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Freedom of Religion Tag

Living in America, it's very easy to forget that just a plane ride away, people are persecuted on the basis of their religious beliefs. I say "persecuted" like that covers the atrocities that occur on a daily basis, but it really doesn't; feminists, gay rights activists, and race hustlers all claim "persecution," but if that's the word we're going to use to describe what happens to people like the Coptic Christians of Egypt, we may want to stop throwing it around when arguing about the wage gap. Recently, the world sat dumbfounded as news surfaced that a group of Muslims threw a dozen Christians overboard a migrant ship traveling from Libya to Italy. Outrage bubbled as Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi insisted during a joint press conference with the President that "the problem [was] not a problem of (a) clash of religions," and boiled over as Obama stood by and said nothing. Would he have spoken up if the victims had been Muslim? Kirsten Powers thinks so. In an op-ed for USA Today, Powers lashed out at Obama, and pointed out that his silence about the mass murder at sea isn't a one-off problem.

Scott Walker was interviewed by Charlie Sykes about the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act protests. Walker defended the law, stated that Wisconsin had a similar provision embodied in its Constitution, and that the outrage was sparkd by those “chronically looking for ways to be upset about things,” BuzzFeed reported:
Walker said the outrage for the law was coming from people who hadn’t really looked at what the law really is and were just looking for a reason to be upset. “I just think this is people who are chronically looking for ways to be upset about things instead of really looking what it is. I believe in protecting religious freedoms. It’s inherent in our state’s constitution. Heck, it’s inherent in our U.S. Constitution, and again, Wisconsin, we’ve done it, and we’re stronger for it.” Asked about what would happen to a baker who did wanting to provide services to a same-sex wedding in the state, Walker didn’t address the scenario, but said Wisconsin’s law strikes “a healthy balance.” “Again, if you look at the constitution there is both a combination of religious freedoms protecting the constitution and back in the ’80s, long, long ago when I was still a kid, there were also provisions there that would protect against discrimination including a gay or lesbian individual out there,” he said. “So there is a healthy balance of someone can’t be discriminated, say, in the workplace and that — but for someone who has a conscientious objection, based on their religious

Yesterday, we told you about a small Indiana pizza joint that has been forced to close down after its proprietors committed the unpardonable sin of coming forward in support of Indiana's new RFRA law. An irresponsible "news hit" led to a landslide of boycott threats, liberal thinkpieces, and threats against the lives and livelihoods of Memories Pizza's proprietors. I'm going to walk back a word I used just now---what happened here goes beyond a "boycott." Nobody involved in what has been done to Memories Pizza is "taking a stand"---unless, of course, this is what "taking a stand" looks like: memories pizza arson tweet Twitter is full of nutcases, but here's the problem---no one in the local media took a stand against this.

A family owned pizza shop in Indiana closed its doors until further notice yesterday after death and firebombing threats, as well as hacking. The PJ Tatler provides a stunning account of how what happened:

Story About First Business to ‘Publicly Vow to Reject Gay Weddings’ Was Fabricated Out of Nothing

The Huffington Post headline screams: Indiana’s Memories Pizza Reportedly Becomes First Business To Reject Catering Gay Weddings Memories Pizza is a nine-year-old shop in downtown Walkerton, Indiana, just a few blocks from John Glenn High School. It’s owned by an openly-Christian couple, the O’Connors, who decorate their shop with mementos of their faith in Christ. So how does a small business in a small town wind up making headlines around the world as the new avatar of Christian bigotry?

Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that pits the concept of religious accommodation against company dress codes and hiring practices. Just writing it out makes it sound depressing, doesn't it? The facts don't make things much better. Back in 2008, Samantha Elauf, an observant Muslim, applied and was interviewed for a job at teen-friendly retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. She impressed the hiring manager, but when the time came to make a decision, the manager decided not to hire Samantha because she had concerns about whether or not Samantha would insist on wearing her headscarf to work. This would have been a violation of Abercrombie's "Look Policy," which dictates that employees conform to a strict set of style guidelines that specifically prohibit head coverings and black clothing. After Samantha failed to get the job, a friend of hers already employed with the retailer asked the hiring manager for her reasons, and the manager indicated that the headscarf played a part in her decision. Welcome to the Supreme Court, Abercrombie. Enjoy your stay. The EEOC sued on Elauf's behalf on grounds of religious discrimination, and down came a $20,000 award in favor of her case. The 10th circuit overturned the decision, saying that because Elauf never asked for an accommodation, the company wasn't liable for not offering one; the Court was uncomfortable holding employers to a standard that would require them to ask about a religious exemption they may not know an employee needs.

After significant national pressure, Houston Mayor Annise Parker has withdrawn the controversial subpoenas entirely. Ed Whelen at National Review has the scoop:

I’m pleased to pass along word from the Alliance Defending Freedom, counsel for five Houston pastors, that Houston mayor Annise Parker has—finally—entirely withdrawn the harassing subpoenas that the City unjustifiably inflicted on the pastors.

I’ll repeat what I said in my first post on this matter: The law firm of Susman Godfrey, which is representing the City “pro bono” in the litigation, deserves to share in the ample blame for this fiasco. In particular, Geoffrey L. Harrison, Alex Kaplan, and Kristen Schlemmer of that law firm seem not to have given a moment of careful thought to the First Amendment implications in this case of the sort of bullying discovery that they and other lawyers routinely engage in. 

The Alliance Defending Freedom issued the following statement:

“The mayor really had no choice but to withdraw these subpoenas, which should never have been served in the first place. The entire nation--voices from every point of the spectrum left to right--recognize the city's action as a gross abuse of power. We are gratified that the First Amendment rights of the pastors have triumphed over government overreach and intimidation. The First Amendment protects the right of pastors to be free from government intimidation and coercion of this sort. But the subpoenas were only one element of this disgraceful episode. The scandal began with another abuse of power when the city of Houston arbitrarily threw out the valid signatures of thousands of voters. The city did this all because it is bent on pushing through its deeply unpopular ordinance at any cost.
The subpoena threat has been withdrawn but the mayor and the city should now do the right thing and allow the people of the Houston to decide whether to repeal the ordinance.”

Following a bitter battle over an overreaching city ordinance, Bayou City clergy and the city of Houston weren't on the best of terms. The ordinance, dubbed "HERO," allows transgendered persons to sue businesses that prohibit their use of their preferred bathroom.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker made national headlines last week when it was revealed she subpoenaed the sermons of local pastors. Following a brutal battle over a city ordinance which many believed was an egregious encroachment of local government into the territory of religious freedom, Parker, Houston's first openly gay mayor, subpoenaed the full text of sermons mentioning her name or anything having to do with homosexuality. Right leaning citizens weren't the only ones to shirk from Parker's drastic and seemingly vindictive actions. The ACLU and other liberal leaning organizations expressed grave concern with Parker's unprecedented overreach. The ACLU said in a statement, "“While a lot of things are fair game in a lawsuit, government must use special care when intruding into matters of faith. The government should never engage in fishing expeditions into the inner workings of a church, and any request for information must be carefully tailored to seek only what is relevant to the dispute." Following blowback, Parker announced the City of Houston would clarify the subpoenas which were, "too broad." "We are glad that Mayor Parker has acknowledged that subpoenas issued in ongoing litigation were too broad and that there is no need to intrude on matters of faith to have equal rights in Houston. There was no need to include sermons in the subpoena in the first place," said the Texas Chapter of the ACLU.

Houston's summer was marred by a battle over religious liberties and overreaching government. Sparring over a city ordinance that would force businesses, among other things, to allow transgendered clientele the use of opposite sex restrooms or risk discrimination suits, Bayou City area clergy and the government aren't exactly on the best of terms. Rather than placing the measure on the ballot, City Council enacted the reform via city ordinance. Rallying together, clergy and concerned citizens submitted over more than twice as many required to repeal the ordinance. Then the validity of the signatures was called to question by the city attorney. And that's where this story picks up. The Houston City government made a bad situation worse when it subpoenaed five local area pastors. The subpoena requests any and all communication, electronic and otherwise that remotely mentions the above mentioned city ordinance battle. But it doesn't stop there:
All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.
Churches qualify for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status and can lose that status by engaging in electioneering or elicit candidate endorsement, just the same as any other 501(c)(3) organization; but none of the subpoenaed material falls within that category.

Hillary Clinton is a lawyer, and a smart one at that. So she knows better than this statement she made about the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision:
It’s very troubling that a salesclerk at Hobby Lobby who needs contraception, which is pretty expensive, is not going to get that service through her employer’s health care plan because her employer doesn’t think she should be using contraception.
Politifact rates Clinton's statement as Mostly False. The WaPo's fact-checker gave it 2 Pinocchios. But although both articles say Clinton is dissembling to a certain extent, they both give Clinton's statement a more generous interpretation than it deserves, with the WaPo even insinuating that her error might have been inadvertent. Absurd; as I said, Clinton is a razor-sharp lawyer when she wants to be. She should have gotten the maximum number of Pinocchios and then some.

In light of the Hobby Lobby decision, the Supreme Court today granted an injunction pending appealy in favor of Wheaton College, which did not want to comply with certain Obamacare paperwork on religious grounds:
The application for an injunction having been submitted to JUSTICE KAGAN and by her referred to the Court, the Court orders: If the applicant informs the Secretary of Health and Human Services in writing that it is a nonprofit organization that holds itself out as religious and has religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services, the respondents are enjoined from enforcing against the applicant the challenged provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related regulations pending final disposition of appellate review. To meet the condition for injunction pending appeal, the applicant need not use the form prescribed by the Government, EBSA Form 700, and need not send copies to health insurance issuers or third-party administrators.
Note that this really is not substantive, it's a matter of paperwork, as AP explains:
A divided Supreme Court on Thursday allowed, at least for now, an evangelical college in Illinois that objects to paying for contraceptives in its health plan to avoid filling out a government document that the college says would violate its religious beliefs. The justices said that Wheaton College does not have to fill out the contested form while its case is on appeal but can instead write the Department of Health and Human Services declaring that it is a religious nonprofit organization and making its objection to emergency contraception. The college does provide coverage for other birth control. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have denied Wheaton's request and made the college fill out a form that enables their insurers or third-party administrators to take on the responsibility of paying for the birth control.
Yes, heads exploding:

The vitriol from the political left didn't take too long to manifest following the 5-4 Supreme Court decision this morning in the Hobby Lobby case. Many eyes were on the reaction of Sandra Fluke -- free contraception's PR maven - following the SCOTUS ruling.

Whether it's Trigger Warnings, disinviting campus speakers, or the Shut-Up Culture, the closing of the campus mind is a frequent topic here. Among many topics as to which the debate is closed on campus is anything related to LGBT issues. No deviation is allowed. Differ even as to constitutional or other legal analyses, and you will be attacked with the fury visited on non-academics such as Brendan Eich, and before him, the law firm of King & Spalding, Mormons, and Chick-fil-A, among others. And now a University of Virginia Professor is in the cross-hairs for arguing that an Arizona law proposed to accomodate religious objections to performing some types of services was a lawful extension of the existing federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That caused LGBT students to target the professor and file a FOIA request for his emails, as detailed by UCLA Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge The Purge Arrives at the University of Virginia: PC Thugs versus Douglas Laycock (quoting in part from a local Virginia newspaper report).
Through the activist group Virginia Student Power Network, GetEQUAL found two UVA students willing to take up the cause of calling out Laycock: rising fourth-year Greg Lewis and now-alum Stephanie Montenegro. Last week, the pair sent an open letter to Laycock asking him to consider the “real-world consequences that [his] work is having.” They also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking e-mails between Laycock and various right-wing and religious liberty groups. Lewis said they’re not trying to smear Laycock, and they’re not trying to undermine academic freedom. They just want a dialogue, he said.
Bullshit. You don't start a dialogue with FOIA requests. This is a blatant effort at deterring public participation by anyone who does not hew 100% to the most radical version of the gay rights movement.

We noted yesterday the Supreme Court's ruling in a case allowing for sectarian prayer at town council meetings. In a 5-4 decision, the court narrowly reversed a lower court ruling that prohibited the use of Christian-specific prayer on the grounds it "conveyed the message that [the town of] Greece was endorsing Christianity." Ultimately, the Supreme Court held legislative prayer in the context of an invocation prior to the conducting of regular legislative business did not violate the Establishment Clause of the first amendment. It did so by drawing on several cases form the past that essentially concluded the exact same thing, citing hundreds years of the existence of prayer in legislative bodies throughout the nation. More persuasive than this "tradition" argument, though possibly more constitutionally problematic in the long run, was the court's recognition of what would occur as a result of courts inquiring into the specific content of a prayer. [Emphasis Added]
To hold that invocations must be nonsectarian would force the legislatures that sponsor prayers and the court that are asked to decide these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech, a rule that would involve government in religious matters to a far greater degree than is the case under the town’s current practice of neither editing or approving prayers in advance nor criticizing their content after the fact... Government may not mandate a civic religion that stifles any but the most generic reference to the sacred any more than it may prescribe a religious orthodoxy.
Because the plaintiffs in this case only wanted the Christian-specific aspect of the prayer removed from the town council, the above line of reasoning was invoked to buoy the more basic "tradition" argument also employed by the majority. But what about a constitutional challenge seeking a ban of prayer altogether? That would alleviate the need to inquire into the content of the prayer, thus freeing courts and governments from entangling themselves in the process of picking and choosing deities and faiths to pray to.
Outside the courts, people are already gravitating towards this method of religious restriction in the public sphere. As reported by the Daily Caller, one East Carolina University Professor recently instructed his students specifically not to mention God in their graduation ceremony speeches.
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