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Archive for November 2013

U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Landmark Hobby Lobby Case!

Visit Our Website November 26, 2013
Dear Friends,

Moments ago, the Supreme Court decided to hear the Hobby Lobby case. Perhaps, by now, you have heard. It is all over the news. CNN quotes Kyle:

“Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby, called the Supreme Court decision to hear the case a ‘major step’ for the Greens and their business, and ‘an important fight for Americans’ religious liberty.’”

Scholars all over the United States are commenting:

“[T]he Greens are doing more than just trying to relieve themselves from an unjust burden placed upon them by their government. They are standing up for the right of each and every one of us to practice our faith in all aspects of our lives including our business enterprises.”

Francis J. Beckwith, Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies at Baylor University

“We should be grateful to the Greens for reminding us that our laws protect, and our traditions respect, religious freedom in public and in private, at worship and at work.”

Richard Garnett, Professor of Law Concurrent Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame

“Religious liberty is one of the most outstanding achievements of America’s founding tradition.Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores is a critical test case gauging whether our nation remains committed to freedom of conscience today.”

Thomas S. Kidd, Professor of History at Baylor University

I paste here our own press release:

 

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Hobby Lobby Case

 

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2013– The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to take up Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a landmark case addressing the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions.

The nation’s highest court accepted the federal government’s appeal of a June decision by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals that a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate to provide potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in employee insurance plans places a substantial burden on the religious freedoms of Hobby Lobby, which is solely owned by founder David Green and his family.

“This is a major step for the Greens and their family businesses in an important fight for Americans’ religious liberty,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will clarify once and for all that religious freedom in our country should be protected for family business owners like the Greens.”

In July, a lower federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction preventing the government from enforcing the HHS mandate requiring the family businesses to provide in the employee health insurance plan two drugs and two devices that are potentially life-terminating.

The Greens and their family businesses – who have no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives required under the HHS mandate and do so at no additional cost to employees under their self-insured health plan – then took the unusual step in October of joining the government in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, despite the family’s victory in the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“My family and I are encouraged that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide our case,” said Mr. Green, Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO.  “This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution. Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. will be argued and decided before the end of the Supreme Court’s term in June 2014

Stay tuned for developments!

Sincerely,

Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director

Arguments For Religious Tolerance!

Visit Our Website November 19, 2013
Dear Friends,

People on the other side of religious liberty often call religious people “intolerant.” Moreover, they accuse them of “discrimination.”

Naturally, no one wants to be accused of discriminating. So, our well-intentioned tendency is to explain how we are not “discriminating” against anyone. We just want to be able to believe what we believe and live accordingly.

Then the next line of argument, inevitably, is: “Religion is bad. It causes divisions. It causes wars. Religious exemptions, therefore, are wrong and bad for society.”

Most believers do not know what to say at this point. So, they walk away. Or worse, apologize for exercising their rights.

(Sure, there have been people that have done terrible things in the name of religion. But, many have also done terrible things in the name of ethnicity or equality–think of the terrible Rwanda killings, the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Nazis or the French Revolution. Yet, I don’t hear anyone saying that belonging to an ethnic group makes you intolerant or belonging to an ethnic group is bad for you or that fighting for equality is inherently wrong.)

Friends, do not let opponents of religious liberty paint you into a corner. Stand up for your rights.

We at the Becket Fund defend religious liberty in the courts of law precisely so you can speak courteously and persuasively about your own faith. I need you to join me and defend religious liberty in the public square. It is important to know the facts.

As Mark Rienzi, one of our attorneys, wrote for the New York Times:

“Religious exemptions are an essential part of our democracy. They provide breathing space for religious individuals and institutions to exist. They benefit all Americans, regardless of religion or lack thereof.

Consider the Quakers. Early in our history, when Quakers refused to fight in the military, they were given exemptions. Even in dire national emergencies, our early governments recognized that the state generally should not force a religious individual to violate sincerely held beliefs.

There was a surprise beneficiary of these exemptions: slaves. Because the Quakers were not forced out, they were around to lead the public charge against slavery, reminding their fellow citizens of the humanity and inherent dignity of African slaves.

Our nation has often benefited from religious individuals and institutions who were free to bring their religious perspective into the public square, whether by arguing for fair labor laws, advocating better treatment for immigrants, or providing food, shelter and health care to those in need. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and our civil rights movement often made expressly religious calls for the equal treatment of African-Americans.

As Justice Elena Kagan recently explained, religious groups provide a ‘critical buffer’ against the power of government, and religious autonomy ‘has often served as a shield against oppressive civil laws.’”

Let me add another interesting data point. A Gallup poll released last year says that 77% of Americans think that religion is losing influence in America, but 75% think that American society would be better off if Americans were more religious.

Also last year, during a UN speech by Archbishop Tomasi he explained what the Catholic Church was doing to serve others.

“In this connection, it may be useful [to] recall some pertinent data on the current services to the human family carried out in the world by the Catholic Church without any distinction of religion or race. In the field of education, it runs 70,544 kindergartens with 6,478,627 pupils; 92,847 primary schools with 31,151,170 pupils; 43,591 secondary schools with 17,793,559 pupils. The Church also educates 2,304,171 high school pupils, and 3,338,455 university students. The Church’s worldwide charity and healthcare centres include: 5,305 hospitals; 18,179 dispensaries; 547 Care Homes for people with Leprosy; 17,223 Homes for the elderly, or the chronically ill or people with a disability; 9,882 orphanages; 11,379 creches; 15,327 marriage counseling; 34,331 social rehabilitation centres and 9,391 other kinds of charitable institutions. To such data about social action activity, there should be added the assistance services carried out in refugee camps and to internally displaced people and the accompaniment of these uprooted persons.”

Friends,  religious liberty allows the Little Sisters of the Poor to operate hospices. It allows the LDS Church to distribute millions in relief assistance. It makes it possible for the Lutherans to operate immigration relief services.  Millions are fed and clothed because religious people think of it as their duty.  Nothing else occupies that space.

So, I encourage you to investigate what members of your own religious faith are doing and spread the word. It is good for America and it is good for religious liberty.

With gratitude for your support,

Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director

P.S.   Until recently, I was not aware of a terrific group called Catholic Leadership Institute. They help Catholic priests and lay leaders. They presented me an award for our work at the Becket Fund. I was very humbled.

Religious Liberty Is NOT a Partisan Issue!

Visit Our Website November 12, 2013
Is religious liberty a partisan issue? The answer is simple: Absolutely no, it is not.

Claiming that religious liberty belongs to one party, or one group of individuals of a certain persuasion, tears at the fabric of American culture and society. It is detrimental to our way of life. And it is detrimental to religious liberty.

Further, it is historically inaccurate.

In fact, just this last week, the Newseum in Washington, DC, celebrated the 20-year anniversary of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, commonly referred to as RFRA.

This important law was passed by a unanimous House of Representatives and an almost unanimous Senate and was signed into law by President Clinton.

Only 20 years ago Americans of all religious backgrounds and political beliefs affirmed that religious liberty is a natural part of who we are as human beings and as Americans.

No political party could claim that they owned religious liberty.

No religious group could claim that religious liberty was only for them.

This law is important for many reasons. Among them, it prohibits the government from placing a “substantial burden” on a person’s religious exercise.

Thanks to RFRA, Americans of all faiths—many with the help of our lawyers at the Becket Fund—have been able to continue to exercise their faiths.

The Becket Fund was invited to create the video for the commemoration of RFRA’s passage. The video features –the struggles of  of a Sikh practitioner to live his faith, a Native American tribe seeking to preserve its holy burial grounds, a Presbyterian congregation fighting a zoning board so it can continue to feed the homeless and a rabbi who tends to Jewish inmates in Texas. To watch it, click on the image below:

Since the passage of this important law, our right to live according to our faith and free from government intervention has been dramatically eroded.

We need to fight back.

Religious leaders of all traditions are doing precisely this. They are joining in a chorus to assert this right. Just to name a few, Catholics have an ad hoc committee on religious liberty and have issued several letters on the matter. For more information click here.

The LDS Church has launched a new excellent website on religious liberty here.

Just last month, Evangelical leader, Dr. Russell Moore, spoke to seminarians: “When you and I say to our government, ‘We must live freely and exercise our beliefs freely and we believe everybody around us ought to exercise their beliefs and consciences freely,’ we are not asking for a favor from the government as though we were a business looking for a bailout,” he said. “We are saying to the government, ‘Because no bureaucrat is going to be standing next to us at judgment, you do not have authority over the free human conscience.’”

See more here!

Our team at Becket Fund works with individuals of all persuasions to protect every American’s right to live according to his or her own deeply held convictions not on at Church on Sunday or at home but in their daily lives.

Do not assume your rights are safe. They are not.

Religious liberty is not a partisan issue. Religious liberty does not belong to only one group. Religious liberty is a fundamental right.

Thanks for helping the Becket Fund keep America free for all believers!

Sincerely

Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director
 

P.S. Remember this summer how I told you the Becket Fund submitted an amicus, for friend of the court, brief in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway — testing the constitutionality of legislative prayer? Well, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in that case last week and our Becket Fund attorneys were pleasantly surprised to hear our brief cited during the arguments!  Of course, we thought our brief laid out the true meaning of government establishment of religion very nicely. But it’s a great honor to have it referred to during the Supreme Court’s arguments. Daniel Blomberg, one of our attorneys, wrote a little something about that.  Here is Daniel’s blogpost. And the day after the argument, our own Mark Rienzi debated Barry Lynn, of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, on National Public Radio. Listen to him here.

Positive Progress On Religious Liberty Litigation!

Visit Our Website November 5, 2013
Dear Friends,

At my kids’  carpool last week, a good friend told me she read my updates. (I must confess I was flattered.) Then, she knocked the air out of my feeling flattered when she added: “I find them depressing.”

Friends, depression is not an option.

Sure, the affront to our freedoms is alarming.

Sure, the fight is complex and, at times, tiring.

But, I work at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty because I know we can win.

We have a terrific team. (I pasted our entire team photo below.)

We have a clear and tenacious strategy.

And, we have an unfair advantage:  We are right.

The other side would have you believe they are in the majority.  And that all is lost for our cause!

That is absurd. They are not, and we can only lose if we despair.

Plus, there is that principle called: the rule of law.

The courts are listening to our arguments and not the government’s reasoning.

Look at this huge win last Friday:

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considered widely “the second most influential bench in the land behind the Supreme Court” ruled 2-1 in favor of the two Catholic business owners, the Gilardi brothers, who are fighting the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate.

The decision is a delicious read. Please do not miss it!

Here are some of my favorite parts:

On the first sentence, the judge says: “[W]e are asked to revisit the behemoth known as the Affordable Care Act.”

Now, we know things are going to go badly for the government, when the judge chooses to use the word “behemoth.”

Then things get worse for the government. And much better for the cause of freedom.

The opinion quotes Jefferson “that the right to free exercise necessarily prohibits the government from ‘compel[ling] a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves.'”

And, to my personal delight, John Locke: “Penalties are impertinent, according to Locke, if they are used to compel men ‘to quit the light of their own reason, and oppose the dictates of their own consciences.'”

But, the judge does not stop there. She goes to James Madison who, as we all know, “described conscience as ‘the most sacred of all property.'”

Finally, the opinion states that the Gilardis (the two Catholic brothers) are burdened “because the government commands compliance by giving the Gilardis a Hobson’s choice. They can either abide by the sacred tenets of their faith, pay a penalty of over $14 million, and cripple the companies they have spent a lifetime building, or they become complicit in a grave moral wrong. If that is not ‘substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs,’ we fail to see how the standard could be met.”

The judge goes on to call the government’s arguments “perplexing and troubling,” ‘unconvincing,” and concludes by stating “the [HHS] mandate is self defeating.”

The judge’s opinion leans heavily on the decision made by the Tenth Circuit in the win for our client, Hobby Lobby. One of the judges even quotes a law review article written by one of our great attorneys, Mark Rienzi.

The arguments we are making in court are making a difference.

In short, do not be depressed. Join me and my great team at the Becket Fund!

All we do, we do together.

Sincerely,

 

Kristina Arriaga
Executive Director

P.S.  Last week one of our terrific attorneys, Lori Windham, appeared on TV speaking about our HHS cases. Click to watch it!

We expect to hear soon, perhaps before Thanksgiving, about whether or not the Supreme Court will hear the Hobby Lobby case next year.