As new federal regulations reportedly are imminent that would gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement that most health insurance plans cover contraceptives, two Trump administration attorneys who fought for employers to be able to cite religious beliefs as justification to deny women access to vital health care have been in the news recently.
Stanford Law School in California is a prestigious institution with a distinguished past. Founded in 1893, one of its first professors was a former president, Benjamin Harrison.
When the school opened new offices in 1975, another president, Gerald Ford, was on hand for the festivities. On its website, Stanford proudly calls itself “one of the nation’s top law schools.” U.S. News & World Report agrees and ranks the school number two in the nation, behind only Yale Law School.
Introductions are hard. I never know exactly what to share about myself upfront, so I’ll do my best to stick with the essentials. My name is Simon Brown, and I am the new communications associate at Americans United. I may be new to AU, but I’ve reported extensively on church electioneering for Tax Notes (it was my first story for that publication), so it’s fitting that my first blog post here is on this issue.
The city of Memphis, Tenn., is in the middle of a municipal election, and a large Baptist church has decided to let everyone know who the true “pro-family” candidates are. Isn’t that special?
Actually, it’s illegal.
The leadership of Bellevue Baptist in Cordova, Tenn., may think they’re being clever. The church doesn’t come right out and post its favored candidates on its website. Instead, the church links to another website that lists three candidates deemed worthy of support.
I’m often asked what the Religious Right is up to these days. Some people, noting the death of the Rev. Jerry Falwell in 2007 and the aging of leaders like Pat Robertson and Donald Wildmon, assume the movement is slowing down.
Unfortunately, that’s just not the case.
Religious Right groups and their allies in the Tea Party are giddy from their electoral successes in 2010. They’re gearing up for another round in 2012. Much of what is happening is occurring below the radar and doesn’t necessarily capture headlines. But it’s very real.
Religious Right legal groups are all excited over a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights dealing with crucifix displays in public schools in Italy.
The European high court, ruling 15-2, overturned a lower court decision and declared that the crucifixes can stay. They don’t oppress anyone’s rights, the court said, and European nations are entitled to some latitude in dealing with topics such as this.
As I’m sure everyone knows by now, the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the right of Westboro Baptist Church to picket near the funerals of soldiers who died while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In any writing about Westboro Baptist, it is important to immediately make it clear that the messages from Pastor Fred Phelps and his family are vile, obnoxious and disgusting. But, as the high court has made clear, even jerks have free-speech rights.
The Alliance Defense Fund has suddenly become an ardent supporter of church-state separation – now that the constitutional principle suits the Religious Right group’s needs.
The ADF has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Catholic and Baptist churches in Mission, Kansas, arguing that the city’s houses of worship should not have to pay a “transportation utility fee” tax to help rebuild the community’s crumbling roads. According to ADF’s lawyers, the tax is a violation of the separation of church and state.
In the run-up to last month’s elections, Americans United had to work overtime to combat church-based electioneering.
The Alliance Defense Fund and its allies in the Religious Right were working to persuade pastors to endorse or oppose candidates from the pulpit during Sunday services. AU repeatedly reminded pastors and congregants that such actions are a violation of federal law. Under the Internal Revenue Code, all 501(c)(3) non-profit groups are barred from intervening in campaigns by endorsing or opposing candidates.