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Religious Liberty and Freedom of Conscience
Our founders recognized that only a virtuous people would deserve the continued blessings of religious and personal liberty that had been bestowed upon them.
Moreover, virtually all of our nation's founders believed that a virtuous people was a necessary pre-condition for self-government, and that virtue among the people could not exist or be sustained without religion.
Most importantly, as James Madison argued in his 1785 “Memorial and Remonstrance,” man’s relationship to God is safeguarded in civil society through the inalienable and natural right to freedom of conscience, which mandates freedom from state coercion.
Town of Greece v. Galloway is a case addressing the constitutionality of legislative prayer. We argued that the Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence has turned the First Amendment into an anti-religion clause—something far from the original intention. We defended the practice of voluntary prayer before Town Council meetings. Since the Founding, Congress, state legislatures, and many cities have opened their sessions with prayer. CCJ argued that so long as there is no legal coercion the practice of prayer before legislative sessions did not violate the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment. The Supreme Court agreed, ruling that allowing citizens to give a prayer before the start of a town council meeting was consistent with the 1st Amendment.
Download the full CCJ brief here: Amicus Brief, Towne of Greece, New York v. Susan Galloway et al.
Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius and Department of Health and Human Services v. Hobby Lobby both challenged the so-called “contraceptive mandate” in Obamacare as a violation of religious freedom. CCJ successfully supported review of the Conestoga case and filed a brief on the merits in late January arguing that, in the absence of a compelling governmental interest, government violates the First Amendment freedom of religion by compelling people to take action in violation of their religious beliefs.
The Hobby Lobby case was probably the most well-known of this year's Supreme Court cases. The question before the court was whether the Department of Health and Human Services could use the power of the federal government to violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of business owners by forcing them to provide (and pay for) abortifacient birth control in the health plans of their employees. Although the Court didn't reach the constitutional issue, it did rule that the government's action violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it imposed a "substantial burden" on Hobby Lobby's free exercise of religion.
Download the full CCJ brief here: Amicus Brief, Kathleen Sebelius et al. v. Hobby Lobby & Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius
Autocam Corp v. Sebelius. Like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, this case presents a challenge to the requirement that employers pay for insurance that includes coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients. The owners of Autocam have a religious objection to facilitating abortion and contractive services but the government is arguing that they are not allowed to raise a religious objection because they have adopted a corporate form for the business. CCJ argued that the Court should review the case and strike down the mandate.
At the end of the Supreme Court's most recent term (July 1), the judgment was vacated and the case was sent back down to the lower court for decision in light of the Court's ruling reached in the Hobby Lobby case.
Download the full CCJ brief here: Amicus Brief, Autocam Corp. v. Kathleen Sebelius
Elmbrook v. Doe is a case concerning the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The lower court ruled against a high school that wished to hold its graduation ceremonies in a local mega-church—the only building in town with sufficient seating capacity and air conditioning that was within the school’s budget. No prayers were said during the service, but the court ruled that the mere presence of religious symbols was sufficient to violate the Constitution. CCJ argues that the Court has seriously misinterpreted the Establishment Clause and should return to the original understanding that it was meant only to prevent government coercion.
On June 16, the Supreme Court denied certiorari. Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas dissented from the denial.
Download the full CCJ brief here: Amicus Brief, Elmbrook School District v. John Doe