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Life, Liberty, & the Supreme Court (Part 1)

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy
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September 21, 2020 10:11 am

Life, Liberty, & the Supreme Court (Part 1)

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy

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September 21, 2020 10:11 am

This week on Family Policy Matters, NC Family brings you Part 1 of a 2-part excerpt from our Virtual Event on Life, Liberty, & the Supreme Court. This event featured John Stonestreet, Ryan Anderson, and Matt Sharp discussing recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the sanctity of life and religious freedom.

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MUSIC You will feel better equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state, and nation. Today we bring you part one of an excerpt from NC Family's virtual event on Life, Liberty, and the U.S. Supreme Court, which took place on September 10, 2020. This event featured John Stonestreet of the Colson Center for Christian World View, Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation, and Matt Sharp, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom. Well, good evening and welcome to the North Carolina Family Policy Council series of virtual events entitled Understanding North Carolina's Dynamic Landscape. This is the second part of a five-part series as we take a look at some of the most pressing issues facing our culture today. Tonight we're taking a look at Life, Liberty, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

We're extremely pleased to welcome our special guest tonight. John Stonestreet serves as president of the Colson Center for Christian World View and is host of the Colson Center's Breakpoint Radio Podcast. John is a highly sought-after author, speaker, and expert on Christian worldview and apologetics. Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., is a renowned author and the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow with the Heritage Foundation. Ryan is founder and editor of Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute. And last but not least, Matt Sharp is legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he directs the Center for Legislative Advocacy.

So for our format tonight, we will work it this way. We've divided a number of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions into three categories, and here's a roadmap for our discussion. The first category is Protecting Religious Autonomy and Equal Access, which will focus on the court's rulings in Espinoza, a school choice case out of Montana, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, relating to the First Amendment rights of religious schools. The second category is Life and Conscience Protection, focusing on June Medical, an abortion case out of Louisiana, and Little Sisters of the Poor, addressing the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare. And the third category is Religious Freedom and LGBT Issues, addressing the landmark Bostick opinion, in which the court determined that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected classifications in federal employment law. Obviously, we have a lot of ground to cover tonight, so let's jump right in. Matt, let's start with you and talk about Religious Autonomy and Equal Access. Absolutely.

Well, thank you for having me, John, and thank all of you for joining in. So I first want to talk about a case out of Montana called Espinoza, and this case dealt with a school choice program that the state had enacted. Well, the problem is we end up with a scenario where kids going to religious schools are being denied the funding that's available to kids going to non-religious private schools. So the court took this case up with the hopes that it would expand the protection for religious organizations to get equal access to these funds.

And that's exactly what the court ultimately did. It said that the state cannot justify denying kids the ability to go to a religious school simply because it's religious. In other words, the government was saying, because you are religious, because you teach religion and are identified with a religious church, religious ministry, you are being treated worse off than a comparable secular private school, and our constitution doesn't allow it. So it was a really strong ruling for the idea that religious organizations, including religious schools, have the same right to participate in government programs as other secular organizations have the right to. In addition to the Espinoza case, we had another case come down called Our Lady of Guadalupe, and this dealt with a question about whether religious organizations have authority to hire and fire people without being subject to these non-discrimination laws. And specifically it was questioning of whether the general rule that churches are allowed to hire and fire their ministers, whether that extends to individuals that are not necessarily titled ministers, right? So the question is, can a religious school have the same ability to do so? And the court again said, yes, we want to make sure that anyone that is engaged in any sort of ministering of teaching religious doctrines to others is protected. And so the court rejected this idea that a teacher or someone like that specifically has to have the title minister or to have religious credentials. What this ultimately means is more autonomy, more freedom for religious organizations when it comes to those crucial hiring and firing decisions. So Ron and John, what are your thoughts or perspectives about these two cases? I'll go first.

I'll be Debbie Downer. Just in this sense, I think these are both huge wins, right? The ability of faith-based institutions to be able to compete on an equal footing with secular institutions for government funding is essential for equality and justice. The ability of faith-based institutions to make staffing decisions based upon their mission is essential for them fulfilling their mission. You know, we want to be concerned with the fullness of human flourishing and that the government promote the fullness of the truth about human flourishing, which means let's take the school choice case. Most states still don't have school choice programs. So if your state doesn't have a school choice program, you might not be able to afford to send your kid to a faith-based school. And we should be concerned with what all the public schools are teaching.

So that's where I kind of, you know, I'll be Debbie Downer, temper the enthusiasm. They're huge wins, but we also want to think about what's going on in all of the other schools. Equality of funding is essential, but it won't be sufficient. That's kind of my take on that case.

So, John Stonestre, what are your thoughts? Well, I'm going to let Matt and Ryan deal mostly with the legal technicalities. They're way smarter on those issues than me. But I think Ryan is right that there's a downside to this and kind of the bigger picture and not just specifically on these cases. I was really happy with the religious liberty protections for religious institutions. But if we look across, you know, what all of these cases I think mean culturally is that we're seeing a bigger and bigger move legally towards what we already have culturally, which is the shrinking down of religious freedoms to specifically religious activities and institutions, which is a net loss because religious liberty is not just the ability of religious schools or religious leaders or religious people to believe what they want in their own homes and houses of worship and hearts, but it's actually the ability to order their public lives around those convictions. I think one lesson that we can take from this, however, that the really important one, especially when we look right now at various religious organizations and institutions that are feeling the heat, this should encourage them that the court is committed to protecting religious institutions and religious organizations. I think that some organizations and institutions compromise before the other side was even offering.

I think Ryan has used this line, you know, starting the football game at the 50-yard line when you don't have to or something like that. And I think these cases should be a strong encouragement of what the court has intended to do. So if you're a religious organization or a religious entity, I don't think that's religious freedom enough for what we want as Americans. I can say you should have a lot of confidence that the court's on your side on ordering what kind of organization you are. Well, and a very important ruling for North Carolina because we're such a leader in the nation on school choice and particularly with our opportunity scholarships, which our state legislature just expanded the eligibility and funding for recently.

So, Matt, what about life and conscience protection? Let's move on to that second category that we talked about too. Yeah, so another two big cases that came out of the court. The first one is a case known as June Medical. And this dealt with a law Louisiana passed requiring doctors and specifically abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

This is something that's very common for any outpatient surgery. Well, several years ago in 2016, Texas had passed a similar law that the court had struck down. And it said, well, whatever benefits there are from this admitting privileges, it's outweighed by the burdens you're imposing on the women. So when the court took this case, a lot of people were saying, well, wait a second, Justice Roberts was in the dissent in that Texas case. Maybe now that the court has changed, they're going to overturn that and reach a different conclusion with this Louisiana law. Well, unfortunately, the court did not do that. In a five-four split, and this was with the vote of Justice Roberts, the court struck down the Louisiana law. But what was interesting was Justice Roberts. He did not join the four liberals, but rather wrote his own decision to say, I think our hands are tied by the previous decision about Texas law.

These laws seem to be about the same and have the same impact, and we need to follow precedent. What was interesting, though, is that he rejected the reasoning used by the four liberals, this idea that you have to weigh the burdens on women versus the benefits. And he said, no, that's actually not the proper test. The proper test is, does this create an undue burden on women's ability to get an abortion? Now, that may seem like kind of legal nerdery, but what it really means is a return to a much stronger standard, much more deference to the states when it comes to being able to restrict and regulate abortion. The second pro-life case that came out, not so much life more of conscience, was Little Sisters of the Poor. Many of you are probably familiar with this case, thinking, wait, wasn't this already resolved years ago? Well, Little Sisters was, under Obamacare, being told that they were going to have to pay for abortion-inducing drugs.

Now, these are nuns that have no need of this, but the government compelling them to pay for something that violates their deepest convictions, that they believe takes an innocent life. Well, the case had gone back and forth. The Little Sisters had won, and the Trump administration had wanted to solidify those protections. And so they drafted some regulations that say, anyone that has a religious or moral objection, so think of like secular pro-life groups, if you've got a religious or moral objection, we're going to grant you an exemption so that you don't have to pay for abortion-inducing drugs. And so the challenge in this case was, is that legal?

Can the Trump administration do that? And the court said yes. In fact, the court said government ought to be considering religion and ought to be ensuring that it's not trampling religion in enacting these regulations. So John Stonestreet, what do you think about the Little Sisters of the Poor having to go to court to defend themselves?

For the third time, right? Isn't that, I mean, leave these poor ladies alone. Let them do their job. Let them live out their calling of caring for people who are suffering and dying. I mean, the work that they do, nobody else wants to do, so let them do it.

Leave them alone. That's kind of my gut reaction that I've had for years now, ever since this case first hit the radar. It is good news, but again, it underscores, I think, a deeper cultural reality that religion and religious belief is often considered to be a personal, private preference.

It's considered to be your hobby. And it underscores that at the root of the conflict of so much that we see culturally right now is a collision of world views. You know, who's ultimately in charge?

Do we have an allegiance to anything higher than the state? Is our deeply held beliefs the most significant thing about who we are and how we live our lives? Or does something else take that place? So in good heavens, these are nuns caring for the suffering and dying, right? I mean, how much more winsome can you be?

And it's not enough, you know, when you collide. So I was really grateful for this one. Hopefully this is the end of the road for them. Ron, any reaction?

It's not. Ryan coming back with his Debbie Dalder talk. I agree with everything John just said, and I agree that hopefully it's the end of the road. I don't see it being the end of the road.

And let me give you a couple of reasons why. Even if Trump is reelected, the attorney general of Pennsylvania, the day after the decision, said that he's going to continue to press this. If Trump loses, Vice President Biden has already promised that if he becomes president, he's going to he said, I'll go back to the Obamacare mandate before Hobby Lobby. He doesn't seem to have realized that they lost the Hobby Lobby case. And he can't take us back, you know, prior to a binding Supreme Court victory for Hobby Lobby. But in his mind, and this speaks to John pointed out, the cultural moment that we're in. He wants to say, look, we're not giving anyone these exemptions.

No accommodation, right? We're going back to where we were before Hobby Lobby. So, you know, that's that's why I don't think it's over for them. And this isn't just a religious liberty or conscience question. This is a pro-life issue. We currently have a federal mandate saying every health care plan needs to cover cost free for drugs and devices that could kill an unborn child. Right. That's an unjust law and it's an unjust law for everyone.

And the best we could do in the Trump administration was broadening the exemption, not getting rid of the underlying objectionable law. You've been listening to Family Policy Matters. This has been part one of a two part series from NC families virtual event on life, liberty and the Supreme Court featuring John Stonestreet, Ryan Anderson and Matt Sharp. Be sure to tune in next week for part two to listen online and to learn more about NC families work to inform, encourage and inspire families across North Carolina. Visit our Web site at NC family dot org. That's NC family dot o r g. Thanks for listening and may God bless you and your family.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-01 01:40:04 / 2024-03-01 01:45:59 / 6

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