The Supreme Court Has a Chance to Protect Sabbath Observance

March 6 2019

In 1972, at the encouragement of a group of religious-liberty activists, Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia—a member of a small Baptist denomination that observes the Sabbath from Friday night to Saturday night—pushed for an amendment to the Civil Rights Act that would require businesses to make reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious observance. Although the amendment was made law, in 1977 the Supreme Court declined to apply it to the case of Larry Hardison, fired by TWA for refusing a Sabbath shift. Nathan Lewin, who helped to draft the language of Randolph’s amendment, hopes the court will now hear the similar case of Darrell Patterson, and rule differently:

Justice Byron White wrote the court’s [1977] ruling, and he was obviously concerned that the far-reaching interpretation that the court was then giving to the First Amendment’s prohibition against the “establishment of religion” conflicted with an interpretation of the law that could impose costs on private employers to satisfy the religious observances of their employees. White’s majority opinion declared: “To require TWA to bear more than a de-minimis cost in order to give Hardison Saturdays off is an undue hardship.”

First Amendment law was very different in 1977 from what it is today. [Then] Supreme Court majorities seemed to condemn even the most remote governmental assistance to religion. But that attitude was short-lived. . . . The court [in 2000] began an era in which the exercise of religion wins greater judicial respect. . . .

The de-minimis language has, over more than four decades, ruined the careers and employment prospects of thousands of religiously observant employees. There are many reported judicial decisions that fail to apply [the law] as Senator Randolph contemplated it. They permit employers to ban religious practices they dislike and to harm Sabbath observers and employees who have other unusual prescribed religious practices.

But close scrutiny of the Supreme Court’s recent actions raises hopes that these injustices will soon be corrected. . . . In a recent opinion explaining why they rejected a publicized religious-liberty case, Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh said they are ready to “revisit” the Hardison ruling. . . . Resounding vindication of Darrell Patterson would correct a decades-long injustice, granting religious Americans the protection they so richly deserve.

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More about: American law, Freedom of Religion, Politics & Current Affairs, Sabbath, Supreme Court

War with Iran Isn’t on the Horizon. So Why All the Arguments against It?

As the U.S. has responded to Iranian provocations in the Persian Gulf, various observers in the press have argued that National Security Advisor John Bolton somehow seeks to drag President Trump into a war with Iran against his will. Matthew Continetti points out the absurdities of this argument, and its origins:

Never mind that President Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, and Bolton have not said a single word about a preemptive strike, much less a full-scale war, against Iran. Never mind that the president’s reluctance for overseas intervention is well known. The “anti-war” cries are not about context, and they are certainly not about deterring Iran. Their goal is saving President Obama’s nuclear deal by manipulating Trump into firing Bolton and extending a lifeline to the regime.

It’s a storyline that originated in Iran. Toward the end of April, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif showed up in New York and gave an interview to Reuters where he said, “I don’t think [Trump] wants war,” but “that doesn’t exclude him basically being lured into one” by Bolton. . . . And now this regime talking point is everywhere. “It’s John Bolton’s world. Trump is just living in it,” write two former Obama officials in the Los Angeles Times. “John Bolton is Donald Trump’s war whisperer,” writes Peter Bergen on . . .

Recall Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes’s admission to the New York Times Magazine in 2016 [that] “We created an echo chamber” to attack the Iran deal’s opponents through leaks and tips to the D.C. press. . . . Members of the echo chamber aren’t for attacking Iran, but they are all for slandering its American opponents. The latest target is Bolton. . . .

The Iranians are in a box. U.S. sanctions are crushing the economy, but if they leave the agreement with Europe they will be back to square one. To escape the box you try to punch your way out. That’s why Iran has assumed a threatening posture: provoking an American attack could bolster waning domestic support for the regime and divide the Western alliance.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Javad Zarif, John Bolton, U.S. Foreign policy