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The Federalist: Religious freedom usually leaves ample room for the government to achieve its goals while respecting faith. The Supreme Court recognized this again Tuesday, showing it was right when it did the same thing last summer in Hobby Lobby/Conestoga.
USA Today: Why does this matter? Most Americans aren’t prisoners, don’t live in Arkansas, aren’t Muslim and don’t wear beards. When it comes to American law, no religion is an island.
The Washington Post: The Court has now three times shown a willingness to read the religious exemption statutes RFRA (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993) and RLUIPA (the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000) as providing quite broad protection to religious objectors.
The Washington Post: Eric Rassbach from the Becket Fund — the public interest law firm that on Tuesday won the Holt v. Hobbs prisoner rights case — was kind enough to pass along his thoughts on what the case means for religious liberty more generally.
Mirror of Justice: Not too much to add to Rick’s analysis of Holt v. Hobbs. A short and precise opinion from Justice Alito. Here are just a few other questions and comments about the opinion and concurrences.
One News Now: The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a unanimous decision on religious freedom that goes beyond resolving an objection to prison policy by a Muslim inmate and, as described by one legal group, secures “a landmark victory for religious freedom for all faiths.”
Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore praises Supreme Court for defending religious freedom of Muslim inmate
The Christian Post: Holt was represented by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the Alliance Defending Freedom. The two groups managed to work together and considered this case a landmark decision. Holt claimed his rights under the 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
Baptist Press: The Obama administration and a diverse group of organizations filed briefs in support of Muhammad. Among these were Prison Fellowship, American Civil Liberties Union, Alliance Defending Freedom, Muslim Public Affairs Council, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Christian Legal Society and Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.
National Law Journal (Access via Google): A Muslim prison inmate from Arkansas on Tuesday won a unanimous victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that a prison regulation barring him from wearing a half-inch beard for religious reasons violated federal law.
Law and Religion Australia: The US Supreme Court yesterday issued an interesting religious freedom decision in Holt, AKA Muhammad v Hobbs, Director, Arkansas Dept of Correction (No 13-6827, Jan 20, 2015). (Thanks to Marc DeGirolami at the CLR Forum for the notice.) A Muslim prisoner wanted to grow a 1/2 inch beard for religious reasons.
Christianity Today: The court sided 9-0 with Arkansas prisoner Gregory Holt (also called Abdul Maalik Muhammad), who claimed a right to maintain a half-inch beard as a part of his religious practice as a Muslim. The justices did not find evidence that a beard that short would pose a substantial security threat, as the state’s Department of Corrections argued. Its lack of accommodations was ruled a violation of inmates’ religious freedom.
SCOTUS Blog: The Court easily agreed with inmate Gregory Holt that the Arkansas policy prevents him from exercising his religion. Put simply, the prison will not allow him to follow the tenets of his religion and grow a beard. And it didn’t matter, the Court explained, that he could practice his religion in other ways, such as by observing Muslim holidays and having a prayer rug.
The Becket Fund: In a unanimous 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled today that prison officials cannot arbitrarily ban peaceful religious practices, securing a landmark victory for religious freedom for all faiths.
USA Today: The court came down decisively on the side of a Muslim prisoner whose beard had been deemed potentially dangerous by the Arkansas Department of Correction. Growing a beard, the justices said, was a Muslim man’s religious right.
Acton Institute: Can prison bureaucrats arbitrarily ban peaceful religious practices? Whether they should, they certainly have done so. As The Becket Fund points out, many prisons have barred Jewish inmates from wearing yarmulkes, denied Catholics access to the sacraments of communion and confession, and shut down Evangelical Bible studies. Prisons have frequently even banned religious objects, such as rosaries, prayer shawls, and yarmulkes.
The Christian Institute: A statue of a soldier kneeling before a cross has been removed from a war memorial in North Carolina following a legal threat by a secular organisation.
Christian News Network: A high school teacher in California is under investigation after a church-state separation group lodged a complaint that the teacher is promoting Christianity in the classroom and gives out “Bible cookies” to students.
Talk Radio News Service: In states where same-sex marriage laws are in effect, local government officials must provide the same marriage certification services that are traditionally available to heterosexual couples, Americans United for Separation of Church and State said. Americans United sent a memo to local officials to counteract an Arizona religious group, Alliance Defending Freedom, which insists that clerks and other government officials don’t have to serve same-sex couples.
WND: “Secrecy breeds mistrust, and the IRS should know this in light of its recent scandals involving the investigation of conservative groups,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Christiana Holcomb.
Alliance Defending Freedom: They lack exact the cold facts, but that doesn’t keep the Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) from trying, does it? Recently, the AU sent pastors a friendly reminder that if they get too involved in this election season, the IRS has a newly formed hit squad standing by, but “As long as you follow the rules, however, your house of worship is not in danger of being added to that list.”
The Christian Post: Amicus briefs filed on behalf of Holt came from a ideologically diverse array of groups, including the Alliance Defending Freedom, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Anti-Defamation League.
Religion News Service: In some ways, the case of the Muslim prisoner who wants to grow a beard seems easy. When it comes to a prisoner’s religious rights, federal laws favors accommodation when possible.
SCOTUS Blog: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sent a blunt message to prison officials planning a policy that limits the religious freedom of inmates: it would be important to have a good reason for the restriction before it gets into court. Trying to bolster the rationale at the lectern is not a promising strategy.
Townhall: In Holt v. Hobbs, a case pending this term, a Muslim prisoner argues for the right to grow a beard for religious reasons and to be exempt from a prison regulation requiring it to be shaved. Sidhu suggests that Holtshould prevail, but the case “will test whether the Roberts Court’s stance on religious freedom includes a minority faith, Islam, practiced by a disfavored member of our society: a prisoner.”
The Christian Post: Those filing amicus briefs on behalf of Holt include the Alliance Defending Freedom, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Religion News Service: “The degree of religious liberty we give to people who are not powerful in society says a lot more about us than it does about them,” Rassbach said. “We don’t want to be treating people like animals because they committed a crime.”
University of Virginia School of Law Press Release: Another Supreme Court term, another key religious liberty case argued by University of Virginia School of Law professor Douglas Laycock.
One News Now: “After North Carolina passed this law to protect students’ rights at school, in their wisdom they also realized that a lot of the time teachers find their rights being limited as well,” the attorney explains. “So they included protections for teachers to have religious expression at school under appropriate circumstances that the law recognizes.” -Matt Sharp of Alliance Defending Freedom
JP Updates: The unique case has brought together – all on Holt’s side – conservative legal organizations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Rutherford Institute with notable liberal groups Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Alliance Defending Freedom sent North Carolina school districts a letter Tuesday correcting misleading information contained in a letter Americans United for Separation of Church and State recently sent to the same districts. The AU letter urged them to disregard a new state law protecting the freedom of school employees to participate in student-led religious expression outside of school hours.
National Catholic Reporter: Of particular concern to FFRF and other First Amendment advocacy organizations is “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” a project of Alliance Defending Freedom, which focuses on freedom of religion issues. On Freedom Pulpit Sunday — which was last held in June 2013 with the participation of more than 1,100 churches — pastors are encouraged to advise their congregations on political matters, such as marriage and abortion rights, and even endorse or oppose candidates.
Times-Call: There is a debate happening in Longmont on Wednesday, on the topic of the separation of Church and State.
Religion News: “The U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule on the constitutionality of prayer at public meetings. But a new survey finds U.S. voters clearly favor prayer – as long the public prayer is generic and not specifically Christian.”
South Jersey Times: “A Cumberland County woman argues that the state Motor Vehicle Commission’s alleged denial of issuing an ’8theist’ license plate violated her First Amendment rights, according to a lawsuit filed on Thursday.”
NY town awaiting Supreme Court decision on prayers continues to pray before meetings | Christian Post
Christian Post: “David Cortman, senior counsel at ADF, said in a statement released last August that ‘Americans today should be as free as the Founders were to pray.’”
The Independent (Massillon, OH): “The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian organization helping to defend the Town of Greece, doesn’t think so. ‘Community members should have the freedom to pray without being censored,’ according to ADF senior counsel David Cortman.”
Beaumont Enterprise: The court is reviewing a recent round of briefs filed in the case. Beaumont Attorney David Starnes said the court ruled it didn’t need to hear oral arguments and is instead basing its decision on the briefs.
AU: Americans United for Separation of Church and State last night filed a legal motion with a federal court seeking permission to intervene on behalf of three University of Notre Dame students who want to ensure that their health-care plan includes access to contraceptives. The students lack the financial means to purchase contraception on their own.
Kelly Shackelford at Fox News: One of the favorite holiday tricks of organizations trying to push religious influence out of American society is to loudly yell, “There is no war on Christmas! It’s a right-wing myth!”– even as their movement wages that same war with Grinch-like zeal. For example, Rev. Barry Lynn, an attorney who heads Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS), says he doesn’t see evidence of such a war. He must not be looking very hard. This year alone we’ve seen . . .
Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches: Through efforts such as Pulpit Freedom Sunday, pastors openly flout the law. Enforcement of the rule, and the revocation of a participating church’s tax-exempt status, though, could trigger a constitutional challenge to it . . . The next Pulpit Freedom Sunday is scheduled for October 5, 2014, just before the midterm elections. The website for the event, a project of the Christian right legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom, claims “the future of religious freedom depends on a free pulpit to communicate fundamental, biblical principles to congregations across America” and urges pastors to “join a growing movement of bold pastors preaching Biblical Truth about candidates and elections from their pulpits.” . . . But ADF appears determined for a showdown. Its website notes that Pulpit Freedom Sunday grew from 33 participants in 2008 to 1,621 in 2012. And ADF has offered to represent any pastor investigated by the IRS free of charge.
CARE2.com: Should government be able to fund religion? What really constitutes separation of church and state? These are questions that get asked over and over again, mostly through lawsuits defended by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United, Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Center for Law and Justice, who each take up opposite sides of the issue in the courts. Most often these organizations go head to head . . . One school in North Carolina is going even further when it comes to their own discriminatory policies. Myrtle Grove Christian School, a North Carolina private religious school that now accepts school vouchers, is asking students and families to take a pledge stating “they won’t support or participate in ‘homosexual activity.’”
BRNow.org: The Southern Baptist Convention’s religious freedom and financial benefits entities both expressed their opposition to a federal court ruling invalidating the ministerial housing allowance.
“Americans United Warns Washington County Council Not To Give Tax Aid To Christian Fundamentalist Group”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State: In a letter sent today to the Pierce County Council, Americans United warned that handing out $7,000 in public aid to Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) would be a clear violation of both the Washington and U.S. Constitutions. It could spark legal action, the group said.
Barry Lynn at Washington Post: Americans United for Separation of Church and State has represented two courageous women from Greece, N.Y., since 2007 when they came to us for advice about how to deal with their town board, which began all of its monthly business meetings with a Christian prayer.
David Cortman of Alliance Defending Freedom and Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State appeared on Armstrong & Getty to discuss Town of Greece v. Galloway. | MP3 audio 11:24 mins
Supreme Court Argument: Public Prayer at Government Meetings | Brett Harvey on EWTN Nightly News – Video
The Constitutionality of Saying a Prayer at a City Council Meeting: May America Bless God? | Thomas E. Baker at the ABA
Thomas E. Baker at the ABA (pdf): They raised their objections before the Town Board unsuccessfully and then brought suit in 2008. They are represented by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The defendant-petitioner Town of Greece is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom. So there are institutional litigators on both sides.
Jenna Greene at National Law Journal: Christian public interest law groups the Thomas More Law Center and the Alliance Defending Freedom have brought about two dozen suits, arguing that the law violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment. In addition, the American Center for Law and Justice, led by Supreme Court advocate Jay Sekulow, has filed least seven suits.
Reuters: The battle pits two residents of an upstate New York town, backed by a civil liberties group advocating for the separation of church and state against a town supervisor supported by a prominent, evangelical Christian organization. Both groups – Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Alliance Defending Freedom – have multi-million dollar budgets and litigate on a variety of related issues, often against each other . . . “This is the culmination of a coordinated national campaign to challenge legislative prayer,” Brett Harvey, a lawyer with ADF, said of the Greece case. There have been 19 federal lawsuits challenging legislative prayer since 2005, according to ADF data. Americans United was directly involved in five and has had input into others. ADF has represented government defendants directly in six and was indirectly involved in another six, according to ADF. [more]
Fox News web stream here. It offers sharper images than the embedded version on YouTube below.
Alliance Defending Freedom Attorney Joel Oster appeared on NPR News & Talk to discuss Town of Greece v. Galloway. A Rabbi and representative of Americans United for Separation of Church and State also appeared on the broadcast. | MP3 audio 32:16 mins (audio ends prematurely)
PBS (includes video): This is not merely a contest between a small town and two of its residents. The town’s case has all but been taken over by—and financed by—the Alliance Defending Freedom, a national advocacy group promoting more government accommodation of religion. The plaintiffs’ case has been taken over by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, whose staff attorney, Ayesha Khan, will argue on their behalf in the Supreme Court.
Doris Quintanilla at Opposing Views: For 131 years, the city seal of DeLand, Fla., has had a heart, an anchor and a cross, and no one seemed to have a problem with it until now.
ABP: A federal appeals court ruled Sept. 17 that a for-profit manufacturing corporation must provide workers with health insurance that includes no-cost birth control even if it violates the religious teaching of the owners.
NewsLeader.com: A federal judge issued an injunction in March barring the board from opening meetings with prayers associated with any one religion. Board members voted unanimously Tuesday to appeal the ruling.
Daytona Beach News-Journal: The group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, sent the letter dated Aug. 23 after apparently receiving a complaint about the seal, which consists of the city’s name, its founding date and an anchor, cross and heart overlaid in the center.
Bob Smietana of the Tennessean on StarPress.com: At the same time, activists have tried to pick a court fight over the rules. Last year, more than 1,600 pastors preached sermons aimed at challenging the IRS during “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” organized by the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defending Freedom. The Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the federal agency in an attempt to get it to enforce the clergy endorsement ban.
Bob Smietana of USA Today at GuamPDN.com: Michael Batts, chairman of the commission, said the current rules are not enforceable. There’s too much ambiguity, he said, and many pastors ignore them without consequence. “We believe that there are some serious dysfunctions and problems associated with the current law,” he said . . . At the same time, activists have tried to pick a court fight over the rules. Last year, more than 1,600 pastors preached sermons aimed at challenging the IRS during “Pulpit Freedom,” organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom of Scottsdale, Ariz. Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wis., sued the federal agency in an attempt to get it to enforce the clergy endorsement ban.
Washington Post: Even as polls show Americans broadly oppose electioneering from the pulpit, a new report by a group of faith leaders working closely with Capitol Hill argues for ending the decades-old ban on explicit clergy endorsements. The report being given Wednesday to Sen. Charles E. Grassley . . . More than 1,100 mostly conservative Christian pastors for the past few springs have been explicitly preaching politics — they call the annual event “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” — in an effort to lure the Internal Revenue Service into a court showdown . . .
U.S. Senate Committee Votes Down ‘School Choice’ Amendment, Americans United for Sep. of Church and State celebrates
Americans United for Sep. of Church and State: Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee was considering amendments to S. 1094, the “Strengthening America’s Schools Act,” which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C) introduced an amendment that would have allowed states to turn their Title I funds into giant voucher programs.
Alan Sears at Alliance Defending Freedom: Last week, as Breitbart notes, “… the Supreme Court granted review in what could be the biggest religious liberty victory for Americans of faith in decades,” when it agreed – at the request of Alliance Defending Freedom – to hear a case on public invocations in which the defendants are represented by our ministry’s attorneys.
Champion Newspapers: In Chino Valley, the fire and school boards and Chino city council have such invocations. Chino Hills dropped them on advice of its attorney and satisfied its faith by conducting meetings under the large motto above the council dais, “In God We Trust.”
Brett Harvey on Intersection of Faith and Reason with Frank Sontag | MP3 audio 16:34 mins | Brett Harvey, Joel Oster, Who Said That?: A Simple Question That May Change the Way Courts View Legislative Prayer, Federalist Society Engage Volume 14, Issue 1 February 2013 | Town of Greece v. Galloway information page
The Economist: As puffed up as the sense of outrage is from the separationists, the overbaked pieties of parties defending the town’s monthly religious exercises are even more exaggerated. “Americans today should be as free as the Founders were to pray,” says David Cortman of the Alliance Defending Freedom. Nothing, Mr Cortman contends, should interfere with “this sacred practice” of public prayer. However the six Catholics and three Jews on the Supreme Court handle this case, we can rest assured that more sanctimony and unprincipled grasping at straws is on its way. (links to ADF Media site)
Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review (May 21): “No one confuses sessions of Congress with a church service.” You can say that again. Brett Harvey, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom makes this point to me in an interview for National Review Online, about the case of an upstate New York town’s desire to pray before town-council meetings. Yesterday the Supreme Court agreed to hear the town of Greece’s case after a Second Circuit Appeals Court ruling found that because the town has predominantly Christian clergy, it needs to import non-Christians to lead the town council in prayer so non-Christians do not “feel like outsiders.”
Amy Kotlarz at Catholic Globe (CNS): Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal organization founded in 1994 that advocates for the religious liberty of Americans and people around the world, contends that the town did not regulate the content of the prayers, permitted citizens of any religious tradition — or no tradition — to volunteer to say prayers, and did not discriminate in who was selected as “prayer-givers.” Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the Town of Greece on a pro bono basis . . . “Americans today should be as free as the Founders were to pray,” said a statement from David Cortman, the alliance’s senior counsel. “The Founders prayed while drafting our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court has ruled that public prayer is part of the ‘history and tradition of this country.’ America continues this cherished practice.”
The Supreme Court Takes the Case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, Which Raises the Questions Whether—And If So, How—a Town Board May Open Its Meetings With Prayer | Marci Hamilton at Justia.com
Marci Hamilton at Justia.com: They have the Alliance Defense Fund representing them, and an amicus brief has been filed on their behalf by the Foundation for Moral Law. (That foundation is led by Judge Roy Moore, who belligerently violated the Establishment Clause by bringing his own two-ton granite rendition of a version of the Ten Commandments into the lobby of the Alabama Supreme Court). Other amici include the Liberty Institute and the National Legal Foundation, which advertises itself as a “Christian public interest law firm”. It is no secret that these groups are aggressively seeking to re-introduce prayer in public schools, a movement that includes many who insist that this is a “Christian country.”
Let this N.Y. town pray in peace: The Supreme Court will decide whether invocations at the start of town meetings are Constitutional | Joe Infranco at NY Daily News
Joe Infranco at NY Daily News: “To pray or not to pray?” That is the question the Supreme Court will answer after agreeing to hear a case pitting the Town of Greece in western New York against two of its residents. Fortunately, America’s religious heritage has already answered this question affirmatively. On Sept. 7, 1774, in Philadelphia, the Rev. Jacob Duché delivered the first prayer of the Continental Congress, before representatives from 13 states. He concluded with a brief invocation to “the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior.”
The New American: But Joel Oster of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing the town of Greece in the case, said that the appeals court ruling forces the city to become a prayer monitor in its meetings, and turns the reverent tradition of prayer into a government-supervised affirmative action program. “Since this nation’s founding, public meetings have been opened with prayers offered according to the conscience of the speaker,” noted Oster. “There is no legal reason why a town cannot engage in this practice today with people from within its own community. The district court rightly affirmed the constitutionality of the town’s policy.” He added that secular groups with a grudge against Christianity “cannot be allowed to force local governments to engage in strange hoops and hurdles that effectively eliminate prayers by making them too difficult to take place.”
NJ.com: The case — Greece, NY v. Galloway, Susan — could have a lasting affect on local board meetings across the country, including municipalities in South Jersey like West Deptford and Elk, where township committee meetings are regularly opened with the mayor and board leading residents in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer central to Christianity.
Seattle Times: The town is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based group that presses faith-based cases in courts nationwide. ADF senior counsel David Cortman said the framers of the Constitution prayed while drafting the Bill of Rights. “Americans today should be as free as the Founders were to pray,” Cortman said.