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Mr. Gregory S. Baylor of Alliance Defending Freedom discussed current and future challenges to the religious freedom of faith-based institutions of higher education, with a special focus on the ongoing debate over California Senate Bill 1146. Earlier versions of SB1146 would have significantly curtailed longstanding religious freedom protections in state anti-discrimination law, thereby exposing faith-based schools to liability for discrimination on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity in student and employee relations. The bill's prime sponsor recently removed its most controversial provisions, but he indicated that a similar bill may be proposed in the next legislative session.
On April 20, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. In 2012, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission redrew the map for the state legislative districts based on the results of the 2010 census. Wesley Harris and other individual voters sued the Commission and alleged that the newly redrawn districts were underpopulated in Democratic-leaning districts and over-populated in Republican-leaning ones and that the Commission had, therefore, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Commission countered that the population deviations were the result of attempts to comply with the Voting Rights Act. A three-judge district court ruled in favor of the Commission.
On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court by a vote of 8-0. Justice Breyer delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court, which held that the federal district court did not err in upholding Arizona's redistricting plan. The challengers failed to demonstrate, the Court explained, that illegitimate considerations more likely than not were the predominant motivation for the plan's population deviations.
To discuss the case, we have Mark F. “Thor” Hearne, II, who is Partner at Arent Fox LLP.
There have been a series of recent court decisions at both the federal district court and court of appeals level involving election reforms in North Carolina, North Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. These cases involve state statutes on voter ID, early voting, same day registration, and out-of-precinct voting. Hans von Spakovsky, Manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at the Heritage Foundation, a former Commissioner on the Federal Election Commissioner, and the former Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Justice Department will discuss these developments and the status of the litigation and the law governing elections and voting.