There is still hope religious liberty will prevail in America even though many wish to tear it down, including some in government, according to the president of the religious freedom law firm the Becket Fund.
Many religious liberty cases succeed because they tap into the “live and let live instinct” of Americans, Mark Rienzi told Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts on “The Kevin Roberts Show” podcast.
Freedom of religion is a commitment “that says you and I can be neighbors, we can be friends, we can be fellow citizens. We don’t actually have to agree on everything about God or about the universe to do that,” Rienzi added.
Religious liberties have faced several attacks in recent years. During COVID-19, for example, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., which is so large it can “fit the Statue of Liberty in it twice,” was told it could only have 50 people in the building at one time, according to Rienzi. However, these local rules in Washington did not apply to other places like health clubs.
“You could have 750 people riding the bikes and huffing and puffing and sweating in the same space. And D.C. would have said that was totally fine for COVID. But not if you’re going to sit there and worship God,” said Rienzi.
The Archdiocese of Washington sued D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser over the restrictions. Bowser adjusted restrictions to allow for 25% capacity and no more than 250 people, according to WTOP Radio.
Another example: Despite the federal government giving contraception to anyone who can’t afford it under the federal Title X law, the Obama administration spent almost a decade in court demanding a group of Catholic nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, provide contraception—including abortion-inducing drugs—in its employee health insurance plan. The use of contraceptives and abortifacients is against Catholic moral teaching.
“They needed to make the sisters kneel at the altar of contraception,” said Rienzi of the administration.
Rienzi and Becket represented the sisters for more than a decade, and because of it, the nuns have never had to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients. The Obama administration was relentless in that dispute because it was an “ideological fight,” according to Rienzi.
But the Becket Fund doesn’t just represent Christians’ religious liberty. Rienzi said he believes it is “important to defend it for everybody. If you lose your religious liberty, mine is not far behind.”
“We’ve represented Yeshiva University … which is an Orthodox Jewish university. … We’ve defended Muslim prisoners on death row; we’ve defended people of all different faiths,” he said.
Satanists often argue that religious liberty must extend to them as well, but “most Satanism cases … are actually insincere, and they are designed to mock religion. They don’t actually have a belief in a higher power. It’s mockery, and there’s nothing in the Constitution or in civil rights laws that says the government’s got to respect mockery,” said Rienzi.
“Whether you believe in God or don’t … you don’t really want to live in the countries without religious freedom,” he said.
Despite the attacks on religious liberty, he said he was optimistic.
“Religious liberty is doing well. America is doing well on this front,” said Rienzi. “Live your life and don’t be afraid and think you have to put your faith under a bushel basket.”
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