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Religion and the Law

Courthouse Steps: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer - Podcast

Religious Liberties Practice Group Podcast
Ilya Shapiro, Hannah C. Smith April 21, 2017

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) denied a Learning Center run by Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. (Trinity) federal funding to refurbish children’s playgrounds on the grounds of religious affiliation. The DNR offers Playground Scrap Tire Surface Material Grants to organizations that qualify for resurfacing of playgrounds. Though the licensed pre- school Learning Center incorporates religious instruction into is curriculum, the school is open to all children. Trinity’s Learning Center was denied funding based on Article I, Section 7 of the Missouri Constitution; the section reads: “no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, section or denomination of religion.”

Trinity claimed that the DNR infringed upon their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of religion and speech. The district court dismissed Trinity’s allegations, claiming that Trinity failed to file a specific claim. Trinity responded by amending its complaint to an allegation that other religious institutions had previously received the DNR funding; nevertheless, the district court denied the motions. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court decision, agreeing with both the dismissal and denial of motions.

The question at the heart of the case is whether or not the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause protect religious institutions from discrimination regarding the distribution of public funds. Ilya Shapiro of the CATO Institute and Hannah C. Smith of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty joined us after oral arguments to discuss the case and the potential weight of the precedent set by decision. 

Featuring:

  • Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute
  • Hannah C. Smith, Senior Counsel, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley: Churches, Playgrounds, & the First Amendment

Short video featuring Richard Garnett
Richard W. Garnett April 12, 2017

Does the exclusion of a church-run education center from receiving state funding violate the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses? Prof. Richard Garnett of the University of Notre Dame Law School explains the issues at stake in the upcoming Supreme Court Case of Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley. Oral argument is April 19, 2017.

Courthouse Steps: Saint Peter’s Healthcare System v. Kaplan - Podcast

Religious Liberties Practice Group Podcast
Eric Baxter March 31, 2017

This case is a combination of three cases, Advocate Health Care v. Stapleton, St. Peter’s Healthcare v. Kaplan, and Dignity Health v. Rollins, that confront the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) as it applies to churches and non-church religious non-profits. ERISA sets minimum standards for pension plans in private industry, such as an appeals process for participants and the right to sue for benefits. Churches are exempted from ERISA, however, the circuit courts have split over whether non-profit hospitals and schools are also exempted. Eric Baxter of the Becket Fund joined us to recap the oral arguments for this case, which were held on March 27.

Featuring:

  • Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Religious Liberty after the USCCR Report - Event Audio/Video

2017 National Student Symposium
William P. Marshall, Michael S. Paulsen, Marci A. Hamilton, Douglas Laycock, William H. Pryor Jr. March 15, 2017

In September, 2016, the United States Commission on Civil Rights released a report entitled Peaceful CoexistenceReconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties. In the report, the USCCR concluded that religious exercise is in tension with individual rights of certain subsections of the American population. It then went on to make a number of recommendations that suggest that that religious exercise must give way to civil rights protections when the two come into conflict: 

  • Narrow Tailoring of Religious Exceptions: Federal and state courts, lawmakers, and policy-makers at every level must tailor religious exceptions to civil liberties and civil rights protections as narrowly as applicable law requires.
  • Protections of Beliefs Over Conduct: The recognition of religious exemptions to nondiscrimination laws and policies should be made pursuant to the holdings of Employment Division v. Smith, which protect religious beliefs rather than conduct.
  • Amending the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act (“RFRA") (and State equivalents): Federal legislation should be considered to clarify that RFRA creates First Amendment Free Exercise Clause rights only for individuals and religious institutions and only to the extent that they do not unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights protections against status-based discrimination. States with laws similar to RFRA should similarly amend their laws.

This panel will first explore whether the USSCR Report is correct that there is, in fact, an irreconcilable tension between religious liberty and civil liberties. And second, if there is a conflict between religious liberty and civil liberties, the panel will debate whether the recommendation by USCCR to limit religious exemptions is the best way to navigate such conflict.

This panel was presented at the 2017 National Student Symposium on Saturday, March 4, 2017, at Columbia Law School in New York City, New York.

Panel 3: Religious Liberty after the USCCR Report
2:00 p.m. -3:45 p.m.
Jerome Greene Hall 104

  • Prof. Bill Marshall, Kenan Professor of Law, University of North Carolina
  • Prof. Michael Paulsen, Distinguished University Chair and Professor, University of St. Thomas
  • Prof. Marci Hamilton, Fox Family Pavilion Distinguished Scholar, University of Pennsylvania
  • Prof. Douglas Laycock, Robert E. Scott Distinguished Professor of Law; University of Virginia Law School; Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
  • Moderator: Hon. William H. Pryor, Jr. U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit

Columbia Law School
New York, New York

Debate—State Blaine Amendments - Event Audio/Video

2017 Annual Western Chapters Conference
David Cortman, Steven Green, Carlos T. Bea, Lisa Ezell February 06, 2017

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley. The case questions whether the exclusion of churches from an otherwise neutral and secular aid program violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of Free Exercise of Religion and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Debaters will address this case along with the Blaine Amendment implications.

This panel was part of the 2017 Annual Western Chapters Conference at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA on January 28, 2017.

Debate—State Blaine Amendments
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

  • David A. Cortman, Senior Counsel and Vice President of U.S. Litigation, Alliance Defending Freedom
  • Prof. Steven Green, Fred H. Paulus Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Religion, Law & Democracy, Willamette University College of Law
  • Moderator: Hon. Carlos Bea, U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit
  • Introduction: Lisa Ezell, Vice President & Director of Lawyers Chapters, The Federalist Society

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
Simi Valley, CA

Views and opinions expressed by the Federalist Society are not necessarily shared by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.