Press Release

Becket Fund Partners with UCLA School of Law Student Clinic to Defend Church Benefit Plans

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

On Thursday Becket submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to a San Francisco federal district court in a case challenging certain church employee benefit plans as violating church-state separation.

Becket’s brief argues that “church plans” are a constitutionally permissible accommodation of religion. The brief was prepared by Professor Eugene Volokh and UCLA School of Law students Nathaniel Barrett, Garry Padrta, and Paulette Rodríguez López, as part of the new UCLA First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic. Professor Volokh is a nationally known First Amendment scholar who recently founded the Clinic and is also one of the founders of the prominent “Volokh Conspiracy” legal blog.

“Church plans are a common-sense way for the government to accommodate both the unique nature of religious institutions of all faiths and protect benefits for those who work in the field of religion,” said Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel at Becket. “This trial lawyer attack on the constitutionality of church plans is rooted in the wrong-headed notion that separating church and state means government should pretend there is nothing special about religious organizations at all.” Rassbach also stated, “We are happy to partner with Professor Volokh and the law students at UCLA on this important brief and thank them for their service in the cause of religious liberty.”

The case, Rollins v. Dignity Health, claims that Dignity Health, a Catholic healthcare system, is not sufficiently Catholic to qualify for “church plan” status under federal pension benefits law. Becket’s brief does not address this largely factual question, focusing instead on the plaintiffs’ separate attack on church plans as unconstitutional.

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys are recognized as experts in the field of church-state law, and they recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.” For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Stephanie Caluag, Communications Assistant, at or call 202.349.7224.