Legal & Legislative Update

January 2020.  Here is our Justice Center update on important legal and policy matters impacting family, life, and freedoms of Christian people. 

Legal Cases

United States Supreme Court Cases

The Justice Center continues to file many briefs on behalf of Christian people in various cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. (Currently we are involved in six cases before the Court). Most recently we filed a legal brief in the U.S. Supreme Court arguing for the Court to overturn Roe v Wade – the diabolical decision judicially creating the “right” to kill a person’s son or daughter in utero.

In another important development, the Supreme Court just accepted a case that determines whether the government may force pro-life Christian employers to violate their religious conscience – (by requiring them to provide abortifacients insurance coverage to their employees).  The current administration enacted religious/ moral exemptions which the Justice Center supports. For the purpose of the Supreme Court case, the Justice Center plans to file a brief on behalf of Christian business owners directly impacted.   

State of Michigan Cases / Legal Matters

The Justice Center continues to serve as the first line of protection for religious freedom and expression here in Michigan.  Here are some of the matters on which we are on the front lines.

Justice Center Responds to Statewide Petition Initiative Threatening Religious Conscience

A new petition initiative aims to add sexual lifestyle protections to Michigan’s anti-discrimination law. Sadly, the proposal also intentionally seeks to relegate religious conscience into irrelevance.  Purportedly in the name of civil rights, proponents seek special preference for classifications concerning sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.  Revealing their actual political agenda though, the proposal cruelly dilutes existing protection for religion, defining it so narrowly as to provide virtually no protection at all. 

Grounded in misrepresentation, this left-leaning political agenda is armed with the full enforcement power of the state.  State and local governments frequently wield so-called anti-discrimination initiatives as a weapon to oppress religious people.  The exponential expansion of government actions interfering with an individual’s exercise of religious conscience is especially prevalent in cases involving small and family-owned businesses.  Recent cases against bakers, printers, and bed and breakfast proprietors illustrate the point. In a deliberate abuse of power, Michigan authorities now investigate Christian business owners for violating the provisions of this petition initiative, even before its proponents have obtained a single signature. Lawyers at the Great Lakes Justice Center somberly represent these citizens at no charge.

The fierceness of the opposition to religious conscience, makes clear that such attacks are not about civil rights as the activists falsely suggest.  It is, rather, about a desire for political power to censure, by force of law and punishment, any idea informed by sacred tenets that might interfere with an anti-faith political agenda.  Christian people know that every person has inherent value, made in the very image of God. Christians would, therefore, never  discriminate against a person based upon who they are. The Justice Center continues to fight for Christian people though, so they never have to concede their First Amendment freedom of conscience.   

Justice Center Responds to Government Authorities Defying the Rule of Law and Attacking Religious Freedom

As noted, Michigan authorities continue to defy the rule of law in the area of religious freedom.  Michigan law properly prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, and religion. The Michigan legislature repeatedly voted not to add special classifications used by authorities to infringe on religious conscience and expression (e.g., gender identity).  The executive branch continues, with no legal authorization, to operate as if the legislature amended the law to allow for religious persecution.

The Justice Center previously participated in hearings and legislative oversight of the AG and MCRCin connection with their misuse of power here.

The Justice Center currently represents a Christian family businesses being investigated by the MCRC for exercising their sincerely held religious beliefs in violation of a law that does not even exist.

Williamston School Board enacted politically charged sexuality policies.  These policies substantially infringe on the free exercise of religious conscience and expression. The Justice Center continues to represent parents and the community in a federal law suit fighting to protect religious freedom.

Planet Fitness revoked the membership of a woman who complained about the presence of a man she encountered in the woman’s locker room. The Justice Center continues to assist in a lawsuit against this national corporation, battling all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court for the right to go to trial.  With a recent victory in the Supreme Court we expect a trial soon.

When government leaders abuse power others follow in their footsteps.

A former pastor distributed fliers with a political message on a public sidewalk.   Government officials arrested him when they disagreed with the message.  The Justice Center assisted on this case where the former pastor won a dismissal of the most serious felonies. The case is currently in the Michigan Supreme Court where the fight is over the First Amendment right to free expression.

The Justice Center continues to represent a Christian businessman facing millions of dollars in fines for his exercise of religious conscience.  His unwillingness to participate in abortions of his employees and government mandate collided. Some similar cases around the country have “settled” on terms that fail to protect Christian conscience in the future.  We are determined to ensure Christian people and their business are protected.

 

Legislation and Policy Matters Impacting Christian People

United States Government – Executive Branch

Justice Center Supports Executive Branch Rule-making to Protect Religious Conscience

On January 16, 2020, the White House announced a comprehensive rulemaking covering nine Executive Branch Departments. These rules will protect freedom of speech and religious conscience in many areas, including in primary, secondary and higher education institutions.

Justice Center Supports Department of Education Move to Protect Religious Liberty

On January 16, 2020,  U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the Department of Education is taking several concrete actions to protect religious liberty and ensure the Department is acting in accordance with the First Amendment. The Department announced a proposed rule ensuring the equal treatment and constitutional rights of religious organizations and faith-based institutions, as well as First Amendment freedoms owed to students on campus. As directed by Congress, the agency will also release updated guidance regarding constitutionally protected prayer in schools.  The Justice Center supports these reforms.

Justice Center Opposes H.R.5. 

HR 5, a bill before Congress, targets Christian people and our sincerely held Christian values. It  compels Christian people to endorse, accept, and embrace anti-Biblical sinful sexual conduct. Now before the House of Representative, HR 5 forces churches to wed same-sex couples and hire cross-dressing teachers. It permits men to use women’s restrooms and dressing rooms, If your church refuses, it loses its tax-exempt status. Under the bill Churches also face expensive litigation, fines and financially crippling court judgments. Most troubling, under the provisions of HR 5, your free exercise of religion is no longer a defense.

Under HR 5 Churches must host same-sex ceremonies. Nonconforming Churches lose tax-exempt status. Nonconforming Colleges lose accreditation. The bill prohibits nonconforming educational institutions at all level from receiving students loans. Inevitably, Christian institutions will either cease to exist or bow to a secular god by compromising their core Christian mission.

The implications are real. If Christians schedule a mission trip, the proposed law prohibits the Christian organization from separating rooms by biological sex. Thus, men must have access to the women’s showers and bathrooms.  Additionally the proposed law prohibits churches from following Biblical precepts on sexuality when hiring church ministry and staff. Thus, it violates the proposed law to consider whether a candidate openly engages in sinful sexual conduct. The bill allows lawsuits by someone who believes a church did not hire or select them due to their sexual lifestyle. Thus, even if the church denied the job for other reasons, it could face costly “damages” in a court judgment.

Last Action:

5/17/ 2019 – HR5 -This bill passed in the House with many Members of Congress voting for the measure. Now before the Senate for consideration.

 State of Michigan – Legislative Branch

Here is an update of the current bills before the state legislature impacting Christian people —

Bills or Resolutions House:

(House actions in lowercase, Senate actions in UPPERCASE)

HR 0072   (Rep. Wittenberg)

A resolution to declare May 2, 2019, as Holocaust Remembrance Day 

Last Action: 5/2/2019 – HJ 42 Pg. 488 – adopted

HB 4076

Crimes; internet; penalties for coercing vulnerable adult into providing sexually explicit visual material; provide for. Amends 1931 PA 328 (MCL 750.1 – 750.568) by adding sec. 145g.

Last Action:

1/23/2019 – referred to Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors 6/19/2019 –  referred to Committee on Judiciary, with subs H-2

HB 4112 of 2019

Liquor; licenses; posting to warn of the potential problems of drinking alcohol during pregnancy; require on premises of retail liquor licensees. Amends 1998 PA 58 (MCL 436.1101 – 436.2303) by adding sec. 905a.
Last Action:

3/12/2019 – passed; given immediate effect Roll Call # 14 Yeas 100 Nays 10 – transmitted >>

3/13/2019 – SJ 26 REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON REGULATORY REFORM

HB 4262

Labor; youth employment; parent or legal guardian of a minor being educated at the minor’s home; allow to issue a work permit for the minor (Allows parents of homeschool students to sign work permit). Amends sec. 2 of 1978 PA 90 (MCL 409.102).

Last Action:

2/26/2019 – referred to Committee on Education

6/4/2019  referred to Committee on Ways and Means, with H-1

HB 4311-12

Gambling; Gaming; lawful internet gaming act; create. Creates new act. TIE BAR WITH: HB 4308’19

Last Action:

12/19/2019 presented to the Governor; approved by the Governor

12/20/2019 – assigned PA 152’19 with immediate effect

HB 4416 of 2019

Criminal procedure; sentencing guidelines; sentencing guidelines for the crime of disclosing confidential information regarding abortion; eliminate. Amends sec. 13k, ch. XVII of 1927 PA 175 (MCL 777.13k). TIE BAR WITH: HB 4417’19
Last Action:

3/21/2019 – referred to Committee on Health Policy

HB 4417 of 2019

Health; abortion; additional abortion complication reporting; require. Amends secs. 2835 & 2837 of 1978 PA 368 (MCL 333.2835 & 333.2837) & adds sec. 2839.
Last Action:

3/21/2019 – referred to Committee on Health Policy

HB 4322 of 2019

Health; funding; prohibition for state to contract with providers that offer abortion services; provide for. Amends title & sec. 1 of 2002 PA 360 (MCL 333.1091).
Last Action:

3/12/2019 – referred to Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors

HB 4435 of 2019

Civil rights; speech and assembly; campus free speech act; create. Creates new act.
Last Action:

4/9/2019 – referred to Committee on Oversight

HB 4436 of 2019

Civil rights; speech and assembly; safeguards for exercise of free speech rights on community college and university campuses; provide for. Creates new act.
Last Action:

4/9/2019 – referred to Committee on Oversight

8/29/2019 – referred to Committee on Judiciary, with substitute (H-2)

HB 4523-24

Children; protection; allow for surrender of newborn to a newborn safety device (baby dropbox);  Amends secs. 5, 7, 10, 17 & 20, ch. XII of 1939 PA 288 (MCL 712.5 et seq.) & adds sec. 3a. TIE BAR WITH: HB 4524’19

Last Action:

4/30/2019 – referred to Families, Children, & Seniors

HB 4664 of 2019

Health; abortion; Creates new law protecting unborn life when fetal heartbeat detected with various exceptions; Existing law protects all unborn life from point of conception except to save life of mother.
Last Action:

5/23/2019 – referred to Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors

HB 4665 of 2019

Criminal procedure; sentencing guidelines; sentencing guidelines for crime of performing an abortion without testing for a fetal heartbeat, performing an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, and performing an abortion without obtaining informed consent after a fetal heartbeat is detected; create. Amends sec. 13k, ch. XVII of 1927 PA 175 (MCL 777.13k). TIE BAR WITH: HB 4664’19
Last Action: 05/23/2019 – referred to Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors

HB 4688 of 2019

Civil rights; general discrimination; sexual orientation and gender identity or expression; include as categories protected under the Elliott-Larsen civil rights act. Amends title & secs. 102, 103, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 209, 302, 302a, 402, 502, 504, 505 & 506 of 1976 PA 453 (MCL 37.2102 et seq.).
Last Action:

06/04/2019 referred to Committee on Government Operations

HB 5374 of 2020

Health; abortion; information related to treatment to reverse the effects of mifepristone; require under certain circumstances, and modify abortion consent form. Amends sec. 17015 of 1978 PA 368 (MCL 333.17015).
Last Action:

01/22/2020 referred to Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors

HB 5433 of 2020
Weapons; concealed; weapon-free zones; exclude places of worship. Amends sec. 5o of 1927 PA 372 (MCL 28.425o).
Last Action:

1/30/2020 referred to Committee on Judiciary

 

Bills or Resolutions Senate:

SB 50-53HB 4113-16

Repeals Michigan’s law banning all abortions from conception except to save life of mother. Crimes; abortion; penalty for administering with intent to procure miscarriage; repeal. Repeals sec. 14 of 1931 PA 328 (MCL 750.14).

Last Action:

1/23/2019 – SJ 7 Pg. 72 REFERRED TO JUDICIARY AND PUBLIC SAFETY

1/29/2019 – HJ 9 Pg. 77 referred to Committee on Health Policy

SB 0351 of 2019

Civil rights; general discrimination; sexual orientation and gender identity or expression; include as categories protected under the Elliott-Larsen civil rights act. Amends title & secs. 102, 103, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 209, 302, 302a, 402, 502, 504, 505 & 506 of 1976 PA 453 (MCL 37.2102 et seq.).
Last Action:

6/5/2019 REFERRED TO GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS

SB 0165 of 2019

Health; abortion; pain-capable unborn child protection act; enact. Amends 1931 PA 328 (MCL 750.1 – 750.568) by adding sec. 325.
Last Action:

3/5/2019 REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON HEALTH POLICY AND HUMAN SERVICES\

SB 228

Health; suicide; provides for suicide prevention commission; Creates new act.

Last Action:

12/19/2019  PRESENTED TO GOVERNOR 12/13/2019

12/31/2019  APPROVED BY GOVERNOR 12/20/2019

12/31/2019 ASSIGNED PA 0177’19 WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT

SB 0229 of 2019; HB 4320

Health; abortion; partial-birth abortion provision; modify to include dismemberment abortion; (bans dismemberment abortion). Amends sec. 90h of 1931 PA 328 (MCL 750.90h).
Last Action:

5/14/2019 – PASSED ROLL CALL # 63 YEAS 22 NAYS 16

5/14/2019 – referred to Committee on Judiciary

SB 0230; HB 4321 

Criminal procedure; sentencing guidelines; sentencing guidelines for the crime of dismemberment abortion; enact. Amends sec. 16d, ch. XVII of 1927 PA 175 (MCL 777.16d). TIE BAR WITH: SB 0229’19

Last Action:

5/14/2019 – PASSED ROLL CALL # 64 YEAS 22 NAYS 16

5/14/2019 – referred to Committee on Judiciary

SB 272-274HB 4469-71

Prohibits placements and adoptions by a child placing agency based on religious or moral convictions. (Repeals religious liberty protections for adoption and foster care agencies) Repeals secs. 14e & 14f of 1973 PA 116 (MCL 722.124e & 722.124f). TIE BAR WITH: SB 0273’19SB 0274’19

Last Action

4/17/2019 – REFERRED TO FAMILIES, SENIORS, AND VETERANS

4/17/2019 – referred to Committee on Government Operations

SB 275HB 4472

Children; adoption; Provide for second parent adoption (Permits unmarried, second parent adoption) Amends secs. 24, 41 & 51, ch. X of 1939 PA 288 (MCL 710.24 et seq.).

Last Action:

4/17/2019 – REFERRED TO FAMILIES, SENIORS, & VETERANS

4/17/2019 – referred to Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors

SB 284HB 4515

Mental health; children; Prohibits conversion therapy; (Prohibits conversion therapy for minors) Amends 1974 PA 258 (MCL 330.1001 – 330.2106) by adding sec. 901a.

Last Action:

4/24/2019 – REFERRED TO HEALTH POLICY & HUMAN SERVICES

4/25/2019 – referred to Committee on Health Policy