Federal Court Rejects Another Bogus 'Religious Liberty' Claim From Religious Right

The Tenth Circuit today released its opinion in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, becoming the latest federal appellate court to reject the claim that the Obama Administration’s contraception coverage accommodation for religious nonprofits violates their religious liberty.

This is the latest effort by the far right to redefine “religious liberty” and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to use as a sword to deprive third parties of their legal rights.  Under RFRA, no federal law imposing a substantial burden on religious exercise can be sustained unless it is the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling government purpose.

The Tenth Circuit now joins the DC Circuit, the Third Circuit, the Fifth Circuit, and the Seventh Circuit in rejecting this attack on the accommodation for religious nonprofits.  Notably, all these decisions came after the Supreme Court rewrote the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in the Hobby Lobby case, giving certain for-profit corporations and their owners greater latitude to exempt themselves from laws they find personally offensive.  (The Sixth Circuit also reached the same conclusion, but it is still in the process of reconsidering it to make sure it is consistent with Hobby Lobby.)

The Obama Administration created a process whereby religious nonprofits can exempt themselves from the federal requirement that its employees have certain contraception healthcare coverage: Fill out a form (or now, just send a letter) and let the Department of Health and Human Services know that you won’t be providing it and say who your insurance carrier is, so that officials can inform them of their legal requirements to provide the coverage.  The religious right has called even this accommodation a violation of the religious liberty rights of nonprofits, saying it makes them complicit in the provision of contraception that violates their religious beliefs.

The Tenth Circuit concluded that the accommodation does not substantially burden Plaintiffs’ religious exercise and therefore does not violate RFRA.  The court stated:

The accommodation relieves Plaintiffs from complying with the Mandate and guarantees they will not have to provide, pay for, or facilitate contraceptive coverage.  Plaintiffs do not “trigger” or otherwise cause contraceptive coverage because federal law, not the act of opting out, entitles plan participants and beneficiaries to coverage.  Although Plaintiffs allege the administrative tasks required to opt out of the Mandate make them complicit in the overall delivery scheme, opting out instead relieves them from complicity.

The court does not question the sincerity of the plaintiffs’ assertion that filling out the form violates their religious beliefs.  But it also pointed out that under RFRA, whether a burden is substantial is a legal question that is up to the court, not the plaintiff, to answer:

If plaintiffs could assert and establish that a burden is “substantial” without any possibility of judicial scrutiny, the word “substantial” would become wholly devoid of independent meaning.  Furthermore, accepting any burden alleged by Plaintiffs as “substantial” would improperly conflate the determination that a religious belief is sincerely held with the determination that a law or policy substantially burdens religious exercise.  (internal citation removed)

Whether it’s women’s ability to access their legal right to healthcare or same-sex couples’ ability to exercise their constitutional right to marry, imagine the chaos if people could simply exempt themselves from – and severely weaken – laws they disapprove of by citing their personal religious beliefs.

But that is a recipe for a Balkanized society, not a healthy pluralistic democracy.  Citing a previous case, the Tenth Circuit states: “Law accommodates religion; it cannot wholly exempt religion from the reach of the law.”

This post originally appeared on the blog of People For the American Way.

Kevin Swanson: U.S. Will Put 'Millions Of People In Jail' For Their Religion

Steve Deace invited fellow Religious Right radio host Kevin Swanson on to his program last week, and both were furious that the U.S. opposed a United Nations resolution which LGBT rights advocates worried “could be used as precedent to oppose rights for same-sex couples, single parents, and other forms of families in future UN negotiations.”

Deace pointed to the resolution as a sign that the U.S. has “now out-crazied the United Nations,” while Swanson managed to pull off an even more ominous warning to listeners: prepare to go to jail.

“Get ready to go to jail,” Swanson. “I’m talking about millions of people in jail within the next five years or so unless we take a stand right now.”

Roy Moore: First Amendment 'Implicitly Recognizes God'

In a 2008 interview with far-right radio host Kevin Swanson, Roy Moore, now the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, attacked proponents of the separation of church and state, claiming that “the First Amendment itself implicitly recognizes God.”

Swanson asked Moore if the “kneejerk reaction to any reference to our Christian God, our Christian past, to the Bible” was “due to a minority of atheists that are making an enormous amount of noise.”

“It’s due to that,” Moore responded, “it’s also due to ignorance of our past, our history and our law. You know, right now there’s an exclusion of anything about God from our public life. Indeed, they say they cannot refer to God because of the First Amendment. But without the reference to God, without the acknowledgement that there is a God that gives us liberty, freedom of thought, there would be no First Amendment.

“In other words, the First Amendment itself implicitly recognizes God because of our history and our past.”

Barton: GOP Presidential Candidates Must Vow To Nominate SCOTUS Justices Who Will Overturn Gay Marriage Decision

On today's "WallBuilders Live" radio broadcast, David Barton declared that Christians cannot vote for any candidate in the GOP primary that will not pledge to nominate Supreme Court justices who will overturn the court's recent gay marriage ruling.

"If you get a different administration, you can get some different Supreme Court justices," Barton said. "How many times in the last 30 years has the Supreme Court overturned itself? It did that on nativity scenes, it did that on Ten Commandments monuments, it has done that on homosexuality, it has done that on a number of issues where it reverses itself. So you get some different justices in there and they'll vote to bring a case back before them on this issue and you may see a complete change as a result."

After Barton and co-host Rick Green lamented how different things would have been had Robert Bork been confirmed to the Supreme Court instead of Anthony Kennedy, Barton declared that Republican candidates "are lining up now and you need to be asking the question of every one, where are they on the marriage issue and where are they on judges and if you don't get the right answer, then find a different candidate."

GOP Rep: Democrats Must Apologize For Confederate Flag Or 'Shut Up'

Last week, the House descended into chaos after the GOP tried to strip language from an interior appropriations bill that would make sure that the Confederate flag isn’t displayed in National Parks. Rep. Ken Calvert, the California Republican who chairs the Interior subcommittee, added an amendment to the bill to remove the language at the behest of the House GOP leadership, which, according to Calvert, was acting “at the request of some southern Members of the Republican Caucus.”

However, Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, told conservative radio host Sam Malone last week that Democrats should “shut up” about the issue since 150 years ago many of the Confederate leaders came from the Democratic Party, which apparently hasn’t changed at all since then!

“The Democrats have no standing whatsoever to talk about that flag because that was the flag of their party during the Civil War, that was their battle flag, not our battle flag, our battle flag was the stars and stripes with President Lincoln,” Olson said. “They have no credibility. Just shut up. Apologize now.”

So there it is, a move to defend the Confederate flag spearheaded by Republican members “from Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, Alabama and Virginia” and then championed by the GOP leadership is really, Olson implies, the fault of the Democrats.

Roy Moore Urged Christians To Pull Kids Out Of Public Schools That Teach Evolution

In a 2006 interview with far-right radio host Kevin Swanson, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore — who was then between his two stints on the state Supreme Court — lamented that public schools were teaching students about Islam and the theory of evolution, saying Christian parents couldn’t “justify sending their children to schools where they teach that they weren’t created in the image of God, that they evolved from monkeys.”

Moore also repeated his insistence that that Rep. Keith Ellison, who had just been elected as the first Muslim member of Congress, should not be allowed to take his seat in the House if he swore his oath of office on a Koran, saying that such events were leading to the “destruction of our society and our nation from within.”

Asked by Swanson about Ellison’s election, Moore responded that it was “a very bad indication of where we are going” and claimed that the congressman-elect was “known to associate with groups that actually oppose the Constitution.”

“This Ellison wants to swear on the Koran and basically swear that his law supersedes the Constitution of the United States, and he shouldn’t be seated,” he said.

Swanson agreed, saying, “If we begin to bring humanist socialists denying the existence of God or Muslims denying the word of God, the Bible, that is the foundation of this country, I think we’ve got tyranny to look forward to. I’m not sure if it’s the Muslim kind or the socialist kind, but either kind is bad.”

“Either kind is bad,” Moore replied, “and you’re right, when we start doing that, we’re basically looking at the destruction of our society and our nation from within. We’ve never been defeated by a foreign power and we’re asking to be defeated by our own actions here.”

Later in the interview, Moore lamented that Ellison’s election shows the American people’s “ignorance” of the divine origins of the U.S., as also exemplified by the fact that on Thanksgiving “they teach in school it’s thanksgiving to the Indians and not to God.”

Citing a lawsuit over one California elementary school’s Islamic studies program, Moore claimed,“California schools are teaching Islam in their schools. They’re teaching the kids how to pray, when to pray and how to go to Mecca, and that is going to spread across our country if we don’t wake up.”

“I think that we’ve got to recognize that the state’s role is not to teach our children,” he told Swanson. “That doesn’t mean you can’t send them there if you want, but if you do, you’ve got to justify that some way. And I don’t think Christians can actually justify sending their children to schools where they teach that they weren’t created in the image of God, that they evolved from monkeys.” (This, incidentally, is not actually what the theory of evolution teaches.)

When Swanson asked Moore what God thought of all of this, Moore responded, “I think that when He sees us welcoming in gods that are not the God upon which we were founded, we’ve got trouble.”

Citing a passage from Chronicles in which God tells Solomon that He will uproot his people and destroy their temple if they start worshiping other gods, Moore warned, “That’s what we’re doing and that’s what’s liable to happen if we continue to do it.”

Anti-Gay Preacher: Supreme Court Justices Blackmailed By Secret Gay Lovers

Yesterday, notorious “Stone Homos” pastor James David Manning appeared on “Trunews” for a “discussion about Barack Obama’s satanic assault on America’s morality.”

Not only did Manning spend time criticizing President Obama, but he also castigated the Supreme Court, arguing that “the Devil himself has written this opinion” on marriage equality.

He also told host Rick Wiles that “perhaps [Justice] Kennedy and many of those who are on the Supreme Court have had sodomite relations themselves” and were being blackmailed by their secret gay lovers: “They have got to support this sodomy, they’ve got to say it or otherwise they get exposed.”

Manning said people don’t realize that the court’s ruling on same-sex marriage will lead to the fall of America: “Fifty years from now people will look back at this period and say, ‘My God from Zion, how could a nation have fallen, how could the mighty have fallen so quickly and so far and so low?’”

“If there’s anybody still alive in the United States of America 50 years from now,” Wiles added.

The “Trunews” host explained that “this country is ripe to be overthrown” since “we no longer have the Lord’s protection” and “the Lord is no longer obligated to defend the United States of America,” warning that “there’s a great attitude adjustment coming to the United States very, very soon.”

Scarborough: Gay Parents Will Drive Their Children 'Into An Early Grave Called Hell'

Last night, Vision America's Rick Scarborough spoke at St. Andrew Baptist Church in Panama City, Florida, as part of the church's weekly "Spiritual Revolution - Reclaiming America" series, where he declared that the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision will kill this nation and warned that children will now be adopted by gay parents and wind up in Hell.

"The reason Satan is trying to destroy this country right now is because we send more missionaries, do more good than any nation in history," Scarborough thundered. "But that's all at stake right now because by the act of five unelected judges mandated something upon this country that, for the first time could kill it!"

Gay marriage is far worse than abortion, he explained, because Christians can simply "opt out" and refuse to have abortions but "when homosexuals begin lining up to adopt those children, they will literally disciple them into an early grave called Hell."

Rick Wiles: Christians Must Leave 'America's New Transvestite Army'

End Times broadcaster Rick Wiles blasted the U.S. military yesterday for moving to end the ban on transgender service members, which Wiles pointed to as proof that America is turning into Babylon and “descending into the pit of filthy lewdness.”

Rather than serve alongside “transvestites,” Wiles said, “all Christians in the U.S. Armed Forces must now come out and all pastors must now announce to their congregations that young men and women in the churches should not enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces.”

“Shame on the U.S. military for capitulating to Barack Obama’s sexual perversion,” the “Trunews” host said. “History will shame them for their moral cowardliness.”

Wiles also warned of a nuclear war with Russia, which he says has plans to use military force to stop America’s “gay delirium.” And “of course those nuclear weapons will go up against America’s new transvestite army.”

Troy Newman: God Sending 'Weather Patterns' & Gay Rights As Judgment For Abortion

Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman joined Jim Schneider on VCY America’s “Crosstalk” program last week to discuss his efforts to shut down abortion providers, who he said are bringing God’s judgment down on America.

When a caller asked about God’s judgment for legal abortion, Newman responded that God doesn’t always make His displeasure known with “some sort of cataclysmic judgment, like the Flood” but often comes “one step at a time, one small step until the people groan so heavily and they return back to God and then they’re slowly restored.”

“If you look at what’s going on in America….we’ve had some terrible weather patterns lately, our economic clout has been taken away, the stock market is artificially inflated, there’s a lot of people that are predicting collapse there, the dollar is a fiat currency, is on shaky ground, our moral decay, our morals have decayed so far, the attack on Christians and people of faith,” he said.

“You know, it’s easier to be a homosexual in this country than it is to be a Christian, you’re a protected class there while we’re a minority. I just think that at some point, people, this country’s going to have to hit the reset button.”

Newman has previously blamed the drought in California on that state’s liberal abortion laws.

Another caller asked Newman to respond to “a lot of these religious denominations that affirm abortion” and “give ecclesiastical cover for this just outrageous and demonic activity.”

“The scripture is clear that those that handle the word of God and claim to be ministers of the Gospel will be held to a higher degree of judgment,” Newman responded. These religious denominations “that approve of abortion and homosexuality and other sins,” he said, would then receive especially harsh judgment from God.

“I don’t want to be on the Day of Judgment, period, but I definitely don’t want to be in their shoes,” he said.

Newman also answered the caller’s question about the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, saying, “It’s time that we really stop giving so much weight and credence to the judges that are making up law.”

Newman said that, as a pastor, he would refuse to marry same-sex couples (something no pastor is being forced to do anyway), just as he is refusing to buy health insurance or pay a fine in defiance of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act.

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