Advancing Religious Liberty

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Posted 4/2/12 at 6:19 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

ObamaCare Arguments Conclude – What Will Be the Impact on Religious Liberty and the Sanctity of Life?

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox

The Supreme Court has concluded its three days of arguments on the constitutionality of ObamaCare, and I had the privilege of being present for some of the arguments. To my knowledge the words “religious freedom” or “abortion” were not mentioned. Yet, the Court’s decision will have enormous implications for these fundamental questions.

The Court’s attention was trained on the “individual mandate,” the requirement that every citizen purchase a health insurance plan containing everything Washington’s bureaucrats think should be included. But from that mandate springs a variety of other mandates that threaten religious freedom and the sanctity of human life. These include taxpayer subsidies for elective abortion in health insurance exchanges, the abortion coverage mandate (requiring that government subsidized health plans that cover elective abortion will charge an additional abortion fee for those services) and the secrecy clause which ensures that public advertising about these plans will not indicate that they carry an additional abortion fee until you are already in the enrollment process. It also includes the HHS anti-conscience mandate which requires religious employers to provide their employees with coverage of abortion pills, contraceptives and sterilizations in violation of the religious employer’s conscience and First Amendment rights. FULL POST

Posted 3/28/12 at 1:49 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

In Maryland, Local Police Are Getting an Education in the Constitution

Author: ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears

As a former federal prosecutor, and one with family members in active law enforcement, I have the deepest respect for those who dedicate their lives to protecting us. Theirs is a sacred duty and trust – and from that perspective, it is particularly troubling when those filling these critical roles are inadequately trained or choose to improperly exercise their authority.

It’s been almost four years since a dozen state and municipal police officers handcuffed and hauled off to jail 18 peaceful participants in Defend Life’s annual “Face the Truth” Pro-Life Tour. Quietly holding up photos and pro-life signs, the pro-life advocates started out along a public road in Harford County. Soon, state troopers arrived and ordered them to leave, saying the group had no right to raise its signs without a permit. FULL POST

Posted 3/27/12 at 6:53 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Easter: Bunny or Jesus?

Author: ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman

Easter brings different thoughts and holds different meanings to different people. Some think first of that chocolate Easter bunny that you may get (if you’ve been good, maybe it will even be solid chocolate and not just that thin outer shell with nothing inside but air). Or those marshmallow peeps (my kids love those). Or the Cadbury eggs. But to many, Easter is first and foremost about the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Arguably the most important day in Christendom.

But when it comes to our public schools, we can only talk about the Easter bunny, correct? I mean, wouldn’t it violate the so-called "separation of church and state" to talk about J-J-Jesus in school? Isn’t the ACLU just lying in wait for that to happen so they can pounce? To answer these questions succinctly, no, no, yes.

The courts have long held that it is permissible to objectively discuss the different holidays that are celebrated and what their meaning is to those who celebrate them. Schools may permit their teachers to teach about what Easter represents to Christians, and even–hold on to your hat—read from the Bible when doing so. Our friends at Gateways to Better Education have even drafted example lesson plans. In spite of what the ACLU and its allies would have you believe, this is constitutionally permissible. FULL POST

Posted 3/26/12 at 7:24 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Dishonoring Faith-Based Community Service

Author: ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Matthew Sharp

In a culture where teenagers and young adults are more often known for their apathy and laziness, Sarah stood out for her hard work and compassion. Not only was she admitted into the nation’s top public high school, but in a school surrounded by the best and the brightest, she excelled, and was accepted into the school’s National Honor Society (NHS).

As a member of NHS, Sarah was expected to perform a minimum of 12 hours of community service per year. Just as many of her peers chose to meet these requirements by mentoring elementary students, teaching students, volunteering with children with special needs, playing with kids, working as a youth coordinator for a charitable organization, and childcare, Sarah chose to fulfill her requirements by working with children at her church. FULL POST

Posted 3/26/12 at 7:13 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Will Your Church Be Subject to a Conscience Tax?

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot

There’s been quite a bit of talk recently about new federal regulations requiring employer health care plans to pay for abortion inducing drugs, as well as contraception and sterilization. The good news is churches are exempt from this requirement. The bad news is some church ministries and para-church organizations will be required to provide things like abortion-inducing drugs to their employees – even if it conflicts with the relgious beliefs and teachings of the ministry. Any non-church ministry that provides services to all (instead of just those who agree with their religious beliefs) will be subject to this requirement. Those who refuse will be subjected to fines of approximately $2,000 per employee, per year. This is effectively a Conscience Tax.

Obviously, many faith-based schools, food pantries, hospitals, and other community service organizations are threatened by this disregard for religous freedom because they minister to everyone. Some commentators have opined that this isn’t a very big deal, and is just about making sure women have access to contraception. But if the federal government can force these ministries to act in a way that is completely contrary to their religous beliefs, they can tax all of us when we act according to our religious convictions by doing such things as refusing to participate in abortions, objecting to sexual immorality, or raising our children according to our faith. FULL POST

Posted 3/26/12 at 7:09 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Will Your University Be Subject to a Conscience Tax?

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot

There’s been quite a bit of talk recently about new federal regulations requiring employer and student health care plans to pay for abortion inducing drugs, as well as contraception and sterilization. Most religious universities – including faith-based schools and para-church organizations – will be required to provide things like abortion-inducing drugs to their employees and students – even if it conflicts with the religious beliefs and teachings of the school. Any school that is open to students of all faiths and doesn’t just teach religious subject matter is governed by this mandate. Those who refuse for religious reasons will be be fined approximately $2,000 per employee and/or student, per year. This is effectively a Conscience Tax.

Obviously, many faith-based schools, food pantries, hospitals, and other community service organizations are threatened by this disregard for religious freedom because they are open to everyone. Some commentators have opined that this isn’t a very big deal, and is just about making sure women have access to contraception. But if the federal government can force religious schools and other faith-based organizations to act in a way that is completely contrary to their religious beliefs, it can punish religious students who act according to our religious convictions by doing such things as refusing to have student fees fund abortions, objecting to sexual immorality in class, or seeking exemptions from course work that requires them to act contrary to their faith. FULL POST

Posted 3/21/12 at 2:09 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Across U.S., Struggle Continues to Protect Religious Freedom in Schools

Author: ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears

Christian students, staff, and faculty at public schools, colleges, and universities coast to coast continue to face a growing array of challenges from those determined to curtail their constitutionally protected religious freedom. The good news, though, is that God is enabling ADF allied lawyers to win crucial case precedents that are opening more and more doors for the Gospel. Three examples from our heavy caseload in this area:

- At the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, administrators have been enforcing a policy which affirms that student clubs and organizations “that select their members on the basis of commitment to a set of beliefs (e.g., religious or political beliefs) may limit membership and participation in the group to students who, upon individual inquiry, affirm that they support the group’s goals and agree with its beliefs.”

Trouble is, that policy went out the window when school officials somehow decided that the “Make Up Your Own Mind” Club – created by and for Christians who share a clear statement of faith and commitment to sanctity of human life – wasn’t “religious,” and so couldn’t limit its membership and leaders to students who agree with its Christian and life-affirming views … even though other belief-based clubs could impose similar limits. FULL POST

Posted 3/20/12 at 11:45 AM | Alliance Defending Freedom

"Stand Up For Religious Freedom" Rallies

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Joe Infranco

There are rare moments in life when a cause ignites souls in a deeply and viscerally understood truth. These are moments of mental and moral clarity; moments when we see great opportunity or approaching calamity. They come at times when conscience will not allow us to be silent, and we determine to face whatever consequences attend our choices, because such moments demand action and not mere reflection.

They are times when a man like the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King sat in a Birmingham jail and penned his explanation for violating “unjust laws” that violated the “moral law, or the law of God.” Or times such as when Dietrich Bonheoffer drew a metaphorical line in the sand – a line that cost him his life – because the moral law compelled him to deny Nazi dogma. FULL POST

Posted 3/20/12 at 11:34 AM | Alliance Defending Freedom

What’s It All About, Alpha?

Author: ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman

The United States Supreme Court decided not to hear a case yesterday, Alpha Delta Chi (ADX) v. Reed. But that’s not really news considering that they decide not to hear about 99% of the cases brought to them. What is news, though, is that the issue in the case of whether religious groups can chose leaders who share their religious beliefs remains hotly contested on the national level.

If you keep up with the news, you know that universities across the country are singling out religious groups and claiming that it is “discriminatory” for them to choose leaders that share the same religious beliefs. Like in this case where a Christian sorority and fraternity wanted to be lead by Christians. I know, you are probably thinking—you are kidding me, right? Isn’t it just common sense that every church, synagogue and other religious group has the right to be lead by pastors, rabbis, etc. of the same religious persuasion? I mean, wouldn’t we all be shocked if we went to church on Sunday only to find an avowed atheist in the pulpit? Therein lies the rub. This is law, not logic. FULL POST

Posted 3/20/12 at 11:27 AM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Supreme Court Declines to Review ADX Case from San Diego State

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence

The Supreme Court let stand the lower court decision upholding San Diego State University’s discriminatory exclusion of a Christian fraternity and a Christian sorority from access to the channels of communication with students on campus. In a one-sentence order with no comment, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. San Diego State prohibited campus Christian organizations from requiring their members and leaders to agree with the organization’s statement of faith but allowed other student organizations to require members and leaders to agree with the viewpoints the groups advocate. The Ninth Circuit upheld the San Diego’s State’s requirement as constitutional, and ADF appealed to the Supreme Court.

ADF attorney David Cortman issued the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s actions:

“Public universities should encourage, not censor, the free exchange of ideas. But for now, the supposed marketplace of ideas at San Diego State University will remain a stronghold for censorship. We wish the Supreme Court would have used this opportunity to make clear that the First Amendment protects the right of student groups to employ belief-based criteria in selecting their members and leaders.” FULL POST

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