- Professor Robert George, Princeton University
On December 8, 2014, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in three cases challenging the HHS contraceptive mandate, including Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell. The Little Sisters case has already been to the Supreme Court once when Justice Sotomayor gave the nuns an emergency injunction on December 31, 2013, and the full court gave them an injunction in January 2014. The Little Sisters returned to court on December 8 to challenge whether the government can force them to sign forms that would let the government and third parties use their plan to provide contraceptives.
Mark Rienzi is Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and an Associate Professor of Constitutional Law at the Catholic University of America. He argued on behalf of the Little Sisters and several other parties before the 10th Circuit, and he gave a report on the argument and the status of the challenges to the contraceptive mandate.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013-14 Term included two major religion cases, Town of Greece v. Galloway and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. In Galloway, the Court held that prayers offered by local clergy at the start of town board meetings did not violate the Establishment Clause. In Hobby Lobby, the Court held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act required that corporations whose owners object to the HHS contraceptive mandate be exempt from it. The panel will explore, from a range of perspectives, the significance of Hobby Lobby and the religious freedom jurisprudence of the Roberts Court. Among the topics to be considered are the analysis under RFRA of the government’s compelling interest and the narrow tailoring requirements, the interplay between religious exemptions and the Establishment Clause, emerging issues at the intersection of religious freedom and anti-discrimination laws, ongoing challenges to the HHS contraceptive mandate, and the legacy of Hobby Lobby for future First Amendment and religious freedom cases.
The Federalist Society's Religious Liberties Practice Groups presented this panel on "Religious Liberty after Hobby Lobby" on Thursday, November 13, during the 2014 National Lawyers Convention.
The Supreme Court will rule on the religious liberty rights of prisoners in one of the first cases it will hear this term, Holt v. Hobbs. A Muslim prisoner incarcerated in an Arkansas state prison, Gregory Houston Holt (aka, Abdul Maalik Muhammed), is challenging a prison rule preventing him from growing a half inch beard, as his Islamic religious beliefs require. Mr. Holt is asserting his rights under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which requires state authorities to justify a substantial burden on a prisoner’s exercise of religion with a compelling state interest, implemented in the least restrictive means. This is essentially the same standard found in the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, under which the Supreme Court ruled last June in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties in their challenges to the HHS mandate on abortifacient contraceptives.
The Arkansas Department of Corrections limits prisoner beards to a quarter inch, and then only to help remedy medical conditions. Arkansas justifies the short-beard policy to prevent prisoners from smuggling contraband in their beards, and to prevent prisoners from easily altering their appearances after an escape.
How much deference must courts give to state prison officials, who need flexibility to deal with the complex circumstances of maintaining security in a prison environment? Our expert attended the oral arguments and offered his analysis of the case and its likely outcome.