Nick Little—The Religious Freedom Restoration Act: Sword or Shield?

Friday, May 30th 2014 at 7:00 pm
Friday, May 30th 2014 at 9:00 pm
CFI–Transnational, 1310 Sweet Home Rd, Amherst, NY 14226

Nick Little, the Center for Inquiry's new legal director, will speak about the effects of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, and the legal actions CFI has taken and will take in defending secularism. 

Nick's focus will be RFRA—the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—because it is where many individuals and corporations, such as Hobby Lobby, are basing their claims that their religious beliefs give them privileges to restrict the rights of others. The act was passed unanimously by the House, with major backing from Progressive groups like Americans United and ACLU, as a protection for religious groups from unfair attacks by the government. Unfortunately, it has become what some people always thought it would be—a sword to win special rights for religious groups. It was the basis of the Contraception Mandate brief written by the Center for Inquiry, as well as many other current suits.

General admission: $5
CFI members and students: FREE 

About the speaker

Nick Little photo

Nick Little is the Legal Director of the Center for Inquiry, based out of our Washington, DC office. Prior to working for CFI, Nick was an attorney with the DC-based law firm Howrey, LLP, specializing in international and domestic antitrust matters. Since college, Nick has been involved with both organized party and issue based political and social activism.

As both an undergraduate and doctoral student at the University of Oxford, Nick became closely involved with the British Labour Party, becoming a branch officer. Disappointed with the strictures and compromises that came with party political activism, Nick moved away from a purely political career, and focused instead on issue based activism, in the areas of international human rights and LGBT rights.

After moving to the United States, Nick worked in the finance industry in Philadelphia. In the aftermath of September 11th, 2001, Nick returned to education full time, winning a scholarship to Vanderbilt University Law School. At that institution, he focused on Constitutional Law, and, coming from a country with an established church, took particular interest in the role of the First Amendment and the interplay between religion and politics in the United States.

Upon graduation, Nick worked in DC representing Fortune 500 companies in antitrust matters, often involving investigations by the United States or foreign governments. Throughout his 6 years with his firm, Nick maintained a strong commitment to his pro bono practice. Among many other pro bono matters, Nick successfully represented an apostate from the Middle East, who faced deportation to and execution in his native Sudan for the crime of converting away from Islam, winning him asylum in the United States. He also worked with mentally ill New Yorkers to ensure adequate provision of state resources enabling patients to leave institutions and safely and productively live in the community; represented hearing disabled citizens in their efforts to ensure local hospitals provided sign language interpreters as required by the Americans With Disabilities Act; and represented individuals in complaints of malpractice against the D.C. Metropolitan Police.

When his law firm closed, Nick took the opportunity to focus his legal attention on constitutional issues and joined CFI. In addition to working on CFI's internal legal matters, Nick has worked alone and with others in the secular community to seek to preserve a strict separation of Church and State. Recently, Nick wrote an amicus brief for the Supreme Court defending the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, and is working with local counsel in Florida on a case seeking to enforce that state's constitutional ban on spending tax payer revenues on clearly sectarian, religion based, half-way houses for released prisoners. CFI's legal department is currently considering involvement in cases regarding many different matters, including further litigation regarding the Affordable Care Act, the attacks on reproductive rights of women in many states, same sex marriage and LGBTQ rights, end of life and euthanasia matters, and the regulation of homeopathic and other pseudo medications. Nick is always seeking cases in which CFI can involve itself, either as an amicus in an existing matter, or directly representing a plaintiff.