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Catholic Church Says Federal Court Has No Jurisdiction Over It, Because Religious Freedom

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It is a case that has never been seen in this country before – and a harbinger of the religious right’s attacks on America yet to come. If you thought Hobby Lobby was extreme, you haven’t seen anything yet.

The St. Vincent de Paul School in Fort Wayne, Indiana is a small Catholic school of about 800 students. In 2012, Emily Herx was an English teacher there, and had been trying for a year to conceive. Like many women, she decided to try in-vitro fertilization, which required her to request some time off. At first, as Mother Jones reports, she was met with what she thought was support from her supervisor. “You are in my prayers.” Not even two weeks later, she was met with a pink slip.

Herx was labeled by one monsignor a “grave, immoral sinner,” merely for trying to have a family.

And so she’s suing the St. Vincent de Paul School and the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese for firing her.

Of course, the school and diocese are arguing “freedom of religion” allows them to hire and fire at will.

But they are also using an argument that has never been tried before, at least in America: Freedom of religion and the First Amendment mean they don’t even have to show up in court. In short, they are arguing the State has no jurisdiction over them, because of the First Amendment.

“[If] the diocese is required to go through a trial,” attorneys for the diocese and school argued, it would “irrevocably” deny Fort Wayne-South Bend the benefits of religious protection. Herx’s attorneys are fighting the appeal.

If they are successful – and yes, this could conceivably go to the Supreme Court – it would mean an entirely separate State exists, in essence, for religious institutions in America. Not only would they be tax-exempt, they would be law-exempt.

“I’ve never seen this before, and I couldn’t find any other cases like it,” Brian Hauss, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Center for Liberty told Mother Jones.

“What the diocese is saying is, ‘We can fire anybody, and we have absolute immunity from even going to trial, as long as we think they’re violating our religion. And to have civil authorities even look into what we’re doing is a violation.’…It’s astonishing,” Hauss adds.

Louise Melling, a deputy legal director at the ACLU, was more critical: “It’s an unusual and extreme argument, to be saying the court doesn’t even have the legal authority to ask whether this was, in fact, sex discrimination. I can’t imagine they would prevail on that. It’s too extreme.”

Than again, Melling says she never would have predicted the recent wave of cases in which religious institutions asserted that they have an expansive right to discriminate. One of those cases was Burwell v. Hobby Lobby—the Supreme Court case that struck down the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The ACLU has also seen a climb in the number of Christian schools arguing that Title VII allows them to fire women who undergo IVF or become pregnant outside of marriage, or to fire employees who engage in same-sex relationships. “Hobby Lobby was just one case in this wave,” Melling says.

Conservatives, however, don’t see it as “extreme” at all.

Douglas Laycock, a professor at the University of Virginia Law School, says the diocese’s assertion is a “perfectly sensible argument.” Laycock, who has successfully argued numerous religious liberty cases before the Supreme Court, notes there is precedent for immunizing certain organizations from trial, although not necessarily under Title VII’s religious protections. “I think it’s going to be a hard sell,” he says. “But I don’t know that it’s ‘extreme.'”

Many Americans believe the Hobby Lobby case was extreme as well. 

But as it turns out, Hobby Lobby was just the beginning.

 

Image via Flickr

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Republicans in 10 States Have Now Used Courts to Block Biden’s LGBTQ Student Protections

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On Monday a U.S. district judge in Kentucky temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s new Title IX protections for LGBTQ students in six states, bringing the total number of states the new rules will likely not go into effect August 1 to ten. Republican state attorneys general are fighting the Biden Dept. of Education policies that protect the minority students.

“U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves referred to the regulation as ‘arbitrary in the truest sense of the word’ in granting a preliminary injunction blocking it in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. His ruling comes days after a different federal judge temporarily blocked the new rule from taking effect in Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi and Montana,” the Associated Press reports.

READ MORE: Rick Scott’s IVF Pledge Using His Own Grandkids Slammed as ‘Lie’ by Democrats

“The judge’s order makes clear that the U.S. Department of Education’s attempt to redefine ‘sex’ to include ‘gender identity’ is unlawful and beyond the agency’s regulatory authority,” Kentucky state Attorney General Russell Coleman said in a statement, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock.

In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in employment, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is sex discrimination, and therefore prohibited under Title VII. That 6-3 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County was authored by a right-wing justice, Neil Gorsuch.

Judge Reeves (photo), a Bush-43 appointee, began his ruling by writing, “There are two sexes: male and female.”

“This case concerns an attempt by the executive branch to dramatically alter the purpose and meaning of Title IX through rulemaking,” Reeves continued. “But six states, an association of Christian educators, and one fifteen-year-old girl object. As they correctly argue, the new rule contravenes the plain text of Title IX by redefining ‘sex’ to include gender identity, violates government employees’ First Amendment rights, and is the result of arbitrary and capricious rulemaking.”

Louisville Public Media reports, “Reeves also said he believed the case would win on parental rights grounds.”

“It follows that parents retain a constitutionally protected right to guide their own children on matters of identity, including the decision to adopt or reject various gender norms and behaviors,” Reeves wrote.

Democrats support the Biden Title IX rules.

READ MORE: Whoopi Goldberg Mocks ‘Crook’ Trump for ‘Black Church’ Trip

“Democrat-controlled states have widely supported the rule, and 16 Democratic attorneys general filed a joint amicus brief in one of the challenges,” LPM adds.

Right wing anti-LGBTQ activist Riley Gaines cheered Monday’s ruling: “Great news! Biden’s illegal rewrite of Title IX won’t go into effect in TN, KY, VA, WV, OH, & IN”

“A federal court granted an injunction for the Title IX lawsuit filed by mentioned states,” she added. “This is a huge win. The gender ideology house of cards is falling fast.”

But civil rights attorney Wendy Murphy responded, “Before you celebrate these ‘advocates’ remember that this lawsuit asks the court to REINSTATE Trump/DeVos 2020 #TitleIX regulations that ALLOW rape by requiring it to be BOTH ‘severe AND pervasive.’ So one rape at knifepoint is NOT covered by Title IX bc it wasn’t ‘pervasive.’ ”

READ MORE: ‘Pyongyang in the Rotunda’: GOP Red Carpet Rollout for Trump’s DC Trip Likened to North Korea

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Whoopi Goldberg Mocks ‘Crook’ Trump for ‘Black Church’ Trip

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Whoopi Goldberg on “The View” mocked “crook” Donald Trump after claims by former top Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway the largely white crowd at a Black church attending Saturday’s rally was actually “8000 people at a Black church,” which appeared to be disproven by video footage.

“80% of Detroiters are Black. This crowd was bussed into a city they don’t know to cheer for a felon they don’t know how to live without,” observed former longtime journalist Ron Fournier, a Detroit native, in response to video showing an apparently mostly white crowd of several hundred inside Detroit’s 180 Church.

Conway on Sunday told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo Trump was “talking to 8000 people at a Black church,” and President Biden’s “not doing anything like that.”

The New York Times reported Trump “spoke to roughly 200 people” as he was “courting Black voters at a church on the west side of Detroit on Saturday.” The convicted felon ex-president “sought to harness animus toward migrants crossing the border, sanitized his track record on race and sold himself as the best president for Black Americans since Abraham Lincoln.”

READ MORE: Democrats Have One Way to Correct Corruption of Justices Thomas and Alito: Expert

“Trump largely ignored his history of racist statements and his decades of calls for tougher policing that have fueled his three presidential campaigns,” The Times added, noting he delivered “short remarks before a panel.”

Fox News praised Trump for “connect[ing] the Black and white communities” and declared the importance of “Christian values.”

On Monday, Whoopi Goldberg blasted Trump on ABC’s “The View.”

“So one of the biggest crooks in the country, and by that, 34 counts is what I’m talking about,” Goldberg began, to laughter and cheers. “Convicted felon is telling Black people that people coming for their jobs. This is the narrative that is being pushed to Black voters.”

“And they keep saying, you know, Black people are going to him,” she continued, before asking for video of the church to be shown.

“Can we look at the church? Can we get a visual of the church?”

“Now, I’m not sure that most of these people even knew where that church was before they knew he was coming there,” Goldberg mocked.

Watch the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: Rick Scott’s IVF Pledge Using His Own Grandkids Slammed as ‘Lie’ by Democrats

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Democrats Have One Way to Correct Corruption of Justices Thomas and Alito: Expert

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Calls are mounting for U.S. Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin to hold hearings on Supreme Court ethics and corruption, subpoena right-wing Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, and have them explain why, as some, including Democratic Jewish Senators, believe they are promoting Christian nationalism rather than properly interpreting the Constitution and U.S. law, while accepting lavish gifts.

Chief Justice John Roberts has already refused to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Justice Alito has said Congress has no power over him or the Court.

“In the summer of 2023, Justice Samuel Alito told the Wall Street Journal that Congress has no authority to regulate the Supreme Court, despite the ethical regulations Congress already imposes on the justices,” the Brennan Center for Justice reported last month. “Around the time he made this erroneous statement, the justice saw fit to fly a flag in his yard that had been carried by January 6 rioters and associated with the ‘Stop the Steal’ insurrection movement, marking the second time since January 6 that such a flag had flown outside of the justice’s residence.”

READ MORE: Buttigieg on Martha-Ann Alito: Flags Symbolizing Love vs. Insurrection Are Different

Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed Justice Thomas took even more trips paid for by billionaire Harlan Crow than he had disclosed and that had never before been reported. Thomas has received an estimated $5.8 million in gifts over the past two decades, a large portion from Crow, the government watchdog Fix the Court revealed two weeks ago.

Justice Alito’s recent remarks revealing he believes the Supreme Court has to move the nation to one of “godliness,” on top of the symbols of insurrection flying at his homes, has some Americans deeply concerned about his Christian nationalism and the effect it has on his ability to deliver impartial rulings.

Chairman Durbin has steadfastly refused to issue subpoenas to anyone on the Supreme Court. Last summer he defended not even inviting Justice Thomas to a committee hearing on ethics, saying the invitation would have been ignored.

Should Democrats be relying on the Senate to fix the Supreme Court?

No, says Vox’s Ian Millhiser, author of two books on the Supreme Court: Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted (2016), and The Agenda: How a Republican Supreme Court Is Reshaping America (2021).

“What can Democrats actually do about Thomas’s and Alito’s corruption?” Millhiser, who writes about the Supreme Court and the Constitution, asks in his latest piece at Vox. “Nothing, unless they win the election,” he answers.

“At the end of the day, the future of the Supreme Court will be decided by the November election. If President Joe Biden prevails, he is likely to appoint more judges like his Supreme Court appointee Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, a mainstream liberal. If Donald Trump prevails, he is likely to fill the bench with Alitos.”

Millhiser says, “what, exactly, could Durbin — or any other Democrat, for that matter — actually do about Thomas’s and Alito’s dubious relationship with judicial ethics? The honest answer is ‘not much.’ ”

“Congress, certainly could do a great deal to check these two men’s power. Congress, after all, has the power to impeach and remove justices,” he writes.

But there’s more.

READ MORE: Rick Scott’s IVF Pledge Using His Own Grandkids Slammed as ‘Lie’ by Democrats

“It also could add seats to the Court, which would quickly be filled by Biden appointees who would effectively neutralize Thomas and Alito’s votes. It could potentially strip the Court of much of its jurisdiction. It could take away some of the Court’s budget — perhaps the parts that pay for Thomas’s and Alito’s law clerks and staff. It could even evict the Court from its marble palace and move the justices’ office space to a shack in Nome, Alaska,” he notes.

“But no legislation reforming the Supreme Court, no matter how ambitious or how modest, is likely to pass so long as Republicans control the House of Representatives,” Millhiser notes.

Of course, there has to be a Democrat in the White House and at minimum a Democratic majority in the Senate to actually get progress.

Millhiser also cautions those seeking to paint Democrats as the problem.

“There’s no reason to doubt the good faith of advocates who want the Senate to pressure out-of-control justices to behave ethically and professionally. Far too many of these advocates, however, have allowed a tactical disagreement with Durbin to make Democrats the villain in this narrative and undermine the party in November.”

Or, as he puts it on social media, “I’m worried that some Democratic activists need a reality check. If two Republican justices are behaving horribly, the right thing to say about this scandal is not ‘Democrats are feckless.’ Attack your enemies, not your friends!”

READ MORE: ‘Pyongyang in the Rotunda’: GOP Red Carpet Rollout for Trump’s DC Trip Likened to North Korea

 

 

 

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