I’d Rather Have the First Amendment than Amazon

Current Georgia Republican Governor Nathan Deal’s office is apparently willing to sacrifice First Amendment freedoms in exchange for business deals. A top aide within his administration stated he is concerned that any efforts (successful or unsuccessful) at enhancing religious liberty within the state could hamper the state’s attempt to land a bid for Amazon’s second headquarters.

Chris Riley, Governor Deal’s top aide, stated concerns that increasing “rhetoric” within the state’s gubernatorial race could harm the state’s chances at securing the development deal with Amazon.

Amazon’s second headquarters is projected to be a $50 billion development and could bring as many as 50,000 jobs along with it. Riley expressed his concerns that even touting the idea of religious liberty proposals could result in an unsuccessful bid.

To say the competition for Amazon’s second headquarters is hotly contested is an understatement. More than 200 cities have put in bids. According to The Atlantic Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the state’s proposal is its most “aggressive economic attraction package” in history, and Chris Riley also reiterated it was a “very aggressive offer.”

Others have roundly criticized the statements by the governor’s office balancing money over religious liberty and freedom of speech. Brant Frost, chairman of the Coweta County GOP, stated, ”I’d rather have the First Amendment than Amazon,” said Frost. “I won’t barter away my children’s birthright of religious freedom for 30 pieces of economic development silver.”

Other’s noted that while offering Amazon such an “aggressive” development package is a proposal worth considering, their religious liberty shouldn’t be an item “for sale” as part of that package. State Senator Michael Williams, one of the most vocal and outspoken Republican contestants in the gubernatorial race, said, “Call me crazy, but handing out the biggest corporate welfare check in history from a state seems like a bad idea,” he said. “I want Amazon to come to Georgia, but I don’t want to pay them an enormous sum that will take them more than 100 years to pay back.”

To silence ensuing pushback since his “warning,” Governor Deal commented in a recent media interview, saying that his position had not changed. He also stated issues like these must be dealt with in “a very delicate fashion,” and that “there will be repercussions.”

Governor Deal fails to acknowledge the most severe repercussions. The lost of economic development deals, while typically not good for a state’s economy, should never come at the expense of First Amendment freedoms or religious liberty protections for all. After two terms n office, Governor Deal will leave having taken steps to secure neither.

Josh Denton is a contributing writer to Family Policy Institute of Washington.

Unexpected but Welcome Support for Religious Liberty in California

On Sunday, October 15, California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown announced his decision to veto AB 569, a bill that would have prohibited organizations from implementing and operating according to faith-based codes of conduct. The legislation would have denied employers the right to take action against an employee because of that employee’s reproductive decisions.

The bill had two huge problems. Firstly, the legislation would have prohibited an employer from taking “any adverse employment action” against any employee of the company who uses any “drug, device, or medical service related to reproductive health.” As an example, this would mean that if an employee of a pro-life organization or pregnancy care center were to take a type of birth control or medication that would medically or chemically induce an abortion, the group would not be allowed under law to take any disciplinary action against, or terminate, that employee. The bill would have applied not only to the employee’s actions but also to the actions of any dependents of the employee (including those up to 26 years of age). The author, Assemblywoman Gonzalez-Fletcher, also stated that the legislation was meant to ban codes of conduct regarding sexual activity outside of marriage.

The second glaring problem is that the bill would have also prevented any organizations from requiring that their employees sign a mission statement, statement of faith, or similar document stating that their intent and agreement to live in accordance with the company’s values. Necessarily, this would mean that churches, nonprofits, and other religious organizations would not be allowed to require their employees to agree to respect and abide by the Bible’s teachings in regards to abortion, contraception, sexual activity outside the bounds of matrimony, and so forth.

In his statement, Governor Jerry Brown noted that the California Fair Employment and Housing Act already bans employers from taking “adverse action” against their employees, except for religious institutions. The Governor indicated his belief that such claims “should remain within the jurisdiction of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Council Elissa Graves stated:

“The government should not and cannot tell churches, Christian colleges, pro-life pregnancy care centers, and other religious groups that they can’t live out their beliefs within their own organizations. Gov. Brown was right to veto this immensely unconstitutional bill, which would have been an unprecedented overreach on the part of the state of California. The First Amendment doesn’t allow the state to order churches and other faith-based groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. They have the freedom to live according to their faith and to require those who work for them to do the same.”

Governor Brown’s decision to veto AB 569 is a huge win and source of relief to the religious liberty protections of churches, religious organizations, and groups like our state family policy council ally, California Family Council. Working to build opposition to the bill was one of California Family Council’s main focus this legislative session. While this is a major victory, there is still much work to be done in California. For example, California churches are still being forced to pay for elective dismemberment abortions through their health insurance plans.

Churches, religious nonprofits, and organizations like pregnancy help centers rely on being able to operate according to Biblical values. To deny this fundamental First Amendment right would be the equivalent of forcing these institutions to endorse behavior that is inconsistent with the very core of their existence.

President Trump Fulfills His Promise to Protect and Promote Religious Freedom

The Trump administration announced last Friday that employers who offer health insurance would no longer be required to provide their employees with contraceptive coverage through the Obama-era mandate popularly known as the Affordable Care Act. That mandate stipulated that employers who offered health insurance – including Christian businesses and religious organizations – provide their employees through health coverage plans with access to all forms of contraception including abortion-inducing drugs.

The Trump administration issued two rules exempting employers from providing access to such contraceptives if it conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs. The exemptions cover those with moral objections and those with religious objections. The Trump administration stated that the Affordable Care Act failed to properly provide protections to those who held sincere moral or religious convictions against providing contraceptives such as the abortion pill at no cost to their employees.

During a White House Press Briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked for her response to the fact that the ACLU had already stated their intention to file a lawsuit, claiming that “The Trump administration is forcing women to pay for their boss’s religious beliefs.”

Sanders responded:

“The President believes that the freedom to practice one’s faith is a fundamental right in this country, and I think all of us do.  And that’s all that today was about — our federal government should always protect that right.  And as long as Donald Trump is President, he will.”

The action by the Trump administration to broaden the exemption to the HHS contraception mandate has been much applauded, especially among pro-life groups.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Greg Baylor stated:

We are pleased that this rule is a major step forward in keeping that promise and restoring back to people of faith their constitutionally protected freedom. We are also pleased the rule protects the conscience convictions of organizations like March for Life, an organization that bases its pro-life beliefs on science and philosophy, and hosts the largest pro-life gathering in the world every year in Washington, D.C.

Alliance Defending Freedom is representing 20 organization and 12 individuals, including the March for Life, in challenges to the HHS Obama-era mandate. The action taken by the Trump administration in broadening the exemptions to the mandate will improve the position of these organizations and individuals, although a final decision from the courts will ultimately be needed to resolve the cases.

With the recent loss of Tom Price as the former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Family Policy Institute of Washington last week appropriately voiced concerns over possible challenges this could pose to the state of religious liberty. Thankfully, it appears that there is still a reason for optimism and that the absence of former Secretary Price as head of HHS at least so far has not hindered the safeguarding of religious liberty protections.

After five grueling years of enduring the Obama-era mandate which, in essence, attempted to force business owners to violate their consciences or face crippling fines and even possible bankruptcy, the action taken by the Trump administration is a very welcome reprieve. Millions of Americans wanted no part of the healthcare mandate and the broadened exemptions put in place by Trump are certainly a partial fulfillment of his many campaign promises to ensure the continued religious liberty and conscience protections for individuals who are simply trying to live peacefully in accordance with their faith.

Josh Denton is a contributing writer for FPIW.

Bremerton Football Coach Joe Kennedy Loses Appeal

Joe Kennedy, the former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School who was suspended and let go for continuing to pray after football games, will not be returning to team practices and games anytime soon.

Coach Kennedy’s story rose to national news prominence two years ago when the Bremerton School District told him to stop praying with students before and after football games. Believing that he has the right to pray privately after games, Kennedy began “taking a knee” on the fifty-yard line following the conclusion of each game.

Bremerton School District placed the coach on suspension, then refused to renew his contract for the following year. Kennedy filed a lawsuit against the school district, requesting that he be reinstated as coach and contending that the school district had discriminated against him and was violating his First Amendment rights. After losing at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Kennedy appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Kennedy’s case was heard before a three-judge panel, which ruled yesterday that Kennedy’s prayer isn’t protected under the First Amendment and Title VII because he acted as a public employee and not as a private citizen. Kennedy’s prayer “risks alienating valued community members from an environment that must be open and welcoming to all,” according to the judges.

First Liberty, the religious liberty organization representing Kennedy, has not decided whether it will appeal the decision.

Trinity Lutheran v. Comer: Not Your Average Playground Scuffle

In 2012, Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Missouri, faced a problem: its playground was covered with pea gravel—coarse stone fragments that make for a perilous play surface.

Fortunately, Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources runs a grant program that reimburses non-profit organizations for installing playground surfaces made from recycled scrap tires. Hoping to defray the expense of resurfacing its playground, the church submitted an application.

Although the Department ranked Trinity Lutheran’s application fifth out of the 44 submissions it received and awarded 14 grants, it denied the church’s application. Its reasoning? A state constitutional provision—known as a Blaine Amendment—that bars religious institutions like Trinity Lutheran from receiving state funding.

Blaine amendments are the remnants of a wave of anti-Catholic sentiment that swept the nation during the nineteenth century. The original Blaine Amendment, named for Maine Senator James G. Blaine, was designed to protect the existing Protestant monopoly on schools by barring state funding of “sectarian” (i.e., Catholic) institutions. Though Senator Blaine’s amendment failed to gain the necessary votes in Congress, thirty-seven states incorporated similar language into their constitutions. Washington State was one of them.

Washington’s Blaine Amendment remains wholly intact; that is, unless Trinity Lutheran has its way in the Supreme Court. By the end of its term on June 30, the Court will very likely decide whether excluding religious institutions from a secular grant program under a state Blaine Amendment violates the U.S. Constitution.

Here, Trinity Lutheran contends that government should not be able to deprive religious institutions of the benefits it makes available to all. To do so would run afoul of the Constitution’s Equal Protection and Free Exercise clauses which, when read together, provide that states must generally treat religious individuals the same as they would treat any other individuals. When a state does subject a religious individual or entity to unequal treatment, it must provide an especially compelling reason for doing so.

The government’s rationale behind the grant restriction boils down to avoiding the establishment of a state religion. A decision in favor of Trinity Lutheran would compel taxpayers to fund improvements to church property. This arrangement, according to the Department, constitutes unlawful state funding of religion. Unlawful, that is, under the Supreme Court’s current interpretation of the Establishment Clause.

The government’s argument rests on a fundamental misreading of the Constitution. For decades, the Supreme Court has insisted that government must not only avoid favoring one religion over another, but avoid preferring religion over non-religion. Scholars have vigorously debated whether this principle accurately reflects the Establishment Clause’s meaning since 1947, when the Supreme Court handed down its misguided decision in Everson v. Board of Education.

Aside from the merits of either interpretation, the inescapable consequence of the Court’s interpretation pits the First Amendment’s two religious clauses against one another in case after case. Trinity Lutheran’s dispute provides yet another example of this unresolved tension.

It is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court will resolve the Free Exercise/Establishment Clause debate here. Nonetheless, Trinity Lutheran has offered the Court a ripe opportunity to chip away at—if not abolish altogether—the anti-religious legacy of state Blaine amendments.

That is, assuming the justices aren’t too chicken to play.


Christina Pesavento is a blog contributor from the “other” Washington (Washington, DC), where she works at a legal non-profit association. She previously served as a law clerk with the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and was president of the Federalist Society chapter at the American University Washington College of Law.


 

Would the Johnson Amendment Have Stopped the War for Independence and Abolitionist Movement?

Had the Johnson Amendment been in effect prior to 1954, the American War for Independence and the abolitionist movement may have never happened.

The Johnson Amendment to the federal tax code prohibits nonprofit, tax-exempt entities from participating in, or intervening in, “any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” This prohibition includes “the publishing or distributing of statements” on behalf of candidates, legislation, or political parties.

The amendment was originally proposed by Texas Senator (and future President) Lyndon B. Johnson to silence and retaliate against the nonprofit political organizations that had been created to support his primary opponent. It was passed in 1954 by a unanimous voice vote without debate.

Although Congress never intended to include churches in the prohibition, “the I.R.S. has steadfastly maintained that any speech by churches that the IRS could construe as supporting or opposing candidates for government office, including sermons from the pulpit, can result in loss of tax exemption,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom.

The Johnson Amendment has had a chilling effect on American churches. Radical atheist organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have mounted public relations campaigns to intimidate churches and pastors. Not only do they spread misinformation about what churches and pastors can/cannot do regarding political involvement, but they have also reported to the IRS those churches who refused to remain silent about issues relating to government.

However, American pulpits have not always been censored by the federal government. Before the enactment of the Johnson Amendment, churches and pastors used their moral authority to speak prophetically to members and the culture about political issues.

From colonial times until the twentieth century, American churches often used their trusted social position to proclaim the Bible’s truth about issues being debated in public.

For example, pastors would frequently endorse or oppose specific candidates for public office, and they shared with their congregations whether a piece of legislation or a candidate’s positions were compatible with biblical principles. Pastors also commonly preached “Election Sermons,” which were given in the audience of public officials to exhort them to govern according to God’s truth and design for society.

Recognizing that a faithful exposition of God’s Word demanded that they preach about political issues, churches and pastors spoke into the civil arena and helped shape the American political debate for centuries. Perhaps this is no more apparent than the indispensable role churches played in the War for Independence, the abolition movement, and early civil rights movements.

John Adams, himself a central figure in the independence movement and the early republic, pointed to the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Mayhew as having had a “great influence in the commencement” of the American War for Independence. Like many of his contemporaries, Mayhew preached and published sermons that seemed to “revive… animosity against tyranny in church and state.”

It was in church that early Americans learned of their inalienable rights and the proper jurisdiction and role of civil government. According to Adams, the Spirit of 1776 ripened, in part, because “the pulpits thundered!”

Leading up to the Civil War, churches also played a key role in the movement to abolish slavery. Quakers, Wesleyans, American Baptists, Congregationalists, and some Methodists stridently opposed the peculiar institution and mobilized political and social efforts against it, with their churches serving as the center of the action. Churches comprised many of the stops along the “Underground Railroad,” offering their sanctuaries as hiding places for those escaping slavery.

It is no wonder that the abolition of slavery came on the heels of the Second Great Awakening, an Evangelical religious revival during the early nineteenth century that stressed the importance of a personal relationship with Christ and propelled efforts to reform society according to biblical precepts.

Imagine if the Johnson Amendment had been around during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Would American churches have assumed their role as agents of social change in the movements for independence, abolition, and civil rights if their free speech had been muzzled by the federal government?

Churches and pastors have a biblical obligation to share biblical positions on political issues with their members and their communities. Throughout this nation’s history, churches have acted as champions of justice.

Although President Trump campaigned on “totally destroying” the Johnson Amendment, his religious liberty executive order last month failed to make any substantive changes to IRS policy. The ACLU called the executive order a “faux sop to religious conservatives” and an “elaborate photo-op” that “does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process.”

It is time to stop censoring the constitutionally protected religious speech of American pulpits. Pastors who preach and uphold the entirety of the Bible should no longer have to fear the IRS. Congress should not wait any longer to begin the process of repealing the Johnson Amendment.


Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and research fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.


In Defense Of Bernie Sanders

I have long opposed Bernie Sanders’ socialist, anti-constitution, and anti-family agenda. Yet I feel the need to come to the senator’s defense on the issue of religious tests.

On Wednesday, the Senate Budget Committee held its confirmation hearing for Russell Vought, President Trump’s recent nominee for deputy budget director. Sanders aggressively interrogated the nominee during the hearing about an article he had written after his alma matter, Wheaton College, a private Evangelical college in Illinois, forced out a professor for making curiously unorthodox doctrinal statements about Islam. Specifically, Sanders found this excerpt from Vought’s article particularly offensive:

“Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.”

Sanders asked Vought whether he believed the statement was Islamophobic, to which the nominee responded by explaining that his article was written in accordance with Wheaton College’s statement of beliefs and traditional Christian doctrine. Vought then proceeded to clarify that he, as a Christian, believes Jesus Christ is central to salvation.

Sanders, clearly offended by Vought’s religious beliefs, told the committee that he would vote against confirming the nominee.

Many on the political left and right alike were horrified that Sanders would choose not to support a presidential nominee because of the nominee’s religious beliefs. In an article published by The Atlantic, Emma Green accuses Sanders of creating “a religious test for Christians in office.” Writing for National Review, David French commends Bernie Sanders “to brush up on his civic education and remember that religious freedom belongs even to citizens (and nominees) he doesn’t like.”

Despite these hyperbolic claims, it’s important to realize that Bernie Sanders isn’t creating a religious test by refusing to support Vought’s nomination.

It’s true that Article VI of the Constitution bans religious tests for “any office or public trust under the United States.” It certainly would be unconstitutional for Congress to pass a law prohibiting Christians from serving in elected federal offices. Similarly, Congress could not require that all elected officials belong to a particular denomination or ascribe to certain theological beliefs.

However, Bernie Sanders isn’t advocating the enactment of laws forbidding Christians from holding office. Instead, he is merely exercising his right as a citizen and senator to withhold his support for a presidential nominee with whom he disagrees, an action that is unquestionably allowable under Article VI.

An historical anecdote may better elucidate this point. When early Americans worried that Muslims, atheists, or pagans might be elected to federal office, Justice James Iredell, a George Washington appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court, assured his apprehensive countrymen that it was unlikely that the voters would ever elect candidates with religious beliefs the voters believed to be aberrant:

“But it is objected that the people of America may perhaps choose representatives who have no religion at all, and that pagans and [Muslims] may be admitted into offices. . . . But it is never to be supposed that the people of America will trust their dearest rights to persons who have no religion at all, or a religion materially different from their own.”

Although the Constitution forbids the federal government from employing religious tests for federal officeholders, the people are left free to support or oppose candidates on the basis of religious beliefs.

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” during this last election cycle, Republican presidential nominee Dr. Ben Carson adamantly declared that he would not agree with “putting a Muslim in charge of this nation” because Islam is inconsistent with the Constitution. Unsurprisingly, hysterical liberal journalists began accusing Carson of imposing an unconstitutional religious test.

Just like Carson has the right to oppose a Muslim presidential candidate, Sanders has the right to object to a Christian presidential nominee, even if his only reason is because he finds Christian theology reprehensible. While our Constitution bans the federal government from implementing religious tests for officials, it thankfully allows the people and their representatives to consider whether someone’s religion makes him or her unfit for the office he or she is seeking.

Our nation’s founders unquestionably believed that the people’s right to judge a candidate’s religion is essential to their function as voters. We shouldn’t argue otherwise.


Blaine Conzatti is a columnist and research fellow at the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He can be reached at Blaine@FPIW.org.

Joe Kennedy’s Case To Be Heard By Ninth Circuit Monday

He was fired for praying on the football field after games. Now Coach Kennedy will have his case heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

School officials told Joe Kennedy—a former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School who was adored by his players—that he couldn’t pray after football games. After Kennedy continued praying, Bremerton School District placed him on administrative leave. They chose not to rehire him the next season.

Kennedy has sued the school district for discriminating against him on the basis of his religion.

This Monday, June 12, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District at 9:00 am. The oral arguments will be heard at William K. Nakamura Courthouse, 1010 Fifth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104.

Kennedy is being represented by First Liberty, a nationally renowned religious liberty legal defense organization. First Liberty has created a webpage to provide more information for those who want to learn about the particulars of the case.

Religious Liberty Executive Order Good First Step

Affirming that our liberties are a gift of God that no government can rightfully take away, President Donald Trump today signed the long-awaited executive order on religious liberty.

The executive order has two main components. First, it directs government officials to consider changing regulations to allow conscience-based objections to the contraceptive mandate, which requires insurance plans to cover contraceptives and abortifacients.

Second, it instructs federal agencies to avoid penalizing tax-exempt organizations, including churches, that “speak about moral or political issues from a religious perspective.”

Speaking to the press in the White House Rose Garden before signing the executive order, the president reiterated his belief that “for too long, the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith, bullying and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs.”

While there is hope that today’s executive order will be a first step to restoring religious liberty, there remain grave threats to the fundamental freedom to live according to the dictates of one’s faith and conscience.

Joseph Backholm, President of FPIW, says he is “cautiously optimistic” about the executive order, calling it “a step in the right direction.”

Backholm hopes the executive order will be used by federal agencies to “develop comprehensive rules protecting religious liberties.”

Some religious liberty advocates, including the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson, expressed their concern that the executive order fails to make substantive reforms protecting religious liberty. In a press release today, Alliance Defending Freedom President Michael Ferris said the executive order amounts to “vague instructions to federal agencies [that] simply leaves them wiggle room to ignore [the] gesture.”

A draft of the executive order released in February included far greater protections for religious liberty. That draft protected the rights of those—including federal employees, religious organizations, and some businesses—who believe in traditional marriage and the traditional conception of two genders, male and female. These protections were not included in the executive order signed today.

“Our founding fathers believed that religious liberty was so fundamental that they enshrined it in the very first amendment of our great and beloved constitution,” President Trump said in the Rose Garden press conference today. “No American should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenets of their faith.”

On that, Mr. President, we wholeheartedly agree.

Why Are Judges Only Concerned About Anti-Muslim Bias?

Central to the legal argument of those who oppose President Trump’s executive orders restricting travel to and from six Middle East nations is the idea that his campaign rhetoric invalidates the executive orders.

In her decision against the executive order, US District Judge Leonie Brinkema from Virginia wrote, “Absent the direct evidence of animus presented by the Commonwealth, singling out these countries for additional scrutiny might not raise Establishment Clause concerns; however, with that direct evidence, a different picture emerges.” Brinkema admits that the executive order would likely have been found constitutional had it been given by any other president. She goes on to explain her opinion that President Trump’s campaign rhetoric suggests that the order “was not motivated by rational national security concerns” but “religious prejudice.”

US District Judge Derrick Watson from Hawaii concurred. Watson reasons that Trump’s comments on the campaign trail represent “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation of the Executive Order,” and that such animus was enough to violate the Constitution, even though nothing in the order is inherently illegal.

It is concerning that the precedent being set by these court decisions is that the author’s statements about the law determines its legality, not the actual text of the laws themselves. Presumably, this means any action taken by President Trump affecting Muslims will be declared unconstitutional.

Why wasn’t this novel legal standard applied to the previous administration’s actions affecting Christians, especially considering the administration’s animus toward those holding traditional religious values?

Amid the 2008 presidential primary season, then-Senator Obama, speaking of small town Americans, said that they were “bitter” and that they “cling to guns or religion.” By clearly demonstrating “religious prejudice” and “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus” toward conservative Christians, Obama’s comments could have been used to find his actions affecting conservative Christians unconstitutional, at least according the logic of the aforementioned judges.

Funny enough, Obama’s comments weren’t used to find his actions affecting Christians unconstitutional, and not for lack of opportunities. Obama administration executive orders and legislation often ended up in court on the grounds of religious freedom involving Christians, most prominently Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Martin Castro, the Obama-appointed chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights, declared that “religious liberty” and “religious freedom” were nothing but “code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.” Any reasonable person would interpret these statements as anti-Christian animus. As the head of a major federal agency, Castro’s words clearly carry weight. So why do his rhetoric and the similar statements of others in the Obama administration never seem to come up in religious freedom cases involving Christians? Why are separate standards applied in cases based on the religion in question?

The appropriate conclusion is clear: The religious liberty of Christians is not valued by mainstream America in the same way that the religious liberty of other religions is. And even more disappointing, the religious liberty of Christians isn’t valued by the courts in the same way other religions are.

As President Trump fills out the more than 100 judicial vacancies, he should make the issue of religious liberty a top priority in his selections. Judge Neil Gorsuch is a great start. Let’s hope this emphasis on religious liberty continues to be reflected in lower court appointments, too.

 

James Silberman is a guest contributor to the FPIW Blog. He is a pro-life activist from Gig Harbor, WA, and a student at Whitworth University.