Top 10 Religious Liberty Events Of 2015

December 23, 2015, The Federalist

2016 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for freedom, but before the fun begins, let’s review the biggest winners (and losers) of 2015. The following are not in order of importance—just numbered as a tally.

1. Government Forcing Nuns to Pay for Other People’s Birth Control
The government does not force big businesses like Exxon, Pepsi Cola, the Church of Scientology, or even its own military to provide all contraceptives. Yet it’s telling the courts it needs the Little Sisters of the Poor—nuns who serve the poor, dying elderly—to do so. Penalty to the nuns if they do not obey: $70 million per year! The government apparently thinks it is improving healthcare by taking millions of dollars from nursing homes for the elderly poor. In 2016 the Supreme Court will decide who is right.

No war on Christmas: In many communities, officials opt to surrender

December 21, 2015, The Washington Times

As the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty put it, “Just as the government doesn’t have to include a pacifist memorial next to every war memorial, it doesn’t have to include mockery of religion next to every creche or Christmas tree.”

Since 2000, the Becket Fund has fought government capitulation on religious displays with its annual Ebenezer Awards.

“I think in general, the American public is happy to accommodate everyone else’s religion, and most of us are happy to hear ‘Happy Hanukkah’ from someone,” said Becket senior counsel Eric Baxter. “But there are certainly some government bureaucrats who feel like they have to suppress religion, which is really unnecessary.”

Hospitals’ religious liberty & the Supreme Court

December 8, 2016, Baptist Press

Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said the lawyers involved in challenging the health-care systems “are like Robin Hood in reverse: stealing from hospitals who serve the poor in order to line their own pockets.”

“What’s worse is that they want the Court to declare that Christian hospital ministries aren’t actually part of the church,” Rassbach said in in a written release. “We hope the Court will reject their crabbed view of Christian charity.”

The danger of forcing doctors to perform gender transitions

October 14, 2016, Catholic News Agency 

“Sensitive, difficult medical decisions should be between a family and their doctor, not government bureaucrats,” Lori Windham, senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, stated in the letter.

“The government continues to speak out of both sides of its mouth,” she continued. “The military rightly gives doctors freedom to care for patients according to their medical judgment because it acknowledges the risks of transgender medical procedures, particularly for children; yet HHS tramples on doctors’ medical judgment, even for potentially harmful procedures for children.”

Two years later, few Hobby Lobby copycats emerge

October 11, 2016, Politico

Several other religious non-profits filed for the accommodation, as well, including St. Joseph’s Abbey, a community of monks in Massachusetts, and the Catholic Diocese of Memphis.
Mark Rienzi, a Becket Fund attorney who has represented several clients opposed to the mandate and accommodation, including the Little Sisters of the Poor order of Catholic nuns, said the number of employers that want to opt out is tiny, compared with employers whose health plans are grandfathered so they don’t have to comply with the contraceptive provision until their health plans change.

Team Obama’s new low in the name of ‘trans rights’

August 27, 2016, New York Post

One of the top guardians of American freedoms just entered the fight against the Obama administration’s insane excesses in the name of “trans rights.”

Headed to court to toss the HHS rule is the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is undefeated before the Supreme Court — capped by four wins when going up against the Obama administration.

Becket’s clients of record here include Franciscan Alliance, a religious hospital network, and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations; five states have also joined the lawsuit.

Appeals court: Florida must provide prisoners kosher food

July 14, 2016, The Associated Press 

Supporters of the kosher program praised the ruling, which was released only two days after the judges heard oral arguments.

“This is a huge win, and it perfectly shows how protecting religious liberty for any Americans ultimately protects it for all Americans,” said Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm that filed a friend-of-court brief in the case. “Allowing prisoners to practice their faith is better for them, better for prisons, and better for society.”

Appeals court hears case over kosher food in Florida prisons

The Sun Sentinel, July 12, 2016

An attorney for Florida told a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday the estimated $12.3 million cost of the program could become prohibitive if other budget needs arise. The state is appealing a decision by a lower court judge requiring that it provide kosher food to Jewish inmates and others who request it for religious reasons.

Washington Lets Apaches Wear Feathers

June 13, 2016, The Wall Street Journal

The federal government has agreed to allow a group of Native Americans to practice their religious faith. Yes, that’s news given Obama Administration hostility to freedom of conscience. On Monday lawyers for the Department of the Interior and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty intend to ask a federal judge to approve a settlement allowing the Lipan Apache tribe of Texas to use eagle feathers in the traditional exercise of their beliefs.

Orthodox Woman Sues Washington Airports Authority for Not Allowing Her Passover Time Off

June 9, 2016, Forward

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the American Jewish Committee each filed a friend of the court brief on Tuesday with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, on behalf of Susan Abeles, who retired involuntarily in 2013 after working for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority for 26 years. She was accused of being absent without leave on the last two days of Passover that year and suspended for five days without pay.

Big Win for Little Sisters

May 16, 2016, The Wall Street Journal

“The solution the justices pointed to has been around for years but this administration has refused all opportunities to compromise,” says the Becket Fund’s president, William Mumma. “On Monday the Supreme Court smacked them down for it.”

Setting the Captives Free

May 5, 2016, Focus on the Family

It’s an effective ministry—so effective that it’s got a contract with Florida’s Department of Corrections, which provides funds for each ex-convict the group takes in. But it’s also a ministry that’s worked under a serious threat for the last nine years. That’s when an atheist group, the Council for Secular Humanism, sued to shut down that funding to both Prisoners of Christ and a similar ministry, Lamb of God Recovery Centers, based in Pompano Beach.

Who Is Monifa Sterling? Bible And Religious Freedom Debated By Military Court After Marine Discharged For Sharing Scripture

April 29, 2016, International Business Times

“The other charges aren’t being challenged in this appeal. The only issue before the court is whether the military violated Lance Cpl. Sterling’s right to religious freedom by discriminatorily forcing her to remove her scripture verses from her workspace,” Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel for The Becket Fund, told

U.S. Supreme Court sides with ex-N.J. cop who claims demotion was political payback

April 27, 2016, 

“Even Snooki knows that picking up a campaign sign is protected by the First Amendment,” Stephanie Barclay, counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said Tuesday. “It’s sad that this case had to go all the way to the Supreme Court for the city of Paterson, New Jersey, to learn that freedom of speech and the right to assemble are core rights of American citizens.”

An Unnecessary Fight With the Little Sisters

April 22, 2016, Real Clear Politics 

Which of the following seems out of place: Visa, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Pepsi, the Little Sisters of the Poor. If you answered the Little Sisters of the Poor, you answered correctly! If you did so because the first four options are major corporations and the last choice is an order of nuns who care for destitute and dying elderly people, you were only partially correct. The Little Sisters are also the correct out-of-place selection because they are the only option not exempted from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.


Army Lets Three More Sikh Soldiers Wear Turban, Beard, Long Hair

April 12, 2016,

“The Army’s decision is not legally binding … and may be withdrawn at any time,” said Eric Baxter, senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Fund for Religious Liberty. “In fact, the Army has already stated that the accommodations will be re-evaluated in approximately one year.”

Army allows three Sikh enlistees to wear beards, turbans

April 11, 2016, The Hill

“For decades, Sikhs have been excluded from serving our country because of their faith while many other countries recognize their valor and patriotism—and benefit from it,” Eric Baxter, senior counsel at the Becket Fund, said in a written statement. “The Army’s current agreement to stop discriminating against these individual soldiers is an important step, but the court should still issue a ruling to extend that protection to all Sikhs.”

Sikh Army Captain Wins Religious Freedom Victory

April 7, 2016, Law Street 

What makes this scenario particularly incredulous is that Sikhs served in the U.S military from WW1 through 1981 without restrictions on their religious articles of faith. Sikhs already enrolled in the services before the 1981 restriction were grandfathered. The Army claims the turban and hair could impede the soldiers from fully securing gas masks on themselves, or other protective gear, yet military divisions in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia allow Sikhs to serve without any restrictions.

U.S. Army OKs religious exception for turban, beard

April 5, 2016, WND

“No American should have to face religious discrimination to serve their country – especially not top-notch, battle-tested soldiers like Captain Singh,” Baxter said, the Sikh Foundation reported April 1. “We will continue fighting for the right of all Sikh Americans to serve without violating their faith.”

Army Relents, Grants Waiver to Let Sikh Officer Wear Beard, Turban

April 1, 2016,

In a statement released Friday morning by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the law firm representing him, Singh expressed gratitude for Wada’s decision. “I’m proud to be an American soldier,” he said. “More than ever, the military needs to reflect the diversity of our great nation. I’m grateful the Army is allowing me to serve without being forced to compromise my religion.”

SCOTUS seeks new birth control policy

March 30, 2016, Politico

The challengers believe the order means the court won’t uphold the existing accommodation. “They wouldn’t be asking about alternatives to the accommodation if they [found it acceptable],” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents an order of Catholic nuns, Little Sisters of the Poor, in the case.

Three Sikh-American Soldiers File New Lawsuit Against U.S. Department of Defense

March 29, 2016, NBC News 

“Three Sikhs filed suit against the Army to ensure that their requests for religious accommodation are resolved by their basic training ship dates in May,” Harsimran Kaur, The Sikh Coalition’s legal director, told NBC News. “The lead plaintiff has been waiting over seven months. The Army has been failing to make decisions on whether these patriotic Sikhs will be able serve their country while abiding by the tenets of their faith. In doing so, the Army is violating their constitutional and statutory rights.”

Judge sides with Sikh soldier on grooming standards

March 4, 2016, The Hill

“Getting a court order against the Army is huge — it almost never happens,” Eric Baxter, senior counsel at the Becket Fund, said in a written statement Friday. “It goes to show just how egregious the Army’s discrimination against Sikhs is. Thankfully the court stepped in to protect Capt. Singh’s constitutional rights. Now it’s time to let all Sikhs serve.”

Sikh-American Military Officer Files Lawsuit to Serve with Turban, Beard

March 1, 2016, NBC News

“Captain Singh upholds the finest traditions of our military,” Eric Baxter, senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told NBC News. “He’s a West Point graduate, Army Ranger, Bronze Star Recipient. He knows he is subject to the same standards as everyone else. Just this morning, he underwent a previously scheduled gas mask test with his unit and passed without a hitch. He shouldn’t be subjected to additional, discriminatory testing because of his faith. The Army is treating him as if he were a lab rat.”

Sikh Army Captain Sues For Right To Wear Turban, Sport Beard In Uniform

February 29, 2016, The Daily Caller

The lawsuit alleges that the Army forced Singh to undergo extraordinary testing measures far beyond other comparable cases. They say Singh had to go through evaluations for mask and helmet fit. A coalition including more than two dozen retired generals and over 100 members of Congress have publicly called for Sikhs to receive an exemption, but the Army has been slow to give these kinds of concessions.

Sikh soldier sues Pentagon over grooming standards

February 29, 2016 – The Hill

“Capt. Singh is a decorated war hero. The Army should be trying to get more soldiers like him, not banning them from serving or punishing them for their beliefs. It’s time for the Pentagon to stop playing games and start doing the right thing – for Capt. Singh, for Sikh Americans and for all Americans.”

Atheists drop suit to block Christian prison ministry funding

February 24, 2016, New Boston Post

The New York-based group, the Center for Inquiry, declined to appeal a Florida county court ruling on Jan. 20 that let the state fund work by Lamb of God Ministries and Prisoners of Christ. The Christian groups have provided housing, food and job assistance to former prisoners to help reduce recidivism in the Sunshine State for more than two decades.

Final score for Big Mountain Jesus: A 61-year-old war memorial to remain on Montana ski slope

February 23, 2016, The Washington Times

Championed by the Knights of Columbus, the 61-year-old statue honors soldiers – many from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division – who fought the Nazis in the Italian Alps. The Becket Fund defended the memorial in a five-year battle against The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based secular group that demanded the statue be removed, claiming that its mere presence violated the First Amendment.

Abortion pill opponents: Jews, Muslims, Christians…

February 8, 2016, WND

“What do 207 members of Congress, 50 Catholic theologians, 13 law professors, nine professional associations and two prominent women’s organizations have in common with the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the American Islamic Congress, the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists and the International Society of Krishna Consciousness?”

Judge tosses suit over saying ‘under God’ in Pledge of Allegiance

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 7, 2015

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represented the Jones family and the Knights of Columbus in the case and was also involved in the Massachusetts case. The American Legion was also a party to the New Jersey lawsuit.

Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund, called Bauman’s decision “a win for the Pledge of Allegiance and another loss for these plaintiffs.” He said the pledge suits “invite social division.”

American Muslim Women Explain Why They Do — Or Don’t — Cover

February 2, 2016, NPR

“I was tired of being a political spokesperson for my faith,” she says. “I felt that I should be able to put that away, and wearing a headscarf in public doesn’t give you that luxury. I was tired of trying to prove that Muslim women in headscarves are also empowered, [by saying] ‘Look at me. I’m working in a white-shoe law firm with a headscarf on.’ Uddin is a now a staff attorney for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Video Gaming the Supreme Court Justices

The National Law Journal, February 1, 2016

One week after actress Elizabeth Banks told one woman’s abortion story on YouTube, the video garnered nearly 300,000 views. When Little Sisters of the Poor went on YouTube under the title “Government forces Little Sisters of the Poor to violate faith or pay IRS fines,” the video captured almost 74,000 views. In the contest for the hearts and minds of Americans—and, indirectly, of U.S. Supreme Court justices—videos increasingly have become public tools in high-stakes cases.

Discriminatory Blaine Amendment Used Against Education Savings Accounts in Nevada

January 28, 2016, Cardinal Newman Society

“Article 11, Section 2 suffers from the same anti-Catholic taint that plagues the Blaine Amendment,” argued the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in an amicus brief. The brief noted: “First, it was passed during a time of sweeping anti-Catholic sentiment and with an intent to remove Catholic influence on public schools, and second, it prohibits ‘sectarian’ influences on schools while leaving unharmed ‘generic’ religious practices in public schools.”

Atheists Sued to Stop Drug Rehab Program That Uses ‘Biblical Principles.’ Here’s How a Florida Court Just Reacted.

January 22, 2016, The Blaze 

Prisoners of Christ and Lamb of God ministries have helped to provide food, housing, employment services and other basic needs to inmates after their release from prison, with the Becket Fund arguing that the Christian groups help save taxpayer dollars by only asking the state to cover a fraction of these costs. The organizations also offer optional religious services and 12-step programs that are free for Florida to use.

A War of Choice

January 15, 2016, The Weekly Standard 

The Little Sisters of the Poor are headed to the Supreme Court this year, seeking escape from the contraception mandates of Obamacare — under which they fall, the government claims, as insurance providers for the employees in their nursing homes. The Justice Department is fighting the Little Sisters tooth and nail, determined not to allow them to evade the law’s requirements, because .  .  . because .  .  .

Little Sisters of the Poor Appeal to Supreme Court for Protection Against Feds

January 11, 2016, Aleteia 

The Becket Fund explains that the “accommodation” the government has offered religious objectors actually entangles the entities in the objectionable practices. Signing off on the paperwork the government requires for an objector to get an “exemption” gives the government the power to use its own insurance plan to provide the contraceptives and other services.

” Do you hear what I hear? Atheists try to silence faith-based halfway house”

December 16, 2015, New Boston Post 

POC changes lives. Like that of the man who spent nearly three decades years behind bars for murder and, upon release, couldn’t drive a car (no license) and was afraid to cross the street (vehicular traffic being fairly rare within prison walls). After POC’s help, he landed a job that took him from flipping burgers at one McDonald’s to a senior position managing maintenance at seven McD’s. Today, he can’t thank POC enough.

Sikh Soldier Allowed to Keep Beard in Rare Army Exception

December 14, 2015, The New York Times

It is the first time in decades that the military has granted a religious accommodation for a beard to an active-duty combat soldier — a move that observers say could open the door for Muslims and other troops seeking to display their faith. But it is only temporary, lasting for a month while the Army decides whether to give permanent status to Captain Singh’s exception.

Group challenges ruling on N.M. funding private textbooks

December 7th, 2015, The Durango Herald 

Eric Baxter, senior counsel for the Becket Fund, told The Farmington Daily Times that the court was wrong to put additional conditions on the federal Mineral Lands Leasing Act funding.

“I think the Supreme Court erred in concluding that these were funds from state land and that it should recognize they are federal dollars that are being used in accordance with federal mandate,” Baxter said. “Any efforts to cut off certain categories of people from using those funds would be a violation of the federal constitution.”

Obama administration, religious freedom group, national union file briefs supporting Heffernan’s case

December 1, 2015, The Paterson Times 

“The Becket Fund is concerned that – if the Third Circuit’s decision is allowed to stand – the ability of religious people to engage in religious activity in concert with one another will be wrongly limited. It therefore advocates that the Court re-root the jurisprudence of collective rights in the text and history of the First Amendment,” reads the law firm’s amicus curiae, friend of the court, brief in support of Heffernan.

Christian Club Reinstated at California State University After Leadership Religious Test Dispute

Chi Alpha fought back, eventually enlisting the legal aid of the Washington, DC-based group the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

In an official statement released Monday, Chi Alpha considered the reinstatement to be bittersweet given the nature of the compromise.

“Unfortunately, CSU continues to ban religious leadership requirements and to treat religious student groups with less respect than fraternities and sororities,” read the statement in part.

“But because CSU has agreed that Chi Alpha’s students may exercise their own judgment to choose leaders that share their beliefs, we are now able to have access to campus with integrity.”

The Becket Fund directed CP to a press release by the law group wherein legal counsel Adèle Auxier Keim called the CSU decision “a halfway solution.”

“Cal State has adopted a halfway solution that still gives fraternities more rights than campus religious groups. But they’ve acknowledged that students can vote for a candidate who shares their beliefs, and that’s a step in the right direction,” stated Keim.

Little Sisters Of The Poor VS. Government Almighty

November 17, 2015, American Spectator

Another fight in the long struggle between freedom of conscience and the primacy of the state.

The Obama administration’s position is that it has graciously condescended to grant an “accommodation” for organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor and that they won’t be required to provide contraception coverage if they will unbend enough to apply for this special dispensation. The Becket Fund disposes of this argument as follows: “The so-called ‘accommodation’ still forces the Little Sisters to find an insurer who will cover sterilization, contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and will provide related counseling and education to promote those things.” In other words, the accommodation is just a fig leaf.

Honoring Courage

November 19, 2015, The Hill

Valladares was arrested for refusing to say four words. But he stayed in prison because he refused to sign a piece of paper that would hand moral authority to Castro’s Revolution. He stayed to defend what he later described as his own conscience, his belief in God, his own humanity and that of his fellow political prisoners.

Each year, we at Becket award the Canterbury Medal to an individual who has shown courage and strength in the defense of religious freedom. We have chosen Armando Valladares to receive this award in May 2016. After all, it is only fitting that the same year the Supreme Court will consider whether the federal government can force nuns to, among other things, sign away their faith, we honor a man who refused to sign away his because he knew that letters on a piece of paper can and do have power and meaning.

4th Supreme Court Go-Round for 5-Year-Old Obama Health Law

Nov 6, 2015, Associated Press

The faith-based groups “can’t help the government with its contraceptive delivery system,” said Mark Rienzi, a lawyer who represents the groups. Among the challengers are Bishop David Zubik, head of the Catholic Diocese in Pittsburgh, the Little Sisters of the Poor, nuns who run more than two dozen nursing homes for impoverished seniors, and evangelical and Catholic colleges in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington, D.C.

The transgender rights debate is about more than just restrooms

September 8, 2016, Deseret News

Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel at The Becket Fund, told the Deseret News that the mandate is “broad” and that it requires doctors to potentially work against the best interests of their patients.

“One of the most troubling aspects of it is that it requires doctors to perform gender reassignment procedures on, including on young children, even when those procedures may be physically and emotionally harmful to the child and violate the doctor’s faith and medical judgment,” Goodrich said.

Supreme Court may be converting on religion

August 1, 2016 USA Today

Some defenders of religious freedom don’t share Alito’s fear for the future.

“The court has been responsive to religious liberty claims in most of the cases in recent years,” Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, says. “I don’t see a reason to think that the court is going to become deaf to religious claims.”

Read more here.

Lawyers for health agency, religious nonprofits present case to federal appeals court

April 7, 2015, Houston Chronicle

The federal government Tuesday took its case against Houston Baptist University and a group of other Texas religious nonprofits to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the groups not only want to deprive their workers of mandated birth control options but prevent anyone else from providing them.

Eric Rassbach, a Becket Fund for Religious Liberty lawyer representing the Houston university and Marshall’s East Texas Baptist University, later said his clients believe that, like churches, they should simply be allowed not to provide forms of contraception they find objectionable.

Protecting America’s first freedom

April 5, 2015, Washington Examiner

RFRA has lived up to this promise. As our friends at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty like to say, RFRA protects everyone from “A to Z—Anglican to Zoroastrian.” For every Presbyterian soup kitchen RFRA has protected, there is an equally-protected mosque in rural Tennessee. For every Midwest homeless shelter, there is a Florida synagogue. For every Sikh schoolchild, there is a Muslim, Jewish or Native American inmate who has been able to live out his faith in peace.

Justices Revive Birth-Control Insurance Challenge

National Law Journal, March 9, 2015

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents a number of nonprofit religious organizations challenging the contraceptive requirement, hailed the high court’s action as a “major blow” to the government’s defense of the coverage requirement.

“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 Becket senior counsel Mark Rienzi, who filed an amicus brief in the Notre Dame 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.”

Mohel de Blasio

New York Post, February 27, 2015

“This is an example of better late than never,” says Eric Rassbach of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “The city should never have adopted this rule in the first place, and it shouldn’t have taken a loss in the federal courts to bring them to the bargaining table. But this solution respects both religious liberty and public health.”

Christian, Gay Rights, and Jewish Groups Help Muslim in Head Scarf Case Against Abercrombie & Fitch; Win Likely After Supreme Court Oral Arguments

Christian Post, February 25, 2015

In a Wednesday interview with The Christian Post, Eric Baxter of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who was at the oral arguments, said he was optimistic that the court would rule against Abercrombie & Fitch.

Baxter said that one of the most telling exchanges was between Justice Samuel Alito and the Abercrombie & Fitch lawyer. Would a Sikh man wearing a turban, a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke or a Catholic nun wearing a habit have to expressly state that they were wearing those garments for religious reasons? Alito asked, according to Baxter. The lawyer admitted they would not.

This Supreme Court Case Unites Religions Against Abercrombie & Fitch

Bloomberg, February 24, 2015

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public-interest law firm that often supports Christian causes, but also stresses its representation of other faiths, warns that the Tenth Circuit’s decision would impose “a presumption that employees are nonreligious unless they explicitly announce otherwise, essentially creating a standard of ‘protection upon request only’ that erodes the important role that religion plays in society.”

Supreme Court to hear religious freedom case

CNN, February 24, 2015

But the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit group with an interest in religious freedom, has filed a friend of the court brief supporting Elauf.

“Abercrombie’s claim is both absurd and a dangerous precedent for all people of faith seeking an exception,” Eric Baxter, a lawyer for the group,

“We want the court to recognize that the notice requirement has to be flexible,” said Baxter. “There can’t be some strict requirement that an employee has to say certain words before the employee’s religion is protected.”

World Religions Unite to Defeat Teen Mall Brand

New York Magazine, February 24, 2015

So far, 16 different religious advocacy groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the EEOC’s case. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which advocates for Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Zoroastrians, and Sikhs, to name a few, expressed its concernthat the appeals court’s ruling imposes “a presumption that employees are nonreligious unless they explicitly announce otherwise, essentially creating a standard of ‘protection upon request only.’”

The Supreme Court Will Decide If Abercrombie & Fitch Discriminated Against This Hijab-Wearing Fashion Blogger

MTV, February 24, 2015

On the flip side, a lot of religious groups have come to Samantha’s defense, including the non-profit public-interest legal institute Becket Fund For Religious Liberty. Eric Baxter, who is Senior Council at the firm told U.S. News & World Report that Abercrombie isn’t being totally honest, “They’re trying to play dumb and the court shouldn’t allow that.”

Supreme Court to Weigh Employer’s Responsibility in Avoiding Discrimination

US News, February 23, 2015

“There should be a natural acknowledgement of the role religion plays in people’s lives,” says Eric Baxter,​ senior counsel at the public interest law film the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, arguing that Abercrombie should have been able to reasonably assume that Elauf’s headscarf could be worn for religious reasons.

“They’re trying to play dumb and the court shouldn’t allow that,” he says.

New Jersey student wins court case to keep ‘under God’ in Pledge of Allegiance

FOX News, February 6, 2015

Jones and her family were represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Historic defenders of the Pledge like the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, and the American Legion also intervened in the case.

“The message today is loud and clear: “God” is not a dirty word,” Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, also said in a statement Friday. “The Pledge of Allegiance isn’t a prayer, and reciting it doesn’t magically create an official state religion.”

Obama Admin. Targets Nuns over HHS Mandate

CBN News February 4, 2015

The nuns run the Eternal Word Television Network, EWTN. Their case goes before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

They object to the Health and Human Services contraception mandate in Obamacare, which would force them to provide health insurance for drugs that may cause abortions.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing the nuns in the case.

Read the full article here.

EWTN Takes Its Appeal in HHS Mandate Lawsuit to 11th Circuit

National Catholic Register February 4, 2015

“What the government is saying is that EWTN isn’t religious enough; it’s not entitled to the same religious freedom as the Catholic Church, which it serves,” Lori Windham, the lead attorney for EWTN and a senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told the three-judge panel at the 11th Circuit.

Read the full article here.

Big Government Restrictions On Religious Freedom Keep Losing In Supreme Court

The American Spectator, January 29, 2015

Conflict between government regulation and religious activity arises when government regulation expands. Eric Rassbach, from the Becket Fund explains: New conflicts most frequently arise when the sphere of government activity expands: government seeks to exercise more comprehensive control over a field of human endeavor where religious people have already long been active. For example, the recent rash of litigation over the contraception mandate arose because the federal government sought to expand its control over the healthcare plans of religious organizations in a way it had never done before.

Supreme Court Quashes Prison Beard Ban

CNS News January 22, 2015

It is not often that the Supreme Court makes headlines for a unanimous ruling. We usually hear about it when they rule 5-4 on some controversial dispute. But last Tuesday, all 9 justices joined together and ruled in unison on a major issue. What was that issue? It was religious freedom for prison inmates.

Read the full article here.

U.S. top court rules for Muslim inmate over prison beard ban

Reuters, January 20, 2015

Eric Rassbach, a lawyer for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a religious rights legal group that helped represent Holt, called the ruling “a huge win for religious freedom.”

“What the Supreme Court said today was that government officials cannot impose arbitrary restrictions on religious liberty just because they think government knows best,” Rassbach added.

Supreme Court says Muslim prisoner can keep beard

CNN, January 20, 2015

“This is a huge win for religious freedom and for all Americans,” said Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom who was co-counsel in the case. “What the Supreme Court said today was that government officials cannot impose arbitrary restrictions on religious liberty just because they think government knows best.”

“American Indians challenging eagle feather rules get a boost from ‘Hobby Lobby’”

ABA Journal January 1, 2015

Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, believes there’s a “very serious constitutional issue” in this disparity. The fund plans to help defend McAllen.

“There’s a lot of dispute about what the establishment clause means these days, but one thing it clearly means is that the government doesn’t get to give licenses to the Episcopal Church to preach but not to the Baptist Church,” Goodrich says. “That’s basically what’s happening here.”

Though the fund also handled Hobby Lobby, Goodrich doesn’t believe that case was the key inMcAllen. He notes that the 5th Circuit made favorable RFRA rulings before Hobby Lobby on issues such as animal sacrifices in Santeria and Sikhs carrying knives to work.

Similarly, Goodrich believes the existence of secular exceptions to the acts covering eagles and birds—for scientists, power plants and farmers—could be fatal to the government in McAllen. Indeed, the Interior Department recently allowed wind farms to obtain 30-year permits to kill eagles accidentally.

Read the full article here.

Injunction granted in Okla. birth control lawsuit

Associated Press, December 20, 2013

“This is an overwhelming victory for GuideStone and the nearly 200 plaintiffs in this class-action lawsuit,” attorney Adele Keim said in a statement. “Today’s ruling will allow hundreds of Baptist ministries to continue preaching the gospel and serving the poor this Christmas, without laboring under the threat of massive fines.”

Orthodox Jews back scarf-wearing Muslim in Abercrombie & Fitch case

Los Angeles Times December 13, 2014

The Washington, D.C.-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty also has filed a brief asking the high court to vacate the decision by the appeals court. “Abercrombie should know that it can’t discriminate against people simply because they haven’t worn a sign that says, “Hey, I am religious,’” said Eric Baxter, senior counsel for the fund.

Read the full article here.

Pennsylvania teachers can’t wear ‘religious garb’ to class but a repeal effort may be possible

Deseret News National December 12, 2014

Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel of The Becket Fund, a religious liberty law firm in Washington, told the Deseret News, “The anti-religious garb statute in Pennsylvania is an unconstitutional vestige of 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry. It was designed to keep Catholics out of public schools but now this bad law can be used to target other religious minorities such as Jews and Sikhs. Oregon did the right thing by repealing its anti-garb statute a few years ago; Pennsylvania should follow suit.”

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No Cake For You: Saying ‘I Don’t’ To Same-Sex Marriage

NPR, December 12, 2013

“There’s a conflict between the way public accommodations laws have been designed in the past, and religious liberty, and free expression,” Rassbach argues. “Many activities surrounding weddings are expressive, because weddings themselves are symbolic expressions, ceremonies that have meaning.”

Polish Court Overturns Ban on Ritual Slaughter

Hamodia News December 10, 2014

Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for the Washington-based Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, felt that the court’s ruling set an important precedent for how secular democracies weigh the importance of protecting religious practice.

“The court recognized that there are values that are more important than others,” he told Hamodia. “There are, of course, limits on religious practice as well, but this places its protection very high on the list. Hopefully, it will be an example to other countries like Denmark that are legislating against shechitah, but I must say that I am skeptical of that.”

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Faith firm racks up court wins

The Hill December 9, 2014

The firm launched in 1994, distinguishing itself from other legal shops concerned with religion by representing plaintiffs of all faiths.

The fund frequently touts its all-faith approach as a way to push back against critics who charge that the bulk of its time is spent defending conservative Christianity.

In addition to litigating familiar culture war fights — like the presence of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance — the fund has defended the religious practices of Muslims, Sikhs and Native Americans.

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Little Sisters’ HHS Mandate Case at 10th Circuit

National Catholic Register December 8,2014

who represented the Little Sisters during the oral arguments before the 10th Circuit, noted that the U.S. Supreme Court had already provided the Little Sisters with a Dec. 31, 2013 emergency injunction, when they faced a looming deadline for compliance with the mandate. “A year after losing at the Supreme Court, the government’s aggressive pursuit of the Little Sisters of the Poor continues. Untold millions of people have managed to get contraceptives without the involvement of nuns,” said Rienzi in a statement.

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Free businesses to act with conscience

Boston Globe, December 8, 2013

The Greens, who are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (where I serve on the board of directors), have no conscientious objection to paying for most forms of contraceptives, but they do object on religious grounds to paying for drugs and devices that the government says may prevent implantation of a fertilized human egg. In the Greens’ view, this is an abortion, and it would be wrong for them to help it happen.