Ben Johnson

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Michigan attorney general joins religious liberty case against Obama administration

Ben Johnson
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LANSING, MICHIGAN, February 9, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Michigan’s state attorney general has joined the case against the Obama administration, calling its controversial contraception regulation “an unconscionable intrusion on religious liberty.”

Bill Schuette will file an amicus curiae “(friend of the court”) brief in pending cases filed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on behalf of Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian College, and the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) against the new health care rule, which compels them to pay for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

“This is a radical attack on the First Amendment that cannot stand,” Schuette said. “We cannot compromise religious liberty. We cannot undermine constitutional protections. We cannot trample freedom of religion in the United States of America.”

The attorney general, who was elected in 2010 as part of an electoral tidal wave that swept Republicans into Michigan’s statewide offices, filed amicus briefs in two previous religious liberty cases handled by the Becket Fund. In 2011, he supported the ministerial exemption at the heart of the Hosanna-Tabor case. The Obama administration wanted to strip that right from parachurch ministries, but the Supreme Court unanimously upheld their hiring rights. The Lutheran school in the case is located in Redford, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

Schuette also filed an amicus brief in support of Julea Ward, a former Eastern Michigan University student forced out of a counseling program because of her religious objections to homosexuality.

Joy Yearout, the deputy director of communications in the attorney general’s office, told LifeSiteNews.com, “Attorney General Scheutte considers religious liberty to be one of most fundamental Constitutional protections.”

“This mandate is such an attack on the First Amendment rights of people of faith across America that he’s going to make it a high priority as these cases move forward,” she said.

Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and a law professor at the Catholic University of America, said he thought Schuette was the first state attorney general to participate in Becket’s cases.

Both Rienzi and Yearout said that the attorney general will be spearheading efforts with other state attorneys general to file a multi-state amicus brief.

“He is speaking with others to rally more support, and I expect there to be plenty more support,” Rienzi said.  “We are grateful for the support that we are receiving from around this country, and we expect to be successful.”

The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in the Hosanna-Tabor case gives the fund’s lawyers additional confidence. “We think they’ve displayed the same and untenable and narrow view of religious liberty here,” Rienzi said.

If the state wants to compel religious people to violate their conscience, “they use the least restrictive means,” he said, “and one thing is really clear: there are plenty of other ways to get people contraceptives without forcing religious objectors to be part of it.

“The government provides free contraceptives to millions of people all over this country,” Rienzi told LifeSiteNews. “If they want to get people contraceptives, they can do it without getting religious people involved.”

Yearout says her office plans to explore every possible option to prevent religious institutions from being compelled to pay for services they find sinful, even if the case is not successful.

“Attorney General Schutte will be looking at every tool he has available to make sure our religious liberties are protected. And this is just the first step in that direction,” she said.

Contact Information:
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette
G. Mennen Williams Building, 7th Floor
525 W. Ottawa St.
P.O. Box 30212
Lansing, MI 48909
(517) 373-1110
[email protected]

 

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