Supreme Court says California rule requiring nonprofits to reveal donor names is unconstitutional

Supreme Court ruling is a victory for conservative nonprofits – Smacks Down Kamala Harris and CA AG for Violating First Amendment

KATHERINE HAMILTON 1 Jul 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) on Thursday sided with the Americans For Prosperity Foundation (AFP) against Acting California Attorney General Matthew Rodriguez in favor of keeping non-profit donor records private, smacking down a measure pushed by Vice President Kamala Harris that conservatives feared could be used to target them.

“The government may regulate in the First Amendment area only with narrow specificity, and compelled disclosure regimes are no exception,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority in a 6-3 decision. “When it comes to a person’s beliefs and associations, broad and sweeping state inquiries into these protected areas discourage citizens from exercising rights protected by the Constitution.”

The Court held that California’s disclosure requirement is invalid because it burdens donors’ First Amendment rights and is not narrowly tailored to an important government interest.

While Vice President Kamala Harris was still Attorney General of California, she sent a letter to AFP in 2013 asking the non-profit to send Schedule B forms to disclose its largest donors. A Schedule B is a highly confidential form that lists the names and addresses of a charity’s major donors—including those who live outside of California, according to the Cato Institute.

AFP declined to send the forms, saying doing so would dissuade people from donating and would violate the First Amendment.

Xavier Becerra took over as Attorney General for Harris, but was soon succeeded by Matthew Rodriguez when he became United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. In the case, Rodriguez alleged that the Attorney General’s Office began asking for Schedule B forms in 2010— in the same way the Internal Revenue Service does  — to fight charitable fraud and self-dealing.

They further claimed they were not asking for Schedule B forms as a way to target people or publicly out individuals for supporting causes, according to court documents.

AFP, which is a conservative organization, cited an incident in which California released 1,800 Schedule B forms to the public, despite the state’s confidentiality law.

AFP further argued the Attorney General’s Office had only used Schedule B forms five times for investigations. Instead, AFP said the AG should behave the way 47 other states do and subpoena non-profits for records during an investigation, according to court briefings.

A trial-court ruled in favor of AFP before the decision was reversed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, saying in part:

California has not considered alternatives to indiscriminate up-front disclosure. That is true in every case. And the State’s interest in amassing sensitive information for its own convenience is weak. That is true in every case. When it comes to the freedom of association, the protections of the First Amendment are triggered not only by actual restrictions on an individual’s ability to join with others to further shared goals. The risk of a chilling effect on association is enough, because First Amendment freedoms need breathing space to survive. [emphasis added]

In his opinion, Roberts emphasized the First Amendment’s role in protecting freedom of association and how the concept applies to AFP.

Protected association furthers a wide variety of political, social, economic, educational, religious, and cultural ends and is especially important in preserving political and cultural diversity and in shielding dissident expression from suppression by the majority,” Roberts wrote. [emphasis added]

He noted that compelled disclosure of affiliation could act as a restraint on freedom of association as effectively other forms of government action.

Roberts further said he does not doubt California has an important interest in preventing wrongdoing by charitable organizations. He concluded however, that there is a “dramatic mismatch” between the interests of the Attorney General’s Office and the disclosure process they use to investigate those crimes.

In reality, then, California’s interest is less in investigating fraud and more in ease of administration. This interest, however, cannot justify the disclosure requirement. The Attorney General may well prefer to have every charity’s information close at hand, just in case. But the prime objective of the First Amendment is not efficiency. Mere administrative convenience does not remotely reflect the seriousness of the actual burden that the demand for Schedule Bs imposes on donors’ association rights. [emphasis added]

Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett joined Roberts in full, and Justice Alito and Justice Gorsuch joined in part. Alito and Justice Thomas filed concurring opinions. Justice Sotomayer wrote a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Breyer and Justice Kagan.

The case is Americans For Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, No. 19-251 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/07/01/supreme-court-smacks-down-kamala-harris-and-california-ag-for-violating-first-amendment/


1st Amendment Victory: SCOTUS Strikes Down Philadelphia Law Forcing Same-Sex Adoption at Catholic Org

SCOTUS
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

HANNAH BLEAU 17 Jun 2021

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on Thursday unanimously overturned a lower court ruling regarding the City of Philadelphia barring foster children from being placed with the Catholic Social Services due to its unwillingness to endorse same-sex couples.

In a 9-0 judgment, SCOTUS held that the City of Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) for the provision of foster care services unless the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. It came about after Philadelphia stopped foster children from being placed with the Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on the basis of its beliefs and practices on traditional marriage.

“Philadelphia took this extraordinary action not in response to any legal violation, nor in response to any complaint it received, but because of CSS’s religious beliefs and practices regarding marriage, which City officials read about in the local paper,” the petitioner’s brief reads, noting the Third Circuit ruled in favor of Philadelphia, considering the city’s actions “neutral.”

“The City will renew its foster care contract with CSS only if the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples. The question presented is whether the actions of Philadelphia violate the First Amendment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, in which he ultimately determined the city’s action did so.

The city’s actions, he wrote, “burdened CSS’s religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs,” noting the city’s dissent of that opinion.

“In its view, certification reflects only that foster parents satisfy the statutory criteria, not that the agency endorses their relationships. But CSS believes that certification is tantamount to endorsement. And religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection,” he wrote.

Central to Philadelphia’s defense was that the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision Employment Division v. Smith held that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment applies when the government discriminates against religion, not to laws that generally apply to everyone regardless of religion. The city points out that under its anti-discrimination law, the Fair Practices Ordinance, everyone has to treat same-sex marriages the same as traditional marriages, and says that makes it a neutral law of general application.

The Court ultimately rejected the city’s argument that CSS’s practice violated a section of “its standard foster care contract, determining that the provision is not generally applicable as required by Smith.”

Roberts, in his opinion, determined that the city offered “no compelling reason why it has a particular interest in denying an exception to CSS while making them available to others.”

“As Philadelphia acknowledges, CSS has long been a point of light in the City’s foster care system. CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else,” Roberts wrote.

“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment,” he added.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, concurred in the Court’s judgment only, determining that Philadelphia issued “an ultimatum to an arm of the Catholic Church: Either engage in conduct that the Church views as contrary to the traditional Christian understanding of marriage or abandon a mission that dates back to the earliest days of the Church — providing for the care of orphaned and abandoned children.”

“There can be no doubt that Philadelphia’s ultimatum restricts CSS’s ability to do what it believes the Catholic faith requires,” he wrote.

But they also took their views a step further, determining that the case serves as the latest example of Smith acting as a plague on the Constitution, triggering mounting issues in religious liberty cases. As such, he wrote, the Court should overrule Smith “without further delay.”

“This decision might as well be written on the dissolving paper sold in magic shops. The City has been adamant about pressuring CSS to give in, and if the City wants to get around today’s decision, it can simply eliminate the never-used exemption power. If it does that, then, voilà, today’s decision will vanish — and the parties will be back where they started,” he asserted, noting the Court should “reconsider Smith without further delay,” as its interpretation of the Free Exercise clause is “hard to defend” and cannot be “squared with the ordinary meaning of the text of the Free Exercise Clause or with the prevalent understanding of the scope of the free-exercise right at the time of the First Amendment’s adoption.”

Gorsuch also wrote an opinion concurring in the judgment, joined by Thomas and Alito.

“As Justice Alito’s opinion demonstrates, Smith failed to respect this Court’s precedents, was mistaken as a matter of the Constitution’s original public meaning, and has proven unworkable in practice,” he said, noting many of their colleagues seek to “sidestep” the greater questions regarding Smith, unanimously ruling in favor of CSS but refusing to address Smith and its implications today.“Smith committed a constitutional error. Only we can fix it. Dodging the question today guarantees it will recur tomorrow. These cases will keep coming until the Court musters the fortitude to supply an answer,” he wrote. “Respectfully, it should have done so today.”

The case is Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, No. 19-123 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/06/17/scotus-unanimous-philadelphias-refusal-place-foster-children-catholic-social-services-violates-first-amendment/


Supreme Court Rules California Churches May Open

By Quinn Weimer | February 8, 2021

(CNSNews.com) – In a 6-3 decision last week, the Supreme Court granted an injunction in favor of South Bay Pentecostal Church and Harvest Rock Church by striking down California’s total ban on indoor church services in the state thus allowing churches to open at 25 percent capacity. 

Concurring justices remained split on the issue of Newsom’s singing and chanting ban, allowing that restriction to stand. 

In a statement written by Justice Neil Gorsuch and joined by Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts, they highlighted the difference in treatment that California gave religious institutions and secular establishments. 

The brief stated, “When a State so obviously targets religion for differential treatment, our job becomes that much clearer. As the Ninth Circuit recognized, regulations like these violate the First Amendment unless the State can show they are the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling government interest.”

Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh drafted a short opinion in partial agreement with Alito, Gorsuch, and Roberts:


“JUSTICE BARRETT, with whom JUSTICE KAVANAUGH joins, concurring in the partial grant of application for in-junctive relief.

I agree with JUSTICE GORSUCH’s statement, save its contention that the Court should enjoin California’s prohibition on singing and chanting during indoor services. The applicants bore the burden of establishing their entitlement to relief from the singing ban. In my view, they did not carry that burden—at least not on this record. As the case comes to us, it remains unclear whether the singing ban applies across the board (and thus constitutes a neutral and generally applicable law) or else favors certain sectors (and thus triggers more searching review). Of course, if a chorister can sing in a Hollywood studio but not in her church, California’s regulations cannot be viewed as neutral. But the record is uncertain, and the decisions below unfortunately shed little light on the issue. As the order notes, however, the applicants remain free to show that the singing ban is not generally applicable and to advance their claim accordingly.”

The court’s only dissenters were Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer claiming, 

“Justices of this Court are not scientists. Nor do we know much about public health policy. Yet today the Court displaces the judgments of experts about how to respond to a raging pandemic. The Court orders California to weaken its restrictions on public gatherings by making a special exception for worship services. The majority does so even though the State’s policies treat worship just as favorably as secular activities (including political assemblies) that, according to medical evidence, pose the same risk of COVID transmission. Under the Court’s injunction, the State must instead treat worship services like secular activities that pose a much lesser danger. That mandate defies our case law, exceeds our judicial role, and risks worsening the pandemic.”

https://cnsnews.com/article/national/quinn-weimer/supreme-court-rules-california-churches-may-open

AUDIO SCOTUS LGBT Decision Will ‘Create a Tsunami of New Litigation’ Against Religious Groups

ROBERT KRAYCHIK 15 Jun 2020

The Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) reinterpretation of a federal prohibition against employment discrimination based on sex — which now includes sexual orientation and “gender identity” — will “create a tsunami of new litigation” against religious organizations, explained Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, offering her remarks on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with host Rebecca Mansour.

The Supreme Court’s legal redefinition of “sex” to include sexual orientation and “gender identity” opens the door for further left-wing lawfare against religious organizations, Severino noted.

Severino said, “The Supreme Court left a lot of really important issues open, like, how do you balance this with religious freedom? How do you balance it with freedom of speech? If you’ve got a law, for example, saying that using someone’s preferred pronoun is mandatory — or you can be fined [for non-compliance], how do we balance that with some of these other important and even constitutional questions? Those are things that, for the most part, are unfortunately going to be just decided by a whole range of lower courts. and it will be a long time before the Supreme Court even takes up the opportunity to weigh in on that.”

Severino predicted, “These questions are going to create a tsunami of new litigation and create a huge amount of uncertainty going forward.”

LISTEN:

The Supreme Court’s decision to extend prohibitions against employment discrimination to include sexual orientation and “gender identity” will place religious and traditional organizations at a legal disadvantage when they are inevitably sued by left-wing outfits.

“You’re going to see these decisions going overwhelmingly in favor of the litigants [and] the plaintiffs who are challenging any religious organization, or any school, or anyone who wants to maintain a traditional, biologically based, scientific-based understanding of sex,” Severino forecasted.

“The logic that the court embraced” sets in motion a legal momentum for lower courts to render future decisions in favor of plaintiffs suing religious and traditional organizations for their personnel decisions, Severino anticipated.

Mansour asked if religious organizations would surrender to left-wing activist groups filing lawsuits based on the Supreme Court’s decision given their insufficient resources to legally defend themselves.

Severino replied, “That’s part of the strategy of the activists because they know that many of these organizations can’t afford to pay for defense. They can’t afford to risk a negative judgment where they could face crippling fines. If you’re talking about individuals, you’ve seen what’s happened with cases like the Masterpiece Cake Shop case, where someone’s entire business and livelihood could be destroyed and where they can face even personal threats and real concern over their own safety if they are willing to carry on litigation.”

Severino added, “I think the intimidation factor of a lawsuit is huge, and when you’ve got the court almost inviting that, it’s going to present a real challenge for a lot of people. Practically speaking, for the most part, this isn’t even going to be an issue because I think there’s the vast majority of businesses don’t have any reason or desire to discriminate on either of these bases, but there are circumstances where it is either relevant to the job qualifications or where it’s going to be an issue of conscience, and those are the ones where you’re going to have people who are going to be forced to make those tough choices between violating their own conscience and possibly losing their livelihood.”

The Supreme Court’s decision amounted to a rewriting of civil rights legislation, Severino stated.

“This had to do with the court interpreting the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Severino explained. “We’re kind of familiar with this language. It says that no employers can discriminate on the basis of sex, of religion, of natural origin, and other kinds of classic caveats that you have, but what their question was, ‘It says you can’t discriminate ion the basis of sex. Does that also mean you can’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity?’”

Severino continued, “It’s kind of a strange question to be asking because in so many states, now, and in many situations in federal law, we already do have laws preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation, but they never phrase it as ‘discrimination based on sex.’ It’s always explicitly written, ‘discrimination based on sexual orientation.’”

“What the Supreme Court did is, in an opinion, they basically just rewrote what that text said because there is a long-standing history where for decades, no politicians [and] no judge said that language meant sexual orientation, as well,” Severino added.

The Supreme Court’s decision usurps the role of legislators, Severino determined.

“That’s really a revisionist reading of the statute dressed up as textualism, and that’s one of the things that is so dangerous because we have laws that courts can effectively rewrite,” Severino concluded. “No legislator who passed [Title VII of the Civil Rights Act] would have thought it meant that.”

Breitbart News Tonight broadcasts live on SiriusXM Patriot channel 125 weeknights from 9:00 p.m. to midnight Eastern or 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific.

Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter.

https://www.breitbart.com/radio/2020/06/15/carrie-severino-scotus-lgbt-decision-tsunami-litigation-religious-groups/

Government ‘hostility’ to faith before Supremes

‘Scholarship funds can be used for secular schools but not for Protestant, Jewish, Catholic or other religious schools’

(Pixabay)

The issue of government “hostility” to faith was before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday as justices heard arguments over whether Montana can exclude church schools from a scholarship program for low-income families.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in comments during oral arguments, put the issue in focus.

“Suppose the state said we’re going to allow the scholarship funds to be used for secular schools or Protestant schools but not for Jewish schools or Catholic schools. Unconstitutional?” Kavanaugh asked.

Adam Unikowsky, a lawyer for the state, admitted it would be.

“So what’s different when you say the scholarship funds can be used for secular schools but not for Protestant, Jewish, Catholic or other religious schools because of the religious status?” Kavanaugh wondered.

The Institute for Justice is representing the Espinoza family, who wanted to use the state program to help their children attend a Christian school.

Montana lawmakers in 2015 provided a modest tax credit, up to $150, for those who donated to private scholarship organizations. However, the Montana Department of Revenue soon after barred the use of the scholarships for religious schools.

The rule was based on the “Blaine Amendment” in the Montana Constitution, dating back to the 1800s, which excludes religious options. Several states still have such provisions, but they are now considered to be a pointed attack on Catholics who were moving into the U.S. at the time.

“Although the U.S. Supreme Court held that including religious options in educational choice programs is perfectly permissible under the federal Constitution, the lower courts have disagreed for decades about whether states may nevertheless exclude religious options in these programs,” said Institute for Justice lawyer Erica Smith earlier.

“We hope the court will clarify that just as the government cannot force families participating in these programs to choose a religious school, the government also cannot ban these families from choosing a religious school. The First Amendment requires government neutrality, not hostility, toward religion.”

The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, could impact thousands of low- and moderate-income families who are able to access similar scholarships nationwide.

IJ said that nearly 30 states and the District of Columbia currently give parents a full range of educational choice – including religious options – through various school choice programs.

Michael Bindas, also a lawyer with IJ, said Montana’s Blaine Amendment dates back to 1889 and “was designed to discriminate against Catholic schools and students at a time of widespread hostility toward Catholics, both in Montana and throughout the country.”

“By applying it to bar religious options from modern school choice programs, the Montana Supreme Court has transformed this relic of nineteenth-century, anti-Catholic bigotry into an engine of animus against anyone who might choose to attend a religious school,” he explained.

The lead plaintiff, Kendra Espinoza, enrolled her daughters in a Christian school when the public school proved not to be a healthy environment.

She counted on the scholarships to help pay the costs.

Fox News reported the justices on Wednesday appeared to be “closely split.”

“If the justices were to reverse Montana’s decision, it could open the door to more scholarship and voucher programs across the U.S., following the high court’s recent trend of expanding religious liberty,” the report said.

 

Original here

VIDEO Less religion means less civilization – and freedom

Jerry Newcombe on devastating impact of Christian values waning in America

Oct 29, 2019

Pew Research Center recently wrote about “the decline of Christianity” at a “rapid pace.”

Pew stated: “More than eight-in-ten members of the Silent Generation (those born between 1928 and 1945) describe themselves as Christians (84%), as do three-quarters of Baby Boomers (76%). In stark contrast, only half of Millennials (49%) describe themselves as Christians; four-in-ten are religious ‘nones,’ and one-in-ten Millennials identify with non-Christian faiths.”

Some scholars, like Byron Johnson of Baylor, object that some Americans described as “nones” actually attend non-denominational churches, but are misclassified as if they are unbelievers.

Still, regardless of the statistical details, it does not bode well for society that Christianity is losing it influence.

In 1798, Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale, warned, “Where there is no religion, there is no morality. … With the loss of religion…the security of life, liberty and property are buried in ruins.”

The scary thing about Christianity losing influence in society is what it means to morality in America – and thus to freedom. As William Penn once noted, “If we will not be governed by God, we must be governed by tyrants.”

Yet our cultural elites do so much to banish any vestiges of religion in the public square.

Even as I write this, the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), is dealing with a case involving a retirement center in Florida, where residents display all sorts of lawn ornaments – oh, but there is a 12-inch white cross on one couple’s lawn. The cross is not allowed. Everything else is.

Because of so many liberal judges and so few Christian ones, the courts have sometimes gone to ludicrous lengths to keep any kind of religious – no, I should say Christian – expression out of the public arena. Perhaps the situation is moderately improving, since there are fewer justices on the high court who are legislating from the bench than in previous eras.

However, even to this day, we are still dealing with the damage caused by these court cases that have driven expressions of Judeo-Christian religion out of the public square.

A shocking and classic example is when the Supreme Court declared that the Ten Commandments were not allowed in the classroom. In the 1980 case of Stone v. Graham, the high court sided with the secularists in a Kentucky case involving privately funded copies of the Decalogue of Moses that were displayed in some public schools.

Justice William Brennan wrote the decision, striking down public displays of the Ten Commandments with these chilling words: “If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Commandments. However desirable this might be as a matter of private devotion, it is not a permissible state objective under the Establishment Clause.”

Imagine that. Children obeying the Ten Commandments. How awful.

In a recent television interview, Christian attorney David Gibbs III of the National Center for Law and Liberty told me, “Now, shockingly, we live in a day where unfortunately school shootings and other things dominate our news at levels that are heartbreaking. And I think many American citizens would disagree with the Supreme Court and say, ‘You know what? We would like to see some principles and some values, where the young people of our nation would be taught that there is a right, there is a wrong, that thou shalt not kill.'”

Gibbs continued, “Why is murder against the law? Well, it’s against the law, because the Bible teaches that life has value and that God condemns. When you look at many of the things that we put into our legal system that we might consider core, you know, in terms of the safety and protection of people, it was all Bible-based.”

In the mid-1800s, former Speaker of the House Robert Charles Winthrop (descendant of John Winthrop) wisely warned us, “All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint. Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them, or a power without them; either by the word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet.”

A professor at Harvard Business School shows in a 90 second video the same idea: The less internal morality, the greater the need for external policing and vice versa.

This is a sober message as so many Americans seem to be entering a “brave new world” and leaving God and therefore morality behind – and thereby our freedom as well.

 

Original here

Appeals court revives attack on nuns who refused to facilitate abortion

Now 9th Circuit decides what they should believe, and how deep their beliefs should be

Oct 24, 2019

Little Sisters at the Supreme Court (Image courtesy Becket Fund)

It was Barack Obama’s pro-abortion Washington insiders who took the broad outline created by Obamacare and wrote the rules that would require an organization of faithful Catholic nuns to fund abortion.

Which is just not going to happen.

And the Supreme Court has turned that idea down twice already, but the war against the Christian nuns still rages on inside the nation’s courtrooms.

The latest was this week’s decision at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where judges once again put themselves in the position of deciding what the nuns should believe, do believe, and how strongly they believe it.

The background is well-known: In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services under Obama’s administration created a federal demand that employers provide contraceptives, including the week-after pill, free-of-cost in their health insurance plans.

There were no exemptions for religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, who help the poorest of the poor around the world who are at the end of their lives with nowhere else to go.

“These nuns have dedicated their lives to their faith and to serving the poor. Yet, these women were sued and told that they must violate their conscience by providing contraception through their insurance,” explained a report by the Family Research Council.

In 2016, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected lower court decisions against the group, concluding the government should be allowed to “arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates the petitioners’ religious beliefs.”

In 2017, President Trump released an executive order directing federal agencies to address the faith objections to Obama’s plan. Shortly after followed a new federal rule.

But now state officials, in Pennsylvania and California, taking over for the Obama agenda, demanded at a state level that the nuns pay up for abortions.

Rulings from the 9th Circuit, and earlier the 3rd Circuit, have claimed that the federal government doesn’t have the authority to exempt the nuns from state demands.

The FRC, in a commentary, explained, “The Supreme Court needs to settle the debate and rule that the government cannot require people and groups to violate their conscience by providing contraceptive services. The court should uphold the HHS rule, which protects the inherent human right of religious liberty. This liberty promotes the common good and allows society to flourish. The Little Sisters of the Poor certainly promote the common good as they assist the poorest in society. Violating their conscience ought not to be a precondition for the Little Sisters assisting those most in need.”

The ruling from the 3rd Circuit already has been appealed to the Supreme Court, according to officials for Becket, which is representing them.

“Over the past three years the Supreme Court has twice protected the Catholic nuns, but the states have dragged them back to court,” Becket said. “In Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro threatened the Little Sisters’ ministry by challenging their religious exemption, forcing the Little Sisters to continue to defend themselves in court.”

The appeal to the high court explains: “Since late 2013, this court has repeatedly been presented with questions concerning the relationship between the federal contraceptive mandate and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the adequacy of ever-evolving government treatment of religious objectors. In a series of emergency orders, the court protected religious non-profits from facing large fines for noncompliance, but repeatedly refrained from expressing any definitive view on the merits of their RFRA claims.

“In its 2014 Hobby Lobby decision, the court discussed the regulatory mechanism available to religious non-profits as one of the several less restrictive alternatives to the mandate’s treatment of religious for-profits. The court understood that there were ongoing challenges to the sufficiency of that mechanism under RFRA, and it emphasized that it was not deciding whether it was sufficient for those who object to it. Nonetheless, by pointing to it as a potential less restrictive alternative, the court seemed to assume that the executive branch had ample power to promulgate some sort of religious accommodation.

“In the fall of 2015, as scores of cases involving religious non-profits worked their way through the courts, the court granted certiorari to decide the RFRA question. But there too the court demurred: the unanimous eight-justice per curiam decision in Zubik noted the ‘substantial clarification and refinement’ of the parties’ positions and remanded for the parties to explore a resolution. Once again, the court seemed to assume ample authority on the part of the executive to accommodate religious exercise broadly enough to bring the litigation to an end.

“Three years later,” the brief says, “it is clear that the litigation will not end unless and until this court provides definitive guidance on the RFRA questions.”

The fight all stems from Obamacare, which requires companies to provide “preventive care” but does not define it. That was left to the bureaucrats in the Health Resources and Service Administration, who jumped at the opportunity to support the abortion industry by requiring “care” services.

At one point there were about 100 lawsuits against the mandate from religious groups and organizations who objected to being forced to violate their beliefs.

In fact, the government, both federal and the states of Pennsylvania and California, admitted women could have access to the contraceptives without the nuns’ participation.

Nevertheless, the states sued to demand submission to the pro-abortion agenda.

“This is a nonsensical political battle that has dragged on six years too long. These states have not been able to identify a single person who would lose contraceptive coverage under the new HHS rule, but they won’t rest until Catholic nuns are forced to pay for contraceptives,” said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket. “It is time for the Supreme Court to finally put this issue to rest.”

 

Original here

VA fixes rules to allow Bibles, religious symbols

‘A welcome breath of fresh air’

 

Constitution Bible

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has brought a “breath of fresh air” to its practices by allowing “religious literature, symbols and displays at VA facilities,” according to  First Liberty Institute.

FoxNews.com contributor Todd Starnes noted a VA medical center in Augusta, Georgia, had banned high school carolers from singing Christmas songs containing religious references in public areas of the hospital.

In Iowa City, American Legion volunteers said they could not hand out gifts to veterans if the wrapping paper included “Merry Christmas.”

And the Dallas VA medical center refused to accept the delivery of handwritten Christmas cards from local school children because the cards contained phrases such as “God Bless You.”

At the time, American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger pointed out, “Christians are more and more often targeted for censorship and restriction at VA facilities.

He said the decision “to prohibit the delivery of Christmas cards that mention Christmas is ludicrous.”

But now the VA has announced a change in policy to allow “the inclusion in appropriate circumstances of religious content in publicly accessible displays at VA facilities.”

The VA will “allow patients and their guests to request and be provided religious literature, symbols and sacred texts during visits to VA chapels and during their treatment at VA” and “allow VA to accept donations of religious literature, cards and symbols at its facilities and distribute them to VA patrons under appropriate circumstances or to a patron who requests them.”

The intent of the new policy is to protect religious liberty for veterans and their families.

“We want to make sure that all of our veterans and their families feel welcome at VA, no matter their religious beliefs. Protecting religious liberty is a key part of how we accomplish that goal,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “These important changes will bring simplicity and clarity to our policies governing religious and spiritual symbols, helping ensure we are consistently complying with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at thousands of facilities across the department.”

“This new VA policy is a welcome breath of fresh air,” said Mike Berry, director of Military Affairs for First Liberty Institute. “On the eve of our nation’s Independence Day, this is the perfect time to honor our veterans by protecting the religious freedom for which they fought and sacrificed. The Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of religious displays with historic roots such as those commonly found in VA facilities. We commend the VA for taking this necessary and positive action.”

The institute had sent a letter only weeks ago urging the VA to fix its practices. That came after the Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging a POW/MIA Remembrance display at the Manchester VA Medical Center because it included a Bible.

https://www.wnd.com/2019/07/va-fixes-rules-to-allow-bibles-religious-symbols/