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Progress on All Fronts at the Becket Fund!

A Message from Becket’s Executive Director
May 16, 2018
Dear Friends,

What’s happening at Becket:

Don’t cross this town. A historic cross at a major Navy hub is threatened by a lawsuit by four disgruntled atheists, two of whom aren’t even U.S. citizens. Pensacola, Florida, is having none of it and asked Becket to defend its right to keep the cross, which was erected as the U.S. entered WWII. Becket was in court today to argue that the law does not prohibit religious symbols in the public square.

Little Sisters, Big Win. When HHS—after years of unnecessary lawsuits—finally issued a new order protecting the rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor, two state attorneys general filed new lawsuits seeking to throw out the new protections. After Becket once more stepped up to defend the Little Sisters and their right to continue their vital ministry to the poor and elderly, the states tried keeping the Sisters out of the case. The court in Pennsylvania sided with us and ruled that the Sisters have the right to defend themselves against this latest round of attacks.

A lesson in equality. Should poor and minority students in New Mexico be denied access to a statewide textbook-lending program solely because their schools are religious? Two atheist activists have relied on the state’s centuries-old, anti-religious Blaine amendment to file a suit blocking students at religious schools from a program designed to benefit all New Mexico children. At oral argument before the New Mexico Supreme Court last week, Becket argued against interpreting the Blaine Amendment to discriminate against religious schools, which heavily serve poor and rural communities in the state. A decision is expected before the end of this year.

Becket in the news:

Hope for a Jewish community center. Hamodia covered Becket’s victory on behalf of an Orthodox Jewish community in Boca Raton, Florida, which faced lawsuits designed to stop construction of its community center.

Re-writing history. The Morris County Daily Record wrote about Becket’s appeal to the Supreme Court to allow the county to issue historic preservation grants to churches and houses of worship as they would to any other landmark on the registry of historic sites.

Fear of feathers. American Indian feather dancer and Becket client Robert Soto made news by asking the federal government to formally end its criminal ban on using eagle feathers for Native American religious rituals. Pastor Soto’s request cited his victory in a lawsuit against the Department of Interior after a federal agent raided his religious powwow.

What we’re reading:

Doctor’s orders. Jack Solowey argued in The Hill that the new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Department of Health and Human Services safeguards longstanding protections for healthcare workers, as opposed to creating a new set of privileges for “private faith over public health.”

Grand opening. Andrea Picciotti-Bayer covered the opening of the new Center for Religious Liberty, which will be headed by Becket President Mark Rienzi, at the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law.

Senate Confirms Becket’s Former General Counsel Kyle Duncan for Fifth Circuit Judgeship

A Message from Becket’s Executive Director
April 24, 2018

I couldn’t wait to tell you the news: Becket’s former General Counsel, Kyle Duncan, was just confirmed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by the Senate with a 50-47 vote. This is a great day for our country and religious liberty!

I am including the press release with more information below. Kyle led the Becket team to great victories in his tenure. We applaud this as a sign of the importance of religious liberty for all!

Montse

————————————————————————————————————————-

Subject: BREAKING: Senate Confirms Becket’s Former General Counsel Kyle Duncan for Fifth Circuit Judgeship

Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 24, 2018

Senate confirms Becket’s former General Counsel Kyle Duncan for Fifth Circuit Judgeship

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Becket proudly congratulates Kyle Duncan, Becket’s former general counsel, on his confirmation today by the United States Senate to serve as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Kyle’s colleagues and opposing counsel of all persuasions have praised his qualifications in knowledge, experience, and integrity, for appointment to the federal bench. The following statement can be attributed to Becket President Mark Rienzi:

“That sound you just heard was the stained glass ceiling shattering. Not only has our country gained a great jurist, but Kyle’s confirmation is proof positive that defending religious liberty for people of all faiths is a core part of our country’s long tradition of public service.”

Kyle served as Louisiana’s first solicitor general from 2008-2012, and then as general counsel of Becket from 2012-2014. Under his leadership, Becket won a number of decisive victories for religious liberty for people of all faiths, including the Hobby Lobby case.

Other highlights of Becket’s work under Kyle’s leadership included securing kosher meals for Jewish prisoners, winning a Sikh woman her right to work for the federal government without violating her faith, and helping an Amish community preserve its centuries-old building practices.

“At Becket, Kyle was a steadfast defender of religious liberty for people of all faiths and was known for his intelligence and evenhandedness. His generosity and respect for others has made him a great advocate and will make him a fair and respected judge. We applaud his confirmation,” added Rienzi.

Kyle will be sworn in later this year.

Gratefully,

Montse Alvarado
Executive Director

The Becket Fund Is 7-0 in 2018!

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

A Message from Becket’s Executive Director
April 18, 2018
Dear Friends,

We’re 7-0 and counting since the first of the year.

We are especially proud of our victory against FEMA’s longstanding practice of discrimination against houses of worship in need of disaster relief. When Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston last year, countless churches and synagogues opened their doors to those who lost everything and had nowhere to go. And yet houses of worship damaged in the storm were denied any aid from the federal government. The only reason? Religion.

Becket filed lawsuits on behalf of three churches and two synagogues that were hard-hit by the storm. That litigation went all the way to the Supreme Court and ended when FEMA announced that it would change its policy. FEMA admitted what Becket had made clear all along: helping zoos, stamp clubs, and homeless shelters, but not churches, synagogues, and mosques, violates the Constitution.

Thanks to Becket, FEMA’s policy of religious discrimination is no more.

What’s happening at Becket:  

A woman’s right to free speech. The Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, a small religious non-profit that serves at-risk women and their babies, won a huge victory against the city of Baltimore when a federal appeals court agreed with Becket that the Center does not have to post signs about abortion on their doors.

Two-way tolerance. In a landmark decision, a federal court agreed with Becket that refusing to accommodate North Carolina Magistrate Gayle Myrick’s religious beliefs violated civil rights laws. Magistrate Myrick and coworkers arranged a simple schedule swap so that every same-sex couple could get a courthouse wedding, but Myrick would not have to perform them in violation of her religious beliefs. The government rejected this swap despite approving similar swaps for things like childcare snafus and fishing trips. Myrick’s victory demonstrates that LGBT rights and religious liberty don’t have to be at odds (watch Gayle’s story here).

A lesson on religious liberty. The Christian group Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) was kicked off campus at the University of Iowa after refusing the school’s demand that it “revise” its faith charter and submit an “acceptable plan” for choosing leaders. With Becket’s help, BLinC sued the University, and the court agreed: the school must allow BLinC back on campus and treat them like all other groups allowed to set member and leadership qualifications.

Becket in the News:

Protecting pregnancy centers. Nancy Cecconi, board member and nurse of Becket client Support Circle Pregnancy Centers, wrote in the Washington Examiner about her pregnancy center’s struggle against local laws that would force them to advertise for abortion and discriminate against them in online advertising platforms (learn more about Support Circle’s story here).

Campus Christians fight back. The Washington Times covered our successful intervention on behalf of the 75-year-old chapter of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and its battle with administrators at Wayne State University who tried to shut the group down because of their Christian beliefs.

Preserve hope for kids. Melissa Buck argued in The Hill that the ACLU’s lawsuit against the Michigan Catholic adoption agency where she and her husband adopted four children is about scoring political points at the expense of neglected and abused children in Michigan’s foster care system.

Podcast junkies, rejoice! The Federalist plugged our new podcast, Stream of Conscience, and wrote, “It will become your newest podcast addiction.”

What Becket is Reading:

Aid for all. In an editorial, the Chicago Tribune sided with Becket on FEMA, writing that houses of worship “should be eligible for broad-based assistance aimed at helping communities recover from natural disasters.”

The proof’s in the pudding. In NRO’s Bench Memos, Mark Rienzi set the record straight on the case of NIFLA v. Becerra and pointed out that the government hasn’t offered a single example to prove its argument that pregnancy centers engage in “false advertising.”

School choice and secularism. Seth Lipsky praised the “freedom of parents to choose a religious education as a good thing” in the New York Post.

Thank You for Protecting Persecuted Christians!

Brother Knight,

Thanks to the generous support of our members and friends, we raised more than $138,000 during our KofC #GivingTuesday campaign to help Christians and those in their care in the Middle East.

This equates to almost 70 families being able to move back to their homes. Or, more than 1,970 families receiving food for an entire month. Together, we have made a difference — thank you!

Of course, the need is ongoing — most Catholics in this country are barely aware of the genocide. This Catholic News Service story spells it out clearly: Most Americans are more worried about Christmas shopping than saving a Christian life.

It’s time we made a choice. Are we going to sit by and do nothing? Or are we going to use this Advent to pray for our suffering brother and sisters and encourage others to do the same?

All it takes is a simple tweet or share using the hashtags #ChristiansAtRisk and #KofC. Sharing these links, or even emailing your friends about the situation, will cost nothing more than a few seconds, but they can make a huge difference in spreading awareness!

Together, we can continue to change the future of Christianity! Together we can continue to make a difference.

Knights of Columbus
1 Columbus Plaza, New Haven, CT 06510
203-752-4000

Combating Sparkle Season

A Message from Becket’s Executive Director
November 28, 2017
Dear Friends,

Will you join me in combating Sparkle Season? Yes, Sparkle Season.

Sparkle Season is the hollowed-out celebration of Christmas and Hanukkah celebrated in Pittsburgh every year at the behest of squeamish secularists.

No doubt you’ve gotten a taste of some variation on Sparkle Season in your hometown. The beloved town crèche was packed up one year and replaced with a bland assortment of polar bears, penguins, and snowflakes. The Christmas tree near city hall was renamed the “Great Pine Tree.” You now get the proverbial “Happy Holidays” in lieu of “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah.”

Have no doubt, you will be inundated with “Sparkle Season” for the next several weeks as our American tradition of publicly celebrating a variety of religious holidays continues to be watered down, or washed away altogether.

But Sparkle Season and its other secularized sister celebrations are not as innocent as they sound. Quite the opposite: they represent an increasing hostility to any public reference to religion. The same people that give us Sparkle Season are also leading campaigns around the country to scrub the public square of any reference to our religious heritage.

In one of our cases, Becket is defending a cross that has stood for 76 years in the town of Pensacola that atheists want taken down. The cross is a treasured monument to those from the naval town who gave their lives during World War II. It remains a vibrant meeting place where people from the town come together in common cause.

Becket is proudly defending the town’s right to retain that cross on public land, and we are proud of past wins defending cherished displays of faith – such as our victory for the veteran’s memorial, Big Mountain Jesus, in Montana – displays that monumentalize our freedom of religion and our belief as a nation that religion is not something to be boxed away like a Christmas ornament at the end of the season.

Gratefully,

Montse Alvarado
Executive Director

We’ve Given Thanks, Now Let’s Give Back!

Dear Brother Knights,

Just last week we sat around our tables, giving thanks to God for the great blessings we enjoy.

Today, on #GivingTuesday, it’s time to give back.

With your help, we can rebuild and resettle the predominantly Christian town of Karamles, Iraq. A few years ago, the town was devastated by ISIS forces — homes were looted, with Christian artwork vandalized and family possessions burned, while others were left completely in rubble, demolished by airstrikes. No home was left undamaged.

Today we’re working to restore these homes, brick by brick. We’re also working on other efforts in the region, including medical relief and education and food programs. Each and every one of these programs allows Christians to find strength and hope for the future and will allow them to return to the homes they love.

Watch this amazing testimony from Father Douglas Bazi. Despite being tortured, he opened his church as a home for Christians!

To do this, though, we need your help:

Donate. For about $70, you can feed a family for a month. For about $2,000, you can move a family displaced by ISIS back into their home. Whatever amount you donate, it will make a difference!
Let people know — via social media and email — that you donated. We know, we know — it doesn’t seem very humble to talk about your good deeds, but in the spirit of charity, we need you to help us spread the word! Just a simple tweet or Facebook message using the hashtags #KofC and #GivingTuesday is all it takes!

Together, we can make a difference in the lives of these families. Together, we can change the future of Christianity!
BUILD A TOWN. CHANGE THE FUTURE.

One hundred percent of your donation goes directly to benefit
persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

Week of Awareness for Persecuted Christians

Brother Knight,

Beginning this Sunday, Nov. 26, the Knights of Columbus will join the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other Catholic organizations in a Week of Awareness for Persecuted Christians from Nov. 26-Dec. 2.

During this week, many councils will be working to raise awareness about the plight of persecuted Christians. We hope you can join in these efforts, which you can learn about at www.kofc.org/weekofawareness.

You can also support our brothers and sisters who have suffered for their faith through prayer.

Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori has composed the following prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters:
Prayer for Persecuted Christians

O God of all the nations,
the One God who is and was and always will be,
in your providence you willed that your Church
be united to the suffering of your Son.
Look with mercy on your servants
who are persecuted for their faith in you.
Grant them perseverance and courage
to be worthy imitators of Christ.
Bring your wisdom upon leaders of nations
to work for peace among all peoples.
May your Spirit open conversion
for those who contradict your will,
that we may live in harmony.
Give us the grace to be united in truth and freedom,
and to always seek your will in our lives.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

To learn more about the Order’s efforts to aid persecuted Christians and those in their care, or to make a donation, visit www.ChristiansAtRisk.org.

Sincerely,

Knights of Columbus

Knights of Columbus
1 Columbus Plaza, New Haven, CT 06510
203-752-4000

Thanking God for Religious Liberty

A Message from Becket’s Executive Director
November 22, 2017
Dear Friends,

In 1999, Becket’s Founder wrote a piece called “The Feast of the Intransitive Verb,” and in his wonderfully witty way, described how Thanksgiving points to our longing for the transcendent. As he put it, “You can’t just sit there and ‘thank.’ You have to thank someone.” At Becket, we thank God—for the blessings in our lives, for the privilege of defending religious liberty every day, and for your partnership with us.

In true Becket fashion, this holiday comes with a flurry of activity. The Little Sisters of the Poor are going back to court. And houses of worship in Houston continue to fight to rebuild their churches while serving those in need: unloading trailers of food and goods for their disaster-stricken communities so they can celebrate Thanksgiving, too.

What’s happening at Becket:

The Little Sisters head back to court: Incredibly, the states of Pennsylvania and California are attacking the Little Sisters of the Poor and trying to take away their religious exemption from the HHS Mandate (to score political points). Becket is defending them in both cases.

New Mexico takes a second look at its bigoted Blaine Amendment. New Mexico adopted a sensible program that lends textbooks to children who need them, including when they attend a religious school. Unfortunately, the program was struck down because of the state’s anti-religious Blaine Amendment. Becket’s Eric Baxter is now back in the New Mexico Supreme Court fighting to put an end to the reign of Blaine.

Tribes seek justice in court after government needlessly bulldozed their sacred site. The federal government bulldozed Oregon tribes’ sacred burial grounds in 2008 despite having numerous alternatives to widen the highway without harming the site. In late October, Becket and members of each tribe asked the court for justice.

Pro-life pregnancy centers are not the government’s messengers on abortion. A Federal Court in Baltimore struck down a law that requires pro-life pregnancy centers to post government disclaimers on their waiting room walls. But the city couldn’t take no for an answer, and appealed. Becket was at the appeals court in Richmond for oral argument late last month, as the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns defended its right to talk to women about pregnancy free from government interference.

Becket in the news:

Becket President Bill Mumma in First Things: The country has arrived at a tipping point. The people have rejected the lies offered by the dominant elite. Those elites are in a state of anxiety. They know their reign is coming to an end. It is up to us to seize this moment.

Groundbreaking study by Becket Deputy General Counsel Luke Goodrich: Critics of Hobby Lobby predicted it would open the floodgates to a host of novel claims, transforming “religious freedom” from a shield for protecting religious minorities into a sword for imposing Christian values in the areas of abortion, contraception, and gay rights. But that didn’t happen. Read the study here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Montse Alvarado
Executive Director

We Honor Our Veterans!

Thu, Nov 9, 2017 2:41 pm

Veterans Day and Remembrance Day are opportunities to remember the sacrifices made by each and every member of the American Armed Forces and Canadian Armed Services — including so many brother Knights — who have served or who are serving now and who bear the wounds of war.

To these brave men and women we say thank you for your service. Please join us in a moment of silence to pray for each of them, especially those wounded and ill warriors still suffering for our freedom.

This Veterans Day we also remember our brother Knights who have earned the Medal of Honor for their heroic bravery while serving in the armed forces. In addition, we continue to support veterans through our Warriors to Lourdes program, sponsored in partnership with the Archdiocese for Military Services, USA. If you would like to join us in supporting a veteran’s journey of faith, click here.

Mary, Immaculate Virgin, Our Mother,
please pray to your Son, Our Lord,
for our warriors and our veterans,
for our countries and our continued freedom. Amen.

Knights of Columbus
1 Columbus Plaza, New Haven, CT 06510

Little Sisters, Big Victory!

A Message from Becket’s Executive Director
October 17, 2017

Dear Friends,

It’s been a long time coming. No, I’m not talking about the fall weather. I’m talking about victory for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

As you may recall, the Little Sisters are nuns who spend their lives caring for the elderly poor. Six years ago, the federal government issued a rule requiring the Little Sisters to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion drugs in violation of their religious beliefs—or pay millions in fines to the IRS.

The Little Sisters refused, and Becket took their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ordered the government to work out a solution, and less than two weeks ago, the Department of Health & Human Services issued a new rule exempting the Little Sisters and others like them from the mandate. The new rule fulfills the Supreme Court’s order and President Trump’s promise earlier this year to protect the Little Sisters.

Now that the new rule is in place, the Little Sisters expect to get final, binding relief from the courts so they can go back to fulfilling their mission of serving the elderly poor.

What’s happening at Becket:

More good news for religious freedom. The Trump administration also just issued important new guidance for interpreting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—a key law that protected the Little Sisters and others (see our database here). The new guidance emphasizes that religious liberty is protected both in the marketplace and in the workplace, and that government discrimination against religious people is forbidden.

Defending the sacred in Oregon. On Monday, October 23, Becket, alongside members of the Klickitat and Cascade Tribes, will be in court seeking justice after the government needlessly bulldozed the tribes’ sacred burial site. (Learn more about the tribes’ story here.)

Wedding cakes and the right to dissent. Weddings are viewed as important and sacred events by many Americans. Religious dissenters, like Jack Phillips, shouldn’t be forced to participate in a religious ceremony that violates their beliefs. Jack’s case will be heard by the Supreme Court on December 5.

Becket in the news:

He’s with them. James Freeman writes in this Wall Street Journal opinion piece, that the government “picked on the wrong nuns and the nuns seemed to have picked the right lawyers.”

Peace to an unnecessary fight. Becket Senior Counsel Hannah Smith reflects on the new mandate exemption and how it should help bring peace to an “unprecedented escalation of the culture wars against religious organizations.”

Houston, we have a problem. Check out my interview on Fox News, as well as Diana Verm’s C-SPAN interview explaining how absurd it is that zoos, squid tanks and museums are eligible for FEMA’s disaster-relief aid, but churches are excluded. Also, the Chicago Tribune agrees with us that FEMA should not exclude houses of worship from receiving disaster aid simply because they are religious.

What Becket is reading:

Keep pastors in the communities they serve. Becket client and Chicago-based pastor, Chris Butler, takes issue with a recent court ruling that strikes down a 65-year-old tax provision and threatens pastors and churches with almost $1 billion in new taxes.

Fighting words in Florida. The mayor of Pensacola Florida (and Becket’s client), Ashton Hayward, has a message for atheists trying to tear down the Bayview cross: I won’t back down.

A return to common sense. Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Lori praise the new HHS mandate exemption in a joint statement but agree that there is still work to be done to finally end this fight.

Sincerely,

Montse Alvarado
Executive Director