In the News: Breaking Religious Freedom Stories Across the Country

April 7, 2023
Fli Insider | In the News

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

Maine Must Stop Trying to Bypass Supreme Court Decision on Schools

First Liberty legal fellow Courtney Jones wrote an op-ed for the Portland Press Herald discussing our case on behalf of Bangor Christian Schools:

“Maine is not getting the message that religious discrimination is illegal. Just last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Maine law that had excluded religious schools from the state’s school choice program. The outcome in Carson v. Makin made clear that such religious discrimination must end. But Maine continues to perpetuate religious discrimination in its school choice program, now by rejecting religious schools for beliefs that the state doesn’t like.”

Illinois Senate Approves Measure to Crack Down on Crisis Pregnancy Centers

The State Journal-Register reports: The Illinois State Senate passed a bill (SB 1909) that would give the state’s attorney general explicit authority to crack down on “limited services pregnancy centers,” which are also known as crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs. The bill bars CPCs from engaging in “unfair methods of competition” or “deceptive acts or practices.”

Attorney General Kwame Raoul claims people are being “misled into going to crisis pregnancy centers—sometimes even receiving exams and ultrasounds—thinking they were visiting another clinic that offers the full range of reproductive care.”

CPC’s have been under attack since the leak of the Dobbs v Jackson draft opinion in May 2022. More than 100 attacks have been reported, including fire bombings and arson which damaged or destroyed many properties, as well as rocks and bricks thrown through windows. Many facilities were graffitied with threatening messages, such as, “If abortion is not safe, then you aren’t safe.”

First Liberty is leading the effort to protect faith-based CPCs from violence. We represent Heartbeat of Miami, a reproductive health care facility that’s been subject to unlawful acts of vandalism. We filed a lawsuit against Jane’s Revenge and its associates who defaced and spray-painted Heartbeat’s property.

New Texas Bill Would Require Schools to Display 10 Commandments in Every Classroom

Christian Headlines reports: A new Texas bill, if enacted, would require public primary and secondary schools in Texas to show a poster-sized display of the 10 Commandments “in a conspicuous place in each classroom.” Senate Bill 1515, sponsored by Texas state Sen. Phil King, includes a requirement regarding the exact size of the posters and the inclusion of the words “Thou shall” at the start of each commandment.

Rep. Chip Roy of Texas Pushes to Amend Respect for Marriage Act, Include Stronger Religious Protections

Fox News reports: Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, is leading an effort to amend the controversial “Respect for Marriage Act,” a proposal that would enshrine into federal law a sweeping redefinition and expansion of what marriage means. President Biden signed it into law last year.

Rep. Roy is seeking to include new protections for religious observers that weren’t included. He wants to add language that prohibits the federal government from taking “any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially, on the basis that such person speaks, or acts, in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief, or moral conviction, that marriage is, or should be recognized as, a union of one man and one woman.”

Learn more about the deceptively named “Respect for Marriage Act” from our legal experts here.

Virginia Passes Law Requiring Government to Treat Churches Equally During Emergencies

The Christian Post reports: Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed a bill into law that prohibits the state government from unfairly imposing restrictions on houses of worship that are more severe than on secular entities during public emergencies.

House Bill 2171 reads: “No rule, regulation, or order issued by the Governor or other governmental entity pursuant to this chapter shall impose restrictions on the operation of a place of worship that are more restrictive than the restrictions imposed on any other business, organization, or activity.”

Judge Rules Immigration Officials Violated Pastor’s Religious Freedom Rights

The Washington Post reports: A New York pastor and immigrant rights activist has won a protracted legal battle against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. A judge ruled last week that federal agents violated her religious freedom and retaliated against her after a 2019 incident along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The ruling held that U.S. Customs and Border Protection had “unlawfully retaliated against her for her protected First Amendment activity, violated her Free Exercise right to minister to migrants in Mexico, and violated” the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

‘It’s Not Appropriate’: Parents Call Out School Board for Refusing to Let Students Opt-Out of Gender Identity Lessons

The Lion reports: Maryland parents are pushing back against a school board that is refusing to let them opt their child out of lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation. In November 2022, the school district unveiled a list of LGBTQ-inclusive books that would be implemented in elementary school classrooms. More than 70 parents showed up to the Montgomery County School Board meeting, saying such lessons violate their religious beliefs and that they have a right to have a say in their child’s education.

Rise in Antisemitic Hate Crimes Leads to More Protection for Jewish Communities Ahead of Passover 

CBS News reports: A troubling rise in hate crimes is leading to action to protect religious communities. The Anti-Defamation League says nationwide, 2022 saw the highest number of antisemitic incidents since the group started keeping track 44 years ago. There were nearly 3,700 incidents, averaging about 10 per day, a 36% increase from the year before. State and federal officials are working to protect houses of worship ahead of important religious holidays.

Choosing Freedom Instead of Totalitarianism

In an op-ed for WORLD, Eric Patterson discusses the lies that authoritarians and Communists perpetrated during and after the Cold War regarding Western values. He writes:

“This lie contends that Western Civilization, rooted in Christian morality, is oppressive. ‘Liberation’ means tearing down classic understandings of law, sexuality, the family and parental rights, culture, customs, and religious faith. Deconstruct it all! This is the lie that we see in the West today, and it helps explain why activists so quickly turn to bullying lawsuits, social vendettas, and attacks by so-called ‘human rights commissions’ to achieve liberation from moral truth and the decimation of opponents who refuse to countenance the lie.”

Opinion: Why I Am Standing Up to Politicized Debanking

In an op-ed for Newsweek, Nebraska State Treasurer John Murante discusses the growing threat of cancel culture in the financial industry. Last fall, JP Morgan Chase 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.

Murante says the bank has a “disturbing track record of debanking clients for biased or arbitrary reasons.” Along with 21 other financial and state leaders, he calls on “Chase to be accountable and transparent, and to treat all customers equally, regardless of their religious or political points of view.”

Trump-Appointed Federal Judges Pledge Boycott of Stanford Students

Fox News reports: Two federal appeals court judges appointed by former President Trump plan to refuse hiring Stanford Law graduates following a scandal in which students verbally harassed a federal judge who was brought in as a guest speaker. Judges James Ho and Elizabeth Branch announced they would not hire future Stanford students to clerk for them.

“We’re not teaching the basic terms of our democracy,”Judge Ho said. “Our Nation’s law schools are failing this basic standard. I worry they’re making the world a worse place. It’s not a coincidence that the worst disruptions typically occur at the worst schools when it comes to one critically important metric: intellectual diversity on the faculty and in the administration.”

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