Religious Liberties

Zubik v. Burwell - Post-Argument SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 4-20-16 featuring Roger Severino
Roger Severino April 20, 2016

On March 23, 2016, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Zubik v. Burwell, the lead case in a consolidated series, with the other petitioners including Priests for Life, Southern Nazarene University, Geneva College, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, East Texas Baptist University, and Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) requires that group health plans and health insurance issuers provide coverage for women’s “preventative care,” or face financial penalties. Although the ACA does not define preventative care, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), relying on the Institute of Medicine, determined that the term encompassed, among other things, all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, including drugs and devices that could induce an abortion. Although the government exempted “religious employers” from this mandate, the exemption was narrowly defined and did not extend to petitioners. The government did, however, offer non-profit entities such as petitioners an “accommodation.”  

Under the accommodation, which was modified in the course of litigation, an objecting religious nonprofit entity complies if it provides the government with a notice that includes “the name of the eligible organization,” its “plan name and type,” and the name and contact information for any of the plan’s third-party administrators (TPAs) and health insurance issuers. Upon receiving the notice, the government notifies the objecting entity’s insurance company or TPA, which then must provide payments for the requisite contraceptive products and services. A number of objecting non-profits sought relief in various federal courts, arguing that the accommodation violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993. The resulting litigation produced a series of fractured opinions and a split in the Courts of Appeals, with non-profit religious organizations prevailing in the Eighth Circuit but losing in a number of others.

After imposing a brief injunction on enforcement against petitioners while it considered various petitions for certiorari, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a number of petitions and consolidated the cases for oral argument on the following question: whether the HHS Mandate and its “accommodation” violate RFRA by forcing religious nonprofits to act in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs, when the Government has not proven that this compulsion is the least restrictive means of advancing any compelling interest. On March 29, the Court also issued a detailed order requiring the parties to brief “whether and how contraceptive coverage may be obtained by petitioners'’ employees through petitioners’ insurance companies, but in a way that does not require any involvement of petitioners beyond their own decision to provide health insurance without contraceptive coverage to their employees.”

To discuss the case, we have Roger Severino, who is Director, DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, The Heritage Foundation.

Religious Liberty in the Armed Forces - Podcast

Religious Liberties Practice Group Podcast
Michael Berry April 18, 2016

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces recently granted review in United States v. Sterling, in which it will address, for the first time, the nature and scope of Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s applicability within the military. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling was convicted at a court-martial for refusing to remove a Bible verse she taped to her computer in her workspace. Our expert, along with former U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, serves as co-counsel for Ms. Sterling, and explained Sterling’s potential significance to religious liberty within the military. Our expert also discussed other significant and recent developments in the field of military religious liberty, such as the case of U.S. Navy chaplain Wes Modder, who faced career-ending punishment after offering pastoral counseling in accordance with his denomination’s teaching and tenets.


  • Michael Berry, Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs, First Liberty Institute

Political Correctness on Campus - Event Audio/Video

Stanford Intellectual Diversity Conference
Pamela S. Karlan, Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, Richard H. Sander, Zachary Price April 13, 2016

Political correctness in the classroom can be seen as a consequence of a lack of political diversity in the university. How does political correctness affect research, and teaching? Is political correctness all that bad, or does it have a proper place in academia? Professors Pam Karlan, Richard Sander, and Nicholas Rosenkranz discuss.

This panel was presented at the Stanford Intellectual Diversity Conference on Friday, April 8, 2016, at Stanford Law School.

Political Correctness on Campus

  • Prof. Pamela S. Karlan, Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law and Co-Director, Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, Stanford Law School
  • Prof. Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Prof. Richard H. Sander, Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law
  • Moderator: Prof. Zachary Price, Associate Professor of Law, UC Hastings College of the Law

Stanford Law School
Stanford, CA

A Conversation on Intellectual Diversity - Event Audio/Video

Stanford Intellectual Diversity Conference
Larry Kramer, Michael W. McConnell, Bernadette Meyler, Michael Rubin April 13, 2016

Why make a big deal out of intellectual diversity in academia, anyway? What are its advantages? What are its disadvantages? Is it a goal worth pursuing at the expense of others? Dean Larry Kramer and Professor Michael McConnell debate these points and others.

This panel was presented at the Stanford Intellectual Diversity Conference on Friday, April 8, 2016, at Stanford Law School.

Keynote Conversation

  • Dean Larry Kramer, President, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; Lecturer in Law and Former Dean, Stanford Law School
  • Prof. Michael McConnell, Richard and Frances Mallery Professor and Director, Constitutional Law Center, Stanford Law School
  • Moderator: Prof. Bernadette Meyler, Carl and Shelia Spaeth Professor of Law, Stanford Law School
  • Introduction: Mr. Michael Rubin, Co-President, Stanford Student Chapter

Stanford Law School
Stanford, CA