Posted tagged ‘Freedom of religion’

DOJ Backs Christian Students in School Choice Case

January 19, 2018

DOJ Backs Christian Students in School Choice Case, Washington Free Beacon, January 19, 2018

(Please see also, New HHS civil rights division charged with protecting health-care workers with moral objections. It appears that the Trump administration values religious freedom to a substantially greater degree than did its predecessor.– DM)

Getty Images

“The Constitution prohibits states from discriminating based on religion,” said Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand. “Today’s amicus brief is further proof that this administration will lead by example on religious liberty.”

The Department’s brief is an extension of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s religious liberty priorities, specifically guidance extended by the Department in October on federal religious liberty protections. That guidance  stipulated that state governments may not “deny religious schools—including schools whose curricula and activities include religious elements—the right to participate in a voucher program, so long as the aid reaches the schools through independent decisions of parents.”

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The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief Thursday in support of students claiming they were discriminated against after the state of Montana denied them placement in a tax credit scholarship program because the school they attended was a Christian one.

The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, concerns a the Montana Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which allows Montanans to deduct up to $150 of their contribution to a privately run scholarship program. The state department of revenue prompted the suit when it added a rule prohibiting tax credits for contributions to schools owned or operated by “a church, religious sect, or denomination.”

A group of parents brought suit on behalf of their children in December 2015 after they were denied participation in the scholarship program because their children attended a Christian-run school. The suit made it to a state trial court, which sided with the parents; the state then appealed to the Supreme Court of Montana, where DOJ lodged its Thursday amicus.

The Department’s brief argues that the state violated the First Amendment’s prohibition on government interference in the free exercise of religion by denying the religious students access to the scholarship fund.

“By targeting religious conduct for distinctive, and disadvantageous, treatment, Defendants violate the Free Exercise Clause unless they can show that the discriminatory treatment is supported by interests ‘of the highest order’ and narrowly tailored to achieve those interests. Defendants have made no such showing here,” the brief reads.

The DOJ contends in its brief that simply extending the scholarship fund to all students, including religious ones, would not run afoul of the Constitution, a position Montana had not explicitly disagreed with. The Department then applies the Supreme Court of the United States’ reasoning in last year’s Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, in which the Court found that denying a church daycare access to state grant money was “odious to our Constitution.”

“The Constitution prohibits states from discriminating based on religion,” said Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand. “Today’s amicus brief is further proof that this administration will lead by example on religious liberty.”

The Department’s brief is an extension of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s religious liberty priorities, specifically guidance extended by the Department in October on federal religious liberty protections. That guidance  stipulated that state governments may not “deny religious schools—including schools whose curricula and activities include religious elements—the right to participate in a voucher program, so long as the aid reaches the schools through independent decisions of parents.”

New HHS civil rights division charged with protecting health-care workers with moral objections

January 19, 2018

New HHS civil rights division charged with protecting health-care workers with moral objections, Washington PostAriana Eunjung Cha and Juliet Eilperin, January 18, 2018

(It strikes me that there are ample medical service providers who have no moral objections to performing the mentioned procedures, and that those who have such objections should not be compelled to perform them. — DM)

(Video at the link, — DM)

“Governments big and small have treated conscience claims with hostility instead of protection, but change is coming, and it begins here and now,” Severino said.

And Montse Alvarado, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm, faulted Obama-era officials for “forcing Americans to choose between their beliefs and their livelihood.”

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A new civil rights division within the Department of Health and Human Services will protect health-care workers who refuse to provide services that run counter to their moral or religious convictions, the Trump administration announced Thursday.

This office will consider complaints from doctors, nurses and others who feel they have been pressured by employers to “perform, accommodate or assist with” procedures that violate their beliefs. If a complaint about coercion or retribution is found to be valid, an entity receiving federal dollars could have that funding revoked.

The administration’s move marks the resurgence of religious liberty advocates within the federal government and represents its latest effort to elevate “conscience protections” within the health care realm. Conservative groups welcomed the action while critics warned it could lead to discrimination on the basis of sex as well as gender identity and sexual orientation.

In announcing the new division, at an event featuring Republican lawmakers and religious leaders, HHS Acting Secretary Eric Hargan noted that many of the nation’s hospitals, clinics and hospices are run by faith-based groups that oppose procedures like abortion and sterilization.

“For too long, too many of these health-care practitioners have been bullied and discriminated against,” he said.

According to the director of the department’s Office for Civil Rights, the division will not only consider complaints that might have previously languished but will also engage in public education and, possibly, policymaking. Training and research activities also will be covered.

Roger Severino said in an interview that OCR has seen a “pretty dramatic uptick” in health-care workers’ complaints related to moral and religious beliefs — from 10 during the entire Obama administration to 34 since Trump’s election. He said a “career senior executive” will be appointed to investigate those types of issues.

“We are trying to signal to the world that we are open for business, and we hope to have an effect,” he said.

Numerous existing laws prohibit institutions with federal funding from compelling health-care workers to perform services with which they object on moral or religious grounds. Some of the existing federal statutes “are quite broad,” Severino said.

On the HHS website Thursday, a Conscience and Religious Freedom section outlined the types of procedures likely to come under intensified federal scrutiny — accompanied by a photo of a female health-care worker in a Muslim headscarf. The description of the division’s mandate cites abortion, sterilization and assisted suicide as examples of the types of procedures covered. But legal experts said the language appears likely to also cover a host of other scenarios, such as treating transgender patients or those seeking to transition to the opposite sex.

It is unclear whether HHS will issue new regulations to clarify its approach to such conflicts, but conservatives said they now have a chance to challenge state reproductive policies as well as other mandates. In June 2016, HHS officials rejected a religious coalition’s complaint against a California requirement that state insurers provide abortion coverage on the grounds that the complainants did not “meet the definition of a ‘health care entity.’”

Louise Melling, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in an interview that the broad grounds for a complaint that HHS laid out, coupled with the administration’s past record on issues such as gender identity protections and contraception coverage, suggest officials will curtail services for certain groups if health-care workers lodge moral objections. Decades-old statutes that refer to sterilization services could potentially be invoked when referring to gender transition therapies, she noted.

“There’s every reason to think that this administration is going to place religious objections over the health and lives and rights of individuals,” Melling said.

Asked if the administration considers gender identity or sexual orientation to be a protected class, Severino said the department was barred from doing so because of a 2016 federal court injunction out of Texas.

The announcement, made one day before abortion opponents’ annual March for Life, builds on two rules HHS issued in October that allowed employers, including for-profit businesses, to claim moral or religious exemption from providing no-cost contraceptive coverage through their health insurance plans.

And it comes as the Supreme Court considers a First Amendment case regarding a Colorado baker who declined to make a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Speakers at Thursday’s launch event repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for narrowing such exemptions. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), for one, said the previous administration expected health-care workers “to conform” rather than follow their religious beliefs. “What a difference a year makes,” he added.

Severino echoed that theme, saying that “HHS has not always been the best keeper of this liberty.”

“Governments big and small have treated conscience claims with hostility instead of protection, but change is coming, and it begins here and now,” Severino said.

And Montse Alvarado, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm, faulted Obama-era officials for “forcing Americans to choose between their beliefs and their livelihood.”

(Video at the link — DM)

Yet medical organizations and women’s and LGBT rights groups expressed concern that the policy will hurt vulnerable populations and create an unequal system of health care. The Obama administration had bolstered civil rights protections in health care, including barring medical providers and insurers from discriminating in services or access to coverage based on gender as well as gender identity.

Kelli Garcia, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, said “the wording on the rule creating the office appears to open the door for discrimination against patients because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or a whole host of other reasons.”

Garcia said she worries that cases of denied or delayed care could multiply, describing controversies like one in Michigan in 2015, when a pediatrician refused to see an infant because the parents are lesbians. Catholic Hospitals have been sued for delaying care to women in the midst of miscarriages, putting their health at risk, because there was still a fetal heartbeat.

“The issue is this emboldens people who want to be able to deny this care,” she said.

The National LGBTQ Task Force minced no words in its response to the administration’s action. “We are not fooled: The new office announced this morning is meant to make it easier for people to discriminate, not to protect people of faith,” it said. “Health professionals have a duty to care for all their patients regardless of one’s gender identity, sexual orientation, faith, creed, race, political views, gender, or disability, and no one should be denied care for being who they are.”

Most of the country’s large physician and nursing groups have their own ethics policies regarding conscience objections. The American Medical Association, for example, gives physicians the latitude to act on their moral views to refuse to participate in torture, interrogation or forced treatment. Yet its ethics code also says doctors should not refuse to care for patients based on “race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other criteria that would constitute invidious discrimination.”

 

 

Justice Dept Stands Up For Christian Baker

September 8, 2017

Justice Dept Stands Up For Christian Baker, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, September 8, 2017

The government has changed. And the rules have changed.

The DOJ is no longer a pro-crime organization. And instead of persecuting conservatives, it’s now standing up for them against leftist persecution.

The Justice Department on Thursday filed a brief supporting the Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple on faith-based grounds, in the latest religious freedom case to be considered before the nation’s highest court.

Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, had refused to sell a customized cake for a gay couple’s union, claiming a religious exemption to the state’s anti-discrimination law.

“When Phillips designs and creates a custom wedding cake for a specific couple and a specific wedding, he plays an active role in enabling that ritual, and he associates himself with the celebratory message conveyed,” Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall wrote in the brief.

Wall added, “Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights.”

The First Amendment comes first again. And that is as it ought to be.

Brigitte Gabriel and Dave Rubin: Terrorism, The Muslim Brotherhood, and Linda Sarsour

July 9, 2017

Brigitte Gabriel and Dave Rubin: Terrorism, The Muslim Brotherhood, and Linda Sarsour via YouTube, May 19, 2017

(The transition of Lebanon from a vibrant homogeneous society into an Islamist state where Muslims, formerly friends of Christians and Jews, became violent enemies — about five minutes into the video — bodes ill for much of Europe. Although this video was posted on YouTube on May 19th, some of the content suggests that the interview occurred significantly earlier.  — DM

 

Saudi Arabia’s ‘Lavish’ Gift to Indonesia: Radical Islam

April 29, 2017

Saudi Arabia’s ‘Lavish’ Gift to Indonesia: Radical Islam, Gatestone InstituteMohshin Habib, April 29, 2014

(A few days after I retired from the practice of law in 1955, my wife and I flew to Bali and stayed there for a couple of weeks. According to the article, that’s where Saudi King Salman spent six days “vacationing.” His total stay in Indonesia was nine days.

According to the 2010 Census, “83.5% of Bali’s population adhered to Balinese Hinduism,[3] followed by 13.4% Muslim, Christianity at 2.5%, and Buddhism 0.5%.[7]“. Most of the Muslims were on the southern coast and I can recall seeing none elsewhere. The Balinese Hindus we met were among the kindest and most welcoming people I have ever met. I wonder what’s happening there now. Please see also, Misogyny Meet Irony: Saudi Arabia Elected To United Nation’s Women’s Rights Commission.– DM)

 

Despite its pluralistic constitution, which says, “The state guarantees each and every citizen the freedom of religion and of worship in accordance with his religion and belief,” Indonesia — which declared independence in 1945 — has grown increasingly intolerant towards Christians, Hindus and Shiite Muslims.

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Prior to Saudi Arabia’s attempts to spread Salafism across the Muslim world, Indonesia did not have terrorist organizations such as Hamas Indonesia, Laskar Jihad, Hizbut Tahrir, Islamic Defenders Front and Jemmah Islamiyah, to name just a few. Today, it is rife with these groups.

A mere three weeks after the Saudi king wrapped up his trip, at least 15,000 hard-line Islamist protesters took to the streets of Jakarta after Friday prayers, calling for the imprisonment of the capital city’s Christian governor, who is on trial for “blaspheming the Quran.”

In a separate crisis, crowds were demanding that Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known familiarly as Ashok) be jailed for telling a group of fishermen that, as they are fed lies about how the Quran forbids Muslims from being governed by a kafir (infidel), he could understand why some of them might not have voted for him. If convicted, Ashok stands to serve up to five years in prison.

Accompanied by a 1,500-strong entourage, Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz arrived in Indonesia on March 1 for a nine-day gala tour. He was welcomed warmly not only as the monarch of one of the world’s richest countries, but as the custodian of Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.

While appearing to be taking a holiday rather than embarking on an official state visit — the 81-year-old sovereign spent six days at a resort in Bali — the king had some serious business to attend to. In what was advertised as an effort to promote “social interaction” between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia — with His Majesty announcing a billion-dollar aid package, unlimited flights between the two countries and the allotment of 50,000 extra spots per year for Indonesian pilgrims to make the hajj to Mecca and Medina – it seems as if the real purpose of the trip was to promote and enhance Salafism, an extremist Sunni strain, in the world’s largest Muslim country, frequently hailed in the West as an example of a moderate Islamic society.

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia (foreground, left) meets with King Salman of Saudi Arabia (foreground, right), at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Indonesia. (Image source: Indonesian Presidential Palace)

Jakarta-based journalist Krithika Varagur, writing in The Atlantic on the second day of the king’s visit, describes Saudi efforts in Indonesia:

“Since 1980, Saudi Arabia has devoted millions of dollars to exporting its strict brand of Islam, Salafism, to historically tolerant and diverse Indonesia. It has built more than 150 mosques (albeit in a country that has about 800,000), a huge free university in Jakarta, and several Arabic language institutes; supplied more than 100 boarding schools with books and teachers (albeit in a country estimated to have between 13,000 and 30,000 boarding schools); brought in preachers and teachers; and disbursed thousands of scholarships for graduate study in Saudi Arabia.”

This Saudi influence has taken a serious toll on Indonesia, 90% of whose 250 million people are Sunnis. Despite its pluralistic constitution, which says, “The state guarantees each and every citizen the freedom of religion and of worship in accordance with his religion and belief,” Indonesia — which declared independence in 1945 — has grown increasingly intolerant towards Christians, Hindus and Shiite Muslims.

Prior to Saudi Arabia’s attempts to spread Salafism across the Muslim world, Indonesia did not have terrorist organizations such as Hamas Indonesia, Laskar Jihad, Hizbut Tahrir, Islamic Defenders Front and Jemmah Islamiyah, to name just a few.

Today, it is rife with these groups, which adhere strictly to Islamic sharia law, Saudi Arabia’s binding legal system, and which promote it in educational institutions. Like al-Qaeda and ISIS, they deny women equal rights, believe in death by stoning for adulterers and hand amputation for thieves, and in executing homosexuals and “apostate” Muslims.

The most recent example of the way in which this extremism has swept Indonesia took place a mere three weeks after the Saudi king wrapped up his trip. On March 31, at least 15,000 hard-line Islamist protesters took to the streets of Jakarta after Friday prayers, calling for the imprisonment of the capital city’s Christian governor, who is on trial for “blaspheming the Quran.”

This paled in comparison to the crowds — numbering about 200,000 at each violent rally — which flooded the city last November, December and February. The crowds were demanding that Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known familiarly as Ashok) be jailed for telling a group of fishermen that, as they are fed lies about how the Quran forbids Muslims from being governed by a kafir, an infidel, he could understand why some of them might not have voted for him. If convicted, Ashok stands to serve up to five years in prison.

Sadly, such a jail term is nothing, when one considers the Islamist prison that the country as a whole has become — courtesy of King Salman and his lavish “gifts.”

EXCLUSIVE: First Liberty Institute Seeks Justice for Air Force Colonel Targeted for His Faith

March 29, 2017

EXCLUSIVE: First Liberty Institute Seeks Justice for Air Force Colonel Targeted for His Faith, Breitbart, Penny Starr, March 29, 2017

(Thought experiment: The victim here was a Christian who apparently held, but did not express, what many see as traditional Christian views on homosexuality. See, e.g., the Roman Catholic Church. What if the victim were instead an adherent to the Islamic religion, held and expressed Islamist views on homosexuality and the proper way of dealing with homosexuals. Would he have been dealt with in similar fashion? — DM

First Liberty Institute, a national law firm committed to protecting religious liberty, is taking up the case of Air Force Col. Michael Madrid. He has been targeted by his commanding officer for reprimand involving a closed investigation that cleared the colonel of false claims by a court-marshaled soldier that Madrid had made disparaging remarks about his homosexuality.

Two years after the case was closed and Madrid had continued his exemplary military career, including the promotion to colonel, he was placed under a new commander, Maj. Gen. John E. McCoy. McCoy accessed the report and without any new evidence decided that Madrid was guilty and issued a letter of reprimand —  crippling, if not ending, his chance for future promotions.

On Wednesday, the institute sent a demand letter to the U.S. Air Force stating that Madrid had been denied due process and that the Letter of Admonishment should be rescinded. If not, the letter said the institute is prepared to take legal action.

“Col. Madrid submitted to an extensive military investigation and the Air Force cleared him,” Mike Berry, Director of Military Affairs for the First Liberty, said. “Major General McCoy has no right to ignore the rule of law and arbitrarily decide, more than two years later and without any new evidence, that he can punish Col. Madrid.”

Berry said that McCoy never provided reasons for sending the letter, but that this is not the first case of what seems like institutional hostility toward military personnel who openly express their religious beliefs.

“At First Liberty Institute, we’ve seen multiple cases in which military officials have refused to tolerate service members’ traditional religious beliefs,” Berry said. “That shouldn’t happen to anyone.”

“Col. Madrid doesn’t hide the fact that he is a devout Christian,” Berry said. “We are concerned that Major Gen. McCoy judged and punished Madrid – a decorated Air Force officer – because he became aware of Col. Madrid’s traditional religious views. If so, that not only harms the military, but it is illegal.”

“I feel like I’ve been singled out because of my faith,” Madrid told Breitbart News. “Now I’m afraid if I say anything about even being a Christian, I’ll step on a landmine that could blow up my career.

“I hate feeling like I have to constantly look over my shoulder to see if someone is coming after me because of what I believe,” Madrid said. “We have many good service members who are people of faith and they shouldn’t have to live in fear of being punished for what they believe.

“I don’t want to see this happen to anyone else,” Madrid said. “I just want to resolve this situation and have the letter removed from my record so I can continue to serve our nation with honor.”

The Background of the Case:

In August 2012, Madrid was transferred to Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. Soon after, a young Airman arrived on base who was struggling with his medical career. Col. Madrid worked to support and mentor the young man.

In 2013, the Airman was charged with multiple criminal offenses, including illegally bringing a loaded weapon onto the Air Force base, prescribing narcotics illegally, and performing duties while under the influence of narcotics. He was soon court-martialed and found guilty of the charges.

Despite mentoring the young Airman, Madrid supported the court-martial because the Airman committed such serious crimes. During his court-martial, the Airman, who is gay, filed a complaint alleging that Madrid had made derogatory comments about homosexuality.

Madrid, whose has never hidden his traditional Christian beliefs about marriage as the union of one man and one woman, denied the accusations, but submitted to a thorough Air Force investigation.

Based on records, interviews, and fact-finding, the Air Force found the allegations “unsubstantiated” and closed the investigation in 2014.

“Religious intolerance and discrimination against anyone in the military is inexcusable,” Berry said. “We ask the Air Force to take immediate action to hold Major General McCoy accountable and to provide justice and due process for Col. Madrid.”

EXCLUSIVE: Geert Wilders on “the patriotic spring” sweeping the West

February 28, 2017

EXCLUSIVE: Geert Wilders on “the patriotic spring” sweeping the West, Rebel MediaEzra Levant, February 27, 2017

The Netherlands has its Parliamentary elections in a couple of weeks, and the man who is leading the polls right now is Geert Wilders.

Wilders is the leader of the Party for Freedom. His chief campaign focus is de-Islamification:

Stopping mass immigration, for sure, but more specifically, stopping the cultural, legal, criminal and social ramifications of bringing in a million Muslims into a country of 17 million Dutch.

(That’s twice the Islamification that Canada has, proportionately; we have just over a million Muslims in a population of 36 million.)

I sat down with Geert Wilders in The Hague on Thursday morning.

That very day, news broke that one of Wilders’ own security staff was caught secretly passing on information about Wilders’ movements to a Moroccan jihadist group.

Of course they want to kill him. He’s the only one trying to close the door, while the rest of the politicians there are prying it further open, in return for power or votes or money…

Watch all the footage from my trip by clicking here.