Religious Speech

Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell

Short Video on Little Sisters of the Poor and the Contraceptive Mandate
Eileen J. O'Connor September 29, 2015

The Honorable Eileen J. O’Connor, partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, explains the impact of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate on the Little Sisters of the Poor.  In Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, the sisters have petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari because they believe that following the accommodation offered by HHS violates their Freedom of Religion.  The government argues that the accommodation HHS designed relieves the Little Sisters of complicity in the provision of contraceptives, and therefore their religious liberty is not implicated.

Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc and Reed v. Town of Gilbert - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 6-23-15 featuring Eugene Volokh.
Eugene Volokh June 23, 2015


On June 18, 2015, the Supreme Court issued two highly anticipated decisions in free speech cases, Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., and Reed v. Town of Gilbert.

Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. concerned two First Amendment issues: the first was whether content displayed on specialty license plates issued by the state is government speech immune from First Amendment prohibition on viewpoint discrimination; the second was whether Texas engaged in viewpoint discrimination when it rejected a specialty license plate design which included an image of a Confederate Flag.

In an opinion delivered by Justice Breyer, the Court held by a vote of 5-4 that Texas’s specialty license plate designs constitute government speech, and Texas was therefore entitled to reject the design proposed by Sons of Confederate Veterans. The decision of the Fifth Circuit to the contrary was reversed. Justices Thomas, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined Justice Breyer’s majority opinion. A dissenting opinion was filed by Justice Alito, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Kennedy.

Reed v. Town of Gilbert involved a First Amendment challenge to the sign code for Gilbert, Arizona, which imposes more stringent restrictions on signs directing the public to meetings of nonprofit groups--including churches--than on other signs. By a vote of 9-0, the Court reversed the judgment of the Ninth Circuit (which had rejected the challenge) and remanded the case.  Justice Thomas, joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, and Sotomayor, held that the Code’s sign provisions were content-based restrictions of speech that could not survive strict scrutiny. Justice Alito also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Kennedy and Sotomayor. Justice Breyer filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justice Kagan, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, also filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

To discuss the case, we have Professor Eugene Volokh, the Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law.

Danish Publisher: Charlie Hebdo and Free Speech in Europe and US - Podcast

Free Speech & Election Law Practice Group Podcast
Lars Hedegaard, Karen J. Lugo February 23, 2015

Lars Hedegaard was prosecuted under the European “incitement to hate” law all the way up to the Danish Supreme Court. Upon a full court re-hearing he was unanimously acquitted of intending his comments for public dissemination. He then survived a terrorist assassination attempt. Mr. Hedegaard will discuss why he has devoted so much to the cause of free speech and his deep belief that robust speech is vital to the survival of Western civilization. He assessed the long-term prospects for reform of speech laws in Europe, post Charlie Hebdo, and commented on what the United States might learn from developments in Europe.

  • Lars Hedegaard, Founder, International Free Press Society
  • Interviewer: Karen J. Lugo, Member, Federalism & Separation of Powers Practice Group Executive Committee

Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona - Post-Argument SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 1-15-15 featuring Hans von Spakovsky
Hans A. von Spakovsky January 15, 2015

On January 12, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Reed v. Town of Gilbert. This case involves a First Amendment challenge to the town of Gilbert, Arizona’s sign code, which effectively treats certain religious signs differently than other non-religious signs.  The question is whether Gilbert’s assertion that it has no discriminatory motive legitimizes the facially neutral code’s disparate effect on religious signs. 

To discuss the case, we have Hans A. von Spakovsky, who is Senior Legal Fellow and Manager, Civil Justice Reform Initiative, The Heritage Foundation.

Religious Liberty after Hobby Lobby - Event Video

2014 National Lawyers Convention
Kim Colby, William P. Marshall, Robin Fretwell Wilson, Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, William L. Saunders November 14, 2014

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.


  • Ms. Kim Colby, Senior Counsel, Christian Legal Society
  • Prof. William P. Marshall, William Rand Kenan, Jr. Distinguished --Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law
  • Prof. Robin Fretwell Wilson, Roger and Stephany Joslin Professor of Law and Director, Program in Family Law and Policy, University of Illinois College of Law
  • Moderator: Hon. Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit
  • Introduction: Mr. William L. Saunders, Senior Vice President and Senior Counsel, Americans United for Life and Chairman, Religious Liberties Practice Group

Mayflower Hotel
Washington, DC