Prospects for Religious Liberty among President Biden’s Likely Supreme Court Picks

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who confirmed his pending retirement at the end of January, frequently voted in favor of religious liberty during his tenure. Together with Justice Elena Kagan, he is widely credited with pulling the court’s liberal wing toward the middle; both often rule in favor of people of faith. In evaluating potential successors to Breyer, Tanner Bean looks at the track records of three likely nominees on questions religious liberty.

A search through Judge [J. Michelle] Child’s court opinions demonstrates she has had several occasions to consider religious-liberty issues. Of these, she appears to have dealt mainly with religious-liberty claims brought by prisoners. . . . [I]n one case, where she sat as an appellate judge by special designation on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, she joined an opinion that found a prison had burdened a prisoner’s religious exercise, without justification, when he was denied a diet consistent with the teachings of the Nation of Islam.

Judge Childs has also resolved cases of religious land use and religious speech on procedural grounds. Perhaps most notably, Judge Childs authored a decision in which she extensively examined and applied the ministerial exception of the First Amendment, finding that a religious university was protected from suit by an employee Judge Childs found to be a “minister.” Her decisions set forth appropriate case law, statutes, and religious-liberty tests.

Judge [Ketanji Brown] Jackson’s court history doesn’t disclose nearly as many religion-related opinions as that of Judge Childs. However, two decisions stand out. In one, Judge Jackson found a Christian worker’s complaint about religious discrimination sufficiently alleged his work conditions were changed because he played gospel music in the workplace. In another, Judge Jackson joined a council of judges that determined an appellate-court judge did not commit misconduct when she spoke of biblical justifications for the death penalty. The appellate judge had made clear her ability to set aside her religious views when acting as a judge.

Read more at Public Square Magazine

More about: Elena Kagan, Freedom of Religion, Joe Biden, Supreme Court

Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden