpoint discrimination occurs when a university applies nondiscrimination policies to prevent religious groups from selecting leaders who agree with the groups’ beliefs.

To understand the larger context of the case, please read this article by Kim Colby.

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