Posts Tagged ‘religious liberty’

Religious accommodation and LGBTQ rights

Are religious exemptions to discrimination laws, in areas like foster care, adoption, higher education, and government contract compliance, an “assault on LGBTQ rights”? Cato has now reprinted my comments last month for a House Oversight Committee hearing on that subject. The hearing itself (at which I was not a witness) can be viewed here.

Discrimination law and religious exemption at the high court

Two big stories yesterday at the Supreme Court about the much-contested crossroads of discrimination law and religious exemption. In one, the Court “agreed to review a challenge to Philadelphia’s policy of excluding Catholic Social Services from its foster care system because of its refusal to place children with same-sex couples.” It’s not quite the case some readers will expect, though:

Note that Philadelphia was enforcing a local ordinance of its own making; the case is thus on a very different footing than if it were, say, a challenge to the Obama-era regulations (which HHS has since proposed to rescind) that tried to arm-twist all states and cities into adopting policies like Philadelphia’s. In the HHS episode, it was the liberal side of the controversy that was trying to impose a uniform standard from coast to coast; in this case, it is some conservative religious groups that hope to do that. Scott Shackford has more in a piece at Reason quoting my views, as does the Christian Science Monitor in a piece last week.

In the other case, Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, called on the Court to revisit a 1977 precedent in which it interpreted federal employment discrimination law so as not to require employers to accommodate workers’ religious beliefs if doing so would involve more than de minimis cost or disruption. Back then, it was mostly liberals who wanted a standard less favorable to employers than that; since then many liberals and conservatives have swapped places on the issue. The full piece is here.

Supreme Court roundup

February 12 roundup

The unstable politics of religious accommodation

Claims for accommodation of religious conscience are not inherently a “right” or “left” phenomenon, any more than is religion itself. That’s an old story — in case anyone had forgotten the sides Justices Brennan and Scalia took on the constitutional angle — but it comes to mind once more with an Arizona federal court’s decision in favor of four liberal believers moved to violate federal law out of sympathy for persons illegally crossing the southwest border. David French, The Dispatch:

Using RFRA [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, oft a target of liberal wrath in recent years], it overturned the convictions of four people affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Church who were prosecuted for “violations of the regulations governing the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge.” The defendants were convicted after entering the refuge without the necessary permits and “leaving supplies of food and water in an area of desert wilderness where people frequently die of dehydration and exposure.”

Questions of entitlement to religious exemption and accommodation from otherwise applicable law are best decided according to impartial principle, not on the basis of which team stands to benefit in the case at hand.

January 8 roundup

  • Lenawee County, Mich. authorities have posted condemnation notices on Old Order Amish farmhouses over their use of outhouses rather than modern septic systems as required by code. Dispute now heading for court [Tom Henry, Toledo Blade]
  • Baltimore Mayor Young promotes white-van-abduction urban legends, police misconduct transparency, Montgomery County is watching drivers and more in my latest Maryland policy roundup [Free State Notes]
  • Following outcry from activists, Facebook disables as misleading ads some trial lawyer ads soliciting plaintiffs to sue over purported side effects of HIV prevention drugs [Tony Romm, Washington Post/Toronto Star, Peter Lawrence Kane, The Guardian, WTHR]
  • From Lowering the Bar, legal things that actually did happen in 2019;
  • 20 years ago I warned that by trying to dictate employers’ choices, a Wisconsin law might work to impede convict re-entry into the job market rather than encourage it [Reason, from its archives]
  • If county and city law enforcement officials have discretion not to charge low-level drug offenders, do they also have discretion not to charge low-level gun offenders? [Cam Edwards, National Review on Virginia battle over “Second Amendment sanctuary” resolutions]

Religion and the law roundup

New York: adoption ministry must comply or close

New York bans the operation of adoption agencies that will not serve customers of all sexual and gender orientations and conditions of wedlock, whether or not such agencies receive any public funds or contracts. New Hope Family Services, a ministry that works with expectant mothers to place their newborns, has agreed to stop accepting new clients and now the question is whether it can go on servicing pending and completed placements. New York state is arguing no, but a Second Circuit panel of Judges José Cabranes, Reena Raggi, and Edward Korman has granted a preliminary injunction pending consideration of the agency’s First Amendment claims: “the strong public interest pertaining to adoption services, i.e., the welfare of children, both those already adopted and those awaiting adoption, is best served by granting rather than denying the requested injunction.” [ruling in New Hope Family Services v. Poole; Emma Folts/Daily Orange, Julie McMahon/Syracuse.com, Nicole Russell, Washington Examiner quoting me; my related WSJ piece on recent Western District of Michigan decision]

Cato Supreme Court Review 2018-19

The full Cato Supreme Court Review for the 2018-19 term can be read here, with an introduction by Trevor Burrus. Among this year’s highlights: Michael McConnell on the Maryland Peace Cross case and government-sponsored religious symbols, Bruce Kobayashi and Joshua Wright on the Apple indirect-purchaser antitrust case, Braden Boucek on the Tennessee liquor Commerce Clause case, and Simon Lecturer George Will on “The Insufficiently Dangerous Branch.”

Or listen to a Cato audio with Trevor Burrus, Ilya Shapiro, and Caleb Brown: