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Attorney general to talk finer points of religious liberty cases

Colorado’s attorney general will share with faithful the sticky, legal issues surrounding religious freedom during a conference this month.

At the Gospel of Life Conference Oct. 25, John Suthers will deliver part two of a speech to a Catholic audience explaining the court battles and finer details of religious liberty issues in the United States.

“We’ve got some very ‘thorny’ free exercise of religion issues in this country that will be ironed out case-by-case over the next several years—the Hobby Lobby Case is a prime example,” Suthers told the Denver Catholic Register Sept. 17.

For-profit and nonprofit businesses fighting the federal Health and Human Services (HHS) contraceptive mandate, as required by the Affordable Care Act, is one of several topics he will address during the conference. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 June 30 that Hobby Lobby cannot be forced under the act to provide employers with morally-objectionable contraceptives.

Battles over religious liberty are not confined to the court room. Keynote speaker Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, will address the tactics of winning a battle that’s cultural.

Kreeft has authored more than 75 books, including one on the topic of his speech, “How to Win the Culture War.” He once said it’s important to acknowledge society is at war and to know the enemy and how to defeat him.

The purpose of the conference is to educate, encourage and equip faithful who are in the midst of such battles. It starts with a White Mass at Risen Christ Church to honor health care professionals, celebrated by Bishop Paul Etienne of the Cheyenne Diocese.

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Suthers, who is concluding a 10-year term as state attorney general, will follow with his speech “Dissecting Obamacare II.”

In part one, he shared with an audience at Holy Ghost Church how the underlying issue in HHS mandate cases rests in the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

“This was the first time ever that Congress had suggested that they had power to order individual Americans to buy a product or service and that power was based on the Commerce Clause,” he explained about the HHS mandate.

He will give an update on the Little Sisters of the Poor and their case that nonprofits should not be required to provide contraceptives in health insurance.

“For the most part the nonprofit entities have been succeeding in litigation in the lower courts, and I have every reason to believe that they will succeed in the Supreme Court,” Suthers said.

Religious expression battles are also being fought by Catholic Charities in certain states over its refusal to adopt children to same-sex couples.

“I’ll talk about the Colorado law and some of the tensions that came about at the time of the passage of the domestic or civil union law that bears upon some of the activities of Catholic Charities,” he added.

Battles are also being fought among local businesses. The Lakewood Masterpiece cake shop owner is undergoing litigation for refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding. Suthers said he will discuss how public accommodation laws will likely prevail in such cases.

He will also discuss land use disputes between the city of Boulder and churches related to construction projects.

While he has his own Catholic beliefs about these issues, he said his job is to defend the law.

“I think my job, regardless of my personal beliefs, is to be the best lawyer I can be and make sure my public law office is comprised of the best lawyers (it) can be,” Suthers said. “These are tough issues. I certainly have personal beliefs about them but what positions we take as an office and I take as the attorney general are really dictated by the law.”

Suthers announced he is running for mayor in Colorado Springs after he leaves the office of attorney general in January. He has a home with his wife in Colorado Springs.

Gospel of Life Conference
This year’s conference “Mission Possible: Battle Plan for a Society in Crisis” will include keynote speakers Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, and John Suthers, Colorado attorney general.

When: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 a.m. Oct. 25
Where: Risen Christ Church, 3060S. Monaco Parkway
Tickets: $35 online, $40 at door
Email: ameyer@ccdenver.org or 303-742-0828



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