MENU

Religious Freedom

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.

All Falling Faiths: Reflections on the Promise and Failure of the 1960s - Podcast

Practice Group Podcast
Danielle Sassoon, J. Harvie Wilkinson III April 04, 2017

In this warm and intimate memoir, Judge Wilkinson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, delivers a chilling message. The 1960s inflicted enormous damage on our country; even at this very hour we see the decade’s imprint in so much of what we say and do. The chapters reveal the harm done to the true meaning of education, to our capacity for lasting personal commitments, to our respect for the rule of law, to our sense of rootedness and home, to our desire for service, to our capacity for national unity, to our need for the sustenance of faith. Judge Wilkinson does not seek to lecture but to share in the most personal sense what life was like in the 1960s, and to describe the influence of those eventful years upon the present day.

Judge Wilkinson acknowledges the good things accomplished by the Sixties and nourishes the belief that we can learn from that decade ways to build a better future. But he asks his own generation to recognize its youthful mistakes and pleads with future generations not to repeat them. The author’s voice is one of love and hope for America. But our national prospects depend on facing honestly the full magnitude of all we lost during one momentous decade and of all we must now recover.

Featuring:

  • Danielle Sassoon, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of NY 
  • Hon. J. Harvie Wilkinson III, Judge, United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

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

Conscience Cases and Religious Liberty - Podcast

Religious Liberties Practice Group Podcast
Ryan T. Anderson, Anthony Michael Kreis December 21, 2016

With the legalization of gay marriage, numerous cases have arisen in which private citizens have refused to provide services to same-sex citizens getting married. Bakers, photographers, and even local magistrates have been taken to court for discrimination. In this Teleforum, our Religious Liberties experts will join us to discuss whether refusing products or services for same-sex weddings should count as sexual orientation discrimination, and if so, whether the law should provide exemptions for refusals based on religion or conscience about the nature of marriage.

Featuring:

  • Dr. Ryan T. Anderson, Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy, The Heritage Foundation
  • Prof. Anthony Michael Kreis, Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law