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President Obama Forces Ministries and Family Businesses to Choose Between Their Federal Contracts and Their Faith


—Matthew Kacsmaryk, Liberty Institute Deputy General Counsel

Imagine you are a small business owner who feeds your family and contributes to your community based on contract work with the federal government.  Imagine you are also a person of faith, who takes seriously scriptures appearing in your Bible or Torah.  Now imagine the United States government tells you to either deny an important moral tenet of your faith . . . or all your federal contracts.

On July 21, 2014, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that bans federal contractors, including small businesses and ministries, whose business practices and policies do not comply with the Administration’s understanding of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” 

The order includes faith-based relief organizations.  Though the details are still unfolding, experts predict that the executive order could ultimately impact approximately 24,000 businesses and 28 million workers.

CHOOSING YOUR FAITH OR YOUR FEDERAL CONTRACT

Liberty Institute Deputy General Counsel Matthew Kacsmaryk issued a statement in response to President Obama’s executive order. 

Under the executive order, the Secretary of Labor may require submission of a Compliance Reportand supporting information stating that the contractor’s “practices and policies” do not discriminate on the grounds of an undefined “sexual orientation” class or undefined “gender identity” class, and that the signer will affirmatively cooperatewith implementation of the Order.

“Though its full implications are still unfolding, President Obama’s executive order is another example of the administration’s callous disregard for people of faith,” said Kacsmaryk.  “From the HHS mandate to today’s executive order, the administration has consistently favored sexual revolution fundamentalism over the sincerely-held religious beliefs of Americans who simply seek to live out their faith in their day-to-day business practices.”

A troubling aspect was the refusal of the administration to consider the pleas of the faith community for commonsense religious protections.

Kacsmaryk noted, “Despite receiving myriad requests for a religious exemption—including two letters signed by over 170 leaders of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Mormon organizations, charities, and colleges—the President refused to enact express written protections consistent with the longstanding American commitment to pluralism, diversity, and the accommodation of religious dissent.”

GOING AROUND CONGRESS, COERCING CITIZENS

The executive order comes after legislation known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) stalled in the halls of Congress.  The controversial ENDA law would have mandated discrimination those business owners who do not conform to  the Administration’s understanding of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

With this executive order, the President achieved through executive fiat what he could not achieve through the normal legislative process:  enactment of ENDA protections for an undefined “sexual orientation” class and an undefined “gender identity” class religious liberties protections for millions of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Sikhs, and other faith-based traditionalists who adhere to millennia old definitions of marriage, sexuality, and gender. 

The bottom line?  The order is an attack on the very heart of the American ideal of religious freedom.  Said Kacsmaryk: “Faith-based contractors are left with a choice:  compete for federal contracts, or follow the teachings of their faith and the dictates of conscience.”

CONFORMITY CLOAKED AS “DIVERSITY”

Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute’s National Director of Litigation said, “We once thought that the diversity of America was an asset.  This order crushes diversity and seeks to drive out those who disagree with the Administration’s viewpoint on a matter that is central to religious freedom and rights of conscience.”

Kelly Shackelford, Liberty Institute President & CEO, commented:

“This is another example of the increasing willingness of the government to reach into the most private sanctuaries of a person’s life and persecute him or her for ‘wrong religious thoughts.’

“This is especially dangerous when the punishment of these ‘wrong religious thoughts’ is to attack a person’s very ability to feed their family, follow their calling, and contribute to society as a business owner or employee.  It’s outrageous.”

Kacsmaryk added, “This religious intolerance will harm devout Christians, Jews, Mormons, and other faith-based traditionalists who provide exceptional social services to the federal government but dissent from the Administration’s about-face redefinition of marriage and gender identity.  This executive order is inconsistent with the longstanding American commitment to pluralism, diversity, and the accommodation of religious dissent.”

A WAY TO FIGHT BACK

Liberty Institute stands ready to defend the rights of people of faith in the workplace.  Our attorneys have launched legal action against a global corporation and numerous government entities for discriminating against people of faith for their religious views on issues like marriage, and we will advise and defend others targeted by unlawful religious discrimination.

“We encourage people of faith who are victims of discrimination not to simply assume they have no recourse,” said Shackelford.  “Liberty Institute has seen over and over again that standing against discrimination is most often the winning position in legal disputes—and we will continue to win, to secure the legal right to religious freedom in our laws.”

Please donate now to help Liberty Institute continue our winning strategy in the battles for religious freedom in America. 

Together, we achieve victories in these and other cases as we take on opponents like the federal government, other government entities, and corporations who discriminate against people of faith.


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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 9:02:00 AM

LAWSUIT: Liberty Institute Sues City that Discriminated Against Church



On July 22, 2014, Liberty Institute filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Cornerstone Church by the Bay, its pastor Hamilton Musser, and the Laguna Madre Christian Academy, against the town of Bayview, Texas for enforcing an illegal zoning ordinance prohibiting the church and religious school from operating on its own property.

For years, Cornerstone Church had to rent space in a nearby town to hold services.  Recently, however, it acquired property in Bayview to use as a church and school.  But in June 2014, in action specifically targeting Cornerstone Church’s use of its own property, the Bayview Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to enforce a zoning ordinance that completely bans churches and schools from the area where Cornerstone Church owns property—despite allowing similar nonreligious uses in the exact same area.

Because of Bayview’s zoning ordinance, the school continues to expend valuable resources renting a building in a nearby town despite the suitability of Cornerstone Church’s property for use as a church and school.

Hostile Discrimination Against the Church

“Bayview cannot prohibit religious institutions while blessing similar institutions that are nonreligious,” said Prerak Shah, a member of Liberty Institute’s volunteer legal team and an attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.  “The town’s actions not only harm Cornerstone Church, they desecrate a cornerstone of our Constitution.  This type of blatant discrimination against religious institutions by a heavy-handed government is what led our Founders to enact the First Amendment in the first place.”

Mike Berry, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel, expresses his gratitude for all of the volunteer attorneys who are helping to fight against this religious discrimination, and points to the significance of having one of the most revered and respected attorneys in Texas—retired Texas Supreme Court Justice Raul Gonzalez—as a member of the legal team.



We’ve Seen This Before:  Significant Victories in the fight

This is not the first time Liberty Institute has seen a town or city discriminate against the very people trying to help their communities.  We have successfully defended the rights of churches and ministries in many cases, including:

Opulent Life Church — When Opulent Life Church searched for larger space to rent in the downtown area of Holly Springs, Mississippi, the city required churches, and only churches, to obtain the approval of 60 percent of local property owners and also the mayor before they were allowed to occupy their new space.  In a landmark decision , the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found the ordinance violated federal law, finding it  “inherently discriminatory.”  Following the appellate ruling, the U.S. District Court judge granted an injunction which allowed Liberty Institute to reach a settlement with the city before trial.  Opulent Life Church was able to permanently move to a larger, downtown Holly Springs location.

Plano Vietnamese Church — In need of expansion, Plano Vietnamese Baptist Church bought a new building which had previously been utilized as a church.  However, the city of Plano, Texas denied the congregation a certificate of occupancy because the property did not meet the arbitrary and discriminatory 2-acre site requirement for houses of worship in residential areas.  The site was 1.2 acres.  A Texas State District Judge ruled in favor of Pastor Le and his congregation, protecting this small church from this unlawful ordinance.

Isaiah 61 Ministries — After receiving threats from the Dauphin County Commission, Isaiah 61 Ministries, a non-profit Christian ministry to the homeless, poor, and elderly in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was prevented from carrying out their work on public property.  Liberty Institute and Independence Law Center sent a demand letter to the Dauphin County Commission, who made the right decision by allowing Isaiah 61 and other ministries to continue their good work in the community.

YOU CAN HELP WIN MORE BATTLES!

Sadly, this type of discrimination and persecution continues to occur—due largely, Mike Berry adds, because of “a lack of appreciation for the valuable and cherished role that churches play in our communities.”  But through your commitment and support of Liberty Institute’s efforts to win the battles for religious freedom in America, you can help fight back. 

Please stand with us through prayer and your support today.  And if you know of a church or religious non-profit or school that can take advantage of Liberty Institute’s free “Religious Liberty Audits” to protect themselves before legal attacks, then please encourage them to contact us by filling out a legal request form online or calling our main number at 972-941-4444.


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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 9:02:00 AM

WE FIGHT BACK: Religious Discrimination in the Workplace



This week, Liberty Institute filed an official charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of former editor-in-chief, Bob Eschliman.

Eschliman, who worked for the newspaperin Newton, Iowa since 2012, was fired after posting his religious views on his private blog—which he had maintained prior to his employment at the ws, and where he frequently shared his personal thoughts and writings in his off hours.

“Once I began to work at ,” Eschliman explains in his statement in support of his charge of discrimination, “I made them aware and was never asked to stop my private efforts there.”

UNLAWFUL AND OUTRAGEOUS RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE

Says Liberty Institute’s volunteer attorney, Matthew Whitaker—a former United States Attorney and partner in the Des Moines law firm of Whitaker, Hagenow, & Gustoff, LLP—“No one should be fired for simply expressing his religious beliefs.  In America, it is against the law to fire an employee for expressing a religious belief in public.  This kind of religious intolerance by an employer has no place in today’s welcoming workforce.”

At issue are Eschliman’s views he expressed on his private blog this past spring, defending his religious beliefs regarding Holy Scripture and the institution of marriage. 

When the ’ management—Shaw Media­—learned of Eschliman’s blog post a few days later, they placed him on indefinite paid suspension while investigating the matter.  On May 5, 2014, Eschliman was summarily fired and immediately escorted out of the building—without being permitted to gather his personal effects from his office.  The president of Shaw Media, the owner of , issued a statement in an editorial published that same day ironically titled “Earning public trust our priority”: 


Eschliman responds:

“There is no question that I was fired for holding and talking about my sincerely held religious beliefs on my personal blog during my off-duty time from the comfort of my own home.


With the filing of Eschliman’s official charge of discrimination, the EEOC will begin an independent investigation of the former newspaper editor’s charges of religious discrimination and retaliation.  If the EEOC determines that Shaw Media is guilty of religious discrimination and retaliation, it may order broad relief, including back pay, front pay, and other significant damages for the unlawful conduct of Eschliman’s former employer.

FIGHTING FOR EMPLOYEES OF FAITH

Liberty Institute has stood and will continue to stand with clients being persecuted and their livelihoods threatened because of their personal beliefs and faith.  Recent clients include:
  • A teacher, Walt Tutka, who quietly gave a Bible—upon request—to a student.
  • U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk, was disciplined for refusing to state his religious beliefs on sexuality to a superior who disagreed with those beliefs.
  • TV sports analyst Craig James, whose was terminated when his employer learned he had publically expressed commonly-held religious beliefs concerning marriage—and did so off the worksite,  

There’s a reason  has cited Liberty Institute in its coverage on religious discrimination in the workplace.  And we’ll continue this fight to help those being persecuted in the workplace for their faith. 

NOT JUST FIGHTING, BUT WINNING

The battle to defend religious liberty in companies and organizations rages on, but we know we can win with the support of friends like you.  When you stand with us and help fight back, you help achieve victories in the workplace—defending the freedom of religious expression for fellow Americans including Bob Eschliman, Walt Tutka, SMSgt Phillip Monk, and Craig James.

Your support helps continue Liberty Institute’s unique strategy which includes:

  • A Home-Field Advantage – Wherever the case is litigated across America, we have an advantage due to our national network of volunteer attorneys who know their communities and how to win.
  • All-Star Attorneys – Our network features America’s best attorneys.  Many normally charge up to $1,000 per hour, yet they take religious liberty cases (free of charge).
  • Multiplied Impact of Every Dollar – For every $1 we spend on a case, we receive approximately $6 in (free) legal time given by our all-star attorneys across the nation.  

Please donate nowto help continue the fight and protect the “free exercise” of religion in our nation—and if you or someone you know is experiencing workplace religious discrimination, please contact us today!


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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 9:01:00 AM

Shark Tank: Will Your Church Be Safe? - Part 1



Is your church or denomination safe from damaging legal attack?  What about your favorite religious ministry or charity?  What about religious schools training future leaders your church needs—are they safe?  Or will they be crippled by anti-religious legal attacks?

Churches, ministries, and faith-based schools today live in a shark tank of anti-religious bigotrythat can mean legal and financial ruin unless they take legal steps now to protect themselves.

And that’s where Liberty Institute is helping dozens—and soon, hundreds—of religious institutions of all types and sizes.       

WHO ARE THE SHARKS IN THE TANK?

“All are at risk:  in addition to churches and synagogues, faith-based charities, orphanages, shelters, sororities, fraternities, and companies,”says Matthew Kacsmaryk, Deputy General Counsel and Managing Director of Direct Litigation, Research, and Education for Liberty Institute.

Mr. Kacsmaryk warns that churches and faith-based organizations are vulnerable to attack by litigious individuals and organizations that are offended by traditional religious viewpoints and seeking to litigate employment or discrimination claims in furtherance of a larger political or cultural agenda.

Liberty Institute is assisting more than 25 faith-based organizations—including churches, adoption agencies, educational institutions, and ministries—by offering a free-of-charge “Religious Liberties Audit.”  He says, “Reviewing articles of incorporation, employment manuals, discipline policies, and other corporate documents, we try to identify any risk exposure.” 

Organizations that have already retained legal counsel may nonetheless benefit from a “Religious Liberties Audit” because Liberty Institute attorneys are trained to identify risks and develop solutions unique to their practice.  Mr. Kacsmaryk notes, “Lawyers trained in corporate or employment law may miss risks and solutions arising under the Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and various state laws.”

Anti-religious organizations are aggressive: they use Establishment Clause challenges, employment challenges, anti-discrimination challenges, and more.  Liberty Institute attorneys pour over the corporate DNA of a faith-based organization, looking for weaknesses:
  • What if an employee is terminated for immoral behavior and sues you? 
  • What if your religious schools declines to hire an applicant because her lifestyle or beliefs are antithetical to the affiliated church? 
  • What if a hostile anti-religious organization attempts to plant an infiltrator in your ministry and you refuse them? 
  • What if your church exercises church discipline and is sued?
  • What if an atheist demands to join your religious sorority and sues when they are turned down?
All these and more can seriously damage your organization.

A SURPRISING DEGREE OF DANGER

“You might be surprised,” says Mr. Kacsmaryk, “many churches don’t have robust written statements of faith, mission statements, or rules for how they operate, how they hire, how they discipline, and how they remove members.”

For ministries, he says, “We make certain that an organization expressly states that it is motivated by sincerely held religious beliefs and provides detailed explanations of those beliefs.”  Mr. Kacsmaryk warns, “If your religious organization lacks written statements of faith and fails to explain its beliefs in writing, Liberty Institute cannot easily defend your faith and beliefs in court.”

Today, the most common risk exposure involves the controversial topics of marriage and sexuality.  Mr. Kacsmaryk asserts, “With the rise of sexuality-specific anti-discrimination statutes and policies, churches need to expressly state their sincerely held religious beliefs so that they’re not later accused of a pretextual act of discrimination.”

What changes need to be made in such a case?

“Faith-based organizations need to flesh out what they believe with particularity before the infiltrator knocks on the church door, before the lawsuit is filed,” he says.  Many churches, faith-based organizations, and interdenominational charities lack the written statements of faith and policies necessary to defend a religious-liberties case: “Again, you’d be surprised by the large number of churches, faith-based organizations, and interdenominational clubs that lack written definitions of marriage, Christian sexual ethics, or procedures for disciplining or pastoring members who find themselves outside the boundaries of the organization’s rules and policies.” 

Through the Religious Liberties Audit process, Liberty Institute attorneys “seek to get those beliefs written down, codified, and enforced so that you’re not left without litigation exhibits if the time comes to defend your church.”  As an example, Mr. Kacsmaryk notes that the plaintiffs in the case—the Green and Hahn families—had well written statements of faith on file when the HHS mandate threatened their sincerely held religious beliefs: “it is difficult to litigate a victory without exhibits.”





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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.

Thursday, July 17, 2014 12:04:00 PM

UPDATE: School Claims Grad Speaker Forfeited First Amendment Rights!



Last week, the Brawley Union High School District informed Liberty Institute that it will not apologize to salutatorian Brooks Hamby for censoring references to his faith in three different versions of his graduation address.

Last month, Liberty Institute sent a demand letter to the school district requesting a statement exonerating Brooks of any wrongdoing, a meeting with the superintendent, and an assurance that lawful religious expression in students’ speeches would not be censored in the future.

The school district sternly refused all of our requests.  A 10-page responsesent by lawyers from a large California firm representing the school district stated thatthe District exercises control over the valedictory/salutatory speeches and only permits students to deliver content its administrators have deemed appropriate.”

The school district’s letter also stated:


Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys commented, “It is outrageous enough that this school censored a student’s speech just because he wanted to reference his faith, but now for the school to claim that students lose their First Amendment freedoms while the school controls them defies any explanation!” 

Dys continued, “We hoped to simply sit down for a quiet, inexpensive conversation.  Instead, we received an invitation to litigate our client’s First Amendment rights—an invitation our client may soon accept.”

REDACTING GOD FROM GRADUATION

In June, school officials told Brooks Hamby that he could not talk about his faith in his graduation speech.  After rejecting two versions of his speech, Brooks and his parents were called to see the principal the morning of the day of the graduation ceremony and were notified by the school district that if Brooks “interjects religious content, the sound will be cut off, and a disclaimer to the entire audience must be made explaining the district’s position.”

After receiving this information, Brooks wrote a third version of his speech, which he sent to the superintendent.  He received that version back with all religious references crossed out in black.

Brooks did not want to cause trouble, but neither could he compromise his faith and his convictions.

Brooks sent a fourth version of his speech to school administrators, but did not receive a reply before it was time for him to deliver his address.  In his speech, he referenced the previous three versions of his speech and included references to the Bible and his Christian faith.

Amazingly, the school did not silence Brooks’ microphone but allowed him to finish his speech.

FIGHTING FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN THE SCHOOL

Liberty Institute is on the forefront of the growing issue of valedictorians and salutatorians being forbidden to include religious references in their graduation speeches.  Our clients include:
  • Valedictorian in South Carolina Roy Costner IV ripped apart the speech school officials had approved and then proceeded to talk about his Christian faith.  Liberty Institute is proud of Costner for making the bold decision to stand for his faith.

  • Valedictorian in Joshua, Texas — When graduating high school senior Remington Reimer began to talk of the Constitution and his faith in his valedictory address, school officials shut off his microphone.  Liberty Institute sent a letter to Joshua ISD officials giving them 60 days to comply with state law.  In response, Joshua ISD issued a formal apology to Remington Reimer.

  • Valedictorian in San Antonio, Texas — Prior to Angela Hildenbrand’s graduation, a U.S. District Judge issued a temporary restraining order banning prayer offered by anyone during graduation and threatened “incarceration” for anyone violating the order.  Liberty Institute filed an emergency motion for intervention requesting relief from the temporary restraining order.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned the ruling, allowing Hildenbrand to exercise her constitutional right to freely express her religious beliefs.
HOW YOU CAN HELP

Liberty Institute is dedicated to continuing to fight to protect the rights of Brooks and students like him who courageously stand up for religious liberty, but we need your help!

What can you do?

  • Pray.  Your prayers are needed and vital as we work to protect the religious rights of students, teachers, and others in the school.
  • Donate now.  Your gifts make a huge difference in the work we do—every $1 you give translates into $6 of legal impact. 


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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.

Thursday, July 17, 2014 12:03:00 PM

Best Seller 'God Less America' Features Liberty Institute


In his best-selling book, author and “Fox News & Commentary” host Todd Starnes delivers the warning—Paul Revere style, while substituting his keyboard and microphone for a horse and a lantern—that secular radicals are trying to take over America and intensify the war on religious freedom.

“Todd Starnes is passionate about religious liberty,” Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer says.  “And he’s fearless when it comes to calling out organizations hostile to freedom of religion, the government, and anyone who wants to cleanse our nation of what our Founding Fathers described as our ‘first freedom.’  Every American needs to read and take to heart its warning.”

A MIGHTY FORCE IN THE WAR ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

A compellation of interviews with top conservative leaders, as well as commentary on recent news stories featuring attacks on religious liberty, also points to Liberty Institute as a legal powerhouse with a winning strategy to defend and restore religious liberty in America.

Concerning Liberty Institute, Starnes says:  “Liberty Institute has become one of my go-to sources for religious liberty stories.  The attorneys have mastered the concept of explaining legalese in a way that connects with the Average Joe.  I’ve found Liberty Institute to be fierce defenders of religious liberty.  It’s been my experience that when Liberty Institute takes up the cause of a persecuted believer—that a wrong will be righted.”

Starnes points to recent Liberty Institute cases, while artfully telling the stories of these people of faith, who are taking a stand and declaring that we are still one nation under God. . . .
  • Walt Tutka Upon request, teacher Walt Tutka gave a Bible to a student.  Tutka quoted the Bible while speaking to a student coming last through a door, saying, “The first shall be last, but the last shall be first.”  After the student questioned Tutka several times about the quote, Tutka used his own Bible to show the student where the quote originated.  Then, after the student said he did not own one, Tutka gave the boy his Bible.  This simple act ultimately led to his termination by his employer, the Phillipsburg School District in New Jersey.  Liberty Institute stepped in to help the teacher evaluate his legal options in challenging wrongful termination.  Tutka filed a charge of discrimination against the school district with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Tutka’s claims of religious employment discrimination are currently being investigated by the EEOC.

  • Audrey Jarvis A Sonoma State University, official told college student Audrey Jarvis to remove her cross necklace when she was working for the university’s Associated Students Production organization at a student orientation fair.  The supervisor told Jarvis that the chancellor had a policy against wearing religious items and said the cross necklace “might offend others.”  It might make incoming students feel unwelcome.  Assisted by Liberty Institute, Jarvis, a devout Catholic, filed a religious accommodation request with the university.  The university officials did the right thing, launched an investigation into the incident, and as a result, the university issued a formal apology to Jarvis.

  • Senior Master Sergeant Phillip MonkA 19-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk was relieved of his duties because of his faith and moral convictions.  SMSgt Monk respectfully declined to agree with his “politically correct” commander’s viewpoint about homosexual marriage when that commander demanded an answer.  Liberty Institute stepped in and filed a formal complaint with the military on Monk’s behalf.  During a meeting following the formal complaint filing, Air Force investigators abruptly read Monk his Miranda rights, accusing him of the military crime of making false official statements.  The Air Force investigation cleared Monk of any crimes, avoiding any potential court-martial or disciplinary action.  In February of 2014, the Air Force presented Monk with a prestigious award for his performance and conduct.  In May of 2014, the Air Force approved Monk’s request to officially retire, which will occur in January of 2015.

A NEW GENERATION BOLDLY TAKES A STAND

“Our nation stands on a precipice,” Starnes writes in the last chapter of “We are a people in grave danger. . . .  Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, and Kelly Shackelford, president of Liberty Institute, penned an open letter to the American people in 2013.  Hostility against religious liberty has reached an all-time high, they warned.  The freedom of religion is being pushed out of public life, schools, and even churches. . . .

“But friends,” says Starnes, “no matter how difficult these days have become, let not your heart be troubled.  The sovereign Lord is our strength. And I believe He is raising up a new generation of believers—young people who are fervent in their faith, a new generation of Billy Grahams and Billy Sundays.  Young men like Roy Costner and Jake Naman and young ladies like Audrey Jarvis who have raised their Ebenezer.  They considered the cost, they took a stand, and God honored their faithfulness.”

DEFENDING OUR “FIRST FREEDOM”

The only way Liberty Institute can stay strong in defending our “first freedom” and continue being victorious in religious liberty cases—which each have a chance of becoming precedent to defend or restore religious liberty—is through the continuing financial support of friends and loyal supporters like you. 

To help us fight the “Goliath” opponents, please donate now and share this cause with your friends.  And for more information about Todd Starnes and his latest book, , please visit www.toddstarnes.com.


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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.

Thursday, July 17, 2014 12:03:00 PM

Obama Administration to Ministries: VIOLATE YOUR FAITH



Are ministries compelled to violate their religious beliefs by facilitating the provision of abortion-inducing drugs to their employees?   Ministries say “No” and are ready to go to court to defend their integrity.

After the United States Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in last week many ministries are continuing to challenge the Obama Administration over its so-called “religious accommodation” to the HHS Abortion Pill Mandate.

In the “accommodation,” religious ministries must provide their insurance company with a form stating their objection to providing the contraceptives.  The insurance company then puts the organization’s employees in a separate plan that covers contraceptives.

Yes, the Obama Administration claims neither the employer nor employee would pay for contraceptive coverage.  But many religious organizations say the“accommodation” still requires them to cooperate in and facilitate the provision of a service that violates their religious beliefs, leading many non-profit organizations, including ministries and Christian colleges and universities, to file suit against the federal government.

TWO SIGNIFICANT VICTORIES

According to Jeff Mateer, Liberty Institute General Counsel, though the ruling left cases relating to religious non-profits and the Obama Administration’s “accommodation” unresolved, Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in the case provides the building blocks for those challenging the accommodation.

“It gives us such good language that the same day that was decided, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit decided another religious liberty case, involving a Catholic television network.  In that case, the 11th Circuit found that this so called “religious accommodation” violates federal law,” Mateer said.  “This was a great decision for religious ministries and bodes well for future challenges to the accommodation.”

Even more significantly, at the end of last week, the Supreme Court announced in a 6-3 ruling that Wheaton College, a Christian college in Illinois, does not have to comply with the accommodation while the case makes its way through the court system.

SUPREME COURT REJECTS JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPIN

During the Wheaton College case, the Obama Administration defended the accommodation, arguing that language contained in Justice Alito’sopinion meant the accommodation was acceptable.

However, in the majority decision for , Justice Alito explicitly stated that the Court was not ruling on the non-profit cases challenging the accommodation in the decision.  He wrote, “We do not decide today whether an approach of this type complies with RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] for purposes of all religious claims,” including a footnote reference to the Little Sisters of the Poor, an organization of nuns challenging the Obama Administration’s accommodation to the contraceptive mandate.

In a significant victory for Wheaton College and proponents of religious liberty, the Supreme Court implicitly rejected the Obama Administration’s claim that the decision declared the accommodation acceptable, with Justice Stephen Breyer joining the five justices who had ruled in favor of religious liberty in the case.

Last week’s victories at the Eleventh Circuit and the Supreme Court after the decision bode well for those challenging the Obama Administration’s accommodation.  “These are great sign posts for the future with regard to religious ministries,” Mateer commented.

PRESSING FORWARD IN THE FIGHT

Liberty Institute represents several non-profit ministries and Christian colleges who object to the accommodation and say it violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the law upon which Hobby Lobby successfully challenged the HHS Abortion Pill Mandate.

“In light of the Supreme Court’s decisions in and and the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in it’s time for the Obama Administration to scrap this whole mandate,” Mateer said, citing the enormous amount of attorneys’ fees that the government will have to pay if it continues to push the accommodation and lose in court.

However, the Obama Administration is unlikely to do so.  Mateer continued, “I would say we’re going to be in litigation for the next several months until the Supreme Court says that this religious accommodation, like the mandate that it comes from, violates federal law.”

Regardless of how the Obama Administration chooses to proceed, Liberty Institute is dedicated to protecting the religious liberty of those which the government is trying to force to violate their religious beliefs.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

First, please pray as we move forward.  Your prayer support is vital as we work to defend religious rights and work to preserve religious liberty in America.

Second, please donate now as we move forward with our representation of religious non-profits.  Due to our volunteer attorney model, every $1 you give translates into approximately $6 of legal impact.  Your dollars make a difference!


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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.

Friday, July 11, 2014 8:49:00 AM

Freedom of Conscience Triumphs at Supreme Court



This week, in a landmark victory for religious freedom and freedom of conscience rights, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation in their challenge to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Abortion Pill Mandate, which required them to provide objectionable insurance coverage to their employees.

The Green and Hahn families, which own Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, respectively, believe that four of the twenty contraceptives required by the HHS mandate could result in abortion, the taking of innocent human life.  For these Christian families, providing abortion-inducing drugs would violate their deeply held religious convictions.

The Obama Administration argued that for-profit corporations do not qualify as “persons” under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and thus have no religious freedom protection and are not protected under that law.  But the Court repudiated those claims, saying “No known understanding of the term ‘person’ includes but not all corporations.

In a broad majority opinion upholding RFRA rights that dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg referred to as a “decision of startling breadth,” the Supreme Court rejected the notion that individuals lose their religious rights by entering into a business.  In the decision, the Court held that [t]he contraceptive mandate, as applied to closely held corporations, violates RFRA.

FREEDOM OF RELIGION NOT CONFINED TO CHURCH WALLS

President and CEO of Liberty Institute Kelly Shackelford commented, “This is a big win for freedom.  What the government was arguing for (that those in a for-profit business had no religious freedom protection) was very dangerous.  Today, that argument was soundly rejected, and that is good for America.”

In his concurring opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:


Jeff Mateer, General Counsel for Liberty Institute, remarked, “This is a landmark win for the freedom of conscience rights of every American, including business owners, recognizing that they are free to live and work according to their beliefs without the fear of government.”

Mateer added, “The Supreme Court recognized that citizens cannot be forced to choose between violating their faith and being punished by the government for following their faith.”

MANDATE A “SUBSTANTIAL BURDEN” ON RELIGION

The Supreme Court found that the HHS contraceptive mandate “imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion[.]”  Writing for the court, Justice Samuel Alito said, “We doubt that the Congress that enacted RFRA—or, for that matter, ACA [Affordable Care Act]—would have believed it a tolerable result to put family-run businesses to the choice of violating their sincerely held religious beliefs or making all of their employees lose their existing healthcare plans.”

Justice Alito also wrote that the HHS contraceptive mandate was not the least restrictive way for the government to accomplish their objective, saying “The least-restrictive-means standard [of RFRA] is exceptionally demanding . . .  and it is not satisfied here.” (citation omitted) 

WE CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Though the Supreme Court's decision is a landmark victory for religious liberty, the battle for religious freedom isn’t over.

Left unresolved by this week’s decision are the claims by religious non-profit ministries, such as Little Sisters of the Poor, other religious ministries, and Christian colleges and universities, many of whom we represent, where the government continues to insist that they violate their beliefs in participating in the provision of objectionable contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

Liberty Institute represents several for-profit companies and non-profit ministries who are in various stages of challenging the ObamaCare Abortion Pill Mandate.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

We are dedicated to continuing to fight for religious liberty in America.

Please continue to pray, and please consider a gift today as we work to preserve religious freedom.

To keep apprised of developments in the battle over freedom of conscience rights, visit www.libertyinstitute.org


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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.

Thursday, July 03, 2014 9:15:00 AM

Independence Day and Our God-Given, Founders-Recognized Rights



On Independence Day we must remember that, at the birth of our nation, our Founders acknowledged that all of our rights come from God.

It’s true!  Our Founders recognized the existence of God in one of our nation’s most influential documents in our history:    As the primary writer, Thomas Jefferson drafted in 1776 to declare that our rights—given by God—should not be taken away by the government. . . .


This Independence Day, as we celebrate the “free exercise” of religion, we share with you an open letter from Liberty Institute President & CEO, Kelly Shackelford, reminding us all of the religious liberty our nation’s Founders believed was the ground for all other rights—and how even though the attacks on our religious freedom are increasing, with skillful legal strategy we can still save religious liberty. . . .



The Declaration of Independence








HELP SAVE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Unless more Americans like you and other friends of Liberty Institute awaken to the rising tide of institutional hostility to religious liberty in America today, the legal action that could save religious freedom will occur.  That’s why we’re counting on you and other loyal supporters to help push back as we see the growing crisis of hostility to religion in America in four key areas:  the public arena, education, religious institutions and the U.S. military.

To help us fight, please spread the word and donate now and help Liberty Institute’s top national litigators continue winning in the fight to defend and restore religious liberty in America.  And to learn more about the incidents of hostility to religion in America—and to read through a collection of more than 1,000 legal cases detailing anti-religious bigotry through America—please download the latest edition of here.


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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.

Thursday, July 03, 2014 9:15:00 AM

WE WON'T BACK DOWN: Fight Continues to Save Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross

 . . .



This past Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the request by the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association (MSMA) to review early the caseopting to review the case later after it is considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Justice Samuel Alito issued a statement stating that because the order to remove the veterans memorial in San Diego is stayed (in other words, on hold) pending appeal, the Court will not bypass normal proceedings to hear the case.  Justice Alito said earlier this week:


“WE’LL CONTINUE TO FIGHT”

In response to the decision, Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelfordsaid:  “We will continue to fight for this veterans memorial and the selfless sacrifice and service of all the millions of veterans it represents; it is the least we can do for those who gave so much to us all.”

In 2011 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rule on the case, and determined that the memorial’s cross was unconstitutional.  However, because the Ninth Circuit ruling had not specified a remedy, when the case was appealed the Supreme Court sent it back to the district court, saying they could consider it again once the lower courts had determined what they recommended happen to the memorial.

In answer to the Supreme Court’s request for a proposed remedy, in December the federal district judge in San Diego—spurred on the by the ACLU—gave veterans 90 DAYS to take down the historic Memorial Cross, although he delayed its destruction to give us time to appeal.  This past March, we filed a petition giving the U.S. Supreme Court an opportunity to review the case immediately.

Now, as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision to decline that early opportunity . . . the case heads back to the Ninth Circuit, with a subsequent appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court likely at a later date.

A 20+ YEAR COURT BATTLE

For more than 20 years, this veterans memorial has been the subject of a prolonged lawsuit brought about by the ACLU because of the inclusion of the cross.  Situated high above San Diego, the Memorial Cross—a 29-foot cross surrounded by more than 3,500 plaques containing the photos, names, and diverse religious symbols of our fallen service men and women—is the first Korean War Veterans Memorial place on U.S. soil. 

The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association is comprised of veterans, who originally erected the Veterans Memorial in 1954 and have served as caretakers of the veterans memorial for more than half a century.

Each day this case lingers unresolved, the Greatest Generation fades into history with the Memorial that honors them(and veterans of all wars) still under threat of destruction.

Allyson Ho, Liberty Institute’s volunteer attorney and lead counsel for the MSMA and co-chair of the U.S. Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation Practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, said, “We look forward to the final resolution of the important question of the Memorial’s constitutionality, as the fate of hundreds of similar veterans memorials hangs in the balance.”

Adds Shackelford, “If this cross comes down, then crosses at Arlington National Cemetery and elsewhere will be open targets for destruction or removal.  Worse, it will be used as a precedent to drive our religious freedom and heritage into the shadows of our society.”

GIVE BACK TO THOSE WHO GAVE ALL

Liberty Institute now continues this fight to save Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross in yet another phase of the battle.  And it’s our honor to defend memorials like these for men and women who are defending our nation’s freedom both at home and abroad.

But to continue the fight, we need the continuing support of friends like you.  Liberty Institute has won at all court levels against all opposition.  And with your help, we can continuing winning against foes like the ACLU, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and more.

Please donate nowand help us unleash more attorneys for more cases in the church, in schools, in the public arena and in the military.


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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.

Thursday, July 03, 2014 9:15:00 AM

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