In the News: Breaking Religious Freedom Stories Across the Country

January 27, 2023
FLI Insider | In the News V4

Catch up on the latest and most important religious freedom headlines around the web.

Ted Cruz to Reintroduce Bill Reinstating Military Members Fired Over Vax Mandates

Fox News reports: Texas Senator Ted Cruz is reintroducing a bill to reinstate military service members who were fired over President Biden’s vaccine mandates, vowing he “will never stop fighting” for them.

Cruz and 18 of his colleagues introduced the Allowing Military Exemptions, Recognizing Individual Concerns About New Shots (AMERICANS) Act of 2023. The legislation builds off of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023, which included language from legislation Cruz introduced last year to repeal the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the Department of Defense and required a report on how DOD adjudicated service member’s requests for an exemption from the mandate on religious and other grounds.

Americans Like the Supreme Court More, But Still Not That Much

Bloomberg Law reports: Public perception of the US Supreme Court has crept back up since bottoming out last year when the Court issued its decision returning the power to regulate abortion to the states, according to a new Marquette Law School poll.

The poll found that 47% of people approved of the court, up from 38% just after the June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson ruling, but still well below the 66% approval mark in September 2020. The survey showed a deep partisan divide, with 67% of Republicans approving and only 35% of Democrats.

Court to Reconsider If California School District Must Recognize Christian Club

Reuters reports: A federal appeals court will reconsider a decision requiring a school district in San Jose, California to recognize a Christian student group over its objections to a policy the district says discriminatorily bars LGBTQ students from serving as club leaders.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently vacated a panel’s 2-1 decision in August finding the district violated the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ rights by revoking its status as an official high school student club.

Learn more about this case here.

Pennsylvania Senators Make Push to Allow Freedom of Religious Dress for Teachers Across the State

Philly Voice reports: Pennsylvania state senators are hoping to eliminate a section from the state’s education code that prohibits teachers from wearing religious dress in the classroom, such as hijabs, cross necklaces or yarmulkes.

A bill unanimously approved by lawmakers would allow educators the freedom to wear any clothing, mark, emblem or symbol that indicates an affiliation with any religion or sect, putting an official end to a guideline that has not been strictly enforced for 20 years.

ESPN And Disney Are Facing a Federal Religious Freedom Lawsuit

Deseret News reports: Two former ESPN employees are crying foul over the company’s response to faith-based objections to the COVID-19 vaccines. A reporter and producer recently filed suit claiming that ESPN and the network’s parent company, Walt Disney, violated federal religious freedom protections when it fired them for refusing—for religious reasons—to abide by the company’s vaccine mandate.

‘Cut His Time Short’: Far-Left Activists Continue Demonstrations at Kavanaugh’s Home

The Daily Signal reports: Leftist activists demonstrated unimpeded at the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on Sunday evening, the 50th anniversary of the monumental Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade. About 20 activists, organized by the protest group Our Rights DC, marched up and down the sidewalk in front of Kavanaugh’s home.

The protesters carried rainbow umbrellas decorated with pro-abortion slogans, marching and chanting: “cut his time short, a rapist should not rule the court,” “freedom of religion means freedom from yours,” and “no privacy for us, no peace for you.”

Sen. Kennedy Stumps Biden Nominee with Basic Questions About the Constitution 

Fox News reports: A Biden judicial nominee was unable to answer basic questions about the U.S. Constitution posed by Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., during a recent Senate hearing.

Judge Charnelle Bjelkengren, of Spokane County Superior Court in Washington State, was nominated by President Biden to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. During her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bjelkengren could not answer Kennedy’s questions about what different parts of the U.S. Constitution do and how courts might interpret laws.

“Tell me what Article V of the Constitution does,” Kennedy asked. “Article V is not coming to mind at the moment,” the judge said.

Some Perspective on Biden’s Judicial Nominations

National Review reports: Much commentary on his judicial nominations has noted the higher number of confirmations for President Biden’s nominees than for President Trump’s at this point in their respective presidencies. Biden had a total of 97 Article III judges confirmed, a dozen more than Trump’s 85 at his two-year mark.

For now, according to FiveThirtyEight, about 11% of federal judges are Biden appointees versus 26% who are Trump appointees. Even if Biden fills all current vacancies, he will still have appointed 20% of the bench. Of course, additional vacancies in the future can increase that total. But the Biden administration is not on pace to surpass recent benchmarks for realigning the federal bench.

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