Fighting the good fight for religious right

Published: Sunday, Aug. 18 2013 6:00 a.m. MDT

KA: We have an excellent and devoted expert legal team. We win over 85 percent of our cases. Our most visible win was the unanimous 9-0 Supreme Court win in Hosanna-Tabor. The case, simply put, dealt with the ability of churches (and all houses of worship) to make hiring and firing decisions independent of government intrusion. The Wall Street Journal described it as "the most important religious liberty case in a half century." Additionally, the Becket Fund recently secured the first appellate court ruling on the legality of the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive-coverage mandate. The 10th Circuit recognized that Hobby Lobby's lawsuit against the mandate was likely to succeed, based on the heavy burden the mandate placed on free exercise of religion. And, of course, the Becket Fund has successfully defended the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance, in several distinct cases. The core to our defense is that our rights come from something beyond the state; therefore, the state cannot take our rights away. Finally, of utmost importance to the Becket Fund is to educate the next generation of religious liberty attorneys. We operate excellent programs to do this: On one hand, we have a robust legal internship summer program in D.C. Additionally, we were invited by Stanford Law School to fund the creation of the only religious liberty clinic in the nation. The Stanford Law School Religious Liberty Clinic was inaugurated in 2012.

DN: In 2013, what should Americans be most concerned about regarding religious liberty?

KA: Recently the President stated we have “freedom of worship” instead of “freedom of religion.” This is alarming. The current administration seems to be operating from the mentality that "you can practice your religion in private, but as soon as that translates into public conduct, it is no longer protected." Religious exercise, for generations, has meant the ability to demonstrate one's convictions through action, including through the ways persons of faith run their businesses. Laws that sacrifice such freedom stand in direct opposition to America's constitutional heritage, and impact all Americans, everywhere.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. EMAIL: benson@deseretnews.com

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