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What is religious liberty?

WASHINGTON (Agencies): In an almost unprecedented move, five federal judges issued an opinion sharply criticising their court’s refusal to correct its recent decision that would force the Little Sisters of the Poor in the United States of America to assist the federal government with its contraception distribution scheme.

The opinion calls the decision against the Little Sisters “clearly and gravely wrong—on an issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty.”

The five judges took their colleagues to task for refusing to accept the Little Sisters’ sincere beliefs, warning, “It is not the job of the judiciary to tell people what their religious beliefs are.”

Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead counsel for the Little Sisters of the Poor, commented, “Today’s opinion offers important support to the Little Sisters’ request that the Supreme Court hear their case. These judges understand that courts and bureaucrats should not be telling nuns (sisters) what the Catholic faith requires.”

After a two-one decision against them, the Little Sisters petitioned the full Supreme Court to review the case. The Tenth Circuit then conducted a vote on its own initiative to determine whether the entire court should re-hear the case.

When the court declined, the five judges issued their opinion explaining why the Little Sisters deserve protection.

The opinion says that the refusal reflects a “dangerous approach to religious liberty.”

It notes that the reasoning of the court could be used to second-guess the religious beliefs of any faith, including religious minorities like Jews requesting a kosher diet.

The five judges explained, “The doctrine of the panel majority will not long survive. It is contrary to all precedent concerning the free exercise of religion.”


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