- Ed Whelan, Ethics & Public Policy Center
- Aaron Streett, Baker Botts
The Columbia Law School Federalist Society's Student Chapter will host the 36th National Student Symposium on March 3-4, 2017. The topic of the Symposium is "The First Amendment in Contemporary Society". Additional information will be posted later this year.
What are the limits of what constitutes a “church” under ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act? Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, explains the upcoming Supreme Court Case, Dignity Health v. Rollins. The “Dignity Case” highlights the ambiguity of the definition of “church-established enterprises,” such as the health care systems of religious organizations, and how they are impacted by the parameters of what constitutes religious exercise.
In his seminal decision in Employment Division v. Smith in 1990, Justice Antonin Scalia held that the First Amendment typically does not authorize courts to grant religious exemptions from generally applicable laws. This decision altered the 1963 Sherbert v. Verner test which had given courts the power to strike down any law that (1) if it substantially burdened religious practice, was not (2) based on a compelling government interest, and (3) narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. Rather, Scalia said that religious adherents should look to the political process for accommodation, and he consistently supported the constitutionality of such accommodations. In response to Smith, a primary means of such accommodation has been the passage of state and federal Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs), which codify the Sherbert test. However, in the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges (or Hobby Lobby), RFRAs have become the focus of intense political controversy. What do these laws actually do in practice? Are they a good idea? Would a different approach to protect religious liberty be better?
This panel was held on November 17, 2016, during the 2016 National Lawyers Convention in Washington, DC.
Religious Liberties: Is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) the Future of Religious Liberty?
3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The Mayflower Hotel