Religious Liberties Practice Group Teleforum Eric Baxter June 07, 2017
Advocate Health Care v. Stapleton 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 again to discuss the 8-0 decision issued by the Supreme Court on June 5.
Religious Liberties Practice Group Podcast
- Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
On May 4, President Trump signed a Religious Liberty Executive Order relaxing IRS enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, which bans tax-exempt organizations like churches from political speech and activities. The “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” Executive Order also directs “the Secretary of Health and Human Services” to “consider issuing amended regulations, consistent with applicable law, to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate.”
An earlier version of the Executive Order was leaked in February, and contained many provisions, specifically about LGBTQ discrimination and federal contractors, which did not make it into the final. Prof. Carl Esbeck of the University of Missouri School of Law and Mr. Gregory Baylor of the Alliance Defending Freedom joined us to discuss the order and its precursor. This Teleforum is the third in our Executive Order Teleforum Series.
Short video featuring Richard Garnett
- Mr. Gregory Baylor, Senior Counsel & Director of the Center for Religious Schools, Alliance Defending Freedom
- Prof. Carl Esbeck, R.B. Price Professor Emeritus of Law/ Isabelle Wade & Paul C. Lyda Emeritus of Law, University of Missouri School of Law
What are the Blaine Amendments, and should they dictate where state funds can and cannot go? Professor Richard Garnett of Notre Dame Law School outlines the issues surrounding the Blaine Amendments and how they impact choice-based school reform. Religious Liberties Practice Group Podcast
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.
Short video featuring Richard Garnett
- Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute
- Hannah C. Smith, Senior Counsel, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
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.