In the News: Breaking Religious Freedom Stories Across the Country

February 3, 2023
FLI Insider | In the News V4

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

Forcing Service Members to Get Vaccinated Will Have ‘Far-Reaching’ Implications

First Liberty attorney Danielle Runyan appeared on “Fox & Friends Weekend” alongside Naval officer Lt. Levi Beaird to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine mandate’s impact on service members.

You can watch the video here.

Biden’s Abortion Mandates Threaten Pro-Life VA Nurse’s Job, But She Isn’t Giving Up

First Liberty attorneys Danielle Runyan and Holly Randall wrote an op-ed for Fox News discussing our case on behalf of VA nurse Stephanie Carter. Our attorneys filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the VA’s new rule titled “Reproductive Health Services” that immediately allowed elective abortions at VA medical clinics. They write:

“Carter is a primary care nurse practitioner with strong religious objections to abortion. She presently works at the VA’s Temple, Texas facility. Her own traumatic history with multiple abortions contributes to her convictions, and she wants no part of working in a facility that performs unlimited abortions…Not only does the VA’s rule detrimentally impact religious employees, but it also exposes all nurse practitioners, like Stephanie, and other medical providers working in the state of Texas to criminal and civil liability for engaging in the rule’s abortion activity.”

A Response to The New York Time’s Article “The Latest Crusade to Place Religion Over the Rest of Civil Society”

In a guest essay for The New York Times, author Linda Greenhouse takes a critical, uninformed position against First Liberty’s Supreme Court case on behalf of our client Gerald Groff.

First Liberty responded by sending a Letter to the Editor, which you can read below:

Dear Editor:

Writing about Groff v. DeJoy, Linda Greenhouse (“The Latest Crusade to Place Religion Over the Rest of Society,” Jan. 30, 2023) forgets that, 45-years ago, SCOTUS evaluated EEOC “guidance.”  It has never reviewed the language of the statute passed by Congress that prevents employers from firing employees, in the words of Sen. Jennings Randolph (D-WV), “whose religious practices rigidly require them to abstain from work . . . on particular days.”

Groff v. DeJoy simply asks whether Congress meant what it said.  Every employee deserves equal opportunity and fair treatment in the workplace.  Restoring Title VII’s focus of making sure everyone is treated fairly promotes our nation’s historic commitment to religious diversity.  It motivates everyone from the boardroom to the mailroom to find a solution that works for the business as a whole. 

As Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote in his dissent in Hardison, “All Americans will be a little poorer until today’s decision is erased.”  An America that values religious pluralism should not put religious adherents to the cruel choice of surrendering their religion or their job.

Two-Thirds of Americans Say Calls to Prayer During Times of National Tragedy Are ‘Helpful’

The Christian Post reports: A new poll reveals that the overwhelming majority of Americans see public calls for prayer in a time of tragedy as a force for good. Summit Ministries, in conjunction with McLaughlin & Associates, conducted an online poll released to the public Tuesday of 1,000 likely voters from Jan. 19-23, asking them to weigh in on the power of prayer.

The poll came a few weeks after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s collapse after suffering cardiac arrest during a Jan. 2 game against the Cincinnati Bengals and his subsequent recovery. Hamlin’s recovery followed an outpouring of support from the American public, which included the offering of prayers on his behalf.

Missouri House Bill Would Limit Government Authority over Religious Events 

The Columbia Missourian reports: The Missouri Legislature is considering a bill growing out of the COVID-19 pandemic that seeks to expand existing law to further prevent government officials from interfering with religious gatherings. House Bill 293, also called the Religious Freedom Protection Act, was written in response to COVID-19 safety procedures. The bill unilaterally prohibits any public official from “limiting or prohibiting” the ability of religious organizations to hold meetings.

Colorado Baker Loses Appeal over Transgender Birthday Cake

AP News reports: Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who won in 2018 at the U.S. Supreme Court after refusing to make a gay couple’s wedding cake because of his Christian faith, lost an appeal recently in his latest legal fight, involving his rejection of a request for a birthday cake celebrating a gender transition.

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that the cake requested from Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop, which was to be pink with blue frosting, is not a form of speech.

In Victory for Religious Freedom, Student Will Be Allowed to Wear ‘Jesus Loves Me’ Mask at School 

The Daily Signal reports: In a victory for religious freedom, elementary schooler Lydia Booth, 11, will now be allowed to wear her “Jesus Loves Me” face mask to school if she chooses. Following two years of legal proceedings, a settlement has been reached between the Simpson County School District in Mississippi and the attorneys representing Lydia.

Biden Has Bolstered 9th Circuit’s Liberal Flank, But Has Yet to Match Trump’s Impact

The LA Times reports: President Biden is leaving a distinct mark on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, adding relatively young jurists who have bolstered the influential court’s liberal flank. Despite the president’s leftward push, experts cautioned against overstating Biden’s impact, saying he is trying to regain ground lost in an aggressive campaign by former President Trump, who appointed a record number of conservative jurists to the federal bench.

The makeup of the judges who serve on the 9th Circuit, a massive jurisdiction that includes nine Western states and two U.S. territories, has broad implications. The court reviews and decides some of the nation’s most pressing cultural and political issues, from gun control, religious freedom and environmental regulations to labor and tech policy.

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