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2020


June 2020

CLS HOSTS COVID-19 WEBINAR
CLS partnered with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability to host a webinar on June 9 discussing the the legal and practical considerations of resuming in-person religious activities. CLS is pleased to provide the video of the webinar and additional resources for churches and ministries considering and praying over when and how to reopen.

CENTER FILES RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BRIEF 
CLS' Center for Law and Religious Freedom filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the overruling of Employment Division v. Smith and the restoration of strong constitutional protection for religious freedom. The brief was prepared by Professor Doug Laycock and Professor Tom Berg. The case is Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.

May 2020

CENTER FILES RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT
After participating in a discussion of personal beliefs about faith while at work, Lisa Nelthrop was fired from her job for “bringing her personal beliefs into the workplace.” Though several employees participated in the discussion, Ms. Nelthrop was the only employee to be terminated.The Center for Law and Religious Freedom, in conjunction with the Whiting Law Firm, filed a religious discrimination complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Ms. Nelthrop.

April 2020

CENTER FILES COMPLAINT ON BEHALF OF THE FELLOWSHIP OF CHRISTIAN ATHLETES
On April 22, CLS' Center for Law and Religious Freedom, in conjunction with Seto Wood & Schweickert LLP, filed a federal complaint against the San Jose Unified School District and certain individual officials. This complaint was filed only after the District refused to take action after numerous complaints to the District. Previously, on January 14, 2020, the Center had sent a letter to the Superintendent of San Jose Unified School District documenting the District’s illegal refusal to recognize student-led FCA groups and subjecting the students to harassment from students and faculty.

CLS HOLDS TELEFORUM ON WHAT RELIGIOUS NONPROFITS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CARES ACT
On April 9, Reed Smith, Center Director of Litigation, moderated an excellent teleforum, Caring about CARES: What Religious Nonprofits Need to Know about Federal Emergency Relief. Anyone who represents a religious nonprofit or serves on a nonprofit board will want to visit the CLS resource page to download information and listen to the teleforum. The panel included CLS President Sally Wagenmaker of Wagenmaker & Oberly, LLC, explaining the unemployment benefits provisions that affect religious nonprofits; CLS member Stu Lark of Sherman & Howard and Center Director Kim Colby discussing the religious freedom issues to be considered by religious nonprofits that participate in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); and CLS CFO Peter Smith explaining the paperwork necessary to apply for the PPP.  

CENTER HELPS TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS NONPROFIT EMPLOYERS
When Congress provided $349 billion in cash infusions to small businesses to help them avoid layoffs, Congress included religious nonprofit employers in the Paycheck Protection Program. The Small Business Administration is responsible for implementing the program. but some pre-existing SBA regulations posed special obstacles for participation by religious nonprofits. For several weeks, the Center worked with a coalition to ensure that the SBA administers the program in a way that allows religious nonprofits to participate while also maintaining their religious freedom. The Administration issued an Interim Final Rule and an FAQ guidance document on April 3, 2020. Kim Colby explains this guidance, as well as a remaining religious freedom concern, on an April 8 Federalist Society Teleforum, Religious Freedom in a Pandemic.

March 2020

CENTER SUPPORTS RELIGIOUS CONGREGATIONS IN MISSOURI SUPREME COURT 
CLS' Center for Law and Religious Freedom joined a friend-of-the-court brief, filed in the Missouri Supreme Court by CLS members Tim Belz, Matt Belz, and Carl Esbeck, which warned against the dangers of recognizing a tort of negligent supervision of clergy. The brief explained that such lawsuits would violate the Religion Clauses’ prohibition on government intrusion into religious institutions’ autonomy.

CENTER DEFENDS A CLS CHAPTER'S RIGHT TO REMAIN ON CAMPUS
The Center filed a friend-of-the-court brief explaining the problems that the CLS student chapter has encountered over the past 20 years at the University of Iowa. In 2018, the University threatened to de-recognize over 30 religious student groups because they require their leaders to agree with the groups’ religious beliefs. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship won in the district court, but the University appealed to the Eighth Circuit. 

CENTER ONCE AGAIN FILES IN SUPPORT OF THE LITTLE SISTERS
The Little Sisters of the Poor returned to the Supreme Court yet again in their eight-year-long fight to protect their basic right to live according to their Church's teachings. The Center filed another amicus brief in their support. From 2012 to 2018, the Little Sisters were seeking a religious exemption from the HHS Mandate, but the Administration adopted regulations protecting the conscience rights of persons who objected to the Mandate, including the Little Sisters. Unfortunately, several states have successfully blocked in the lower courts the Administration's efforts to defend religious freedom, resulting the the Little Sisters trying again to protect their rights.

February 2020

CENTER FILES BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF MONETARY DAMAGES UNDER RFRA
The Center filed an amicus brief on behalf of 14 religious freedom law professors, explaining the appropriate damages permitted under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RFRA experts, Professor Doug Laycock and Professor Tom Berg, authored the well-documented brief that should be quite helpful to the justices.

January 2020

CENTER SENDS LETTERS DEMANDING ACCESS FOR RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION
After years of being allowed in the public schools, Anne Arundel County expelled Maryland Child Evangelism Fellowship ("Maryland CEF") out of the public schools in which Maryland CEF was meeting. The school system told Maryland CEF that it would have to pay thousands of dollars to return. Given CLS’ previous success in restoring Maryland CEF to schools in Anne Arundel County, Maryland CEF reached out to CLS to help regain access to schools in Anne Arundel County. On January 22, 2020, CLS' Center for Law and Religious Freedom sent a letter to Anne Arundel County Public Schools and Anne Arundel Recreation and Parks informing them that providing access to religious organizations on less favorable terms than similarly situated organizations violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Within days of the letter, Maryland CEF regained access to one school in Anne Arundel County.  

On the other side of the country, high school students in San Jose, California, for years have formed student groups associated with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes ("FCA") to discuss and encourage one another in their shared beliefs. These students met without incident until April 2019, when officials of San Jose Unified School District ("the District") unilaterally announced that the district was revoking its recognition of student FCA groups. In addition to not recognizing FCA, the district began to allow, and in some instances facilitate, harassment of FCA meeting participants. The Center sent a letter to the Superintendent of San Jose Unified School District documenting the District’s illegal refusal to recognize student-led FCA groups and subjecting the students to harassment from students and faculty. 

CENTER FILES COMMENT LETTER WITH DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
On January 10, Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom filed a comment letter with the Department of Education commending it for cleaning up outdated regulations governing many student aid programs that discriminated against religious student borrowers and faith-based organizations. The letter also urged the Department to delete all discriminatory language remaining in two regulations for which the Department sought further comments.

CENTER CO-AUTHORS LETTER PROTECTING ELDERLY IN VIRGINIA
The Center worked with local counsel to send a letter protecting the First Amendment rights of those at a senior citizen home to pray before meals. Employees at the home were ordering meal attendees not to engage in prayer - not even private prayer - over their meals and were even directing the senior citizens to pray separately in another room. These restrictions eliminated the ability of senior citizens to exercise their religious freedom to pray over their meals.


2019


December 2019

CENTER FILES STRONG PRO-LIFE BRIEF
On New Year’s Eve, the Center filed an amicus brief in support of a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to maintain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in June Medical Services v. Gee on March 4, 2020.

October 2019

BIBLE STUDY WINS BACK USE OF COMMUNITY CLUBHOUSE
The Center successfully helped a group of women regain their Bible study meeting space. Since 2015, Karen Kelly and Dottie Chapin have met on Fridays with other members of the Holiday City Retirement Community to study God’s Word.  When a new Board of Trustees was elected, however, the Homeowners Association (HOA) not only told them to stop meeting, they called the police to keep them out of the clubhouse. The HOA told the police that religious groups were “no longer welcome to meet there based upon their religious beliefs.” Dottie called CLS and asked for help getting their Bible study reinstated. Without having the clubhouse available, these Bible study members who call themselves the “Oldies” were meeting on one member’s porch, and winter was rapidly approaching. CLS sent a demand letter to the HOA’s attorney. The letter explained that by allowing other groups to use the clubhouse, but not religious groups, the HOA was violating the Fair Housing Act and also demanded that the HOA restore the Bible study’s access to the clubhouse. At its next meeting, the HOA’s Board of Trustees voted to restore the use of the clubhouse for members of the Bible study.

CENTER DEFENDS MONTANA FAMILIES' ABILITY TO CHOOSE TO ATTEND RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS
The Center filed an amicus brief on behalf of CLS and 16 leading religious organizations in the only religious freedom case on the United States Supreme Court’s docket in the new 2019 Term, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Written by Professor Tom Berg and Professor Doug Laycock, the CLS brief explains that the Montana Supreme Court erred when it struck down a tax credit for state taxpayers who donate to organizations that provide scholarships to students who attend private schools, including religious schools.

September 2019

CLS AND AMICI ASK THE COURT TO FOCUS ON RELIGIOUS FUNCTIONS OF MINISTERS
CLS spearheaded a group of six religious educational and civil liberties organizations who submitted an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit's decision in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru that a fifth-grade teacher at a Catholic school was not a minister despite having "important religious functions." In Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran School v. EEOC, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prevents ministers in religious organizations from suing the organization for employment discrimination. The Ninth Circuit held that an employee should have a religious title or religious training to be a minister. The brief, authored by Professor Tom Berg of the St. Thomas School of Law (Minneapolis) and students at the Religious Liberty Appellate Clinic, argues that government-required "credentialism" for ministers creates the very infringements on religious liberty that the First Amendment is intended to prevent.  

August 2019

PROPOSED DEPARTMENT OF LABOR RULE
The Department of Labor announced a critically important proposed rule, 84 Fed. Reg. 41677 (Aug. 15, 2019), which would protect all religious organizations’ freedom to hire persons who agree with their religious mission. Anyone can comment by clicking here or going to www.regulations.gov and entering “RIN: 1250-AA09” into the search box. Then type (or paste) a comment or upload a comment. Comment ideas and additional information are available for short or long comments. The comment period closes Monday, September 16.

CHRISTIAN SORORITY REMAINS RECOGNIZED STUDENT GROUP 
A group of Christian women students were told by administrators at a public university in Georgia that they would no longer be a recognized student group and could not participate in the upcoming student activities fair. With the help of Center attorneys, the group’s recognition was restored in time to participate in the activity fair.

July 2019

U.S. COMMISSION ON UNALIENABLE RIGHTS
CLS joined a coalition letter commending the Secretary of State for his recent formation of the U.S. Commission on Unalienable Rights. Its task is to re-examine the meaning of unalienable human rights in order to ground American foreign policy in pursuing fundamental human rights.

June 2019

PROTECTING FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS
The Center filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Archdiocese of Washington v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. At issue is whether the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) policy of refusing to accept advertisements that promote or oppose religion or reflect a religious perspective violates the First Amendment. Briefly, WMATA accepted a variety of advertisements for the exterior of its buses—including, during the winter holiday season, ads exhorting readers to shop for gifts and an ad exhorting readers to give to the Salvation Army’s charitable work. WMATA, however, rejected a Christmas ad from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington (“Archdiocese”) exhorting readers to “Find the Perfect Gift” and directing them to a website with information about opportunities to give to Catholic charitable work, as well as opportunities to attend Mass. WMATA rejected the Archdiocese’s ad on the ground that it contained religious language and an image of shepherds and a star, and thereby allegedly violated WMATA’s policy excluding advertisements that “promote or oppose any religion, religious practice or belief. 

May 2019

CLS OPPOSES SO-CALLED EQUALITY ACT
CLS joined a letter to all members of the House of Representatives outlining several reasons why the Equality Act, HR 5, is a dramatic threat to all Americans’ religious freedom, including that it severely cripples the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Unfortunately, the House passed HR 5 by a vote of 236-173. It is the first time that either the House or the Senate has voted to weaken RFRA – and every American’s religious freedom –- in the 25 years since President Clinton signed RFRA into law. The Senate is believed to be unlikely to vote on HR 5 this Congress.  

PROTECTING MICHIGAN COLLEGE STUDENTS
The Center provided a written statement to the Michigan House Oversight Committee in support of legislation to protect religious student organizations. Hearings were held in April and May.

April 2019

SENATORS INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS STUDENT GROUPS ON CAMPUS
Senator Blunt, together with Senator Scott and Senator Lankford, introduced legislation to keep religious student groups on campuses nationwide. On April 11, these senators introduced S. 1168 to prevent public universities from excluding religious student groups from campus because of their religious beliefs, speech, practices, or leadership standards. If you want to help protect religious student groups, like CLS student chapters, email and call your Senators today to respectfully ask them to co-sponsor S. 1168. Just that simple message will be great.

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Over the past four months, Center Director Kim Colby has spent many hours working to improve Department of Education regulations concerning religious freedom issues in higher education. Kim served as a member of the Faith-Based Entities Subcommittee of the Accreditation and Innovation Negotiated Rulemaking Committee for Higher Education 2018-2019, which completed its work last week. In a few months, the Department will call for public comment on these issues.

March 2019

PROTECTING MISSOURI COLLEGE STUDENTS
The Center provided a written statement to the Missouri House Higher Education Committee in support of legislation to protect religious student organizations. The legislation has passed committees in both the House and Senate but awaits floor votes. A special thanks to the CLS student leaders at University of Missouri for providing written statements and testimony to the committees.

CLS BRIEF CITED IN MINISTERIAL HOUSING ALLOWANCE DECISION 
In its recent ruling upholding the constitutionality of the ministerial housing allowance, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals cited CLS’ friend-of-the-court brief. Professor Thomas Berg and his students at the Religious Liberty Appellate Clinic at St. Thomas School of Law (Minneapolis) prepared the CLS amicus brief, which included an original analysis of the likely financial harm to the average pastor if the housing allowance were ruled unconstitutional. The Freedom From Religion Foundation had challenged the allowance as an Establishment Clause violation, but the court upheld its constitutionality.

PROTECTING IOWA CLS CHAPTERS 
The Iowa Legislature enacted HF 661 to protect religious student groups on public university campuses, and Governor Reynolds signed it into law on March 27th. The Center provided a written statement to the Iowa Senate Education Committee and the House Judiciary Committee in support of the legislation. Because of its religious beliefs, the CLS chapter at the University of Iowa has been threatened with loss of recognition as an official student group several times over the past 15 years. A special thanks to the CLS student leaders at Drake University Law School and the University of Iowa College of Law for their faithfulness this past year!

February 2019

PROTECTING STUDENTS' RIGHTS TO BE ON CAMPUS
The federal district court in Iowa ruled that the University of Iowa violated the rights of a religious organization for business students. The university de-recognized the group when the group would not allow a student to be a leader in the group because the student disagreed with the group's religious beliefs. CLS filed an amicus brief in the case back in October 2018, defending the right of religious student groups to require their leaders to agree with the groups' religious beliefs. The district court judge granted a permanent injunction banning the university from rejecting the groups. 

January 2019

PROTECTING RELIGIOUS EMPLOYERS
The Center in January filed an amicus brief in Woods v. Seattle's Union Gospel Mission on behalf of 15 religious nonprofit organizations from a variety of faiths in support of a gospel rescue mission in Seattle. The accompanying Motion to file the brief explained why the 15 organizations are concerned about this case. The issue is whether the state can interfere in a religious nonprofit’s hiring decisions when a job applicant, who is seeking employment with the religious nonprofit, admits during the application process that he or she does not agree with the nonprofit's religious beliefs. The Mission had won in the trial court, but the job applicant has appealed. The job applicant also asked the Washington Supreme Court to let him skip the intermediate state court of appeals and have his case heard next by the Washington Supreme Court itself. The court has not stated what it will do and whether the case will be heard in the court of appeals or the state supreme court.


2018


October 2018

CLS FILES TWO AMICUS BRIEFS
Protecting Religious Employees: On October 17, 2018, CLS filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Patterson v. Walgreen Co. in support of a religious employee who was fired because he needed a religious accommodation to observe his Sabbath. The brief urged the Court to grant review of an appellate court’s decision against the religious employee.

Protecting the CLS student chapter at the University of Iowa: On October 29, 2018, CLS filed a friend-of-the-court brief in BLinC v. University of Iowa in support of religious student groups on the University of Iowa campus. The University of Iowa is threatening the CLS student chapter, along with other religious student groups, with expulsion from campus because the CLS chapter requires its leaders to agree with its core Christian beliefs. In the brief, CLS defends the right of its student chapters to require their leaders to agree with basic Christian beliefs. A liberal commentator comes down on the side of the religious students in a recent article in which he confirms that many university administrators actually are hostile toward evangelical Christian student groups.

September 2018

IDAHO SUPREME COURT REJECTS ABA MODEL RULE 8.4(g)
The Idaho Supreme Court, by a vote of 3-2, decided not to adopt a resolution that would have amended Idaho Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4 to include the language of ABA Model Rule 8.4(g). The Idaho Supreme Court sent official notice of the decision to the Idaho State Bar on September 6, 2018.

August 2018

ARIZONA SUPREME COURT REJECTS ABA MODEL RULE 8.4(g)
The Supreme Court of Arizona issued a notice on August 30, 2018, stating it had denied the petition that would have amended Rule 42, Ethical Rule 8.4, Rules of the Supreme Court, to include the language of ABA Model Rule 8.4(g).

CHRISTIAN LEGAL SOCIETY'S KIM COLBY FEATURED ON THE FEDERALIST SOCIETY BLOG
On August 24, 2018, Kim Colby, the director of CLS' Center for Law & Religious Freedom, was featured on The Federalist Society Blog discussing the unconstitutionality of ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, 138 S. Ct. 2361 (U.S. June 26, 2018) ("NIFLA") and Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744 (2017).

Also in August, CLS filed supplemental comments with both the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and the Utah Supreme Court regarding proposals in both states to adopt ABA Model Rule 8.4(g). CLS had previously submitted comments to both courts before the close of the comment periods there, but filed the supplemental comments to bring to the attention of justices the decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, 138 S. Ct. 2361 (U.S. June 26, 2018), which was after the close of the comment periods in both Maine and Utah.

July 2018

CHRISTIAN LEGAL SOCIETY WELCOMES THE NOMINATION OF A TESTED FRIEND OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH
Christian Legal Society (CLS) welcomes the nomination of a tested friend of religious freedom, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to serve on the United States Supreme Court. As our Nation celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, it is particularly fitting that a Supreme Court nominee be someone who has demonstrated a keen appreciation for the importance of its role in protecting all Americans’ religious freedom. Judge Kavanaugh has demonstrated a real commitment to protecting citizens’ religious speech. CLS’ Center for Law and Religious Freedom’s primary focus for four decades has been to safeguard all Americans’ right to express their religious beliefs and values in the public square. Adding yet another strong voice for freedom of speech to the Supreme Court is a very positive development. Click here to read more.

June 2018

SUPREME COURT AFFIRMS FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS IN MASTERPIECE CAKESHOP CASE
We celebrate with Jack Phillips for his win today in the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 4, 2018, in a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the First Amendment rights of religious individuals by protecting Jack Phillips in the Masterpiece case, while striking down the apparent hostility that had been voiced against people of faith. The Supreme Court "concluded that the State’s interest could have been weighed against Phillips’ sincere religious objections in a way consistent with the requisite religious neutrality that must be strictly observed."

The Court's decision discussed many issues, including the Free Exercise rights of Jack, the baker. The CLS brief was mentioned at oral argument and provided the legal analysis of the Free Exercise claims that the Court majority seemed to follow in ruling for Jack Phillips. We are pleased with the decision and that the CLS brief seemed to have such a good influence on the outcome.

CLS issued a press release applauding the Supreme Court's respect for religious freedom. 

Center Director Kim Colby spoke on the Federalist Society Religious Liberties Practice Group Teleforum after the Masterpiece ruling was announced. You can hear the hour long discussion here.

Kim Colby also spent an afternoon with Mike Schutt on the CLS podcast Cross & Gavel discussing the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision. Click here to listen to the podcast. A copy of the podcast transcript is available here.

May 2018

CLS FILES COMMENT LETTER REGARDING ABA MODEL RULE 8.4(g) IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
On May 25, 2018, CLS filed a comment letter with the New Hampshire Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules, which is studying three versions of ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) for possible adoption there.

CLS FILES COMMENT LETTER REGARDING ABA MODEL RULE 8.4(g) IN ARIZONA
On May 3, 2018, CLS filed a comment letter with the Arizona Supreme Court, which is studying ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) for possible adoption there.

April 2018

TENNESSEE SUPREME COURT REJECTS ABA MODEL RULE 8.4(g)
The Supreme Court of Tennessee issued an Order on April 23, 2018, denying the petition of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility and the Tennessee Bar Association to adopt new Rule 8, RPC 8.4(g).

CLS DEFENDS CONGREGATIONS AND CLERGY OF ALL FAITHS FROM HISTORIC ATTACK ON THEIR ABILITY TO SERVE
CLS filed a brief to help protect clergy of all faiths from a higher tax bill. A group hostile to religion seeks to take away the housing allowance for clergy, a tax provision that is deeply embedded in the fabric of our national life.

March 2018

PROTECTING DOCTORS' AND NURSES' RELIGIOUS CONSCIENCES 
CLS submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in support of new actions by HHS to defend health workers’ right not to participate in abortions. 

CLS SUBMITS LETTERS IN SUPPORT OF IOWA LEGISLATION TO PROTECT CAMPUS RELIGIOUS GROUPS
CLS submitted two letters to Iowa state legislators (Support for Iowa SF 2344 and Overview of Other States' Laws) that are considering passing legislation to protect the ability of religious groups to have access to university campuses.

CLS FILES PRO-LIFE BRIEF IN THE SUPREME COURT
CLS filed a friend-of-the-court brief in First Resort v. Herrera in which CLS urged the Court to review a Ninth Circuit ruling that would allow the government to regulate religious ministries’ speech, including pro-life pregnancy resource centers.

February 2018

CHURCHES AND RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS ARE ELIGIBLE FOR DISASTER RELIEF
For too long, FEMA denied churches and religious schools disaster relief that was available to other charities. On February 8, 2018, Congress changed that to end FEMA’s discrimination against religious ministries. Back in November 2017, CLS had joined a coalition letter urging Congress to act.

CLS SUPPORTS PROTECTIONS FOR RELIGIOUS STUDENTS IN SOUTH DAKOTA
CLS submitted a written statement urging the South Dakota state legislature to adopt protections for religious student groups that want to meet on public university campuses.