In the News: Breaking Religious Freedom Stories Across the Country

March 31, 2023
FLI Insider | In the News V4

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

This State Fired a First Responder After He Only Followed Orders 

First Liberty attorney David Hacker wrote an op-ed for Fox News discussing our Faith Under Fire case involving Fire Chief Ron Hittle. He was was wrongfully fired because he went to a conference at a church that featured both secular and religious speakers talking about leadership. Hacker writes:

“Federal law protects the freedom of every American to live without fear of being fired simply because of their beliefs. Chief Hittle clearly fulfilled the directives of his superiors when he attended the leadership summit, but was fired anyway. ”

New York Law Threatens First and Second Amendments 

First Liberty attorney Jeremy Dys wrote an op-ed for Newsweek discussing our case involving His Tabernacle Family Church. First Liberty and law firm Clement & Murphy recently argued in federal appeals court challenging a New York law that prohibits firearms at places of worship but not in most secular establishments. Dys writes:

“Singling out houses of worship for total disarmament demonstrates hostility toward religion, leaves religious adherents defenseless to rebuff violent attacks, and defies at least two recent Supreme Court rulings. Religious leaders are no less qualified than secular business owners to determine whether to allow carrying a firearm for self-defense. New York should end its defiant assault on First and Second Amendment freedoms.”

New York’s Power to Regulate Religious Schools Trimmed by Judge

AP News reports: Parents cannot be required to pull their children from private schools in New York that fail to meet state-designated standards, a judge decided, striking down a key provision of rules recently passed to strengthen oversight of such schools, including those specializing in religious education. The ruling in a state trial court in Albany came in response to a lawsuit brought by Orthodox Jewish schools, called yeshivas, and related advocacy groups over education rules enacted last fall.

Parents Challenge California Ban on Special Education Funds at Religious Schools

Catholic Review reports: A group of parents and religious schools filed suit challenging a California law that prohibits the use of special education funding for students to attend religious schools. Three families want to educate their children with special needs at schools that operate in accordance with their Orthodox Jewish faith. But they say California prevents them from accessing public funds for special education at religious private schools while the state permits the use of those funds at secular private schools.

State Financial Officers Call on JPMorgan Chase to Address Politically Motivated De-Banking

Fox Business reports: More than a dozen state financial officers are calling on JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to root out any internal political or anti-religious bias that may result in adverse decisions against clients of the nation’s largest bank. The letter was signed by a group of 14 Republican state auditors, controllers and treasurers. Last fall, the bank abruptly closed the account of the National Committee for Religious Freedom, a faith-based nonprofit organization led by Sam Brownback, former U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for Religious Freedom.

Appeals Court Blocks Biden’s Federal Employee Shot Mandate

The Desert Review reports: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the nationwide preliminary injunction that blocks Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate that required all federal employees to receive the injection or face termination. Feds for Medical Freedom, which represents more than 700 border patrol agents, pilots, diplomats, firefighters, contractors, and other Americans, filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on December 21, 2021, seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief from the mandate.

First Liberty filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case on behalf of dozens of members of Congress. Our brief explained that executive lawmaking is an unconstitutional, overreach of power that poses a danger to religious liberty.

‘Dear Jesus, Please Help Them’: The Power of Prayer Amid a Mississippi Tornado 

The Washington Stand reports: Americans have watched with devastated empathy as a horrific tornado ripped through Mississippi, taking the lives of at least 26 individuals and leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

In times of such loss and hardship, it is natural for many people to turn to God for comfort or guidance. Matt Laubhan, a Christian and chief meteorologist at WTVA Weather Authority, began to pray on air for those who would be victimized by the tornado, he had no idea of the tangible impact that his prayer would have.

Arizona School Board Accused of ‘Blatant Religious Discrimination’ for Rejecting Christian Teachers 

CBN News reports: Arizona Christian University and the Washington Elementary School District in the Phoenix and Glendale areas of Arizona had a partnership where ACU students could student-teach in the district’s public schools. Weeks ago, that relationship ended when the school board cut ties because of the university’s biblical beliefs. The school board voted unanimously not to renew the student-teacher contract with the Christian school.

Sen. Cruz Introduces Constitutional Amendment to Cement Supreme Court at Nine Justices

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas introduced a constitutional amendment to ensure only nine justices could serve on the U.S. Supreme Court at a time. The amendment would add an article to the Constitution with a line that simply states: “The Supreme Court of the United States shall be composed of nine justices.” If passed by Congress, his amendment would head to the states for ratification.

First Liberty experts have previously warned about the dangers of court-packing. This “reform” would end the legitimacy and independence of the Supreme Court, erode all public confidence in future court rulings and eradicate our cherished rights and freedoms, including religious liberty.

Evangelicals Can’t Afford to Ignore the FBI’s Targeting of “Radical-Traditional” Catholics

The Heritage Foundation reports: Last month, the FBI published an internal memo targeting “radical-traditional Catholic ideology,” warning of a nexus between some Catholics and white supremacists and citing the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a source.

At first, this may seem like a problem merely for Roman Catholics. After all, the FBI memo encouraged agents to develop “sources with access” in “places of worship”—in this case, Catholic churches. Yet evangelical Protestants cannot afford to ignore this incident. The noxious prospect of the FBI investigating religious services at the SPLC’s beck and call should alarm orthodox Christians of every stripe, along with Americans of all faiths.

Child Evangelism Fellowship Sues Rhode Island School District 

WORLD reports: Child Evangelism Fellowship of Rhode Island filed an application to restart its Good News Club at a school in Providence. When it started a club in 2019, almost 50 children signed up, but only 20 could attend due to space constraints. COVID-19 closures prevented club meetings for most of 2020 and early 2021. In the fall of 2021, CEF also filed a second application to use space in another elementary school to start a new club.

After waiting over a year and a half for approval of those applications, CEF sued Providence Public School District on March 10. The lawsuit asks a federal court to order the district to grant the fellowship equal access to school facilities for its after-school programs.

Arizona Considering Bill to Expand Religious Exemptions

AZ Mirror reports: Businesses in Arizona would be fined if they deny their employees religious exemptions for the flu vaccine and any vaccine with emergency authorization under a proposal on its way to the governor’s desk. State law already allows employees to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine based on religious beliefs. But Senate Bill 1250, sponsored by a former nurse, would extend that right to any other vaccine authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under emergency conditions, like the initial COVID-19 vaccine was. It would also extend the exemption to the annual influenza vaccine.

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