In the News: Breaking Religious Freedom Stories Across the Country

February 10, 2023
FLI Insider | In the News V4

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

Religious Liberty Update on U.S. Congress and Executive Branch Actions

In this article written for The Federalist Society, First Liberty attorney Christine Pratt provides a thorough update on actions from our nation’s capital impacting religious freedom.

Government Should Prioritize Protecting Religious Liberty in the Workplace 

In an op-ed for The Daily Signal, First Liberty attorney Beckey Dummermuth writes:

As corporate America becomes more progressive and less tolerant of religious beliefs and practices, the federal agency tasked with enforcing laws that protect the rights of employees seems less inclined lately toward protecting the rights of those who are religious.

Employers need to be educated about the right of employees to communicate their religious beliefs about what is important to them to the same extent they are permitted to communicate their non-religious beliefs about what is important to them. And employees need to be educated about federal laws that protect them from adverse employment action on the basis of their religious beliefs or conduct.

A NY Times Journalist vs. Freedom of Religious Conscience

In a blog post for the Acton Institute, First Liberty’s executive director of the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, writes:

Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times journalist Linda Greenhouse came out of retirement on the opinion page of her former paper to warn Americans that their nation is now on the cusp of seeing religion “elevate[d] … over all other elements of civil society.” The “bold activism” of the Supreme Court, according to Greenhouse, has resulted in an America on the verge of a theocracy, with a High Court that understands civil society primarily through the lens of Protestant evangelical religion. This is a remarkable claim about a Court with only two Protestants, neither of whom is evangelical. 

Irrespective of how Ms. Greenhouse view…the current Court’s religious freedom jurisprudence, or the nebulous “movement in [American] politics” driving a particular outcome, the result that we are seeking for our client and for all Americans is that no one be forced to leave religious convictions at home when going to work. No person—religious or nonreligious—should be forced to choose between conscience and livelihood.

Even After Mandate Lifted, Unvaccinated Sailors Claim They’re Being Punished For Their Religious Beliefs

MSN reports: A new brief filed in federal court alleges that the U.S. Navy continues to punish and discriminate against more than 4,000 unvaccinated Navy personnel based on their religious beliefs—even after the Department of Defense rescinded the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The new complaint says punitive actions taken against the sailors include restricting travel necessary for their jobs, demanding repayment of educational expenses and previously awarded and rightfully earned bonuses, and refusing to allow participation in meaningful training opportunities and operational assignments.

“The more than 4,000 sailors that are part of our class action, the vast majority of them continue to face adverse actions because of their religious objections to the vaccine,” said attorney Mike Berry, the director of Military Affairs for First Liberty.

Groups Slam Biden Administration for Forcing Contraception Services On Providers

Fox News reports: Companies and other employers that today are allowed a moral exemption to offering contraceptive services in their health insurance plans may soon be forced to provide those services under a proposed rule from the Biden administration. Experts are criticizing the action as unfair and possibly illegal.

The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced a plan to repeal a Trump-era rule that exempted employers from the Obamacare requirement to offer health insurance plans that include contraception if they have a moral objection to that requirement.

Religious liberty groups describe the proposed rule as an attempt by the party in power to force employers into providing contraceptive services, even though the Supreme Court ruled in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania that this is unconstitutional.

Freedom of Religion on the Chopping Block?

The Epoch Times reports: Intolerant secularism is on the march. In a blatant campaign of cultural imperialism, secularists and their leftist allies aim to shrivel the “free exercise” of religion to mere “freedom of worship.”

Both free exercise and freedom of worship are important to religious liberty. We might even say, they’re mutually dependent to freely living a life of faith.

Unfortunately, outside of explicitly worshipping contexts, federal and state laws and regulations are increasingly bent on forcing religious believers to act consistently with the values of reigning secular morality when outside the home, church, synagogue, temple, or mosque. The message is clear: Those with traditional religious views of morality had better keep their beliefs behind closed doors—or suffer the consequences.

Important Federal Court Victory for Christian Counseling

The Christian Post reports: A federal appeals court upheld a lower court decision that struck down a Tampa ordinance banning counselors in the city from offering faith-based therapy to minors struggling with same-sex attraction. Critics mistakenly refer to this as “conversion therapy,” but proponents contend that banning such counseling interferes with the First Amendment rights of the counselors and patients. A three-judge panel on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Tampa-based family therapist Robert Vazzo and the Christian ministry New Hearts Outreach Tampa Bay.

How A Painting of Jesus Ended Up Behind a Curtain at This Military Service Academy 

Deseret News reports: The large painting of Jesus was impossible to miss. It hung in a key meeting room at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. In January, 18 of these stakeholders sent a letter to the academy’s superintendent through the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) to express their concerns. The academy’s superintendent announced that school leaders would hang a curtain rod over the painting so that it could be covered up during most school events. MRFF is an organization notorious for attacking virtually any religious expression in the military.

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