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July 2013

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Becket Fund Advisor to Head U.S. Religious Liberty Commission

Visit Our Website July 30, 2013
Dear Friends,I wanted to share this piece from last week’s The Wall Street Journal entitled, “Religious Freedom Is About More Than Religion.” It’s an invigoratingexplanation of why religious liberty is so vital to everyone from the most atheistic atheist to the most devout clergyman.And, it was co-authored by Professor Robert P. George of Princeton University, who is not only a member of the Becket Fund’s Board of Directors but also the newly elected chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. 

The Commission was established by Congress in the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.  It’s an independent and bipartisan entity that not only monitors the status of religious liberty abroad, but also issues recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.  It has a history of prompting American action to advance the cause of religious liberty overseas.


Professor George is joined on the Commission by another Becket Fund board member, Harvard Professor Mary Ann Glendon, as well.


The Becket Fund is fortunate not only to have strong supporters like you in our fight to defend religious liberty, but also some of the most respected minds in religious liberty circles on our Board of Directors.


I’ve also pasted Professor George’s op-ed below my signature.  Bring it with you to the pool or the beach.  You’ll be ready to take on the world once you’ve finished it!


Thanks again for your support.  You are such a vital part of our work to defend and promote religious liberty.  We’re grateful to have strong partners like you in this important fight.



Kristina Arriaga

Executive Director

P.S.  Here’s the op-ed by Professor George and Ms. Katrina Lantos Swett, the outgoing Chairman of the Commission:


Religious Freedom Is About More Than Religion U.S. foreign policy should promote liberty of belief—and unbelief



A common theory about freedom of religion suggests that such a value is grounded in a modus vivendi, or compromise: People agree to respect each other’s freedom in order to avoid religiously motivated strife. But the modus vivendi theory obscures the deep ground of principle on which the right of religious liberty rests and the true reasons for respecting the religious freedom of others.


As a Republican and a Democrat on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, we are committed, with our colleagues, to advancing religious liberty around the globe. One of our goals is to make clear that such liberty is not simply a matter of sensible social compromise, or just an American ideal or a Western value, but an essential element of human dignity.


We humans reflect on our condition and inquire into the origins of the cosmos and the meaning of our lives. We seek answers to the deepest questions: Where do we come from? What is our destiny? Is there a transcendent source of meaning and value? Is there a “higher law” that obliges us to rise above our personal interests and desires in order to “do unto others as we would have them do unto us”?


Many of us grasp the point of this quest because we experience ourselves as more than merely material beings tied to nature’s necessities. Our most immediate and intimate experiences of ourselves are as free and rational creatures—agents capable of choosing, thus helping to shape our world. We sense that we are responsible for our own actions, and we judge that others, by the same token, are responsible for theirs.


Some argue that this experience is illusory, and that we are determined in our actions purely by material causes. But these arguments themselves presuppose that the quest to understand the truth about the human condition is a deeply worthy one. They honor the questions that give rise to the quest, even in proposing answers meant to establish its futility.


To respect fundamental human rights is to favor and honor the person who is protected by those rights—including the rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly and religion.


To respect the person is to favor human flourishing in its many dimensions. For those who regard humans not just as material beings but also as spiritual ones—free, rational and responsible—it is obvious that their spiritual well-being is no less important than their physical, psychological, intellectual, social and moral well-being.


It should be equally obvious that respect for the flourishing of people requires respect for their freedom—as individuals and together with others in community—to address the deepest questions of human existence and meaning. This allows them to lead lives of authenticity and integrity by fulfilling what they conscientiously believe to be their religious and moral duties.


Religious faith by its nature must be free. A coerced “faith” is no faith at all. Compulsion can cause a person to manifest the outward signs of belief or unbelief. It cannot produce the interior acts of intellect and will that constitute genuine faith.


Coercion in the cause of belief, whether religious or secular, produces not genuine conviction, but pretense and inauthenticity. It is therefore essential that religious freedom include the right to change one’s beliefs and religious affiliation. It also includes the right to witness to one’s beliefs in public as well as private, and to act—while respecting the equal right of others to do the same—on one’s religiously inspired convictions in carrying out the duties of citizenship. Religious liberty includes a heavy presumption against being coerced to act contrary to one’s sense of religious duty. This is a presumption that can be overridden only when necessary to achieve an essential public interest and when no less-restrictive alternative exists.


Because the freedom to live according to one’s beliefs is so integral to human flourishing, the full protections of religious liberty must extend to all—even to those whose answers to the deepest questions reject belief in the transcendent.


The British religious thinker John Henry Newman observed in 1874 that “conscience has rights because it has duties.” We honor the rights of conscience in matters of faith because people must be free to fulfill what they believe to be their solemn duties.


Since America’s founding, the country has honored this form of liberty. Today, when religious freedom in many parts of the world is under siege, one of the aims of U.S. foreign policy should be to combat such intolerance—not just because religious freedom reduces the risk of sectarian conflict, but more fundamentally because it protects the liberty that is central to human dignity.


Mr. George is a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. Ms. Lantos Swett is president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. They are, respectively, chairman and vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.


Visit Our Website July 23, 2013
Dear Friends,I can’t wait to tell you about the great religious liberty win in Europe, but I have to follow up with you first about our tremendous victory for Hobby Lobby last Friday.I cannot overstate how important this victory is.  As I mentioned last Friday, Hobby Lobby’s win means the tide is turning against the government and FOR religious liberty lovers everywhere!


When Judge Joe Heaton issued the injunction right there from the bench on Friday he said, “There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.”


We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!


Now, the government is considering asking the Supreme Court to hear an appeal.  In fact, Justice Department attorneys said that they should make that decision before the end of September.  So, we’ll know in just a couple of months if we’re headed to the Supreme Court to win this case against the HHS mandate once and for all.


We’re ready.  We know that our arguments are strong.  We know the Constitution is on our side.  We know that our attorneys are the best.  And, we know that we have the faithful support of great friends like you behind us.  Thank you for your generous moral and financial support throughout all of this.


Please don’t forget to thank Hobby Lobby’s founding family, the Greens, for standing up for the rights of all business owners to maintain their religious liberty when they earn a living.


Now, onto the great news from overseas!


On July 9th, the European Court of Human Rights upheld vital restrictions on the authority of government  to meddle in the internal affairs of churches.


This is a really important victory for Americans, too!


In this particular case, a group of dissident priests of the Romanian Orthodox Church wanted to form a trade union, complete with the right to strike, over the objections of the Church’s top authority, the Holy Synod.  The 17 judges of the European Court’s Grand Chamber—the highest court – concluded that it was not the place of the court or any government body to tell a church how to deal with dissident factions.


You can read more about the case here.


You may be wondering why Americans should care about what a court in Strasbourg, France has to say about a church in Romania.


European legal precedents are increasingly used in arguments before American courts.  Part of a sound legal strategy for defending religious liberty here in the U.S. must include capitalizing on opportunities for good legal precedents overseas.  That is one reason why Americans should care about what happens in Europe and one reason the Becket Fund submitted a brief to the European Court in this case.


Our brief drew heavily on our unanimous victory at the U.S. Supreme Court last year in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC.  You may recall that our win there in January 2012, in which all nine Justices found that government shouldn’t meddle in “internal church governance,” was widely heralded as the most significant religious liberty case in a generation.


You can refresh your memory of the Hosanna-Tabor win by clicking here.


In the end, the European Court agreed with us and found that “the right of believers to freedom of religion encompasses the expectation that the community will be allowed to function peacefully, free from arbitrary State intervention.”


As Stanford Law Professor Michael McConnell, who joined the Becket Fund in this European Court brief, said, “True autonomy for religious organizations of all sorts is becoming even more important as Europe and America become increasingly religiously diverse.  In this area, government governs better when it governs less.”


Your generosity helps us attain these important precedents that anchor our religious liberty.  We’re so grateful for your continued support.





Kristina Arriaga

Executive Director



P.S.  Interestingly enough just a few days before the federal court ruled against the government in our Hobby Lobby case, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had some “choice” words to say about opponents of the President’s health care law, which, as you know, is how we got the anti-religious liberty HHS mandate in the first place.


She compared opponents of that law with racist opponents of civil rights in the 1960s. Apparently, if you don’t buy into the President’s health care law lock, stock, and barrel you are guilty of making the “same arguments against change, and [using] the same fear and misinformation that opponents used then….”


I just have to say that I disagree with the Secretary wholeheartedly.  Painting those of us who have problems with the President’s health care law – whether it’s all of it or a piece of it, like the contraceptive mandate – in such a negative light does nothing to encourage healthy debate and conversation.  And, in this country, religious liberty is our first civil right.  Those of us at the Becket Fund think that you are doing an important service to American society by standing up for your belief in religious liberty and we thank you for your support.



Visit Our Website July 19, 2013
Dear Friends, 

We just heard the incredible news from our lawyers who were at the District Court in Oklahoma this morning—Hobby Lobby has been granted a preliminary injunction against the HHS Mandate. As our General Counsel, Kyle Duncan, stated this morning, “The tide has turned against the HHS mandate.”


This is a great victory for religious freedom!


I will follow up next week with my thoughts on the decision. Please visit our case page for updates.


Have a great weekend!



Hobby Lobby Wins Preliminary Injunction

After landmark 10th Circuit opinion, district court grants preliminary injunction

For Immediate Release:  July 19, 2013 Media Contact: Stephen Siao, ssiao@becketfund.org, 202.349.7226

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, a federal court granted Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. a preliminary injunction against the HHS abortion-drug mandate, preventing the government from enforcing the mandate against the Christian company.  This victory comes less than a month after a landmark decision by the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled 5-3 that Hobby Lobby can exercise religion under the First Amendment and is likely to win its case against the mandate.

“The tide has turned against the HHS mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and lead attorney for Hobby Lobby.

In an opinion read from the bench, the court said, “There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.”

This is a major victory for not only Hobby Lobby, but the religious liberty of all for-profit businesses.

There are now 60 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. The Becket Fund led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. The Becket Fund currently represents: Hobby LobbyWheaton CollegeEast Texas Baptist UniversityHouston Baptist UniversityColorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television NetworkAve Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty  is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. The Becket Fund recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Stephen Siao, Communications Assistant at ssiao@becketfund.org, 202.349.7226.


Additional Information:

·         10th Circuit Court Opinion (June 27, 2013)

·         Hobby Lobby Case Page

·         HHS Information Central





Kristina Arriaga

Executive Director




Visit Our Website July 17, 2013
Dear Friends, 

This Friday, our General Counsel, Kyle Duncan, will go before a federal judge to ask for a preliminary injunction against the HHS Mandate for Hobby Lobby.


Now, I know I gave you a quick update a couple of weeks ago when we won our case at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. But, with this hearing on the docket,   I wanted to give you a little more detailed explanation of what happened and what it all means.


The 10th Circuit decision is a key victory in the fight against the HHS Mandate.


Hobby Lobby is the largest business to challenge the HHS Mandate in court.  And the 10th Circuit decision was the result of the rare opportunity to present the case directly to the full court instead of a smaller panel and it represents the first definitive appellate ruling against the mandate.


And, while the 10th Circuit’s decision helped spare Hobby Lobby from exposure to tremendous government fines scheduled to begin just days after the court ruled, its opinion is an true victory for the many other religious business owners who find themselves facing the same “Hobson’s choice”– as the Court of Appeals called it – as Hobby Lobby’s Green family; that is, follow the law or follow your conscience.


What happens on July 19th, however, will be an even greater milestone in this fight.


Your support has been so key in getting us to this tipping point. But there’s still far to go – as we’ve said all along, unless the government has a sudden change of heart – which is unlikely – the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately have to decide this case.


First, it’s important to note the conclusions that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals came to.  The court ruled that denying Hobby Lobby the protection of federal laws designed to secure religious liberty just because they are a profit-making business “would conflict with the Supreme Court’s free exercise precedent.”


In fact, the court found that the heavy fines of the mandate unconstitutionally pressure Hobby Lobby to violate their religious beliefs – beliefs of which no one, not even the government, has questioned the sincerity.  It further held, “The government does not articulate why accommodating such a limited request [as Hobby Lobby’s] frustrates its goals … .”


Ultimately, the court concluded that Hobby Lobby has “established a likely violation of [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act].”


The government may believe that you forfeit your religious liberty when you go into business to earn a living; but the 10th Circuit disagrees.  This has been our argument from the get-go.


So, on June 27th, the 10th Circuit judges reversed the lower court’s prior decision and sent the case back to the trial court for a hearing that would determine if the government fines against Hobby Lobby would kick in on July 1st.


Now, I must boast about our tremendous legal team once more.  In a mere six hours, they put together an application that won a temporary restraining order from the district court the very next day.  Just six hours from getting the 10th Circuit opinion to turning in this application.  I may not be an attorney, but I know that is no small feat!


So, on June 28th, the district court granted the temporary restraining order, saving Hobby Lobby from those heavy government fines set to begin less than 72 hours later, and set a hearing for a preliminary injunction on July 19th.


Judge Joe Heaton, who granted our temporary restraining order, indicated in court that if he had to decide the case on that very day, he’d find that the balance of harms tips in Hobby Lobby’s favor; but he wanted to fully explore the questions related to what is in the public interest in this case.  That’s what this Friday’s hearing is about.


We will be arguing that it is always in the public interest to protect First Amendment freedoms.  And, I will update you as soon as I can on how the court responds.


Visit Our Website July 12, 2013
Dear Friends, 

The Becket Fund scored a big win just a couple of weeks ago out in Montana and, as a result, a 60-year-old statue of Jesus dedicated to World War II vets will remain standing in a ski-resort in the Flathead National Forest.


Veterans of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division returning to Montana from the Italian Alps, where they fought during World War II, wanted to build a memorial in the form of a statue of Jesus Christ.  Statues like this dot the mountains of the Alps and they helped to sustain these veterans during their tour(s) of duty in war-torn Europe.


The local Knights of Columbus had the statue made.  They applied for the permit for a 25×25-square-foot parcel of land in what has become the Whitefish Mountain Resort.  They have maintained the statue and re-applied for ten-year permits for about six decades without any problems.


Then, in 2010, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) challenged the permit from their perch in Madison, Wisconsin, and under pressure from FFRF, the U.S. Forest Service rejected the Knights’ re-application.


The public outcry in support of the statue was tremendous!  The Forest Service received 95,000 public comments in less than two months.  As a result, the Forest Service reversed course and re-issued the permit, stating that the statue “is important to the community for its historical heritage.”


The Freedom From Religion Foundation couldn’t possibly allow any veterans memorial to stand if it includes a cross or the image of Christ or any other religious symbol.  So, they sued, and the Becket Fund went to court to represent the Knights of Columbus and several local residents.


On June 24th, federal judge Dana Christensen agreed with the Becket Fund and allowed the statue to remain standing.  As the judge said:  “Unquestionably, Big Mountain Jesus is a religious symbol commonly associated with one form of religion.  But not every religious symbol runs afoul of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.”


Just as the Becket Fund has long been saying:  Religion is not something toxic.  The public square need not be sanitized of all traces of faith.


Visit Our Website July 2, 2013
Dear Friends, 

I always make a point of remembering the true meaning of the Fourth of July amidst the fireworks and cookouts.  It’s a celebration of a country born of the idea that each and every one of us has natural rights that government can’t take away.  A nation that has drawn people—people yearning to live in freedom—to its shores for centuries.


We come from different backgrounds, carry with us different histories and cultures, practice different faiths and customs, but we are all bound by a common belief in our innate rights.


That diversity gives the American community greater depth, and it’s cause to celebrate in and of itself!  Unfortunately, while we’re encouraged to celebrate some differences in the public square, we’re increasingly discouraged to celebrate others – particularly our faiths.


And what a shame because I think it helps to bring us together when we can see each other living our faiths openly.


Many of us practice our faith—and celebrate our freedom—by choosing religious education for ourselves and our children. It’s a right that has long been protected in the U.S., and one that the Becket Fund works to ensure remains secure. This was on my mind this week when I saw the controversy over President Obama’s speech in Northern Ireland, where he said that Catholic schools there can encourage “division” and discourage “cooperation.”



Let us not forget that Catholic and other religious schools have been responsible for many social goods. Interestingly, both President Obama and Vice President Biden attended Catholic schools as children.  In fact, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whom President Obama named to the U.S. Supreme Court, recently had this to say about her Catholic education in light of the closing of Blessed Sacrament School in the Bronx, where she was once valedictorian:


“You know important those eight years were?  It’s symbolic of what it means for all our families, like my mother, who were dirt-poor.  She watched what happened to my cousins in public school and worried if we went there, we might not get out.  So, she scrimped and saved.  It was a road of opportunity for kids with no other alternative.”


The New York Times adds, “a glance at some of New York City’s most successful and influential Latino and black professionals and politicians is like a Catholic School All-Star alumni roster.


What did Justice Sotomayor learn in Catholic school?


“It taught me how to be a good person.  In the kind of world we lived in, with the drug addiction and crime and sadness that permeates the community, you needed a model of someone teaching you that being a good human being has value.”


Rather than being the problem, in many places throughout the U.S. and the world, Catholic and other religious schools are the solution.


A public square with Catholic schools and Christian academies and Jewish yeshivas gives us the chance to share in each others’ experience of faith.  Religious liberty gives us that ability.  And that’s something good to remember as we celebrate American freedom this Fourth of July.



Cardinal Dolan’s Milwaukee Deposition

July 1, 2013

Bill Donohue comments on the deposition by Cardinal Timothy Dolan that was released today regarding his tenure as Archbishop of Milwaukee; the deposition was taken in February:   Under questioning by Jeffrey Anderson, an activist lawyer, Cardinal Dolan gravely disappointed the enemies of the Catholic Church: they were denied their “gotcha” moment. Indeed, pint-sized Anderson didn’t lay a glove on the big guy.   Boring. That is the most accurate word to describe the deposition. Here is a list of the topics that Anderson pursued: the statute of limitations; a public list of accused priests; the process of handling deceased and elderly priests; laicization; false and substantiated allegations; compensation for priests let go from ministry; cemetery funds; parish finances; the scope of an archbishop’s authority; the effect of the scandal on Catholics.   In short, there was nothing new—it was another fishing expedition conducted by a man who believes there should be one standard for the Catholic Church, and another for the rest of the world.   Cardinal Dolan was, as always, honest and courageous. I wish I could bill Anderson for the agony of having to read his boring pursuit.

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