8th Circuit Court Rules For Religious Liberty

Bucking the trend set by other federal circuit courts, a unanimous panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week in favor of religious organizations Heartland Christian College and CNS Ministries in their challenge to the HHS contraceptive mandate.

The court ruled that compelling participation in the mandate by threat of severe financial penalty is a substantial burden on their free exercise of religion, and forcing them to comply with the accommodation regulation offered by the Department of Health and Human Services was not the least restrictive means for the government to accomplish its objective of providing contraceptive coverage.

The ruling sets up a conflict with other appellate court rulings, which will require resolution by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, for example, ruled earlier this summer that the mandate, and the HHS accommodation, did not excessively burden the religious liberty of the Little Sisters of the Poor.  That case was appealed to the Supreme Court.

Last week’s 8th Circuit Court decision makes it more likely the Supreme Court will resolve the issue next term.

Concerns Raised About Religious Liberty After Same-Sex Marriage Decision

Concerns are being raised about the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision re-defining marriage for religious organizations, schools, universities, and charities. Many fear that if religious institutions refuse to recognize or accommodate same-sex marriages, their tax-exempt status will be at risk.

Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion recognizes the right of Churches to “advocate” and “teach” about the meaning of marriage, but is does not mention protection of the “exercise of religion” for ordinary citizens. In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts remarked, “people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.”

The concern for religious liberty is real, even if not necessarily in the immediate short term. Questions were raised about challenges to the tax exempt status of religious organizations during oral arguments should the court re-define marriage, and proponents of same-sex marriage did not deny that these issues would arise in the future.  The MCC will be reporting on these issues in the coming months.

Posted: July 2, 2015

US Bishops’ Arguments in Opposition to Marriage Re-Definition

In their legal brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) defend the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage by making three broad arguments: (1) the Catholic bishops support the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman out of love, justice and concern for the common good; (2) the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is not based on hatred, bigotry or animus or any other impermissible purpose or classification; (3) a holding that the unique affirmation of man-woman marriage is grounded in hatred, bigotry or animus would needlessly create church-state conflict for generations to come.
The brief itself goes into much more detail about the benefits of man-woman marriage to the common good generally and children specifically, as well as the implications for the Church should same-sex marriage be deemed a Constitutional right. Click here to read the brief in more detail.
Posted: June 19, 2015

Groups Line Up to Support/Oppose Re-definition of Marriage

One hundred forty three different groups and individuals have filed “amicus” (friend of the court) briefs with the U.S. Supreme court seeking to influence the ruling on the re-definition of marriage. It is not unusual for the Court to receive such briefs in a case like this, but 143 is a lot!

Groups supporting marriage re-definition include: The Cato Institute, Marriage Equality USA, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Organizations and Scholars of Gender-Diverse Parenting, the American Psychological Association, and 379 corporate employers and businesses, as reflected in this article, including Target, Office Depot, General Electric, MillerCoors, and many others. These groups argue for the re-definition of marriage based on fairness and equality.

Groups opposing include: the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Family Research Council, Catholic Vote, Concerned Women for America, the Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund, ProtectMarriage.com, and Liberty Scholars and the St. Thomas More Society of Dallas. They argue, as the USCCB did in its brief, that “there is no bigotry in treating genuinely different things differently.”

The Court’s ruling in the case is expected the last week of June.


Posted: June 12, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Set to Rule on State Same-Sex Marriage Bans

Later this month, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue its opinion in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, a case from Ohio challenging that state’s same-sex marriage ban. The court will rule on whether the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment requires a state to grant same-sex couples the right to marry, and whether it requires states to recognize same-sex marriages entered in other states.

The court’s ruling will impact all states with existing same-sex marriage bans, including Missouri. The MCC will be reporting on this issue more in coming weeks. Stay tuned.


Posted: June 5, 2015

Vatican: Irish Vote on Same-Sex Marriage a “Defeat for Humanity”

In response to Ireland’s vote last Friday approving same-sex marriage, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin stated this week that the vote was not a defeat for Christian principles, but rather a “defeat for humanity.”

The people of Ireland approved the measure by a 62% to 38% margin, making Ireland the first nation worldwide to recognize same-sex marriage by popular vote.

Recognizing the challenge faced by the Catholic Church by a vote such as this, Cardinal Parolin stated, “The Church must take account of this reality, but in the sense of reinforcing its commitment to evangelization.”

The U.S. faces the prospect of the legalization of same-sex marriage by judicial decree when the U.S. Supreme Court decides a case next month addressing state bans on same-sex marriages. Stay tuned.


Posted: May 29, 2015

Missouri Bishops Issue Statement Concerning Recognition of “Same-Sex” Marriages from Other States

The Missouri bishops issued a statement today expressing their disappointment with Governor Nixon’s decision to allow same sex couples married in other states to file joint tax returns in Missouri, stating that the Missouri tax code should not be used as a means of re-defining marriage in the Show Me state. Click here to read the statement.



Posted: November 15, 2013

Illinois Legislature Passes Marriage Redefinition Bill

The Illinois legislature passed a bill this week re-defining the institution of marriage to recognize marriage between “any two persons,” making Illinois the 13th state to recognize marriage between persons of the same sex.

The Catholic Conference of Illinois issued a statement expressing that they were “deeply disappointed that members of the General Assembly chose to redefine what is outside of its authority: a natural institution like marriage.” Citing limited protections for religious institutions and for rights of conscience, the statement went on to state that, “[w]e remain concerned about the very real threats to religious liberty that are at stake with the passage of this bill.” To review the complete statement, click here.



Posted: November 8, 2013

Illinois Puts Brake on Same-Sex Marriage

The Illinois House of Representatives did not take up for a vote on the last day of the session a bill that would have re-defined marriage to include the union of same-sex couples. Despite the bill having passed the Illinois Senate on Valentine’s Day, the votes for passage of the bill in the Illinois House simply were not there. Had the bill passed, Illinois would have become the 13th state to re-define marriage.

The Catholic Conference of Illinois worked hard to defeat the bill, arguing that re-defining marriage is not in the best interests of children, and would threaten to undermine the institution of marriage itself and the religious liberty of those who oppose it.  African American lawmakers from the City of Chicago resisted voting in favor of the bill and were credited with having blocked its passage. The Catholic Conference of Illinois has prepared an extensive packet in support of traditional marriage which can be accessed on its website here.

Bishops Call for Second Fortnight for Freedom

As we approach the summer and an August 1 deadline for the implementation of the HHS contraceptive mandate and a potentially culture-changing U.S. Supreme Court decision on the definition of marriage at the end of June, the USCCB is asking faithful Catholics to participate in a second Fortnight for Freedom June 24th to July 1st.

The purpose of the fortnight for freedom is to pray and fast for the sake of renewing a culture favorable to life, marriage, and the protection of religious liberty. For more information about how you can get involved in the Fortnight for Freedom in your area, click here.