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Becket Law

 

Trump admin keeps Obama rule requiring Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraception ... for now

LifeSite News story by Claire Chretien

April 25, 2017

The Trump administration's Department of Justice (DOJ) caused surprise today by signaling that it intends to continue the Obama administration's court battle with the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious groups over the HHS contraception mandate, at least for the time being. While Trump had promised on the campaign trail to drop the provision, the DOJ has now asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for 60 more days to negotiate with East Texas Baptist University and other religious institutions to find a solution to their religious liberty concerns. Becket Law's Eric Rassbach says that the time has come for the new administration to put the fight to rest for good. "The government has a chance to do the right thing here. It got it wrong for five years in these cases, almost six years," Rassbach told Catholic News Agency. "And they can do the right thing by dropping their appeals that are in favor of the mandate, and admitting that they were wrong on the issue of the contraceptive mandate, as applied to religious non-profits." Forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor to cooperate in the provision of contraception is "a hostility to religious liberty you will never see in a Trump administration," Trump wrote to Catholic leaders during his campaign.

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A Justice Gorsuch will defend religious liberty

The Hill commentary by Amy Vitale

April 1, 2017

Congress has passed two pieces of legislation protecting religious freedom with overwhelming bipartisan support: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). These laws strike a sensible balance so no American-particularly those who are politically unpopular-can be unnecessarily forced by the government to violate their faith. These laws have been pivotal in protecting religious freedom for individuals of many faiths, including Jews, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, and Native Americans. The balance required by these laws is put in the hands of judges, and so it is crucial that any Supreme Court nominee demonstrate a knowledge of how they function. Judge Gorsuch's reasoned and thorough understanding of RFRA and RLUIPA has been well documented and is vividly demonstrated in his Yellowbear v. Lampert decision that protected a Native American man's right to practice his faith while in prison. Pub. 3/26/17

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In Gorsuch hearings, religious freedom important to Dems, Republicans

Washington Times

March 28, 2017

Gorsuch has been a valuable ally of these believers through his judicial career, noted Hannah Smith, senior counsel at the public interest law firm Becket, who voiced her support during a day of testimony from outside experts on Friday. "Judge Gorsuch has demonstrated repeatedly that he applies the law fairly to protect religious minorities and incarcerated persons  -  some of the most politically powerless in our society," she said. Overall, Gorsuch's past rulings and testimony before the SenateJudiciary Committee illustrate his commitment to upholding religious freedom, Smith argued. "His jurisprudence demonstrates an even-handed application of the principle that religious liberty is fundamental to freedom and to human dignity, and that protecting the religious rights of others - even the rights of those with whom we may disagree - ultimately leads to greater protections for all of our rights," she said.

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Roger Severino tapped to lead OCR

Becker's Hospital Review

March 27, 2017

Roger Severino, JD, was named director of HHS' Office for Civil Rights. An OCR spokesperson confirmed Mr. Severino's new leadership role on March 24, according to GovInfoSecurity.com. OCR, which oversees HIPAA and health information privacy rights, also posted Mr. Severino's biography and title to the OCR website. Mr. Severino previously worked at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative political think tank in Washington, D.C. At The Heritage Foundation, he served as director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society in the Institute for Family, Community and Opportunity.

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Becket Law's Hannah Smith testifies in Senate hearings on SCOTUS nominee Gorsuch

C-SPAN: Hannah Smith testimony

March 24, 2017

"Overall, he was part of a unanimous decision in almost 90 percent of the time, and when he actually authored the religious liberty decision for the court, he produced a unanimous decision every single time. This is a striking record of coalition-building in an area of jurisprudence that can be quite contentious." Watch video

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Catholic school defends right to choose its principal

Becket Law

March 7, 2017

St. Anthony School and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York went to a Manhattan court today to defend their right to choose a school principal without government interference, against a lawyer who says protecting Catholic schools may aid "potential jihadists." "Talk about shameless. This blatantly anti-Catholic lawsuit is nothing but a scheme to take money away from needy New York schoolkids and put it in an attorney's pockets," said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at Becket, the non-profit religious liberty law firm, who argued the case for St. Anthony's and the Archdiocese. "Not only are these attacks uncalled-for, they are ignorant. The Supreme Court has already said that the Church, not the State, should pick religious leaders."

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The State of Religious Liberty in America

House Judiciary Committee hearing - video

February 16, 2017

Witnesses: 

  • Kim Colby, Director Chrisitan Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom 
  • Hannah Smith, Senior Counsel, Becket Law
  • Rabbi David Saperstein 
  • Casey Mattox, Senior Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom's Center for Academic Freedom

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Why Religious Freedom Matters

Luke Goodrich, Becket Law

February 3, 2017

"First, religious freedom matters because it benefits society. It allows religion to flourish, which produces moral virtue that is necessary for self-government. It also produces good works that benefit all of society. It also protects the right of minorites to dissent from the majority view. And it reduces social conflict." This speech was given by Becket Law Senior Counsel, Luke Goodrich, at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law's Religion and Law Symposium on Saturday March 12, 2016.

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No, Religious Liberty Won't Yank Health Care From Trans And Post-Abortive People

The Federalist commentary by "Joseph Turner"

February 3, 2017

By Mark Joseph Stern's Slate account, the ACA regulation in question merely "forbade doctors from discriminating against transgender patients or women who've previously had abortions." He mocks O'Connor for defining "sex" as a binary biological reality. He asserts: "[U.S. District Court Judge Reed] O'Connor held that treating transgender patients-and even insuring transgender patients-‘substantially burdens' insurance companies and hospitals' ‘exercise of religion.'" After reading these accounts, one might find the actual text of O'Connor's order rather anticlimactic. The first thing they might notice is that the decision is clearly, unmistakably focused on protecting religious objectors from performing or supporting sex changes and abortions. That's it. What you won't find anywhere in the order's 46 pages is any mention, or even the slightest hint of a suggestion, that the ruling is intended to allow doctors to refuse treatment to patients for no other reason than because they identify as trans or have had abortions. 

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Transgender movement's new frontier: The War on Medicine

Conservative Review commentary by Nicole Russell

February 1, 2017

Last May, the Health and Human Services Department implemented a mandate, which would have required doctors perform gender transition procedures on children - even if they think it would be harmful - and forced "all private insurance companies and many employers to cover gender transition procedures or face severe penalties and legal action." It applied to almost nearly every doctor in the U.S. and would have cost health care providers and taxpayers approximately $1 billion. However, a Catholic hospital system, several states, and an association of nearly 18,000 doctors challenged this regulation and on New Year's Eve, a Texas court struck down this harmful mandate. In a press release, Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket Law, which filed a lawsuit against the regulation commented,"This is a common-sense ruling: The government has no business forcing private doctors to perform procedures on children that the government itself recognizes can be harmful and exempts its own doctors from performing." (orig. pub. 1/25/16) 

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"Transgender" Is Not A Federal Civil Rights Category

Daily Caller commentary by Thomas Ascik

February 1, 2017

In Franciscan Alliance v. Burwell, a case originating in Texas, Christian medical associations, citing religious liberty, and eight states, citing the Tenth Amendment, sued to stop the Obama administration from forcing them to provide "gender transition surgery" and abortion. The Franciscan Alliance identified itself as providing "faith-based, integrated healthcare," and the Christian Medical Association stated its purpose as "integrating faith with professional practice." The federal district court ruled on the last day of 2016 that "the text, structure, and purpose" of Title IX showed that Congress unambiguously "intended to prohibit sex discrimination on the basis of the biological differences between males and females." Since the passage of Title IX in 1972. Congress had had several legislative opportunities, the court observed, to expand or replace "sex" with "gender." - "If Congress had intended to enact a new, different, or expansive definition of sex discrimination" in the Affordable Care Act, "it knew how to do so." In ruling that the words "sex" and "gender" had different legal meanings, the court also referred to outside sources, including from the gay and transgender community, as in this statement from a transvestite journal, "I, at least, know the difference between sex and gender."

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VICTORY in HHS transgender mandate case

Becket Fund wins nationwide injunction for Christian Medical Association, others

December 31, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Moments ago a Texas court protected the rights of families and their doctors to make medical decisions for their child free from government bureaucrats' interference. The court ruling comes after eight states, an association of almost 18,000 doctors, and a Catholic hospital system challenged a federal regulation that requires doctors to perform gender transition procedures on children, even if the doctor believes the treatment could harm the child. "This is a common-sense ruling: The government has no business forcing private doctors to perform procedures that the government itself recognizes can be harmful, particularly to children, and that the government exempts its own doctors from performing," said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket Law, which filed a lawsuit against the new federal regulation. Becket Law defended Franciscan Alliance, a religious hospital network sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, and the Christian Medical Association from the new government regulation. The States of Texas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Arizona, and Mississippi joined Becket's legal challenge.

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Are Religious Healthcare Systems "Churches"?

Federalist Society video with Eric Rassbach

November 30, 2016

What are the limits of what constitutes a "church" under ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act? Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, explains the upcoming Supreme Court Case, Dignity Health v. Rollins. The "Dignity Case" highlights the ambiguity of the definition of "church-established enterprises," such as the health care systems of religious organizations, and how they are impacted by the parameters of what constitutes religious exercise.

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Lawsuit Challenges Federal Regulation Forcing Doctors to Provide Gender Transition Treatment for Children

CNS News

November 14, 2016

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state of North Dakota and health providers challenging a federal regulation that would force doctors and others to perform gender transition procedures on children even if it's believed these procedures could harm a child. "No doctor should be forced to perform a procedure that he or she believes will harm a child," said Lori Windham, senior counsel of the fund. "Decisions on a child's medical treatment should be between families and their doctors, not dictated by politicians and government bureaucrats."

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Challenging transgender quackery

The Washington Times editorial

October 27, 2016

Rule-makers in Washington, however, want to require doctors to perform "gender-reassignment" procedures even when their professional judgment says no. Political fashion shouldn't trump sound medicine. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule, which took effect in July, was challenged last week in a U.S. District Court in Texas by a wide-ranging coalition of church-affiliated hospitals and doctors, and eight states. "With a single stroke of the pen, HHS has created massive new liability for thousands of doctors unless they cast aside their professional judgment, convictions and common sense to perform procedures that can be deeply harmful to their patients," wrote the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing plaintiffs from Texas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Arizona, and Mississippi.

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Doctors, states oppose HHS transgender mandate

Baptist Press

October 26, 2016

Thousands of healthcare providers and eight states are challenging a new federal rule that requires doctors to perform gender transition procedures or treatments even on children. The latest transgender directive from the Obama administration mandates physicians carry out such gender-altering measures even if they believe they could prove harmful or would violate their religious and ethical beliefs. Healthcare providers who refuse to abide by the regulation might face imposing fines and the loss of their jobs. Lori Windham, senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a written release, "It is absurd for the government to think it can better decide what is best for a child over parents or a medically trained professional. Doctors should be free to use their best medical judgment and do what is in the best interest of a child, free from political agendas and interference by bureaucrats." The Becket Fund is representing the rule's challengers, which consist of the Christian Medical Association; the Franciscan Network, a group of Catholic hospitals; and the states of Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Texas and Wisconsin.

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Congressional letter questions HHS transgender mandate

The Becket Fund news release

October 12, 2016

Over 45 concerned Congressional representatives, led by Congressman Joe Pitts, wrote a letter to Health & Human Services (HHS) demanding clarification on its recent transgender mandate and how it will interfere in doctor-patient relationships and harm children, especially gay and lesbian children. The letter voices concern that the new HHS transgender mandate forces doctors to perform gender transition procedures on children, even if the doctor believes they could be harmful to the patient, and disregards published medical science and best medical judgment. Members of Congress also highlight the irony of HHS’s refusal to protect decisions that should be left between a family and their doctor considering the government’s own military health plan explicitly protects a doctor’s medical judgement regarding gender transition procedures for service men and women. “Sensitive, difficult medical decisions should be between a family and their doctor, not government bureaucrats,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed a lawsuit against the new federal regulation. “Doctors should be free to use their best medical judgment, informed by science and led by their Hippocratic Oath, to do what is in the best interest of a child.”

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Doctors Sue Obama Administration for Forcing Them to Perform Gender Transition Procedures

Daily Signal commentary by Kelsey Harkness

August 24, 2016

Five states and a group of religiously-affiliated hospitals and physicians are suing the Obama administration over a federal mandate that forces doctors to perform gender transition procedures on adults and children against their medical judgment. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in a Texas federal court, attempts to roll back a rule imposed by the Department of Health and Human Services in May that expanded the interpretation of "sex" under the Affordable Care Act to include "gender identity." "It's a very rare moment in history when the government would force doctors to go against their conscience and their medical judgment and perform procedures that may be deeply harmful to patients," said Luke Goodrich, a lawyer at the Becket Fund, which is representing Franciscan Alliance, a religious hospital network, and the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, two of the parties involved the lawsuit.

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Texas and four other states file another lawsuit over Obama transgender rules

Dallas Morning News

August 23, 2016

Texas and four other Republican-led states filed another lawsuit Tuesday seeking to roll back the Obama administration's efforts to strengthen transgender rights, saying new federal nondiscrimination health rules could force doctors to act contrary to their medical judgment or religious beliefs. Joining Texas in the lawsuit are Wisconsin, Kentucky, Nebraska and Kansas, along with the Christian Medical and Dental Association and Franciscan Alliance, an Indiana-based network of religious hospitals. "It discards independent medical judgment and a physician's duty to his or her patient's permanent well-being and replaces them with rigid commands," the lawsuit states.

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Becket's Arriaga sworn in at U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

July 14, 2016

My father fled Fidel Castro's Cuba and lost everything. My father did not stew on his losses. Instead, he stayed focused on the horizon, on the future, and he taught his kids to do the same. Sitting around our kitchen table at night, he would speak about what was possible, not what was lost. He filled me with excitement when he would tell me that in this new country, a young Latina woman from Cuba could do whatever she set her mind to. Speaking to the next generation in Denver and taking the oath of office for USCIRF-both experiences brought me back to that kitchen table. In taking on this role for USCIRF, I want to carry on that spirit of possibility and optimism for all people who suffer, especially for their beliefs.

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Native Americans win, feds flee feather fight

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

June 14, 2016

In a historic settlement agreement signed last night, the federal government admitted that it was wrong to send an undercover agent to raid a Native American powwow and seize nearly 50 eagle feathers used for religious worship-a raid the government dubbed "Operation PowWow" (watch video). Called "a victory for religious freedom" by the Wall Street Journal, the historic agreement ends a decade of litigation by recognizing the right of Pastor Robert Soto of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas and 400 other Native Americans to freely use eagle feathers for Native American worship. "The government has no business sending undercover agents to raid peaceful Native American religious ceremonies," said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. "This historic agreement recognizes that the government violated Mr. Soto's religious freedom and must respect the rights of all Native Americans in the future."

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Little Sisters of the Poor win at Supreme Court

Becket Fund

May 16, 2016

Moments ago, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided to send back to the lower courts the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns who care for the elderly poor. The Court's decision is a win for the Little Sisters and other groups who needed relief from draconian government fines. In its decision, the Supreme Court held that after its unprecedented call for supplemental briefing that the lower courts should again review the cases. "We are very encouraged by the Court's decision, which is an important win for the Little Sisters. The Court has recognized that the government changed its position," said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead Becket attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor. "It is crucial that the Justices unanimously ordered the government not to impose these fines and indicated that the government doesn't need any notice to figure out what should now be obvious-the Little Sisters respectfully object. There is still work to be done, but today's decision indicates that we will ultimately prevail in court."

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Government exempts 100 million from HHS mandate, but not the Little Sisters

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

March 2, 2016

The government's own statistics show that one in three Americans are exempted from the mandate. In its arguments to the Supreme Court, the government admits that women who are not covered by the mandate can still access contraception through other means, such as on a family member's plan or through the government's own insurance exchanges. But it then bizarrely argues that exempting the Little Sisters and letting the nuns' employees get contraceptives the same way would pose a serious threat to the government's goal of providing universal free access to contraception and early-term pharmaceutical abortion, thus harming the "harmonious functioning of a society like ours." The Little Sisters of the Poor have simply asked to be exempt too, and have suggested the government could better meet its goals if it provided services through the healthcare exchanges for everyone instead of trying to force religious plans to offer these services that violate their beliefs.

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Becket Defends Christian Printer Ordered to Print Shirts for Gay Pride Festival

Becket Fund news release

November 1, 2015

"Americans disagree about sex and religion. That's nothing new. But this case is about whether the government will allow people who disagree to live side-by-side in peace, or whether the government will instead pick one ‘correct' moral view and force everyone to conform," said Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. "Fortunately, the Supreme Court has already resolved this question and held that the government can't force people to promote views they disagree with."

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Law Firm for the Little Sisters Asks Supreme Court to Hear Its Obamacare Case

Daily Signal

October 15, 2015

The Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns who provide shelter and health care for the elderly poor, have filed a class action lawsuit against the Obama administration in order to be exempt from an Obamacare provision that requires employers to pay for abortifacient drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives in their employee health plans. Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel for The Becket Fund, said the government is making the "odd" and "dangerous" argument that the Little Sisters "aren't religious enough" to qualify for the exemption. "It's hard to be more religious than the Little Sisters," Blomberg said. "The federal government has drawn a discriminatory line between the Little Sisters and the church they serve."

 

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Obama Administration Refuses Win-Win Religious Liberty Solution

The Federalist commentary by Lori Windham

October 1, 2015

The government could easily open those subsidies to any employees of religious groups who want the coverage not included in their employers' plan. This would satisfy the government's concerns, satisfy the ministries' religious beliefs, and ensure that Americans still receive vital services from groups like the Little Sisters. For that reason, the Eighth Circuit Court of appeals sided with religious ministries last week. Echoing a unanimous Supreme Court opinion on religious freedom, it said, "[I]f a less restrictive means is available for the Government to achieve its goals, the Government must use it."

 

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Little Sisters of the Poor Gets Short-term Relief From HHS Mandate

Townhall by Leah Barkoukis

August 24, 2015

The Little Sisters of the Poor has been through more than any faith-based charity should have to go through all to continue the noble work they're doing without violating their faith. But, for the time being at least, some good news has come their way. After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the group must comply with Obamacare's abortion mandate, The Little Sisters of the Poor found reprieve Friday morning after the Tenth Circuit issued an order temporarily safeguarding the group and other ministries from being forced to violate their faith. “The federal government doesn’t need the Little Sisters or any other ministry to help it distribute abortion-inducing drugs and other contraceptives,” Mark Rienzi, senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the Little Sisters, said in a statement.

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Ruling: Washington can require pharmacies to dispense Plan B

Seattle Times

July 23, 2015

The Washington, D.C.-based Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, which joined in the representation of the plaintiffs, called the decision unfortunate. "The government has no business punishing citizens solely because of their religious beliefs," the group's deputy general counsel, Luke Goodrich, said in a news release. "The pharmacists in this case willingly refer patients to over 30 pharmacies that stock the morning-after pill within a 5 mile radius, and no patient has ever been denied timely access to any drug."

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Administration Issues Final Contraceptive Mandate Rules In Defiance of Supreme Court

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

July 10, 2015

Today the Department of Health and Human Services announced that—despite losing repeatedly at the U.S. Supreme Court—it would continue trying to force religious nonprofits like the Little Sisters of the Poor to help distribute contraceptives, including the “week-after pill.” Today’s announcement comes after multiple losses in contraceptive mandate cases at the Supreme Court, including last year’s Hobby Lobby decision and Court decisions regarding the Little Sisters of the Poor and Wheaton College. "The government keeps digging the hole deeper," said Adèle Auxier Keim, Legal Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

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Court: Army Must Let Sikh Student Wear Beard in ROTC

The Becket Fund

June 15, 2015

A federal court ordered the Army to allow a Sikh college student to join his college's NROTC unit without having to shave his beard, cut his hair or remove his turban. "All this Sikh student wants to do is to serve his country," said Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. "The military cannot issue uniform exemptions for secular reasons but then refuse to issue them for religious reasons. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was written and passed nearly unanimously by Congress precisely to protect the rights of individuals such as Mr. Singh."

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Supreme Court to lower court: Reconsider decision against Notre Dame

Becket Fund

March 9, 2015

Today, the Supreme Court vacated the Notre Dame decision entirely, and sent the case back to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its aberrant ruling in light of the recent ruling in Hobby Lobby protecting religious freedom. "This is a major blow to the federal government’s contraception mandate. For the past year, the Notre Dame decision has been the centerpiece of the government’s effort to force religious ministries to violate their beliefs or pay fines to the IRS." said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed an amicus brief in the case. "As with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby, this is a strong signal that the Supreme Court will ultimately reject the government’s narrow view of religious liberty."

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Meet the Lawyers Fighting for Religious Freedom Today Before the Supreme Court

Time Magazine

October 7, 2014

A small, non-profit public interest law firm, with just eleven litigating attorneys and a $5 million annual budget, the Fund is a rising star in Washington. Its lawyers are most famous for arguing the often politically incorrect view that the constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion has been eclipsed in recent years by government deference to other parts of the constitution. That’s no easy task, since arguments over religious liberty can be some of the thorniest, and most heated, in America. But the Becket lawyers are shaking up Washington for a simple reason: they win. Over 20 years, Becket has won 85% of its cases–from 1920-2000, the ACLU averaged a little over 65% in religion cases at the Supreme Court.

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Ten Commandments vs. the Establishment Clause

National Catholic Register

September 10, 2014

Kristina Arriaga, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, states, "simply disliking a government monument does not mean that anyone can just run into court to make a federal case about it. ... The Establishment Clause does not require courts to scrub every religious reference from public life."

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Becket Fund law firm gaining a reputation as powerhouse after Hobby Lobby win

Washington Post

July 20, 2014

With just a dozen full-time attorneys, the firm, after a string of Supreme Court successes, is earning a reputation in legal circles as a powerhouse, though its leaders play down talk about the firm's growing influence. "We had a good laugh," said Kristina Arriaga, the firm's executive director, when asked about the nationwide attention that followed the Supreme Court's June 30 Hobby Lobby ruling. "We find there has been an aggressive push from the government to become the sole arbiter of morality, which is not good for the country," Arriaga said. "Regrettably, religious liberty work has augmented exponentially."

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Nonprofits' contraceptive cases next for justices

Associated Press

July 7, 2014

But the organizations say the accommodation provided by the administration does not go far enough because, though they are not on the hook financially, they remain complicit in the provision of government-approved contraceptives to women covered by their plans. "Anything that forces unwilling religious believers to be part of the system is not going to pass the test," said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents many of the faith-affiliated nonprofits. Hobby Lobby Inc., winner of its Supreme Court case last month, also is a Becket Fund client.

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Lori Windham reviews HHS Obamacare mandate decision

Becket Fund on C-SPAN

June 30, 2014

"This is a landmark decision for religious freedom. The Supreme Court recognized that Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business," said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby. [click link or image to view video]

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Religious challenge to health care law hits high court

March 20, 2014

"We see companies act on ethical and philosophical and moral views every day of the week," says Mark Rienzi, an attorney with The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby in court. The Supreme Court ruled in 2010's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations have free speech rights and, therefore, can spend freely in federal elections. Whether they can practice religion is another question - albeit one the justices need not answer if they base their decision on the owners' rights.

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Abortion and Contraception Cases Before the Justices

NY Times commentary by Mark Rienzi

February 13, 2014

Whether Ms. Greenhouse agrees or not, the Little Sisters of the Poor feel a religious obligation not to sign such forms. The plaintiffs in these civil rights cases are not the "school-yard bully"; the bullies are the governments that threaten these women with jail or financial ruin for engaging in kind and loving First Amendment activity.

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The Little Victims of the State

National Review Online commentary by Mona Charen

February 1, 2014

In both the Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor cases, the federal government is attempting to define religion so narrowly as to exclude all but churches and church-affiliated institutions. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents both plaintiffs, argues that this is a pinched and constraining interpretation of the law and the Constitution. Our religious liberty is more than freedom of worship.

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Hobby Lobby draws wide breadth of support in mandate case

Catholic News Agency

January 31, 2014

Hundreds of individuals and groups from a broad range of religious and political backgrounds have filed briefs supporting the owners of Hobby Lobby in their religious freedom case at the Supreme Court. "The breadth of support has been incredible," said Lori Windham, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby and its owners before the Supreme Court. Where else do you see Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews coming together?" she asked. "Religious freedom is important to Americans of all faiths, and we hope the Supreme Court will protect that freedom."

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The nuns fight back

New York Post editorial

January 26, 2014

The Little Sisters of the Poor seem to have taken the lesson. Because they just sent President Obama to the mat over his contraceptive mandate. In a ruling that includes no dissent, the Supreme Court did not simply stay an order: It enjoined the executive branch from enforcing the mandate on the sisters while the case is pending before the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals. Though it is an issue decided on procedural grounds, it is a big victory for both the sisters and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented them.

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With health-care lawsuit, the Little Sisters of the Poor step into the spotlight

Los Angeles Times

January 20, 2014

"They didn't think they had any other choice," said Daniel Blomberg, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of religious traditions. Blomberg said the Little Sisters of the Poor had two options: provide contraception coverage to their employees, in violation of their Roman Catholic beliefs, or pay hefty tax fines for failing to comply with the law.

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Religious freedom could prevail over the law’s birth-control coverage

Washington Times commentary by Donald Lambro

January 2, 2014

Mark L. Rienzi, senior attorney for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who is representing the Sisters of the Poor, explained that the nuns would have to sign a paper requesting that their insurance, not their employer, pay for any and all birth-control benefits to avoid substantial fines. "At the end of the day, they can't be involved in certain things, and one of them is signing forms authorizing permission slips for those kinds of drugs," Mr. Rienzi told The Washington Post.

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Court strikes down birth control mandate

The Hill

November 1, 2013

"The D.C. court has affirmed that this principle applies to everyone, be they small business owners or nuns," said Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with the Catholic Association, in a statement. "Hopefully the Obama administration will finally stop bullying religious employers and repeal its oppressive mandate."

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EWTN and Alabama file new lawsuit against HHS mandate

National Catholic Register

October 28, 2013

Alabama's Attorney General Strange said in a statement, "I am proud to stand with EWTN to oppose this unconscionable mandate. Whatever we personally may think about contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, the government should not be in the business of forcing people to violate their religious convictions." Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund, noted that the government's "accommodation" requires EWTN to contract with a third party to provide contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs on its behalf.

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Religious freedom applies to businesses

Mark Rienzi in USA Today

August 11, 2013

If religious freedom means anything, it means that these people - just like Chipotle, Starbucks and everyone else in our society - are allowed to earn a living and run a business according to their values. In a tolerant society, we should just accept that our neighbors will have different beliefs, and that government-enforced conformity is rarely the best answer to this diversity.

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HHS Mandate Challenges Headed to Supreme Court?

National Catholic Register

July 31, 2013

The split decision, said legal experts, means that the high court will be under pressure to clarify whether free exercise rights protected under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act apply to religious nonprofits as well as businesses like Conestoga, which is wholly owned by the Hahns, a Mennonite family. Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the public-interest group that represents Hobby Lobby, noted the dueling judicial rulings and predicted that other HHS for-profit cases before the Sixth and Seventh Circuits that await review would "deepen the split decision."

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Contraceptive mandate divides appeals courts

Washington Post

July 26, 2013

A federal appeals court ruling on Friday increased the chances that the Supreme Court in its coming term will need to settle whether secular, for-profit corporations must provide contraceptive coverage to employees despite the owners' religious objections. A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled that a Pennsylvania cabinet-making company owned by a Mennonite family must comply with the contraceptive mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act. "It looks like we're heading for a Supreme Court review," said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is active in opposing the contraceptive mandate.

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Victory: 10th Circuit Overturns Denial of Hobby Lobby Injunction

Becket Fund news release

June 27, 2013

Today, the en banc 10th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a major victory to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., by reversing and remanding the district court's erroneous ruling. The circuit court returned the case to the district court with instruction to consider whether to grant Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction. "Today marks a milestone in Hobby Lobby's fight for religious liberty," said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

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Obama, God, and the Profits

Becket Fund commentary by Mark Rienzi

May 31, 2013

In courtrooms across the country-including one yesterday in Philadelphia-Department of Justice lawyers told judges that profit-making businesses with religious objections to the HHS contraceptive mandate cannot exercise religion. Profit-making business apparently can pursue just one goal: making money. Business owners must check their religious values at the door.

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Appeals courts mull ‘Obamacare’ contraception mandate

Washington Times

May 26, 2013

Hobby Lobby, the Oklahoma-based craft-store corporation and most well known of the corporate plaintiffs, made its case before the entire 10th Circuit Court of Appeals the next day, and the 3rd and 6th circuit courts are scheduled to hear arguments from two more plaintiffs Thursday and June 11.
Adele Keim, a lawyer at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, attended the Denver arguments while her colleague, Kyle Duncan, delivered arguments on behalf of the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby. She said it was clear that the eight judges - it was an "en banc" hearing, so all of the circuit judges attended instead of only three - were taking the matter seriously.

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Federal appeals court grants Hobby Lobby’s request to speed court case

Associated Press

March 30, 2013

A federal appeals court in Denver has granted Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.'s request for the entire court to hear its legal challenge over part of the Affordable Care Act that requires the company to cover emergency contraceptives for its employees. Typically, appeals cases are heard by a panel of three judges, but Hobby Lobby had asked the full court to hear the case - a request that federal appeals courts seldom grant, said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is defending Hobby Lobby in its lawsuit.

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Employers challenging health law contraceptive provision

Washington Post

January 20, 2013

At the same time, "the business cases are moving quickly," said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, one of the groups coordinating the challenges to the law. By Duncan's count, there are 14 cases filed by business owners who say the law forces them to choose between running their companies and following their religious beliefs. In nine of those cases, courts have issued injunctions until the conflicts can be decided on their merits.

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Obama Administration: Business owners have no religious freedom rights

Breitbart

October 29, 2012

Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the non-profit, public interest law firm that represents Hobby Lobby, said, "The Green family is asking to continue to live their faith by not paying for drugs that might cause abortions." Windham charged that the DOJ is claiming "that the Greens must comply- and pay for abortion-causing drugs- or pay millions of dollars in fines."
Windham observes that the Obama administration has already exempted others from health plans, yet it is forcing a family-owned business to violate the tenets of that family's faith.

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Illinois cannot make pharmacists give 'morning after' pill: court

Reuters

September 21, 2012

An Illinois appellate court Friday affirmed a lower court finding that the state cannot force pharmacies and pharmacists to sell emergency contraceptives - also known as "morning after pills" - if they have religious objections. "This decision is a great victory for religious freedom," said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund, quoted in a statement about the decision.

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Wheaton College suit prompts change in contraception ‘safe harbor’

Chicago Daily Herald

August 17, 2012

Hannah Smith, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Wheaton College and The Catholic University of America in the jointly filed suit, said, "They have rewritten the guidelines so that the 'safe harbor' says if you took measures before Feb. 10, 2012, to correct any inadvertent coverage of these contraceptive drugs, these abortion-inducing drugs, then you will still qualify for the 'safe harbor.'"

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The HHS Mandate: Not an Academic Debate

National Review commentary by K.J. Lopez

July 20, 2012

For Wheaton, the violation of conscience lies in the inclusion of abortion-inducing drugs in the HHS mandate — further evidence that at the heart of the debate is not access to contraception but the erosion of religious liberty. “We were surprised that the federal government is using the term ‘contraception’ to refer to drugs that are widely recognized as having an abortive effect,” Ryken explains. “The secretary of Health and Human Services has been on record publicly as saying these are drugs that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg."

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An Evangelical-Catholic Stand on Liberty

Wall St. Journal commentary by P. Ryken and J. Garvey

July 19, 2012

On Wednesday, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the trustees of Wheaton College joined The Catholic University of America in filing a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services. They did so because the HHS mandate requiring the college to provide and subsidize insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs violates the conscience of the school and its members, and denies their First Amendment freedom of religion.

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One HHS Mandate Case Dismissed, Don’t Read Too Much Into It

National Review Online commentary by Kyle Duncan

July 17, 2012

Today’s decision by a federal district court in Nebraska to dismiss one of the many pending lawsuits against the HHS abortion-drug, contraception and sterilization mandate is unfortunate (and in one respect, seriously mistaken). But the decision turns on technicalities and doesn’t decide the merits of the dispute. Bear this context in mind if you should hear anyone trumpeting this decision as some sort of “victory” for the federal government on the religious-liberty questions at the heart of the HHS mandate litigation.

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What to expect post-ObamaCare ruling

One News Now

June 29, 2012

Dr. Gene Rudd, senior vice president of the Christian Medical Association (CMA), says the high court decision basically endorses the healthcare law, which will lead to a severe encroachment on the rights of conscience and the exercise of religion.

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Religious Liberty Takes Center Stage

Daily News commentary by Mark Rienzi

June 29, 2012

Nothing in the court’s opinions directly addressed the religious-freedom challenges brought in the 23 lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate that all employers must provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and drugs and devices that cause early abortions. In fact, every justice who voted to uphold the law was quite clear that Congress’ exercise of its taxing power remains subject to other constitutional guarantees like the right to religious freedom.

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Individual Mandate Survives; Religious Liberty Challenges Move Forward

Becket Fund commentary

June 28, 2012

“The Becket Fund’s religious liberty lawsuits against the unconstitutional HHS mandate will continue,” said Hannah Smith, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Never in history has there been a mandate forcing individuals to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or pay a severe fine, a fine which could force many homeless shelters, charities, and religious institutions to shut their doors.”

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How Will the Supreme Court's Decision Impact the HHS Mandate?

Becket Fund analysis

June 18, 2012

The Supreme Court will soon decide the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act. How does this impact the HHS lawsuits? This graphic illustrates the three different scenarios.

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Good for religion, good for America

New York Times commentary by Mark Rienzi

May 10, 2012

Our nation has often benefited from religious individuals and institutions who were free to bring their religious perspective into the public square, whether by arguing for fair labor laws, advocating better treatment for immigrants, or providing food, shelter and health care to those in need. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and our civil rights movement often made expressly religious calls for the equal treatment of African-Americans.

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Will the Obamacare Decision Affect the HHS Mandate?

National Review Online commentary by Mark Rienzi

April 2, 2012

Last week's Supreme Court arguments over the Affordable Care Act focused on the constitutionality of the individual mandate and the expanded Medicaid entitlement. Could those cases also affect the religious-liberty lawsuits challenging the HHS abortion/sterilization/contraception mandate, which are now pending in many federal district courts? The short answer is: Maybe.

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Court says pharmacists can’t be forced to dispense morning-after pill

Washington Post

February 22, 2012

"Today's decision sends a very clear message: No individual can be forced out of her profession solely because of her religious beliefs," said Luke Goodrich, deputy national litigation director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Read Court opinion.

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