Right Opinion

Injunction Gumption: Can D.C. Judge Halt Trans Ban?

Tony Perkins · Mar. 21, 2019

Do you remember voting for Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in the 2016 presidential election? Neither does anyone else. But somehow, the D.C. District Court judge thinks she should still be able to do Donald Trump’s job. She doesn’t care that the Supreme Court already gave the White House its permission to move forward. She doesn’t even care that the policy she’s trying to stop is a matter of national security. All she cares about is imposing her personal agenda on a country that never elected her.

In a three-page order, Kollar-Kotelly — one of the first judges to block the president from ending open transgenderism in the military (which Barack Obama did on his own) — has decided her opinion is more important than the high court’s. “[D]efendants were incorrect in claiming that there was no longer an impediment to the military’s implementation of the [transgender policy] in this case,” she insisted Tuesday. “On October 30, 2017, this court ordered defendants to maintain the status quo as it relates to the accession and retention of transgender individuals in the military. That preliminary injunction remains in place until the D.C. Circuit issues its mandate vacating the preliminary injunction,” she wrote. “Lacking a mandate, defendants remain bound by this court’s preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo.”

Over at the Pentagon, all systems were go for an April 15 launch of the Trump policy. Now, everything is up in the air, as military leaders debate whether Kollar-Kotelly does, in fact, have the right to keep postponing the plan. According to a Pentagon spokeswoman, the department is “consulting with the Department of Justice on next steps.”

In the meantime, people on both sides continue to raise objections about this new wave of nationwide injunctions. “The idea that one judge can impact the readiness of our military is outrageous,” FRC’s Lt. General Jerry Boykin said. But unfortunately, it happens all the time — particularly to this administration, who probably spends as much time in court defending Trump’s policies as it does writing them.

Although the Supreme Court hasn’t put their foot down on nationwide injunctions, some Democrats wish they’d start. In the Atlantic, a bipartisan pair of attorneys warn about the damage these aggressive judges are doing. This is no way to run a country, they argue. Ending the practice would “doubtless upset those who’ve grown used to thwarting government actions through the court system. But the United States is a fractious, complicated democracy, and it’s disconcerting how much authority we’ve ceded to lone, unelected judges.”

And yet, liberals like Beto O'Rourke would love to cede even more. In a campaign speech earlier this week, he suggested adding another five justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead of being ruled by an oligarchy, Democrats apparently want a super-oligarchy. Elizabeth Warren even made the absurd claim that it “isn’t just about expansion — it’s about depoliticizing the courts.” Since when have liberals, who owe their biggest victories to the courts, wanted to depoliticize anything? The courts are overimportant as it is. The last thing we need is to give them the keys to the entire legislative branch.

President Trump, like most conservatives, rejected the idea out of hand. “I wouldn’t entertain that,” he said flatly. “If they can’t catch up through the ballot box winning an election, they want to try a different way.” He’s right. Part of the reason our democratic system is so broken is because we’ve put too much emphasis on the courts. Now, with these nationwide injunctions, we’re creating “an absurd situation,” Jeff Sessions writes, “in which a plaintiff only needs to win once to stop the government from acting — but the government needs to win every time to carry out its policies. That makes governing all but impossible.” For too long, we’ve let the court become our default political battlefield in this country — and it needs to stop. “The American people vote for those other two branches of government,” Sessions argued. “We want our votes to count.”

Originally published here.

City Stirs the Pot with Coffee Zoning

What’s brewing at Harbor Hope Coffee? Controversy, thanks to the small town of St. Ignace. The leaders of the Western Michigan city don’t want to blend business and religion — and they’re willing to stop a church from buying property to prove it.

Hope Lutheran Church may be small, but it has a big vision. And part of that vision is connecting with the community by opening a new coffee outreach in the business district. That will be tough to do, since St. Ignace turned down their request, arguing that having a church and shop co-exist is somehow a violation of zoning laws. Late last year, the town rejected Hope’s application for a property tax exemption, arguing that the shop didn’t “align with the city’s goals…”

When the church’s appeal was turned down by the local zoning board, the congregation sued. “Religious groups should not be discriminated against based upon the religious nature of their land use,” said Hope Lutheran’s attorney. And he’s not the only one who thinks so. The Trump administration is also weighing in on the small-town dispute, arguing that St. Ignace is violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

The Justice Department’s Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband issued a statement of interest in the case, telling reporters, “Religious groups in America have the fundamental constitutional right to use land for religious exercise, free from discriminatory restrictions, and to be treated on equal terms with nonreligious groups.” In this case, he explained, “Hope is plainly being treated worse than other assemblies and institutions in the [General Business District] by being excluded from a site it wishes to occupy.”

Unfortunately, Hope Lutheran’s situation is more common than you might think. Churches, home groups, synagogues, Bible studies — even Native American tribes — have run smack dab into this local intolerance for religious exercise. But, thanks to the Trump administration, cities that exploit or marginalize faith-based groups will have a lot tougher time of it now. These subtle attacks on religious freedom may seem like small beans to some, but — as Dreiband points out — that every case matters. “The Department of Justice will continue to enforce federal civil rights laws protecting religious freedom so that communities across the country can establish and grow their places of worship.”

Originally published here.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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