In July, the Federal Election Commission dismissed a complaint filed by the liberal Campaign Legal Center (CLC) against America Progress Now (APN). CLC alleged that APN had technically violated federal campaign finance regulations by failing to include required disclaimers for political ads on Facebook Ads run by APN's Facebook page. CLC also insinuated that APN was a "fake political group." However, CLC's real motive was not to get the small potatoes APN. The Commission made the decision to dismiss the Campaign Legal Center's complaint unanimously. In FEC Chairman Trey Trainor's Statement of Reasons for the complaint's dismissal, he raised concerns how a technical violation could be used to chill free speech.Read more
Today, the Supreme Court held in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that, under the Free Exercise Clause, if a state has a program giving public dollars to citizens to use at private schools, it cannot tell those citizens that the money can only be used at non-religious private schools. Montana had decided that its scholarship program funds could not be used at religious schools under the state's Blaine Amendment, a legacy of a failed anti-Catholic amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Many First Amendment advocates hope this opinion proves to be a fatal blow to the discriminatory anti-religious Blaine Amendments still found in many state constitutions.Read more
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