As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and state and local governments take different approaches in responding it, an increasing number of cases have been filed against alleged government overreach. At first they were largely First Amendment cases, as we have previously covered (5/5, 4/22, 4/16, 4/13, 4/9, and 3/27), but now litigation is pending on nearly every government action in response to the pandemic, including challenges to governors' entire executive orders.
Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Governor Tony Evers' "safer-at-home" order. RNLA member Jake Curtis analyzed the decision, which was made on state separation of powers grounds:Read more
At a recent hearing, numerous attorneys and First Amendment scholars provided testimony on the IRS’s proposed change to eliminate the requirement that certain exempt organizations disclose the names and addresses of contributors. Former Federal Election Commission Commissioner Hans A. von Spakovsky, of the Heritage Foundation, highlighted the burden put on nonprofits as well as the First Amendment and privacy implications of disclosure in his testimony:Read more
During the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local governments are taking many steps to protect the health and safety of their residents. There is broad--and increasing--debate over the wisdom of some of these measures. No one can deny the unprecedented nature of the threat from this novel coronavirus, but it is equally true that Americans do not surrender all their First Amendment liberties during times of disaster or distress. Indeed, there are established bodies of law that apply to government restrictions on free speech and religious liberties, even during a public health crisis. This Friday on a Zoom webinar for RNLA members, two experts--Rick Esenberg and Casey Mattox--will address restrictions on free speech and religious liberty during the current pandemic.Read more
During a small Mississippi church's drive-in midweek service during Holy Week, police officers issued $500 citations to all the worshippers for violating the mayor's COVID-19 order. The worshippers were ticketed despite sitting in their socially distanced cars with their windows up when other people were allowed to pick up food from a drive-in restaurant with their windows down and despite the fact that the Mississippi governor's executive order regarding COVID-19 had specifically allowed religious services that followed social distancing guidelines.
The church sued and requested a temporary restraining order for violating its rights under the Free Exercise, Free Speech, and Right to Assemble Clauses of the First Amendment, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the relevant Mississippi executive orders. Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in the case.Read more
DC Circuit Court nominee and current Western District of Kentucky Judge Justin Walker wrote an epic opinion for a Temporary Restraining Order and defense of the First Amendment over the weekend. This defense will likely be in law school text books in the coming years but shows why President Trump made a great choice in Judge Walker for the DC Circuit. Below are excerpts from Temporary Restraining Order but the whole order is worth a read. All footnotes have been removed and all the emphasis is added.
First some background from the order:
On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter. That sentence is one that this Court never expected to see outside the pages of a dystopian novel, or perhaps the pages of The Onion. But two days ago, citing the need for social distancing during the current pandemic, Louisville’s Mayor Greg Fischer ordered Christians not to attend Sunday services, even if they remained in their cars to worship – and even though it’s Easter. The Mayor’s decision is stunning. And it is, “beyond all reason,” unconstitutional.Read more
RNLA Co-Chair Harmeet Dhillon's non-profit organization, Center for American Liberty, is threatening to sue two California counties for banning all out-of-home participation in religious services as part of their overreaching orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. If the counties do not rescind their orders or provide accommodation for religious liberty by this evening, in the midst of important Jewish and Christian religious holidays, the Center for American Liberty will seek an injunction:Read more
If you watch the headlines on left like "Fox News Lawyers Up," you would think that Fox News is worried about a lawsuit filed against it over its COVID-19 coverage. The reality is somewhat different than left wing news and conspiracy websites suggest. As former Fox News host Megyn Kelly tweeted:
Anyone filing such a lawsuit would be laughed out of court and likely sanctioned by the court for filing a frivolous lawsuit. But, whatever you need to tell yourself to stay occupied during quarantine... https://t.co/c87n1bZSVG— Megyn Kelly (@megynkelly) March 30, 2020
Democrats often seem to cite certain events as the world is going to end if, or when, they happen -- whether it was Al Gore’s climate disaster by 2016 or the end of the internet when FEC Chair Ajit Pai ended net neutrality. This week another anniversary of one of those doomsday events occurred, the tenth anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC which was decided on January 21, 2010. As Cato scholar Ilya Shapiro wrote on the fifth anniversary:
President Obama’s famous statement during his 2010 State of the Union Address: “The Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates of special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections.”
In that one sentence, the former law professor made four errors that are all too common.Read more
President Trump proclaimed today "Religious Freedom Day" and took three actions to protect religious liberty.
In his proclamation of Religious Freedom Day, he recognized the importance of America's "first freedom" and described what his administration has done to protect that important First Amendment right:Read more
John Fund wrote in National Review yesterday about "No Safe Spaces," a film by conservative commentator Dennis Prager and comedian Adam Carolla. The film describes how politically correct culture on college campuses is threatening free speech, suppressing dissent from the prevailing liberal view, and undermining our cultural value for free expression:Read more