Top 10 Religious Liberty Events Of 2015

Top 10 Religious Liberty Events Of 2015

Beards, prisoners, Native Americans, Sikhs, nuns, and two 17-year-old girls named Samantha top the list.
Kristina Arriaga
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2016 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for freedom, but before the fun begins, let’s review the biggest winners (and losers) of 2015. The following are not in order of importance—just numbered as a tally.

1. Government Forcing Nuns to Pay for Other People’s Birth Control

The government does not force big businesses like Exxon, Pepsi Cola, the Church of Scientology, or even its own military to provide all contraceptives. Yet it’s telling the courts it needs the Little Sisters of the Poor—nuns who serve the poor, dying elderly—to do so. Penalty to the nuns if they do not obey: $70 million per year! The government apparently thinks it is improving healthcare by taking millions of dollars from nursing homes for the elderly poor. In 2016 the Supreme Court will decide who is right.

Watch the pope’s surprise visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor and learn more about the case.

2. Prisoners Are Human, Too

The Supreme Court unanimously agreed with the Becket Fund that prisoners do not lose their human dignity or right to practice their religion when they go to jail. The High Court told the state of Arkansas it could not play puppet master over any American—even in prison—“just because.” It also rejected the state’s bogus claims that allowing a prisoner to grow a half-inch religiously mandated beard is a security risk. Overall, a big win against undue government intrusion into the lives of all Americans.

3. Government Forced to Return Confiscated Eagle Feathers

The government allows big power companies to kill eagles but refuses to allow Native Americans like Pastor Robert Soto of the Lipan Apache tribe to pick up the eagles’ molted feathers from the ground and use them in religious ceremonies. Seven years ago, to make sure all rules were being followed, the Department of Interior sent an undercover government employee to a religious ceremony, where he confiscated the feathers and threatened Soto with fines and time in prison. Becket defended Soto against this blatant discrimination, and earlier this year the government finally returned the feathers. The fight is still ongoing since the government bans Soto from using, sharing, or passing down the feathers.

See a short video and read more about the case.

4. War Memorial Statue of Jesus Lives in Montana

For more than 60 years, the “Big Mountain Jesus” has stood atop the ski slopes of a resort near Whitefish, Montana, as a monument to soldiers who died during World War II. But in 2010 a Wisconsin-based atheist group sued because they were visually offended by the statue (even though they had to search it out to see it). Fortunately, the courts agreed with Becket that the atheists’ claims were ridiculous, allowing the war memorial to live on.

See a short video and read more about the case.

5. Victory for Kosher Food in Prison

Things are looking up in the state of Florida after a key court ruling assured Jewish inmates access to kosher food. A federal district court ordered Florida’s Department of Corrections to provide kosher meals, emphasizing the need for common-sense accommodation for all prisoners with religious needs. Another victory for religious liberty!

6. Vampire Mickey Mouse Welcome in Our Military, Sikhs Not So Much

The military system makes grooming accommodations for all sorts of reasons—including vampire Mickey Mouse tattoos—but it had a really hard time letting stellar serviceman Simmer Singh keep his beard. After it received a letter signed by 27 generals and Becket came into the picture, the Pentagon said it would make an exemption for brave Captain Singh, a member of the Sikh faith who is also a West Point graduate, Army Ranger, and Bronze Star recipient. Sikhs have served in the world’s military since time immemorial and even Winston Churchill praised their bravery. Let’s hope the military continues to get it right and let all patriotic Sikhs who want to serve our country do so. #LetSikhsServe

7. ‘Come to Church’ Signs Uncensored

When “Vote for Pedro” and “Bacon Sale” signs got more free-speech protection than a humble sign inviting people to “Come to Church,” the Supreme Court gave the ultimate 9-0 final word making speech-restricting bureaucrats from the town of Gilbert, Arizona, a top loser for 2015.

8. High-School Girl Fights For ‘Under God’ in Pledge of Allegiance

Samantha Jones, a 17-year-old high school senior from New Jersey, successfully defended the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, securing the right of all New Jersey students to say the pledge in full. Why is this important? It reminds us that our rights as people do not come from the government, but a higher power. This marks the fourth time Becket has protected the Pledge of Allegiance, and won.

9. Speaking of 17-year-old Girls Named Samantha

Seventeen-year-old Samantha Elauf won 8-1 at the Supreme Court in a case protecting her right to wear a head scarf while working at a local Abercrombie and Fitch store, safeguarding common sense and religious freedom protection in employment.

10. Service Ministries Back on Campus

Just in time for the holidays, Chi Alpha, a Christian student organization and service ministry for the hungry, can celebrate Christmas back on college campus thanks to Cal State having a Grinch-like change of heart. Earlier this year, Cal State had kicked the Christian group off campus because Chi Alpha wanted to choose leaders who share its faith. Oddly enough, Cal State had no problem with fraternities, or any other organizations, picking its own leaders—only religious groups were deemed problematic. Luckily, reason prevailed.

Here’s to a continued record of success in 2016. To make sure you know when our next victories occur, follow us on Twitter at @thebecketfund.

Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz is the executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The views expressed here are her own.

Copyright © 2016 The Federalist, a wholly independent division of FDRLST Media, All Rights Reserved.

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