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Symposium Captures the Implications of New Religious Liberty CaseOn March 22, the Orange County Chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society presented its 8th Annual Orange County Religion & The Law Symposium, featuring Brian W. Walsh speaking on the subject of "Secularism vs. Religious Liberty: Is Recent U.S. Law and Policy Taking Sides?" The symposium took place at Chapman University School of Law and had 120 participants.
Walsh is the executive director or the American Religious Freedom Program of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC). The EPPC is a think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. and is comprised of an interreligious group of protestant, catholic, and Jewish scholars who address critical issues of public policy from a Judeo-Christian moral perspective.
Consistent with past years, the Orange County Chapter was not alone in sponsoring this year's symposium. Co-sponsors included Chapman University School of Law, the Christian Legal Society of Los Angeles, the Federalist Society: Orange County Lawyers Chapter, the Jewish Federation & Family Services, the Orange County Jewish Bar Association, Pepperdine University School of Law, Pepperdine University's Herbert & Elinor Nootbaar Institute of Law, Religion & Ethics, the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, Western State University College of Law, and Whittier Law School.
Mr. Walsh discussed in some detail the arguments and recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church And School v. EEOC in which the Court unanimously held that the ministerial exception bars an employment discrimination suit brought on behalf of a minister challenging her church's decision to fire her.
Citing extensively from the transcripts of the oral argument before the Court, Walsh vividly related the government's arguments that "Congress has not unconstitutionally infringed Petitioner's freedom in this case by making it illegal for it to fire a fourth grade teacher in retaliation for asserting her statutory rights", i.e., to bring her case before a court rather than a religious tribunal as rooted in Lutheran doctrine. In response to the government's argument that the case implicated freedom of association standards rather than a ministerial exception, but that the "basic contours of the inquiry are not different," Walsh noted that Justice Scalia remarked, "That's extraordinary."
While the unanimous Hosanna-Tabor decision is a resounding victory for and encouraging to proponents of religious freedom, Walsh also noted the government's continuing hostility towards, and assault on, religious liberty, including without limitation, the recent attempt by the government to require "many Catholic and other religious institutions and individual employers, in violation of their religious and moral convictions, to provide insurance policies covering abortion inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives." In the face of what appears to be an ever-increasing assault on religious freedom, Mr. Walsh urged the audience's continuing vigilance in educating others and actively defending the fundamental right to religious freedom as expressly set forth in the First Amendment.
Posted: July 05, 2012