Protecting our first freedoms:
Faith, conscience and speech

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Explaining at the Supreme Court why kids at churches need public safety protection, too

Freedom2Care - Supreme Court presentation by Jonathan Imbody

April 20, 2017

Much of the hostility seems to focus on the fact that people of faith often hold convictions on hotly debated topics like abortion, sex and marriage-convictions that differ from some people who do not share in that faith. So if you don't like those convictions, what is the easiest way to beat your religious opponents on these issues? Shut them up, marginalize them, exclude them from the public square. Make them the one group that it's okay to discriminate against. And I would suggest that that way of thinking has resulted in a concerted pressure to reduce religious freedom to something more like religious permission. Religious permission means, okay, you can believe whatever you want-but only as long as you keep it inside the four walls of your church, synagogue or mosque. Your religious views will not be allowed in public. Religious permission means you can sing your little religious songs, pray to whatever gods you imagine inside your head, talk about love and peace and sing around the campfire. But actually living out your religious beliefs, your conscience, your convictions in the public square? Well, that's where religious permission draws the line.

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Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center - video

ADF video

April 18, 2017

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent a church that runs a preschool and daycare center, which was excluded from a Missouri program that provides grants to purchase rubberized surface material (made of recycled tires) for children's playgrounds. Although the state highly ranked the center as qualified for the program, it denied the center's application solely because a church runs the daycare.

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Gender Identity Policies in Schools

Heritage Foundation commentary by Ryan T. Anderson

March 23, 2017

For most Americans, concerns related to students who identify as transgender are a new reality. The Obama Administration's response to this new reality was an unlawful attempt to force a one-size-fits-all policy on the entire nation rather than allow parents, teachers, and local schools the time, space, and flexibility to find solutions that would work best for everyone. The Trump Administration has taken the first steps to correct this. Instead of imposing a federal "gender identity" policy on the entire nation, all branches of government should respect federalism, local decision-making, and parental authority in education. The American people should be able to consider all of the relevant concerns and devise policies that can best serve all Americans. Congress should support such efforts, and the courts should respect them.

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Over 150 conservative leaders urge Trump to sign order protecting religious liberty

LifeNews by Claire Chretien

March 2, 2017

More than 150 conservative leaders are urging President Trump to sign an executive order "protecting the practical exercise of religious freedom." The letter, sent yesterday, is from the Council for National Policy, currently led by the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins. It began by thanking Trump for "beginning to reverse" the "devastating trend" of Obama-era policies hurting religious freedom. The Council for National Policy members asked Trump to issue "an executive order to prevent federal discrimination against [Americans] for acting in accordance with their beliefs." Examples of such ongoing discrimination include Christian adoption agencies having to shut down and the Little Sisters of the Poor being forced to participate in the provision of contraception. Federal grantees "face the prospect of the government forcing them to violate their faith or give up their role serving the disadvantaged and poor around the world," the letter explains.

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For Some Faith-Based Institutions, Trump Represents a Reprieve

National Review Online commentary by Jim Towey

December 12, 2016

Perhaps more than any other sector in America, the ivory towers of academia are mourning the defeat of Hillary Clinton, the departure of President Barack Obama, and the election of Donald Trump. For our faith-based university, however, the changing of the guard cannot come soon enough. The Obama administration's sustained assault on religious liberty and the right of conscience, and the ineptitude of his White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, had campuses and religious charities of conservative, religious orientation struggling to survive. President Obama threatened crippling fines if a college refused as a matter of conscience to make contraceptive services, including sterilization and abortifacient drugs, available in the health plans offered to its employees and students. The government's foreign-assistance apparatus required a pledge of allegiance to the LGBT and "reproduction freedom" agendas as a condition for grants.

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Supreme Court to hear Christian school religious liberty case

Alliance Defending Freedom

October 5, 2016

Trinity Lutheran submitted its grant application, and the DNR ranked it fifth out of 44 applicants due to numerous factors, including the poverty level of the surrounding area. But, instead of awarding the grant, the DNR pointed to a section of the state constitution that prohibits government aid to religion and promptly disqualified the learning center solely because it was operated by a church. Committed to preserving the rights of the church, ADF petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2015 to take the case. "Seeking to protect children from harm while they play tag and go down the slide is about as far from an ‘essentially religious endeavor' as one can get," explains the ADF petition. "The DNR's religious exclusion sends a message that Trinity's children are less worthy of protection simply because they play on a playground owned by a church. This is not a mild disapproval of religion." The high court accepted the petition to hear the case, and oral arguments are set for fall 2016. SCOTUS blog coverage 

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College Football Becomes Latest Goal Line for LGBT Activists

Daily Signal commentary by Genevieve Wood

August 10, 2016

Considering the above, of all the schools thought to be in contention to join the Big 12, Brigham Young University should be a top contender. It most certainly has a larger national following than several other teams said to be in the running, such as Cincinnati, Northern Illinois, or Memphis. But there is just one problem. Brigham Young, a university run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has an honor code that, shocker of shockers, aligns with its religious beliefs. One of those Mormon beliefs is that homosexual behavior is incompatible with the church's religious tenets. That has the LGBT bully community all aflutter and demanding that the Big 12 not allow BYU to enter the conference because, in their view, the university has an "express policy of discriminating against same-sex couples and LGBTQ students." Well, let's take a look.

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Video: Title IX & Transgender Bathrooms in Public Schools

Federalist Society video featuring Roger Severino

August 5, 2016

Roger Severino oversees the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation, where he focuses on religious liberty, marriage, and life issues. In this video, Severino comments on a joint guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education on how schools should apply Title IX to the bathroom choices of transgender students.

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Religious liberty trouble in California: Interview with Biola University president

ERLC interview by Laura Gurskey with Barey H. Corey

July 22, 2016

Q: How does SB 1146 threaten the future of Biola University and other religious institutions of higher education? A: SB 1146 represents an unprecedented narrowing of religious freedom in America. By removing protections for religious colleges that allow for free exercise of faith (per the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution), SB 1146, in effect, communicates that the government, not individual religious communities, determines which beliefs are acceptable and how faith can and cannot be lived out. For example, if passed, SB 1146 would likely mean that schools like Biola would no longer be able to maintain certain conduct, housing, admissions, employment and other policies according to their Christian convictions about sexuality and gender. What's at stake for religious institutions of higher education is nothing short of their ability to exist as alternative communities; communities whose alternative ways of thinking and living allow for distinct educational practice and meaningful missional impact.

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Calif, bill that will undermine religious colleges not improved

IRFA commentary by Stanley Carlson-Thies

July 8, 2016

The bill now has two major features. The first is a requirement for any California higher education institution that has a religious exemption from the federal Title IX law to broadcast that exemption to prospective students, to faculty and staff, to any visitor to campus, and also, via a new public shaming listing on a California Student Aid Commission website, to the public. The other major feature of SB 1146 is to eliminate the independence of religious higher education institutions from the provision in California education law that prohibits institutions receiving any state funding (indirectly, via California state scholarships, or directly) from selectivity on any of many grounds, including not only sexual orientation but also religion.

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Texas attorney general attacks Obama's directive on transgender students

Washington Post

July 7, 2016

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton leveled sharp criticism against the Obama administration's directive to the nation's schools that they must make accommodations for transgender students, calling it a "gun to the head" that threatens the independence of school districts to handle the issue how they see fit. Paxton, who has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration challenging its position, railed Thursday against the guidance to schools that directs them to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity. "There are a host of reasons why allowing 14-year-old boys into girls' locker rooms is a bad idea," Paxton said. Paxton spoke alongside Roger Severino, director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, and attorney Kyle Duncan, all three of them assailing the Obama administration's approach to transgender rights.

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California Higher Education Bill Will Undermine Faith-Based Institutions

RFRA commentary by Stanley Carlson-Thies,

June 28, 2016

All of this-diverse institutions, respect for differing religious and moral values, extensive choice for students, a religious setting for students, faculty, and staff who prefer such, state government support for low-income students committed to a faith-based education and to traditional moral values-is at extreme risk from SB 1146. Its author, state Senator Ricardo Lara, aims to stop what he alleges, but with only the most minor proof, is discriminatory and harmful treatment of LGBT students and employees by California's conservative religious colleges and universities, such as Biola University, Azusa Pacific, Thomas Aquinas, and William Jessup. SB 1146 has passed the Senate, and on June 21, 2016, after a distressing hearing, the Assembly higher education committee. A few more steps and, everyone expects, the bill will land on Governor Jerry Brown's desk.

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Our Constitutional Right to Privacy Is Missing From Bathroom Debate

Daily Signal commentary by Matt Sharp

May 26, 2016

Stephanie has several children that came to her through a foster program. If you met them on the street, you would never suspect that two of her daughters had suffered severe molestation and rape by men that they trusted. For these girls, feeling safe and secure in private settings-such as bedrooms, bathrooms, and locker rooms-is necessary to heal. And to feel safe, these girls need to know that their private spaces will not be invaded by a male. You would think that the school these girls attend would be especially protective of them. You would be wrong. The school voluntarily adopted a policy that would allow boys into the girls' restrooms, locker rooms, and even hotel rooms on school trips. The school callously ignored Stephanie's explanation that the presence of a boy in these private settings would be a trigger event for her daughters, causing severe psychological harm and setting back the progress they had made.

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Kansas Protects Religious Student Clubs

IRFA commentary by Stanley Carlson-Thies

April 1, 2016

Should it be illegal for a Democratic lawmaker to reject as unqualified any Republican and Tea Partier who applies for work in their congressional office?  Wouldn’t it be outlandish if that was illegal?  What about a Muslim student club at a community college turning down an atheist who seeks a leadership post, or a Christian student group at a public university requiring leaders to be Christians in belief and conduct?  Should the leadership criteria of the religious student groups be labeled as discriminatory and be forbidden?  That’s just what various public colleges and universities have declared—but such an interpretation of discrimination is no longer allowed in Kansas, thanks to a measure signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback on March 22, 2016. The Kansas bill, SB 175, is brief but addresses a serious problem created by a significant number of colleges and universities and legitimized, in part, by the US Supreme Court. 

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Brownback signs public college, university religious freedom bill

Hays Daily News

March 23, 2016

Gov. Sam Brownback capped two years of legislative debate by signing a bill Tuesday forbidding public colleges and universities in Kansas from compelling student religious organizations to accept members or leaders who don't share the group's core beliefs. The bill approved by the Senate in 2015 and the House this session was developed because of apprehension higher education administrators could apply "accept-all-comers" rules membership and leadership rules to campus faith organizations under a threat of loss of school funding. The governor said. "Senate Bill 175 preserves intellectual diversity and religious liberty by allowing student clubs and organizations to determine the membership of their own groups."

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State Could Become First to Stop Transgender Students From Using Opposite-Sex Bathrooms

The Daily Signal commentary by Kelsey Harkness

February 6, 2016

The legislation requires that a "reasonable accommodation" be made for students asserting their gender is different from their biological sex, and described a reasonable accommodation as "one that does not impose an undue hardship on a school district," "a single-occupancy restroom," "a unisex restroom," or the "controlled use of a restroom, locker room or shower room that is designated for use by faculty." Deutch views his legislation as a necessary response to what he considers "aggressive" actions on behalf of the Obama administration to ensure schools comply with guidance they issued in April 2014.

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Transgender student brings court fight over bathrooms to federal court

Richmond Times-Dispatch

January 27, 2016

A transgender student's fight to use a boys bathroom at his Gloucester County school went before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday. Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union asked a three-judge panel to overturn a district court's denial of a preliminary injunction.One point of contention throughout the hearing was the definition of gender, whether it was based on biological or psychological factors. Judge Andre M. Davis asked how the School Board defined gender when crafting the bathroom policy. "This is 2016," Davis said. "The question is what is the meaning of sex in 2016?" The U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice have come out in support of Grimm in court papers, saying the policy constitutes unlawful bias under Title IX.

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LGBT Activists Target Christian Colleges over Title IX Exemptions

Christian Headlines

January 20, 2016

An LGBT activist group has singled out Christian colleges in a recent report, claiming they use religious liberty as a "guise for discrimination" against LGBT students. Since 2013, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), 56 colleges have applied for partial exemptions to Title IX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, citing views on transgenderism and homosexuality. The group is calling on Congress and the Department of Education to broadcast information about these schools to prospective students.

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US Supreme Court agrees to tackle religious hostility by states

Alliance Defending Freedom

January 15, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to take up a case that addresses the question of whether states can exhibit hostility to religion by prohibiting churches and church-run organizations from participating in state programs solely because the groups are religious. ADF attorneys represent a church-run pre-school and daycare center which the state of Missouri excluded from a program that provides recycled tire products to surface children's playgrounds. "No state can define religious neutrality as treating religious organizations worse than everyone else," said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman.

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'The Protest Season' is Becoming an Assault on Religious Freedom on Campus

The Stream commentary by Rob Schwarzwalder

December 12, 2015

Committed religious faith that animated the founding of many of the institutions that now reject it should be welcome, not shunned. And degree-granting schools should be places where respectful and principled disagreement is part of the very purpose of their institutional existence. Fascism should be dead everywhere, but especially on America's campuses. Why isn't it?

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Office of Civil Rights overreaches on transgender access to school locker rooms

AEIdeas commentary by Nat Malkus

December 1, 2015

Township High School District 211 in Illinois contends it has taken sufficient action to accommodate Student A and balance students' constitutional rights to privacy. After complaints from students and a parent regarding Student A's presence in a locker room, the District offered to provide Student A with separate private changing areas and to install privacy curtains inside the locker room, provided she was required to use them. District 211 based its actions on two specific privacy concerns: that female students would be observed undressing by a biological male, and that young female students would view a naked biological male. The Office of Civil Rights deemed these concerns invalid.

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No Tenure for Tolerance

FRC Washington Update commentary by Tony Perkins

November 18, 2015

English Professor Robert Oscar Lopez was already on the hot seat in California. His crime? Inviting students to an optional conference on family matters. A student has since complained, alleging that she was “coerced” to attend the event and “traumatized” by a discussion of LGBT issues. In reality, no one mentioned the subject -- and Lopez submitted the tapes to prove it. What was actually behind the conflict, Lopez thinks, has nothing to do with his class -- and everything to do with his personal story. This summer, Lopez became a key figure in the same-sex marriage debate when he shared his personal story of the devastating effects of growing up in a lesbian home in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court.

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State university faculty bans "racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist, or generally offensive language"

Freedom2Care commentary by Jonathan Imbody

September 4, 2015

A reasonable response would be for parents and students to boycott rather than subsidize such universities, and for Congress to cut off all federal aid to public institutions like the University of Washington that violate the Constitution. Then the faculty and administrators can parade around in robes and soft hats in their multi-million-dollar auditoriums and prattle on about transphobia, species-ism, GOP-ism, and whatever else they can't tolerate, all day long--until they have to get to the unemployment offices before closing time.

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Terms Banned on Campus: Illegal Immigrant, Male, Female

Townhall commentary by Katie Pavlich

September 2, 2015

Want a good grade in certain classes at Washington State University? Then you better avoid using the terms "illegal immigrant," "male" and "female" as part of your descriptive vocabulary. Universities around the country have recently release lists of banned words and phrases that professors consider "microagressions." Terms on those lists include "American," questions like, "where are you from" and the concept that hard work is how individuals get ahead in life.

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Duke University freshmen refuse to read 'Fun Home' for moral reasons

USA Today

August 25, 2015

Incoming freshman at Duke University are reportedly refusing to read their summer novel, Fun Home- an LGBT, graphic novel by Alison Bechdel - due to their Christian and moral beliefs. According to the Duke Chronicle, freshman Brian Grasso posted in the Class of 2019 Facebook page that he would not read the book "because of the graphic visual depictions of sexuality." "I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it,"Grasso added. Many other students shared Grasso's beliefs, saying that they were against reading the novel which details Bechdel's tumultuous relationship with her father, a closeted gay man, while coming to terms with her own sexuality.

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Goodlatte Urges Public Colleges and Universities to Update Free Speech Codes

House Judiciary Committee

August 14, 2015

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today sent a letter to 161 public colleges and universities urging the institutions to update their free speech codes in order to foster freedoms under the First Amendment. The letter comes after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released a report detailing a list of public colleges and universities that received a “red light” rating--“one that has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.” Recently, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held a hearing examining First Amendment protections for students on public college and university campuses.

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Gay Rights May Come at the Cost of Religious Freedom

The Atlantic commentary by Emma Green

August 1, 2015

The Supreme Court's ruling in favor of same-sex marriage at the end of June has set the country up for two new waves of discrimination claims: those made by same-sex couples and LGBT workers, and those made by religious Americans who oppose same-sex marriage. The two may seem distinct or even opposed, but they're actually intertwined: In certain cases, extending new rights to LBGT workers will necessarily lead to religious-freedom objections, and vice versa. One arena to keep an eye on is that of religious colleges and universities. Some leaders at Christian schools, including many that identify as evangelical, fear they may be stripped of their tax-exempt status, lose their access to federal funding, or face other problems because of their policies on homosexuality. (orig. pub. 7/27/15)

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IRS chief outlines process of revoking tax-exemption of faith-based schools

Video - Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing

July 29, 2015

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, under questioning by Sen. Mike Lee: "We would issue a regulation...for public comment. There would be no surprises. In other words, we're not sneaking up on anybody. Down the road, if the IRS ever moves in that direction...it would first issue a draft regulation. And that's not going to happen in the next two-and-a-half years."

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In-Depth: Key Questions and Remarks From the Supreme Court Oral Arguments on Marriage

Daily Signal commentary by Ryan T. Anderson

April 29, 2015

Nowhere are the consequences of redefining marriage clearer than with religious liberty. And yet the Obama administration's Solicitor General Donald Verrilli admitted that religious schools that affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman may lose their non-profit tax-exempt status if marriage is redefined. Alito asked Verrilli whether a religious school that believed marriage was the union of husband and wife would lose their non-profit tax status. The solicitor general answered: "It's certainly going to be an issue. I don't deny that. I don't deny that, Justice Alito. It is it is going to be an issue."

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Government Shouldn't Force Religious Schools to Violate Religious Beliefs

Daily Signal commentary by Ryan Anderson

January 8, 2015

Just before the Christmas break, the D.C. City Council passed a law that could force pro-life organizations to pay for abortion coverage. But that wasn't the only piece of bad legislation, violating religious liberty which came out of the D.C. Council in December. A new bill might force Christian schools to recognize an LGBT student group or host a "gay pride" day on campus. Here's how: In a unanimous vote on Dec. 2, the D.C. Council approved legislation that revokes religious liberty protections that Congress passed for the District back in 1989. The Orwellian titled bill-"The Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014"-eliminates an important protection for a key human right: religious liberty.

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College and death of religious freedom

The News Star commentary by Charles C. Haynes

September 25, 2014

In 2010, a deeply divided Court held in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez that so-called "all comers" policies are constitutional. As a result, public colleges and universities are now free to require all student clubs to allow any student to be eligible for leadership of the group. Since that ruling, InterVarsity and other conservative Christian organizations have been "derecognized" at a growing number of public universities. And some private universities have invoked the reasoning behind the High Court's decision to defend their exclusion of some religious groups from recognition.

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Christian univ. employees file complaint against Calif. agency over mandatory abortion coverage

Alliance Defending Freedom

September 12, 2014

Life Legal Defense Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom have filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over the California Department of Managed Health Care's decision to force Loyola Marymount University and its employees to pay for elective abortions in their health insurance plans. "Under federal law, pro-life employers have the freedom to choose health insurance plans that do not conflict with their beliefs on the dignity of human life," said LLDF Legal Director Catherine Short.

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Why Top Catholic Education Organization Says Common Core Could Threaten Religious Liberty

The Blaze

August 21, 2014

Because of shrinking budgets and the onerous cost of buying non-Common Core compliant text books, private schools are more willing to accept the standards for financial reasons, said Sarah Perry, a senior fellow and Common Core manager for the Family Research Council, a conservative think tank. "The government is getting its foot in the door," Perry told TheBlaze. "But it hasn't had to push very hard."

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