May 3, 2013

Muslims, Monasteries, Jews, Sikhs, and Scholars Urge Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Religious Liberty Appeal

Image: Muslims, Monasteries, Jews, Sikhs, and Scholars Urge Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Religious Liberty Appeal

Diverse Group of Amicus Briefs Ask the High Court to Protect a Peaceful Hutterite Colony

For Immediate Release: May 3, 2013
Media Contact: Emily Hardman, ehardman@becketfund.org, 202.349.7224

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the State of Michigan, twenty-one First Amendment scholars, and eighteen religious organizations representing tens of millions of religious believers filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the Court to hear a religious liberty appeal on behalf of a Hutterite colony in Montana. The question in the case is whether the Hutterites, who trace their history to the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, can be forced to provide workers’ compensation insurance to their members, in violation of almost 500 years of Hutterite religious teaching.

The six amicus briefs were filed on behalf of a diverse array of religious organizations—including Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Santeros, Seventh-day Adventists, Hare Krishnas, Catholics, and Evangelicals. The religious groups were also joined by the State of Michigan and twenty-one First Amendment scholars.

“This incredible show of support from a diverse array of organizations and scholars speaks volumes about the importance of this case and injustice done to the Hutterites,” said Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel on the Hutterite case.

Highlights from the briefs include:

  •  “The State here demands something that is not possible, that is, something that is not possible without first destroying what it means to be Hutterite.” – Brief of 21 Constitutional scholars including: Michael McConnell, Robert P. George, Richard Garnett, Thomas Berg, Carl Esbeck, Teresa Stanton Collett, Richard Duncan,  and Michael Stokes Paulsen
  • “The Hutterites, though small in number, raise in their petition a constitutional question that affects millions of religious minorities.” Brief of the American Islamic Congress
  • “[S]tates across the country already recognize that imposing workers’ compensation on religious organizations raises First Amendment issues. For that reason, a number of states have statutes excluding either religious organizations or people working for religious organizations without pay[.]” –  Brief of the State of Michigan
  • “[T]he decision below essentially deprives monasteries of the resources necessary to sustain themselves and support their charitable ministries…In the absence of the financial gain derived from the sale of these goods and services to nonmembers, it would be virtually impossible for a monastery to support itself and freely serve the needy.” Brief of Monasteries Belmont Abbey and the Abbey of New Clairvaux
  •  “[A] religious practice may be just as burdened by a lawmaker who does not care about religious freedom, as by one who exudes conscious religious bias.” – Brief of Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, National Association of Evangelicals, Seventh-Day Adventists, Southern Baptist Convention, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Christian Legal Society
  • “[The decision] threatens to dismantle the protections for minority religious groups that this Court recognized in Smith and Lukumi. In doing so, it allows majoritarian forces and well-organized special interests to infringe, even if inadvertently, on the basic freedoms of religious minorities.” – Brief of Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, O Centro, and Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law.  The Becket Fund recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Emily Hardman, Communications Director, at ehardman@becketfund.org or call 202.349.7224.

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