March 19, 2020 | Freedom of Religion
Coronavirus gathering bans raise religious freedom questions
NEW YORK (AP) — On the first Sunday after the coronavirus began upending American life, some religious institutions – including two churches whose pastors are close to President Donald Trump – held in-person services amid public health worries over the pandemic. That picture already looks different this week...
March 7, 2020 | Freedom of Religion
A Quebec Ban on Religious Symbols Upends Lives and Careers
MONTREAL — A Muslim lawyer who wears a head scarf has put aside her aspiration to become a public prosecutor.
A Sikh teacher with a turban moved about 2,800 miles from Quebec to Vancouver, calling herself a “refugee in her own country.”
And an Orthodox Jewish teacher who wears a head kerchief is worried that she could be blocked from a promotion...
March 5, 2020 | Freedom of Religion
Kentucky High School Removes Bible Verse After Atheist Group Complains
A school district in Whitesburg, Kentucky, removed several religious displays — including a Bible verse emblazoned on the wall of a high school locker room — after an atheist group complained. That group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, wrote about it in a blog post this week. According to the organization, they were contacted by a resident who voiced concerns about Letcher County Public Schools following "multiple instances of the district promoting and endorsing religious messages."...
February 24, 2020 | Freedom of Religion
Supreme Court to Hear Case on Gay Rights and Foster Care
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether Philadelphia may exclude a Catholic agency that does not work with same-sex couples from the city’s foster-care system.
The city stopped placements with the agency, Catholic Social Services, after a 2018 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer described its policy against placing children with same-sex couples. The agency and several foster parents sued the city, saying the decision violated their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech...
February 10, 2020 | Freedom of Religion
Clark County school board meetings to no longer begin with prayer following complaint
LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — The Clark County School District is no longer beginning its Board of School Trustees meetings with an invocation, or a prayer asking for God’s help and blessing, after a complaint was filed by the Freedom of Religion Foundation.
The foundation said Monday, Feb. 10, that it learned the board began meetings with prayer in December, citing one meeting that month which it says started with the Pledge of Allegiance and an invocation...
February 6, 2020 | Freedom of Religion
More than two dozen countries launch new religious freedom alliance
WASHINGTON (RNS) — The State Department announced Wednesday (Feb. 5) that 27 countries have joined the new International Religious Freedom Alliance that seeks to reduce religious persecution across the globe.
“Together, we say that freedom of religion or belief is not a Western ideal, but truly the bedrock of societies,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a dinner at the State Department launching the alliance that will involve senior representatives of government...
January 21, 2020 | Freedom of Religion
Supreme Court battle over school choice may boost religious freedom
WASHINGTON – Three moms from Montana will be at the Supreme Court on Wednesday where they'll get a chance to make history on religious school choice.
What they're fighting over may seem small: a discontinued state program that offered $150 tax credits to help spur $500 tuition scholarships. But the stakes are high for both sides in the national debate over public aid for religious schools...
January 16, 2020 | Freedom of Religion
Trump administration moves to protect prayer in public schools and federal funds for religious organizations
The Trump administration is moving to strengthen protections for students who want to pray or worship in public schools and proposing changes that would make it easier for religious groups that provide social services to access federal funds...
January 8, 2020 | Freedom of Religion
Supreme Court to Hear Religious Freedom Case on School Choice
On Jan. 22, the Supreme Court will hear a religious freedom case. The outcome will determine whether states may manage their educational systems to discriminate against religion or favor some religions over others.
The case is Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. The plaintiffs are religious families with children. The defendant is a state agency that claims the Montana constitution requires it to deny educational choice to those families...
December 20, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Religious freedom agency reauthorized with Trump’s signature
WASHINGTON (RNS) — The independent religious freedom watchdog whose future was in question in recent months has been reauthorized as part of an ominbus bill President Trump signed Friday (Dec. 20).
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom received funding of $3.5 million annually for the next three years after members of Congress included revised legislation about it in the 1,700-plus-page bill that they approved this week...
December 6, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Republicans introduce bill to protect LGBTQ rights and religious freedom
(RNS) — With the backing of a consortium of Christian colleges and universities, a Utah congressman introduced a bill Friday (Dec. 6) that would ban discrimination against LGBTQ people while also protecting religious institutions that uphold traditional beliefs about marriage and sexuality...
December 4, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Pence says Trump is an ally of religious freedom at West Michigan church
PORTAGE, MI -- Vice President Mike Pence presented President Donald Trump as a tireless advocate for religious liberty while visiting faith leaders at a Portage church.
Pence said his travels on the campaign trail for Trump’s reelection effort reinforced his view that the United States is “a nation of faith." The vice president said Trump is a strong ally of all religions, and with God’s help and four more years in the White House, America will become “more prosperous than you can imagine.”...
November 18, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Lawsuit filed over latest New York abortion law
Several pro-life organizations in New York have sued the state over a law they say targets pro-life and religious employers, barring them from reflecting their core beliefs in hiring policies.
“No government has the right to tell pro-life or religious organizations they must hire someone who doesn’t agree with their core mission,” Ken Connelly, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, said Monday. ADF is representing the plaintiffs in the case...
November 15, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
‘IM GOD’ license plate approved by judge
FRANKFORT, Ky. — A federal court is allowing a Kentucky man to personalize a license plate with the phrase "IM GOD” after a three-year legal battle over the custom engraving.
Court documents show Ben Hart, a self-identified atheist, set out to get the Kentucky plate in 2016. But Hart's request was denied by the state transportation department on the basis it violated antidiscrimination guidelines. News outlets report similar plates had been approved before, including "TRYGOD" and "NOGOD."...
October 29, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Rep. Banks Introduces Resolution Protecting Freedom of Conscience
Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03) announced today that he’s introduced a joint resolution declaring protection for the freedom of conscience for all Americans...
October 7, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Supreme Court to take up gay rights, DACA, religious freedom in new term
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court will tackle gay rights, protection for young immigrants known as Dreamers, religious freedom and gun rights — and also might consider the future of the Electoral College — in its new term beginning this week.
It's a marked change from last year, when the court kept the temperature low after the battle over Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation...
October 15, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
AG Barr blasts ‘militant secularists’ in speech on religious freedom
Attorney General William Barr blasted "militant secularists" and their attacks on Judeo-Christian values in a blistering speech at Notre Dame Friday, saying "religion has been under increasing attack" over the past five decades.
Barr, a devout Catholic, told students and faculty at the university's law school that "the problem is not that religion is being forced on others, the problem is that irreligion is being forced — secular values are being forced on people of faith."...
October 8, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Tennessee frequently mixes prayer and public schools, nonprofit complaints show
A public school teacher leading a prayer, which recently ignited a frenzy of support and criticism, is nothing new in Tennessee; the Volunteer State has been accused of mixing religion and school for years.
Letters provided by the Freedom From Religion Foundation show that the nonprofit organization, which calls its mission to protect the separation of church and state, has filed 52 prayer-related complaints since 2016 to school districts. Data from the Pew Research Center shows that statewide 81% of citizens identify as Christian while 19% of people say they belong to another faith, are unaffiliated or non-religious...
October 2, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
At Vatican conference, Pompeo calls for protecting religious freedom
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo on Wednesday criticized governments that wield absolute power as threats to religious freedom, as he scrambled to contain a political crisis back home.
Amid a growing storm in Washington over an impeachment inquiry into President Trump, Pompeo went to the Vatican to urge it and other nations to join the Trump administration in an alliance to promote global religious freedom. He told a conference on human dignity and faith that when governments hold all the power, religion is a threat...
September 24, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
At UN, Trump focuses on religious freedom, not climate
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — President Donald Trump made his political priorities clear Monday within an hour of arriving at the United Nations for a three-day visit: He breezed by a major climate change summit to focus instead on religious persecution, an issue that resonates with his evangelical supporters.
The climate summit, a centerpiece of this year’s U.N. schedule, was not on Trump’s agenda at all. But he stopped in to observe for about 15 minutes before heading to what he saw as the main event, a meeting on protecting religious freedom...
September 18, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Christian artists celebrate religious freedom win in Arizona Supreme Court
A pair of Christian artists are celebrating a religious freedom win at the Arizona Supreme Court, which found the government cannot force them to make invitations for a same-sex wedding.
Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, the owners of Brush & Nib Studio, appeared on "Fox & Friends" Wednesday and said they were "extremely excited" at the 4-3 decision that reversed a lower-court ruling in favor of Phoenix's anti-discrimination ordinance...
September 11, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Baptisms on the football field land Springfield High in crosshairs of group against ‘endorsing religion to students’
A Middle Tennessee school district is fighting back after a national nonprofit lodged a formal complaint accusing educators of violating the U.S. Constitution when they allowed two students athletes to be baptized on the school’s football field last month in front of teammates.
Robertson County Director of Schools Chris Causey confirmed Wednesday that the baptisms took place after football practice at Springfield High School on Aug. 7...
September 4, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Firing of doctor sets off fight over assisted suicide law
DENVER — After watching his mother die slowly when he stopped her medication, Neil Mahoney knew he wanted the option of ending his own life peacefully when a doctor told him in July that he had months to live after being diagnosed with cancer.
A physician was willing to help him do that under Colorado’s medically assisted suicide law, but she was fired by Centura Health, a Christian-affiliated health system, for violating its guidelines on the issue...
August 28, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Judge denies nuclear protesters’ religious freedom defense
(RNS) — A federal judge has denied a request by a group of Catholic peace activists to dismiss charges against them for breaking into a nuclear submarine base in Kings Bay, Georgia, last year to protest nuclear weapons.
The seven activists, individually and through their lawyers, used a novel defense, citing the Religion Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 federal law that says the government may not burden the faith practices of a person with sincerely held religious beliefs...
July 5, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
The U.S. Is Championing The Right To Freedom Of Religion Or Belief Internationally
On June 21, 2019, the U.S. State Department delivered its annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom (the IRF Report) as is its obligation under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The IRF Report covers the period between January 1 and December 31, 2018 and identifies the numerous challenges to religious freedom worldwide...
June 21, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
US condemns Saudi Arabia over religious freedom abuses
(CNN) The State Department's top official for international religious freedom said Friday that Saudi Arabia continues "to be one of the worst actors in the world on religious persecution" -- a blunt assessment in light of the administration's consistent pro-Saudi policies."I think there was a lot of hope at first with the change of leadership that things would open up substantially," Ambassador at Large Sam Brownback said at the State Department's release of the 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom. "We need to see actions take place in a positive direction, but they continue to be one of the worst actors in the world on religious persecution."...
June 20, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Supreme Court allows religious display on state land despite challenge over church-state separation
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court got religion Thursday, ruling that a gigantic Latin cross on government land in Maryland does not have to be moved or altered in the name of church-state separation.The justices reasoned that the 40-foot cross was erected nearly a century ago as a World War I memorial, not an endorsement of Christianity. But while their verdict could extend to other existing monuments, it does not offer a blank check to new ones...
June 10, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Bills supporting religion-based rejection turning parents away from adoption agencies
Aimee Maddonna, 34, a South Carolina mother of three, was turned away by a state-funded foster care agency because she is Catholic. Maddonna went to Miracle Hill Ministries in Greenville, the state’s largest foster care outlet, asking to volunteer in hopes of one day becoming a foster parent. But the initial screening was cut short after she was asked the name of her church...
June 4, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
UN to observe Day for Victims of Violence Based on Religion
The United Nations General Assembly last week adopted a resolution proclaiming Aug. 22 as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. The May 28 resolution was introduced by Jacek Czaputowicz, Poland's foreign minister...
May 28, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
China deploys Confucius in bid to boost religion controls
China has begun five-day Confucian culture immersion courses for religious leaders in the sage's hometown as part of a campaign to extend government control over faith communities through a process of sinicization...
May 14, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
‘Save Chick-fil-A’ bill defended by Texas lawmaker: ‘This is about our freedom of religion, our freedom of worship’
Texas State Rep. Jeff Leach spoke out Tuesday on "Fox & Friends" to defend a piece of legislation that has been dubbed the "Save Chick-fil-A" bill.The bill was quietly revived in the Texas Senate Monday after being struck down in the House last week via a procedural maneuver.The controversial legislation would prevent the government from penalizing businesses for exercising their religious rights, a conversation which began after Chick-fil-A was barred from opening a location at the San Antonio Airport...
May 2, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
New Trump Rule Protects Health Care Workers Who Refuse Care For Religious Reasons
The Trump administration issued a new rule Thursday that gives health care workers leeway to refuse to provide services like abortion, sterilization or assisted suicide, if they cite a religious or conscientious objection.The rule, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, is designed to protect the religious rights of health care providers and religious institutions...
April 24, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Civil rights advocates drop lawsuit against Oklahoma’s ‘Muslim-free’ gun range
(RNS) — Civil rights organizations have dropped a federal lawsuit against the owners of an Oklahoma gun range after it removed a sign declaring the business a “Muslim-free establishment.”The owners of the Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range in Oktaha, Okla., removed the sign in December, nearly three years after the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Oklahoma and the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Oklahoma branch filed a lawsuit alleging violation of federal public accommodations law.
April 15, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Measles outbreak tests limits of religious freedom in New York City
NEW YORK — A quick fix to New York City’s measles outbreak is proving elusive, and the reasons are as much political as they are medical.A powerful voting bloc, the ultra-Orthodox community has managed to carve out what is arguably a separate system of city services with their own ambulances, school buses and police. They run their own private schools for which they receive city, state and federal funds...
April 1, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Civil rights experts question Supreme Court execution rulings
(RNS) — Last week, the Supreme Court ruled to block Texas’ planned execution of Patrick Murphy, a Buddhist inmate, because he was not allowed to have his Buddhist chaplain in the execution chamber.While religious freedom advocates applauded the move, some say the decision also left them perplexed. Just a month earlier, the Supreme Court allowed the execution of Muslim death row inmate Domineque Ray in a similar circumstance.The American Civil Liberties Union called the decision to halt Murphy’s execution “good news.” But it criticized the court’s earlier ruling in Ray’s case...
March 27, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Nonprofit group urges North Texas school district to stop praying at meetings
A nonprofit organization is urging the Weatherford school district to stop praying at its board meetings.The Freedom From Religion Foundation said the school board opens each meeting with a prayer that usually contains specifically Christian themes, such as mentioning Jesus Christ and closing with “amen.”Weatherford ISD did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has a history of calling for schools and cities to remove Christian-based decorations and cease official prayer at their events...
March 19, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Clergy housing allowance is constitutional, appeals court rules
(RNS) — A federal appeals court has ruled that the clergy housing allowance authorized by the Internal Revenue Service is constitutional.The Freedom From Religion Foundation argued successfully in a Wisconsin district court that the long-standing exemption for religious housing in the IRS tax code violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause. But a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court decision on Friday (March 15)...
March 17, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Jury to decide whether school system banned yoga for Christianity
KENNESAW, Ga. — A federal judge says a jury will decide whether a Georgia school system’s decision to halt a yoga program — and transfer the elementary school administrator who started it — was done to promote Christianity...
March 9, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
US hasn’t ruled out sanctions on China as it pushes ‘religious freedom agenda’ with Beijing, American envoy says
The US envoy responsible for religious freedom urged China on Friday to correct its religious policies while noting the possible sanctions available if Beijing fails to end violations of religious freedom...
March 4, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Portland bans discrimination against atheists, other nonbelievers
(RNS) — Nonbelievers in Portland, Ore., are feeling affirmed this week after the city council amended the city’s Civil Rights code to extend protection from discrimination to atheists, agnostics and other people who claim no religion.
“What it is is validating because my city thinks I am of the same value as any other individual, and it isn’t OK for somebody to discriminate against me or anybody like me,” said Cheryl Kolbe, president of the Portland-area chapter of the Freedom of Religion Foundation...
February 25, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Cross Clash Could Change Rules For Separation Of Church And State
A giant concrete cross standing in the middle of a busy median strip is the latest symbol of a constitutional fight that has raged for decades. It's a fight over the concept of the separation of church and state and what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote into the First Amendment a ban on government "establishment" of religion...
February 18, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Controversial ‘religious freedom’ bill gets another look at Iowa Capitol
Republican lawmakers have reintroduced a bill at the Iowa Capitol that they say will protect religious rights but that critics warn could allow businesses in the state to refuse services to someone based on religious beliefs.
Senate lawmakers scheduled a preliminary vote Tuesday on the so-called "religious freedom" bill. A similar measure failed to garner enough support last session...
February 9, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Alabama executes Muslim death row inmate who sought imam
A Muslim inmate in Alabama was put to death Thursday night after the Supreme Court denied his request for an imam to be present.
Dominique Ray, 42, was executed by lethal injection Thursday and pronounced dead at 10:12 p.m., The Associated Press reported...
February 8, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Judge sides with Christian group in religious freedom case
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge says the University of Iowa was wrong to strip a Christian student group of its registered status after the organization barred a gay student from a leadership position...
February 5, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Religious Freedom Group Asks Trump Not to Withdraw From Syria, Warns Turkey’s Entry Will Lead to Genocide
An international coalition of groups supporting religious freedom made a statement pleading with the Trump administration to prevent Turkey from entering the northeast region of Syria...
January 28, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Government allows S.C. foster care group to keep Protestants-only policy
(RNS) — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued an exemption that allows all foster care agencies in South Carolina to disregard an Obama-era regulation barring religious discrimination in federally funded foster care programs.
The exemption will allow Miracle Hill Ministries, a Greenville-based Christian ministry, to continue to accept only Protestant, churchgoing parents to its federally funded foster care program, which recruits, supports and helps train parents to be licensed by the state to foster children...
January 22, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Supreme Court refuses to hear coach’s free speech case
The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear a case challenging whether teachers and coaches retain any first amendment right to freedom of speech and religion when they’re in the presence of students.
The case centers on Joseph Kennedy, who was suspended and ultimately let go from his job as a high school football coach in Bremerton, Washington, for kneeling midfield and saying a quiet prayer to himself after games...
January 14, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
The Supreme Court could reinterpret the First Amendment in a conservative direction this term. Here’s how
SALT LAKE CITY — Even though they've had more than 230 years to figure out what it means to "establish" religion, legal scholars, judges and religious freedom advocates still don't agree.
The Constitution's establishment clause — a religious protection in the First Amendment that prohibits the "establishment of religion" by the government — is aimed at reducing church-state entanglement, but over time, it's created confusion and controversy, too...
January 13, 2019 | Freedom of Religion
Spokane Valley Fire, former captain reach $900K settlement in free speech case
SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - It's been about six years since Jon Sprague's career with Spokane Valley Fire came to an end because of a disagreement over religious emails he sent to fellow firefighters with his work account.
That disagreement resulted in a six-year legal battle which eventually made its way to the state supreme court. The case just came to an end and now Sprague has nearly $1 million to show for it...
December 4, 2018 | Freedom of Religion
Atheist group sets up holiday display in South Bend’s county-city building
"Oh Come All Ye Faithless." That is the phrase on a holiday display set up in the lobby of the County-City Building by the Northern Indiana Atheists, a nonprofit established to fight separation of church and state violations and defend atheist rights...
December 4, 2018 | Freedom of Religion
Satanic group’s sculpture placed in Illinois statehouse
A display from The Satanic Temple-Chicago has been placed in the Illinois statehouse rotunda, joining the Nativity scene to mark the Christmas season and the Menorah to mark Hanukkah…
December 4, 2018 | Freedom of Religion
Does ‘In God We Trust’ belong in schools?
A week after the school massacre in Parkland, Fla., when grief-stricken students demanded action at the state Capitol, Rep. Kimberly Daniels took to the floor to promote a measure she said had been inspired by God, who she said spoke to her in a dream…
November 30, 2018 | Freedom of Religion
Dover officials say they were forced to remove religious statues or face lawsuit
Season's greetings in Dover will look different this year after the mayor says the city was threatened with a lawsuit if they refused to move a statue of the Ten Commandments and a nativity display off city property…
November 30, 2018 | Freedom of Religion
Freedom from Religion Foundation protests Bible clubs in Wood County Schools
A national organization supporting the separation of church and state says there are constitutional violations in Wood County Schools…
November 29, 2018 | Freedom of Religion
Quakers sue Green Haven prison, claiming religious meetings with prisoners ended
Don Badgley would wait for more than an hour sometimes to sit with the men of Green Haven state prison...
November 9, 2018 | Freedom of Religion
‘Push it hard’: Brownback addresses religious freedom on law’s 20th anniversary
The U. S. ambassador for religious freedom called for renewed activism on protecting faiths around the globe on Friday (Nov. 9)…
- The “Peace Cross” at a Crossroads
- Minersville School District v. Gobitis (1940)
- Champions of Freedom – The Founders
- Locke v. Davey (2004)
- Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002)
- Lee v. Weisman (1992)
- Allegheny County v. ACLU (1989)
- Engel v. Vitale (1962)
- Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940)
- Reynolds v. United States (1879)
- Religious Liberty: The American Experiment
- Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2013)
- North Carolina Amendment One
- Healthcare and the Bill of Rights
- Religious Freedom and the Affordable Care Act