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         A Message from Becket's Executive Director
                                                                                                                        February 13, 2020

Dear Friend, 


Healthcare professionals occupy a unique space in society. When we see our doctors, we expect them to help us make decisions about our health based on sound medical knowledge and experience. We expect them to be confident and secure in that advice. We expect them to act with intelligence and integrity. We expect them to stick to their oath to “do no harm.” 


These high expectations are possible because our nation has always understood that healthcare professionals must be free to follow both their medical instincts and their conscience. Conscience protections in healthcare are not just assumed but inscribed in law. Last spring, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Conscience Rule reinforcing long-existing laws that protect healthcare professionals after new laws forcing doctors to participate in abortions, gender-transition procedures, and physician-assisted suicides started popping up around the country. Simply put, the HHS rule allows doctors, nurses, and others in the medical field to serve patients without being forced to violate their conscience 


But, amazingly, there are opponents to the rule. Several states, including New York, immediately sued HHS to overturn the rule, to force these doctors to violate their deeply held beliefs or be driven out of their profession. 


And so Becket stepped in, representing doctors whose mission is to protect others, and who are now on the front lines in the battle for conscience protections. Among them are Becket clients Dr. Regina Frost, an OB-GYN (who recently wrote a piece describing her work), and the Christian Medical & Dental Associationswhich is known for serving vulnerable populations, including the homeless, prisoners living with HIV, and victims of opioid addiction, and for fighting sex trafficking and gang violence. 


These are the people being bullied for practicing medicine according to their beliefs and best medical judgment? We will know more about whether their rights will be protected as soon as the Second Circuit rules in their case.  


What’s happening at Becket


April 1, we’ll be ready. The Supreme Court has issued its March argument calendar, which it turns out, also includes April 1. We are hard at work preparing for oral arguments in our case defending Our Lady of Guadalupe School and St. James School. 


Government priority in Michigan? Ideology, not people. St. Vincent Catholic Charities is the only government-designated agency that provides resettlement services to refugees in Lansing, MI, and it’s a federally recognized priority resettlement agency for LGBTQ refugees. But now, in retaliation for religious beliefs St. Vincent has cited in a separate lawsuit, a county board in Ingham County, MI has decided to cut vital funding, impairing St. Vincent’s ability to serve refugees. You’ll recall Becket’s case defending St. Vincent Catholic Charities' foster and adoption agency—the State of Michigan has decided to end its contract with St. Vincent, despite St. Vincent’s excellent track record of placing children in homes, because of St. Vincent’s religious beliefs. Here is further proof that what these government entities are concerned about is ideology—and they’re willing to let those in need suffer for it. Becket’s stepping in to defend St. Vincent. 


No, it’s not your imagination—the Little Sisters are headed to the Supreme Court again. In what we hope will be their very last round at the Supreme Court, the Little Sisters of the Poor are once again doing battle for their right to run their homes for the elderly poor according to their religious convictions. We are anxiously awaiting an oral argument date for some time this spring.  


Becket in the news


“America is an incomplete thought without its Hebraic roots.” Last week, I joined Pepperdine’s Dr. Wilfred McClay and my good friend Dr. Meir Soloveichik for a discussion on the role the Bible can and should play in public life in America.  


Inside the Supreme Court. Becket’s Eric Baxter recaps the Supreme Court oral arguments in EspinozaOne highlight: when Chief Justice Roberts compared Montana shutting down its scholarship program to avoid benefiting religious schools alongside secular ones, to a city shutting down a public pool to avoid desegregating itIf the latter isn’t okay, then neither is the former. 


Why are the Little Sisters back in court? Becket’s Luke Goodrich appeared on EWTN’s The World Over to explain exactly what brings the Little Sisters of the Poor to the Supreme Court this time around. 


What we’re reading


RFRA protects immigrant rights activists. A federal court struck down a lower court ruling, this time ruling in favor of immigrant rights activists who put out food and water for immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. The judge agreed that RFRA protects the activists, who were acting according to their religious convictions, citing Hobby Lobby in her decision. 


Eminent domain of Catholic church a possibility in NYC. The Wall Street Journal explains how a city budget clause could allow the city of New York to exercise eminent domain for expanding Penn Station. Among the buildings that could be at risk? A Catholic church dating back to 1840. 


In Canada and the U.S., Catholic bishops and doctors sound the alarm on assisted suicide. Canada’s Catholic Archbishop Richard Gagnon has called on the government to reconsider its plan to expand the criteria for assisted suicide. “At this point in Canada’s history, we should ask, with integrity and honesty, what kind of culture we are leaving for future generations,” Archbishop Gagnon writes. Meanwhile, doctors against assisted suicide gathered at a rally to oppose New York State’s proposed bill to legalize assisted suicide. What we need is not assisted suicide, the doctors argue, but a more expansive commitment to excellent palliative care. 


P.S. What we plan to read: a history of the Knights of Columbus—and religious liberty. I am looking forward to reading this new history of the Knights of Columbus, an impressive organization with a fascinating history that's closely tied to religious liberty. 






Montse Alvarado
Executive Director 
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