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U.S. Navy PROHIBITS Chaplain Wes Modder from Ministering to Fallen Sailor’s Family



In the U.S. Navy officials’ latest attack on Chaplain Wes Modder, last week commanding officer Captain Jon R. Fahs issued a “no contact” order to the highly-decorated military hero—prohibiting him from fulfilling his chaplain role of informing a family of the death of a solider in his unit, offering comfort during a time of grief, and ministering to this family’s spiritual needs. This follows directly on the heels of Captain Fahs’ denial of Chaplain Modder’s request for religious accommodation.

“For my commanding officer to ban me from comforting and ministering to grieving sailors and families just adds insult to injury,” said Chaplain Modder. “One of the most important things chaplains do is to provide comfort and care after a tragic death. I am heartbroken for the family, and yet the Navy won’t allow me to do my job of helping them grieve and mourn. I just want to do my job.”

Captain Fahs issued a “no contact” order to the chaplain—the equivalent of a restraining order—banning the chaplain from any contact with any personnel in his unit at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command in Goose Creek, South Carolina.  Fahs even went so far as to demand that Chaplain Modder remove himself from the Naval Base on the day of the memorial service for the fallen sailor.  

“This Navy official is using the ‘no contact’ order as a weapon to punish and humiliate a decorated military chaplain,” said Mike Berry, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs. “To deny Chaplain Modder of the ability to minister to a grieving family is deplorable.”

NAVY OFFICIALS CONTINUE UNLAWFUL PUNISHMENT OF CHAPLAIN

A highly-decorated military hero and chaplain—whose stellar service includes assignment as Force Chaplain for Naval Special Warfare Command—Chaplain Modder has an exemplary 19-year track record of superiority in his performance and compassionate care for sailors and Marines.

In fact, earlier in his chaplaincy, the Navy even asked Chaplain Modder to be a part of a Navy Chaplain Corps recruitment video! But the tide of respect began to turn in late 2014, when Chaplain Modder was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command at the request of a 4-star Admiral. 

A very small number of military personnel in private counseling sessions asked Chaplain Modder about the spiritual nature of certain personal conduct. Chaplain Modder is endorsed by the Assemblies of God, a respected Bible-believing denomination to which he belongs. He is required to offer requested spiritual guidance in line with their viewpoint, as he has consistently and faithfully done during his chaplaincy. But in this case, the small number of individuals did not agree with his traditional, biblical views regarding their inquiries. Then, apparently, Navy officials did not follow usual procedure in getting Chaplain Modder’s side of the story and rushed to judgment against him.

In today’s politically correct climate—and against federal and military code—Chaplain Modder was unlawfully relieved of duty and threatened with the end of his career.

U.S. Navy officials have removed this highly-decorated chaplain and military hero from his unit and isolated him at the base chapel. Chaplain Modder has been cut off from his sailors, and he is forbidden from ministering to their spiritual needs. And finally, to add insult to injury, Captain Fahs refused to grant him religious liberty and issued a “no contact” order. (Click here to WATCH Chaplain Modder and his wife Beth share about their painful and discriminatory experience.)

PUBLIC OUTCRY AND SUPPORT FOR CHAPLAIN MODDER KEEPS GROWING

With news of more support still to come, already many political, military, and religious leaders have offered unwavering support for Chaplain Modder—including, among others, Lieutenant General (Ret.) Boykin, U.S. Army, The Assemblies of God (Chaplain Modder’s Denominational Endorser), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Franklin Graham, CEO of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Rick Santorum, former United States Senator and presidential candidate, Governor Mike Huckabee, President of Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, and Congressman Doug Collins.


Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford also stated this week: “Of the most critical times for chaplains, the death of a colleague is near the top of the list. For this Navy official to bar a chaplain from comforting and ministering to sailors and families is a reprehensible violation of religious freedom and common human decency.”

Even members of Chaplain Modder’s own unit have come forward to testify to the chaplain’s stellar service and his compassionate care for their spiritual needs. Chief Petty Officer, USN, Ian M. Gay, who sought marital counseling from Chaplain Modder, said:


HELP WAKE UP OFFICIALS!

The fight to restore this military hero’s religious liberty rights—and hold the U.S. Navy’s feet the fire and challenge their violation of military regulations, federal law, the Constitution—is far from over. 

Americans like you need to support Chaplain Modder and stand up for the religious freedom of chaplains, and other brave members of our armed forces. Please sign the “Stop the Unlawful Action Against Chaplain Wes Modder, An American Hero” Petition addressed to The Hon. Ray Mabus, Secretary of the United States Navy. 

The law is on the side of Chaplain Modder, all chaplains, and all members of the U.S. Military who want to exercise their faith. But a public outcry is needed to wake up officials so that violations like this come to a stop. Thousands of Americans have let their voices be heard—please make sure you are among them. Thank you!






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Jeff Mateer Urges Conference of Pastors to Stand for Religious Freedom—and Tells Them How




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, March 26, 2015 10:14:00 AM

Jeff Mateer Urges Conference of Pastors to Stand for Religious Freedom—and Tells Them How



What dangers do churches face in the growing attacks on religious freedom? How can churches respond? What legal rights do churches and pastors have to impact our laws, transform lives, and keep increasingly hostile government officials from interfering?

Liberty Institute’s General Counsel Jeff Mateer answered these pressing concerns on March 19, 2015 at a pastors’ conference of more than 500 pastors, other church leaders and activists. 

Mateer joined a distinguished line up of speakers, including opinion researcher George Barna and historian David Barton, at the “U-Turn: Roadmap for Renewal Conference”in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as he spoke on the battle for religious freedom and the legal rights of churches to impact laws, government and culture.

“Pastors and their churches need to stand up for their religious rights or they’re going to lose them,” said Mateer of the importance of this conference. “Thankfully, pastors around the nation are waking up, and our attorneys at Liberty Institute have developed resources to help them. Today’s conference is evidence of that awakening to the battle for religious liberty.”

NOT KEEPING THE FAITH

From their recent book, , co-authors Barna and Barton shared their findings that:

  • The people of faith who helped found America integrated their biblical beliefs about government into a vibrant civic activism, producing cultural virtue and national strength.
  • Currently, many people of faith have strayed from that foundation, with pastors failing to preach and teach on civic responsibility. Consequently, Christian participation in government, such as voting, is low—despite media overhyping the “threat” of the “religious right.”
  • This failure has created a vacuum—and opportunity for the secularist Left to take over power centers of society, attack religious freedom, and threaten to force faith into an impotent, virtually invisible role in American life.

Mateer—who was featured among a lineup of speakers including author Steve Scheibner, Gary Dull of American Pastors Network, Sandy Rios of American Family Association and American Family Radio, Paul Blair of Reclaiming America for Christ, and Ralph Drollinger of Capitol Ministries—reported that the book found that even though evangelical pastors will cite key issues including abortion, marriage, adultery as important topics to address from the Bible, only 10 percent of pastors actually preach on these topics from the pulpit.

ALL NOT LOST: DOORS ARE WIDE OPEN

But amid such dismal news, there is hope. 

First, Barna found that while people of faith have been “asleep at the wheel” of civic involvement, general American culture has been little better. In other words, just a moderate renewal of the theology of civic activism found in churches for much of the nation’s history could turn the governmental situation around. Voting by people of faith alone would make a difference.

But there is more room for hope.

Many pastors do not preach and teach on the topics relating to current issues today—the very topics contributing to the secularizing of society and loss of religious freedom and influence—because they mistakenly believe it is illegal!

Mateer put that myth to rest for those attending the U-Turn Conference.

He challenged conference participants to know the religious rights of pastors and churches and to speak boldly on topics—such as abortion, marriage and sexuality—that the Bible addresses.

“Many churches and pastors have been given false, misleading and incomplete information,” Mateer explained. “It’s an attempt to scare them from acting as a pastor and impacting the culture for Christ.”

To remedy the situation, Liberty Institute has prepared a FREE, downloadable religious liberty rights resource for pastors and church leaders so they may know that the law is very supportive of their mission to equip their members—and that even as a non-profit, there is very little a church may not do.

For example, pastors possess freedoms most did not know they had, and there are boundaries that can keep them out of trouble as they facilitate civic responsibility in their congregations:

CHURCHES CAN
  • Register their members as voters
  • Pass out non-partisan Voter’s Guides
  • Invite all candidates in a race to speak (it’s okay if only one shows up)
  • Speak directly about specific issues and legislation (abortion, marriage, etc.)

CHURCHES CAN’T
  • Endorse or oppose a particular candidate
  • Contribute to or use church resources for one candidate over another (including free use of church list)

PASTORS CAN (acting individually, and not as a church representative)
  • Call their people to vote
  • Endorse, support a member’s campaign (as long as it’s not done with church resources)
  • Give them information so they can best represent Christ in the voting booth

AWARENESS IS THE CRITICAL STARTING POINT

To further spur the conference participants into action, Mateer gave away nearly 100 free copies of Liberty Institute’s 2014 edition of

One pastor said, “It was a transformational day for me and how I fulfill God’s call to me.” Another said, “My entire view of ministry has been transformed!” 

Liberty Institute is not only winning in court—we are helping people of faith know their rights so they can confidently stand up and apply their faith to every area of life, including areas where their faith will collide with those trying to suppress and silence religion. This includes key sectors of life such as the workplace, school, the marketplace, government, and more. 

Courage is critical, but awareness of your rights stokes courage. Thank you for funding court victories and the awareness of our religious liberties so that people of faith will boldly challenge the secularism that is taking advantage of ignorance in its attempt to force faith out of America.  With your ongoing help, we will light the darkness and ignite a religious liberty movement when it is so needed.







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U.S. Navy PROHIBITS Chaplain Wes Modder from Ministering to Fallen Sailor’s Family




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, March 26, 2015 10:14:00 AM

CHAPLAIN UPDATE: U.S. Navy Official Denies Chaplain Wes Modder’s Request for Religious Accommodation






In continued defiance of federal law, a U.S. Navy official denied Liberty Institute client Chaplain Wes Modder’s request for religious accommodation this week. Although Chaplain Modder’s Marine and Navy SEAL commanders have called him “a national asset” and “the best of the best,” Navy officials are threatening Chaplain Modder with career-ending punishment because he expressed faith-based beliefs in private counseling sessions with sailors.

Liberty Institute will now appeal on Chaplain Modder’s behalf.

“Navy officials are using outdated, obsolete policies to deny a chaplain his rights,” said Mike Berry, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs. “Navy officials appear to be rebelling against the new Department of Defense (DoD) regulations and thumbing their nose at Congress and the Secretary of Defense. That is totally unacceptable.”

NAVY OFFICIAL’S DENIAL VIOLATES THE CONSTITUTION AND FEDERAL LAW

The old, outdated regulations on which a Navy official based his denial of Chaplain Modder’s rights were superseded by updated DoD policies in 2014. Also—and ironically for a branch of our nation’s military that likes to brag about protecting freedom (“To get to you, they’d have to get past us”)—the Navy official is complying with a new law passed by Congress in 2014 that protects military chaplains’ religious freedom. Additionally, the Navy official is complying with the Navy’s own regulations­­­­—including these sections:
In addition to DoD regulations, by requiring Chaplain Modder to compromise the standards of his endorsing denomination, the Assemblies of God, Navy officials are also violating the Constitution and federal law.

LACK OF RESPECT FOR EXEMPLARY SERVICE

With a Doctorate in Military Ministry, Chaplain Modder is a respected and decorated chaplain with a spotless, exceptional record service. In fact, earlier in his chaplaincy career, the U.S. Navy asked Chaplain Modder to be a part of a Navy Chaplain Corps recruitment video!

After his stellar service, including as Force Chaplain for Naval Special Warfare Command, in 2014 Chaplain Modder was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command in Goose Creek, South Carolina, at the request of a 4-star Admiral. A very small number of military personnel in private counseling sessions asked Chaplain Modder for spiritual guidance regarding certain personal conduct.

Since Chaplain Modder is endorsed by the Assemblies of God—the respected Bible-believing denomination to which he belongs—he is required to provide spiritual guidance in line with their viewpoint, as he has consistently and faithfully done for 15 years.

But in this case, these few individuals at Chaplain Modder’s relatively new location did not agree with his traditional, biblical views regarding their inquiries. As Berry says, “They were looking for someone to simply tell them what they wanted to hear. And when they didn’t hear what they wanted to hear, they complained.” Then, with total disregard for military courtesy, Navy officials did not follow the usual procedure of getting Chaplain Modder’s side of the story, and they rushed to judgment against him.

U.S. Navy officials have removed this highly-decorated chaplain and military hero from his unit and isolated him at the base chapel. Chaplain Modder has been cut off from his sailors, and he is forbidden from ministering to their spiritual needs. And finally, to add insult to injury, a Navy official has now refused to grant him religious liberty. (Click here to WATCH Chaplain Modder and his wife Beth share about their painful and discriminatory experience.)

IT’S FAR FROM OVER  . . . “WE WILL NOT SIT BY”

Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford said, “We will not sit by while Navy officials completely disregard federal law on religious freedom. The stakes are far too high. The future religious liberty of every service member and chaplain in the U.S. military hangs in the balance.”

Political, military, and religious leaders have offered unwavering support for Chaplain Modder:

  • Senator Ted Cruz called Modder “the latest target in a series of assaults on religious liberty in the military.”
  • Lt. Gen. (RET) William G. "Jerry" Boykincalled the Navy’s actions “unacceptable.”
  • Rev. Franklin Graham, CEO of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said, “[As] a highly decorated 19-year military veteran, Modder doesn’t deserve this—nor does anyone.”
Former presidential candidates Governor Mike Huckabee and Senator Rick Santorum, President of Family Research Council Tony Perkins, Congressman Doug Collins, and Modder’s denominational endorser, the Assemblies of God have also rallied to Chaplain Modder’s defense.

In addition, Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty—an organization of chaplain endorsers which are the faith groups that provide chaplains for the U.S. military and other agencies needing chaplains—has publicly voiced its support of Chaplain Modder. “The Navy expects chaplains to provide counsel according to the tenets of their faith,” said Chaplain (COL) Ron Crews, USA Retired, executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. “No disciplinary action, then, can cite his religious views or his verbalization of them as a cause for the action.”

The endorsers for Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty speak for more than 2,600 chaplains serving in the armed forces today.

PLEASE HELP CHAPLAIN MODDER AND “TRUTH PREVAIL”

“My hope and prayer is that truth will prevail,”said Chaplain Modder. “It has to be the outcome, because that’s who we are as America.”

Liberty Institute is passionate about defending Chaplain Modder and standing up for the freedom of members of the military. But we need your help to do this. Please join with us when you give your donation today, pray with us for victory in this matter, and sign the “Stop the Unlawful Action Against Chaplain Wes Modder, An American Hero!” Petition.

Chaplain Wes Modder—and all chaplains, military members and people of faith— greatly need Americans like you to stand with them and to protect religious liberty rights in our nation. Thank you!





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Media Company Purposefully Obscures True Reason for Wrongful Termination of Award-Winning Journalist

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, March 20, 2015 10:46:00 AM

Vandals Spray-Paint Swastika on Car of Congregation Toras Chaim’s Rabbi Rich





Last week, on the evening Wednesday, March 11, somebody spray-painted a swastika on the car of Rabbi Yaakov Rich, the leader of Congregation Toras Chaim, a small orthodox Jewish congregation in far north Dallas, Texas. The act of vandalism comes just nine days after the City of Dallas filed a lawsuit that could potentially shut down the small congregation.

Rabbi Yaakov Rich, the leader of Congregation Toras Chaim, said, “I feel completely violated. As a Jew, the swastika is the most offensive symbol that there is. They didn’t just attack me, they attacked every Jew in the City of Dallas. I am very grateful, however, that the members of Congregation Toras Chaim are banding together to ensure that there is no disruption in our activities.” 

“We are horrified to hear of this act of hatred against Rabbi Rich, his family, and Congregation Toras Chaim,” said Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Justin Butterfield. “Acts of violence against religious beliefs are being perpetrated around the world. But these acts should never be tolerated in America, which was founded on the principle of religious liberty for all. Liberty Institute is committed to standing by Rabbi Rich, his family, and Congregation Toras Chaim until their religious freedom rights are secured and justice is done.” 

EXISTENCE OF SMALL CONGREGATION UNDER ATTACK—NOT ONCE, BUT TWICE!

A small community of Orthodox Jewish families, Congregation Toras Chaim meets in a private home in far north Dallas for prayer, worship, and religious study. Because the tenets of the Orthodox Jewish faith instruct members not to drive or ride in a car on the Sabbath or on Jewish holidays, Congregation Toras Chaim members must meet within walking distance of their homes.

Earlier this year, Liberty Institute successfully defended the right of Congregation Toras Chaim to worship in a private residence after a disgruntled neighbor and the local homeowners association brought a lawsuit attempting to ban the congregation from peacefully meeting to study the tenets of their faith in a private home.

The disgruntled neighbor contended that the congregation’s religious activities violated the neighborhood’s residential-only restrictive covenant. But on Wednesday, February 4, 2015, at a hearing for a motion for summary judgment, Collin County District Court Judge Jill Willis ruled that members of Congregation Toras Chaim have a right to continue meeting for private worship.

Despite this ruling, the congregation now faces another lawsuit:on Monday, March 2, 2015, the City of Dallas, Texas—the nation’s ninth largest city—sued Congregation Toras Chaim. The city is requesting potentially crippling civil penalties of $1,000 per day per violation, enough to shut down the congregation.

The alleged infractions, according to the City’s lawsuit, include the lack of 13 off-street parking spaces and one disabled parking space, even though Orthodox Jews do not drive on the Sabbath. In addition, there are further requirements demanded by the City, such as two doorways in the front of the home. 

HOSTILITY TO RELIGION AND HOUSES OF WORSHIP

The swastika painted on Rabbi Rich’s car is not the only instance of hostility and vandalism that Congregation Toras Chaim has faced. “In orthodox Jewish homes, there is a little box on the doorway with a scroll on it with a scripture on it, and in the past, somebody had ripped that off of the doorway.  They’ve also had people drive in front of the home screaming obscenities at them,” Mr. Butterfield said, as quoted in an online article by the Dallas/Fort Worth CBS television affiliate.

Congregation Toras Chaim is just one instance in a growing trend of religious liberty violations of houses of worship. Other Liberty Institute clients who have suffered religious discrimination include:
  • First Presbyterian Church of Auburn, NY—In July 2014, the City of Auburn sent a cease-and-desist order demanding that the First Presbyterian Church of Auburn, NY stop their outreach to the kids in their community through a Glee Camp on church property.
  • CornerstoneChurch by the Bay—When Cornerstone Church by the Bay acquired property in Bayview, Texas, it requested permission from the town to use its property as a church and school.  But in June 2014, after denying Cornerstone’s request, the Bayview Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to ban churches and schools from the area where Cornerstone’s property sits—despite allowing nonreligious institutions in that exact same area.

JOIN WITH US TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS LIBERTY FOR ALL PEOPLE OF FAITH

Liberty Institute is dedicated to defending the right of Congregation Toras Chaim and other houses of worship to freely exercise their religious beliefs.

Please pray as we continue our defense of the congregation, and please consider a financial gift today to support our efforts in protecting the religious liberty across America.





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Media Company Purposefully Obscures True Reason for Wrongful Termination of Award-Winning Journalist

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, March 20, 2015 10:41:00 AM

Media Company Purposefully Obscures True Reason for Wrongful Termination of Award-Winning Journalist





Can you be fired for the peaceful expression of your religious beliefs outside your office in your private life? That’s what happened to Liberty Institute client Bob Eschliman, an award-winning journalist. But in firing Bob, his employer broke federal law—and is now trying to justify its religious discrimination by distorting, and even omitting, key facts to a federal agency. This week, Liberty Institute set the record straight.

On March 16, 2015, Liberty Institute, along with volunteer attorney Matthew Whitaker—a former United States Attorney and partner in the Des Moines law firm of Whitaker, Hagenow, & Gustoff, LLP—sent a rebuttal to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The 12-page letter rebuts B.F. Shaw Printing Co., Inc.’s (“Shaw Media”) response to Liberty Institute’s charge of religious discrimination after the media company fired Bob Eschliman for religious opinions expressed in one private blog post.

In the rebuttal, Liberty Institute asserts:

[Shaw Media] admits that Bob was fired for the opinions—uniquely religious opinions based upon his sincerely held religious beliefs—expressed in one, private blog post, then obscures the true reason for Bob’s termination.”

Bob Eschliman, a soft-spoken Navy veteran and father of two young children, was an award-winning journalist and the former editor-in-chief of , which is owned by Shaw Media in Newton, Iowa. On his off hours, and prior to his employment at , Bob maintained a private blog where he published his occasional personal thoughts and sometimes his personal religious beliefs.

The media company knew about—and approved of—Bob’s personal blogging activities during his off hours. In fact, multiple employees of the media company engaged in the expression of opinions through blogging and other forms of social media.

Why?


In his post, Bob defended the Book that is most holy to his faith against attempts to rewrite it. He quoted both chapter and verse (literally) to demonstrate the significant differences between what is known as the and sacred Scripture commonly accepted by millions of Christians worldwide for over two millennia.

Only a handful of close friends and Bob’s family would have read this blog post, hosted on an obscure corner of the Internet. But a former reporter decided to deliberately excerpt the post out of context in order to create controversy and harm Bob.

A PRIVATE BLOG ABOUT THE BIBLE LEADS TO A CONCOCTED CONTROVERSY

This disgruntled employee remained at the media company for almost a year despite open misconduct, insubordination, and the authoring of a false story in one of Shaw Media’s weekly newspapers—a false story that led to threats of legal action, a public retraction, and the publication of a corrected article. After this reporter avoided termination by resigning the day before he was to be terminated, he concocted the controversy against Bob in his attempt to smear both and Bob.

This information is highly germane to the case—yet was conveniently omitted in Shaw Media’s attempted defense of its actions to the EEOC.

After the disgruntled employee’s smear of Bob and the newspaper, a handful of media sources also became interested in the story about Bob’s private blog post.   Bob—who was not yet suspended or terminated at this point—understood the sensitive nature of the issue and sought direction from his publisher. Bob followed the media company’s request to forward any inquiries from media directly to his publisher—and Bob continued to follow this directive while he was placed on indefinite suspension for the expression of this sincerely held beliefs. He did not discuss the case with the media until, accompanied by his attorneys, he announced the filing of the complaint with the EEOC after he had been fired by Shaw Media.

The newspaper president then took to the ’ own editorial page to publically condemn Bob’s expressed sincerely held religious beliefs in print.In a statement published (see Exhibit 2), following the announcement of Bob’s termination, the president of the media company said:

“He expressed an opinion on his personal blog that in no way reflects the opinion of the or Shaw Media. While he is entitled to his opinion, his public airing of it compromised the reputation of this newspaper and his ability to lead it. . . . He has a right to voice his opinion. And we have a right to select an editor who we believe best represents our company and best serves the interests of our readers.”

But this argument that Bob should be terminated for the expression of his distinctly religious opinion violates Title VII of the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964. As, Liberty Institute asserts:

“The Media Company cannot fire someone for religious expression any more than it can fire an African American for being a member of the NAACP, or a Muslim reporter who expresses personal offense, on his own blog when he learns that United States government personnel flush Korans down the toilet.”

FACT-CHECKING THE MEDIA COMPANY’S “RESPONSE”

Additionally in our rebuttal, Liberty Institute and our volunteer attorney exposed Shaw Media for inaccuracies in its response to the EEOC charge . . . and made four key points questioning the employer’s blatant discrimination against Bob Eschliman’s expression of his religious beliefs:
  1. Shaw Media omits and misconstrues the facts.
    In addition to omitting the fact about the disgruntled former employee, Shaw Media also says it was unaware of Bob’s personal blog—even though Bob informed his supervisor on numerous occasions (including during his initial interview with the company)Also, the overwhelming substance of Bob’s blog entry explains the differences, alterations, and changes that some have made to the text of the Bible—the book by which Bob orders his entire life. Shaw Media attempts to caricature Bob’s religious opinions in an attempt to justify to the EEOC their unlawful termination of him.

  2. Media companies must comply with Title VII.
    The requirements of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
    are as binding upon media companies as any other employer. Employers, including newspaper employers, may not make employment decisions based upon an employee’s religious beliefs or the expression of those beliefs. Shaw Media tries to exempt itself from Title VII, admitting multiple times that not only it terminate Bob for the expression of a religious belief with which it disagreed, but that its policies and principles underlying the industry it do to so because of its special journalistic industry. That inexcusably violates Title VII.

  3. Shaw Media intentionally discriminated against Bob Eschliman.
    Bob engaged in the private expression of his sincerely-held religious beliefs during hours in which his employer had no supervisory control of him, in the privacy of his own home. Shaw Media suspended and then terminated his employment, without any hearing or discussion, because of it. That is illegal!  To excuse its unlawful behavior, Shaw Media to offer a reason to support their public shaming of Bob’s religious beliefs and opinions. Not able to question his work ethic or work product, they chose to scapegoat the religious beliefs he expressed on his personal blog and on his personal time.

  4. Bob Eschliman’s case is about discrimination.
    It is undisputed that Bob is a member of the Christian faith and, as such, falls within the protected category of a “religion.” His accolades and awards during his tenure with the media company establish the reality that he was meeting, if not exceeding, his employer’s expectations.Bob’s suspension and subsequent termination because of what he wrote about his religion on his personal blog, while at home, demonstrate that Shaw Media discriminated against Bob on the basis of his religious beliefs by taking an illegal adverse employment action in clear violation of Title VII’s prohibition on religious discrimination.

DEFENDING AMERICANS’ RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN THE WORKPLACE

As the EEOC continues its investigation of workplace discrimination against Bob, we believe the evidence should compel them to decide on behalf of Bob Eschliman. But sadly, Bob’s story is not an isolated incident, and Liberty Institute is also defending other everyday, God-fearing Americans like him against religious discrimination in the workplace.

With our volunteer attorneys, we also represent:

  • Chaplain Wes Modder, a highly-decorated Navy chaplain who the U.S. Navy is threatening with career-ending punishment for sharing his religious beliefs and moral convictions during private counseling sessions.

  • Craig James, a TV sports analyst who was terminated when his employer, Fox Sports, learned he had publicly expressed commonly-held religious beliefs concerning marriage prior to his employment during a political campaign.

  • Dr. Eric Walsh, a respected public health official who was terminated by the Georgia Department of Public Health, after he had accepted a senior position, because of the religious beliefs he expressed as a lay minister.

  • Chaplain Joe Lawhorn, an Army chaplain punished by the Army because during a suicide prevention training, he shared his own personal testimony of how his Christian faith helped him counter depression.
Please pray as we work to restore the rights of those like Bob Eschliman, Chaplain Wes Modder, Craig James, Dr. Eric Walsh, and Chaplain Joe Lawhorn, who face discrimination for religious expression. These are all too real reminders that there is a direct attempt at “religious cleansing” in the workplace for both employers and employees in our nation today. 

Also, please give financially. We win over nine out of every ten of our cases, and because of Liberty Institute’s volunteer attorney model, every $1 you give translates into approximately $6 of legal impact. Thank you for your support!






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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, March 20, 2015 10:36:00 AM

VICTORY! U.S. District Judge Dismisses American Atheists' Attack on a Ten Commandments Monument on the OK Capitol Grounds




On Tuesday, March 10, 2015, Liberty Institute participated in defeating American Atheists in their latest search-and-destroy mission against a Ten Commandments monument. 

United States District Judge Robin J. Cauthron dismissed a lawsuit brought by American Atheists and two activists who were seeking to ban the Ten Commandments monument from the Oklahoma state capitol. 

Liberty Institute, along with Oklahoma’s Attorney General, represents the State of Oklahoma in the case. While Liberty Institute is not authorized to communicate on behalf of the State of Oklahoma, Jeff Mateer, Liberty Institute’s General Counsel, issued the following statement on behalf of Liberty Institute:


LIBERTY INSTITUTE SELECTED TO DEFEND MONUMENT

Liberty Institute is a national leader in defending such monuments, and was selected by the state of Oklahoma to protect the Ten Commandments monument against anticipated legal attacks. 

And the attacks came. American Atheists filed their lawsuit in January 2014 after Rep. Mike Ritze (R-OK) proposed legislation for the privately funded monument in 2009. The proposal received bi-partisan support from both the state House of Representatives and the Senate, with former Democratic Gov. Brad Henry signing the bill into law. The law specifically authorizes Liberty Institute to “prepare and present a legal defense of the monument.”

TEN COMMANDMENTS PART OF AMERICAN HERITAGE

The legislation establishing the monument recognizes:
  1. "That the Ten Commandments are an important component of the foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and of the State of Oklahoma;
  2. That the courts of the United States of America and of various states frequently cite the Ten Commandments in published decisions; and
  3. Acknowledgements of the role played by the Ten Commandments in our nation’s heritage are common throughout America.”
The monument is modeled after the Ten Commandments monument displayed outside the Texas state capitol. 

In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court held that identical Ten Commandments monument constitutional in , a case in which Liberty Institute assisted the Texas Attorney General in defending.

HOW THE COURT BATTLE WAS WON

In her opinion, Judge Cauthron ruled in favor of the State of Oklahoma’s challengethat American Atheists and their activists lacked “standing” to bring the lawsuit. To have “standing” means that the plaintiffs filing the lawsuit suffered an “injury in fact,” that the “injury in fact” is connected to the conduct complained of, and that a decision in their favor would likely redress the harm.

As the Court’s opinion notes, our questioning under oath of the atheist plaintiff was a key to winning the case because they lacked such standing. Her interrogation showed that she did not even the monument enough times to make the claim credible! That deposition, coupled with our investigation of the facts of the plaintiffs’ lack of visits to the monuments, destroyed their contention of harm, and thus of legal “standing.” Importantly, citing U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the judge observed that plaintiffs do not have a “special license to roam the country in search of governmental wrongdoing.”

The judge’s ruling recognized these facts and law and, therefore, dismissed the case.

“Today’s ruling reaffirms the constitutional principle that a person who goes out of his way to take offense does not have a constitutional claim under the Establishment Clause.” Mateer said, “We are pleased that the Court has rejected this constitutional challenge and this Ten Commandments Monument may remain with other monuments on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds.”

WHY THIS VICTORY IS IMPORTANT

American Atheists spend over $2 million per year trying to eradicate religious influence from society, engaging in tactics ranging from publicity campaigns to legal attacks such as this one. 

Here, they went on a blatant search and destroy mission against a lawful Ten Commandments monument, and we assisted in exposing the tactic in such a way that the court threw out their claim. That will help as we defend other monuments, as opponents may think twice about going on fishing expeditions to try to destroy monuments to America's religious heritage.

This is the second victory Liberty Institute has celebrated for the very same Ten Commandments monument, as in September 2014 in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in state court, a Oklahoma judge ruled the monument to be legal under the Oklahoma Constitution.

Moreover, the state of Arkansas has recently introduced similar legislation to Oklahoma’s which also names Liberty Institute as the organization that will defend their Ten Commandments Monument.

YOU CAN HELP SAVE AMERICA’S RELIGIOUS HERITAGE

Groups like the ACLU, American Atheists, American Humanist Association, and Freedom From Religion Foundation are committed to removing such monuments and memorials from public view. But Liberty Institute is committed to enforcing the law that allows appropriate Ten Commandments displays and veterans memorials that are in compliance with the United States Constitution.

But, we can’t do this alone. We need your continued prayer and generous financial support. Please consider a gift today to help us fight back against American Atheists and others, and restore America’s religious liberty in one vital area of public life after another. Your support, by God’s grace, produces victories like this one. But there are many more battles to fight, and we need your help. Thank you!






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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, March 12, 2015 8:47:00 AM

FIGHT FOR FAITH INTENSIFIES: Liberty Institute Requests Immediate Remedy for Chaplain Wes Modder



The unthinkable has happened yet again. Another decorated military hero’s career has been threatened by our nation’s military leaders based on a politically-correct misrepresentation of—and unlawful discrimination against—his spiritual beliefs. 

Yet as the legal conflict developed this week,the U.S. Navy’s charges against top-rated Chaplain Wes Modder—a man hailed by commanders as “essential,” “a national asset,” “the best of the best,” having “character, integrity” and a “moral center”—were called into serious question as an outcry continued to build against the Navy’s actions.

“How could a man with Chaplain Modder’s exemplary 19-year track record of superiority in his performance and compassionate care for sailors and Marines suddenly—virtually overnight—turn into a person whose conduct, out of the blue, made him worthy of being rudely removed from his job?” asked Mike Berry, Liberty Institute’s Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs, who is representing Chaplain Modder. 

He continued, “The Navy’s reasoning The evidence is just not there. So what caused this? Discrimination, similar to other cases we’ve seen, and which turned out to be poor judgment by superiors. Only in an out-of-control, politically-correct environment could this outrage occur. It is an unlawful violation of religious liberty, a blow to Navy morale and therefore to military readiness, and for the country’s sake it cannot stand.” 



NAVY’S CASE FAILS ON EVIDENCE AND CONTEXT

In 2014 Chaplain Modder—whose stellar service includes assignment as Force Chaplain for Naval Special Warfare Command—was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command at the request of a 4-star Admiral. 

Last year, a very small number of military personnel in private counseling sessions asked Chaplain Modder about the spiritual nature of certain personal conduct. Chaplain Modder is endorsed by the Assemblies of God, a respected Bible-believing denomination to which he belongs. He is bound to offer requested spiritual guidance in line with their viewpoint, as he has consistently and faithfully done for 15 years. 


But in this case, the small number of individuals at Chaplain Modder’s relatively new location did not agree with his traditional, biblical views regarding their inquiries.  As Berry says, “They did not hear what they wanted to hear” and so they complained. Then, apparently, the Navy did not follow usual procedure in getting Chaplain Modder’s side of the story and rushed to judgment against him. 

In today’s politically correct climate—and against federal and military code—Chaplain Modder was unlawfully relieved of duty and threatened with the end of his career.

“For the Navy to expect Chaplain Modder to say anything in a private counseling session other than guidance in line with the tenets of his denomination would be religious discrimination of the highest order—discrimination against him that is not allowed by law,” said Berry. 

He added, “And then to assume—against about his reputation, his character, his caring nature—that his answers would not have been within proper tone, is simply not credible. It is contrary to the evidence and goes against everything else we know to be true. Clearly, the Navy has made a very massive error.”

LIBERTY INSTITUTE HITS BACK WITH DETAILED REFUTATION

On Monday, March 9, 2015, Liberty Institute sent a powerful response letter to the U.S. Navy, with a detailed rebuttal of every single charge against Chaplain Modder. 

Liberty Institute warned the Navy it was engaging in unconstitutional and unlawful religious discrimination against Chaplain Modder, and formally requested the Navy reverse its punishment and restore Chaplain Modder to his role of serving sailors and Marines who need his spiritual guidance. FOX News contributor Todd Starnes broke the story on FoxNews.com (click here to read more), and in response Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) commented via Twitter: “Sadly, Lt. Commander [Chaplain] Wes Modder is latest target in a series of assaults on religious liberty in military & across US.”

For Liberty Institute, this is not new territory. Led by Mike Berry, Liberty Institute  successfully defended the religious liberty rights of Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk, and Army Lieutenant Colonel Chuck Pudil after they were hit with similarly career-threatening charges. And after being initially admonished for giving suicide prevention training that included testimony of how his faith had helped him battle depression, Liberty Institute client Chaplain (Captain) Joseph “Joe” Lawhorn now is hopeful he can continue such religious content. 

In the same way, Liberty Institute attorneys will work to protect the constitutional right of religious expression for Chaplain Wes Modder.

“Chaplain Modder is a military hero, worthy of our highest honor,” said Berry. “How does the Navy thank Chaplain Modder for his nineteen years of exemplary service? By tearing him away from his unit, demoting him, and threatening to kick him out of the Navy. As a former Marine, I am devastated by the Navy’s lack of respect.” 




“I FEEL BETRAYED … I FEEL DISHONORED”

Chaplain Modder is a military hero who put his life on the line to serve our country, first as a decorated U.S. Marine, then as a Navy chaplain for the past 15 years, including service to elite forces such as DEVGRU and other Navy SEAL teams.

Ironically, because he personified its core values, the Navy featured him in a recruiting video for chaplains, in which he explained—with hearty Navy approval—the spiritual nature of the guidance he was privileged to offer!

“When I think that I was ministering to Navy sailors and Marines and SEALs over time and for the Navy to detach me for cause, I feel betrayed,” said Chaplain Modder. “I feel dishonored for my almost 20 years of service to my country.” (Click here to WATCH Chaplain Modder and his wife Beth share more about their painful and discriminatory experience.)

Chaplain Modder is not only a highly decorated military hero and chaplain. He has a Doctorate in Military Ministry. But unswayed by Chaplain Modder’s exceptional record, the Navy is using the misrepresentations of private conversations to punish Chaplain Modder and censor his religious expression. The U.S. Navy requests that Chaplain Modder:
  • Be REMOVED from the promotion list
  • “Detached for cause” (meaning Chaplain Modder would receive a DISHONORABLE DEMOTION on his official military recordand be permanently removed from his unit
  • Brought before an official BOARD OF INQUIRY, where he would be required to “show cause” why he should not be kicked out of the Navy

“To tell a chaplain he can’t share his faith in a counseling session is the moral equivalent of tying a soldier’s hands and feet and slapping duct tape over his mouth,” added Kelly Shackelford, Liberty Institute President & CEO. “It’s like Uncle Sam is saying, ‘I want you­—but only if you keep your mouth shut about what you believe. Otherwise, you have no place in the military.’”

Berry is a former U.S. Marine Judge Advocate (JAG officer), and adjunct law professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. From that perspective, he explained, “Chaplains are the last line of defense for servicemen. In a soldier’s greatest hour of need, he can always turn to his chaplain for advice. For the Navy to respond by barring Chaplain Modder from his unit and hauling him before a Board of Inquiry, simply for providing counseling from a biblical perspective, is shameful.”

U.S. NAVY MUST HEAR FROM AMERICANS LIKE YOU

“My hope and prayer is that truth will prevail,” concluded Chaplain Modder. “For me to be able to operate as a military chaplain, an ordained minister with my church to our American military men and women . . . that to be the outcome. Because that’s who we are as America.”

As Chaplain Modder’s legal defense moves forward, Americans need to support Chaplain Modder and stand up for the religious freedom of chaplains, and other brave members of our armed forces. Please sign the “Stop the Unlawful Action Against Chaplain Wes Modder, An American Hero” Petition addressed to TheHon. Ray Mabus, Secretary of the United States Navy.  

The law is on the side of Chaplain Modder, all chaplains, and all members of the U.S. Military who want to exercise their faith. But a public outcry is needed to wake up officials so that violations like this come to a stop. Thousands of Americans have let their voices be heard—please make sure you are among them.






Public Statements of Support for Chaplain Wes Modder:

Lieutenant General (Ret.) Boykin, U.S. Army


The Assemblies of God (Chaplain Modder’s Denominational Endorser)


Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)


Franklin Graham, CEO of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association


Rick Santorum, former United States Senator and presidential candidate


Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council




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VICTORY! U.S. District Jude Dismisses American Atheists’ Attack on a Ten Commandments Monument on the OK Capitol Grounds



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, March 12, 2015 8:26:00 AM

DON’T MUZZLE OUR CHAPLAINS! U.S. Congressman Calls for Chief of Army Chaplains’ Help


In his third letterof inquiry regarding the Army’s punishment of Chaplain (Captain) Joseph “Joe” Lawhorn, Representative Doug Collins (R-GA) is now taking his unaddressed questions and concerns to Chaplain (Major General) Donald L. Rutherford, the Chief of Army Chaplains. A former commander punishedChaplain Lawhorn because, during a suicide prevention training, he shared his own personal testimony of how his Christian faith helped him counter depression.

Lawhorn, a client of Liberty Institute, is tentatively protected, and has stated his intention to continue including his faith in suicide prevention training. Yet the situation calls for further clarity from the Army. Should they deny Lawhorn’s right to conduct his training, Liberty Institute is prepared to take legal action that will help other chaplains exercise their religious freedom.

Seeking that clarity, Rep. Collins asks Major General Rutherford to provide his “sense of the policy guiding Chaplains as they conduct suicide prevention” and to not set “a precedent that could muzzle Chaplain’s ability to offer spiritual and secular help in the future.” Collins represents the U.S. House district where the incident occurred, and is himself a chaplain in the Air Force Reserve.

Mike Berry, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs, stated, “I am hopeful that the latest letter from Mr. Collins will make a difference because Mr. Collins specifically asks Major General Rutherford to address whether chaplains can speak about their faith during suicide prevention training.”

A CHAPLAIN’S HELP CONSIDERED “TOO CHRISTIAN”

Last Thanksgiving Day, Chaplain Lawhorn’s commanding officer, Colonel David Fivecoat, called the Chaplain away from his family and questioned him regarding a suicide prevention presentation Lawhorn gave to an Army Ranger battalion, which the Colonel deemed too Christian in its approach. Following Army regulations, Lawhorn had recently given an extremely effective suicide prevention message that included Lawhorn’s own personal testimony of how his Christian faith had helped him counter depression.

Chaplain Lawhorn received an ovation from the soldiers—and a complaint from a single atheist soldier. The complaint led to an article in a prominent liberal online publication which then led to the interrogation and Colonel Fivecoat’s issuing a “Letter of Concern” to be placed in Chaplain Lawhorn’s file. This serious action had the potential to prematurely end the Chaplain’s stellar Army career, which includes earning the prestigious Army Ranger tab.

“What Colonel Fivecoat did is against the law,”explained Berry. “It violates federal law and military regulations. . . . U.S. Army regulations not only allow chaplains to draw upon spiritual examples in formal suicide prevention efforts—they encourage the very use of spiritual examples Chaplain Lawhorn employed.”

Liberty Institute sent a response letter dated December 9, 2014, and requested removal of the “Letter of Concern” from the Chaplain’s file, as well as an in-person meeting with Colonel Fivecoat to resolve the issue amicably and without the need for escalation. Colonel Fivecoat denied our request. In our second letter dated December 19, we asked again for an in-person meeting with the Colonel and requested religious accommodation for Chaplain Lawhorn.

With the Army seemingly backing away, Chaplain Lawhorn has stated his understanding of the law as explained by Liberty Institute has left him feeling free to conduct future suicide training just the way he did.

REP. DOUG COLLINS WANTS ANSWERS

Rep. Collins—who understands the value of military religious freedom because of his role as a chaplain in the Air Force Reserve—strongly echoed Liberty Institute’s demands on behalf of Chaplain Lawhorn in his first letter dated January 21, 2015.  And as a Member of Congress who represents the district in which Chaplain Lawhorn was assigned during the incident, Rep. Collins has a an obvious interest in this matter.  

In his second letter, Rep. Collins joined a chorus of 23 other U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators—including Representative John Fleming (R-LA), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO), and Senator James Lankford (R-OK), among others—to the Honorable John McHugh, Secretary of the Army. 

Now, in his third attempt to gain clarity, Rep. Collins wants Chaplain Rutherford to offer his guidance on how experiences like Chaplain Lawhorn’s will be addressed going forward. He wrote in his letter dated February 27, 2015:


Berry agrees, and despite the passage of recent laws that are intended to protect chaplains like Lawhorn, he fears the future of military chaplaincy could be in jeopardy unless the overall mess is cleaned up.

“”Chaplains are unsure of where they stand legally,” he said. “That creates a chilling effect on religious expression, which means chaplains are less effective at tending to the spiritual needs of our troops. Long-term, this could be catastrophic because a chaplaincy that is perceived to not address spiritual needs means the chaplaincy has lost its core competency. When that happens, chaplains will become obsolete as spiritual leaders.

STAND WITH CHAPLAIN LAWHORN AND OTHER MILITARY CHAPLAINS

In the ongoing effort to protect Chaplin Lawhorn, Liberty Institute is grateful for the support of Rep. Collins—as well as a group of former military officers, representing all branches of the military and a range of religious denominations, who just yesterday sent a letter to the Secretary of the Army John McHugh, urging him to publicly correct Colonel Fivecoat’s actions and to “affirm publicly that chaplains and the spiritual resources they provide are vital in the Army’s fight against suicide.”

Letters of support and concern for Chaplain Lawhorn have also been submitted by many fellow service members and U.S. Army Rangers, Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition, and Rabbi Dovid Becker, Director of Chaplain Services for Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim (YPS). This broad and growing coalition is standing with Chaplain Lawhorn and his rights, as an Army chaplain, to care for the spiritual well being of service members and incorporate religious expression when conducting suicide prevention presentations as an authorized suicide prevention instructor.

Chaplain Lawhorn’s hope is that this will never again happen to another chaplain or service member,” added Berry. “He is determined to continue doing his job as a chaplain to the best of his ability, which includes incorporating his faith into his suicide prevention training.”

As Liberty Institute continues the work to ensure Chaplain Lawhorn’s religious liberty rights are defended and restored, we are grateful for the ongoing financial and prayer support of American citizens like you as you stand with Liberty Institute—as Rep. Collins so eloquently put it in his letter—“to ensure that those fighting for our freedoms are able to express those freedoms themselves.”






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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, March 06, 2015 11:44:00 AM

DON’T TREAD ON ME: Surveys Show Americans Support “Freedom of Belief” to Disagree with Same-Sex Marriage




Infographic: Liberty Institute


SUMMARY: Two recent public opinion surveys indicate that Americans strongly support the right of people of faith in the workplace to exercise disagreement over same-sex marriage without punishment. This mounting consensus can help give legal defense to victims of religious discrimination.

*   *   *

America is approaching a historic juncture regarding the legal battle over same-sex marriage. But an equally important battle looms:

It’s no exaggeration to say this is one of most pressing current issues regarding religious liberty’s future.

Before we explain why, it’s important to note that the American people are already expressing their opinion.

“WE THE PEOPLE” HAVE REACHED A VERDICT

In two recent opinion surveys, Americans favor religious freedom to with same-sex marriage. Quite likely, the figures suggest, even most of those who support same-sex marriage also support allowing people in the workplace to remain free to exercise opposition without suffering retribution.

Survey #1: Religious Liberty More Important than Serving Same-Sex Weddings

Infographic: Liberty Institute


Early in 2015, a poll sponsored by the Associated Press asked 1,045 randomly selected American adults: "

The results: A strong majority—57 percent—answered that yes, wedding related businesses should be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples. Religious liberty wins.1

Keep in mind, the words of the survey, and the sample of Americans surveyed, should have put religious liberty at a disadvantage. First, the question was framed negatively: “allowed to refuse service” was the key phrase, and one potentially geared to raise the hackles of normally tolerant Americans. Second, it was a survey of American adults, not just registered voters, and such polls typically tilt toward the ideological left. Yet still, a whopping 57 percent voted in favor of religious freedom—the right of people of faith to say, “I can’t have any part” in same-sex weddings.

Survey #2: Freedom of Belief Must Be Protected for Businesses and Employees Who Disagree with Same-Sex Marriage

Infographic: Liberty Institute


One month after the Associated Press survey, in February 2015 the highly-regarded WPA Opinion Research organization conducted a poll of 800 registered voters, in which they asked:

The results: An overwhelming majority of Americans—81 percent—agreed that government should respect people’s freedom of belief, and the of that belief, if they have faith-based or conscience-based disagreement with same-sex marriage. The consensus spanned age, ethnicity, and all other demographics.2

In both surveys, freedom to peacefully object to same-sex marriage without punishment wins, and wins hands down. This is true whether you take a more restrictive segment of the economy (wedding businesses) and ask in more negative language (“refuse service”), or whether you take the broad economy (any business) and ask in more positive language (“free to follow their beliefs”). The American people have made themselves clear.

HOW TO MAKE “THEY THE OFFICIALS” LISTEN 

These surveys are important because although the American people are clear on the issue, an elite class of judges, CEOs of huge corporation, powerful bureaucrats, and others in authority are with Americans.

How do we know? Look how they’ve treated productive, decent, hardworking people of faith who merely expressed their sincere, commonly-held, traditional religious beliefs on marriage.

Liberty Institute, the largest legal organization exclusively dedicated to defending religious liberty in America, is defending victims who include:

Liberty Institute is confident of victory in these and similar cases, because government bodies or employers violated clear laws and settled judicial rulings. But the media has also been filled with shocking accounts of citizens (ably represented by other legal counsel) under the thumb of religious persecution over marriage: A photographer put out of business. A respected fire chief removed from his job. A 70-year-old florist facing financial ruin at the hands of a state government, and bakers facing fines of more than $150,000. The parade of persecution seems to get longer every week.

This train of abuses shows why the marriage question currently is pressing issue for the future of religious liberty in America. The redefinition of marriage seems to have become a convenient tool for secularists in their decades-long attempt to redefine “free exercise” of religion—and shove religious “freedom” into a small, private box of society where religion’s influence is severed from public life.

But amidst these swirling winds, courts and other officials be made to listen to the case for protection of religious liberty. How?

First, as noted, Liberty Institute has strategically advanced cases where settled law is to the advantage of the victims of religious discrimination. Some of these cases Liberty Institute has These include the cases of Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk,and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Charles Pudil. Liberty Institute expects more victories because of wisely selected law and facts—establishing precedent and creating legal momentum.

Second, public opinion matters. Surveys such as those above—and publicity over studies such as Liberty Institute’s annual report make an impression on public officials who, despite trendy views on marriage, may fear the backlash of too radically exalting “sexual liberty” over religious liberty. That is why these surveys are timely and important.

It is one thing to redefine marriage. It is another to use it as a blunt-force weapon of intolerance against those who hold a contrary view based on sincerely-held religious beliefs. The price sexual revolutionaries may have to pay to achieve same-sex marriage (if they do at all) could be judges institutionalizing firm protection of religious dissent in coming court opinions. This could include the expected June U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, for which Liberty Institute is preparing a key .

Third, regardless of what courts do regarding marriage, constitutional attorneys can help Congress and state governments create religious protection laws. These would be worded to protect religious dissent in the marketplace, workplace, and elsewhere, and designed to withstand court decisions legalizing same-sex marriage and lawsuits by anti-religious activists. Liberty Institute attorneys have advised members of the United States Congress and numerous state governments to build the legal sturdiness of such legislation—including in Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas—and they expect to advise more in the days to come. 

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IS  “THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY”

Advocates of redefining marriage have, as fuel for their arguments, used the doctrine of “social momentum” and “social evolution.” They have argued that same-sex marriage is moving toward a public “consensus.” They assert this demonstrates they are on “the right side of history.”

Those contentions may be debated. But what is beyond reasonable debate is that religious freedom By the same-sex marriage advocates’ own standard, the two recent surveys cited above should tell them that recognizing broad, deep, ironclad protection for open religious dissent—peaceful dissent free from punishment such as being fired, disciplined, or otherwise harmed—is a much greater “consensus,” and many more years on the “right side of history,” as they contend same-sex marriage to be. 

As the climax in the marriage battle nears, such public opinion can only help the effort to establish protection for religious liberty that constitutional attorneys such as those at Liberty Institute can use before courts and administrative agencies. The American people are telling the government and other authorities to stop the “body count” of faith-based victims of this phase of the sexual revolution.



[1] “AP-GfK Poll: Support of gay marriage comes with caveats,” by Emily Swanson and Brady McCombs, Associated Press, Feb. 5, 2015. http://apnews.myway.com/article/20150205/us--ap_poll-gay_marriage-7d09e6cf46.html

[2] “Polling Memorandum,” WPA Opinion Research, February 20, 2015. http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF15B71.pdf





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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, March 06, 2015 11:43:00 AM

Jewish Congregation Sued Again! Liberty Institute Defends Against Shut-Down Threat


Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer, Senior Counsel Justin Butterfield
and Congregation Toras Chaim's Rabbi Yaakov Rich at a press conference on March 3, 2015.

On Monday, March 2, 2015, the City of Dallas, Texas—the nation’s ninth largest city—sued Liberty Institute client
Congregation Toras Chaim, a small Orthodox Jewish community of families that meets in a private home for prayer, worship, and religious study. The lawsuit by the City comes on the heels of Congregation Toras Chaim’s winning a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled neighbor and homeowner’s association.  

Following that victory on February 4, the congregation believed they were safe and done with litigation efforts seeking to prevent their religious worship. But this week, the City of Dallas started proceedings that would shut down Congregation Toras Chaim. 

Ironically, the suit was launched only two days before the Jewish festival of Purim.  Purim celebrates Esther’s protection of the Jewish people from execution by Haman—an official of Persia, which is present-day Iran—and on the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic address before a joint session of Congress on Iran’s nuclear threat to the Jewish state of Israel.

DESTROYING A SMALL ORTHODOX JEWISH CONGREGATION OVER UNLAWFUL RED TAPE

In the latest legal attack on the congregation, Dallas is requesting potentially crippling civil penalties of $1,000 per day per violation, enough to shut down the congregation.What did Congregation Toras Chaim do to merit such severe punishment?

The alleged infractions, according to the City’s lawsuit, include the lack of 13 off-street parking spaces and one disabled parking space. But since Congregation Toras Chaim members do not drive on the Sabbath—so that the congregation’s families must live within walking distance to where they worship—it makes for the City of Dallas to require that they have these parking spaces. There are further requirements demanded by the City, such as two doorways in the front of the home. 

But according to Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Justin Butterfield, “There are good, sound religious liberty laws designed to protect congregations just like Toras Chaim.” He predicted all city objections will be defeated in court because the congregation’s case is so firmly grounded in law saying that such requirements do not apply.

“WE WILL NOT ALLOW THE UNITED STATES TO BE ADDED TO THAT LIST”

Indeed, as Liberty Institute argued in winning the earlier lawsuit, Texas and federal lawsprotect groups like this small Jewish community from the overly-bureaucratic requirements stated by the city. 

When asked at a March 3 press conference what is at stake, Congregation Toras Chaim’s Rabbi Yaakov Rich stated, “The spiritual lives of approximately 20 families.  We’re talking about, ultimately, closing down. There’s no way we could do what the city is asking us to do.” With no other place to walk to worship on the Sabbath, families would have to move their residences. 

The congregation’s religious life would be ended if they could not meet in their community. To add perspective, Butterfield stated:

ATTACKS, VICTORIES, THEN MORE ATTACKS

Much more is at stake than one congregation. This fits a growing pattern of attacks on houses of worship across the nation—a pattern Liberty Institute attorneys have documented in their annual survey, It is also a pattern that they have countered by a series of recent court victories:

For example, in Opulent Life Church v. City of Holly Springs, MississippiLiberty Institute won a major federal victory when a city tried to ban a church from a downtown area. This set a precedent for tens of thousands of churches and synagogues.

Despite such victories, much courtroom work remains to be done to apply this precedent, and other law, to case after case, as government entities attempt to unlawfully oppress, burden, or outlaw houses of worship.

IF THIS CONGREGATION LOSES, WE ALL LOSE

Rabbi Rich says, “We are a very small group of families under a very big microscope.” The ordeal has been a strain on the congregation’s families, but they are willing to take this on their shoulders for the sake of their spiritual community and religious freedom in America. He says other Jewish congregations from across the nation have been contacting him in case they are attacked, and there has been widespread media coverage.

“This outcome ,” said Kelly Shackelford, Liberty Institute President & CEO. “Orthodox Jewish congregants do not drive on Saturday (the Sabbath) and must walk to worship. Since no other viable alternatives within walking distance exist, if they are unlawfully burdened or forced to leave the neighborhood then the congregation is likely to disband.”

Shackelford put it bluntly:

Liberty Institute staff attorneys and our volunteer litigators are confident of victory in this newest attack against Congregation Toras Chaim. But without financial support from Liberty Institute friends, a house of worship such as this would have no resources to stand up for religious freedom. 






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DON’T TREAD ON ME: Surveys Show Americans Support Freedom to Oppose Same-Sex Marriage


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, March 06, 2015 11:42:00 AM

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