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Neil Gorsuch Will Likely Restore Religious Freedom to Its Rightful Place

March 21 2017

The Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Gorsuch, nominated to join the Supreme Court, began yesterday. In Nathan Diament’s opinion, Gorsuch understands the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty expansively, in a way that the late Antonin Scalia—whom he was chosen to replace—did not:

In 1990, Scalia severely curtailed the First Amendment’s protection for the free exercise of religion. . . . At the time, Supreme Court precedents held that [certain state encroachments on religious freedom would be held to] the highest standard of constitutional proof, known as strict scrutiny. . . . A divided court overturned those precedents. Justice Scalia, writing for a five-justice majority, held that a person’s right to the free exercise of religion would receive a lower level of legal protection when the law in question doesn’t specifically target religion. . . .

Samuel Alito, appointed to the high court in 2006, was the first of the newer justices who had a record of disagreeing with [this particular opinion of Scalia’s]. Judge Gorsuch would be another. He appears to be sensitive to the needs of religious minorities and the role faith plays in people’s lives. . . .

[As a judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals], Gorsuch wrote a separate opinion in Hobby Lobby, [a much-publicized 2013 case regarding the Affordable Care Act’s “contraceptive mandate”], arguing that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “doesn’t just apply to protect popular religious beliefs: it does perhaps its most important work in protecting unpopular religious beliefs, vindicating this nation’s long-held aspiration to serve as a refuge of religious tolerance.” . . .

What comes through in [Gorsuch’s] opinions is a recognition that seems to have eluded Scalia in 1990: the law is meant to be a bulwark against infringement—whether by government or other powerful entities—upon a person’s religious conscience and practices. It is not enough to allow Americans to believe as they wish; they must also be able, generally, to act in conformity with their beliefs.

Read more at Orthodox Union

More about: First Amendment, Freedom of Religion, Politics & Current Affairs, RFRA, Supreme Court, U.S. Constitution

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen