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Religious Freedom

MEET THE GOVERNMENT’S IMAGINARY FRIEND!

A Message from Becket’s Executive Director
August 31, 2018
Dear Friends,

The government has an imaginary friend, and he is offended. What exactly offends him? It’s almost easier to ask what doesn’t—the list is shorter.

At the University of Iowa, this imaginary person is offended by religious student groups. This summer, the university purged 39 student groups, including InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship, from campus. Their sin? Requiring their leaders to agree with their mission. According to the university, asking leaders of a Christian organization to believe in the Christian faith would offend and discriminate against other students. Fortunately, while the government brings its imaginary friends to court, Becket brings real people and real legal arguments. Just a week after filing suit against the University of Iowa, Becket succeeded in winning back a place on campus for religious student groups—for now.

This trend, of government trying to freeze out religious groups under the guise of protecting hypothetical people from harm, is rampant. The City of Philadelphia recently banned Catholic Social Services from working with foster children because of the Catholic group’s religious beliefs about marriage—even though no one has ever filed a complaint. But protecting the government’s imaginary friends comes at a cost. Because the City refuses to work with Catholic Social Services, 35 willing foster families’ homes sit empty, while hundreds of children remain in the foster care system waiting for homes.

The government insists on protecting people who don’t exist, at the expense of those who do. Becket will defend real people over imaginary ones any day.

What’s happening at Becket:

Hold onto those pennies. This week, a federal appeals court rejected another attempt by atheist activist Michael Newdow to strip the motto “In God We Trust” from our national currency. Instead of applying the long-criticized “Lemon test” (see our video), the court adopted Becket’s argument—that the court should rely on history and treat religion as a normal part of the public square.

Becket and the bishops defeat an abortion group in court—again. Last month, I wrote to you about our win in Texas for the Catholic bishops. An abortion group called Whole Woman’s Health had tried to use the force of the courts to require the bishops to hand over private, internal conversations about abortion. After we won in the Fifth Circuit, the abortion group requested an en banc hearing (a hearing in front of all the court’s judges). The court rejected that request, solidifying its decision to protect the bishops from a “‘Hobson’s choice’ of retreating from the public square or defending its position.”

Becket’s client, Florida rabbi, speaks at DOJ religious liberty panel. On July 30, the U.S. Department of Justice held a panel called Religious Liberty: Our First Freedom and Why it Matters. The panel included opening remarks by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, addresses by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of the Archdiocese of Louisville and Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, and featured Becket’s client, Rabbi Ruvi New of the Chabad of East Boca Raton, Florida.

Becket in the news:

Courts can get Stockholm Syndrome, too. Becket attorney Daniel Blomberg explains how a recent decision from the Eighth Circuit has confirmed the Supreme Court’s instructions to federal appellate courts to stop ignoring history when considering religious symbol cases.

Restoring “true diversity” on campus. Forbes contributor describes how the University of Iowa “went nuclear” on student groups, and why the new Supreme Court makeup could make a difference for Becket’s case for InterVarsity.

“When is a Christian cross not Christian?” Deseret News talks about Becket’s case on a memorial cross in Pensacola, Florida. Scrubbing the public square of religious references does nothing but “tell a false story about who we are as human beings,” says Becket’s Luke Goodrich.

Churches can’t be punished for removing bad pastors. The Christian Post’s take on Becket’s case representing Sixth Mount Zion, a historic church under attack for voting for its pastor to step down after his poor leadership led to a huge drop in attendance and a surge in expenses. In July we defended the Pittsburgh church in court, where the judge verbally affirmed the Hosanna-Tabor ruling that protects churches’ autonomy in hiring decisions.

What Becket is reading:

City of Brotherly Love? Not for foster families. Congressman Mike Kelly writes about the “obvious illegality” of Philadelphia’s attack on Catholic Social Services’ foster agency, and how it’s all about a “religious dispute of the city’s own invention.”

First they came for the Catholic hospitals. For over a hundred years, Catholic hospitals have been leading healthcare in America and doing so in a way that aligns with Catholic beliefs. This FiveThirtyEight portrait of rural Catholic hospitals is an example of why they could see more attacks on ideological grounds.

The law as teacher. A recent poll shows growing support for religious freedom, Religion News Service reports. Whether it’s a short-term shift or a lasting trend is unclear, but it could be because of big wins like Masterpiece.

Gratefully,

Montse Alvarado
Executive Director

The Wins Are Bigger In Texas And SCOTUS Winds Down Its Term

Fri, Jul 20, 2018 11:49 am
Montse Alvarado info@becketlaw.org
A Message from Becket’s Executive Director
July 20, 2018
Dear Friends,

I write to you on the heels of a remarkable victory. On July 15, after several all-nighters and under intense time pressure, our attorneys won permanent protection for the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops against the outrageous demands of an abortion group.

In June, the abortion group, Whole Woman’s Health, sued the State of Texas, seeking the right to dispose of aborted human remains in landfills or sewers, rather than by burial or cremation. Seeking to care for unborn children and needy mothers, the Texas Bishops offered to help the State by providing free burial in any Catholic cemetery.

The abortion group then tried to use its lawsuit to punish the Bishops by forcing them to hand over sensitive internal communications about religious doctrine. In a swift back-and-forth, the trial judge ordered the Bishops to hand over their conversations; Becket filed an emergency appeal in the Fifth Circuit. This week, the Court gave the Bishops permanent protection, saying that the order had violated the Bishops’ rights by imposing a “‘Hobson’s choice’ of retreating from the public square or defending its position.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court wound down its term by upholding free speech in three major cases. NIFLA protected pro-life organizations’ right to speak freely about abortion. Masterpiece affirmed a Colorado cake baker’s right to step aside from promoting same-sex marriage in violation of his religious beliefs. Janus protected public-sector workers from being forced to pay for speech by unions they oppose. These cases were different needles with the same thread. All stood up against government-imposed speech—and won.

Finally, there was Justice Kennedy’s retirement announcement. We are following Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirmation process with great interest and are optimistic that the Court will move to take religious liberty and free speech cases even more seriously in the future.

What’s happening at Becket:

SCOTUS to Baltimore: You (still) can’t control private speech. Back in January, we won a major victory at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for a pro-life pregnancy center. The City of Baltimore then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking to force the pregnancy center to display government signs about abortion. In June, the Supreme Court denied the City’s appeal, reminding the City that, no, the government cannot dictate pro-life pregnancy centers’ speech.

Churches can choose their leaders. We continue to build on our unanimous 2012 victory in Hosanna-Tabor, affirming the right of churches to choose their leaders. On July 12, Becket represented Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in federal appellate court, defending the church’s right to remove a pastor who had failed in his leadership and stewardship of the church. We expect a decision within the year.

#KidsRightsNotFights. In one of Becket’s cases defending faith-based foster care, the ACLU has sued the State of Michigan for partnering with Catholic foster and adoption agencies, putting hundreds of vulnerable children at risk of never finding permanent homes. On July 12, Becket represented St. Vincent Catholic Charities, Shamber Flore, and the Buck family in district court to defend faith-based agencies and the vital work they do in placing children in loving homes.

Can’t get enough of the Little Sisters? Neither can we. That’s why we’re telling the behind-the-scenes story, complete with Sister Constance’s take, on our podcast. Listen here.

Becket in the news:

Profile of a Lion of the Law. The Wall Street Journal writes that Leonard Leo, Becket’s 2017 Canterbury Medalist, is “indispensable” to President Trump when it comes to advice on judicial appointments.

The end doesn’t justify the means. Becket’s Diana Verm explains why a “good” ruling decided in the wrong way—in this case, for the “In God We Trust” motto—can have damaging repercussions on religious liberty.

They’re onto us. The New York Times has finally caught on that Becket defends religious liberty for all—and why it’s a winning strategy.

What Becket is reading:

Why liberals can get behind Kavanaugh. Yale Law Professor Akhil Reed Amar takes to the New York Times to explain why President Trump’s Supreme Court pick is “a superb nominee.”

How to keep up with 140 (and counting) state bills. Deseret News has compiled an outstanding, clear, and thorough list of 140 bills related to religious liberty across the country. See the list here, easily sortable by state or topic (adoption, campus, health care, and more).

The Hobby Lobby facts speak for themselves. An exchange on Twitter exposed a New Republic writer’s ignorance about our Supreme Court victory in Hobby Lobby and the Green family’s beliefs about contraceptives—and how the truth gives her “some thinking to do.” The Washington Examiner writes it up.

Not a half-baked decision. Commentary Magazine writes on Justice Kennedy’s Supreme Court career and how it led to the majority opinion in the Masterpiece case.

Gratefully,

Montse Alvarado
Executive Director

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.

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

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

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

Update: Schools, Synagogues and FEMA

A Message from Becket’s Executive Director September 11, 2017

Dear Friends,

School is open, Congress is back in session and Becket is not missing a beat.

Pro-life pregnancy centers provide free counseling and care to women and children in need. But the cities of San Francisco and Baltimore are trying to force them to provide something else: government-approved messages about abortion. That’s right—the government wants to make pro-life pregnancy centers provide pro-abortion messages.

But Becket is fighting back. This month we’re defending a San Francisco pregnancy center. Next month, we’ll be protecting a Baltimore pregnancy center. In both cases, we are arguing that the government has no right to compel pro-life pregnancy centers to speak a pro-abortion message. Free speech and religious liberty are inextricable—and both rights protect the women who need the pregnancy centers’ vital services.

What’s Happening at Becket:

Churches—not judges—choose their own leaders. Becket won a landmark victory for the Archdiocese of New York and its Catholic schools, affirming Churchs’ constitutional right to choose principals and other leaders who share their faith. The ruling strengthens the unanimous Supreme Court decision Becket secured five years ago, which made clear that a religious institution’s right to choose its own leaders is at the heart of the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment (Watch: The Ministerial Exception Explained).

A synagogue’s big step toward a new home. A Jewish congregation in Boca Raton, Florida, was sued by hostile landowners who wanted to stop the congregation from building a synagogue. Their lawsuit threatened to gut protections for houses of worship across the country. So Becket stepped in and won a major victory for the congregation (Watch: What’s stopping synagogue construction in East Boca?). Now Becket is defending that victory on appeal.

Hurricanes don’t discriminate, so why should FEMA? Many churches suffered severe damage from Hurricane Harvey, but the federal government has a policy of denying disaster relief grants to all houses of worship. Why? Because they’re houses of worship. To end this discriminatory policy, Becket sued FEMA on behalf of three flooded churches, arguing that churches should be treated no worse than other non-profits that receive aid, like community centers, museums, and even zoos. The lawsuit follows the recent Supreme Court victory in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, which held that the government could not discriminate against churches when awarding public benefits.

Becket in the News:

Becket profiled in WSJ. In case you missed it, Becket’s profile, history, and philosophy were featured in the Wall Street Journal’s “The Weekend Interview.”

A historic win for a synagogue. The nation’s oldest synagogue, Congregation Shearith Israel, won a major battle to keep ownership of the nation’s oldest synagogue building and centuries-old Jewish artifacts. See Becket’s Eric Rassbach quoted in the New York Times about the case.

Disaster relief for houses of worship. The Washington Post profiled our lawsuit on behalf of three small churches in Houston that were damaged in Hurricane Harvey.

What Becket is Reading:

God is not a dirty word. The states agree, according to this Pew Research Center analysis.

“Hate map”. This article from The Washington Times sheds light on the impact the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate map” is having on religious non-profits.

Sincerely,

Montse Alvarado
Executive Director

Becket Fund Featured in the Media

A Message from Becket’s Executive Director
August 16, 2017

Dear Friends,

The work of Becket has been consistently featured in the media recently. Three quick highlights I didn’t want you to miss:

Building a Synagogue does not establish religion: Video and victory!

For almost a decade the Chabad of East Boca Raton, Florida has been trying to build a synagogue for their growing congregation. What’s stopping them? A small but vocal and well-funded minority has opposed the construction of the Chabad’s much-needed new synagogue. Watch our new video (4 minutes) to see why we’re defending this vibrant congregation in their important fight for religious freedom.

WSJ Feature: “The Weekend Interview” put Becket on the brunch table

In case you missed it, Becket was featured in the Wall Street Journal’s The Weekend Interview. I was excited to share Becket’s profile and our approach to religious liberty. I talk Becket history, current cases, and how other freedoms—like freedom of speech—are inseparable from religious liberty. Read the piece—and see my caricature.

Winning in Court AND in Film Festivals

Last but not least, we won the Audience Choice Award at the prestigious Anthem Film Festival at FreedomFest for our video And My Prison Bars Bloom: The true story of Armando Valladares, a former Cuban political prisoner and Becket’s 2016 Canterbury Medalist. If you never had the chance to watch the video about Armando before, it is well worth the time.

I hope you’re having a great summer!

Sincerely,

Montse Alvarado
Executive Director