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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 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.
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.
KOAM: “U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) and U.S. Representative Randy Forbes (Va.) led an effort today to fight for Americans’ First Amendment rights by filing an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius.”
‘Christmas’ Was Nearly Canceled In This Small Town After An Atheist Activist’s Threat — But Here’s How People Rallied To Save An Annual Celebration
The Blaze: After nearly two decades of celebrating “Christmas on the Canal,” an annual holiday tradition in upstate New York, an atheist activist’s threat recently led to a loss of government funding and the event’s cancellation — until the local community rallied to save the revered celebration.
Transforming America’s Schools into Authoritarian Instruments of Compliance | John Whitehead at Rutherford Institute
John Whitehead at Rutherford Institute: We are living in an era where every personal decision, such as where to work, where to shop, where to play, who to love, who to befriend, who to worship, what to believe, and what to say, is open to scrutiny by government officials and corporate managers. It’s a poisonous mentality for those hoping to preserve democracy, and it’s being foisted upon our children, whether in the form of bureaucrats fashioning one-size-fits-all educational standards, or police officers investigating innocent activities such as children playing in the street as possible crimes. This situation will only get worse as our children are taught to accept the police state as normal.
The Age of Authoritarianism: Government of the Politicians, by the Military, for the Corporations | John W. Whitehead at the Rutherford Institute
John W. Whitehead at the Rutherford Institute: We have indeed reached a crossroads. History may show that from this point forward, we will have left behind any semblance of constitutional government and entered into a militaristic state where all citizens are suspects and security trumps freedom. Certainly, this is a time when government officials operate off their own inscrutable, self-serving playbook with little in the way of checks and balances, while American citizens are subjected to all manner of indignities and violations with little hope of defending themselves. We have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age, let’s call it the age of authoritarianism.
Religion Clause Blog: The Rutherford Institute announced Wednesday that it has obtained a temporary restraining order in a suit filed in state court in Bexar County, Texas on behalf of high school student Andrea Hernandez.
Education News: After months of protesting a policy requiring high school students to wear an RFID-enabled ID badge around their necks at all times, Andrea Hernandez is being involuntarily withdrawn from John Jay High School in San Antonio effective November 26th, according to a letter sent by the district that has now been made public.
America’s Schools: Breeding Grounds for Compliant Citizens | John Whitehead at The Rutherford Institute
John Whitehead at the Rutherford Institute: [P]ublic school reform is now justified in the dehumanizing language of national security, which increasingly legitimates the transformation of schools into adjuncts of the surveillance and police state… students are increasingly subjected to disciplinary apparatuses which limit their capacity for critical thinking, mold them into consumers, test them into submission, strip them of any sense of social responsibility and convince large numbers of poor minority students that they are better off under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system than by being valued members of the public schools.”—Professor Henry Giroux
ABC15: The City of Phoenix could face a lawsuit if the city doesn’t apologize to a Valley woman for telling her she could not hand out free bottled water to people in the summer heat.
John W. Whitehead at the Huffington Post: From disputes over whether the federal health care mandate should cover contraception and abortion to state-led efforts to undermine abortion by, among other things, requiring that women seeking to have abortions be subjected to invasive transvaginal ultrasounds without their consent, these highly partisan issues keep us divided and distracted, and incapable of doing anything to prevent the steady erosion of our rights by the powers that be.
OneNewsNow.com: The Virginia Senate is considering a bill that would give home-schooled students access to participate in sports at public schools, and one attorney thinks the proposal is a good idea. H.B. 947 . . .
ParagouldDailyPress.com: Noble said he had not responded to the letters pending legal advice. He said the Rutherford Institute and Liberty Counsel had volunteered to help the school district in the matter and the Alliance Defense Fund had sent a list of court cases that might be applicable to the situation.
Constitutional experts warn a new law that allows the president to permanently detain U.S. citizens without trial could be used against pro-life activists, who have already been defined as potential terrorists in documents by some government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security.
OneNewsNow.com: The Rutherford Institute is preparing to appeal a recent court decision against an Ohio science teacher who tried to teach his student to think critically about evolution
Religion Clause: In Cleveland County, Oklahoma, a woman has filed suit is state court seeking a religious accommodation that would allow her to obtain a driver’s license with a low resolution photograph instead of the state-required high-resolution photo that captures biometric data. The complaint (full text) in Beach v. Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, (OK Dist. Ct., Sept. 21, 2011)
John Whitehead at The Rutherford Institute: We can pretend that the Constitution, which was written to hold the government accountable, is still our governing document. However, the reality we must come to terms with is that in the America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants. And the few of us who actively fight to preserve the rights enshrined in the Constitution (a group whose numbers continue to shrink) do so knowing that in the long run, we may be fighting a losing battle.
Daily Mail Online: A Massachusetts middle school has sparked outrage after forcing students to answer questions about oral sex. Parent Arlene Tessitore made an official complaint after her seventh and eighth grade daughters were forced to take the Youth Risk Behaviour Study at Memorial Middle School.
Conservative Trial Lawyers Use Lawsuits to Protect Free Speech, Religious Freedom, & Property Rights
Injury Board Blog Network: There are scores of other cases like these every year, filed by these groups and others, such as the Alliance Defense Fund, the Rutherford Institute, and many others… just as the Founders intended. The “tort reform” movement will eventually reach harm cases, through restrictions on the filing of any lawsuit, Americans don’t recognize the universality of the rights protected in our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Religion Clause Blog: In a letter ruling in Oracle Institute v. Board of Supervisors of Grayson County, (VA Cir. Ct., April 26, 2011), a Virginia state trial judge rejected a number of defenses to a suit brought by an interfaith spiritual retreat center challenging the denial of a special use permit for property which it wished to develop.
One News Now: “Pennsylvania third-grader is getting legal help after being told by school officials that she can’t hand out Christian tracts on the playground.”
New American: “Parents, not the government, are the ones ultimately responsible for making educational choices for their children, and jailing them for standing on this universal right is simply unconscionable,” declared ADF attorney Roger Kiska. “Irene Wiens was well within her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights to opt to teach her children a view of sexuality that is in accord with her own religious beliefs, instead of sending them to four days of classes and an interactive play that she found to be objectionable.” Kiska noted that the ADF is defending four similar case . . . [more]
The Rutherford Institute: (links to the complaint) “In a case involving the continuing encroachment of modern technology upon personal privacy, The Rutherford Institute has filed a Fourth Amendment lawsuit in federal court against Janet Napolitano, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), on behalf of two airline pilots who refused to submit to airport security screening which relies on advanced imaging technology that exposes intimate details of a person’s body to government agents.”
The Rutherford Institute: “The Rutherford institute has filed a First Amendment lawsuit in federal court against the City of Winchester, its police chief and another police officer, charging that the City’s noise ordinance, which prohibits sounds that ‘annoy’ or ‘disturb’ others, is unconstitutional. The case arose out of events that transpired during the 2010 Apple Blossom Festival in which a Christian street preacher was prevented from preaching about his religious beliefs on a public sidewalk after a passerby complained that he felt ‘uncomfortable’ with the message.” | For more information, including text of the complaint, see Religion Clause.
Education Week: “[A]t least one conservative constituency largely is still waiting for its day in the high court. Over the past two years alone, self-described religious-liberty groups on the right have asked the justices to hear appeals in some half-dozen cases involving religious expression in the public schools. In each case, the Supreme Court has refused . . . Half a dozen or so conservative legal organizations, as part of their advocacy work, regularly take up the cause of student religious expression—and, in some cases, nonreligious expression as well. In addition to Liberty Counsel, others include the Alliance Defense Fund, in Scottsdale, Ariz.; the American Center for Law and Justice, in Washington; the Liberty Institute, in Plano, Texas, which is not affiliated with Liberty Counsel; the Rutherford Institute, in Charlottesville, Va.; the Southeastern Legal Foundation, in Marietta, Ga.; and the Thomas More Law Center, in Ann Arbor, Mich.”
ChristianNewsWire: “In a case involving the continuing encroachment of modern technology upon personal privacy, The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of an airline pilot who refused to submit to airport security screening that exposes intimate details of a person’s body to government agents.”
Religion Clause Blog: “The complaint (full text) in Moultrie v. Berkeley County, South Carolina, (D SC, filed 10/5/2010), argues that by providing exemptions for political signs (as well as for “for sale” and “for lease” signs) but not for signs expressing religious messages . . . ”
VA: Rutherford Institute warns middle school principal against creating hostile workplace environment towards religion, FCA club
Rutherford Institute: “In a letter to Don Curtis, the principal of Wilson Middle School in Fishersville, Va., John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, warns the school administrator against creating a hostile workplace environment towards religion and discriminating against religious student groups such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Several members of the community asked the Institute to intervene after Curtis emailed teachers advising them that they could be subject to termination proceedings should they assist students in forming an FCA club at their school.”
York Daily Record: “The writers of all seven amicus briefs filed this week with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Westboro Baptist Church noted two things: The protest by the Rev. Fred Phelps and members of his family was terribly offensive and presented a worldview with which they disagreed greatly. And, despite that, all seven said the court must rule in favor of the Kansas-based church when it hears the appeal by Spring Garden Township’s Albert Snyder in October.” | Via Religion Clause.
Winston-Salem Journal: “A number of foundations and other nonprofit groups have filed statements of support for Forsyth County as it appeals a federal judge’s decision in May to ban prayers that mention Jesus or make other sectarian references at county meetings . . . The county is being represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, a group that supports public expressions of Christianity. Many of the groups filing friend-of-the-court briefs have similar goals.”
One News Now: “The Rutherford Institute is urging the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm legislative prayers in Forsyth County, North Carolina, as constitutional.”
Daily Dunkin Democrat: “Like Jefferson and Madison, I strongly believe in separation of church and state. And if a principal were to mandate school-directed prayer in classrooms, then that would be a violation of that separation. However, if at commencement, a valedictorian speaks of what God and Christ have meant to her life, that is her First Amendment right to free speech! The Roberts Supreme Court does not appear to agree . . . ”
Christian Examiner: “The U.S. Supreme Court—which will review a religious discrimination case brought by a Christian legal society from San Francisco college of law—has received nearly two dozen legal briefs supporting the student club . . . ‘Just as all student groups have the right to associate with people who share common beliefs and interests, Christian student groups have the right to be Christian student groups,’ said [Gregory S. Baylor], senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. ‘Requiring leaders of a Christian club to live by a Christian code of conduct is no different than an environmentalist club requiring its leaders not to be lumberjacks.’” | For more information on the case see the ADF Alliance Alert case tag: http://www.alliancealert.org/wordpress/tag/zz-christian-legal-society-v-martinez/
The Ashland City Times: “Cheatham County educators are invited to attend a teleconference that organizers say will focus on the constitutional rights of religious persons in public schools . . . The Cheatham County Ministerial Alliance, Family Action Council of Tennessee and Alliance Defense Fund are sponsoring the conference.”
John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute writes at the Huffington Post: “The First Amendment right to free speech is on life support. And with its recent refusal to review the case of Nurre v. Whitehead, the Supreme Court may have pulled the plug.”
Rutherford Institute urges Supreme Court to restore Christian student group’s access to university campus
Rutherford Institute: “The Rutherford Institute has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez in defense of the right of a Christian university student group to be able to freely associate with fellow believers who subscribe to their religious beliefs about sexual conduct outside of marriage.”
Associated Press: “A state legislator is renewing his effort to undo an administrative order requiring Virginia State Police chaplains to deliver non-denominational prayers at official events. Del. Charles W. Carrico, a retired state trooper, claims the 2008 directive from State Police Superintendent W. Steven Flaherty violates the chaplains’ constitutional right to free exercise of religion.”
Rutherford Institute asks U.S. Supreme Court to Protect student artistic expression, reverse ban on instrumental performance of “Ave Maria”
Rutherford Institute Press Release: “Voicing the concern that arts education in the public schools is in danger of being sanitized of any art with remotely religious themes or inspiration, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S Supreme Court to weigh in on a case in which public school officials banned the performance of an instrumental arrangement of Franz Biebl’s ‘Ave Maria’ at a high school graduation simply because the superintendent feared it might be religious.”
Calling for Common Sense About Christmas, Rutherford Institute Issues Legal Guidelines for Celebrating Christmas in Public, at School or Work
Christian Newswire: “Hoping to alleviate any confusion over the do’s and don’ts of celebrating Christmas in schools, workplaces and elsewhere, The Rutherford Institute has issued its ‘Twelve Rules of Christmas’ guidelines, which are available here.”
John W. Whitehead Calls For Sweeping Changes To The U.S. Supreme Court And Far-Reaching Revisions To The Confirmation Process
Rutherford Institute: “The time has surely come for an independent judicial appointments commission to be established … to take Supreme Court appointments out of the hands of politicians and beyond the reach of the political process…”–John W. Whitehead & John M. Beckett
John W. Whitehead writes at the Rutherford Institute: “The only way to truly combat sex trafficking is to expose its seedy underbelly, harshly punish perpetrators and bring justice to the victims. Yes, as collective communities and as a nation, we must make sexual trafficking a priority. The future of our country hangs in the balance.”
Rutherford Institute: “The Rutherford Institute, in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Virginia, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Prison Fellowship, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, has demanded that officials at the Rappahannock Regional Jail immediately end their illegal practice of censoring religious material sent to detainees.”
Rutherford Institute Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Free Speech Case of High School Valedictorian Censored, Silenced for Referencing Christ
Rutherford Institute: “Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have asked the United States Supreme Court to hear the case of a high school valedictorian whose microphone was turned off by school officials after she began speaking about the part her religious beliefs played in her success in life . . .
Rutherford Institute Files Free Speech Lawsuit: Valedictorian Ordered To Strip References To God From Speech, Prevented From Participating In Graduation
The Rutherford Institute: “Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a free speech lawsuit in the Montana Thirteenth Judicial District Court on behalf of a high school valedictorian who was forbidden from making any remarks at all in her school’s graduation ceremony after she refused to strip references to God and Christ from her valedictory speech. A copy of the complaint is available here
Religion Clause Blog: Last week, Wingspread Prison Ministries filed a federal lawsuit against the Oklahoma Department of Corrections challenging restrictions that interfere with Wingspread’s outreach to inmates in Oklahoma . . . The Rutherford Institute issued a release last week …
The Rutherford Institute Wins Court Victory for West Virginia Constitution Party’s Right to Circulate Petitions at a State Park
Rutherford Institute: “Judge John Preston Bailey of the Northern District of West Virginia has ruled that a First Amendment lawsuit dealing with the right of a political group to circulate petitions and collect signatures at a state park can move …
Rutherford Institute Attorneys Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court on Behalf of Street Preacher Arrested While Peacefully Preaching
The Rutherford Institute reports: “Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a petition with the United States Supreme Court in defense of the First Amendment rights of C. Stephen White, a street preacher who was arrested on three separate occasions …
Ted Olsen: Can a display be government speech without the government actually endorsing the message?
“It sounds like a big church-state case, but whatever the Supreme Court decides, it probably won’t affect church-state issues all that much. Both sides agree that this is really a free-speech case, not a religion case. Then again . . . ”
The Washington Post reports: Three groups plan to sue the state to challenge a controversial State Board of Elections policy that bans the wearing of buttons, T-shirts and other clothes with political messages in polling places. The Thomas Jefferson Center …
The Rutherford Institute reports: Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Fredericksburg City Councilman Hashmel Turner, who was prohibited from ending his prayers at council meetings “in Jesus’ name.” In asking the …
“Calling for Common Sense About Christmas, Rutherford Institute Issues Legal Guidelines for Celebrating Christmas in Public, at School or Work”
The Rutherford Institute has issued this press release that indicates: “. . . Hoping to clear up confusion over the do’s and don’ts of celebrating Christmas in schools, workplaces and elsewhere, The Rutherford Institute has issued its “Twelve Rules of …