On many days, being a religious freedom attorney is a lot like being paid to play “Whac-A-Mole."
You’re probably familiar with the game, played often at carnivals and arcades around the country. The player, equipped with a paddle, faces a series of holes, out of which a “mole” may pop at any moment. The test is to see how well you can anticipate where the mole will appear next – and how quickly you can respond with a smack of the paddle before it disappears.
And so it goes for our Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, trying to anticipate where the next threat to life, families, or religious freedom will appear, and meanwhile trying to bring the Constitution to bear quickly on whatever threat is now looming before us.
Two life-related cases from early September will give you a good idea how this goes.
On September 4, the California State Senate passed AB 775, a bill similar to others around the country designed to force pro-life pregnancy care centers to promote abortion. You read that right. Under this California law, people who have committed their lives to defending children in the womb can be compelled – under threat of stiff fines – to provide women with information about abortion services, where many will be urged to end their baby’s life.
The interesting thing is that similar laws have been passed in Texas, Maryland, and New York, for instance – and in each of these cases, a majority of the required disclosures were found to be unconstitutional. Those are clear precedents that California legislators are doing their best, for the moment, to ignore.
“This legislation is just another example of the California government attempting to fund and promote Big Abortion by running roughshod over the freedom of speech and conscience guaranteed to Californians and all Americans,” says Litigation Counsel Elissa Graves. “We hope the governor will veto this unconstitutional trampling of pro-life advocacy. ADF has defeated mandates like this in court before, and we expect this legislation will promptly land in court if it becomes law.”
That same day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit overturned a district court’s order in the case of Grace Schools v. Burwell that had suspended enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion-pill mandate against two private Christian schools: Grace College and Seminary in Indiana and Biola University in California.
Like the California legislation aimed at pro-life pregnancy centers, this action by the court has the effect of forcing people committed to saving life in the womb to help kill that life. The abortion-pill mandate compels these institutions to provide insurance coverage for abortifacients, even though both schools are on record as opposing abortion.
“All Americans should oppose unjust laws that force people – under threat of punishment – to give up their fundamental freedoms in order to provide health plans the government prefers,” says ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. (Baylor is one of several ADF attorneys who have successfully secured the right of Christian schools and businesses across the country not to go along with the abortion mandate.)
“These Christian schools simply want to abide by the very faith they espouse and teach, just as such schools have done since the founding of the country,” he says. “We will be consulting with our clients to consider our options.”
And so it goes – steps forward, steps back. A legal mole soundly whacked in one state pops up, alive and kicking, on the other side of the country. It might be just an interesting legal challenge, except that lives – so many lives – are at stake. As state legislators and city and county council members and courts at all levels debate these issues, the fate of countless children in the womb hangs in the balance.
Not only that, but the very nature of the society your children and grandchildren will grow up in and be a part of depends in some measure on the final outcome of these cases and others like them. Will American culture continue to be grounded in a fundamental respect for the sanctity of life, or embrace the convenience and nihilism of state-sanctioned death for any person, of any age or stage of development, whose existence is in some way a burden to others?
Our ADF staff and allied attorneys are working day by day to confront and eliminate the legal moles that are tunneling holes in our nation’s longstanding commitment to life. Please be in prayer for them, as they endeavor to strike decisive blows for life, for families, and for religious freedom in America.
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