- Federal Constitution Litigation
- International Issues
- Legislative Developments
- School Choice & Education Reform
|First Annual Executive Branch Review Conference|
|Using the Schools After Hours? Not a Prayer - Podcast|
Since 1995, a small evangelical church, Bronx Household of Faith, has been in court challenging the policy of the New York City public schools that prohibits religious groups from conducting worship services in the vacant buildings during nonschool hours, while allowing other community groups to meet for any purpose "pertaining to the welfare of the community." The case pits the First Amendment rights of religious groups against New York City's concerns that use of a school building for a worship service would violate the Establishment Clause. During the 2010-11 school year, community groups and individuals used New York City's 1,200 school buildings schools for approximately 120,000 events. No other major school district in the nation has a similar policy banning worship services.
Bronx Household of Faith won an injunction in federal district court in 2001, which ruled that the NYC policy violated the Freedom of Speech Clause. In 2011, the Second Circuit overturned the injunction on a 2-1 vote, ruling that NYC's concerns about possible Establishment Clause violations justified the policy. The Supreme Court denied cert on December 5, 2011.
Bronx Household returned to court, and asked for a new injunction based on the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause. J udge Loretta Preska issued a new injunction in February 2012. New York City appealed to the Second Circuit, which heard oral arguments on November 19, 2012. This case presents a classic clash between religious groups seeking to use public buildings on the same terms and conditions as other community groups, and New York City's view of the Establishment Clause, which it asserts requires it to exclude religious groups in order to show that the schools are neutral towards religion. Debating this case are Jordan Lorence, Senior Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, who has represented Bronx Household of Faith in this case since the beginning of the lawsuit, and Professor Alan E. Brownstein of UC-Davis Law School, a noted scholar on church-state legal issues.
|HHS "Contraceptive" Mandate - Litigation Update - Podcast|
The controversy over the HHS contraceptive mandate has generated over 50 lawsuits, on behalf of more than 160 different plaintiffs. Most of the litigation on behalf of non-profit entities (universities, hospitals, etc.) has been on hold, awaiting the administration's planned issuance of a new final rule with an "accommodation" for non-profits with religious objections. Litigation on behalf of for-profit businesses and their owners, however, is moving through the courts of appeals, with several courts hearing arguments in May and June. To date, the for-profit businesses have won 17 preliminary injunctions, and been denied relief in 6 cases.
Mark Rienzi, who is Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and an associate professor at the Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law, discussed the current status of the cases during this teleforum. Our Religious Liberties Practice Group Chairman, William L. Saunders, introduced Prof. Rienzi and provided his commentary to Professor Rienzi’s remarks.
|Federalist Society’s Executive Branch Review Project: A Teleforum with Senator Mike Lee and David McIntosh - Podcast|
An increase in Federal executive branch regulatory activity – whether through executive order, formal or informal administrative agency action – has been noted by many across the country. In launching the Executive Branch Review Project, the Practice Groups of the Federalist Society seek to prompt a national debate about whether there has been an uptick in such regulatory activity, and, if so, with what consequence. The project will provide objective resources that identify major government activity, and will provide a forum for debate and discussion about whether such regulation constitutes a form of legal and regulatory overreach. The first component of this project is a new blog dedicated to highlighting action or inaction by the executive branch, http://www.executivebranchproject.com/
To kickoff this new endeavor, U.S. Senator Michael S. Lee (Utah) and Federalist Society founder and Vice Chairman David M. McIntosh discussed the project and provided their perspectives on the use of executive power.
|DOMA in the Supreme Court - Podcast|
On March 27, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Windsor v. U.S., the challenge to the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, and which bars the federal government from recognizing the validity of, or extending attendant benefits to, any marriage conferred by any of the states other than those consisting of only one man and one woman. The Court considered whether DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws as applied to persons of the same sex who are recognized to be married under the laws of their state, whether the Executive Branch’s assertion that DOMA is unconstitutional deprives the Court of jurisdiction to decide this case, whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives has standing in this case to defend DOMA. Carrie Severino of Judicial Crisis Network attended the oral arguments and then offered her analysis of the arguments, the merits, and the likely outcome of the case.