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Religious Freedom

Courthouse Steps: Advocate Health Care v. Stapleton Decided - Podcast

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.

Featuring:

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

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