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Liberty Institute Adds Noted Attorney, Constitutional Expert, and Author Ken Klukowski to Legal Team


As another step in our effort to defend and restore religious freedom for more Americans, Liberty Institute announced this week that noted attorney, national bestselling author, and constitutional expert Kenneth A. (“Ken”) Klukowski is joining the Liberty Institute legal team as Senior Counsel and Director of Strategic Affairs.

The growing threat against America’s religious liberties led us on a search for qualified additions to our team of constitutional experts,” said Liberty Institute President, CEO & Chief Counsel Kelly ShackelfordKen Klukowski exemplifies Liberty Institute’s tradition of excellence and dedication to defending the religious liberty of every American. He will expand our ability to assist clients whose religious liberty rights are being threatened as well as strengthening our connections with allies in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere to secure victories for religious liberty. We are excited to welcome Ken to the family.”

Ken Klukowski comes to Liberty Institute with a diverse background in law, public policy, politics, and media.  Previously, Ken served as Special Deputy Attorney General for the State of Indiana, on faculty at Liberty University School of Law, as senior fellow at the Center for Religious Liberty of the Family Research Council, and a fellow and senior analyst at the American Civil Rights Union. He also served as a law clerk to Chief Judge Alice Batchelder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  

His published work includes coauthoring two books: the national bestseller , and ,published by Simon & Schuster  He has authored eight law review articles, and lectured and debated at over 70 laws schools throughout the country on constitutional principles. He is also a respected legal journalist with numerous articles published at the , , and , among other publications, as well as working as legal editor with Breitbart News Network.

In 2011, Klukowski authored a legal brief cited in U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson's decision to strike down the Affordable Healthcare Act (ObamaCare); Judge Vinson wrote that he relied “heavily” upon the brief when determining that the entire law was unconstitutional, and not only its individual mandate. Although the U.S. Supreme Court eventually upheld ObamaCare in a highly controversial decision. Klukowski’s brief uncovered a point that played a pivotal role in almost bringing down the entire law and changing a key aspect of U.S. history.That is the level of legal precision he brings to Liberty Institute.

“Ken adds a new dimension to our team, but at the same time he fits right in,” said Jeff Mateer, General Counsel for Liberty Institute. “We have high standards for our staff attorneys. They are all accomplished, all brilliant, and all passionate for the cause of religious freedom in America. And most crucial, they constitute the dynamic hub of a massive legal network of freedom. They enable us to unleash a network of elite volunteer attorneys in locations across America and in specialized areas such as appellate law or military law.  This is unique and effective, and produced legal victories. And now Ken Klukowski will add to that winning capacity.”







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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, August 27, 2015 2:57:00 PM

YOUR TURN TO STAND: Religious Liberty Rally Inspires Americans to Action
By Liberty Davidson



We’ve seen the stories—bakers, florists, members of the military, business owners, and hard-working public servants who stood up for their beliefs and are paying the price. We know their names because they roll through our newsfeed sandwiched between celebrity gossip and the latest Vine. But for an audience of nearly three thousand last weekend, those stories became real.

Last Friday night, I had the privilege of attending the Rally for Religious Liberty in Des Moines, Iowa. Over 2,500 people ranging from families with babies, to teens, to grandparents gathered under the banner of religious freedom.  The event was streamed live to thousands more who could not attend in person.

Liberty Institute was one of only two non-profit legal organizations invited to participate, with President and CEO Kelly Shackelford opening the event with a personal video message.

“In the over quarter century that I’ve been fighting for religious freedom, I’ve never seen anything like what I am seeing right now,” he said.

But talking about growing attacks on religious liberty is one thing. Meeting the people who have been attacked is another. The rally gave the audience the opportunity to meet everyday “heroes” who took a stand for religious liberty.

They met people like Liberty Institute’s client Phillip Monk, a USAF combat veteran who was relieved of duties and kicked out of his unit because he could not agree with his commander’s views on marriage.

They met Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of a Portland-area bakery who received a $135,000 fine because they declined to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.

They also met Kelvin Cochran, Barronelle Stutzman, Dick and Betty Odgaard, and Blaine Adamson—all ordinary people who found themselves under legal attack for choosing their faith over conformity.

During an onstage roundtable discussion, each of these individuals shared details of their cases—how their simple decision to adhere to their beliefs resulted in harsh repercussions, from heavy financial penalties, to vandalism, to death threats against themselves and their children.

These victims of religious discrimination—“heroes” as many duly called them that night—never went looking for a legal battle. But as they all attested, when they were forced to choose between betraying their faith and facing the earthly consequences, the choice was clear.

As Phillip Monk put it, “If I’m forced to choose between my commander and my Creator, I know where I’m going.”

He received thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

“The event was powerful because it showed the human toll of the battle for religious liberty,” said Michael Berry, Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs for Liberty Institute. “Here were real people, with families, dreams, homes and businesses, many of whom nearly lost everything simply because of who they are and what they believe.  These were no longer just names in a news story, they were real-life examples of why we must all take a stand for our Constitutional freedoms.”

Religious liberty is becoming an important issue for Americans everywhere, especially in light of the upcoming presidential election; nearly every candidate has addressed the issue in some way.

Throughout the night, I spent a lot of time talking with people at Liberty Institute’s booth near the entrance of the building. One overarching theme prevailed among those who stopped by—the fight for religious liberty is real, and they felt it.

One family told me how they often street evangelize in their town, but was told to stop. They also told me about their wheelchair-bound daughter, whose rehab center told her she must go outside to talk about her faith. Another woman said she was warned that she should keep her Christianity a secret.

The people at the rally were people like you—concerned for America’s future, hungry to know how they can help restore religious freedom—and thrilled to learn how Liberty Institute is doing just that.

One man approached the booth, looked me in the eye, and said, “Thank you.”

Later, I was able to listen to a few legal experts discuss what they thought to be the most poignant moment of the night—when special guest Naghmeh Abedini, wife of imprisoned Pastor Saeed Abedini, took the stage. Her husband has been captive in Iran for three years—tortured and isolated from his family—because of his faith.

Even the American “heroes” of the night said Pastor Saeed’s story put everything into perspective.

Despite the numerous attacks in America, we have religious liberty. While hostility to religion is undoubtedly growing in our culture, we are blessed to have a legal foundation for our defense. People in other countries—like Pastor Abedini in Iran—don’t.

That is precisely why it is so vital that we defend our religious liberty while we still have the freedom to do so.

One question recurred throughout the night: “What will you do when it becomes your turn?”

Americans, it is your turn. You may not be facing religious persecution at this moment. You may not have lost your income, your friends, or your life’s work. But your fellow Americans have—and millions around the world have lost much more.

It is every citizen’s turn to join the fight for religious freedom in America, so people like Naghmeh Abedini can have hope that there is still a place in the world where freedom is valued; so Americans can continue to live according to their conscience; so we don’t lose the liberty that generations of Americans have died to defend.

Your turn is now, America. Will you take a stand?






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Defending Employees Against Unlawful Religious Discrimination 



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, August 27, 2015 2:04:00 PM

ANSWERS: What Happens When They Come After Your Church, Your Favorite Ministry, or Even Your Job?


2015 may be remembered as the year of the great anti-religious liberty flood. Legislation protecting religious freedom for employers and employees was labeled “hateful discrimination.” The U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision turbocharged a campaign by secular activists to use “sexual liberty” to overthrow religious liberty.

This flood of hostility to religion is not a matter of intellectual theory. It will affect you, your church, your favorite ministries, the workplaces of people all around you, and the society in which you live.

Almost as soon as the Chief Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in the same-sex marriage case, was handed down, Liberty Institute’s offices were awash with more requests for legal help than ever before.

Despite the fact that all nine Supreme Court Justices upheld religious liberty, the decision was immediately misused to trample the religious rights of employees, business owners, and others. While the threats to religious freedom swelled, so did support for those who were attacked. The entire nation was riveted.

The good news is that there is hope. The law is on the side of religious liberty—but it takes knowledge and preparation to stand for your religious freedom when it is attacked. This knowledge begins by knowing what is at risk. Here are a few areas already facing opposition:

QUESTION: Could outreach and compassion ministries be targeted and jeopardized? ANSWER: Yes.

Orphanages, rescue missions, and even evangelists could be faced with the choice to eitherviolate their religious beliefs, or shut down all or part of their outreach—unless there is strong action by lawyers to intervene.

To see why, simply observe what already happened in states where same-sex marriage was legalized. Despite assurance legalization that religious liberty would not be touched, legalization the attacks began. Some examples:

·      When Massachusetts imposed same-sex marriage a few years ago, Catholic Charities Adoption Services of Boston—a ministry with more than 100 years of placing orphans—was forced out of business because they refused to violate their faith.

·      The Salvation Army of San Francisco was forced to stop vital ministry to the elderly and homeless because they refused to violate their beliefs on sexual morality in volunteering and employment.

·      Even before the Court ruled, Liberty Institute was contacted by an evangelistic ministry facing a potential “discrimination” threat.

QUESTION: Could tax exempt statuses of churches, religious schools, and students with loans for religious colleges? ANSWER: Yes.

During the marriage case arguments, Donald Verilli, the U.S. Solicitor General and the Obama administration’s top lawyer before the U.S. Supreme, actually the Justices during oral argument of the same-sex marriage case that religious institutions who stubbornly held to traditional beliefs on marriage could be at risk of losing their tax exempt status. His response to Justice Samuel Alito’s question about that possibility was, “It will be an issue.”

QUESTION: Could you—or people you know—lose a job, business, income, or career because of this firestorm of religious persecution? ANSWER: Yes.

This is already happening—and it’s going to get worse. Liberty Institute is defending multiple clients who lost their jobs and careers because of religious beliefs they expressed of the workplace. They include:

·       Dr. Eric Walsh – A respected health official terminated by the Georgia Health Department for religious beliefs expressed in his church.  Liberty Institute filed a Charge of Discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and exposed embarrassing emails showing unlawful discrimination. Liberty Institute expects to win for Dr. Walsh.  

·      Craig James – A former NFL and college football star, Craig James was fired after one day of working for Fox Sports as a sports broadcaster—for something he said on the campaign trail over a year previously concerning his religious beliefs about marriage. Liberty Institute and James filed a lawsuit against Fox Sports in early August.

·       Bob Eschliman – An award-winning newspaper editor from Iowa fired for expressing his religious belief on his personal blog. Liberty Institute recently announced that Bob Eschliman and Shaw Media amicably resolved an employment dispute with a confidential settlement agreement with which Mr. Eschliman was pleased. Liberty Institute attorneys praised Shaw Media for recognizing religious rights in the workplace.  We hope this sets the tone for victories in other cases—but clearly, this will be an area of intense legal conflict.

Now is not the time to become complacent about your religious liberty. The law is still on your side. That’s why the attorneys at Liberty Institute provide resources and legal defense to people of faith free of charge. So if the day comes when you find your religious freedom on the line, you won’t be unprepared or unprotected.

How Expert Lawyers Can Help You and Others

As part of Liberty Institute’s plan for responding to the Supreme Court’s decision and the general attack on religious freedom, we are providing protection to thousands of churches and organizationsthrough our “Religious Liberty Protection” webpage.  This service gives faith-based organizations a great deal of protection, helping them incorporate pages of religious protection language into their documentation.

The threat to religious liberty in America is real—and growing faster than ever before. People of faith can successfully defend this precious First Amendment freedom, but it requires remaining alert, aware, and involved. Are you prepared?



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Back to School – 10 Religious Liberty Facts for Every Student 


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.

Sunday, August 23, 2015 11:26:00 AM

Religious Liberty Emerges as Hot-Button Issue for Presidential Candidates


In an effort to maximize their appeal, presidential candidates are fixating on the issues foremost in Americans’ minds. Amid inevitable controversies like immigration, healthcare and national security, one topic has dominated discussions and elicited entire events – religious liberty.

In recent years, threats to religious liberty have skyrocketed. The 2014 edition of (Liberty Institute’s annual survey of hostility to religion in America) shows a 25 percent increase in attacks from the 2013 edition. It also reveals a 133 percent total increase since the very first edition three years ago.

Even with this steady, nationwide increase, religious liberty remained an inconspicuous issue for the many Americans in years past. Not any more.

The prominence of religious liberty as a political issue spiked last year during the controversy, which highlighted aspects of the Affordable Care Act that some religious business owners could not condone. For proponents of religious freedom, the decision in favor of Hobby Lobby was viewed as a victory. But it in no way eradicated the threat.

Legalizing same-sex marriage in June 2015, the decision cannoned religious liberty into the spotlight once again. Despite Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion, which explicitly upheld the right of Americans to act according to their sincerely held religious beliefs regarding marriage, the decision opened the door for multiple new attacks on religious freedom—something that Americans in general seem to recognize.

A recent poll by World Magazine of 100 evangelical leaders revealed that for the majority, domestic religious liberty is the most important issue.

Another poll in July showed that despite the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage, the majority of Americans still value religious liberty as paramount.

Religious liberty is no longer an issue that presidential candidates can ignore—and neither can we.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY – A TOPIC OF DEBATE, DISCUSSION, AND CONCERN

Candidates from both ends of the political spectrum are weighing in on religious freedom. It was heavily addressed in the first Republican debate earlier this month, with multiple candidates promising to defend it should they be elected. Democratic candidates have also addressed religious liberty—and though some tackle the issue from the opposite angle as GOP hopefuls,

Major national events featuring and dedicated solely to religious liberty are springing up rapidly, with thousands of concerned Americans flocking to attend. For instance:

·      Nearly two thousand are anticipated to attend the Rally for Religious Liberty, hosted in conjunction with the Iowa State Fair by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz this weekend. Organizers have invited Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford to record a short video message to kick-off the event.

·      Many presidential candidates will be participating in the first-ever National Religious Liberties Conference, “Freedom 2015,” in Des Moines, Iowa this November. Expected to draw thousands, the Freedom 2014 conference is co-sponsored by Liberty Institute, and will feature Kelly Shackelford as a keynote speaker.

·      Breakout sessions at the 10th annual Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC this September will include conversations about religious liberty, and audiences will have a chance to hear from presidential candidates and Liberty Institute’s President Kelly Shackelford and General Counsel Jeff Mateer. Liberty Institute is also a co-sponsor of Values Voter Summit.

No matter where they stand on the issue, it is clear that anyone hoping to earn a seat in the Oval Office must address religious liberty in some way or another. And if the number of candidates attending events like the ones listed above is any indication, religious liberty is a topic of legitimate concern to multiple 2016 hopefuls. This bodes well for America’s future—.

BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE – WHY WE CAN’T UNTIL THE 2016 ELECTIONS

While the next election cycle will be crucial, many battles in the war for religious freedom will be fought November 2016. The future of religious freedom will be won, or lost, in court—not at the ballot box.  Elections are important.  Yet the crisis for religious liberty is moving too fast for an electoral fix. With more and more legal action involving religious business owners, employees, students, and ministry leaders, courts are the of this battlefield, not the White House or Congress.

We should pay attention to what candidates have to say about religious liberty—but we must also pay strict attention to what is happening in the courts. The precedents set by the cases currently in court will establish years-long ramifications for America, regardless of the outcome of the 2016 elections.


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Back to School – 10 Religious Liberty Facts for Every Student



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.

Sunday, August 23, 2015 11:15:00 AM

7 Back-to-School Religious Liberties Every Teacher Must Know


Teachers play an invaluable role in our society and the lives of our children. There is no doubt about it.  But sadly, a teacher’s role of educating, answering questions, and encouraging students is being threatened because of the persistent myth that all religion has been expelled from our schools.

Before they welcome their new students and call the first roll this year as people of faith and government employees, Liberty Institute encourages teachers to protect themselves against attacks on their religious liberty by learning about their First Amendment Rights.

1) Teacher-to-Teacher: A teacher may engage in religious expression during the workday and in public forums.

As long as their religious expression is not disruptive, is unrelated to official duties, and generally not in the presence of students, teachers may express their faith. Entering the schoolhouse gate does not require teachers to shed their First Amendment rights of freedom of religious expression and speech. If you can talk with other teachers and school officials about the movie you watched last night, then you can talk about your faith.

2) Teacher-to-Student: A teacher may discuss religion with a student, but is much more limited in doing so.

When talking with students, teachers must carefully distinguish between government and private speech.  While representing the school in an official capacity, namely at school-sponsored events and in the classroom, teachers’ speech is government speech.  A public school may not endorse any particular religion, nor may it favor religion or non-religion.  Teachers must remain neutral.

But if a student initiates the conversation—asking a teacher about her faith, for instance—a teacher may discuss her faith with that student. If the student wants to stop the conversation, however, the teacher may not continue to discuss her religious beliefs with the student.

When not at a school function or working as a teacher, teachers’ speech is private speech, and they may discuss their faith with anyone—teacher or student—at those times.
                       
3) An employer cannot discriminate against a teacher based on religion.

A public school may not oppose or be hostile to any religion, including discriminating against an employee for his/her religious beliefs. 
           
Public schools may not take adverse action against teachers because of their religion, just as schools may not take adverse action against teachers because of their gender, race, or ethnicity.

For example, if teachers are in an employee-only area where they are permitted to discuss various non-religious topics, school officials may not reprimand them for discussing religion.  Similarly, if teachers may wear non-religious jewelry as a school employee, they may also wear religious jewelry.

4) An employer must seek to accommodate a teacher’s religious faith.

If an employee holds a sincere religious belief that conflicts with employment policy and requests an accommodation, an employer must honor that accommodation request if possible.

First, such employees must inform their employer of their belief and the conflict it presents with employment policy. Second, such employees should work with their employer toward a reasonable solution.

However, because each situation is unique, the type of accommodation available will vary from case to case.  (If you are a teacher or know of one who is unsure if a public school has violated First Amendment rights, please contact Liberty Institute.)
           
5) A teacher is protected from harassment from co-workers and supervisors based on his or her religious beliefs.

Employers must protect employees from harassment for religious beliefs and practices in the workplace.  However, the harassment must be significant and objectively considered to be abusive.  Please contact Liberty Institute in order to assess whether or not the hostility of your work environment is sufficient for legal action.)

6) In general, a teacher can hold employee-only prayer groups or Bible studies on campus.
           
If it doesn’t interfere with class time, public schools may not discriminate against an employee activity just because it is religious.  If teachers can hold non-religious meetings on campus during non-instructional time, they can also hold religious meetings on campus during non-instructional time.  The school must treat non-religious and religious groups equally.

As long as it is not disruptive and employee-only, teachers can discuss and engage in religious activity just as they would discuss and engage in non-religious activity such as sports, politics, etc.

7) A teacher can participate in baccalaureate ceremonies when it is not an official school event.
As private citizens, teachers have the right to attend and participate in privately sponsored baccalaureate ceremonies.  As long as teachers act in their personal capacity and not their official capacity, they have the right to attend and participate.

YOUR FREE BACK-TO-SCHOOL RESOURCES

As teachers finalize their lesson plans and put the finishing touches on their classrooms, they don’t have to fall for the myth that courts have expelled all religion from public schools.

Courts—including the U.S. Supreme Court—grant broad religious freedom in public schools.  So has the U.S. Department of Education!  And to help people of faith know and exercise those rights, the legal experts at Liberty Institute have created FREE, easy-to-understand back-to-school resources that teachers——can download now at our Back-to-School page.




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One of the most important battles for religious liberty today is securing the legal rights of students. Liberty Institute provides students with some of the best lawyers in America . We have recently reversed bans on Bible clubs, Bible reading, prayer, religious themes in class assignments, and more. Please consider joining this effort for our nation’s students with a tax-deductible donation today. Thank you!




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, August 14, 2015 12:09:00 PM

Henry Sandoz, Hero of Supreme Court Mojave Desert Cross Victory, Passes Away Even as His Legacy Lives On


Religious liberty in America will be saved or lost by the choices of everyday people in moments when their freedom is tested.

Henry Sandoz’ test began in the middle of a California desert in 2000 when a government official showed up at his door and requested Henry tear down the historic veterans memorial cross of which Henry was caretaker.

This week, Henry Sandoz’ family, friends, fellow veterans, and his attorneys, which included Liberty Institute and some of the most high-level lawyers in America, mourned his passing at age 76. And they celebrated his life—including his still-living legacy of case law that protects veterans memorials with religious imagery.

His mark on American law began that day in the desert. Henry looked back at the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) superintendent and emphatically told him he would absolutely take down the memorial cross.

“I thank God he’s a stubborn guy,” his wife Wanda later recalled to a reporter for World News.

Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel for Liberty Institute, which defended the memorial at the Supreme Court, said, “If Henry Sandoz had caved in, the only World War I Memorial designated a National Monument by Congress would have come down, and the ACLU’s campaign to single out and take down veterans memorials with religious imagery would have claimed its most prominent victim.” Sasser is scheduled to offer a eulogy at Henry Sandoz’ memorial service in California.  

“It would have been over and done,” Wanda told World News, commenting on her husband’s refusal to back down, “and there’d be no World War I memorial.”

Henry’s decision that day began a path to the U.S. Supreme Court, which eventually resulted in a victory for religious liberty and veterans after a decade-long legal brawl.

HENRY’S WAR


For more than 70 years, a Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross stood proudly atop Sunrise Rock in the middle of the 1.6 million-acre Mojave National Preserve in California. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) first erected the memorial in 1934 in honor of World War I veterans—and near a quiet location where many of them came for healing from the trauma of war. 

Riley Bembry, one of the founders of the memorial and a veteran of World War I, took care of the cross until his death in 1984. Shortly before his passing, he asked his friend, Henry Sandoz, to care for the memorial. Since that time, Henry and his wife Wanda faithfully looked after the cross.

But former NPS employee Frank Buono, living nearly in Oregon, sued for the removal of the cross with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), contending the cross was potentially offensive, and thus a government establishment of religion since it sat on federal land. 

Federal judges agreed, Sandoz then offered to give the government a piece of his own land in exchange for having the memorial site transferred to the VFW. Congress approved the deal, but the ACLU and Buono —claiming the exchange was still favoring Christianity—and they in federal district and appeals courts. Once more, the cross was ordered torn down.

That led to the chambers of the U.S. Supreme Court for a final showdown.

THE CROSS IN THE PADLOCKED BAG



In a heartbreaking move to veterans, judges ordered a huge, heavy bag padlocked over the cross during the lengthy appeals process. Later, the bag was replaced by an even uglier wooden box. The cross was also the target of numerous vandals.

Liberty Institute stepped in and filed a critical amicus brief with U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the VFW, The American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart and American Ex-Prisoners of War.The brief was written by Liberty Institute volunteer attorneys at two of America’s most prestigious firms who were well-known experts on both monuments and federal appeals law—a brief certain to have impact.

HENRY, WANDA AND MOJAVE GO VIRAL

At the same time, Liberty Institute launched a nationwide awareness campaign featuring Henry and Wanda Sandoz telling the story of the memorial on a video that received nearly hitsgalvanizing the veteran community.

In 2010, decision day arrived, and the Supreme Court reversed the lower courts’ ruling. By a 5-4 majority, the Court declared that both the transfer of the memorial and the land upon which it stood were constitutional.

And importantly for future memorials, the Court’s opinion reaffirmed the principle that religious symbols—and in particular, the cross in an appropriate setting—can have meaning and value to the culture that transcends its religious significance. That bodes well for similar memorials.

HENRY’S LEGACY

This crucial principle is still being cited today in cases such as the legal battle over the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross in San Diego, recently settled in favor of allowing the cross to remain after an ACLU challenge, and the historic Maryland WWI Memorial cross, currently challenged by the American Humanist Association and defended by Liberty Institute and the top volunteer firm Jones Day.

In these cases and others—with massive implications for monuments with religious imagery in America—the legacy of Henry Sandoz lives on.

Kelly Shackelford, President & CEO of Liberty Institute, said, “Without Henry Sandoz, the Mojave Desert Veterans Cross would be And if it had fallen, who knows what dominoes might have followed: Mt. Soledad? Maryland? Arlington National Cemetery’s crosses and religious symbols? When Henry stood up to the ACLU, he stood between them and a long line of memorials honoring our veterans. That’s the power of humble person standing up for freedom.”



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7 Back-to-School Religious Liberties Every Teacher Must Know



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, August 14, 2015 11:52:00 AM

Liberty Institute Files Reply Brief in Case to Defend Historic Maryland World War I Veterans Memorial


In the latest move to protect the historic WWI Veterans Memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland, Liberty Institute filed a reply brief on behalf of our client, The American Legion, with the United States District Court for the District of Maryland on Monday. While the American Humanist Association demands its alteration or removal, Liberty Institute remains energetically committed to defending the memorial and the memory of the fallen honored there.

HUMANIST LAWYERS ATTACK MEMORIAL FUNDED BY GRIEVING MOMS

Built by the American Legion and completed in 1925, the Veterans Memorial, which is in the shape of a cross – an iconic symbol for the fallen of WWI and the primary grave marker in U.S. cemeteries overseas in which many fallen of WWI are buried – serves to honor the 49 men from Prince George’s County, Maryland who died in WWI. The initial funds for the memorial were partly raised by mothers of sons who didn’t return home.

Surrounding the WWI memorial are other memorials and monuments dedicated to the veterans of the War of 1812, WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam War, and the victims of 9/11. To read more about the memorial’s history and description, click here.

Despite the fact the memorial stood uncontested in Bladensburg, MD for nearly 90 years, the American Humanist Association last year sued for its removal.

The battle began in February of 2014, when the American Humanist Association and some of its members accused the memorial of being unconstitutional because of its cross shape. They alleged that the public ownership, maintenance, and display of the memorial violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Liberty Institute, on behalf of The American Legion, jumped to the defense of the memorial in April 2014, filing a motionto allow the Legion to intervene in the lawsuit and defend the memorial due to the Legion’s property interest in the memorial, its history of honoring those who have died in war and its role in constructing the memorial. The motion was granted in September 2014.

But the battle is still raging.

DEFENDING THE RIGHT TO REMEMBER THE FALLEN

Because similar attacks have exploded across the nation in recent years, Liberty Institute is well seasoned in the defense of veterans memorials like these. For instance:

·      In 2012, Liberty Institute celebrated with veterans of the Mojave Desert region at the reinstatement of the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial cross after a grueling legal battle. Read about the victory here.

·      In July of 2015, Liberty Institute and the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association celebrated the transfer of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego, Ca. to the Association, hopefully putting an end to attacks on this historic veterans memorial. Read the story here.

In both of these cases, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization with a secularist worldview that is generally hostile to public displays that include religious imagery or text, sued for the removal of a military monument containing religious imagery – specifically, a memorial in the shape of or including a cross. And in each case – like in the current battle to defend the Bladensburg Memorial – Liberty Institute argued that such veterans memorials in no way violate the Establishment Clause.

“When organizations like the ACLU and the American Humanist Association attack veterans memorials such as these, they are ignoring the rich heritage and meaning behind the memorials,” says Jeff Mateer, General Counsel for Liberty Institute. “Their accusations that these veterans memorials are unconstitutional are both incorrect and dishonor those who served.”

Does religious imagery or text on public property mean an unlawful government endorsement of religion? The Supreme Court has said no.  The Court ruled in recent years that in the proper context, both public prayer (to open a city council meeting, for example) and public displays of the Ten Commandments are constitutional. If elected officials can pray before public proceedings, and if the Ten Commandments can be displayed outside state capitols, why can’t a memorial honoring our veterans exist in the shape of a cross? The answer is,

Indeed, Liberty Institute attorneys point out that any assertion that these memorials violate the Establishment Clause completely ignores the history and context of military memorials all over the world. Throughout our nation’s history, religious imagery, including crosses, Stars of David, and biblical references have been used to honor fallen servicemen and women. These veterans memorials commemorate the heroism and sacrifices of those they honor.

Honoring the memory of our fallen heroes through symbols like crosses has been a tradition of our country for many generations.  To tear these memorials down would be to violate Americans’ right to remember the fallen.

In the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in in which Liberty Institute helped successfully make the case for preserving the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:


Once again, America risks “tragedies . . . compounded” by forgetting the fallen through tearing down a memorial in the shape of a cross.

MONUMENTAL IMPLICATIONS

The decision handed down in the case of the Bladensburg Cross will hold huge implications for monuments all around the country. What about the Cross of Sacrifice and the Argonne Cross at Arlington National Cemetery, both WWI memorials located mere miles from Bladensburg?  What about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, on which is inscribed: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God”?

What about the hundreds more veterans memorials around America containing crosses, stars, or religious text?

If the Bladensburg Cross isn’t safe from destruction, none of these are safe.

Will America really dishonor the memory of so many veterans because of unfounded accusations that these memorials violate the Constitution?  That is not the law and never has been.

It is imperative that we work together to defend the military memorials all over our country.They represent the millions of men and women who have sacrificed everything for our freedom. Are we willing to fight for their memory – – through the preservation of historic monuments?




Other stories:


Henry Sandoz, Hero of Supreme Court Mojave Desert Cross Victory, Passes Away Even as His Legacy Lives On

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, August 14, 2015 11:52:00 AM

GAME ON: Liberty Institute and Craig James Sue Fox Sports for Unlawful Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

 

“We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department,” said a Fox Spokesman. “He couldn’t say those things here.”


Yes, you express your private religious beliefs outside the workplace—and not lose your job. That’s the contention of leading religious rights attorneys who sued one of the biggest sports media companies in the world, charging the company broke the law by firing a prominent sportscaster for expressing his religious beliefs before he was even hired.

Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit against Fox Sports on Monday on behalf of Craig James, former NFL player and football analyst. The lawsuit comes two years after James was fired abruptly from Fox Sports for his religious beliefs. James’ story is just one example of a disturbing trend in today’s America – the inability to speak your mind and share your beliefs without punishment.

“This is very troubling as an employee when your boss holds against you something you said about your belief system nearly eighteen months before you were recruited and hired,” James told Breitbart.com in an exclusive interview on Monday.

WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID?

The SMU college football star and former Patriots running back was hired by Fox Sports as a college football analyst in August 2013. At the time, the station’s Executive Producer Mike Anastassiou called James, who had previously worked for CBS and ESPN, a “talented broadcaster” whom he anticipated would be a “tremendous asset to our coverage.” James made his first on-air appearance for Fox Sports Southwest on August 31, having no idea it would also be his last. He was fired September 1.

An interview with Fox Sport’s Senior Vice President for Public Relations in the that weekrevealed why. It was because of something James said – not on the air, not as an analyst, not even on the job – but over one year before he ever worked for Fox Sports.

Prior to his recruitment by Fox, James ran for an open U.S. Senate seat. In one Republican debate in early 2012, James (along with other candidates) was asked about his beliefs regarding marriage and civil unions. Citing his Christian faith, James answered that he could not support same-sex marriage.

“We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department,”  Lou D'Ermilio told . “He couldn’t say those things here.”

The lawsuit filed by Liberty Institute points out that “James never discussed his beliefs about marriage or religion in general on the job. Nevertheless, Fox Sports informed James that Fox Sports fired him due to his beliefs about marriage, which were explicitly religious.

“It makes the case very straightforward,” Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel of Liberty Institute told Breitbart Sports. “They admitted their reason. They were very proud of that reason.”

In February 2014, Liberty Institute filed a formal complaint against Fox Sports Southwest with the Texas Workforce Commission (“TWC”), asserting that Fox had engaged in religious discrimination against James. In March 2014, the Texas Workforce Commission issued a Charge of Discrimination against Fox Sports. Now, Liberty Institute has filed a lawsuit against the network after receiving a right to sue letter from the TWC.

BIG PICTURE – NO ONE IS SAFE IF WE DON’T FIGHT BACK

No one is immune to unlawful attacks on their religious rights at work, and James is just one example of an employee fired for expressing his religious belief while he wasn’t even on the job. Take a look at these cases:

·      Dr. Eric Walsh – A respected health official terminated by the Georgia Health Department for religious beliefs expressed in his church.  Liberty Institute filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and has exposed embarrassing emails showing unlawful discrimination. Liberty Institute expects to win for Dr. Walsh.  

·      Thomas Banks – A contractor with Ford Motor Company who was fired for respectfully expressing his religious belief in the comment section of an article emailed to employees. Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company on behalf of Banks in July.

·      Bob Eschliman – An award-winning newspaper editor from Iowa fired for expressing his religious belief on his personal blog. Liberty Institute recently announced that Bob Eschliman and Shaw Media amicably resolved an employment dispute with a confidential settlement agreement with which Mr. Eschliman was pleased; Liberty Institute attorneys praised Shaw Media for recognizing religious rights in the workplace.

Employers are finding that engaging in religious discrimination is unwise from both a legal and public relations standpoint, and employees are being made aware that they that can be defended.

Good lawyers – and even the media – will be interested when those rights are violated.




FOR FURTHER INFORMATION AND ACTION ON THIS TOPIC:

To learn more about freedom of religion, including religious expression regarding employers and employees, read 7 Things Every Business Person (Employers and Employees!) Should Know About Faith in the Workplace

To help provide top-notch, free-of-charge legal defense for people of faith in the workplace and others whose religious liberty rights are violated, support Liberty Institute with a tax-deductible donation today. Thank you!







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, August 07, 2015 3:15:00 PM

10 Facts Every Student Must Know about Religious Rights in School


Before students order their books and fill their backpacks, they need to think about preparing their most valuable back-to-school tool yet:  knowledge of their religious liberty rights.

The number of religious liberty attacks increases each year, and yet, many students don’t know that there’s anything they can do about it. So before students make those last minute runs to Walmart and Staples, we at Liberty Institute encourage them to prepare now for the battles they might encounter this school year:

1.    Students have the right to First Amendment protections in public schools.

            The First Amendment protects students’ freedom of speech and freedom to express their religious beliefs.  Just because they walk through the schoolhouse doors does not mean students lose these constitutionally protected rights.

2.     Students have the right to read their Bibles at school during free reading times.

The Bible is a book.  If students can read other books of their choice at school, they can read the Bible too.

3.     Students have the right to pray before an athletic competition, school assembly, or other extra-curricular activity.  

Prayer is private speech, and private speech is protected under the First Amendment.  So if it is student initiated, student led, and not disruptive, then students have the right to pray privately or as a group.  Think of it this way, if students can talk freely, then they can pray freely too.

4.     Students have the right to pray during free time, such as lunch or recess.

Again, if students can talk freely, then they can pray freely.  As long as they are not disruptive and it is during non-instructional time, students have the right to pray.

5.    Students have the right to share their faith with their peers. 

If students can talk about the latest celebrity gossip or new hit single, 
they can talk about God.  As long as they are not disruptive and remain civil, anytime they are free to talk with their friends they are also free to talk about God with their friends.

6.     Students have the right to talk about religion with teachers and school employees.

During school, if a student starts the discussion, he or she can talk about religion with any school teachers or employees.  Outside of school, students can talk about religion with anyone at anytime.

7.     Students have the right to write or talk about God in class or school assignments.

If it fits the assignment, then students can talk about God. If students are writing a paper about their hero and God is their hero, then they have the right to write about God.

8.     Students have the right to start a religious club at their public school. 

If non-religious extracurricular student clubs are allowed, then religious clubs are allowed. The club must be student initiated, student run, and voluntary, but a club is a club. The word “religious” in its title makes no difference.

9.     Students have the right to distribute informational flyers and use school resources for their religious club. 

A religious club must be treated the same way a non-religious club is treated.  If a non-religious extracurricular club can do something, like use the school’s bulletin board or pass out flyers, a religious club can too.

10.     Students have the right to wear jewelry and clothing that expresses their religious beliefs.

If students’ clothing complies with the dress code, then it is their constitutional right to wear a T-shirt displaying their beliefs. So if you are allowed to wear a shirt with your favorite sports team logo, then you can wear a shirt with a religious message.

Just because someone is a school official or in authority doesn’t mean their word is the law.  Many times well-meaning individuals are misinformed or misguided.  For example, we all know where the term “separation of church and state” appears in the Constitution: The First Amendment says the school’s job is to protect every student’s freedom of religious expression and not force one particular religion on anyone.

HELP PROTECT OUR NATION’S STUDENTS AS THEY GO BACK TO SCHOOL

If we do not stand up and speak out, this country will soon be stripped of all personal freedoms.  Freedom is not an eternal gift won after a battle or preserved after a declaration. It is a constant battle calling us to be proactively engaged, that we may prevail.

Through your financial and prayer support, you make it possible for Liberty Institute to offer FREE, easy-to-understand back-to-school resources that students—and teachers—can download now at our Back-to-School page.  They include:

      Know Your Religious Rights Kit – fully equips students, parents, and teachers to know their religious liberties in public schools and be prepared to defend and restore their rights when they come under attack.

      Student Bill of Rights in Schools Brochure – a condensed version of our “Know Your Religious Rights” kit that gives a quick overview of students’ rights when it comes to religious speech, expression, or practice in public schools.

      Teachers Guide – gives instructors great guidelines for how they can maintain their First Amendment rights—including freedom of religion and speech—in schools.






Other stories:



One of the most important battles for religious liberty today is securing the legal rights of students. Liberty Institute provides students with some of the best lawyers in America . We have recently reversed bans on Bible clubs, Bible reading, prayer, religious themes in class assignments, and more. Please consider joining this effort for our nation’s students with a tax-deductible donation today. Thank you!




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, August 07, 2015 12:18:00 PM

City of Houston Tries to Steal Decades-Old Church—to Give the Land to a Business

Should the government be able to seize a church's property and hand it over to some other business for raw economic gain and extra tax revenue?  The very notion seems heartless and un-American. Yet that is exactly what the City of Houston—the country’s 4thlargest city—is attempting to do to two of its most historic and life-changing churches in what was once called “Blood Alley.” 

Fortunately, with the help of religious liberty attorneys, these two churches are fighting back on behalf of the communities they serve, and in the name of laws protecting religious freedom and influence. 

BULLDOZING A CHURCH THAT HELPED TAME “BLOOD ALLEY”  

On August 3, 2015, Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit against the City of Houston for threatening to take the property of two historic Houston churches. The City of Houston is threatening to bulldoze the historic Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and condemn the property of the Latter Day Deliverance Revival Center. The city’s actions violate Texas’ religious freedom law, including the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

Houston’s Fifth Ward is known for its history of violence and crime. In 1979, Texas Monthly magazine called it “Texas’ toughest, proudest, baddest ghetto.” Into this area, which the locals referred to as “Blood Alley,” Bishop Roy Lee Kossie felt called by God to plant a church. In 1965, he founded the Latter Day Deliverance Revival Center on Lyons Avenue.  A few years later, Pastor Quinton Smith was called to pastor the Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in the same area. 

Bishop Roy Lee Kossie says:


After decades of serving in the community, the churches helped transform the Fifth Ward into a safer place. The Latter Day church used to be flanked by a nightclub and a honky tonk. Today, both establishments are gone, replaced by a church-run food pantry and youth ministry center.

Over the years, the church developed outreach programs to minister to drug addicts, alcoholics, and gang members—and their efforts are working

Bishop Kossie loves to share how a young Black Panther came to the church, got saved, and was trusted to serve “with a badge.” He also notes that, since the founding of the church, violence in the Fifth Ward decreased, alcoholism declined, marriages have been saved, and children thrive. He attributes this to the blessing of God and to the faithfulness of the church leaders, who have reached out to the community for decades with love, patience, and faith.

Pastor Quinton Smith says his favorite thing about pastoring is how he gets to serve the children of the community by hosting vacation Bible schools and Christmas bicycle giveaways, along with counseling young couples. 

“LEAVE US ALONE SO WE CAN KEEP HELPING THESE KIDS”

As downtown Houston expanded, the property values of Fifth Ward soared. The City of Houston began an aggressive urban development plan, seeking to bulldoze older establishments to make way for more profitable, taxable business. The City is now targeting the two churches. 

The City of Houston pressured the pastors to sell the churches’ property, threatening to take the property through eminent domain if they refused.  Bishop Kossie and Pastor Smith steadfastly refused to leave the community to which they were called.  Now, the City of Houston is using their powers of eminent domain to take the property of the Latter Day Deliverance Revival Center and, if Pastor Smith will not sell his church, the City will have their lawyers take it and bulldoze the Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church to the ground. 

Pastor Quinton Smith, who has pastored the Christian Fellowship church for 20 years, says:


Bishop Kossie, who has served as a pastor in the Fifth Ward for over sixty years, says, “This is our home. This is where the Lord called us to serve and this is where we want to stay. We aren’t giving up without a fight.” 

BULLY TACTICS VIOLATE LAW

Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit against the City of Houston, announcing the action at a press conference in the Fifth Ward standing alongside leaders and members of the churches, many of whom voiced sadness, indignation, and resistance to the City’s actions.

Attorneys Hiram Sasser,Liberty Institute Deputy Chief Counsel, and Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys, asserted that the city is violating Texas’ religious freedom law, including the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They note that the churches have served as pillars in the Fifth Ward’s spiritual and social community for decades and that the City’s actions would force the churches out of the community they have served for over half a century.  

Sasser stated, “These churches have served this community for decades. They’ve held the neighborhood together through a lot of hard times. It’s tragic that the City of Houston wants to take the churches’ property away and give it to someone else, just so they can make money. The government cannot take a church's property and give it to some other business in violation of the law. These churches, their congregations, and this neighborhood are not for sale.”

Legal Documents




One of the most important battles for religious liberty today is securing the legal rights of houses of worship. Liberty Institute provides such clients with some of the best lawyers in America . Please consider joining this effort with a tax-deductible donation today. Thank you!





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, August 07, 2015 10:49:00 AM

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