Thursday, August 15, 2019
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
The Becket Fund has filed a certiorari petition in a case called Ricks v. Idaho Board of Contractors. Ricks, who applied for an Idaho license to be able to practice his livelihood as a construction contractor, objected to the requirement of providing his social security number (he believes, as a small but non-negligible number of people have regularly believed, that it’s the “mark of the beast” in Revelation 13:16-18). The petition urges the Court to overrule Employment Division v. Smith and subject even “neutral and generally applicable laws” to meaningful scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause.
Ten religious liberty scholars, including yours truly, have signed an amicus brief supporting the petition. Tom Hungar and others at Gibson Dunn drafted and filed the brief on our behalf. From the summary of argument:
Smith is ripe for reconsideration, and this case presents an excellent opportunity for the Court to engage in that endeavor. Smith itself was a departure from this Court’s previously settled requirement that the government demonstrate a compelling interest before imposing a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion. The question of the proper interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause was not briefed in Smith, but it has been substantially elucidated by subsequent academic work. That scholarship reveals that the Framers understood the Clause not merely as embodying an equal protection principle that prohibits targeting or discriminating against religion, but also as a substantive protection granted to religious practices even in some circumstances where similar secular conduct can be prohibited. The Smith Court’s undue contraction of the protections afforded by the Free Exercise Clause inevitably falls hardest on adherents of minority religions—the very individuals that the Clause was adopted to protect.
This recent opinion in the Miami Herald gives a great summary of recent events in Cuba related to religious liberty. Cuba's Office of Religious Affairs continuously denies Cuban citizens the right to worship freely.
Despite claims that it respects freedom of religion and belief, the Cuban government views religious advocates as problematic “counter-revolutionaries.” Through its Office of Religious Affairs — the main perpetrator of religious repression in Cuba — the government treats religious activists like common criminals. It divides the faith community by including a few in its tightly controlled Cuba Council of Churches, while treating others as troublemakers.
Last year, Catholic and Protestant religious leaders and followers called for stronger protections for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience to be included in the new constitution before it went to public referendum. Church leaders bravely united to expose the Cuban government’s efforts to water down previous constitutional guarantees of freedom by initiating two petitions, one signed by 180,000 Cuban citizens.
The Cuban government is retaliating. Last week, the Office of Religious Affairs canceled the National Catholic Youth Day, even though all permits were granted. Catholic priest Jorge Luis Perez said the arbitrary cancellation affected more than 3,000 young people’s spiritual retreat.
August 13, 2019 | Permalink
Monday, August 12, 2019
I have an op-ed in the Indianapolis Star about the recent round of lawsuits that have been filed by former teachers against Catholic high schools and dioceses. Here's a bit:
Every summer, the Supreme Court closes its work-year with a flurry of high-profile opinions dealing with controversial questions. The commentary and headlines about these decisions tends to focus on disagreement, division, and dissent. We should remember, though, that there are important, bedrock principles that unite the Court.
One such principle, the justices unanimously reminded us just a few years ago, is that our country’s constitutional commitment to religious freedom does not allow the government to interfere with a church’s decision about its teachings or its teachers. The Court’s liberals and conservatives agree: If church-state separation means anything, it means this. . . .
If we value real diversity and meaningful pluralism in that sector, it is essential to respect both the freedom of religious schools to be distinctive and the decisions of religious schools about how to carry out, and who should carry out, their mission.
Reasonable people in good faith can and will disagree about particular employment decisions, and it is appropriate to criticize what one regards as unfair, unjust, or uncharitable discrimination. In the United States, though, just as no one is forced to embrace a particular faith, no one is entitled to teach, lead, and minister in a particular religious school. The Constitution protects the right to reject a church’s teachings but does not permit the government to reshape them
Friday, August 9, 2019
Here is a call for proposals for both panels and papers for the 6th conference of the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ICLARS), to be held in Cordoba, Spain, September 2020. The theme is "Human Dignity, Law, and Religious Diversity: Designing the Future of Inter-Cultural Societies.” Which makes room for a wide variety of topics, all in the orbit of this blog, its writers, and its readers.
And southern Spain in September? Yes indeed. (The organizers promise to show participants something of beautiful Cordoba.)
As the call explains, institutions and research groups, as well as individuals, can make proposals for panels. "[T]he proposing institution or research group —subject to the organizing committee’s approval— will design the subject of the panel and appoint the speakers. The proposing institution or research group will be mentioned as one of the conference sponsors provided it takes care of the registration fees and attendance of the speakers."
WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT: The Punta del Este Declaration (December 2018) reaffirms the centrality of human dignity to human rights, on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. A couple of bits from the new declaration:
3. Defining and Specifying Human Rights.
Dignity is an essential part of what it means to be human. Respect for human dignity for everyone everywhere
helps us define and understand the meaning and scope of all human rights. Focusing concretely and in actual
situations on human dignity and its implications for particular human rights claims can help identify the specific
content of these rights as well as how we understand human dignity itself....
6. Seeking Common Ground.
Focusing on human dignity for everyone everywhere encourages people to search for ways to find common ground
regarding competing claims and to move beyond exclusively legal mechanisms for harmonizing, implementing,
and mutually vindicating human rights and finding solutions to conflicts.
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Will Philadelphia’s Catholic Social Services soon have to close its foster care program – a program or ministry that has operated for a century in a city that desperately needs more foster homes to take in its most vulnerable kids?
Philadelphia’s Catholic Social Services and two of its certified foster parents have asked the high court to review the city’s impossible demand that the agency endorse or certify same-sex married couples as foster parents. Catholic Social Services wanted to continue the work it is so good at – finding loving foster homes for vulnerable children – while adhering to long-standing Church teaching on the nature of marriage.
August 6, 2019 | Permalink