In the News: Breaking Religious Freedom Stories Across the Country

April 28, 2023
In the News Courtney | First Liberty Institute

Catch up on the latest religious freedom headlines around the web.

On the Need for Scholars and Warriors

First Liberty’s President Kelly Shackelford and Executive Director of the Center for Religion, Culture and Democracy Trey Dimsdale wrote an essay for Law & Liberty discussing why every generation must remain vigilant in the defense of freedom:

“The last few years have been good for religious freedom in America’s courts…But as important as legal victories are for the future of freedom in the United States—and they are significant—they remain “parchment barriers” that by themselves will never be enough to preserve individual freedoms for long…If liberty is going to survive, advocacy for it cannot be either in the political realm or in the culture—it must be both in the political realm and in the culture.”

Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Religious Liberty Case

First Liberty attorney Jeremy Dys wrote an op-ed for Inside Sources discussing the recent Supreme Court argument in our Faithful Carrier case:

“A favorite sport in the hours and days after the Supreme Court hears arguments in a case is guessing how the justices will rule. It can be a humbling exercise. Yet, in response to recent oral arguments in Groff v. DeJoy, one thing may be certain: The court will address and adjust a decades-old decision from a case that has thwarted religious liberty protections for American employees ever since. The question is how far the court might go in restoring religious liberty to the workplace.”

America’s Tug-Of-War Over Children

First Liberty attorney Keisha Russell wrote an op-ed for WORLD discussing the cultural battle to indoctrinate children with radical ideologies:

“Lately, education in America has dominated the news cycle in heartbreaking ways. Battles at the schoolhouse gates are portrayed as just another partisan political conflict. In reality, they are an extension of the broader spiritual battle going on in the world, between God’s kingdom agenda, which pursues truth, and the world’s agenda of deception and lies. Both seek to gain the allegiance of the youth in order to ensure that the children grow up to be soldiers of their army. But it’s a battle that truth must win.”

Why Christianity Is Necessary for Liberty

Trey Dimsdale, Executive Director of First Liberty’s Center for Religion, Culture and Democracy, wrote an essay for the Acton Institute. He responds to a recent article claiming that Christianity is not necessary for democracy. He writes:

“Rights belong to individuals, and it is through the Christian tradition that the West came to appreciate the inherent dignity of each individual and respect the fact that that dignity affords inalienable rights…The West would not be free had it not been Christian. That’s not the end of the story, but it certainly is the beginning.”

Cultivating A Society That Doesn’t Read the Bible: What Are the Consequences?

Stephen O. Presley, Senior Fellow at First Liberty’s Center for Religion, Culture and Democracy, wrote an op-ed for Religion Unplugged. He discusses recent declines in Bible readership:

“Late last year, the American Bible Society published its annual ‘State of the Bible’ report, and the results signal a dramatic decline in Bible reading. It seems clear that we are cultivating a society that does not care to make Bible reading a regular habit…How do we respond to the fact that the Bible is rapidly losing influence and no longer a culturally shaping text? At least the first step is following the example of someone like Augustine and ‘take up and read.’”

A Biden Second Term Threatens Freedom of Religion

National Review reports: The Biden administration has been an implacable foe of freedom of religion. That “first liberty”—as it is sometimes called—is a fundamental human right. It is explicitly protected in the First Amendment’s protection of “the free exercise” of religion. Biden’s hostility to the free exercise of religion aspect has resulted in concerted efforts to sacrifice this first liberty on the altar of secular cultural imperatives.

Court Protects Airmen in Vaccine Mandate Fight, Upholds Religious Freedom Rights

CBN News reports: A federal appeals court upheld a ruling that shields airmen from COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The U.S. Air Force had asked the court to toss out a decision that protected the rights of service members, but the court denied that attempt. The Air Force wanted to remove the court’s injunction since the Department of Defense (DOD) rescinded the vaccine mandate last December. However, the appeals court decided the DOD’s elimination of the mandate was not enough to warrant dissolving the protection.

Restoring Faith in America: Arkansas Governor Signs Law Bolstering Religious Freedom Protections

The Christian Post reports: Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the Conscience Protection Act (House Bill 1615) into law. It prohibits the state government from taking “any discriminatory action against a religious organization on the basis of the religious identity or status of the religious organization.” Additionally, the law orders the state government to “consider any person for a contract, grant, or agreement that would otherwise be considered for a contract, grant, or agreement but for a determination against the person wholly or partially on the basis that the person maintains policies and procedures, or acts in accordance with, a sincerely held religious belief.”

Restoring Faith in America: Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act Heading to Governor’s Desk

ABC News 8 Tulsa reports: Senate Bill 404, known as the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, has passed through the House and is now making its way to Gov. Stitt’s desk to be signed. The bill would prevent discrimination against religious organizations, specifically when it comes to receiving state tax dollars. It prohibits exclusion from government funds, benefits, programs, or exemptions based solely on the religious character or affiliation of a person or entity.

Wisconsin Supreme Court to Hear Catholic Charity’s Religious Freedom Case

Catholic News Agency reports: A Catholic charity that was denied legal recognition as a religious organization will have its case heard by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Catholic Charities Bureau maintains that the state improperly removed its designation as a religious organization. Founded by the Catholic Diocese of Superior in 1917, the organization continues to be operated by the diocese, providing services to the poor, disabled, and elderly. The charity filed a lawsuit after the state said it did not qualify to be considered as an organization “operated primarily for religious purposes.”

Opinion: Leave New York’s Yeshivas Alone

In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, William McGurn writes: Are Jewish moms and dads who send their children to religious schools lawbreakers? Or are they exercising their right to live by their beliefs—even if those beliefs are out of fashion with modern American sensibilities? The New York State Education Department is targeting Hasidic Jews for running yeshivas it says do not equip students with the skills necessary for 21st-century.

Religious Discrimination Case: Rhode Island School District Blocked Good News Club but Not Other Clubs

CBN News reports: Attorneys recently asked a federal district court to enter a final judgment on behalf of a Christian club that wasn’t allowed at a public school that allowed other types of clubs. The case is against the Providence Public School District and its superintendent, Dr. Javier Montañez. They’re accused of discriminating against Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) Rhode Island by not allowing its Good News Clubs on campuses while allowing secular clubs to meet.

Congressional Standoff Over Supreme Court Escalates 

The Hill reports: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin’s call for Chief Justice John Roberts to testify before Congress about the Supreme Court’s ethical standards is sparking a firestorm on Capitol Hill. Republicans are accusing the Democratic chairman of trying to ensnare court in a media “circus.” They point out that it’s extremely rare to call on a sitting chief justice to testify before Congress.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas accused his Democratic colleagues of conducting a “smear” campaign against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. “I don’t believe that Senate Democrats are proceeding in good faith,” he said. “I think many of them are seizing on the opportunity to attack a Supreme Court justice who is the leading conservative on the court, the leading defender of religious liberty and the Second Amendment.”

College Faces Lawsuit After Allegedly Suspending Christian Student for Quoting Bible on Sexual Morality

Fox News reports: County College of Morris and its Dean of Students are being sued after a student was suspended for “hate speech” by citing Scripture. The student’s attorneys reported that after someone on campus witnessed him quoting biblical teaching on sexual morality, the college issued a written warning saying his words were hateful and “demonstrated a bias against the LGBQT+ community.” The warning also said his statements violated New Jersey law.

How The Marine Corps Will Accommodate a Sikh Recruit in Boot Camp 

Yahoo News reports: A judge has laid out grooming accommodations that the Marine Corps must offer to a Sikh soon-to-be recruit, likely setting a precedent for how other future recruits of the Sikh faith may be accommodated in Marine boot camp. In December 2022, three Sikh men secured a victory when a federal court granted a separate preliminary injunction that would allow them to enter boot camp with their articles of faith, including unshorn hair covered in a turban.

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