I thought I’d pass along two briefs that the UCLA First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic has filed in the last few weeks. One, on behalf of the Becket Fund, is in Overall v. Ascension Health (E.D. Mich.). My students Nate Barrett, Garry Padrta, and Paulette Rodriguez-Lopez worked on the brief, and Daniel P. Dalton of Dalton & Tomich was kind enough to serve as local counsel (many thanks to him for that!). I quote the brief below, for those who want to read it on the blog, though you can also find a PDF here. (The other brief is quoted in this post.)
Please note that, in all Clinic cases, the students, local counsel, and I act as advocates for the client. We are making the best arguments we can for the position we are taking; we are not necessarily endorsing it as the position that we think the law ought to take. (Sometimes you can tell from past posts of mine that I do personally agree with that position, but you should not draw such an inference simply from the filing of the brief.) I should also note that the amicus briefs are designed to be read alongside the parties’ briefs, so they naturally omit much of the factual and procedural background that the parties’ briefs make clear; my apologies if, as a result, some of the material is therefore opaque to other readers.
Summary of Argument
Out of respect for religious freedom, legislatures have long provided religious groups with exemptions from generally applicable laws. This tradition continues to this day, with a vast range of state and federal statutes providing various exemptions for religious institutions or religious believers.
Plaintiff’s Establishment Clause logic puts such exemptions in jeopardy unless they are made available to secular claimants