3 - Hobby Lobby receives relief in appeals court
A federal court has ordered the government not to enforce the Department of Health and Human Services contraception and abortion-drug mandate against Hobby Lobby, a nationwide chain of craft stores. According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby, the ruling comes just one day after a dramatic 168-page opinion from the "en banc" or entirety of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, recognizing that business owners have religious liberty rights. After that ruling from the 10th Circuit, a trial court gave Hobby Lobby a temporary restraining order against the mandate, and further proceedings are scheduled for July 19 in Oklahoma City.
Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for the Becket Fund, is quoted as saying that, “Hobby Lobby and the Green family faced the terrible choice of violating their faith or paying massive fines starting this Monday morning...We are delighted that both the 10th Circuit and the district court have spared them from this unjust burden on their religious freedom.”
In its landmark opinion this week, the 10th Circuit majority found that “no one” – not even the government – “disputes the sincerity of Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs.” The court ruled that denying them the protection of federal law just because they are a profit-making business “would conflict with the Supreme Court’s free exercise precedent.”
There are now 60 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate.
2 - Christian retailers and communicators gather in nation's heartland
This past week, I had the opportunity to gather with Christian communicators and others connected with the Christian retail sector at the International Christian Retail Show at the America's Center in St. Louis. Faith Radio and The Meeting House had a display area/communication center just outside the exhibit hall, where I recorded dozens of interviews. Content from the show can be found on The Meeting House website at www.meetinghouseonline.info. Click on the "Meeting House On-Demand" tab to access audio marked, ICRS. Pictures can be located at the Meeting House Facebook page.
Publishers Weekly featured a story on the show, which reminds us that the changing face of retailing in general, and specifically Christian retailing, presents some challenges touching various parts of the industry. Total attendance was reported at 3,700, which was down significantly from last year's almost 5,000 in Orlando, and way, way down from the 15,000 that attended the show at its peak in 1999. Professional attendance was down 15% and international attendance was off 21%. But, the good news going in to the
show was that total sales in the Christian sector were up 8.5% in 2012 vs. 2011.
CBA president Curtis Riskey, three years into his tenure as association head, has introduced a number of innovations in an effort to revitalize the show, and there were more this year. The new Author’s Alley provided tabletop display space for very small publishers and, primarily, self-publishers. An Author’s Bootcamp gave advice and education about marketing, promotion, distribution, and sales. And a new merchandising area, Lifestyle Stories, offered display ideas targeting three kinds of customers. Said Riskey, “We’re working into new arenas and trying to find new markets. This show is still the apex of our industry.”
Six films were screened at ICRS, among them The Redemption of Henry Myers from Echolight Studios, which announced that former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum would assume the reins as CEO of the fledgling company. Riskey noted that “in a video culture” sales of DVDs of family-friendly films related to Christian properties have increased 27% over the past three years. Said CBA board president George Thomsen, “You have an improvement in production quality, and people have always liked a redemptive story.”
And, the Christian Retailing's Best awards were handed out on Tuesday of the show, following the recognition of excellence in Christian fiction at the Christy Awards on Monday night. Also, another fiction honor, the Carol Awards, announced their 2013 nominees. There was plenty of activity to go around, and those involved in communicating truth through Christian products had the opportunity to be informed, to network, and to strategize to help meet the challenges of a fluid retail culture.
1 - U.S. Supreme Court issues decisions on marriage-related cases
The U.S. Supreme Court issued two much-anticipated decisions on Wednesday concerning the definition of marriage. In one case involving the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the court ruled 5-4 that same-sex partners in states where gay marriage is legal have the right to Federal benefits afforded couples in traditional marriages. That was a fairly straightforward, not unexpected ruling that Christian leaders were disappointed by, and Federal officials began to take steps to make those benefits available.
In the other case, the Proposition 8 case involving California's marriage amendment, the justices in the majority basically attempted to erase history. The amendment, which defines marriage as one man and one woman, had been appealed by 2 same-sex couples in a San Francisco Federal district court. The judge found in favor of the plaintiffs - the defendants were then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Attorney General and now-Governor Jerry Brown. They did not choose to appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, so one of the organizations instrumental in getting the amendment on the ballot, Protect Marriage, filed the appeal. The high court found that the pro-marriage group did not have "standing", or the authority to appeal, so it did not rule on the merits of the case, threw out the 9th Circuit decision, and basically let the narrow district ruling stand, where the judge ruled in favor of the two "married" couples. So, the high court did not find a constitutional right to gay marriage, did not rule Prop. 8 unconstitutional, and did not even negate Proposition 8.
As Stuart Shepard of CitizenLink pointed out on The Meeting House on Friday and as Ken Klukowski of the Family Research Council and Breitbart.com related, Proposition 8 is apparently still in effect, and despite the rush to judgment of California officials, is in for some litigation ahead.
You see, according to Klukowski, the California Constitution says that an administrative agency ... has no power:
(a) To declare a statute unenforceable, or refuse to enforce a statute, on the basis of it being unconstitutional unless an appellate court has made a determination that such statute is unconstitutional; (emphasis mine)
(b) To declare a statute unconstitutional;
(c) To declare a statute unenforceable, or to refuse to enforce a statute on the basis that federal law or federal regulations prohibit the enforcement of such statute unless an appellate court has made a determination that the enforcement of such statute is prohibited by federal law or federal regulations.
No such appellate court decision exists! And, Klukowski also points out that since no one who wants to defend Prop 8 has standing to appeal rulings on it to the Ninth Circuit, there will never be such an opinion in the federal court system. So the only way to get an appellate opinion would be in the California state court system. So someone would have to file a lawsuit regarding Prop 8, and then appeal it to a California court of appeals and then maybe to the California Supreme Court. Only when one of those courts hold Prop 8 unconstitutional can the public officials in that state regard it as stricken from the books.
Now, according to another story by Klukowski at Breitbart.com, the Alliance Defending Freedom, which worked with Prop 8 proponents to defend the amendment, filed an emergency application with the justice who became the fifth vote to strike down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), this time asking for Anthony Kennedy to restore the rule of law on the California Prop 8 case. Justice Kennedy, without comment, declined to vacate the actions of the 9th Circuit, lifting a stay on same-sex marriages in California.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling this week in Hollingsworth v. Perry that both the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit never had jurisdiction in the case, the Ninth Circuit on Friday issued an order lifting the stay and gay marriages began within minutes.
But some experts say the Ninth Circuit does not yet have the legal power to lift the stay. A Supreme Court decision does not carry force of law until that judgment is issued in the form of a certified copy of the Court’s order and opinion to the lower court, which usually takes around 25 days. So, apparently any same-sex marriage licenses issued in California since the Supreme Court decision are premature.
Bruce Hausknecht, Judicial Analyst for CitizenLink, the public policy affiliate of Focus on the Family, looking back on Wednesday's ruling, said that there were some positive aspects to what was handed down:
First and foremost, we can take heart in the fact that the other side didn’t get what they actually wanted most, which was a 50-state mandate imposing same-sex marriage nationwide. Despite their best arguments, the Court did not find a “right” to same sex marriage in the Constitution, nor did it find that homosexuality is entitled to the same status in our law as immutable characteristics such as race or ethnicity deserve. That in itself is a huge defeat for them. At this moment, no state’s marriage law has been changed by these decisions. Thirty-eight states still define marriage as between one man and one woman. The public policy debate will continue, and we still have the opportunity to make our case that marriage is about more than a couple’s romantic ties — it is about the institution that is the best available for raising children.So, we continue to watch the courts, and we also seek to remain dedicated to the institution of marriage, which was established by God, who gives us the ability to live out marriages that bring honor to Him. As same-sex marriage seemingly advances across America, we have an opportunity to demonstrate God's best and to express Christ's love through our homes and through the compelling lifestyles that we lead in front of those who do not embrace His principles.