Tag archives: The Courts

Court Rulings on the Protect Life Rule Leave Abortion Advocates Stunned

by Connor Semelsberger , Mary Jayne Caum

July 15, 2019

Across the United States, courts tasked with hearing the lawsuits against the Trump administration’s pro-life rule changes to the Title X Family Planning Program agree, “the Government is likely to prevail.”

When the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published the Protect Life Rule, pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood lost no time in filing lawsuits to halt the Rule’s implementation. Believing they would be assigned a favorable judge, opponents of the Rule filed suit in the Ninth Circuit and other friendly courts. Although opponents obtained an advantageous ruling at the district court level, ultimately a three-judge panel in both the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (9th Circuit) and the Fourth Circuit (4th Circuit) decided to lift the preliminary injunctions and allow the Rule to be implemented temporarily. Opponents of the Rule suffered another failure when an 11-judge panel sitting en banc in the 9th Circuit reiterated that the Rule should be implemented while the merits of the case are heard. Lastly, a district judge in Maine refused to halt the Rule’s implementation while the merits of the case are litigated. That totals four devastating and seemingly unexpected adverse rulings opponents of the Protect Life Rule have suffered thus far. 

In each Court Opinion, the various courts explain the Protect Life Rule should go into effect during the lawsuit, because HHS will likely prevail in defending the Rule. This legal conclusion is reached for primarily two reasons: precedent and statutory interpretation. The Supreme Court Decision Rust v. Sullivan upheld regulations nearly identical to the Protect Life Rule. Additionally, the Rule adheres to applicable statutes. Therefore, courts across the nation conclude that HHS is likely to succeed on the merits because of the precedent established by Rust and the Rule’s lawful adherence to statutory law. An issue brief published by Family Research Council has further information on the legal arguments surrounding Title X. 

These legal proclamations are devastating for pro-abortion groups because it undermines a significant portion of their industry. The clear separation that the Protect Life Rule establishes between family planning funding and the abortion industry is contrary to their worldview. If the Protect Life Rule is ultimately upheld, abortion providers must adhere to the regulations in order to continue receiving Title X funds. If abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood refuse to comply, however, those Title X family planning funds can be diverted to other healthcare clinics such as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), Rural Health Centers, and Pregnancy Resource Centers which provide certain services that would be eligible for Title X funding under the Protect Life Rule

Since taking office, President Donald Trump and the U.S. Senate have worked together to confirm 127 federal judges. Several of these judges were vital to lifting the preliminary injunction against the Protect Life Rule, including two in the 9th Circuit, two in the 4th Circuit, and one in the United States District Court for the District of Maine. The ability of President Trump and the U.S. Senate to confirm constitutionally-minded judges shows that elections have consequences and that victory in the courts is crucial.

Without a favorable ruling on the merits, abortion referrals will continue, co-mingling of funds will perpetuate, and precious babies developing in the womb will perish. Courts must continue to discard the shallow political arguments opponents of the Rule are making and choose to uphold the law. The survival of countless lives depends upon future legal victories. 

Mary Jayne Caum is a Policy intern at Family Research Council. Connor Semelsberger is Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council.

Supreme Court Will Determine Whether “Sex” Means “Sex”

by Peter Sprigg

April 23, 2019

LGBT activists want “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (“SOGI”) to be protected categories in federal non-discrimination laws. They have been using a two-pronged attack to try to achieve this goal—working through both Congress and the courts.

In Congress, they are pushing a sweeping bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to virtually every federal civil rights law. But in the courts (and some quasi-independent agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), they have promoted the idea that federal law already outlaws SOGI employment discrimination. The theory is that discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” is actually a form of discrimination based on “sex”—which was outlawed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Note that these two approaches are in some ways contradictory—if the judicial theory is correct, then the Equality Act is largely superfluous.)

The latter of these two approaches has now taken a huge step closer to resolution. On April 22, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up three cases addressing the SOGI issue (these cases will be heard in fall of 2019).

In two of the cases (Bostock v. Clayton County and Altitude Express v. Zarda), the Court will decide the “SO” question—whether discrimination against an employee due to “sexual orientation” is included in the prohibition on discrimination “because of … sex” contained in the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In a third case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home v. EEOC, the Court will decide the “GI” question—whether Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination “because of … sex” includes a prohibition on discrimination against transgender people based on (1) their status as transgender or (2) the “sex stereotyping” theory derived from Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins (“sex stereotyping” initially meant one couldn’t discriminate against, for instance, a man for wearing pants that looked feminine—but has now been used to claim one could not discriminate against a man for wanting to identify as a woman).

When Congress prohibited employment discrimination based on “sex” in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, both their intention and the plain meaning of the word indicated that they were prohibiting discrimination against an individual because the person is biologically male or biologically female. The Supreme Court should decline the invitation to radically re-write the statute by expanding its meaning to cover “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing years ago about sex nondiscrimination protections in the Equal Rights Amendment, refused to countenance the idea that they would do away with simple male/female distinctions in the context of bathrooms.

The failure of LGBT activists to achieve their goals through the democratic process is no excuse to simply bypass that process and obtain their goal by judicial fiat instead.

FRC believes that SOGI laws are unjustified in principle, because these characteristics are not inborn, involuntary, immutable, innocuous (like race and sex), or in the U.S. Constitution (like religion). We also believe such laws pose a threat to religious liberty in many situations, as was an issue in the Harris case that the Court will hear.

At the end of the day, the core issue before the Court in these cases is whether it is within the legitimate power of judges to suddenly rewrite a 55-year-old statute. The answer is no.

3 Ways in Which Brett Kavanaugh Has Supported Religious Liberty

by Travis Weber

August 17, 2018

In light of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s impending confirmation battle, Family Research Council conducted an overview of his record and explained how he would likely rule on the issues we are concerned about. From that review, here are three ways in which Judge Kavanaugh has defended religious liberty:

  1. Judge Kavanaugh Has Defended Religious Believers from the HHS Mandate

In Priests for Life v. HHS, he dissented from the D.C. Circuit’s denial of rehearing en banc, arguing that the HHS mandate substantially burdened the organization’s exercise of religion, pursuant to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. This is a very important conclusion on an important issue and shows Judge Kavanaugh to have a right understanding of the religious freedom burdens that RFRA guards against in this context. While his assertion later in the same case that Hobby Lobby “strongly suggests” that the government has a compelling interest in ensuring broad access to contraceptives seems unnecessary, he did conclude that RFRA protected the claimants because the HHS mandate was not the least restrictive means of achieving any such interest.

  1. Judge Kavanaugh Has Defended Religious Expression in the Public Square

In Newdow v. Roberts, atheists had argued that “so help me God” in the presidential oath violated the Establishment Clause. The D.C. Circuit rejected their argument, and Judge Kavanaugh wrote a concurrence stating that such “longstanding practices do not violate the Establishment Clause as it has been interpreted by the Supreme Court.”

More recently, in Archdiocese of Washington v. WMATA, the Archdiocese of Washington attempted to purchase advertising space on the Washington Metro during the Christmas season, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority refused to sell what it deemed a “religious” message for a religious organization. During oral arguments in this case, Judge Kavanaugh told WMATA’s lawyer that this was “pure discrimination” and an “odious” First Amendment violation, showing a keen awareness of potential violations of free speech and free expression with a religious basis.

[In addition], [h]e helped set up a voucher program supporting religious schools in Florida, and also represented the Adat Shalom Jewish group in their legal battle against a Maryland county that was trying to stop construction of a synagogue.

  1. Judge Kavanaugh Has Defended Religious Expression in Schools

During his time in private practice, Judge Kavanaugh chaired the Religious Liberty Practice Group at the Federalist Society, and worked pro bono to write amicus briefs in support of religious expression in schools. He wrote briefs in Good News Club v. Milford Central School, and Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, in which he argued that a public school must allow religious student clubs to use its facilities in a similar manner as other clubs, and that student-led prayer at football events did not violate the establishment clause, respectively.

For more, see: https://www.frc.org/issueanalysis/why-judge-kavanaugh-should-be-confirmed-to-the-supreme-court 

7 Points of Reflection: Responding to the Houston Mayor’s Press Conference Announcing the Withdrawal of the Subpoenas Targeting the Five Houston Pastors

by Travis Weber

October 29, 2014
  1. The mayor says the subpoenas were “legal, valid, and appropriate,” but is withdrawing them anyway.

No, they are not legal, valid, and appropriate. They requested irrelevant and privileged material, and had the purpose of harassing the pastors – these very qualities make them quite inappropriate.

  1. She says it is “extremely important” to protect her special rights ordinance.

What about free speech rights so essential to open democracy and religious liberty rights protected by the First Amendment? She didn’t mention it was important to protect these.

  1. She claims the pastors she met with (who were not the subject of the subpoenas nor authorized to speak on behalf of those who were) didn’t plan a “rally” to “attack me” or the city.

While she tries to paint herself as above the political fray, she’s the one who invalidated the signatures. At its heart, this entire situation is a political matter. She tries to separate her subpoena withdrawal from the politics here, but she ultimately can’t do this. It comes down to this – if the pastors had been speaking for the bathroom bill instead of against it, she’d be fine with that. This IS about political intimidation – no matter how much she says it isn’t.

  1. She cares about “broader concerns” implicated here so she dropped the subpoenas.

What about the “concern” of Houston citizens being able to democratically repeal a law they don’t like? That seems pretty “broad” to me.

 

  1. She says she had a good conversation about “rendering unto Caesar” with the pastors she met with (who, again, are not even the pastors who were targeted by the mayor’s office).

This isn’t a determination for her to make. Ultimately, this entire situation arose because the Houston 5 have not rendered unto the City what the City would like for them to – their views on sexuality.

  1. She believes she has “removed that discussion about freedom of religion from the local arena.”

No, she hasn’t. She’d prefer that “religion” have nothing to say about the versions of sexuality protected by HERO – the very thing which is driving the lawsuit – which she has vowed to defend. Thus her logic defeats itself.

  1. She also became defensive when asked why she wouldn’t just allow the citizens to vote on repealing HERO. She was asked a question expressing concern that the Houston 5 may still feel intimidated.

She attempted an answer, but did so unsatisfactorily. If the mayor wants to clear up the intimidation issue, she can allow the citizens she was elected to represent to actually vote on whether to repeal the ordinance – it’s that simple.

Ministers: Beware

by Travis Weber

October 20, 2014

As if the over-stepping Houston major’s office subpoenaing sermons and other private communications of pastors wasn’t enough, we now receive news of two elderly ministers being told by city officials that any refusal to marry a same-sex couple could cause them to face up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines for each day they decline to do so.

For many years, the husband and wife team of Donald and Evelyn Knapp have presided over wedding services across the street from the local county clerk’s office in Coeur d’Alene, a beautiful city in North Idaho. Now, they are told they have to conform to their city’s iron-fisted demand that they “marry” men to men and women to women.

In other words, from the city to the ministers: Your religious liberty doesn’t really mean a thing when it comes to the new sexuality; you must come into line in accord with our views. When the city says something related to human sexuality should be accepted, that’s the final word.

For years, we have also been told by gay-marriage advocates that no harm would come from legalizing same-sex marriages. No one would be forced to participate.

Yet it seems that day has arrived. Court-issued stays have been lifted, and gay marriages have started to proceed in Idaho. Now a minister is being told by his government that he must officiate at these “marriages.”

Now that we are past the point where we were told the gay-rights crusade would stop, should we expect it to just stop here? I’ve grown doubtful of such expectations, as the advocacy and pressure for acceptance continue full steam. No, this crusade will likely continue until all are forced to approve.

These developments have occurred incrementally. As Albert Mohler points out, “[t]his is how religious liberty dies. Liberties die by a thousand cuts. An intimidating letter here, a subpoena there, a warning in yet another place. The message is simple and easily understood. Be quiet or risk trouble.”

How true. We are more in danger of remaining apathetic to threats to our freedom when the individual threats just don’t appear to be a big deal. The danger is in the accumulation, though. Hopefully, for many, this latest “increment” will be too big to ignore.

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