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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Freedom of Religion"

Supreme Court Lets Employers Opt Out of Providing Free Birth Control

Westlake Legal Group supreme-court-lets-employers-opt-out-of-providing-free-birth-control Supreme Court Lets Employers Opt Out of Providing Free Birth Control Supreme Court (US) Religion-State Relations Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010) Hobby Lobby Stores Inc Freedom of Religion Decisions and Verdicts Birth Control and Family Planning

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a Trump administration regulation that lets employers with religious objections limit women’s access to free birth control under the Affordable Care Act.

As a consequence of the ruling, about 70,000 to 126,000 women could lose contraceptive coverage from their employers, according to government estimates.

The vote was 7 to 2, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting.

Contraception coverage has emerged as a key battleground in the culture wars, one in which successive administrations have switched sides.

In the Obama years, the court heard two cases on whether religious groups could refuse to comply with regulations requiring contraceptive coverage. The new case presented the opposite question: Can the Trump administration allow all sorts of employers with religious or moral objections to contraception to opt out of the coverage requirement?

In March 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, which includes a section that requires coverage of preventive health services and screenings for women. The next year, the Obama administration required employers and insurers to provide women with coverage at no cost for all methods of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Houses of worship, including churches, temples and mosques, were exempt from the requirement. But nonprofit groups like schools and hospitals affiliated with religious organizations were not.

Some of those groups objected to providing coverage for any of the approved forms of contraception. Others objected to contraception they said was tantamount to abortion, though there are substantial questions about whether that characterization was correct as a scientific matter.



How the court ruled

In Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, the court ruled, 7 to 2, that the Trump administration can allow employers to deny contraception coverage to female workers on religious or moral grounds.

Liberal Bloc
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Conservative Bloc
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Where the public stands

Employers should be forced to cover contraceptives Employers should not be forced to cover contraceptives
All ; 47% 53%
Democrats ; 66% 34%
Independents ; 42% 58%
Republicans ; 31% 69%

Question wording: The Affordable Care Act requires that health insurance plans for women include coverage for contraceptives (birth control), but the Trump administration recently passed regulations that greatly expanded exceptions to this mandate to include exemptions on the basis of religious or “moral” objections. Some people think that employers should not be forced to cover contraceptives if they express either a religious or a “moral” objection. Other people think that these employers should be forced to cover contraceptives. What do you think? | Source: SCOTUSPoll, based on an online YouGov survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted April 29 to May 12.


The Trump administration took the side of the religious employers, saying that requiring contraception coverage can impose a “substantial burden” on the free exercise of religion. The regulations it has promulgated made good on a campaign pledge by President Trump, who has said that employers should not be “bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs.”

The new regulations also included an exception for employers “with sincerely held moral convictions opposed to coverage of some or all contraceptive or sterilization methods.”

The states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey challenged the rules, saying they would have to shoulder much of the cost of providing contraceptives to women who lost coverage under the Trump administration’s rules.

Last year, a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, blocked the regulations, issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction. Making exceptions to the requirement that employers provide women with coverage of contraception at no cost would have a large practical effect, Judge Patty Shwartz wrote for the panel.

That, in turn, she wrote, would disproportionately affect access to contraception for poor women. “Cost is a significant barrier to contraceptive use and access,” she wrote. “The most effective forms of contraceptives are the most expensive. After the A.C.A. removed cost barriers, women switched to the more effective and expensive methods of contraception.”

The coverage requirement, sometimes called the contraceptive mandate, has been the subject of much litigation, reaching the Supreme Court twice.

In 2014, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the court ruled that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception violated a federal law protecting religious liberty. The law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, says that government requirements placing a substantial burden on religious practices are subject to an exceptionally demanding form of judicial scrutiny.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said there was a better alternative, one that the government had offered to nonprofit groups with religious objections.

That accommodation allowed the groups not to pay for coverage and to avoid fines if they informed their insurers, plan administrators or the government that they wanted an exemption. Insurance companies or the government would then pay for the coverage.

Many religious groups around the nation challenged the accommodation, saying that objecting and providing the required information would make them complicit in conduct that violated their faith. An eight-member court considered that objection in 2016 in Zubik v. Burwell but was unable to reach a definitive ruling and instead returned the case to the lower courts, instructing them to consider whether a compromise could be reached.

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Supreme Court to Consider Limits on Contraception Coverage

Westlake Legal Group 17dc-scotus-contraception-facebookJumbo Supreme Court to Consider Limits on Contraception Coverage Women and Girls United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Supreme Court (US) Obama, Barack Freedom of Religion Birth Control and Family Planning Alito, Samuel A Jr

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether the Trump administration may allow employers to limit women’s access to free birth control under the Affordable Care Act.

The case returns the court to a key battleground in the culture wars, but one in which successive administrations have switched sides.

In the Obama years, the court heard two cases on whether religious groups could refuse to comply with regulations requiring contraceptive coverage. The new case presents the opposite question: Can the Trump administration allow all sorts of employers with religious or moral objections to contraception to opt out of the coverage requirement?

President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in March 2010. One section of the law requires coverage of preventive health services and screenings for women. In August 2011, the Obama administration required employers and insurers to provide women with coverage at no cost for all methods of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

But the Trump administration has said that requiring contraception coverage can impose a “substantial burden” on the exercise of religion by some employers. The regulations it has promulgated made good on a campaign pledge by President Trump, who has said that employers should not be “bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs,” and it added an exception for employers who said they had moral objections to certain forms of birth control.

The states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey challenged the rules, saying, they would have to shoulder much of the cost of providing contraceptives to women who lost coverage under the Trump administration’s rules.

In May, a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, blocked the regulations, issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction.

That requirement that employers and insurers provide women with coverage of contraception at no cost has had a large practical effect, Judge Patty Shwartz wrote for the Third Circuit. “Cost is a significant barrier to contraceptive use and access,” she wrote. “The most effective forms of contraceptives are the most expensive. After the A.C.A. removed cost barriers, women switched to the more effective and expensive methods of contraception.”

Judge Shwartz added that expanding the Trump administration’s exceptions would have predictable consequences.

“Because the rules allow employers to opt out of providing coverage for contraceptive services,” she wrote, “some women may no longer have insurance to help offset the cost for these and other contraceptives.”

The coverage requirement, sometimes called the contraceptive mandate, has been the subject of much litigation, reaching the Supreme Court twice.

In 2014, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the court ruled that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception violated a federal law protecting religious liberty. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said there was a better alternative, one that the government had offered to nonprofit groups with religious objections.

That accommodation allowed the groups not to pay for coverage and to avoid fines if they informed their insurers, plan administrators or the government that they wanted an exemption. Insurance companies or the government would then pay for the coverage.

Many religious groups around the nation challenged the accommodation, saying that objecting and providing the required information would make them complicit in conduct that violated their faith. An eight-member court considered that objection in 2016 in Zubik v. Burwell but was unable to reach a definitive ruling and instead returned the case to the lower courts, instructing them to consider whether a compromise could be reached.

In urging the Supreme Court to hear its appeal, Trump v. Pennsylvania, 19-454, the administration said the new exceptions were authorized by the health care law and required by the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Lawyers for Pennsylvania and New Jersey responded that the administration lacked statutory authority to issue the regulations and had not followed proper administrative procedures.

The court agreed to also hear a second appeal, from an order of nuns who had intervened in the case, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, No. 19-431. The two cases will be consolidated for a single hour of argument and will probably be heard in April.

The second case presents the separate issue of whether the nuns have standing to appeal. The Third Circuit ruled that they did not because a separate court order allowed them to decline to provide contraception coverage to their workers.

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Barr Dives Into the Culture Wars, and Social Conservatives Rejoice

Westlake Legal Group 06dc-barr-1-facebookJumbo Barr Dives Into the Culture Wars, and Social Conservatives Rejoice United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Republican Party Legal Profession Justice Department Freedom of Religion Conservatism (US Politics) Christians and Christianity Barr, William P Attorneys General

WASHINGTON — When President Trump nominated William P. Barr as attorney general a year ago, establishment Republicans who had chafed at Mr. Trump’s takeover of their party were relieved. Between Mr. Barr’s work in the Reagan White House and his fast-track career under George Bush, he could be a bridge to the Republican Party they knew — and preferred.

How wrong they were.

Mr. Barr has eagerly embraced the most divisive and disputed aspects of the Trump agenda, much to the delight of the party’s hard-line conservatives who see him as an indispensable ally in their fight to push the country further to the right on issues like religious liberty, immigration and policing.

Other conservative attorneys general shared Mr. Barr’s relish for political battle. But as he attacks the Democratic Party, assails liberal culture and defends the president against accusations of abusing his office, Mr. Barr has wielded a maximalist view of executive power and adopted a blithely antagonistic, no-apologies style that set him apart from his predecessors.

That makes him a natural fit in a Republican Party that Mr. Trump has remade in his mold. But it worries critics in both parties who fear that Mr. Barr is eroding the Justice Department’s traditional independence in law enforcement. They point to his handling of the Mueller report, which he summarized in a letter widely seen as more favorable to Mr. Trump, and his appointment of a prosecutor to re-examine the opening of the Russia investigation, which Mr. Trump has long impugned.

To the conservatives who make up the most solid foundation of the president’s base — a wing of the Republican Party that is generally more uncompromising on social issues and enthusiastic about political combat with the left — Mr. Barr is the template of the public servant they envisioned when Mr. Trump promised to give them greater influence in his administration.

He is a devoted Catholic who has said he believes the nation needs a “moral renaissance” to restore Judeo-Christian values in American life. He has been unafraid to use his platform as the nation’s top law enforcement officer to fight the cultural changes they believe are making the country more inhospitable and unrecognizable, like rising immigration and secularism or new legal protections for L.G.B.T. people.

“Attorney General Barr represents an important conservative point of view that is really the heart of the Trump presidency,” said Frank Cannon, the president of the American Principles Project, a social conservative organization.

A series of assertive public appearances in recent weeks, laced with biting sarcasm aimed at adversaries on the left, have brought a sharper focus on Mr. Barr’s style and worldview, both of which share aspects with the president’s.

He has painted a picture of a country divided into camps of “secularists” — those who, he said recently, “seem to take a delight in compelling people to violate their conscience” — and people of faith. The depiction echoes Mr. Trump’s worldview, with the “us versus them” divisions that the president often stokes when he tells crowds at his rallies that Democrats “don’t like you.”

His politicization of the office is unorthodox and a departure from previous attorneys general in a way that feels uncomfortably close to authoritarianism, critics said.

“Barr has believed for a long time that the country would benefit from more authoritarianism. It would inject a stronger moral note into government,” said Stuart M. Gerson, who worked in the Bush Justice Department under Mr. Barr and is a member of Checks & Balances, a legal group that is among the attorney general’s leading conservative detractors. “I disagree with his analysis of power. We would be less free in the end.”

Mr. Barr swats away those critics. “Generally, no one really cares what they think,” he said of Checks & Balances in a recent interview with New York magazine. An accompanying picture showed him grinning ear to ear with his feet propped up on his desk.

That defiance is one reason he has attained an almost heroic status among some on the right, particularly the religious conservatives.

“He’s offering a fairly unabashed, crisp and candid assessment of the nature of our culture right now,” said Leonard A. Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist Society and a prominent advocate for socially conservative causes. “There’s certainly a movement in our country to dial back the role that religion plays in civil society and public life. It’s been going on for some time,” Mr. Leo added. “That’s not an observation that public officials make very often, so it is refreshing.”

Mr. Barr helped make the case for conservatives to shift to war footing against the left during a speech at Notre Dame Law School in October that was strikingly partisan. He accused “the forces of secularism” of orchestrating the “organized destruction” of religion. He mocked progressives, asking sardonically, “But where is the progress?”

And while other members of the Catholic Church and Pope Francis have acknowledged that the sexual abuse crisis has devastated the moral authority of the church in the United States and is in part to blame for decreasing attendance, Mr. Barr outlined what he saw as a larger plot by the left and others. He said they “have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”

At one point, he compared the denial of religious liberty protections for people of faith to Roman emperors who forced their Christian subjects to engage in pagan sacrifices. “We cannot sit back and just hope the pendulum is going to swing back toward sanity,” Mr. Barr warned.

Delivered on a Friday before a holiday weekend to a small, invitation-only crowd, the speech initially drew little attention in mainstream circles. But among politically active Christians, Mr. Barr’s remarks lit a brush fire.

At a dinner with anti-abortion activists shortly after the speech, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told guests how striking and clarifying he found Mr. Barr’s comments, according to two people who spoke with him.

It was “one of the best speeches any attorney general has ever given,” said Edwin Meese III, the attorney general under Ronald Reagan, who said that he not only liked Mr. Barr’s style but also agreed with his diagnosis of the problems facing the country. Today’s culture, Mr. Meese said, is more hostile than it was for conservative values when he was attorney general in the 1980s. And Mr. Barr is giving voice to those on the right who believe they cannot cede any more ground in the culture wars.

“If you look back in history, there have been various points of renewal,” Mr. Meese added. “And I think his concern, which I would share, is we’re facing a time when the pendulum is not going to swing back.”

Mr. Barr, who personally covers tuition for underprivileged New York City students who wish to attend Catholic school, has prioritized Justice Department cases involving religious institutions. In October, the department filed a brief in support of parents suing over a Maine law that bans religious schools from the state’s school tuition program. It has also argued recently that the Maryland State Education Department discriminated against a Christian academy that said same-sex marriage was wrong.

For the better part of three decades, Mr. Barr has been known in conservative legal circles as a sharp, tight-lipped lawyer who embodied the Reagan and Bush eras. “A fair number of people who were more or less conservative said publicly that it was good that he was coming in because he was a real lawyer who would bring respectability to this administration,” said Donald Ayer, who served in the Justice Department under Reagan and Mr. Bush.

But his longstanding relationships with Trump allies like Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel who is a founder of the National Prayer Breakfast and takes part in the anti-abortion March for Life, and Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host whom Mr. Cipollone introduced to Catholicism, suggest that he was always at ease in the world of social conservatives who have lined up behind Mr. Trump to take on liberals.

In a speech on executive power delivered at a Federalist Society conference last month, Mr. Barr argued that the left’s opposition to the president was a dangerous attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and weaken the power of the presidency.

Delivering such a speech amid impeachment proceedings was unusual. During the Clinton impeachment, Janet Reno, then the attorney general, did not castigate Republicans and defend the president’s behavior as Mr. Barr has with Mr. Trump.

“Barr’s language against the ‘left’ and against ‘progressives’ was not something we’d normally hear in a speech by the attorney general,” said Carrie F. Cordero, a national security expert and a co-founder of Checks & Balances who served as a top legal adviser to the director of national intelligence and in the Justice Department.

“It’s embedded in department culture to set those partisan views aside when doing your work and applying the law,” Ms. Cordero said.

Defenders say Mr. Barr feels emboldened to criticize Democrats because he believes they crossed a line during his confirmation hearings when they accused him of being blindly deferential to Mr. Trump. The same general sentiment is one shared by the president, who also believes he is the victim of unfair attacks from the left.

“Their critics went too far too fast,” said Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor who first met Mr. Barr years ago through Ms. Ingraham. “And you reap what you sow.”

Mr. Barr and Mr. Trump have both staked out far-right positions on issues like aggressive policing, with the attorney general serving as the polished ego to the president’s unbridled id.

Last week, for instance, Mr. Barr said that communities who criticized policing needed to show more respect or they “may find themselves without the police protection they need.”

Both conservative supporters and critics of Mr. Barr insist that he is not doing the president’s bidding, as many on the left suggest. Rather, they say, he is empowered by Mr. Trump, who has not interfered with an attorney general who provides him the legal justification for his instinct-driven approach to the presidency. That leaves room for Mr. Barr to carry out Mr. Trump’s agenda through the prism of his own sweeping views of executive power.

“Barr has an opportunity to test legal theories that no other president would give Barr the opportunity to test,” Mr. Ayer said.

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Beto: Strip churches of tax exemptions if don’t support gay marriage

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Robert Francis O’Rourke is swinging for the fences. During Thursday night’s CNN LGBTQ forum he was rewarded with a home run by the studio audience when he said churches that don’t support same-sex marriage should lose tax-exempt status. The rest of America reacted as you would expect.

Don Lemon, an openly gay CNN anchor, moderated Beto’s time in the barrel during the forum. Lemon asked O’Rourke if he supports revoking the tax-exempt status for religious institutions such as churches, colleges, and charities if they don’t support gay marriage. His answer is yes. The in-studio audience applauded in approval.

“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” O’Rourke said. “And so, as president, we’re going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”

Got that? Robert Francis O’Rourke will punish churches for preaching religious doctrine by yanking tax exemptions. An O’Rourke administration would micro-manage your church from their perches in Washington, D.C. The next thing you know, Beto will be coming for a copy of your pastor’s sermon. Oh, wait. That has happened, not with Beto but during the administration of former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the city’s first lesbian mayor. She tried to subpoena the sermons of local pastors who were opposed to the city’s HERO ordinance in 2014. It was an equal rights ordinance that included the hot button issue of transgender people in public bathrooms. She finally dropped her demand to review the sermons.

This is an attempt to deter religious leaders from preaching the gospel. In the case of the Houston pastors in 2014, a group of them – the Houston area pastors’ council – banded together to take the fight to the voters. They got their message out to voters before a vote was taken on the ordinance. The mayor was so determined to ram through the ordinance that the Texas Supreme Court had to rule that the ordinance must appear on the ballot. Leftists don’t much care about civil rights except when it directly affects their preferred civil rights.

Under U.S. tax code law, churches are considered to be charities. They are exempt from federal, state, and local taxes. I assume Beto wants to tax churches at the federal level. He may or may not be the only Democrat in the race that supports this idea.

When Cory Booker was asked about stripping churches of tax-exempt status, he did what he always does – he waffled. Spartacus isn’t so brave when push comes to shove. He deflected a direct question and turned it into a lecture about discrimination in general. Brave, brave Spartacus.

Booker decried the Trump administration “turning against what the Obama administration did” and said “whether you’re a school and are providing health care for folks, whether you are a bakery, you cannot discriminate.”

“We must stand up as a nation to say that religion cannot be an excuse to deny people health insurance, education, or more,” Booker said. “This cannot happen. And I will make sure that I assert the laws to make sure.”

But Booker did not say whether those organizations should lose their tax-exempt statuses.

Moderator Dana Bash tried several times to get a straight (pardon the pun) answer but failed each time. “So would they lose their tax-exempt status?”

“Again, I will press this issue. I’m not saying, because I know this is a long legal battle. I’m not dodging your question. I’m saying I believe fundamentally that discrimination is discrimination,” Booker said. “And if you are using your position to try to discriminate others, there must be consequences to that. And I will make sure to hold them accountable using the DOJ or whatever investigatory. You cannot discriminate.”

“No yes or no there,” Bash followed up.“That is a process and I’ll make sure I will hold them accountable, if it means losing your tax status,” Booker said, adding, “there has to be consequences for discrimination.”

The arrogance of the far left is presented once again. It is easy to imagine what Americans watching this forum in middle America thought during this forum. If they tuned in, many Independent voters and moderate Democrats were thinking these candidates have lost their minds. Showing support to an LGBTQ loved one and other people in our lives is one thing. Going to extremes to pander for votes is another. Leftists show a real disdain for church-going Americans.

Arguing about tax exemption for churches as it relates to the separation of church and state is an old argument. Hardest hit would be small and rural churches which are often the glue that holds communities together. Churches provide aid for people in their communities that often fall through the cracks. As a conservative, I support church groups helping out whenever possible rather than the taxpayer being on the hook.

As Chief Justice John Marshall explained in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), the power to tax is the power to destroy, and if religious tax exemption is revoked, thousands of churches in the United States could be forced to disband. Smaller, rural churches would suffer dramatically, as would churches occupying valuable land in the hearts of America’s great cities. Taxing churches would force many to close, which, in turn, would increase dependency on the state and deprive millions of social services.

Republicans should seize this opportunity to appeal to moderate Democrats and Independents who are reading about this forum today and seeing the quotes from the candidates. Regular Americans – those not beholden to extreme ideology – will see that this is further proof that liberals will try and shut down any opposing opinion, even if it causes the extinction of local churches. Yanking tax-exempt status because of religious doctrine is a new low in demanding conformity to groupthink.

The post Beto: Strip churches of tax exemptions if don’t support gay marriage appeared first on Hot Air.

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Eighth Circuit Rules That Videographer Doesn’t Have To Make That Video

Westlake Legal Group constitution-620x326 Eighth Circuit Rules That Videographer Doesn’t Have To Make That Video telescope media religion Politics minnesota human rights act Minnesota Front Page Stories Freedom of Religion First Amendment Featured Story donald trump democrats Courts Alliance Defending Freedom

The right of Christians to be free from the state coercing them into actively participating in events that they consider reprehensible won a major victory in the Eighth Circuit.

Carl and Angel Larsen run a video business called Telescope Media in St. Cloud, MN. The are observant Christians but the Minnesota Human Rights Act unambiguously requires them to provide video services of basically any event. They could be forced to memorialize the drag queen story hour at the local library or day care center or record for posterity a sham wedding ceremony.

In innumerable cases courts interpret laws that prohibit discrimination against homosexual persons to prohibit discrimination against homosexual behavior, and thus to require complicity in behavior Scripture declares to be sinful. Pointing to the many types of behavior one can legally object to in the marketplace, and the obvious wrong of having to facilitate activity deemed immoral, is met with the claim that discrimination against homosexual behavior is discrimination against homosexual persons.

A very recent case of this type concerns Telescope Media Group videography company in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Influenced by Reformed theologian John Piper’s comparison of telescopes magnifying distant stars and microscopes magnifying small objects with our reason for being, which is to magnify God, Telescope Media Group founders and owners Carl and Angel Larsen endeavor to glorify God in all their work and present his truth through their video skills. Although they have a clear religious and expressive purpose in their work, and desire to use their talents to tell stories with their videography about “the historic, Biblically orthodox definition of marriage,” they are unable to use their narrative skills with weddings because of Minnesota’s sexual orientation anti-discrimination law. Not only does the law provide for severe civil and criminal penalties (triple compensatory and punitive damages to the aggrieved party up to $25,000, and up to 90 days in jail), but it is aggressively enforced by the state attorney general with “testers” who seek out merchants who will decline services that contribute to homosexual behavior.

Rather than wait around for the obvious set-up as has happened to Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop and then litigate with tens of thousands of dollars in potential damages hanging over their heads, the Larsens, with the assistance of the Alliance Defending Freedom, filed a suit in federal court seeking injunctive relief. Unsurprisingly, the case was tossed by the district court judge who was pretty much in the “bake that cake” camp. The Larsens and ADF appealed to the Eighth Circuit and last Friday they won in a big way.

(Read the whole decision.)

In its opinion in Telescope Media Group v. Lucero, the 8th Circuit wrote, “Carl and Angel Larsen wish to make wedding videos. Can Minnesota require them to produce videos of same-sex weddings, even if the message would conflict with their own beliefs? The district court concluded that it could and dismissed the Larsens’ constitutional challenge to Minnesota’s antidiscrimination law. Because the First Amendment allows the Larsens to choose when to speak and what to say, we reverse the dismissal of two of their claims and remand with instructions to consider whether they are entitled to a preliminary injunction….”

“Indeed,” the 8th Circuit continued, “if Minnesota were correct, there is no reason it would have to stop with the Larsens. In theory, it could use the MHRA to require a Muslim tattoo artist to inscribe ‘My religion is the only true religion’ on the body of a Christian if he or she would do the same for a fellow Muslim, or it could demand that an atheist musician perform at an evangelical church service. In fact, if Minnesota were to do what other jurisdictions have done and declare political affiliation or ideology to be a protected characteristic, then it could force a Democratic speechwriter to provide the same services to a Republican, or it could require a professional entertainer to perform at rallies for both the Republican and Democratic candidates for the same office.”

I think the court gets this exactly right. The Minnesota statute essentially makes any business owner and any employee a serf to any customer. Carried to its logical conclusion you could have a situation were a demented pre-op transsexual could demand that a women’s salon wax and moisturize his balls.

Just some thoughts here.

The decision was 2-1. A Trump and a Bush appointee finding in favor of religious freedom, an Obama appointee demanding that the cake be baked. The Trump appointee wrote the opinion. You people who laughed about folks voting for Trump because of judges and who actively pushed for a Clinton presidency, you should be feeling pretty ridiculous right now…but I know you aren’t.

I don’t know what kind of legs this decision will have but the majority lays out an easily understandable and defensible position in the face of totalitarian laws like the one in Minnesota.

Every time we get one of these cases to the Supreme Court, we’ll gain some ground. The recent decisions out of SCOTUS on parochial school funding, management of church personnel, and the display of religious symbols have stopped the bleeding. Even though Jack Phillips did not have a clear win, his partial victory certainly makes these little fascists on state “human rights” boards and commissions be more inventive in their deliberations.

This is a struggle that will go on for years but I think in the end we’ll be able to carve out sufficient space for people of faith to be able to live a life comporting with that faith in the public square.

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The post Eighth Circuit Rules That Videographer Doesn’t Have To Make That Video appeared first on RedState.

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Labor Dept. Moves to Expand Religion Exemption for Hiring and Firing

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The Labor Department has proposed a rule that would allow more federal contractors to base employment decisions on religion, a move that rights advocates said could be used to discriminate against workers for all manner of reasons.

The proposal, announced on Wednesday, seeks “to provide the broadest protection of religious exercise recognized by the Constitution and other laws,” the Labor Department said in a statement. It applies to a wide variety of organizations and companies that claim a religious goal as part of their mission.

Naomi Goldberg, policy research director of the Movement Advancement Project, a think tank focused on equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, said the “proposed rule would permit taxpayer-funded discrimination.”

“Examples of the type of discrimination this action condones include firing unmarried pregnant workers, workers who may not be coreligionists or who can’t sign a statement of faith, unmarried cohabiting workers and L.G.B.T. workers,” Ms. Goldberg said.

In addition to this rule, the Trump administration is challenging other protections for gay and transgender workers. In three cases the Supreme Court will hear this fall, the administration is arguing that federal civil rights law does not prohibit employers from discriminating against such workers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had previously ruled that such discrimination is illegal.

Religious nonprofit organizations that receive federal contracts are currently exempt from rules covering other contractors that prevent religious discrimination. For example, a social services agency with a Jewish affiliation that receives a federal contract to feed disadvantaged children can insist on hiring a rabbi to oversee preparation of kosher food.

The proposed rule appears to expand the scope of hiring and firing decisions in which contractors can invoke their religious tenets. While it was previously unclear if an agency that receives a federal contract could insist on hiring a Jewish janitor, the proposed rule appears to resolve that question in favor of the employer.

The proposed rule would also extend the ability to discriminate in hiring and firing to all federal contractors, not just nonprofits, that identify their mission as including a religious purpose and practicing religion to advance that purpose.

Under this definition, a privately held, for-profit company like Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts chain whose owners have said they have sought to organize the company around their Christian beliefs, could refuse to hire a gay manager without risking the loss of a federal contract, which would normally preclude such discrimination.

The public has 30 days to comment on the proposed rule, after which the department can issue a final version. Many advocates said they would expect a variety of legal challenges if it is enacted.

Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which advocates for the rights of people to express their religious faith, said the order was necessary to better align the religious exemption that exists for federal contractors with the broader exemption for religious organizations that exists under federal civil rights law. Under current law, a religious organization that is not a contractor could refuse to hire workers who do not share certain religious beliefs.

Thousands of companies have federal contracts, for food and information technology services, the provision of furniture and military equipment, and much more.

Holly Hollman, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Freedom, a group that opposes government-funded religion, said the rule would not override state laws intended to protect certain workers, which typically have primacy over federal rules.

In explaining the purpose of the rule, the Labor Department said some religious organizations had indicated they were hesitant to apply for federal contracts because they were unsure if the existing religious exemption applied to them.

“As people of faith with deeply held religious beliefs are making decisions on whether to participate in federal contracting, they deserve clear understanding of their obligations and protections under the law,” Patrick Pizzella, the acting labor secretary, said in a statement.

But Patricia A. Shiu, who ran the federal office that oversees compliance for federal contractors under President Barack Obama, said no contractors or prospective contractors had expressed such concerns during her more than seven years in the job.

In 2014, Mr. Obama signed an executive order prohibiting contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, which was not forbidden by existing federal civil rights law. Ms. Shiu said she worried that the new rule could help employers evade that rule, but also that it would go much further in eroding civil rights protections.

“My breath is taken away by the scope of this,” she said.

Jennifer C. Pizer, the law and policy director of Lambda Legal, an L.G.B.T. advocacy group, said the law had long held that the government could not deny public benefits to people who may have discriminatory views — such as Christians who assert that their religious beliefs forbid homosexual relationships. But organizations have no similar entitlement to federal contracts.

Historically, Ms. Pizer said, “if you want to work for the public, with public money, you have to be willing to employ the public.”

“This proposed rule erases that distinction,” she added.

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SCOTUS Rules Against Atheist Scolds In Maryland Peace Cross Decision

For nearly 95 years a 40-foot tall Latin cross has stood on public land in Bladensburg, MD, to commemorate US war dead in World War I. For most of that time the cross was uncontroversial, but then in 2014 a group of liberal atheist scolds operating under the guise of the “American Humanist Association” filed a lawsuit demanding that the monument be demolished because it gave them the heebie-jeebies every time they looked at it and because this cross on public land meant that Christianity was established as the official religion of the United States. A federal district court heard the case and granted summary judgment against the scolds, but the Fourth Circuit not only threw out the judgment, it ruled that the cross was unconstitutional and sent the case back to the lower court for a decision on what to do next…presumably something involving bulldozers. Today the Supreme Court issued a 7-2 ruling, Alito writing the majority opinion and Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissenting, which said, in essence, “yeah, its a Christian symbol and get over it.”

The opinion was interesting because the reasoning that Alito took, and which brought a solid majority along with him, basically ignored the historic Lemon test for determining if a religious symbol was too hurtful to be displayed on public grounds. That test sets the bar at the practice or object serving a secular purpose, its principal effect does not advance or inhibit religion, and it does not create an “excessive entanglement with religion.”

Via SCOTUS Blog:

Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court today, in an opinion that once again eschewed the use of the Lemon test. Alito began by explaining that although the cross “came into widespread use as a symbol of Christianity” and continues to have that meaning today, it “has also taken on a secular meaning” in other contexts. In particular, Alito noted, the cross became a “central symbol” of World War I – which likely explains the choice to use a massive cross as the memorial for the Prince George’s County soldiers.

Alito then reasoned that in cases involving longstanding religious memorials or symbols, the Lemon test should not apply. At least when the question is whether to keep them in place, rather than to put up new ones, Alito emphasized, there should be a presumption that they are constitutional.

That presumption, Alito continued, applies here: Not only did the cross start off with the “added secular meaning” associated with World War I, but it took on “historical importance”: It reminds local residents of the conflict and the sacrifices that area soldiers made. On the other hand, there is no evidence that Jewish soldiers were either “deliberately left off the list on the memorial” or “included on the Cross against the wishes of their families.”

“The cross is a Christian symbol,” Alito concluded, “but that fact should not blind us to everything else that the Bladensburg Cross has come to represent. For some, that monument is a symbolic resting place for ancestors who never returned home,” while for others “it is a place for the community to gather and honor all veterans and their sacrifices for our Nation.” “For many of these people,” Alito stressed, “destroying or defacing the Cross that has stood undisturbed for nearly a century would not be neutral and would not further the ideals of respect and tolerance embodied in the First Amendment.”

Justice Clarence Thomas also would have allowed the cross to stand, but for a different reason: He believes that the Constitution’s establishment clause does not apply to the states at all. Even if it did apply to the states, he added, there would still not be any constitutional violation – either because the establishment clause only applies to laws passed by a legislature or because the clause requires actual coercion by the government.

Justice Neil Gorsuch also agreed that the cross should be permitted to remain in place, but he argued that the case should be dismissed, because the challengers do not have a legal right, known as “standing,” to bring a lawsuit. Simply being offended by the cross’s presence is not, Gorsuch contended, enough to justify the lawsuit.

And predictably, the legal big brains on the left went full bore theocracy:

On the one hand, the decision did what was needed. It kicked this bunch of anti-religious scolds to the curb and told them to get a life and it did it in a way that will make the lawfare being conducted against religion to continue. On the other hand, it left in place an, in my view, unconstitutional prejudice against Christian symbols and references in the public square…because let’s face it, we live in a society where the prohibition on an establishment of religion is regularly employed to suppress Christian imagery and yet school children can be required to recite the Muslim shahada in order to pass a high school history class. The court should have jettisoned the whole mess and simply stated that unless a government was forcing people to profess a particular faith in order to receive services or to hold office, that religious symbols were, by definition, not establishing religion.

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Supreme Court Won’t Rule on Clash Between Another Bakery and a Gay Couple

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal from the owners of an Oregon bakery who were fined for refusing to create a wedding cake for a gay couple. In a brief order, the justices instead returned the case to lower courts in Oregon “for further consideration” in light of a decision last year in which the court ducked a similar issue in a case concerning a baker from Colorado.

The court’s action on Monday left still unresolved the question of whether many kinds of businesses, including florists, photography studios, calligraphers and tattoo artists, may discriminate against same-sex couples on religious grounds.

[Here’s how other battles over serving same-sex couples have played out in court.]

Lower courts have generally sided with gay and lesbian couples who were refused service, ruling that they are entitled to equal treatment, at least in parts of the country with laws forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation. The owners of businesses challenging those laws have argued that the government should not force them to choose between the requirements of their faiths and their livelihoods, citing constitutional protections for free speech and religious liberty.

The new case started in 2012 when the owners of a bakery called Sweetcakes by Melissa refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, Rachel Bowman-Cryer and Laurel Bowman-Cryer. The owners, Melissa Klein and Aaron Klein, said doing so would violate their religious principles.

The state labor bureau ruled against the Kleins, saying they had violated an Oregon law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and ordering them to pay $135,000 in damages. A state appeals court affirmed the bureau’s decision and rejected arguments from the Kleins that two parts of the First Amendment, its protections of free expression and religious freedom, allowed them to turn the couple away.

The Oregon Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal, and the bakery went out of business.

The Colorado case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, involved similar facts. The Supreme Court’s ruling last year left open the question of whether a business can discriminate against gay men and lesbians based on rights protected by the First Amendment. Instead, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion turned on the argument that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which originally ruled against the baker, had been hostile to religion, based on the remarks of one of its members.

Justice Kennedy retired last year. His successor, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, is thought to be more receptive to arguments like the ones made by the bakery’s owner.

In their petition seeking review in the Oregon case, the bakery’s lawyers said hearing their appeal would allow the justices to answer the question left open last year. “It squarely presents the constitutional questions that the court did not answer in Masterpiece Cakeshop,” they wrote.

The state countered that its anti-discrimination law merely “requires petitioners to provide to same-sex couples the same service that petitioners would provide to heterosexual couples — a cake for their wedding.”

The Oregon case was in one way broader than the one from Colorado, as it asked the justices to overrule an important precedent from 1990, Employment Division v. Smith. In a majority opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court ruled that neutral laws of general applicability could not be challenged on the ground that they violated the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.

That decision, arising from a case involving the use of peyote in Native American religious ceremonies, is unpopular among conservative Christians, who say it does not offer adequate protection to religion, and with some justices. In January, the court’s four most conservative members — Justices Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — signaled that they were open to reconsidering the decision.

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Will LGBT groups block *another* Chick-fil-A at an airport?

Westlake Legal Group will-lgbt-groups-block-another-chick-fil-a-at-an-airport Will LGBT groups block *another* Chick-fil-A at an airport? The Blog freedom of speech Freedom of Religion Chick-Fil-A ban airports

Westlake Legal Group ChickFilA Will LGBT groups block *another* Chick-fil-A at an airport? The Blog freedom of speech Freedom of Religion Chick-Fil-A ban airports

Here we go again. We were just discussing the subject of people trying to block Chick-fil-A restaurants from publicly owned airports yesterday. I found myself wondering if this wasn’t going to turn into a trend in other parts of the country. As the saying goes… that didn’t take long. There’s another push to prevent the franchise that makes those delicious chicken sandwiches from opening up at the airport in San Jose, California. And the complaints being raised are carbon copies of the last two in Texas and New York. (CBS San Francisco)

San Jose’s LGBTQ community is protesting the construction of a new Chick-fil-A restaurant inside Mineta San Jose International Airport. Chick-fil-A financially supports groups that oppose LGBTQ rights.

The restaurant was approved more than a year ago as part of a package deal with several other restaurants in a contract with the airport’s food and beverage concessionaire.

But to Ken Yeager, San Jose’s first openly gay councilmember and supervisor, the decision to allow it at the publicly owned airport is a head scratcher.

“This is going to be people’s very first impression of San Jose and what are they going to see? They’re going to see a store known for its anti-gay attitudes and for funding anti-gay groups.

Unfortunately for Councilman Yeager, it may be too late to prevent the store from opening. The council approved the plan for the new restaurant (along with a Shake Shack, Great American Bagel and Trader Vic’s) more than a year ago. The plan is already rolling out, so it might be tricky to try to force them out now. And not to put too fine of a point on this, but wasn’t Yeager on the council when the plan was approved? Couldn’t he have spoken up then?

For their part, the other members explained that they “somehow overlooked the issue” when approving the plan. That’s probably because banning Chick-fil-A from airports hadn’t become trendy among liberals yet back then and it probably didn’t even cross their minds. Now that it’s all the rage there are people who want to jump on the bandwagon. In what appears to be a compromise (at least for now) it looks like they will still allow the restaurant to open but they’ll install a rainbow flag near it.

The local coverage is full of quotes about how the restaurant “supports groups that oppose LGBTQ rights” and promotes “anti-gay attitudes.” In reality, of course, the franchise wants to attract as many people as possible and sell as much chicken as they can. They don’t discriminate against customers or refuse them service over being gay or anything else. It’s a business and a very popular one at that.

If Yeager and his friends are bothered by Chick-fil-A, don’t eat there. I’m all in favor of that sort of protest because it just means shorter lines for the rest of us when getting lunch.

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Pete Buttigieg, Gay and Christian, Challenges Religious Right on Its Own Turf

WASHINGTON — As a religious gay man who believes his party has ceded discussion of religion and spirituality to Republicans, Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic candidate for president, is talking about God and sexuality in an unconventional way: He is using the language of faith to confront the Christian right on territory they have long claimed as their own.

Mr. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., has provoked a backlash from conservatives in the last few days after questioning the moral authority of evangelicals like Vice President Mike Pence who remain silent about President Trump’s personal conduct yet disapprove of same-sex marriages and oppose gay rights.

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Though many conservatives were initially reticent to engage Mr. Buttigieg because they feared it would only add to his growing stature as a 2020 contender, they jumped on his latest comments. Some suggested he was attacking the vice president to further raise his profile. Others challenged Mr. Buttigieg’s understanding of Christianity and accused him of smearing the religious convictions of the very people he wants to win over.

A devoted Episcopalian who fluidly quotes Scripture and married his husband, Chasten, in a church service last year, Mr. Buttigieg is making the argument that marriage is a “moral issue.” In a speech on Sunday to the Victory Fund, a group that supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender politicians, he said his relationship had made him “more compassionate, more understanding, more self-aware and more decent.”

He then directly addressed Mr. Pence, as one man of faith talking to another: “And yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God.”

This is not the domain where social conservatives and gay rights advocates are used to doing battle. In the decade and a half since same-sex marriage became a galvanizing issue for both sides, the national debate has largely focused on the tension between civil rights and individual freedoms.

Mr. Buttigieg has reframed it in religious terms, raising questions about God, morality, sexuality and intolerance that depart from the familiar left-right fault lines. That quickly caught the attention of Republicans and conservative media commentators, who tried to cast his remarks as an unprovoked attack on faith-abiding Christians.

Karen Pence, the vice president’s wife, insisted Tuesday that her husband has no quarrel with Mr. Buttigieg. “I don’t think the vice president does have a problem with him,” she said in an interview with Fox News radio. “I think in our country we need to understand you shouldn’t be attacked for what your religious beliefs are,” she added, noting that the speech was probably “helping Pete to get some notoriety.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_153243528_5415be1c-3a44-4200-84d3-5885f05f996e-articleLarge Pete Buttigieg, Gay and Christian, Challenges Religious Right on Its Own Turf United States Politics and Government Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships Presidential Election of 2020 Pence, Mike Homosexuality and Bisexuality Freedom of Religion Conservatism (US Politics) Buttigieg, Pete (1982- )

Mr. Buttigieg has reframed the fight over gay rights in religious terms, raising questions about faith, tolerance and morality that depart from the familiar left-right fault lines.CreditBizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal, via Associated Press

Mr. Buttigieg, who was elected mayor of South Bend in 2012, had a friendly working relationship with Mr. Pence while Mr. Pence was governor of Indiana. They toured factories together and occasionally exchanged text messages. Mr. Buttigieg has cited Mr. Pence’s support for legislation that made it easier for religious conservatives to refuse service to gay couples as a reason he decided to come out publicly in 2015.

Mr. Pence’s office responded to Mr. Buttigieg’s comments this week by releasing an old video clip in which he praised the mayor as a “dedicated public servant and a patriot.” Mr. Buttigieg’s ramped-up attacks on Mr. Pence have miffed the vice president, who has privately told allies that if Mr. Buttigieg had questions about his religious beliefs, he could have asked him at any time during their friendship.

The issue followed the vice president to the United Nations on Wednesday, where reporters shouted questions at him about whether being gay was a choice. Mr. Pence walked away without answering.

The reaction from other conservatives was less measured. A Fox News host, Todd Starnes, accused the mayor of wanting “to shove evangelical Christians into the closet.”

Erick Erickson, an evangelical blogger, said that Mr. Buttigieg’s comments about religious conservatives who support Mr. Trump suggest that he “would be O.K. with using the government to persecute Christians.” After Mr. Buttigieg spoke about his beliefs in an interview with USA Today, Mr. Erickson wrote a blog post headlined, “Mayor Pete Buttigieg Apparently Thinks Jesus Would Be Okay With Beastiality.” (Mr. Buttigieg actually said nothing on that subject, though he did quote a favorite Bible verse: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.”)

Mr. Buttigieg has provoked a mixture of concern, derision and faint admiration from conservatives. Some built him up early as an undeniable but stealth force in the race. Rush Limbaugh warned his listeners that someone as articulate, personal and seemingly reasonable as Mr. Buttigieg would be a strong opponent. Ben Shapiro, the writer and podcast host, argued that he was the candidate who could most likely beat Mr. Trump. “Really. He’s not crazy, he’s from the Rust Belt, he served in Afghanistan,” Mr. Shapiro wrote on Twitter.

But this week provided a moment of clarity on the right, and the backlash was a reminder of how galvanizing religion and homosexuality can be when evangelicals and other conservatives of faith are convinced that their values are under attack. This sentiment, which was stoked by Mr. Trump and his allies in the Christian right in 2016, was a major factor in the president’s huge margins with white evangelicals. Eighty-one percent voted for him, compared with 16 percent for Hillary Clinton.

Indeed, if Mr. Buttigieg continues to gain in the polls, it could prompt the religious right to draw attention to numerous comments he has made about evangelicals and Mr. Trump — “the hypocrisy is unbelievable,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” this week — as conservatives did after Mrs. Clinton called Trump voters a “basket of deplorables.”

Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said Mr. Buttigieg’s approach struck him as odd given how so much of his message has been focused on unity and restoring the Democratic Party’s relationship with voters who are more religious and conservative. “It seems to me the solution to that is not to attack the faith of anyone else, whether it is the president, the vice president or anyone else,” Mr. Reed said. “The solution should be to talk about their own faith.”

Mr. Buttigieg and Mike Pence in 2015, when Mr. Pence was governor of Indiana. Mr. Buttigieg has challenged the moral authority of evangelicals like Mr. Pence who disapprove of same-sex marriages.CreditRobert Franklin/South Bend Tribune, via Associated Press

Mr. Buttigieg’s words suggest that he will spend little effort trying to entice any of the president’s most loyal religious supporters. But by pushing the discussion of homosexuality and marriage toward morality and the Bible, he is opening a door to voters of faith who are turned off by the dominance of the Republican Party’s far right but are not yet convinced they could vote for a Democrat.

That approach would be similar to the one Barack Obama took in 2008 when he received 26 percent of the white evangelical vote. Mr. Trump’s approval rating among white evangelicals has remained high — 69 percent as of January, according to the Pew Research Center. But that has slipped 9 points since his inauguration.

Some evangelical Christians say that the fracture over Mr. Trump within their community runs so deep that the desire for an alternative — especially one like Mr. Buttigieg, who is so temperamentally different from the profane, brash and unpredictable president — will remain strong.

Pete Wehner, an evangelical who worked in the George W. Bush White House and has split with his community and his party over Mr. Trump, said the way Mr. Buttigieg speaks with ease and familiarity about Christianity is a trait many voters will find to be a welcome contrast with the president.

“It’s not a foreign language to him like it is to Donald Trump, so you’re not going to get ‘Two Corinthians’ from him,” Mr. Wehner said, referring to Mr. Trump’s flub of the Bible book properly referred to as “Second Corinthians.”

“He speaks about faith in a way that is largely nonthreatening and not filled with anger,” Mr. Wehner added. “That is a real opening.”

But the unflagging devotion that most white evangelicals have for the president suggests that many will be far more concerned with policy results like conservative Supreme Court justices than with electing someone who speaks their language. The relevant question for Mr. Buttigieg is whether there is a critical mass of those who are wavering.

“Mayor Pete could not have hoped to capture conservative Christian voters or moderate Christian voters at any point in modern American history — until now,” said Jonathan Merritt, an evangelical author and speaker who disagrees with the decision by evangelical political leaders to stand by the president.

Mr. Merritt, who believes the taint of hypocrisy has turned many young evangelicals like him away from traditional leaders, said he remembers growing up in the South when antipathy toward President Bill Clinton and his personal conduct was running hot.

The line he remembers seeing and hearing over and over, he said, was “character matters.”

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