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Archive for July 2017

AN UPDATE ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

A Message from Becket’s Executive Director
July 18, 2017
Dear Friends,

The Supreme Court’s last term kept us on the edge of our seats—and ended with some great news.

The remarkable 7-2 decision in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer was a huge win for religious liberty. The Supreme Court agreed with Becket’s argument that the government cannot exclude religious groups from public benefit programs just because they are religious. The decision also strikes a blow against old anti-religious state laws known as Blaine Amendments—threats to religious liberty that Becket has fought for years.

Two other developments keep us looking to the next term. Justice Kennedy, rumored to be considering retirement, will be staying for at least another term. The Court also announced that it will hear the Masterpiece Cakeshop case next term.

What’s Happening at Becket:

Defending Free Expression. As 4th of July grills and fireworks heated up across the country, Becket was working to protect a historic 75-year-old memorial cross in Pensacola, Florida.

Defending Free Speech. In Lee v. Tam (Matal v. Tam), the Supreme Court protected the right of free speech—as Becket had urged in our amicus brief—and rejected the government’s argument that it can ban trademarks if they are “disparaging.”

Gaining Ground on Blaine. The war to topple Blaine Amendments is heating up after victories in states like Oklahoma, Florida, and most recently Georgia and Missouri. Following the Trinity Lutheran decision, the Supreme Court directed New Mexico and Colorado to re-examine two of our Blaine Amendment cases in the coming months.

Defending God in the Public Square. The Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit heard two important cases involving religion in the public square last month: a pagan activist’s assault on a Michigan county’s practice of opening meetings with voluntary prayer, and an atheist activist’s efforts to eliminate the words “In God We Trust” from our nation’s currency. Becket’s win record in similar cases, at the Supreme Court, is unparalleled.

Becket in the News:

Unanimous Support for Church Autonomy. In an 8–0 decision, the Supreme Court recognized that churches, not government bureaucrats, get to decide whether hospital ministries are part of a larger church body. Read Becket Deputy General Counsel Eric Rassbach’s take here.

Students: 1, Blaine: 0. In a related case, the Georgia Supreme Court protected a scholarship program for low-income students that was being threatened by the state’s discriminatory Blaine Amendment.

What Becket is Reading:

Supreme Court Changes the New York Times’ Editorial Mind. Read the New York Times editorial board’s piece on Lee v. Tam (Matal v. Tam).

Background on Blaine. Philip Hamburger explains the bigoted history behind the Blaine Amendments here.

The Sky is…Not Falling. June 30th brought the third anniversary of the landmark Hobby Lobby win for the Green family at the Supreme Court. Critics of the decision ominously predicted “the sky would fall.” This article shows that’s not the case.

Sincerely,

Montse Alvarado
Executive Director