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
Today was likely one of the last “controversial” hearings for a judicial nominee for President Trump’s first term. Judge Justin Walker was before the committee as a nominee to the DC Circuit. However, much of the Democrats' potential fire was taken away before the hearing even started. Yesterday, the American Bar Association (ABA), the self-proclaimed "gold standard" of Senate Democrats, rated Judge Walker "Well Qualified." Judge Walker had previously been rated "not qualified" by the ABA, due to his being just short of the required number of post-law school years of experience.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
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
Senate Judiciary Democrats are once again facing criticism for their treatment of a judicial nominee. However this time it comes from an unexpected source, the Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii. She wrote:
While I oppose the nomination of Brian Buescher to the U.S. District Court in Nebraska, I stand strongly against those who are fomenting religious bigotry, citing as disqualifiers Buescher’s Catholicism and his affiliation with the Knights of Columbus. If Buescher is “unqualified” because of his Catholicism and affiliation with the Knights of Columbus, then President John F. Kennedy, and the 'liberal lion of the Senate' Ted Kennedy would have been “unqualified” for the same reasons.
Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that there "shall be no religious test" for any seeking to serve in public office.
No American should be told that his or her public service is unwelcome because “the dogma lives loudly within you” as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said to Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearings in 2017 to serve as U.S. Circuit Court judge in the 7th Circuit.