2018 Will be a Big Year for Religious Liberty and Right-to-Life Issues

By Rachel Alexander Published on January 17, 2018

The next year may finally resolve four contentious religious freedom and right to life issues. Most of these have been at the forefront of debate in previous years. Resolving them could mean big victories for Christians.

First, religious liberty for businesses. The nation’s highest court will decide whether a baker may refuse to make a cake for a same-sex wedding because he has religious objections.  The swing justice, Anthony Kennedy, seemed to indicate he might decide in favor of the baker in Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission based on his questioning during oral arguments.

The court will likely issue its decision on the last day of the session in late June. This decision will affect other businesses that have declined to provide services for same-sex weddings, such as florists and photographers.

President Trump: Faith Breathes Life and Hope into Our World

Our Constitution and laws guarantee Americans the right not just to believe as they see fit, but to freely exercise their religion. Unfortunately, not all have recognized the importance of religious freedom, whether by threatening tax consequences for particular forms of religious speech, or forcing people to comply with laws that violate their core religious beliefs without sufficient justification.

These incursions, little by little, can destroy the fundamental freedom underlying our democracy. … No American — whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner — should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.

The free exercise of religion is a source of personal and national stability, and its preservation is essential to protecting human dignity. Religious diversity strengthens our communities and promotes tolerance, respect, understanding, and equality.

Faith breathes life and hope into our world. We must diligently guard, preserve, and cherish this unalienable right.

— President Donald Trump, from his declaration of January 16, 2018 as Religious Freedom Day

Second, religious liberty for religious groups. The Little Sisters of the Poor face pushback in two states. They won a Supreme Court case last year exempting them from having to provide contraception to employees. Trump broadened the exemption from the Obamacare mandate in May 2017. Now Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has sued HHS over the exemption. A federal district court judge blocked it. California AG Xavier Becerra also sued.

Third, pro-choice profiteering. The Department of Justice began looking into Planned Parenthood last December for profiting from the sale of fetal body parts. It was prompted by undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress. Congress began its own review and asked the DOJ and FBI to investigate.

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Fourth, freedom of speech for pro-lifers. The State of California is prosecuting David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress over his exposés. Daleiden’s attorneys filed a motion to disqualify the judge, citing his ties to Planned Parenthood.

Two Possible Issues

Two other issues may be taken up and resolved next year, or we may have to wait longer for a resolution.

First, prayers before public bodies. Two circuit courts have split on the issue. Where two circuit courts split on an issue of high importance, the Supreme Court will often step in to decide.

In Rowan County v. Lund, the Fourth Circuit ruled a North Carolina county commissioners’ practice of opening meetings with prayers led by the commissioners was unconstitutional. The county appealed to the Supreme Court. In Bormuth v. Jackson County, the Sixth Circuit upheld a similar practice.

Second, memorial crosses on public land. Lower courts are considering cases. The Fourth Circuit ruled that the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial “excessively entangles” the state with religion. It has stood on public land in Maryland for over a century. A U.S. District Court held that the Bayview Cross in a park in Pensacola violated the Establishment Clause. Both losing sides have appealed.

This year could be really good or really bad for religious liberty and right-to-life issues, or it could end up being a mixed bag. Whatever happens, there should be some major decisions.


Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC.

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