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Liberty Institute Submits Friend-of-the-Court Brief on Behalf of ’60s Student-Speech Activist, Mary Beth Tinker



One of the great ironies of modern American law is that the ACLU—often a fierce opponent of religious expression in public schoolshelped win a case in the 1960s that is frequently used by Liberty Institute to advance religious freedom today(students represented by Liberty Institute recently include Brooks Hamby, Gabriella Perez, and Kendra Turner).

The case was , decided in 1969 in favor of peaceful high school anti-war protesters—and chronicled in Liberty Institute President & CEO Kelly Shackelford’s book, in which the Supreme Court famously ruled that school students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”



The case began in 1965. Siblings Mary Beth Tinker (then 13 years old) and her brother John (then 15 years old) were the children of a Methodist minister and wanted to show their support of 1965 Christmas truce called for by Robert F. Kennedy in the Vietnam War. Influenced as well by their Methodist upbringing and their family’s involvement with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the sister and brother decided to wear black armbands over their clothing to school topeacefully protest. But when they did, the Tinker children—along with three other students—were suspended for violating school policy against wearing black armbands.

The Tinker siblings and other students challenged the suspension as a violation of their First Amendment free speech rights. The Supreme Court agreed and in their decision struck a balance between the constitutional safeguards of free expression and the authority of school officials to maintain order and conduct in schools and make certain student safety.

YESTERDAY’S STUDENT SPEECH ACTIVIST STILL OUTSPOKEN TODAY

The dramatic case and its implications for religious freedom in schools today is the topic of a friend-of-the-court brief (amicus brief) recently submitted by Liberty Institute on behalf of Mary Beth Tinker—supporting plaintiffs in —in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Tinker, now a retired pediatric nurse in her early 60s, still remains active in student-speech issues and recently Tinker embarked on a bus tour known as the “Tinker Tour”—where she traveled over 25,000 miles by bus and spoke to more than 20,000 students and teachers at over 100 stops at schools, colleges, churches, youth detention facilities, courts, and several national conventions.

Tinker said that the goal of the tour was to “bring real-life civics lessons to schools and communities through the Tinker armband story. . . . History was made with just a simple, black armband.Can you imagine what a shy 13-year-old can do today with all of the extraordinary speech tools available?”

Tinker has strong interest in explained Liberty Institute volunteer attorney Allyson N. Ho—who also serves as lead counsel in the fight against the destruction of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross which the ACLU has brought a lawsuit against claiming the memorial’s cross violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

involves the regulation of student speech. There are times when a case does not involve religious speech but may nonetheless have a significant impact on religious student speech. While does not involve religious speech and certainly would not be a regular Liberty Institute case, the non-profit law firm felt strongly that the Court needed to hear about the ramifications to religious speech should the Court go too far in regulating off-campus speech.

AMICUS CURIAE URGES THE COURT TO RULE NARROWLY

Liberty Institute’s friend-of-the-court brief states that  Mary Beth Tinker is “concerned that the standard—and the vital role it plays in protecting free speech, including political and religious speech—could be weakened if stretched too far.” With the submission of this amicus brief, Tinker hopes to “respectfully assist the Court in more fully understanding the ramifications of the standard the Court chooses to apply in this case for other types of student speech, including political and religious speech.”

On behalf of Tinker, Liberty Institute’s brief also points out that:

  • The standard is a bulwark against government censorship of speech at the heart of First Amendment concerns.
    Government school officials do not have carte blanche to regulate all student speech—especially off-campus speech. The for student and administrators alike, not only by curtailing the speech of students, but also by expanding the potential of administrators for liability and responsibility for off-campus speech.
  • The standard affords political and religious speech significant protection it might otherwise lack.
    Regulating off-campus speech in the absence of a threat of physical harm could well have for the exercise of political and religious liberty—as extending the reach of school administrators can only expand the opportunities for school officials to impinge on the political and religious liberty of students (and their parents).

There are times when courts consider cases that Liberty Institute would not take because they do not involve religious speech, but nevertheless Liberty Institute and its clients feel compelled to file a brief explaining the impact of the case on religious speech. This is such a case. The standard is the most important legal protection for student religious speech. If any court threatens to erode the protections of the standard, Liberty Institute must stand up to defend the law or else risk losing an important protection for religious liberty. 

MAKE FREEDOM, NOT TOTALITARIANISM

“People of faith are in a fight for freedom right now—just like the families in this case were in the late 1960s,” said Shackelford in .  “They, and the legal community, need to remember the case.  They need to remember the warning that suppressing freedom is, in the words of the Supreme Court, ‘totalitarianism.’  And they need to know that the law is on their side if they have the courage to stand up.”

Visit LibertyInstitute.org/SupremeIrony to learn more about the case and how it paved the way for the protection of freedom—including religious freedom—in the schoolhouse today.




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

Thursday, April 16, 2015 1:18:00 PM

7 Reasons You Should Cheer Arkansas’s New Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)



By Christopher Corbett

My lunch companion briefly stopped eating and looked right at me. “Wow,” he said, “that’s not the way the media is spinning it!” He was referring to the new Arkansas religious freedom law. My friend, who is a missions director for a regional organization of churches, was pleasantly surprised to hear that the law was a victory for religious freedom rather than another compromise against religious liberty.

Yet it was a victory. On April 2, 2015, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed the 20th Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) at a state level that helps protect religious freedom for everyday Americans in their state.1 At first even the Progressives seemed satisfied that Arkansas had “fixed” their RFRA as Indiana had (in other words, destroyed it). But then reality sank in: Arkansas had slightly modified their original bill, but left it substantially pristine.

REASONS WHY THE MEDIA SPIN IS . . . SPIN

Despite what some in the media, as well as adversaries of religious liberty, are saying, here are seven reasons the Arkansas RFRA is good news for your religious freedom:

1.  The Law puts another brick in the wall of protection for religious freedom in the country. 

Activists for a secularized and “sexually liberated” America have caught on that RFRAs can slow their anti-faith crusade, so they are trying to stop any more from passing. But it may be too late. According to the Ethics and Public Policy Center, at least 31 states already have laws, constitutional provisions, or court rulings that provide some form of heightened protection for religious freedom.2 That’s a lot of the country! And of course, there is the federal RFRA, signed by Bill Clinton after a near unanimous passage. It’s going to be hard to undo all that protection.

2.  The Law protects people of faith in its state by giving guidance to judicial authorities.

Adversaries of religious freedom do have a partial point: RFRAs tilt the judicial playing field in favor of religious freedom. As well they should—But RFRAs aren’t sharply worded mandates.  They don’t dictate court decisions in favor of people of faith in religious freedom disputes. 

What they do is establish to help courts understand that freedom of belief is precious to the well-being of society, and therefore that freedom should not be unreasonably burdened unless there is a compelling reason —and even then, that burden must be by the least restrictive means possible. That is the core of virtually every RFRA type law, amendment, or court ruling. 

3.  It shows freedom has backbone—that clever and brave politicians can stand up to the bullies of anti-faith intolerance even in the face of threats.

The Indiana RFRA reversal was an embarrassing and unnecessary failure of nerve by politicians panicked by intimidating opposition from large corporations—companies themselves stampeded like frightened cattle by the LGBT movement’s desire to have a show of power.

Arkansas was the antidote, the un-Indiana. Arkansas politicians came under similar fire, pressured by massive corporate power and other forces within their own state, and yet they stood strong. They sagaciously and civilly listened to the opposition, tweaked their original law in deference, but refused the wholesale capitulation and morphing of the law into a virtual license to persecute as was done in Indiana. And guess what? They survived. 

The Arkansas face-down of anti-faith intolerance shows that religious freedom is the right side of history. It rips the cover off of empty threats by activists and corporations that doom awaits those who stand up to the politically correct mob.  The Arkansas politicians faced down the lynch mob, and the mob dispersed.

4. It helps expose large corporations who discriminate against religious employees to dangerous losses in court—thus putting them on notice not to hassle employees of faith.

In the April 1, 2015 the “Risk & Compliance” section noted that corporations who publicly castigated Indiana’s original RFRA were outing themselves as potential religious discriminators. That is significant. More and more people of faith are bringing legal action against companies to stop the companies’ religious discrimination, which is prohibited by laws like the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 

The article states, “CEOs are taking the risk of providing useful evidence to plaintiffs if their companies should happen to be sued for religious discrimination.”

The article quotes Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute’s Director of Litigation. Sasser warns that public statements against RFRAs could be used to support a claim of a hostile work environment. “If these CEOs are so motivated to come out and speak against religious liberty in this way,” said Sasser, “they are sending a message to their employees that people of faith are not welcome in their company. That’s a very strong message, a very scary message.”

Do big corporations really want to keep attacking RFRAs in the face of mounting EEOC complaints and other legal action against companies like Fox Sports, Ford, Shaw Media, and large government institutions? As time passes and emotions cool, the corporate opposition to RFRAs might well become less strident. Or as Sasser warns, a company’s vocal criticism of a RFRA may force it to put the brakes on internal persecution of Christian or other faith-based employees.

5.  The Arkansas law exposes the mistakes of politicians who cave in to the bullies, such as the Indiana legislature and governor. 

Arkansas still exists. It has not disappeared from the face of the earth. Riots have not broken out. Economic apocalypse is not on its horizon. It is doing fine. 

Conservative Arkansas politicians came off looking good to the voters. Indiana politicians, on the other hand, are still hated and disrespected by the sexual revolutionaries and now distrusted by their former conservative allies. Their future prospects could be bleak. Will future conservative politicians want to go down the path of Indiana or of Arkansas?

6.  “Courage feeds courage.” The Arkansas victory will send a signal that religious freedom is good.

With polls showing most Americans in favor of religious protections, the winning position with voters is to stand strong. Courage is infectious, and gives birth to more courage until a tipping point is reached. Courage must be practiced and rewarded. 

That’s why 36 organizations,including Liberty Institute, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (of the Southern Baptist Convention), Citizen Link, and nearly two dozen pastors signed a letter congratulating Arkansas Governor Hutchison. In the letter, the coalition applauded Gov. Hutchinson’s efforts:




The Indiana governor received no such letter—only scorn from the sexual revolutionaries who forced him to turn a religious freedom law into an anti-freedom law, and the disillusioned responses of stunned pro-faith voters who put him into office. 

7.  The law’s application in real life will help refute ridiculous charges against RFRA–style laws, which over time could spur the movement for more such protection. 


CALM AFTER THE STORM

American politics is famously cyclical, bouncing between high emotion and settled realism. The recent “RFRA Wars” follow this pattern. 

In 2014 we saw national hysteria over Arizona’s effort to strengthen its RFRA, a modification vetoed by a panicky Republican governor. Shortly thereafter Mississippi restored sanity by ignoring the hysteria and enacting a RFRA. This year witnessed the Indiana RFRA hysteria, followed quickly by Arkansas RFRA sanity.Currently, Georgia and Colorado are sadly tilting toward hysteria. But in American history, hysteria has been hard to sustain. Perhaps the anti-RFRA panic will be an exception, but one has to wonder. 

Many RFRA and RFRA-style policies are in force and the theocratic inquisition conjured by the enemies of religious freedom has not come to pass. Political witch-hunts and constant false predictions are tiring, even to big corporations, judges and governors. We’ll see whether the tide turns to sanity and more RFRAs pass in the future. But whatever the outcome, RFRAs are already here to stay in most of the nation.



1National Conference of State Legislatures: http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/state-rfra-statutes.aspx. Indiana is not included because its RFRA does not on balance meaningfully protect religious freedom.

2“31 states have heightened religious freedom protections”
Washington Post, 3.14.2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/03/01/where-in-the-u-s-are-there-heightened-protections-for-religious-freedom/






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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, April 16, 2015 1:18:00 PM

Liberty Institute Files Counter-Lawsuit Against City of Dallas on Behalf of Small Orthodox Jewish Congregation




On Monday, April 6, 2015, Liberty Institute filed a response to a lawsuit by the City of Dallas, Texas against Congregation TorasChaim, a small Orthodox Jewish congregation. The response includes a on behalf of the congregation and its leader, Rabbi Yaakov Rich, for the City’s unlawful attempt to shut down the congregation. 

Liberty Institute’s countersuit is part of an effort to stop the city from continuing to threaten approximately 20 Jewish members’ right to freely exercise their religious beliefs by meeting in a private home for worship, study and prayer.

“This small Jewish congregation is being victimized by unreasonable and unnecessary regulation and litigation,” said Jeff Mateer, Liberty Institute’s General Counsel. “We are very optimistic that, as it was determined in a prior lawsuit, the trial court will rule in favor of the religious freedom rights of our client when it considers the law and facts of this case.”

AMERICA’S NINTH LARGEST CITY VIOLATES THE LAW BY GOING AFTER SMALL CONGREGATION

Ironically, the City of Dallas launched its lawsuit only two days before the Jewish festival of Purim which celebrates Esther’s protection of the Jewish people from execution by Haman—and demanded a penalty that would end this small congregation. The City is requesting potentially crippling civil penalties of $1,000 per day per violation of alleged infractions of regulations, enough to shut down Congregation Toras Chaim.

What kind of infractions is the city upset over? City officials demand the home provide 13 off-street parking spaces and one disabled parking space.   

“This is utterly over-bureaucratic, unnecessary, and unreasonable,” say Mateer.  “Congregation Toras Chaim members to the home on the Sabbath or other religious holidays, according to the tenets of their faith—and the small number of families must live within walking distance to where they worship. It makes no sense for the City of Dallas to require that they have these parking spaces.”

Yet to avoid the $1,000 per day per violation fines, the demanded property alterations would cost the tiny congregation over $200,000in order to comply. 


The countersuit states that the City of Dallas has clearly violated the law with these unreasonable demands—including the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (TRFRA), the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the U.S. Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause through its violation of Section 1983, Chapter 106 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, and the Texas Constitution.

A HISTORY OF ATTACKS


Congregation Toras Chaim has been meeting to study and pray in an area under the authority of the local homeowners association (HOA) since February 2011. For two years, the HOA had full knowledge of the congregation’s religious activities in the neighborhood, and took no action. Then in 2013, the congregation relocated to another home in the area near a past president of the HOA, Mr. David Schneider. Soon, Schneider filed a lawsuit against Congregation Toras Chaim and the owners of the residence where they were meeting.

But after Collin Country District Court Judge Jill Willis ruled that Congregation Toras Chaim members have a right to continue meeting for worship in a private home, Rabbi Rich hoped the victory marked “the beginning of a new era of tolerance and peace in our community” and that his congregation would “no longer be under attack for exercising their right to worship God as prescribed by the tenets of their faith.”

THE THRILL OF VICTORY—FOLLOWED BY A SWASTIKA


At the time, the rabbi 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.

Mateer added: “We are horrified to hear of this act of hatred against Rabbi Rich, his family, and Congregation Toras Chaim. 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.”

MUCH MORE AT STAKE THAN ONE CONGREGATION

According to Liberty Institute President & CEO, Kelly Shackelford, much more is at stake here than just one congregation.

“Any verdict that does not protect this congregation would be tragic. Not only for them, not only for Dallas, but for America. If small meetings by people of faith are not allowed in their homes, that would greatly damage religious freedom for us all.”

What is happening to Congregation Toras Chaim fits a growing pattern of attacks on houses of worship across the nation—a pattern Liberty Institute attorneys document in their annual survey, It is also a pattern that they have countered by a series of recent court victories, including . In this case, Liberty Institute won a major federal victory when a city tried to ban a small African-American church from a downtown area, setting 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, and Liberty Institute remains committed to fight for the survival of Congregation Toras Chaim and other houses of worship facing attacks from government entities attempting to unlawfully oppress, burden, or outlaw gatherings of people of faith.




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Kelly Shackelford Calls for Arkansas Governor to Sign Bill in Support of a Ten Commandments Display


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, April 10, 2015 11:37:00 AM

Kelly Shackelford Calls for Arkansas Governor to Sign Bill in Support of a Ten Commandments Display




Last week, in a letter dated April 1, 2015, Liberty Institute President & CEO Kelly Shackelford asked Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to support the Ten Commandments Monument Display Act, Senate Bill 939 (SB 939), sponsored by Jason Rapert, R-Conway, which calls for a Ten Commandments monument display to be funded by private entities and placed on the Arkansas State Capitol grounds.

Yesterday, Gov. Hutchinson responded by signing into law SB 939, which also requests that Liberty Institute prepare and present a legal defense of the monument, if suit is ever brought against the monument.

SHACKELFORD ASSURES GOVERNOR OF CONSTITUTIONALITY

The Ten Commandments Monument Display Act cites the Ten Commandments as “an important component of the moral foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and of the State of Arkansas.” The Act asserts that the placement of such a monument on Arkansas State Capitol grounds “would help the people of the United States and of the State of Arkansas to know the Ten Commandments as the moral foundation of the law.” 

The Ten Commandments Monument Display Act was quickly approved by the Arkansas House and Senate in less than a month and has now been signed by the governor—who was encouraged by Shackelford to support the bill as written and consider these key points:

1.     The proposed Ten Commandments monument on Arkansas State capitol grounds is consistent with other Ten Commandments monuments the Fraternal Order of Eagles made ubiquitous.

Most of the Ten Commandments monuments on public property throughout the nation—including public parks, state capitol grounds, and other public lands—were donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a notable organization “uniting fraternally in the spirit of liberty, truth, justice, and equality, to make human life more desirable by lessening its ills and promoting peace, prosperity, gladness, and hope.” Notable past members include President Harry S. Truman, President Jimmy Carter, President John F. Kennedy, President Ronald Reagan and entertainer Bob Hope.

2.     Ten Commandments monuments are not “new.” In fact, the proposed monument for the Arkansas State Capitol grounds is identical to the one on the Texas State Capitol grounds upheld as constitutional by the United States Supreme Court (, 545 U.S. 677 (U.S. 2005).

In that U.S. Supreme Court decision, Liberty Institute represented the Fraternal Order of Eagles as an as well supporting the Texas Attorney General in his argument before the CourtIn its decision, the Court explained: “[s]imply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause.” As reference in the Ten Commandments Monument Display Act, the Ten Commandments text declared constitutional in includes:



3.     Liberty Institute recently assisted Oklahoma legislators in drafting a bill that authorized a Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds that complies with current legal precedent on this issue.

Working with the Oklahoma attorney general’s office, Liberty Institute has been successful in defending Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments monument in two separate court cases (one in federal court against American Atheistsand one in state court against the ACLU). Both cases are now on appeal.

Liberty Institute is grateful that Gov. Hutchinson signed The Ten Commandments Monument Display Act this week, and stands confident that any future threatening lawsuits will be overcome.




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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, April 10, 2015 10:41:00 AM

FREE SPEECH COMES FIRST: Liberty Institute Files Friend of Court Brief in U.S. Supreme Court in Marriage Case (Obergefell v. Hodges)

SUMMARY: On behalf of 20 major national Christian religious organizations, public speakers, and scholars, Liberty Institute’s friend of the court brief to the United States Supreme Court argues that the First Amendment Free Speech Clause protects ministers, teachers, and speakers who are compelled by faith and conscience to preach and speak aloud their millennia-old and sincerely-held religious view that marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman.


The freedom to speak according to religious conscience is essential to the stability of our self-governing Republic. That is the central message Liberty Institute sent to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of 20 major Christian America as the Court considers , the historic marriage case that will likely culminate in a published opinion in June.

Liberty Institute attorneys filed a friend-of-the-court brief ( brief) on April 2, 2015 on behalf of one of the most distinguished line-ups of Christian ministries, ministers, and scholars imaginable. The list includes Bible teachers, broadcasters, global relief work, major seminaries, and internationally known pastors.

Those represented by Liberty Institute include:

·      National Religious Broadcasters
·      The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
·      In Touch Ministries
·       Samaritan’s Purse
·      Pathway to Victory
·      The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview
·      Dallas Theological Seminary
·      The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
·      Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
·      Dr. Daniel L. Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, editor of The Christ Centered Exposition series
·      Dr. Mark L. Bailey, President of Dallas Theological Seminary, author of myriad books and scholarly articles
·      Dr. Francis J. Beckwith, philosophy professor at Baylor University, prolific author, speaker, apologist
·      Dr. Robert A.J. Gagnon, associate professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and a leading authority on moral and social issues
·      Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, and noted author, speaker, and theologian
·      Dr. Byron R. Johnson, Baylor University’s Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences and recognized expert on social behavior and crime
·      Eric Metaxas, bestselling author of biographies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce; co-host of Breakpoint Radio Broadcast
·      Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, prolific writer, author, and speaker.
·      Dr. Charles F. Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Atlanta, and founder and president of In Touch Ministries
·      John Stonestreet, speaker and fellow of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview.  Co-host of Breakpoint radio broadcast
·      Dr. Owen Strachan, president of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

GETTING THE COURT’S ATTENTION

The friend of the court brief is signed by the nation’s leading preachers, teachers, and speakers, highlighting the Free Speech Clause issues implicated in the pending marriage cases. The Supreme Court should take notice.

As highlighted in the brief, Liberty Institute represents religious dissenters who have been actively silenced on the issue of marriage and thereby driven from the public square. This should not happen in a nation founded by religious dissenters who fled statist persecution and should remind the Supreme Court Justices that the Free Speech Clause must prevail.

A STRATEGIC CASE FOR FREE RELIGIOUS SPEECH

Written primarily by Deputy General Counsel Matthew Kacsmaryk, former Assistant United States Attorney and Adjunct Lecturer on Free Speech and the First Amendment at Southern Methodist University, and Senior Counsel Justin Butterfield, a graduate of Harvard Law School and veteran religious liberty litigator, the amicus brief opens with the following summary:


The free speech amicus brief of 32 pages then makes the following points:

I. For over twenty centuries, the universal Christian church has included followers of Jesus Christ who spoke and preached on controversial issues in ways that offended powerful forces in society.

The brief notes that, for more than 2,000 years, “Christians have refused to keep quiet about their sincere religious beliefs and have not flinched at speaking truth to power.” Furthermore, “same-sex marriage is not an exception to this historical rule. For two millennia, Christians have based their definition of marriage on the words of Jesus Christ, who incorporated by reference ancient words from the Book of Genesis:

But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two but one flesh.

Mark 10:6-8 (quoting Genesis 1:27). Consequently, individual Christian ministers, teachers, and leaders must continue to preach and speak aloud their millennia-old and sincerely held religious view that marriage is the sacred “one flesh” union of one man and one woman.”

II. The freedom to speak according to religious conscience is essential to the dignity of each person and to the stability of our self-governing Republic.

This section quotes and cites recent Supreme Court decisions—with several quotations from Justice Anthony Kennedy, who may be the deciding vote in the pending marriage case. Justice Kennedy’s laudable support for free speech for dissenters falls into three categories, as noted in the brief: 

First, freedoms of speech and religious conscience are foundational to human dignity and self-definition. As Justice Kennedy concurred in the recent case:

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.,

Second, the stability and survival of our self-governing Republic requires constant vigilance by conscientious citizens who will speak their minds on controversial issues.

Third, freedoms of speech and religious conscience are particularly important when there is a moral dimension to the question pending in the public square. Quoting Justice Kennedy’s dissent in the case of : “[S]peech makes a difference, as it must when acts of lasting significance and profound moral consequence are being contemplated.” (., 530 U.S. 703, 790 (2000) (Kennedy, J., dissenting)).

But the argument then presses further. Religious dissent is most important to the survival of freedom when it rubs people the wrong way:

III. The Free Speech Clause (of the First Amendment) is most needed when the religious dissenter’s views are controversial and inconvenient.

Again, quoting a decision in which Justice Kennedy concurred: “The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is beside the point. Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech.” , 505 U.S. 672, 701 (1992) (Kennedy, J., concurring).

THE PARADE OF PERSECUTION

That leads to the fourth major link in the argument’s chain:

IV. In the same-sex marriage debate, many high-profile religious dissenters have been actively silenced, while others are chilled into silence—actively harming the marketplace of ideas.

Liberty Institute’s brief presents the U.S. Supreme Court justices with a very stark description of the kind of religious persecution to religious dissenters. The brief present the grim facts—and offers concrete reasons to believe the persecution will become much worse if the Court does not take action to give constitutional cover under the Free Speech Clause. The seven representative cases include:

·      U.S. Navy Chaplain Wes Modder - Currently relieved of duty by the U.S. Navy for allegedly giving polite answers to questions about same-sex marriage, answers in line with his conservative Christian denomination of which he is an ordained minister.

·      Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran - Suspended and fired as Fire Chief of Atlanta, GA, because he wrote a book that included his biblical views of marriage, even though he never once discriminated against any sexual minority.

·      Dr. Eric Walsh - A leading public health administrator who led efforts to save the lives of gay men from AIDS, but who was fired from the Georgia Department of Public Health for preaching the biblical view of marriage inside his church as an ordained lay minister.

·      U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk - Relieved of duty for politely declining to agree with his commander that same-sex marriage laws are good.  He was protected but only after a protracted legal battle.

·      Eastern Michigan University Student Julea Ward - Expelled from a graduate counseling program for referring to another counselor a student who wanted her to affirm his same-sex relationship. 

·      Missouri State University Student Emily Brooker - Interrogated and threatened by the university Ethics Committee because, as a Christian, she refused an assignment to write the Legislature lobbying for same-sex adoption rights.

·      The “Houston Five” - Pastors in Houston, Texas who had their sermons subpoenaed in a search for negative statements on “gender identity” and “homosexuality” concerning a city lawsuit over a “sexual orientation” non-discrimination ordinance.  None of the pastors were party to the lawsuit, yet were targeted due to their perceived religious beliefs on sexuality.

The brief also cites a “mountain of memoranda, manuals, and training materials designed to enforce conformity of belief in the federal government’s new sexual orthodoxy—or at least chill into silence any religious dissenters.” Most shockingly, the Department of Justice affinity group DOJ Pride published a training manual that included these chilling speech codes:

·      DO use inclusive words like “partner,” “significant other” or “spouse” rather than gender-specific terms like “husband” and “wife.”

·      DO acknowledge important events in an LGBT employee’s life — e.g., same-sex marriage…. — in the same way you would for a heterosexual employee.…

·      “DON’Tjudge or remain silent. Silence will be interpreted as disapproval.”1

Finally, the brief cites cautionary tales from Canada and the United Kingdom, which share a historical commitment to freedom of speech.  For example, in 2013, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, which took effect on March 29, 2014. In a matter of months, religious dissenters were targeted for failure to conform to “British values”:

·      British Government schools inspectors have closed two Christian schools for teaching and preaching against same-sex sexual conduct.2  

·      United Kingdom’s Equality Commission reports that most Christians are frightened to speak their beliefs in the workplace.3 

NO COEXISTENCE WITH OPPRESSIVE “SPEECH CODES”

As the Liberty Institute brief reminds the Supreme Court, the freedom to speak according to religious conscience is essential to the dignity of each person and to the stability of our self-governing Republic. These core First Amendment principles cannot peacefully coexist alongside Government speech codes designed to enforce a superficial and false conformity of belief.

Instead, the Free Speech Clause protects a noisy, crowded, and vibrant marketplace of ideas, populated with both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage. did not resolve the question of abortion; it inflamed it. That decision did not quiet the debate or sooth our culture; it turned up the volume to a roar.  Likewise, if the U.S. Supreme Court does not put free speech first, religious dissent will not go away, and the rancor will not subside. 

As the brief states, “enormous numbers of Christians and other persons of faith . . . will continue to believe what they believe about marriage” and numerous violations of the First Amendment will spread. 

Further, “Millions of Christian ministers, teachers, and leaders are compelled by faith and conscience to preach and speak aloud their millennia-old and sincerely held religious view that marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman.”

The Liberty Institute brief offers the Court an opportunity to choose the path that “protects religious dissenters who disagree with same-sex marriage and . . . reaffirm[s] the importance of free debate and free inquiry in this democratic Republic.” That’s a far better future than tyranny, resistance, and turmoil. 


[1] DOJ Pride, “LGBT Inclusion at Work: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Managers,” 1–2, http://www.lc.org/media/9980/images/ pr_doj_lgbt_directive_052113.pdf (last visited Mar. 18, 2015) (color in original).
2 Hilary White, Life Site News (February 2, 2015), https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/uk-gvmt-to-faith-schools-promote-homosexuality-and-other-religions-or-face.
3 Steve Doughty, The Daily Mail (March 11, 2015), http://www.dailymail. co.uk/news/article-2990678/Christians-scared-admit-beliefs-fear-mocked-treated-like-bigots-say-equality-chiefs.html




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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, April 02, 2015 12:54:00 PM

Three Reasons to Stand for RFRA
By Kelly ShackelfordPresident, CEO & Chief Counsel


State legislatures in Indiana and Arkansas passed Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs), and self-proclaimed “tolerant” folks across America responded with distortions, character assassination, threats, and economic blackmail. Veterans of the war to defend, and restore, religious freedom know the campaign is long, hard, filled with highs and lows, and absolutely worth it.

But my message to friends of religious liberty: Don’t be afraid of threats from the likes of boycotters from some who are clueless in corporate America, the mainstream media, or anyone else threatening doom over a RFRA like Indiana’s or Arkansas’s. 

This is no time to waver in the defense of religious freedom. There are three main reasons to stand firm:
        
REASON #1: THE MAJORITY IS FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. 

RFRAs are good and needed laws. The attacks against them can be repelled if Americans who believe in religious freedom——have the courage to stand. For example, where RFRAs touch the incendiary issue of same-sex marriage, religious freedom wins and Americans retain the right to disagree. 

A recent survey by the Associated Press showed a healthy majority of Americans (57%) supported the right of those with religious convictions about marriage to not participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies. Despite the baseless attacks, the Indiana RFRA doesn’t even mention same-sex marriage, yet the American public would go farther than the RFRA in granting such a religious protection. 

Another survey showed 81% support for individuals to openly disagree with same-sex marriage without punishment. Again, RFRA doesn’t specify this protection, but Americans would support it if it did. Friends of religious freedom are in the majority, however loud the opposition may be. The right to disagree is as fundamental as any right in America.
        
REASON #2: THIS IS A WORLDVIEW SHOWDOWN.

The attack on RFRAs doesn’t come from nowhere, and it doesn’t come by accident.  It emerges from a secular worldview that dominates the mountaintops of power in much of our culture: government, media, education, many corporations, and even much of the military. Those holding this worldview are a minority, but they are an .
        
The secular worldview looks at religion with suspicion at best, hostility at worst. It sees the supernatural as something far removed from relevance to everyday life, and perhaps even nonexistent. Religion, it says, is fine if it keeps to itself and stays quiet.
        
RFRAs are a threat to the secularist worldview. Such laws protect religious expression from hostility, and restore the traditional understanding of the First Amendment’s protection of the “free exercise” of religion. “Free exercise” means open practice and expression, not something that must be hidden behind closed doors. 
        
The federal RFRA, which has inspired RFRAs in now 21 states, has stood since 1993.  It was introduced by then-House member Charles Schumer, a liberal Democrat; passed the House of Representatives unanimously; and passed the Senate with only three votes against its passage. RFRA was signed by President Bill Clinton. This was not controversial legislation—you thought religious freedom was a good thing.
        
REASON #3: TOO MUCH IS AT STAKE.

But special interests have now decided religious freedom a good idea anymore.  The consensus fractured because the federal RFRA was a cornerstone to the defense of religious freedom in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in favor of allowing Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, faith-based businesses, to refuse the government’s mandate to facilitate the provision of abortion-inducing drugs through healthcare policy. That set off an anti-RFRA firestorm. 
        
Secularist dogmatists only want religious freedom if it doesn’t interfere with the sexual revolution. The sudden desire to eliminate RFRAs, not long ago considered as solidly within the mainstream of American protection of religion, reveals that the lords of secularist political power will no longer tolerate freedom to believe and to act on your belief.  They want religious liberty redefined into non-existence.
        
We have never seen this before.  A lot is at stake.
        
We have never had of religious freedom be under assault. We’ve never seen the legitimacy of religious freedom so severely questioned in our country. Yes, we’ve seen certain isolated examples of attacks on religious freedom before, but this is new. Now the opposition is going directly after the whole idea of the free exercise of religion.
        
In instance after instance, secularists are goading Americans to think that religious freedom is archaic and gets in the way.

Is that now our new national mantra? Will the vocal but powerful minority win? Is religious freedom becoming extinct—or instead, is the majority, when informed of the facts, going to stand up and repel these attacks?

Ronald Reagan said, “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.” Let’s take ground, whether by yards, feet, or inches. Let’s stand for the RFRAs, and encourage more.  And as we do, let’s be unafraid. Too much is at stake to sit back in silence.





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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, April 02, 2015 12:53:00 PM

35 Members of Congress Rally in Support of Chaplain Wes Modder



Joining increasing public support—and the collective outcry for answers—on behalf of Liberty Institute client, Chaplain Wes Modder, this week are 35 Members of Congress who sent a letter to Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, and Rear Admiral Margaret Kibben, U.S. Navy, Chief of Chaplains.

Including J. Randy Forbes (VA-04), Vicky Hartzler (MO-04), Doug Lamborn (CO-05), and John Fleming (LA-04), these 35 Members are holding the U.S. Navy’s feet to the fire regarding commanding officer Captain Jon R. Fahs’ unlawful punishment of Chaplain Modder after a very small number of sailors disagreed with the biblical views Chaplain Modder expressed in response to their questions during private counseling sessions.

“We are grateful that members of Congress would remind Captain Fahs of his constitutional obligation to provide for religious freedom,” said Mike Berry, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs. “Chaplains exist to provide the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious free exercise. It’s clear these elected officials appreciate the vital role of our chaplains in preserving religious liberty.”

Captain Fahs launched a three-prong attack against Chaplain Modder, requesting the highly-decorated chaplain be removed from the promotion list, “detached for cause” (the military equivalent of being fired), and brought before an official Board of Inquiry, where he could be involuntarily forced out of the Navy.

In response, Liberty Institute demanded that the Navy rescind all three threats and also requested religious accommodation on Chaplain Modder’s behalf. Captain Fahs denied the request for religious accommodationand issued a “no contact” order—the military version of a restraining order which forbids Chaplain Modder from counseling or ministering to members of his unit.

LETTER TO THE U.S. NAVY:  PROTECT YOUR CHAPLAINS

In light of Navy’s treatment of Chaplain Modder—which violates military regulations, federal law, and the Constitution—the Members of Congress strongly urged Secretary Mabus and Admiral Kibben to protect the religious liberty rights of not only Chaplain Modder, but all of the military’s chaplains who have put their lives on the line to minister to the spiritual needs of service members.

In their letter, they make these crucial points:

  • Congress passed conscience protections for service members in the National Defense Authorization Act.
    Two Department of Defense (DoD) instructions clarify that expressions of belief are protected and that chaplains cannot be required to perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to his or her conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs. Also, no service member may discriminate or take adverse personnel action on the basis of these actions by a chaplain.
  • Navy policy and training documents make it clear that a chaplain’s role is to provide religious ministry.
    The tenets of a chaplain’s faith inform their spiritual care of service members. If there is a situation which calls for the chaplain to act contrary to his or her individual faith, then the chaplain may connect the sailor with someone else who can fulfill the sailor’s need.
  • Navy policy also protects a chaplain’s ability to preach and teach—even when sailors may disagree with the chaplain’s remarks.
    Unless a chaplain’s speech is otherwise prohibited, such as publicly maligning senior leaders, their sermons and/or teachings cannot be restricted, even with regard to socially controversial topics.
  • Chaplain Modder’s beliefs are endorsed by the General Counsel of the Assemblies of God, which affirms the orthodox theological belief that sexual intimacy is designed for the context of marriage between one man and one woman.
    Even if Chaplain Modder’s religious beliefs conflict with Navy policy, he is bound to align his views with that of his endorsing denomination. The Assemblies of God denomination affirms the biblical definition of marriage—and the Bible’s instruction on marital and extra-marital sex. Chaplain Modder supports and expresses these beliefs.

SUPPORT INTENSIFIES, MEDIA COVERAGE GROWS

The coalition of Congress members have requested: Information about the accusations against Chaplain Modder and that investigations will be conducted according to laws that protect chaplains’ rights, confirmation that the Navy is pursuing enforcement of policies and protections already in place for service members and chaplains, and assurance that conscience protections passed by Congress are being implemented.

Another key public official who has voiced concern this week is Representative Doug Collins (R-GA), who previously supported Liberty Institute client, Chaplain (Captain) Joseph “Joe” Lawhorn, whose religious liberty rights were violated by the U.S. Army. Because of his role as a chaplain in the Air Force Reserve, Rep. Collins understands the value of military religious freedom and strongly urged Navy Secretary Mabus, in a separate letter, that he has “questions about the important issue of officers respecting the sacred trust of confidentiality that exists between chaplains and service members.”Rep. Collins went on to ask if the Navy investigated how Chaplain Modder’s private, confidential communications were obtained, and whether any regulations that protect confidentiality were violated.

Additionally, media coverage has continued to keep the story alive, including Fox News contributor Todd Starnes’ “Fox Nation’s The Dispatch” video report: “Lawmakers defend chaplain accused of being anti-gay.”(Starnes previously wrote about the matter in three columns: “Navy bans chaplain from ministering to family of dead sailor”, ”Former SEALs chaplain could be kicked out of Navy for Christian beliefs” and “More than 40,000 rally for Navy chaplain accused of being anti-gay.”)

ADD YOUR VOICE IN PROTEST ANDSUPPORT

An easy, yet effective way people can help support Chaplain Modder—and speak out against threats against him by the U.S. Navy—is by signing Liberty Institute’s “Stop the Unlawful Action Against Chaplain Wes Modder, An American Hero!” Petition.

With more than 10,000 signatures collected to date, the petition sends a clear, powerful message to the Secretary of the Navythat Americans are alarmed and outraged,and they demand that Chaplain Modder be allowed to continue his invaluable work of meeting the spiritual needs of service members in his care.




Other stories:


Three Reasons to Stand for RFRA


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, April 02, 2015 12:53:00 PM

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

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