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2011 Victories and Challenges for Religious Liberty

Posted By Sarah Torre On December 28, 2011 @ 4:30 pm In Featured | Comments Disabled

As the year draws to a close, we take a look back at a few of the victories and challenges for religious liberty during the past 12 months and look forward to greater respect and protection for religious liberty in 2012.

HHS “Preventive Service” Mandate

In August, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a rule [1] that forces nearly all private health care plans to include coverage for certain contraceptives and surgical sterilization. The mandate’s threat to religious freedom [2] has already caused a stir in the nation’s capital [3] and motivated a lawsuit [4] by a religious college affected by the rule.

Same-Sex Marriage and Charitable Services

Religious adoption and foster care agencies who object to placing children with same-sex couples are under increasing pressure [5] to violate their beliefs or get out of the social welfare business. This year Catholic Charities in Illinois [6] joined the growing list [7] of religious charities that have opted to stop providing [8] adoption or foster care services rather than violate their religious and moral convictions.

Freedom of Conscience for Pharmacy Owner

After fighting an extensive legal battle asking the state to respect their religious objections to providing Plan B, an abortifacient drug, two pro-life pharmacy owners in Illinois finally found religious liberty protection this year. A state court concluded [9] that requiring the pharmacy owners to provide the emergency contraceptive violates [10] both state and federal laws.

Religious Freedom on Public Campuses

One issue is whether religious student organizations at public universities should be free to select members and leaders who agree with the religious beliefs of the organizations. Just this month, for example, the Alliance Defense Fund sought Supreme Court review [11] for two Christian student organizations that were denied official recognition by San Diego State University because the organizations wished to require members and/or leaders to agree with the religious beliefs of the organizations.

Religious Staffing by Religious Institutions

 

The freedom to select staff on a religious basis is, for many religious institutions, an essential tool for maintaining religious integrity and identity. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments [12] in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, a case described as involving “the extent to which the government can control a church’s selection of religious leaders.” [13] In another case, the Court denied review [14] of a federal appeals court decision that extended federal protections for religious staffing to a Christian humanitarian organization and did not limit those protections to traditional houses of worship.

Prayer at Veterans Cemeteries

In October, veterans’ groups in Houston, Texas, achieved an important victory [15] for religious freedom. Several groups, represented by the Texas-based Liberty Institute [16], secured a consent decree that, according to the Liberty Institute [17], requires “the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to stop banning prayer and the word ‘God’ at national cemeteries.”

Rising to the Challenge: New Initiatives to Defend Religious Freedom

While challenges to religious freedom are on the rise, so is the defense of religious freedom. This year, several new initiatives [18] were launched to protect religious freedom and the expression of religious beliefs in the public square. These include:

To stay up-to-date on many of these and other religious liberty issues in the new year, subscribe to the DeVos Center’s weekly newsletter, Culture Watch [23].


Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2011/12/28/2011-victories-and-challenges-for-religious-liberty/

URLs in this post:

[1] issued a rule: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/

[2] threat to religious freedom: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/08/hhss-new-health-guidelines-trample-on-conscience

[3] the nation’s capital: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/11/obama-supporters-worried-he-may-grant-contraception-exemptions-to-catholic-hospitals/

[4] motivated a lawsuit: http://www.becketfund.org/belmont-abbey-college-v-sebelius-2011-current/

[5] increasing pressure: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/04/from-culture-wars-to-conscience-wars-emerging-threats-to-conscience

[6] Catholic Charities in Illinois: http://blog.heritage.org../../../../../2011/06/01/civil-union-law-forces-catholic-charities-to-drop-adoption-service/

[7] growing list: http://blog.heritage.org../../../../../2011/05/23/another-christian-adoption-agency-burdened-by-state-sponsored-intolerance/

[8] opted to stop providing: http://blog.heritage.org../../../../../2011/07/14/charities-become-collateral-damage-in-the-debate-over-marriage/

[9] concluded: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/04/why-does-the-illinois-government-oppose-the-religious-liberty-of-pharmacists

[10] violates: http://aclj.org/pro-life/2011-victories-conscience-rights-prolife-pharmacists-protected

[11] sought Supreme Court review: http://blog.heritage.org../../../../../2011/12/22/adf-seeks-supreme-court-review-for-christian-student-groups/

[12] heard oral arguments: http://blog.heritage.org../../../../../2011/10/05/religious-freedom-under-attack-in-supreme-court-today/

[13] “the extent to which the government can control a church’s selection of religious leaders.”: http://www.becketfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Public-Briefing-Paper-10-3-11.pdf

[14] denied review: http://blog.heritage.org../../../../../2011/10/06/christian-charity-free-to-staff-on-a-religious-basis/

[15] important victory: http://blog.heritage.org../../../../../2011/10/24/veterans%E2%80%99-groups-win-right-to-religious-freedom/

[16] Liberty Institute: http://www.libertylegal.org/

[17] according to the Liberty Institute: http://files.2dialog.com/liberty/10-19-11-victory.pdf

[18] new initiatives: http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs020/1102433538532/archive/1107935942134.html#LETTER.BLOCK8

[19] congressional briefings on religious freedom: http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs020/1102433538532/archive/1107935942134.html#LETTER.BLOCK7

[20] Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance: http://marriageada.org/

[21] American Religious Freedom Program: http://www.religiousfreedom.net/

[22] Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty: http://www.usccb.org/news/2011/11-184.cfm

[23] Culture Watch: http://www.heritage.org/initiatives/family-and-religion

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