Religious freedom

Supreme Court rules in favor of Little Sisters of the Poor in ObamaCare contraception case

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the Trump administration acted within its authority when it expanded exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) requirement for employers to provide insurance coverage that includes contraception — in a victory for Little Sisters of the Poor, the Catholic group that has been at the center of the national debate over the mandate. The court ruled 7-2 in favor of the Trump administration and the Catholic charity that cares for the elderly in two related disputes against Pennsylvania, which sued over the validity of a rule from the Trump administration that allowed religiously-affiliated groups and some for-profit companies to opt-out of providing contraception coverage to employees. The majority opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, ruled that the Trump administration’s challenged rulemaking was aboveboard, and hailed the work of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “For over 150 years, the Little Sisters have engaged in faithful service and sacrifice, motivated by a religious calling to surrender all for the sake of their brother,” Thomas wrote. “But for the past seven years, they — like many other religious objectors who have participated in the litigation and rulemakings leading up to today’s decision — have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.” He added: “We hold today that the Departments had the statutory authority to craft that exemption, as well as the contemporaneously issued moral exemption. We further hold that the rules promulgating these exemptions are free from procedural defects.” Little Sisters of the Poor Sister Constance Veit told Shannon Bream on “Fox News @ Night” earlier this year that following the ACA mandate was “unthinkable.” “We dedicate our lives to this because we believe in the dignity of every human life at every stage of life from conception until natural death,” Veit said. “So, we’ve devoted our lives — by religious vows — to caring for the elderly. And, we literally are by their bedside holding their hand as they pass on to eternal life. So, it’s unthinkable for us, on the one way, to be holding the hand of the dying elderly, and on the other hand, to possibly be facilitating the taking of innocent unborn life.” The Supreme Court also ruled in favor of religious organizations in an employment discrimination case Wednesday. And last week it came down with a ruling that states could not ban religious schools from receiving money from state-funded scholarship programs that are available to non-religious private schools. Lower court rulings had gone against the administration, with a nationwide injunction putting the exemptions on hold. But the Supreme Court’s ruling Wednesday amounts to a huge win for religious conservatives who have been battling the ACA’s contraceptive mandate for years. “It is outrageous that the Obama administration forced a group of nuns to violate their religious beliefs in the first place,” Judicial Crisis Network Vice President and Senior Counsel Frank Scaturro tweeted. “The Court’s decision today upholding that exemption is a victory for freedom of religion and conscience—for the Little Sisters and for everyone. Let’s be thankful that the Little Sisters’ ordeal in court has finally ended.” Thomas was joined in his judgment by all the justices except for Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Wednesday.

Gee…  What a shocker.   This is a HUGE win for our religious freedoms, and for President Trump.  And, it’s a big smack-down for big-government nazis and the nanny state.  Major kudos to the Supremes for this excellent decision.  For more of this article, click on the text above.  Outstanding!!    🙂

McEnany says there’s an ‘absolute double standard’ that churches still can’t gather despite large protests

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday there is an “absolute double standard” because churches across the country are still facing coronavirus restrictions preventing them from holding services, while demonstrators have been able to pack together in large protests with little social distancing. “There are absolutely double standards that we’ve seen,” McEnany said. She added: “People should be allowed to worship. We have a First Amendment in this country. There’s a way to safely do it.” The press secretary pointed to a task force set up by the Justice Department to look at civil liberties during coronavirus shutdowns. McEnany said President Trump “absolutely sees an issue” with double standards, adding that there had been cases where people worshipping from their cars had been targeted by law enforcement officers. When asked about Trump’s outcries against mail-in voting in the November election, McEnany responded: “I think there’s a safe way to vote if there’s a safe way to protest.” Regarding a possible spike in coronavirus cases following the widespread protests, McEnany said “we’re monitoring that,” but added that the White House was pleased with the month-over-month decline in daily new cases. She said that in April, the U.S. saw an average of 30,000 daily new cases; 25,000 daily new cases in May, and was currently on track to see 20,000 new cases daily in June. Still, McEnany said the president was happy with the progress of houses of worship reopening after he announced a policy deeming them “essential” in May. “Here we are four weeks later and we haven’t been hearing about rampant outbreaks in places of worship,” the press secretary said. “The First Amendment is a beautiful thing. People have the right to go to church or mosque or synagogue.” In places both hard-hit by coronavirus and facing demonstrations that attract tens of thousands — such as California, New York and New Jersey — church doors were long-shuttered but have recently reopened at 25 percent capacity. Trump slammed Democratic governors who refused to allow churches to reopen. Trump announced during a press briefing that houses of worship are allowed to open Memorial Day weekend: “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.” “The churches are not being treated with respect by a lot of the Democrat governors,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn. “I want to get the churches open, and we’re going to take a very strong position on that very soon … including mosques.” “Churches, to me, they’re so important in terms of the psyche of our country,” he said. “I think churches are essential.” The Justice Department (DOJ) has rebuked a number of states for cracking down on churches during the coronavirus pandemic. The DOJ sided with a Virginia church suing Gov. Ralph Northam after police threatened a pastor with jail time or a $2,500 fine for violating lockdown restrictions by holding a service on Palm Sunday. U.S. Attorney General William Barr made it clear in April that federal prosecutors should “be on the lookout” for overly restrictive state and local shutdown orders that may infringe on people’s constitutional rights — especially when it comes to the First Amendment. The DOJ also supported Kevin Wilson, the pastor of Lighthouse Fellowship Church on Chincoteague Island, who held a service on April 5 with 16 people in a church that could fit 293 people. He was later served a summons by police.

..which, of course, is unconstitutional and ridiculous.  We applaud President Trump sticking up for the First Amendment and religious liberty, and we applaud Kayleigh exposing the hypocrisy of these Democrat governors and politicians who want to keep churches closed under the false pretense of guarding against the Wuhan virus…and yet, they’re the first to violate their own directives and march elbow-to-elbow (so much for “social distancing”) and without wearing face masks as they protest.  The “double standard” and hypocrisy is beyond brazen.  If the mobs can “protest” without any regard for social distancing or wearing masks, then churches should at the very least be allowed to reopen while respecting what those mobs don’t.

Supreme Court orders states to respond to churches’ appeals to reopen

The Supreme Court is ordering the governors of Illinois and California to respond to two separate appeals filed by churches seeking to block enforcement of stay-at-home orders. Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Elena Kagan, who respond to circuit court appeals from the Midwest and the West Coast, respectively, say the responses are due by Thursday evening. In Illinois, two Chicago-area churches also requested that the justices allow them to hold services on Pentecost. Two Romanian-American Christian churches said Illinois’ reopening plan violates the U.S. Constitution by imposing a 10-person limit on worship services, while allowing other “essential” services — such as hardware and liquor stores — to continue without such restrictions. Meanwhile, the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Southern California appealed to the Supreme Court over the weekend after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected its request to hold services. Attorneys for the church say orders from California Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Diego County authorities are unconstitutional because they discriminate against places of worship.

Colorado Baker Sued Again, This Time for Refusing ‘Gender Transition’ Cake

Colorado baker Jack Phillips was back in court Thursday after a lawyer filed a second lawsuit against him for refusing to create a gender-transition “birthday cake.” Phillips, who was victorious at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 following years of litigation for refusing to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding in 2012 — at a time when the state of Colorado did not recognize same-sex marriage — is again being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom. Despite the high court’s 7-2 ruling in his favor two years ago, which found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had shown “clear and impermissible hostility” on the basis of Phillips’ religion and violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the same state agency pursued another case against Phillips because he declined to make a cake celebrating transgenderism. Phillips filed a lawsuit against the state alleging harassment and it subsequently dropped the matter. After that, a local trans activist and attorney named Autumn Scardina called Phillips’ Denver-area bakery to order a custom made gender-transition cake. Scardina waited past the appeal deadline so he could file a new lawsuit in a different court. Scardina is seeking more than $100,000 in damages, fines, and attorney’s fees. The state court heard oral arguments in the case on Thursday. ADF has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Scardina is now claiming in this latest legal action, which was filed in the District Court for the city and county of Denver, that Phillips violated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act and Consumer Protection Act by refusing to bake what the plaintiff said was a birthday cake. This birthday cake, as described in the lawsuit, was to be blue on the outside and pink on the inside to represent Scardina’s decision to self-identify as a woman. “Masterpiece Cakeshop said before the Supreme Court they would serve any baked good to members of the LGBTQ community. It was just the religious significance of it being a wedding cake. We don’t believe they’ve been honest with the public,” said Scardina’s attorney, Paula Greisen, in an interview with CBS’s Denver affiliate last year. Phillips has long maintained that he does not single out lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or trans-identified individuals regarding his custom orders. However, he’s long maintained that he will not use his creative talents to support messages that conflict with his faith. Thus, he will not make cakes that celebrate Halloween, drug use, or cakes that disparage people, including those who identify as LGBT. “It wasn’t enough for Jack to lose 40 percent of his business after Colorado pursued him the first time. It wasn’t enough for Jack to have to defend his freedoms all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And it wasn’t enough for Jack and his family to endure years of harassment and even death threats,” ADF noted on its website Wednesday. “For some, it won’t be enough until Masterpiece Cakeshop closes its doors and Jack Phillips is in financial ruin. They want Jack, an average American business owner, to pay a hefty price—all because he wants to live according to his faith. It is time to leave Jack alone,” ADF added. The Supreme Court ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission has been seen as one of the more important modern religious liberty cases to reach the high court. Though a decisive majority of justices sided with Phillips, the scope of the ruling was narrow in that it focused on the Colorado Commission’s lack of neutrality. The high court did not weigh in on the deeper conflict between anti-discrimination statutes and the free exercise of religion and free speech.

This poor guy, Jack Phillps, can’t seem to get a break from these people!  He really needs to start a GoFundMe page for his ongoing legal bills just to fight off the gay mafia which won’t rest til he’s out of business permanently.  As we said back when he won his last case at the Supreme Court in a decisive 7-2 ruling, Jack has EVERY right to deny service to anyone he so chooses, if he feels it would be counter to his religious beliefs.  And, freedom of association is a right guarantied to every American by our Constitution, and that decision by the Supremes only affirmed that.  On this Easter Sunday, we wish Mr. Phillips all the best in his latest legal challenge.

Gorsuch: Supreme Court’s rejection of Metro ad ban case won’t be last word on religious speech

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the Catholic Church’s demand to display pro-Christmas ads in the D.C. metro system, but one justice warned that this would not be the high court’s last word on this religious speech issue. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said it was a clear-cut case of viewpoint discrimination when the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority put the kibosh on the church’s Christmas ad. He said the ad would have been allowed without question had Macy’s sponsored it. “Once the government allows a subject to be discussed, it cannot silence religious views on that topic,” Justice Gorsuch wrote in a statement joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. If Macy’s or Amazon wanted to run a Christmas ad with silhouettes of reindeer and the words “Find the Perfect Gift,” that would have been permitted, the archdiocese argued while noting that its 2017 advertisement depicting shepherds could not be placed on the sides of buses. Justice Gorsuch reasoned that the government can’t permit a forum for art and music but then forbid Handel’s “Messiah” or Michelangelo’s “David.” “And once the government declares Christmas open for commentary, it can hardly turn around and mute religious speech on a subject that so naturally invites it,” he said. The Archdiocese of Washington brought the case after WMATA rejected its 2017 ad with the shepherds and sheep. The transit agency cited a policy that barred it from promoting or opposing religion through advertisements.

Cross targeted by atheists will remain standing on Florida public property

A 78-year-old cross on public property in Florida targeted by atheist groups will remain standing after a victory in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled Wednesday that the Bayview Cross in Pensacola, which was built ahead of World War II as a place for the community to gather, does not violate the Constitution. “The Supreme Court has now made clear that religious symbols are an important part of our nation’s history and culture,” Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, said in a statement. The federal appeals court ruled the cross is constitutional, noting it has become “embedded in the fabric of the Pensacola community” and that removing it could “strike many as aggressively hostile to religion.” Four individuals, represented by the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, sued the city in 2016, demanding the cross be torn down. Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson celebrated the ruling. “Pensacola is a historic city with a rich and diverse history. The Bayview Cross is an important part of that history as a symbol of our community’s coming together during a national crisis,” Robinson said. “Today the citizens of Pensacola will celebrate our long-awaited victory and the preservation of the Bayview Cross.” The decision came after the June 2019 Supreme Court’s landmark religious liberty case, American Legion v. American Humanist Association, in which First Liberty Institute successfully defended the World War I memorial cross in Bladensburg, Md. “The Supreme Court made clear in The American Legion decision that the days of governments roaming the land to scrub all public symbols of faith are over,” Mike Berry, general counsel to First Liberty Institute, said. “We’re thrilled to see our victory in that case already making an impact and protecting religious freedom across the country.” Monica Miller, American Humanist Association legal director and senior counsel, said the group is exploring all their options, calling it a “devastating blow” to the Establishment Clause.

Oh WHAAAA Monica!  This is an OUTSTANDING decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and one we should ALL be celebrating.  It is a clear and decisive victory for our religious freedoms.  Despite what these whining atheists would have you believe, the 1st Amendment only says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..”  Our founders who wrote that had fled religious persecution in Great Britain where there was an official national religion.  So, they wanted to make sure that there was no official religion of the United States.  BUT, our founders didn’t want religion (especially Christianity) banned from the public, or from our public schools…which is where that second part comes in.  In other words, we have freedom OF religion, but not freedom FROM religion.  Thank God.

Arizona Supreme Court rules Christian artists can’t be forced to make same-sex wedding invitations

A pair of Christian artists can’t be forced by the city government of Phoenix to make invitations for same-sex marriages, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Monday. Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, the owners of Brush & Nib Studio, were accused of violating a local anti-discrimination ordinance. Monday’s 4-3 decision reversed a lower-court ruling that favored the city. “An individual has autonomy over his or her speech and thus may not be forced to speak a message he or she does not wish to say,” the court’s majority decision read. Duka, a calligrapher, and Koski, a painter, were threatened with six months jail time and $2,500 in fines for every day they were in violation of the ordinance. They are now celebrating their judicial victory as “a huge win for religious freedom and freedom of speech.” Duka and Koski told “Fox News @ Night” last year they “serve all people” and decided to challenge the law to defend “the right of artists to create freely.” “Joanna and Breanna work with all people; they just don’t promote all messages,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Jonathan Scruggs, who argued on the pair’s behalf, said in a statement. “They, like all creative professionals, should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment.” Writing for the majority, Justice Andrew Gould concluded that the city of Phoenix “cannot apply its Human Relations Ordinance” to force Brush & Nib to “create custom wedding invitations celebrating same-sex wedding ceremonies in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs.” “Duka and Koski’s beliefs about same-sex marriage may seem old-fashioned, or even offensive to some,” Gould wrote. “But the guarantees of free speech and freedom of religion are not only for those who are deemed sufficiently enlightened, advanced, or progressive. They are for everyone.”

Exactly!!  And well said, your Honor.  We applaud this outstanding decision by the AZ Supreme Court.  Like the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of a Colorado baker for a similar situation, this is a BIG victory for freedom of speech and freedom of religion…some of our most basic values.  Excellent!!   🙂

Appeals court rules Pennsylvania county can keep cross on its seal

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday a Pennsylvania county’s 70-year-old seal and flag is allowed to remain after being targeted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia ruled 3-0 Thursday that after the Supreme Court upheld the Bladensburg “Peace Cross” war memorial in June as a historic monument, the Lehigh County can maintain its seal as a symbol that “has become part of the community.” The seal and flag feature grain silos, the Liberty Bell, a heart, among other items. But it was the cross at the center of the seal that the Wisconsin-based group had a problem with. FFRF sued the county in 2016 to get the cross removed. A federal judge ruled in FFRF’s favor in 2017 based on the Lemon test from the Supreme Court case, Lemon v. Kurtzman, requiring courts to decide whether the government is trying to “endorse” religion with a mention of God or religion, something the court has moved away from since the June decision by the Supreme Court. “It is common sense that religion played a role in the lives of our nation’s early settlers,” said Diana Verm, senior counsel at Becket, a religious liberty law firm. “It is only right that Lehigh County can continue honoring its history and culture.” The group that complained about the seal was disappointed in the court’s decision. “The appeals court decision validates a Lehigh County seal that sends a wrong, exclusionary message,” Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, said in a statement. “The county should be welcoming of all residents regardless of religion — and it’s appalling that the court didn’t prod county officials to move in that direction.” First Liberty Institute, which successfully defended the Bladensburg Peace Cross at the Supreme Court, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case and said the mere presence of a cross “does not establish a religion.” “The Supreme Court made it clear in its recent decision in The American Legion v. American Humanist Association that the days of offended observers forcing governments to scrub all public references to the divine are over,” Stephanie Taub, First Liberty Institute general counsel, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to see our victory in that case already making an impact.”

Great news!  This is a HUGE victory for religious rights!  We’re thrilled to see the anti-religious bullies getting smacked down in federal court.  Outstanding!!    🙂

Group sues Boston for banning Christian flag, approving 284 others

The city of Boston, Mass. is being sued for religious discrimination for banning the Christian flag while permitting 284 others, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week. Hal Shurtleff, the director and co-founder of Camp Constitution, asked the city to fly the Christian flag, an inter-denominational symbol, as part of Constitution Day on Sep. 17, 2017, for a one-hour event. But the city banned its appearance, saying no non-secular flags could be flown. “There’s no question that it is an unconstitutional act and originally said it was a violation of the First Amendment, which I find ironic,” Shurtleff told Fox News. “I’m optimistic the lawsuit will go our way.” Shurtleff said the city would have accepted it if they had called it the Camp Constitution flag instead of the Christian flag. The group was planning an event with pastors encouraging racial reconciliation, freedom in the United States, and celebrating the link between Christianity and the United States, ending with the presentation of the Christian flag. But after the city’s rejection, the event was canceled. Matthew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a religious freedom law firm representing Shurtleff, slammed the city for the decision, which they made again in 2018. “Censoring religious viewpoints in a public forum where secular viewpoints are permitted violates the First Amendment,” Staver said in a statement. “Boston city officials may not ban the Christian flag as part of a privately-sponsored event when they allow any other flag by numerous private organizations. It’s time for the court to stop the city’s unconstitutional censorship.” A federal court and appeals court previously ruled against Shurtleff, but the new lawsuit has new “key facts” that Liberty Counsel believes will “compel a result in Camp Constitution’s favor.” One is that the city allowed the Turkish flag — with its Islamic star and crescent — to be raised on city hall flagpoles 13 times since 2005, according to the suit. The city has also allowed the Communist Chinese flag to commemorate the anniversary of the Chinese Communist revolution, Cuban, and Vatican flags to fly along with transgender and LGBTQ flags, which were not mentioned in the lawsuit. “Yet, despite all of these many flag raisings containing religious symbols and imagery, and the City’s allowing the official flag of the Catholic Church, Camp Constitution’s proposed flag raising was denied because it was ‘religious,’” the suit states. “There can be no dispute that the City’s denial impermissibly discriminated between religion and non-religion, and discriminated between religious sects. Both violate the Establishment Clause.”

Exactly!

About 80 percent of world lives in areas where religious freedom is ‘highly restricted,’ report says

Pastor Andrew Brunson, jailed in Turkey, was released. Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, was set free. But sadly, their stories are not the norm — religious persecution is on the rise around the globe, according to a new report from the U.S. government that points to Iran, Russia, and China as some of the worst abusers. The Trump Administration puts religious freedom as a big part of its foreign policy, and Pompeo announced the State Department elevated the Office of International Religious Freedom, along with the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, within the organization, giving them more staff and resources. Pompeo called the 2018 International Religious Freedom Report “a chilling array of abuses committed by oppressive regimes, violent extremist groups, and individual citizens.” While there have been significant improvements, the majority of the world is facing rising religious persecution, with nearly 80 percent of the world’s population living in areas where the right to religious freedom is highly restricted. “For all those that run roughshod over religious freedom, I’ll say this: The United States is watching and you will be held to account,” Pompeo said. “History will not be silent about these abuses but only if voices of liberty like ours record it.” While some countries have shown improvements, like Uzbekistan, which for the first time in 13 years is no longer designated as a “country of particular concern,” persecution in other countries has grown. “In Iran, the regime’s crackdown on the Baha’is, Christians, and others continue to shock the conscience. In Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses were absurdly and abhorrently branded as terrorists, as authorities confiscated their property and then threatened their families. In Burma, Rohingya Muslims continue to face violence at the hands of the military. Hundreds of thousands have fled or been forced to live in overcrowded refugee camps,” Pompeo said. “And in China, the government’s intense persecution of many faiths – Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, and Tibetan Buddhists among them is the norm. The Chinese Communist Party has exhibited extreme hostility to all religious faiths since its founding. The party demands that it alone be called God.” The Trump Administration launched the International Religious Freedom Fund, which has received millions of dollars to support victims of persecution. “We will not stop until we see the iron curtain of religious persecution come down,” said Sam Brownback, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. At the same time, the United States could not secure religious freedom alone, he continued, “we need everyone’s help; everyone has a stake in the fight.” Pompeo said he hopes conditions improve leading up to the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, where 1,000 leaders have been invited.