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Randall Krause filed a lawsuit against the Tulsa County Library Commission. Evidently, the Commission maintains a recycling program and, according to Krause, it constitutes an undue burden on the Free Exercise of his environmentalism. Learn what criteria the court uses to decide what constitutes a religion at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

A Federal Court in Oklahoma has ruled that despite the religious ardor of some of its adherents, Environmentalism is not a religion.

Randall Krause filed a lawsuit against the Tulsa County Library Commission. Evidently, the Commission maintains a recycling program and according to Krause, it constitutes an undue burden on the free exercise of his “Environmentalism”.

Krause alleged that the Commission had placed “fake recycling bins” throughout town, victimizing him and other adherents to Environmentalism.

Well, the judge didn’t buy the argument.

Environmentalism is not a religion

Image: Chris White

Dismissing the case, the court explained that Krauss had failed to establish that his Environmentalism was anything more than personal preferences and secular believes without foundation in any religion. And, even if it were, the “fake recycling bins” placed around town did not amount to a course of law meriting protection by the First Amendment.

Determining what is religion is difficult for any court. But, as the Supreme Court has explained, religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.

But the court does require beliefs to be rooted in a religion in order to trigger protection under the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment.

For now, at least in Tulsa, Environmentalism does not constitute a valid religion. But it leaves me with one nagging question: Is a “fake recycling bin” just a trash can? 

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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The Supreme Court declared that the Bible was “worthy of study” and could be “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education” in the public schools.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Recently, we discussed the case of Abington vs. Schempp. I explained that the Supreme Court declared that the Bible was “worthy of study” and could be “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education in the public schools.”

But, as I said at the conclusion, exactly how that happens is a more difficult question.

Several groups, including the American Jewish Congress, National Bible Association, and the People for the American Way have agreed that the Constitution permits schools to teach about religion and the Bible without resorting to indoctrination in violation of the First Amendment.

How Public Schools Can Teach the Bible

Image: ABBY CARR

Here’s how:

  • The schools approach to religion should be academic not devotional.
  • The school should strive for student awareness of religions, but should not press for student acceptance of any religion.
  • The school may sponsor study about religion, but may not sponsor the practice of religion.
  • The school may expose students to a diversity of religious views, but may not impose, discourage, or encourage any particular view.
  • The school may educate about all religions, but may not promote or denigrate any religion.
  • The school may inform the student about various believes, but should not seek to conform him or her to any particular belief.

While it may be difficult to teach a course on the Bible at a public school, it is neither impossible nor illegal.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

 First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Many employers provide religious accommodation for their employees but are they required to? Learn about Linda Tisby’s case at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Linda Tisby worked as a corrections officer for the Camden County Correctional Facility in New Jersey. In 2015, she became a member of the Sunni Muslim faith. When she showed up to work as a Muslim for the first time, she was wearing a khimar – a religious head covering. Her supervisor said that that did not comply with the uniform policy; but Tisby refused to remove it.

Are Employers Required to Accommodate the Religion of Their Employees?

Image: Joey McGuire

She was sent home with disciplinary charges and eventually, she sought a religious accommodation from the department. But the warden refused, stating that the allowing of such a head covering would be an undue hardship for the facility. She refused to comply with the uniform policy and she was fired.

The warden maintained throughout the litigation that followed that the uniform policy applied uniformly and that no exceptions had been made to allow religious head coverings. The court recognized the sincerity of Tisby’s believes but agreed with the warden, finding that his concerns for safety and security were legitimate, nondiscriminatory, and any accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the correctional facility.

Employers are not required to sacrifice the safety and security of their employees to accommodate the religion of their employees. But, it is good to know that the law provides such deference to an employee – that an employer has to show that they did everything they could to accommodate an employee’s religion.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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A court found that a Catholic Diocese in Indiana had the right to make staffing decisions according to their religious mission.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Mary Beth Ginalski was hired by the Catholic Diocese of Gary, Indiana to be the Principal for Andrean High School. Her contract specifically noted that the job of Principal of a Catholic High School is a ministry. It went on to explain that such a ministry is witnessed not only in the manner in which the Principal performs his or her tasks, but also in the example the Principal sets for the teachers and students both in and outside the school and parish. Further, the contract noted that the Principal coordinates faith-building opportunities within the school community, oversees the Theology Program, and ensures that the Catholic Faith is integrated with the learning process in coordination with the Campus Chaplain.

Diocese in Indiana had the right to make staffing decisions

Image: John J. Watkins

So, when Ginalski sued the Diocese over her termination, the question became whether the Diocese could choose its ministerial leader and, therefore, be exempt from employment laws that would have otherwise presented a legal burden to the school.

The Court found Ginalski to meet the definition of “minister” and that the Diocese was entitled to use the same ministerial exception that permits churches and other religious organizations to ensure its ministry is non-hindered by those it believes may not fully advance its ministry objectives.

Religious Freedom means that religious ministries should be able to direct their religious mission, which includes staffing decisions, without interference by the State.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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The Liberty Christian Center in Watertown, New York, asked for permission to use the Watertown High School Cafeteria for its religious services. The local school board denied the application and use of school property.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

The Liberty Christian Center in Watertown, New York asked for permission to use the Watertown High School Cafeteria for its religious services. As their application stated, the worship services to be conducted in the public school cafeteria would include activities of: music, religious instruction, and Christian testimony.

Can Religious Organizations Use Public School Grounds for Religious Activities?

Image: Watertown School District

But, the local school board denied the application, stating that since New York law did not specifically authorize religious organizations to utilize public school buildings, the application has to be denied.

The court reviewed previous uses of the public school cafeteria. It found that, among other uses, the school had been used to host a local talent night, which featured religious music, religious instruction, and even Christian testimony.

Since both the worship service and the local talent show shared a religious purpose and context, it was unlawful for the school to permit the talent show but deny the use of the facility for a worship service.

Some decry the use of a public school by a religious organization as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That is simply not true. The First Amendment demands that the school board be neutral toward religion, letting the secular organization use school property but denying a religious organization the same use is not neutrality, it’s hostility.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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The wait for the Supreme Court nomination is now over. His qualifications for the office are unquestionable. But what does his record reflect on the issue of religious liberty?

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

The long wait to see what kind of a judge President Trump would appoint to the nation’s Highest Court is now over. Just ahead looms the confirmation battle for Judge Neil Gorsuch. His qualifications for the office are unquestionable. With degrees from Columbia, Harvard and Oxford, there can be little doubt about his intelligence.

Supreme Court Nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch's Record on Religious Freedom

Image: Alex Wong

But what about his record as a judge?

Well, at First Liberty Institute, we have one criterion for evaluating judicial candidates: Does his record reflect a history of upholding the Constitution, especially as to religious liberty?

Well, I’m happy to say that it does!

Judge Gorsuch wrote in joined opinions supporting the rights of ministries like Little Sisters of the Poor and closely held family businesses like Hobby Lobby to be free from the burden imposed by the Health and Human Services’ abortion pill mandate.

He wrote or signed opinions upholding the Constitutionality of the public display of Ten Commandments monuments and even wrote an opinion defending the existence of cross-shaped memorials for fallen state troopers.

Whether Neil Gorsuch will adequately fill the shoes of the late Justice Scalia is impossible to fully predict. What we can say with some confidence is that Judge Gorsuch has a history of defending the First Amendment from the bench.

We hope that Justice Gorsuch which will live up to the American people’s expectation and strongly protect our Constitutional freedoms.

 

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Many of the stories you hear on the First Liberty Briefing come from the cases we are working on at First Liberty Institute. Others are drawn from the body of cases that we use to ply our religious liberty trade. But, many of the stories that we tell are drawn from Undeniable, our annual survey on religious hostility in America.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

On the occasion of our 100th episode, let me give you a peek behind the curtain of this program.

We started the First Liberty Briefing because we wanted to tell the story of Religious Liberty in America. Most of us know something about the First Amendment and others have heard about various protections in the law for our Religious Liberty, but unless you’re paying careful attention you may have missed how Religious Liberty unfolds in everyday life.

At First Liberty Institute, we protect Religious Liberty for all Americans. That is why we sample stories from each of our four areas of focus: Religious Liberty in the Church, the schools, military, and public square.

But perhaps you’ve wondered where we get all of these stories. Well, many of them come from the cases that we’re working on – real clients facing real threats. Others are drawn from the body of cases that we use to ply or Religious Liberty trade.

A Peak Behind the First Liberty Briefing

Image: Olivier Douliery

But, many of the stories that we tell are drawn from Undeniable – our annual survey on religious hostility in America. For the last several years, we’ve collected and published a sizable book cataloging the annual threats our Religious Liberty faces.

So, whether you read Undeniable or listen to The First Liberty Briefing, thanks for partnering with First Liberty to preserve and defend Religious Liberty.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Last week, Donald Trump recited the Oath of Office, ending with the traditional declaration, “So help me God.” Some question whether George Washington actually said “So help me God,” starting a tradition maintained by most of our presidents. But, we do know Washington’s other words.

Every four years, Americans experience and national transition as a new Executive is inaugurated. Donald Trump recited the Oath of Office, ending with the traditional declaration, “So help me, God.”

Some question whether George Washington actually said, “So help me, God”, starting a tradition maintained by most of our Presidents. But we do know Washington’s other words.

Moments after taking the oath, Washington retreated inside Federal Hall and offered his Inaugural Address. As he remarked,

The Tradition Behind “So Help Me God” in our Inaugural Address

Image: Kristin Hopper

“It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides the Councils of nations, and whose Providential aids can supply every human defect that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of United States.”

He continued addressing his “homage to the great Author of every public and private good”, by reminding his audience that “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand, which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of United States.”

These are the words of the same man who would remind our nation at the end of his presidency that “…both religion and morality are indispensable supports of political happiness.”

So today, our nation joins President Trump as he implores God’s help while in office.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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City elders in City of Port Jervis, New York passed an ordinance that banned houses of worship to use land within a designated business district. Learn more about how the Department of Justice intervened atFirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

The City of Port Jervis, New York had to act quickly when it was sued by the United States Department of Justice. Port Jervis maintained a zoning scheme that allowed churches to occupy a facility within what it called the Central Business District.

City Ordinance Discriminates Against Houses of Worship

Image: Elaine Ruxton

So, Goodwill Evangelical Presbyterian Church entered into an agreement to purchase property within that district. Soon after, the City elders passed a new ordinance that banned the use of land within the Central Business District for purposes of places of worship. The City rationalized the ban on all houses of worship, regardless of religious tradition, by noting that the presence of a house of worship would cause problems of parking, commercial development, and liquor licensing.

That’s when the United States Department of Justice decided that it should intervene. Two days after the DOJ filed its lawsuit alleging that the City had treated religious institutions differently from secular institutions that would have had a nearly identical effect, the City of Port Jervis gave up. The City agreed to rescind the law, engage in religious land use training, and allow the Department of Justice to monitor future applications.

Cities are welcome to make zoning decisions, so long as they do so in an equal, nondiscriminatory manner. It is unlawful for a city to preclude a house of worship while allowing a secular organization to proceed in a similar manner. Cities must treat churches in the same way that it treats theaters, veterans halls, and nonprofit organizations.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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An Amish group in Western Kentucky is claiming that the City of Auburn is targeting them with a horse manure ordinance. The question is, how should we balance religious liberty and health safety concerns in America

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

In Western Kentucky, Amish residents have filed a lawsuit against the City of Auburn, alleging one of its ordinances imposes a burden upon the free exercise of their religion. The ordinance has been on the books for several years and dozens of Amish have been cited for violating the law. Some have paid the fine that comes with the violation, while others have refused in protest.Religious Liberty and Health Safety Concerns

As you may know, the Amish live simply, refusing most modern conveniences including motor vehicles, as their religion teaches.  Instead the Amish are known for driving their horse and buggy through town. And, where there are horses, there soon follows horse manure.

So, the city of Auburn passed an ordinance requiring that horses traveling through Auburn be fitted with a… well, let’s just call it a “manure collection system”.

The Amish believe that the ordinance is specifically targeting them, and is therefore religious discrimination.

This will be a very interesting case to watch. On the one hand, the ordinance in question has exceptions, so it is probably not a law generally applicable to everyone, which makes it more likely to be found in violation of the Constitution.

On the other hand, the City has a compelling justification for the ordinance – not only does mature stink, but it also takes a long time to degrade and transmits disease.

Either way, it’s an interesting lesson in how we balance Religious Liberty in America.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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