In the News: Breaking Religious Freedom Stories Across the Country

March 3, 2023
Fli Insider | In the News

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

Lawyer For Cop Who Resigned Over Religious Facebook Post: Religious People Need Not Apply?

First Liberty attorney Stephanie Taub recently wrote an op-ed for the Savannah Morning News discussing our client Jacob Kersey, who was forced to resign from his job as a police officer because of his religious beliefs. She writes:

The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment protects Jacob’s right to express his Christian beliefs in his personal life and discuss his faith while off duty. Just last year, in Kennedy v. Bremerton Sch. District, the Supreme Court of the United States said the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment protects “the ability of those who hold religious beliefs of all kinds to live out their faiths in daily life.”  The court concluded that government officials violate the Free Exercise Clause when they express or harbor animus toward religion and that animus accompanies an official action or policy that burdens religious exercise.

West Virginia’s Religious Freedom Bill Heads to Governor’s Desk

Fox News reports: West Virginia’s “Equal Protection for Religion Act” is heading to the desk of Republican Gov. Jim Justice after moving through the legislature at lightning speed. The bill states that the government would not be able to “substantially burden” someone’s constitutional right to freedom of religion unless doing so “in a particular situation is essential to further a compelling governmental interest.” In cases where the government can prove to the courts there is a “compelling interest” to restrict that right, government officials must demonstrate religious freedoms are being infringed upon in “the least restrictive means” possible.

Texas Lawmakers Will Hear Bill to Protect Religious Liberty for Attorneys

Texas Values reports: This week, the Texas Senate State Affairs committee began considering a bill to potentially protect religious liberty for attorneys. SB 559 by Sen. Bryan Hughes would ensure that no attorney seeking a law license or renewal of a law license will be denied based on their faith and sincerely held religious beliefs.

Every year there are attacks on people of faith where their professional careers are threatened because of their sincerely held religious beliefs. The American Bar Association proposed a model rule that would punish lawyers if they are associated with a group that does not recognize sexual orientation and gender identity. That would mean a lawyer who is a member of a church who holds sincerely held religious beliefs on marriage and sexuality or a member of a legal Christian group like Federalist Society or Christian Legal Society could have their license threatened.

U.S. Labor Department Axes Trump-Era Expansion of Anti-Bias Exemptions

NBC News reports: The U.S. Department of Labor withdrew a rule adopted during the Trump administration that expanded religious exemptions for federal contractors. The department’s rescission of the rule restores a previous, narrower exemption that allows churches and their affiliates to only hire members of their religion. The Trump-era rule had broadened the exemption to cover any employers who “hold themselves out to the public as carrying out a religious purpose,” rather than only organizations with an explicitly religious mission.

Religious Groups Want Faith Protections Added to Sexual Orientation Bill

The Detroit Free Press reports: Religious groups are raising concerns about a state bill supported Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her party that seeks to include add sexual orientation as a protected group under a civil rights law.

Catholic, Protestant and Muslim leaders say that state Senate Bill 4, introduced last month, could lead to discrimination against religious people and groups, exposing them to potential lawsuits if they articulate conservative views on marriage and sexuality. They’re asking supporters of the bill to include a section that explicitly protects the rights of religious groups, something they said 22 other states included when they passed laws to add sexual orientation as a protected category.

Catholic Bookstore Sues City Forcing Businesses To Use Customers’ Preferred Pronouns

The Christian Post reports: A Catholic bookstore is suing a Florida city over its anti-discrimination law, which the bookstore claims will force it to use the preferred pronouns of customers. Queen of Angels Catholic Bookstore filed a lawsuit against the City of Jacksonville on Wednesday for expanding its human rights ordinance to include protections for gender identity and sexual orientation.

Sen. McConnell Chides Biden for Failure to Send ‘Best and Brighest’ Judicial Nominees

The Washington Examiner reports: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees amid speedy confirmations in the Senate, questioning whether the president is sending the “best and brightest” for life tenure on the federal judiciary.

“[Recently] the White House celebrated their 100th judicial confirmation with a bizarre press release that spent less than one sentence talking about legal qualifications before devoting five paragraphs to the nominees’ demographics,” McConnell said in a statement, adding that “the American people deserve the best and brightest” while the President’s and his party are producing “something else.”

Judge Kacsmaryk, The Latest Target of Judicial Intimidation

National Review reports: Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a district judge appointed by President Trump to the Northern District of Texas, has been the subject of serial invectives by Ian Millhiser of Vox, who calls him “the single worst villain in the United States of America that most people have never heard of.” The judge’s real offense is his background litigating religious liberty cases. As Ed Whelan points out, Kacsmaryk is consistently affirmed by the Fifth Circuit in cases Millhiser complains about. And the point of the latest onslaught against Kacsmaryk from Millhiser and others is an increasingly shameless campaign to bully conservative judges into changing their rulings.

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