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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

Happy Birthday to Our Noble Patron!

Dear Brother Knight,

As we prepare to celebrate Columbus Day, the following links may be of interest.

K of C-Marist poll shows strong support for Columbus and Columbus Day
Blaming Columbus Misses the Lessons of History
A website about Columbus, presented by the National Christopher Columbus Association
New KofC-Marist Poll: Do Americans Support Columbus Day?
Christopher Columbus and Fake History​
Why Columbus Sailed: Interview with Scholar Carol Delaney

Sincerely,
Knights of Columbus

Knights of Columbus
1 Columbus Plaza, New Haven, CT 06510
knightline@kofc.org
203-752-4000

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

Help The Victims of Hurricane Irma

Brother Knight,

Hurricane Irma has hit Florida. The destructive power of the hurricane is unimaginable.

In light of such devastion, it’s easy to feel helpless.

But you’re not helpless. In fact, Knights and their families have already made a incredible difference in the lives of countless men, women and children affected by Hurricane Harvey with their prayers and support. And now it’s time to help the victims of Hurricane Irma.

When we work together, even the smallest contribution can make a big difference. And with 100 percent of your donation going directly to relief efforts, you know your gift will get to those in need.

Please DONATE TODAY.
Knights of Columbus
1 Columbus Plaza, New Haven, CT 06510

Hurricane Irma Victims Need You!

Brother Knight,

Today we are grateful. Because of you and your generosity, countless people in the Gulf Coast region have found hope despite the horror of facing one of the strongest hurricanes the region has seen.

We’re stunned by the amazing efforts to help Texas, but a new disaster is now underway.

Hurricane Irma has hit the Caribbean, packing winds at more than 180 mph, making it one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the Atlantic. Islands have been evacuated, while in Florida, Puerto Rico and elsewhere people have prepared for the worst.

The devastation is already catastrophic, and we once again urgently need your help. No gift is too small — every act of kindness shows the victims that they are not forgotten. We will stand by their side until they recover.

Please DONATE TODAY. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go directly to relief efforts.
Knights of Columbus
1 Columbus Plaza, New Haven, CT 06510

AID NEEDED IN TEXAS AFTER HURRICANE HARVEY

Brother Knight,

Many people in the Gulf Coast of Texas are reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey this weekend. Thousands have evacuated their homes, many of which have been damaged or destroyed.

The recovery process is going to be a long and painful one, and your support is urgently needed.

Please DONATE TODAY to help those suffering such devastation. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go directly to relief efforts. This includes providing immediate needs such as food, clean water, shelter and other necessities.

God bless you for your support.
Knights of Columbus
1 Columbus Plaza, New Haven, CT 06510

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

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

News from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

A Message from Becket’s Executive Director
June 16, 2017
Dear Friends,

The Rose Garden at the White House is beautiful in May.

It was especially beautiful on May 4th, because we were there with the Little Sisters of the Poor—the brave nuns who challenged the government’s contraception mandate all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That day, the White House announced that the long fight would soon be over and that the Little Sisters had won their case. The President issued an executive order promising relief for the Little Sisters, and a leaked draft of a new HHS rule gives us confidence that a final resolution is near. We won’t rest until the job is done. But the end is near, and the Little Sisters are going to be free to continue their beautiful work of caring for the elderly poor.

May 4th was also the day that we honored Leonard Leo at our annual Canterbury Medal Gala for his tireless advocacy for religious liberty.
Speaking of tireless, we enter summer with a full pipeline of important cases. Read on to hear about the exciting challenges ahead.

What’s Happening at Becket:

This week, Becket attorneys Daniel Blomberg and Diana Verm travel to Cincinnati to defend legislative prayer and to defend our national motto “In God We Trust.”

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 to protect faith-based hospitals from greedy class-action lawsuits. The Court agreed with Becket’s friend-of-the-court brief, concluding that it is not the government’s job to define the boundaries of a “church.”

Becket continues to defend churches across the country from the threat of almost $1 billion in new taxes. We are standing with Bishop Ed Peecher, the pastor of an African-American church in South Side, Chicago to defend the parsonage allowance—a 60-year-old tax law that ensures fair tax treatment for churches.

In a quiet move just before the election, the last administration passed a nationwide “nondiscrimination” rule that would force doctors to perform gender transition procedures on young children. We stopped the rule in court. In a piece of good news, the new administration has said it will now reconsider the rule.

Becket in the News:

We’re waiting on a decision in our case defending a New York Archdiocese school’s right to choose its own teachers.

Becket attorney Daniel Blomberg explains why a flawed legal test might come up to the Supreme Court soon.

Watch my take on the leaked HHS mandate draft here on EWTN.

What Becket is Reading:

Religious liberty advocate Roger Severino is the President’s head of civil-rights enforcement at HHS. Read about him here in the Atlantic.

If you want a reminder of why we fight for religious liberty every day, read this courageous woman’s account of being fired from her government job for following her faith, and her application to the United States Supreme Court.

As always, feel free to reach out with any questions you have about our cases. Our new website is a great resource, visit us there for up to the minute updates on our work: becketlaw.org.

Thank you for your support!