Tag archives: Religious Liberty

Little Sisters of the Poor Are Once Again Denied Freedom of Conscience

by Katherine Beck Johnson

October 23, 2019

The Little Sisters of the Poor were back in court yet again yesterday, this time losing at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Back in 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a federal mandate as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The mandate required employers to provide contraceptives, including the week-after pill, free-of-cost in their health insurance plans. HHS offered only a very narrow religious exemption. So narrow, it did not include non-profits—such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order of nuns who assist the impoverished who are at the end of their lives with nowhere else to go. These nuns have dedicated their lives to their faith and to serving the poor. Yet, these women were sued and told that they must violate their conscience by providing contraception through their insurance.

In May 2016, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned lower court rulings against the Little Sisters. The Court said the government should be provided an opportunity “to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates the petitioners’ religious beliefs.” On May 4, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that directed the secretaries of federal agencies to consider regulations that would address the conscience-based objections to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate. On November 7, 2018, the federal government complied with the Supreme Court’s ruling and the president’s executive order by issuing a new rule protecting religious liberty. This new rule provided religious ministries, entities, and persons holding sincere religious beliefs with an exemption to the contraceptive and sterilization coverage.

Soon after the rule was issued, states including Pennsylvania and California sued the federal government to ensure that the Little Sisters of the Poor would not be exempted from providing contraception. Even though these states have programs that provide contraceptives to women who want them, these states insist that non-profits, including the Little Sisters, must either be forced to violate their conscience or else cease to exist.  

In July 2019, the Third Circuit ruled against the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Third Circuit claimed that the Women’s Health Amendment to the ACA did not grant the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA, a component of HHS) the authority to exempt entities from providing insurance coverage for contraceptive services. On October 22, 2019, the Ninth Circuit issued a similar ruling and affirmed the preliminary injunction. The Ninth Circuit said, “the statute delegates to HRSA the discretion to determine which types of preventative care are covered, but the statute does not delegate to HRSA or any other agency the discretion to exempt who must meet the obligation.” Thus, the Ninth Circuit and the Third Circuit prevented relief for the Little Sisters of the Poor by issuing an injunction and blocking the implementation of a rule that would allow religious protections.

The Supreme Court needs to settle the debate and rule that the government cannot require people and groups to violate their conscience by providing contraceptive services. The Court should uphold the HHS rule, which protects the inherent human right of religious liberty. This liberty promotes the common good and allows society to flourish. The Little Sisters of the Poor certainly promote the common good as they assist the poorest in society. Violating their conscience ought not to be a precondition for the Little Sisters assisting those most in need.

Federal Court Ruling in Texas Is a Big Win for Religious Liberty

by Katherine Beck Johnson

October 16, 2019

An Obama-era regulation went to court recently at a U.S. federal courthouse in Texas. In Franciscan Alliance v. Azar, Judge Reed O’Connor issued an opinion striking down a Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring doctors to perform gender transition procedures. Judge O’Connor held that the Rule violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

In May 2016, the federal government, through HHS, issued a mandate that would require a doctor to perform gender transition procedures on any patient, including a child. The Rule required doctors to provide these procedures even if the doctor believed it could harm the patient. In addition, the mandate required virtually all private insurance companies and many employers to cover gender reassignment therapy. If the insurance companies or employers refused, they would face severe penalties and legal action. While HHS exempted Medicare and Medicaid, they expressly prohibited religious exemptions. The Plaintiffs asked the District Court to vacate the Rule and convert its previously entered preliminary injunction to a permanent injunction.

Judge O’Connor held that the Rule violates RFRA. The Rule substantially burdened Plaintiffs’ sincere religious beliefs without a compelling interest. In addition, the Rule expressly prohibits religious exemptions.

The Plaintiffs’ refusal to perform, refer for, or cover transitions or abortions is a sincere religious exercise. In order to follow this sincere religious belief, the mandate requires extensive expenses. The Rule places significant pressure to perform and cover transition and abortion procedures, it forces Plaintiffs to provide the federal government an extremely persuasive justification for their refusal to perform or cover such procedures, and it requires them to remove the categorical exclusion of transitions and abortions. Judge O’Connor found that the Rule makes the practice of religion more expensive in the business context.  

Judge O’Connor ruled that the Defendants did not provide a compelling interest that would justify the burden on religious exercise. Those advocating in favor of the mandate argued that a compelling interest was specified in the preamble to the Rule, which states, “the government has a compelling interest in ensuring that individuals have nondiscriminatory access to health care and health coverage.” Judge O’Connor found that although that could arguably satisfy a categorical application of strict scrutiny, it cannot satisfy RFRA’s “more focused” inquiry. He said that even if those in favor of the mandate had provided a compelling interest, they failed to prove the Rule employs the least restrictive means.

The Rule was vacated (as opposed to a less severe permanent injunction) because it was found to be arbitrary and capricious. The Rule was found to be “contrary to law” under the APA due to its conflict with Title IX, its incorporated statute.

Judge O’Connor’s ruling is a huge win for religious liberty. HHS under President Trump is also working to take strides that further protect religious liberty. In May 2019, HHS proposed bringing its regulations into compliance with those decisions and ensuring that the government did not interfere and require a person to go against their convictions to provide gender transition procedures. The win in Texas coupled with the new rules from HHS provide optimism for the future of religious liberty.

Introducing Lecture Me! - A New Podcast from FRC

by Family Research Council

October 15, 2019

We all need to be lectured sometimes.

Family Research Council’s new weekly-ish podcast Lecture Me! features selected talks by top thinkers from the archives of the FRC Speaker Series. Our podcast podium takes on tough issues like religious liberty, abortion, euthanasia, marriage, family, sexuality, public policy, and the culture—all from a biblical worldview.

Listen with us to the lecture, then stick around afterward as we help you digest the content with a discussion featuring FRC’s policy and government affairs experts.

The first three episodes are now available. They include:

  • Nancy Pearcey: Love Thy Body

FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview David Closson joins Lecture Me! to discuss Author Nancy Pearcey’s lecture about her book Love Thy Body, in which she fearlessly and compassionately makes the case that secularism denigrates the body and destroys the basis for human rights, and sets forth a holistic and humane alternative that embraces the dignity of the human body.

  • Military Mental Health Crisis

Currently, an average of 21 military veterans are taking their lives each day. FRC’s Deputy Director of State and Local Affairs Matt Carpenter joins the podcast to discuss Richard Glickstein’s lecture as he shares the compelling evidence that proves faith-based solutions reduce suicides, speed the recovery of PTSD, and build resiliency.

  • Repairers of the Breach

How can the conservative movement help restore America’s inner cities? FRC’s Coalitions Senior Research Fellow Chris Gacek joins the podcast to discuss Robert L. Woodson, Sr.’s lecture on how the conservative movement must identify, recognize, and support agents of individual and community uplift and provide the resources, expertise, and funding that can strengthen and expand their transformative work.

Lecture Me! is available at most places you listen to podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Castbox.

The Real “Fairness for All” is Freedom from Government Coercion

by Peter Sprigg

September 12, 2019

Concerns about religious liberty are one of the chief obstacles to passage of “non-discrimination” laws that would make “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (“SOGI”) into protected categories at the local, state, and federal level. Only 20 of the 50 states have enacted SOGI protections for both employment and public accommodations, and a comprehensive (and radical) federal bill, the Equality Act (H.R. 5), has stalled in the Senate since its passage in May by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.

Utah Rep. Ben McAdams, a Democrat who voted for the Equality Act, recently told that state’s Deseret News that he thinks the bill “still needs work”—and he supports a so-called “compromise” called “Fairness for All.” The theory is that both “LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights” and “religious liberty” could be protected by enacting a single bill that includes both SOGI protections and religious exemptions.

The model for “Fairness for All” proposals at the federal level is the “Utah compromise” that was adopted by that state’s legislature in 2015. It added SOGI protections to the state’s nondiscrimination laws regarding employment and housing (public accommodations were omitted), while creating exemptions for religious non-profit organizations and protections for some employee speech.

Unique factors in Utah—notably, the power and influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which endorsed the “compromise”—make it doubtful whether this approach could be replicated elsewhere. LGBT groups at the national level seem determined to press forward the existing Equality Act, which contains no religious liberty protections and explicitly strips away those that might be asserted under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Nevertheless, because some may be tempted to believe that such a “compromise” provides a “win-win” solution in the clash between LGBT rights and religious liberty, it is important to reiterate why we believe this would be a serious mistake.

First, the fundamental presumption behind “Fairness for All” is that there is a balance or symmetry between “rights” or “protections” for people who identify as LGBT and “rights” or “protections” for people of faith. This is a fallacy. The “free exercise” of religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment, but there is no provision of the Constitution that references sexual orientation or gender identity.

The fundamental rights found in the U.S. Constitution—such as freedom of speech and the press and the free exercise of religion—do not place any limits on the actions of private individuals and organizations; on the contrary, they protect such actions against interference by the government. “Civil rights” laws that bar discrimination in employment and public accommodations, however, do not merely limit the government; they place a restriction upon the action of private entities (such as small businesses) in carrying out their private activity.

There is a place for non-discrimination laws (especially regarding characteristics that are clearly inborn, involuntary, and immutable, such as race). However, the burden of proof in every case must rest on those who seek to increase the number of categories or characteristics protected under such laws. That’s because the extension of laws against private discrimination is less a “win-win situation” than a “zero-sum” game. When one (such as an employment applicant) wins more protection, another (the employer) actually loses a corresponding measure of freedom.

The most publicized cases highlighting the clash between LGBT non-discrimination laws and religious liberty in recent years have involved businesses in the wedding industry that are owned and operated by Christians who prefer not to participate in the celebration of same-sex weddings. (Although one such business, Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop, won an important decision at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018, the decision was on narrow grounds and did not settle this area of the law.) It is not clear that religious liberty protections in any proposed compromise legislation would protect these businesses.

The wedding industry cases are by no means the only context in which this conflict arises, however. There have been cases challenging the right of Christian adoption agencies to decline to place children with same-sex couples; cases where Christian counseling students were punished for declining to affirm and support homosexual relationships; and cases in which Christian employees of government agencies were fired for privately expressing disapproval of  homosexual conduct. It is not clear that any of them would be protected by such “Fairness for All” proposals.

Further, “gender identity” protections would undermine the rights of organizations and businesses to set dress and grooming standards or have separate private spaces (e.g., in bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, dormitories, etc.) for biological men and women. These rights stand ready to be compromised by “Fairness for All” proposals.

Family Research Council believes that combining religious liberty and special privileges for sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI) is unsustainable, for three primary reasons.

1)      It is wrong, in principle, to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories, because they are unlike historically protected categories such as race. Historically, protections were reserved for characteristics that are inborn, involuntary, immutable, and innocuous, such as race, and/or in the U.S. Constitution (such as religion). None of these criteria apply to the choice to engage in homosexual conduct or the choice to present one’s self as the opposite of one’s biological sex.

2)      There is no religious exemption that would be acceptable to LGBT activists and would also be adequate to fully protect against all the likely threats to religious freedom.

3)      Non-discrimination laws always implicate moral beliefs. They send the message that it is morally wrong to disapprove of homosexual or transgender conduct. For such laws to be endorsed by citizens who believe that it is morally wrong to engage in homosexual or transgender conduct is a logical contradiction.

What would truly reflect “Fairness for All” would be to reject SOGI laws containing special privileges, and allow real religious liberty—the freedom to hold to one’s personal beliefs and to act on them without government interference or coercion.

Eighth Circuit: Minnesota Can’t Force Small Business to Make Same-Sex Wedding Videos

by Peter Sprigg

September 5, 2019

National media gave scant attention to an important court decision on August 23. The ruling in Telescope Media Group v. Lucero, by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, was another landmark in the ongoing debate about whether governments can force small businesses in the wedding industry to participate in same-sex weddings, over the conscientious objection of their owners.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, a baker who had declined to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple. However, the court ruled that Phillips had been a victim of specific anti-religious discrimination by the Colorado tribunal that sought to punish him, so they did not definitively address the fundamental free speech concerns that his attorneys had raised.

Telescope Media Group (TMG) is a business founded by Carl and Angel Larsen, videographers who wished to create a business that would make wedding videos, and in the process promote natural marriages between one man and one woman. They sued Minnesota public officials to prevent them from using the Minnesota Human Rights Act to force the couple to make videos of same-sex weddings as well.

In a 2-1 decision, the 8th Circuit panel ruled in the Larsens’ favor, saying that “the First Amendment allows the Larsens to choose when to speak and what to say.” Perhaps that’s why it was largely ignored by the national media.

The breakdown of the vote also shows how important judicial appointments are. The opinion was written by David Stras, a 45-year-old Trump appointee, on the bench since January 2018. He was formerly on the Minnesota Supreme Court (having been appointed by former Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty). The other judge in the majority was 67-year-old Bobby Shepherd, appointed by George W. Bush and on the bench since 2006. Meanwhile, there was a dissent by Judge Jane L. Kelly, a 54-year-old Obama appointee who has been on the bench since 2013.

This was on appeal of the District Court’s decision to deny a preliminary injunction, so it is not a final decision on the merits. However, it is an encouraging decision in that it is based squarely on the free speech claims (or in this case, the right to be free from government-compelled speech) made by the plaintiffs. The court also accepted a “hybrid rights” claim incorporating the free exercise of religion.

Since precedent has established that videos represent a form of speech, whether the principles articulated would apply with equal force to bakers or florists may still have to be argued in other cases. However, the fact that this case was decided (at least for now) on free speech grounds, rather than the anti-religious discrimination grounds used in Masterpiece, makes it a stronger precedent for those concerned about protecting free speech and religious liberty.

What the LA Times Gets Wrong About Religious Freedom

by Travis Weber , David Closson

August 21, 2019

Last week, the Department of Labor issued a proposed rule clarifying the rights of religious employers to contract with the government without being forced to violate their religious beliefs. After decades of court decisions and disparate interpretations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is no wonder that some religious organizations are fearful of working with the federal government because they don’t have clarity on what they can and can’t do. It makes sense that the Department of Labor would want to clarify their rights now.

Yet yesterday’s Los Angeles Times’ Editorial Board threw cold water on this idea, claiming the proposed rule would “dramatically expand the [religious liberty] exemption,” which they believe makes “little legal sense” and threatens to erode what was “once broad and bipartisan support for the idea that the government should accommodate sincere religious convictions.”

Yet are these gripes accurate? Hardly. In reality, as the proposed rule makes clear, the Department of Labor is simply aligning its interpretation of religious exemptions with years of federal court decisions and the definitions in Title VII itself. For years, Title VII has protected religious people from a wide array of faith groups equally. So what is the LA Times so scared of? The reason seems revealed in the title: “Trump’s new ‘religious freedom’ rule looks like a license to discriminate.”

Unfortunately, the assumption of the LA Times appears to be that Christian conservatives are using religious freedom as a “pretext for discrimination.” Yet LGBT issues are not specifically addressed anywhere in the proposed rule. It is the idea that LGBT-related claims might be affected by religious freedom claims that has the LA Times up in arms. If the editors read the rule more carefully, they would see that it actually addresses sincerity as an important component of a religious freedom claim, and “conceal[ing] discrimination” has been dealt with by courts assessing these Title VII claims. The LA Times and others espousing this line of thinking don’t get to pick and choose when religious freedom applies. It either does or it doesn’t, and if the Title VII definitions were acceptable for decades, they should still be acceptable today.

Religious freedom is a virtue that benefits the common good; it does not favor Republicans over Democrats or Roman Catholics over Muslims. Thankfully, the Trump administration recognizes these basic truths and is protecting religious employers of all faith backgrounds. If the LA Times researched how the Title VII religious exemption has functioned in the past, it would see that it benefits various religious minorities in a host of different circumstances. Indeed, one of the cases referenced in the proposed rule—LeBoon v. Lancaster Jewish Cmty. Ctr. Ass’n—features a Jewish organization. Just a few years ago, the Supreme Court—in an opinion authored by Justice Scalia—applied Title VII to protect a Muslim employee’s rights against her employer.

Thus, to argue that faith-based organizations should not be able to run their business according to their religious beliefs represents a truncated view of religious freedom. There is no legitimate reason that a faith-based organization should lose out on a federal contract for simply adhering to their religious beliefs, and the proposed rule is right to remedy that.

The LA Times editorial is a reminder that people from all religious backgrounds must continue to help shed light on the reality that religious freedom is a good that serves all people.

California Wants to Force Teachers to Propagate the LGBT Agenda

by Nicolas Reynolds

August 2, 2019

Parents across the country are rightfully concerned about efforts in the public school system to indoctrinate their children with a leftist agenda. In California, the LGBT lobby is taking this effort a step further: attempting to indoctrinate teachers.

Offered as an attempt to create a “safer environment” for LGBTQ students, A.B. 493 would require junior high and high school teachers to receive training on how to “support” students struggling with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. However, this “training” of teachers to “mentor” such students looks much more like state-sponsored, politically-correct coercion. This piece of legislation strong-arms public school teachers who are Christian to violate their consciences, affirming beliefs contrary to their sincerely-held religious beliefs.

To ensure all teachers leave their religious convictions at the door, specific “training”—adhering to curriculum written by “leading experts in supporting LGBTQ pupils”—is required to be taken by every junior high and high school teacher in public schools. Additionally, this training requires “sustained input and participation” from teachers, guaranteeing that teachers are understanding and complying with the LGBTQ agenda. The training required by this bill is a blatant violation of a teacher’s right to think freely and counsel adolescents according to their genuine and true religious worldview.

Two school districts in California (Moraga School District and Unified School District) have already implemented this “training” for teachers. Those having undergone the training have explained how the sessions did far more than merely inform teachers about how to counsel pupils who identify as LGBTQ. Rather, teachers were asked invasive questions regarding their own personal upbringing, such as whether or not they were raised to “believe there are two genders,” and if their “parents ever discuss[ed] choices… of gender.” Teachers that explained that their parents taught biblical (and scientifically correct) beliefs like the binary nature of sex were shamed and told their views were backward and wrong. Trainees were given additional information about how to deal with LGBTQ-identifying students and were explicitly told that they must keep a student’s sexual orientation and identity secret from parents. 

Though no school can or will ever replace the necessary nurturing that a family gives a child, teachers are sometimes the only ones that can come close to giving students the objective wisdom and care that they are tragically not receiving at home. A.B 493 would successfully ban all junior high and high school teachers in public schools from giving any ounce of honest guidance about sexual orientation and gender identity to students who come and ask them for direction. As mandated by the bill, teachers would be required to affirm LGBT identities and refer students to activist organizations.

 A.B. 493 undermines the ability of students to receive proper care and desecrates teachers’ rights to govern themselves according to their religious convictions. Partner with FRC and lend your voice in opposition to this destructive piece of legislation that deviates from the core principles this country was founded upon. If you or someone you know lives in California, click here to take action and oppose this bill that indoctrinates public school teachers.

Nicolas Reynolds is an intern at Family Research Council.

New York is the Latest State to Trample on the Hopes of Foster Children

by Kayla Sargent

July 31, 2019

When I was about eight years old, some family friends of mine fostered (and eventually adopted) a severely neglected 18-month-old girl. She was placed in foster care after her parents, both addicted to drugs, would not change her diaper or feed her, sometimes for days on end. When she first entered the custody of her new foster parents, she gorged herself at mealtime until she became sick because for her entire life, she never knew when or from where her next meal would come.

Most children in the foster care system have suffered unimaginable trauma. The 500,000 children in foster care are significantly more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and other developmental and behavioral issues compared to children who do not spend time in the system.

One might think that, at the very least, ensuring that children have a roof over their heads and three meals a day would not be a political issue. One would think that everyone would want these children to have the best care possible. And one would think that faith-based adoption agencies, given the emphasis that the Bible places on caring for widows and orphans, ought to be able to help provide for these children without fear of religious persecution.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

New Hope Family Services of New York is suing the state after being given an ultimatum by the state’s Office of Child and Family Services stating that they would have to start “placing children with unmarried couples and same-sex couples” or they would be “choosing to close.” It is not because they are not providing adequate care to children, or because they are unable to place children in homes, but because they refuse to allow same-sex couples or couples who are unmarried to adopt.

They are not alone. Across the nation, Christian organizations that believe children belong with a mother and a father are being forced to close their doors because of alleged “discrimination.” In 2018, the state of Illinois forced Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Springfield to close, displacing roughly 3,000 children. Earlier that same year, the city of Philadelphia “barred Bethany Christian Services and Catholic Social Services” from serving children in need because of their beliefs about marriage.

What is especially tragic about these shutdowns is that they not only affect the employees of these agencies—they impact hundreds, if not thousands, of children in desperate need of a loving home.

In Obergefell v. Hodges, we were promised that, “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.” These shutdowns are a clear violation of this principle handed down by the Supreme Court, and are currently being challenged.

Regardless of your stance on marriage, and even your stance on discrimination, children should not be the ones that are punished in the ongoing war being waged on religious liberty by LGBT activists. When “equality” demands that certain adoption providers be shut down and children are denied adequate care and a loving home with a mother and a father as a result, it is no longer equality, but oppression. Just as little girls should not have to gorge themselves for fear of not having enough to eat in the future, faith-based adoption providers should not have to violate their religious beliefs in order to continue helping children in need find loving homes.

Kayla Sargent is an intern at Family Research Council.

Lemon v. The Constitution

by Nicolas Reynolds

July 1, 2019

Conservatives breathed a refreshing sigh of relief upon hearing the Supreme Court’s ruling to protect the Bladensburg cross-shaped memorial last month in American Legion v. American Humanist Association. In defending the memorial, the Court not only resolved this case’s controversy but helped shed light on religion’s place in the public square entirely. This case may prove to be a greater victory than many suppose as it looks towards the original intentions of our Founding Fathers, measuring the memorial’s legality with the Constitution rather than tests the Court has conjured up in the past.

Though the Court has had to determine how the Constitution is to be interpreted, some of the ways chosen to do so have greatly deviated from the Constitution’s plain original meaning. One of the worst interpretations of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause—the Lemon testhas played a significant role in the Court’s decisions since Lemon v. Kurtzman was decided in 1971. The Lemon test instated a three-pronged set of requirements intended to drive a wedge between Church and State—something that the Establishment Clause never envisioned, supported, or made accommodations for.

Though the Lemon test has daunted cases of religious freedom for decades, the Court’s decision to protect the Bladensburg cross-shaped memorial gives one hope for a future full reversal of Lemon. Having produced a strong 7-2 ruling in favor of the memorial, the Court once again highlighted the futility of the test. Even though the Court did not throw out Lemon entirely, their ruling greatly crippled the test, increasingly marginalizing it and making clear it is simply unhelpful. In his concurring opinion, Justice Kavanaugh highlighted its obvious flaws and increasing uselessness, as he surveyed the Court’s Establishment Clause cases to show that Lemon has not been applied in many of them.

Kavanaugh pointed out Lemon’s grave flaws by showing that many normal religious practices would be prohibited by the test. As Lemon doesn’t allow the government to act in any way that could advance or endorse religion, any form of government-granted religious accommodations and exemptions—practices that have always been fundamental within the United States—would be entirely forbidden. Kavanaugh lays out that many religious practices intertwined with daily life “’by definition’ have the effect of advancing or endorsing religion to some extent.”

Along with other justices, Justice Kavanaugh urges that a test as hostile towards religious imagery as the Lemon test is dangerously unconstitutional and should hold no place within our judicial system. Kavanaugh concurred, “The Court’s decision in this case [The American Legion v. American Humanist Association] again makes clear that the Lemon test does not apply to the Establishment Clause…”

Rather than choosing to interpret the cross as a secular symbol, Kavanaugh drives home the significance of preserving religious imagery in the public square, stating, “I fully understand the deeply religious nature of the cross. It would demean both believers and nonbelievers to say that the cross is not religious, or not all that religious.” Kavanaugh summarized and solidified the cross’s validity, choosing to understand it for what it is—the universally chosen icon to represent Christ’s death and sacrifice on Calvary.

Justice Kavanaugh, along with others, shed light on the clear truth that it is impossible to separate religion from the public square, being that the public square is comprised of religious individuals. For those that prize religious freedom as a core principle of this country, the Bladensburg memorial stands as a testimony to the Constitution’s provisions for religious freedom. This case helps illuminate how religion is not only inseparable from but also necessary for public life to flourish, something that FRC’s amicus brief highlights. In a culture that appears to be continuously straying from biblical values, it is comforting for Supreme Court Justices to stand on and for the truths that this country was founded upon.

Nicolas Reynolds is an intern at Family Research Council.

The Fight to Defend Faith-Based Adoption Providers

by Nicolas Reynolds

June 28, 2019

Recently, faith-based adoption and foster care agencies have been the target of many discriminatory acts made by state and local governments.

Far from the Founding Fathers’ original intent, the ability to help others through foster care and adoption is now contingent on the feelings of LGBT activists in some states and localities. This is just the latest example of a disturbing trend—if the convictions of one’s religion encroaches on someone else’s comfort, ego, or ideology, they are demonized and declared to be a manifestation of hatred.

Increasingly, care provided by faith-based adoption agencies is only permitted on the condition that these agencies’ beliefs do not offend the LGBT movement, conditions that threaten their ability to serve children who are in desperate need of fundamental nurturing. Governmental discriminatory actions have been taken against faith-based agencies in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

In Philadelphia, actions were taken in March of 2018 to end the referral contract the city had with Catholic Social Services (CSS) even though they are one of the city’s largest foster care agencies (there are 30 total), working every day to place at-risk and special needs children in supportive homes. According to CSS, the agency serves 120 children in foster care and supervises 100 foster homes on a daily basis. In 2017 alone, they worked with over 2,200 children. Following the city’s ending of its referral contract with CSS, a “foster parent of the year” award winner’s home was emptied and siblings were nearly kept apart despite the city’s urgent call for hundreds of new foster homes. Even though CSS has been placing children in foster care for over a century, it appears they have lost the opportunity seemingly overnight.

Situations like Philadelphia will only escalate all governmental discriminatory actions towards religious organizations. Actions like these open the door to far more severe discriminatory actions to be taken against Christian organizations, which will adversely affect their ability to care for the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40). As recently as December of last year, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services issued an ultimatum to faith-based adoption agency New Hope, forcing them to either violate their beliefs (that a child needs both a mother and a father) or close their doors. New Hope would likely no longer be able to provide children with homes.

In response to the clear governmental discriminatory actions taken against faith-based adoption agencies, legislators such as Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) are introducing legislation to protect religious liberty. They have introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2019 (CWPIA) (H.R. 897 / S. 274), a piece of legislation which would allow organizations such as CSS and New Hope to continue helping those in need without threat of foreclosure from the government.  

Rep. Kelly echoes the plea to preserve the ability of Christians to care for children who are desperately in need of nurturing that only a family can give:

Faith-based adoption and foster care providers have historically played an unrivaled role in caring for our country’s most vulnerable kids… They are the very providers that we should be encouraging and promoting, not punishing.

Concurring, Rep. Enzi adds:

The government should not be in the business of forcing faith-based child welfare providers to abandon their sincerely held religious beliefs, especially at the expense of finding a new home for a child in need.

Additionally, laws similar to the CWPIA have been passed in Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia—most recently in Oklahoma and Kansas.

Discriminatory actions taken against faith-based adoption and foster care agencies are attacks on the biblical definition of the family, the most fundamental establishment in society. These attacks show a disregard for the Judeo-Christian principles which are uniquely imparted through the family. Lawmakers must provide more security to Christian organizations that wish to place children in homes that will sacrifice for, care for, and nurture children in need of a forever-family. 

Since the family is the cornerstone of a moral and flourishing society, it should be regarded and defended with the utmost care. This includes ensuring that the best possible services are provided for children who are not privileged to have a biological family. If governmental discrimination causes families to fall short, society’s moral standards too will fall short. The American people must stand up for the rights of faith-based organizations to continue providing the care that children need. No longer should Christians be targeted by governmental discriminatory actions for their efforts to care for “the least of these.”

Nicolas Reynolds is an intern at Family Research Council.

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