Liberty Institute News
In Celebration of Independence Day: Why Restoring Religious Liberty Should Be a “Personal and National Priority”

When Americans think about Independence Day, some of the first things to come to mind are fireworks, grilling out, and enjoying time with family and friends. But Independence Day is more than simply a day to relax. It’s a time to remember and reflect on America’s founding, the ideals that made America great—ideals that are under attack like never before in the nation’s history—and why it’s essential that America’s freedom is preserved.


In 1776, at a time in history when the liberty of the American colonies was under attack, America’s founders signed the Declaration of Independence. In it, they explained their reasons for separating from Great Britain and asserted American independence. The signers of the Declaration also recognized that “certain unalienable Rights”—including “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”—come from God, and that governments exist to protect those rights.

In 1791, after America secured her independence and established the Constitution, the Bill of Rights was ratified, with the First Amendment guaranteeing the protection of America’s most foundational freedoms, listing first the freedom of religion, then the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and petition.

In addition, in his Farewell Address in 1796, President George Washington recognized the importance of religion in society. He stated:


Yet in 2015, the freedom to freely practice and express religious beliefs in America is experiencing unprecedented attack, a hostility exacerbated by last week’s Supreme Court ruling..

In a few recent examples of anti-religious discrimination, Liberty Institute is currently defending U.S. Navy Chaplain Wes Modder, who faces the loss of his career for expressing his traditional, Biblical views when asked questions about faith, family, and marriage during private counseling sessions, and U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling, who was convicted at a court-martial for displaying a Bible verse in her workspace.

Other cases include the Bladensburg, Maryland World War I Veterans Memorial, which is under attack from a humanist group seeking to have it removed, demolished, or altered simply because it is cross-shaped, and Congregation Toras Chaim, a small Jewish congregation whose existence has been threatened by lawsuits not once, but twice—currently by the city of Dallas, Texas.

But despite the attacks, religious liberty can still be preserved—but only if Americans stand for their rights. For example, in this past year, Liberty Institute protected the religious freedom of First Presbyterian Church of Auburn, New York after the city ordered the church to stop operating a “Glee Camp” on its own property. In addition, Liberty Institute represented the American Legion in a successful defense of the “under God” wording in the Pledge of Allegiance in New Jersey. Recent victories for religious liberty also include state laws passed to preserve religious freedom in Arkansas, Texas, North Carolina, and Michigan.


This Independence Day, Liberty Institute shares an open letter to the people of America from its President and CEO, Kelly Shackelford, first published in the most recent edition of , Liberty Institute’s annual survey of hostility to religion.  

We hope this will help you pause this weekend and reflect on why religious liberty is essential to preserving a free society, why the escalating threats to religious freedom threaten all freedom, and why Americans must stand to protect their first and most essential liberty.  Shackelford writes, in part:


America’s Founders risked much to stand against Great Britain’s attacks on American liberty. In the conclusion to the Declaration of Independence, they stated:

LivesFortunessacred Honour

This Independence Day, in reflecting on the founding of America and the freedom its citizens enjoy, may people of faith be inspired by the courageous stand of America’s Founders and boldly stand to protect religious liberty in America today.

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

Thursday, July 02, 2015 12:28:00 PM

READY: Liberty Institute Prepares 5-Point Plan for Supreme Court Marriage Decision and Its Ramifications on Religious Liberty

In the next few days, the U.S. Supreme Court will announce whether it will impose a redefinition of marriage on all America in the case of . The Court’s decision could:
  1. Impose a marriage redefinition nationally, all at once, by finding that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
  2. Decline to impose a national redefinition, yet find that states which do not allow redefined marriage must accept the same-sex marriages of those married in states where it is allowed. For practical purposes, this would spread a redefinition of marriage on a more gradual, state-by-state basis.
  3. Decline to impose a national redefinition and decline to require states to accept same-sex marriages of other states. Even this outcome would be fraught with hazards for religious freedom, since advocates of redefining marriage would put pressure on state governments to legalize same-sex marriage state-by-state, with religious freedom in the crosshairs of such a multi-state legal struggle.
The most difficult scenario, however, is the first one. For that reason, Liberty Institute submitted a much-praised friend-of-the-court brief (amicus brief) asking the Court to decline to redefine marriage because of the potentially severe impact upon religious freedom and free speech any such ruling could have.

This week, Kelly Shackelford, President, CEO & Chief Counsel of Liberty Institute, stated,

To be ready for how any decision could impact religious freedom, Liberty Institute has prepared legal strategies ready to protect our foundational First Amendment rights no matter what the Court rules.

“No matter what the Court decides,” said Shackelford, “we are committed to defending and restoring religious liberty even as the battle for such key freedoms will expand and cases will multiply. There are solid measures that can be used to protect churches, ministries, employers, employees, students, teachers, and others whose faith tells them marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman. In fact, we’ve been preparing for months, helping organizations and individuals defend their religious liberty, and the results are promising.”

He added, “The Court’s decision won’t take us by surprise. We’re ready to defend and, if necessary, restore religious liberty across America.”


Liberty Institute’s 5-point legal strategy to deal with the post-Obergefell America that will be here soon:
  1. Focus on the Courts. Elections are important. But right now, the attacks on religious liberty are moving too fast for an election to fix—and this will get worse if the Supreme Court imposes a national redefinition of marriage. We have won these key battles before and we must continue to win for religious freedom in court. And it must happen immediately.
  2. Use Existing Laws to Keep Winning. Liberty Institute litigators have a 90%-plus win rate, even in tough cases. We know how to use existing laws and court precedents to win legal cases. No matter what the Supreme Court rules in the marriage case, laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and numerous court precedents are on our side. The Court’s ruling will not change the truth that Americans have a constitutional right to speak and to act according to our beliefs.
  3. Use New Laws to Win. Our attorneys are advising several state legislatures and the U.S. Congress to make sure a plethora of new religious freedom laws are written in language that will withstand legal challenges. These laws will make it easier to win in court.
  4. Use Religious Liberty Audits to Protect Churches, Ministries, and Businesses. Liberty Institute attorneys are employing Religious Liberty Audits to enhance legal protection for organizations. These audits analyze an organization’s documents and practices, and then offer revisions to protect the organization from the new brand of “sexual liberty” attacks that can cripple the ability to minister.
  5. Expand Our Winning Formula. Liberty Institute wins. But now we must expand to meet the multiplied challenges of new hostility to religious freedom. One Liberty Institute staff lawyer can coordinate up to 20 volunteer litigators across the nation. We select strategic cases to create a ripple effect of freedom. We plan to add staff lawyers to expand the victims of unlawful religious discrimination we can help.
“The battle for religious freedom is escalating,” said Shackelford, “And it is a battle we are ready for and can win with expert legal strategy.”


Shackelford told Liberty Institute friends in a special video, “The real key will be the response of people of faith like you. Will people of faith needlessly give up? Or instead, will people of faith stand up? Will people of faith be willing to assert their legal rights and push back? Will people of faith come together and support each other as we use the law to say ‘no’ to attempts to misuse this decision to erase our freedoms?”

“We can win,” he said, “if we stand.”

Other stories:

Two Victories for Religious Freedom: North Carolina, Michigan Pass Laws to Protect Religious Liberty for Magistrates, Adoption Agencies

NOT ALONE: Reinforcements Support LCpl Monifa Sterling—Marine Court-Martialed over Bible Verse


To stand up for religious freedom in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, please give generously to help Liberty Institute expand our capacity to defend more victims of religious discrimination. A $300,000 Matching Grant will DOUBLE your donation if given by June 30. Giving in response to this Matching Grant will help Liberty Institute hire more staff attorneys, recruit and coordinate potentially dozens of elite volunteer attorneys from major law firms, and win more cases. Please give now and make your gift go twice as far!

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

Thursday, June 25, 2015 11:22:00 AM

Two Victories for Religious Freedom: North Carolina and Michigan Pass Laws to Protect Religious Liberty for Magistrates and Adoption Agencies

This month, two states—North Carolina and Michigan—approved bills that protect the religious liberty of those who hold to the traditional, time-honored view that marriage is between one man and one woman, protecting some groups whose religious liberty is particularly at risk from a Supreme Court ruling imposing nationwide same-sex marriage.

North Carolina’s law, for which Liberty Institute gave advice on the wording, protects the religious freedom of the state’s magistrates, assistant registers of deeds, and deputy registers of deeds. Michigan’s law defends the constitutional rights of adoption and foster care agencies in that state.

Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer applauded the actions by North Carolina and Michigan. “We’re encouraged to see states begin to specify religious liberty protections, so that citizens may continue to live and act upon their faith in all spheres of their lives whether it be in their place of worship, at work or in the public arena.”

The passage of North Carolina’s and Michigan’s new laws comes just before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on , a group of consolidated cases challenging the constitutionality of state laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman and which could have wide ramifications for religious liberty.


North Carolina’s law asserts that magistrates, assistant registers of deeds, and deputy registers of deeds may not be removed from their positions for declining to officiate or issue marriage licenses if doing so would require them to violate their religious beliefs. The law states, in part:

The law allows magistrates, assistant registers of deeds, and deputy registers of deeds to opt out of officiating marriages or issuing marriage licenses for “‘at least six months’” and protects those individuals from being “subjected to a disciplinary action, due to a good-faith recusal under this section.” The law also includes provisions to ensure that all couples who are legally allowed to marry will be able to obtain marriage licenses and that officials will be available to officiate legal marriages.


Michigan’s new law (passed in a package of three bills: HB 4188, HB 4189, and HB 4190) protects the rights of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies in the state to operate according to their religious beliefs.

The law (HB 4188) affirms that private adoption and foster care agencies have the constitutional right of religious freedom and recognizes that “[c]hildren and families benefit greatly” from the services of both faith-based and non-faith-based agencies. Later, it states:

It also guarantees that adoption and foster care agencies will not face “adverse action” from the government for declining to provide services that violate their religious beliefs.


Michigan and North Carolina aren’t the only states acting to preserve religious liberty. Arkansas recently passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—despite the recent media and corporate backlash against RFRAs.

In addition, this month, Texas approved the Pastor Protection Act, a law that, among other things, affirms the right of pastors to decline to perform marriages that violate their sincerely-held religious beliefs. Liberty Institute Senior Counsel and Director of Research and Education Justin Butterfield testified on behalf of the legislation before the Texas House State Affairs Committee in April.  Liberty Institute Counsel Cleve Doty testified on behalf of the bill in front of a Texas Senate committee.

Oklahoma is also considering a bill to protect the rights of pastors, and that bill passed the Oklahoma State House on a vote of 88–7. Many other states already have protections like those in the Pastor Protection Act in place—including Washington, D.C.; Connecticut; Delaware; Rhode Island; Vermont; and Washington.

Liberty Institute advised more than 13 states and the federal government on the wording of laws to protect religious liberty, and remains committed to defending the rights of Americans to freely express their religious beliefs and live out their faith in the public arena, as well as in the military, the school, and the church.

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

Thursday, June 25, 2015 11:22:00 AM

NOT ALONE: Reinforcements Support LCpl Monifa Sterling—Marine Court-Martialed over Bible Verse

Help for a Marine punished for her religious expression is coming from all directions—potentially leading to a major case in the nation’s highest military court.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed a friend-of-the-court brief (amicus brief) earlier this month in support of Lance Corporal (LCpl Monifa Sterling, who was court-martialed in May for displaying a Bible verse in her personal workspace.

But the help doesn’t stop there. While LCpl Sterling waits to hear if the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) will hear her case, more notable names are joining the battle for her religious freedom—including the Attorneys General of four other states who added a letter of support to Pruitt’s friend-of-the-court brief.


Friend-of-the-court briefs add strength and legitimacy to cases, offering a third-person perspective that can be influential in guiding the court’s decision. Oklahoma’s brief makes the important argument that denying LCpl Sterling’s right to free exercise of religion will detrimentally inhibit the freedom of military members and American citizens in the future—something affecting every state in the nation, and of special concern to the top law officers of those states.

“This is a rare and unprecedented event. All of the military legal experts I’ve consulted tell me they’ve never seen a friend-of-the-court brief like this before. And it is extremely important to have support from respected legal experts—like State Attorneys General—in cases like this one,” says Liberty Institute Director of Military Affairs and Senior Counsel Mike Berry. “I am confident that the friend-of-the-court brief filed by the State of Oklahoma will go a long way in positively influencing the decision of the court to hear LCpl Sterling’s case.”

Oklahoma isn’t alone in its defense of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and LCpl Sterling’s religious freedom—four other state Attorneys General added their names to the amicus curiae brief through a motion to attach a letter of support. They include Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt of Nevada, Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona, Attorney General Alan Wilson of South Carolina, and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey West Virginia.

Their letter of support states: “As our respective States’ chief legal officers who have sworn an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution, we are equally mindful of the fundamental importance of the rights guaranteed therein—including religious exercise, which Congress has further protected through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).” The addition of these State Attorneys General sends a clear message that religious freedom in the military is an issue of national concern.


The chain of events that triggered this legal groundswell of support began with seven words printed on three small pieces of paper.

While stationed at Camp Lejune, LCpl Sterling, a devout Christian of Haitian descent, noticed that other service members placed various personal items in their work spaces at the military base. So she decided to express herself as well in her workspace by displaying one of her favorite Bible verses.

LCpl Sterling printed the paraphrased words of Isaiah 54:17: “No weapons formed against me shall prosper.” But after taping it in three different places in her workspace, LCpl Sterling’s supervisor—who also happened to be her former drill instructor—ordered her to remove the Bible verse, cursing at her in the process. When LCpl Sterling asked why, her supervisor said, “I don’t like the tone.” The brave Marine explained it is her First Amendment right to display the Bible verse and declined to take them down. Moreover, no other person in the unit ever complained about the verse.

The next day, LCpl Sterling discovered that her supervisor tore down the Bible verse and threw it in the trash. Adding injury to insult, the U.S. Government charged LCpl Sterling with the crime of failing to obey a direct order because she did not remove the Bible verse, although the law specifically does not require her to obey an unlawful order.

“If a service member has a right to place a Bible on their desk, display a secular poster or put a bumper sticker on their car,” explains Berry, “then LCpl Sterling has the right to display a small Bible verse on her computer monitor.”


Upon hearing LCpl Sterling’s case, both the trial and the appellate court said RFRA did not apply because displaying a Bible verse does not constitute religious exercise. Liberty Institute refutes that claim, arguing that such interpretation of RFRA unconstitutionally limits the First Amendment right to freedom of religion. Oklahoma’s friend-of-the-court brief agrees:

“Its failure to recognize the breath of protection offered by RFRA and similar state statutes jeopardizes the religious protections intended by Congress.  Such precedent can have severe consequences to people of faith in the Marines, including those that are citizens of Oklahoma.”

Oklahoma’s brief further explains why the courts’ previous narrow interpretation of RFRA is problematic:

  • “[T]he court . . . appears to have taken the overly narrow view that ‘religious exercise’ for the purpose of RFRA includes only those practices which a court can objectively locate in a systematic set of rituals or beliefs, completely discounting the adherent’s subjective and personal reasons for the practice. But such an inquiry violates even the narrow protections of the First Amendment, in which courts are warned not to ‘question . . . the validity of particular litigants’ interpretations of [their] creeds’ or to ‘say that what is a religious practice or activity for one group is not religion under the protection of the First Amendment. . . .’”
  • “[T]he people of the State of Oklahoma, in passing the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act (ORFA), have subjected to strict scrutiny all government actions that ‘inhibit or curtail religiously motivated practice.’ OKLA. STAT. tit. 51, § 252(7). Thus, the common intent of state and federal RFRAs was to protect acts or practices that are ‘religiously motivated’ or ‘engaged in for religious reasons.’”
  • “There can be no question that LCpl Sterling’s placement of the Biblical quotes around her desk was, at least partially, ‘religiously motivated’ and done ‘for religious reasons.’ . . . It would be of little comfort to her that a man in Palestine 3,000 years ago said ‘no weapon formed against [her] shall prosper’ unless she believed, by faith, that this man was a prophet and this promise had personal application to her life. Isaiah 54:17. Even if these were merely ‘personal reminders’ of that truth (slip op. 9), she only believes that truth and seeks to reminder herself of it because of her faith. Her acts thus were for ‘religious reasons’ or ‘religiously motivated’ and within the purview of RFRA. Indeed, the Bible itself encourages similar acts, commanding the people of God to write His words ‘on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.’ Deuteronomy 6:9.
In closing, Oklahoma’s brief cautions that, should the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces refuse to review the case, “members of the Marines Corps, including many Oklahoma citizens, will be deprived of the religious freedom protections intended by Congress in RFRA.”


It is unconstitutional for the government to pick and choose what constitutes an expression of faith. Thankfully, five states have recognized that fact and have chosen to aid in supporting the rights of LCpl Sterling and all military men and women.

Learn more about service members’ right to freely express their faith according to The First Amendment, RFRA, and military code.

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

Thursday, June 25, 2015 11:21:00 AM

PUSHING BACK: Liberty Institute Responds to Humanists’ Attempt to Destroy WWI Veterans Memorial

This week, Liberty Institute and Jones Day, on behalf of The American Legion, filed a motion for summary judgment
  defending the historic Bladensburg, Maryland World War I Veterans Memorial. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, the motion is a response and cross-motion to last month’s attempt by the American Humanist Association (AHA) to have the memorial, which was erected by The American Legion in 1925, demolished, removed, or altered because it is in the shape of a cross.

“This monument was erected to honor the sons of Prince George’s County, Maryland who fell in the First World War. To see a group of humanists fight to demolish it, simply because they are offended by the memorial’s shape, is a disgrace,” said Jeff Mateer, General Counsel for Liberty Institute. “We hope the court will uphold the right to honor the County’s sons with this memorial and allow it to continue to stand in memory of the Bladensburg heroes.”

Liberty Institute and Jones Day represent The American Legion, The American Legion Department of Maryland, and The American Legion Post 131 of Colmar Manor, Maryland, in this matter.  


Last month, as part of their lawsuit challenging the historic Bladensburg, Maryland World War I Veterans Memorial, the American Humanist Association filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the Court, among other things, to order that the government remove the memorial from the property, completely demolish the memorial, or remove the “arms” of the memorial to make it a “non-religious slab or obelisk.”

In response, the motion filed by Liberty Institute and Jones Day asks the Court to uphold the constitutionality of the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial and rule against the humanist group’s lawsuit  Among the arguments in our motion:

  • An abundance of legal precedent supports the use of a cross shape as a proper memorial on government property.
  • Removing or altering this memorial would demonstrate the very hostility toward religion prohibited by the First Amendment
  • Tests used by the federal courts to uphold the First Amendment show that the Bladensburg Memorial is well within the requirements of the Constitution.

Two precedents cited include Van Orden v. Perry and Salazar v. Buono, cases in which Liberty Institute participated.  In Van Orden, the Supreme Court found that a Ten Commandments monument on the Texas Capitol grounds was constitutional.  In Salazar, the Court upheld the transfer to private ownership of the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial (like Bladensburg, in the shape of a cross) and a plurality of the Court explained that a WWI memorial in the shape of a cross raises no constitutional concerns.


According to an article by Richard Wilson published in in 1983, the Memorial Committee formed to raise money for the Memorial included ten mothers who had lost sons in the war. In 1920, Mrs. Martin Redman, the mother of the first sailor from the county to lose his life in World War I, became the treasurer for the committee. In a letter to Senator John Walter Smith, who had donated money for the cause, Mrs. Redman wrote:

By 1922, a local post of The American Legion took charge of the effort, and the Memorial was erected in 1925. It bears the names of 49 fallen servicemen from Prince George’s County, other commemorative words and dates, and a quote from President Woodrow Wilson:

The seal of The American Legion is prominently emblazoned on the two primary faces of the monument at the intersection of the cross arms, and the only other words inscribed on the memorial are “VALOR; ENDURANCE; COURAGE; DEVOTION” with one on each of the four sides of the monument.

Today, the Memorial sits in a public area amidst several other memorials commemorating other conflicts in American history and honoring those who served in them.


The Bladensburg, Maryland World War I Veterans Memorial case—or the similar Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial matter (also a Liberty Institute case)—could set precedent that either protects veterans memorials that use religious text or imagery or exposes them to further attack. Kelly Shackelford, Liberty Institute President and CEO, discusses this in his recent e-book, . (Click here to download your FREE copy of here.) Memorials affected by the outcomes of these cases could include the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the cross-shaped memorials at Arlington National Cemetery.

With a win rate of over 90%, Liberty Institute is committed to protect veterans memorials that honor the sacrifice and courage of America’s veterans and defend against attempts to scrub America of its religious heritage.

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

Thursday, June 18, 2015 2:10:00 PM

TEXAS PASSES PASTOR PROTECTION ACT: A First Step in Defending Religious Freedom for All

In a heartening triumph for religious liberty, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the Pastor Protection Act into law on Thursday, June 11 – a significant step in safeguarding the Constitutional rights of religious leaders, in light of  the U.S. Supreme Court’s impending decision regarding marriage.

While the passage of this law should be celebrated, it is by no means a final victory. The fact that additional laws must be enacted in order to protect religious liberty – the very first freedom guaranteed to Americans in the First Amendment – is alarming. Political and legal experts warn that much more must be done in order to truly protect religious freedom in an increasingly hostile society.


The Pastor Protection Act came as a much-needed response to an attack on five Houston pastors last October by the city government – namely a subpoena for all sermons referencing the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity) and homosexuality in general, among other things. Such infringement was an overt breach in the pastors’ freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Thanks to tireless help from the attorneys for Liberty Institute, the new Pastor Protection Act (SB 2065) ensures that: 
  • Pastors and churches may not be forced to perform a marriage or related ceremony that would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs;
  • Pastors and churches are safeguarded from having to live in fear that the government will force them to perform marriages that violate their religious beliefs; and
  • The rights of pastors and churches are respected to hold the biblical view of marriage.
Sponsored by Texas State Representatives Scott Sanford (R-McKinney), Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), Debbie Riddle (R-Houston), J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville), and Patricia Harless (R-Houston), the law  will go into effect on September 1 of this year.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the bill’s passing:

He continued, however, with an urgent call for action:


Pastors are not the only ones at risk – so are you. More cases of hostility toward religious freedom are documented every week. While it is wonderful that religious leaders in Texas now have a strong basis for legal protection against rising attacks from the radical left – it is time for you, your business, your friends in the military, and your children in school to have protection, as well.

In Attorney Gen. Paxton’s words:


Attorneys for the Liberty Institute have advised more than 13 states and the federal government to make sure that laws like the Pastor Protection Act have maximum sturdiness against challenges by those who oppose religious freedom.. These are laws that will make it easier to win in the ongoing battle for religious freedom.

Other states currently considering similar bills to Texas’ Pastor Protection Act include Oklahoma, where the bill recently passed their State House on a vote of 88-7. Additionally, many states already have the protections that Texas is considering in place—including Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C.

Liberty Institute is prepared and available to help people of faith in sectors of society in the fight to defend religious freedom. We will continue to speak out in support of pastors, clergy members, and people like you.

Paxton said on Thursday.

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

Thursday, June 18, 2015 2:08:00 PM

IT’S MORE THAN MARRIAGE: What’s really at risk if the Supreme Court redefines a millennia-old institution?

By the end of June, the United States Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in a case challenging the constitutionality of state laws that define marriage as between one man and one woman. Depending on the Court’s ruling, the case could have ramifications for the religious liberty and free speech rights of millions of Americans who hold the time-honored, millennia-old view that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman.


In a friend-of-the-court brief ( brief) filed in April on behalf of many prominent Christian leaders and organizations,Liberty Institute warned the Supreme Court about the danger to religious liberty posed by a ruling requiring nationwide recognition of same-sex marriage. In its opening summary, Liberty Institute’s brief noted that the government has already attempted to silence those who hold traditional beliefs about marriage, then stated:

As cited by the brief, Americans from various walks of life have already experienced persecution for expressing their sincerely-held religious beliefs on marriage and sexuality, including pastors, members of the military, university students, a leading health administrator, and a fire chief.

In addition, during the oral arguments for at the U.S. Supreme Court on April 28, 2015 (which Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer attended and described in his eyewitness account published in a previous edition of ), the Obama Administration’s U.S. Solicitor General admitted that the tax-exempt status of colleges and universities who hold a traditional view of marriage could be at risk. In response to Justice Alito’s question about the tax-exempt status of schools which oppose same-sex marriage, the Solicitor General said:

Assessing the implications of a decision imposing a redefinition of marriage, Liberty Institute President & CEO Kelly Shackelford gives a list of the dominoes that could fall.  He recently stated, “Here’s just some of what could be at risk:

  • Tax-exempt status will probably be attacked nationwide.
  • Christian colleges and schools accreditation will be attacked.
  • Faith-based adoption of foster care providers will be attacked
  • Federal contractors and grantees including those with loans at religious schools will be attacked.
  • Religious staffing at faith-based organizations will be attacked.
  • Those in the military that don’t follow the new agenda will be attacked.
  • Those in cities and counties, employees at all government levels will now be attacked.
  • Faith-based businesses, as we’ve already seen, will be attacked.
  • Numerous federal laws have triggers in them which will now swing into effect. This includes employment laws, housing, the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, the Federal Communications Commission, and more.  All could be areas for attacking religious belief.
  • Licenses to even be in a profession will be a target. I don’t know how quickly, but it will be under attack.”
He concludes, “This is going to be a direct attack on religious freedom everywhere in the country and no one will escape it.”

The Supreme Court’s decision comes at a crucial time for religious liberty in America. In his recent e-book, Shackelford warned that America is at a “tipping point” for religious liberty, predicting that religious freedom will be either saved or lost within the next five years—with much of the result dependent on how people of faith respond.

He asks, What if we don’t stand? What if America tips the wrong way on this issue? What if the next few years or so don’t go well? For people of faith, especially Christians, We could slide into the beginning of totalitarianism.”

But even more than religious freedom is at stake.

“People in other countries can testify,” writes Shackelford, “that if you lose your religious freedom, you will lose all your freedoms. Why? Because of the powerful truth stated in the Declaration of Independence: rights are endowed by a Creator, which is a higher power.

“Governments are a lower power. They are instituted to secure the rights given by the Creator, and governments are thus accountable to that Creator. That’s why religious liberty is the ‘First Freedom’ listed in the Constitution. But if the Creator is downgraded by the diminishing of religious rights, then government has set itself up as the ‘higher power’—government has replaced God as the origin of rights—and can redefine or remove your rights as it pleases.”

Religious freedom is like a circuit board which wires our entire system of legal rights. And the secularists in power are trying to short out that circuit board—usually for gains driven by whatever interest group holds the spotlight. With ObamaCare, it’s the issue of forcing pro-life religious citizens to provide for abortion through insurance coverage for life-terminating drugs. In other cases it’s gay rights. But these interest groups are so intensely focused on ‘their issue’ that they don’t understand the peril to the entire country if they were to destroy religious freedom. Eventually, all rights, including theirs, would be at risk.”


Yet that is what is being tested in the Supreme Court marriage decision, its aftermath, and other controversies raging across the legal and cultural landscape: the survival of religious liberty and the future of political and economic liberty. 

The question leads Shackelford to a pointed challenge to people of faith: “Will we stand, or will we allow secularists, manipulating government and special interest groups, to overturn our foundation of religious liberty and crown government as God, thus hanging a capricious sword over everyone’s rights?

“If that does happen, your church will be no refuge. People used to say, ‘Well they would never force ministers to violate their beliefs in the United States, right?’ People said, ‘We might disagree on gay marriage or abortion, but we would never force ministers to marry gay couples?’”

Yet as Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out in the oral arguments of that last question is now squarely on the table. Indeed, the entire concept of religious freedom is what is now on the table and different cases are going to test whether the secular elites can get rid of it.

The good news? Shackelford points out that enough legal precedent and federal and state laws still exist—no matter what the Supreme Court rules—to save religious liberty if people of faith stand up and challenge attacks on their freedoms.  But now is the time to stand.

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

Thursday, June 18, 2015 10:41:00 AM

UPDATE: Liberty Institute Files Formal Military Complaint Against Navy Chaplain’s Commanding Officer

In the ongoing battle to obtain full exoneration of U.S. Navy Chaplain Wes Modder, so he may continue ministering to sailors and Marines and fulfill his duty of service, Liberty Institute filed an Article 138 complaint—a formal military grievance—against Captain (CAPT) Jon R. Fahs this week.

CAPT Fahs, who is Chaplain Modder’s commanding officer at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command in Goose Creek, South Carolina, requested the chaplain be detached for cause (the military equivalent of being fired), removed from the promotion list, and sent to a Board of Inquiry (where he could be involuntarily forced out of the Navy).

Why? Because of the complaints from a very small number of military personnel who did not agree with Chaplain Modder’s traditional, Biblical views—which he expressed in answer to their questions about faith, family, and marriage—during private counseling sessions.  Liberty Institute is currently defending Chaplain Modder against these potentially career-ending threats. 

In March, Liberty Institute also submitted a request for a religious accommodation on behalf of Chaplain Modder. The request asked CAPT Fahs to permit Chaplain Modder to continue to perform his chaplain duties in accordance with his sincerely held religious beliefs, and the Biblical teachings of his endorsing denomination.  Incredibly, CAPT Fahs denied this request (Watch Chaplain Modder and Liberty Institute President & CEO Kelly Shackelford talk more about this in an interview on yesterday morning).

In his denial, CAPT Fahs relied on outdated and obsolete Navy policies. He disregarded federal laws and military regulations that protect chaplains’ religious freedom. The Article 138 complaint seeks to reverse and correct CAPT Fahs’ denial of Chaplain Modder’s religious accommodation request.

“We hope that by filing this Article 138 complaint,” says Liberty Institute Director of Military Affairs Mike Berry, “the U.S. Navy will agree that CAPT Fahs’ denial of the chaplain’s religious accommodation request is a blatant violation of the chaplain’s religious liberties.”


All service members have the right under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to file an Article 138 complaint. Article 138 of the UCMJ allows for:

In the Article 138 complaint, sent to Admiral John M. Richardson, Director of Naval Reactors, Liberty Institute lists three specific requests it is asking the U.S. Navy to consider regarding CAPT Fahs’ denial of Chaplain Modder’s religious accommodation request:

REQUEST #1: Reverse CAPT Fahs’ denial of Chaplain Modder’s religious accommodation request.

Chaplain Modder requested a religious accommodation to express his sincerely held religious beliefs during pastoral counseling sessions with service members. Chaplain Modder submitted the request in order to protect his rights under Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Navy (DON) regulations. CAPT Fahs’ denial of Chaplain Modder’s request for religious accommodation is unconstitutional, and violates federal law and military regulations.

Chaplain Modder’s religious expression is consistent with the doctrinal tenets of the Assemblies of God, his endorsing denomination. Accordingly, the Navy must accommodate his expression unless it can demonstrate a compelling governmental interest that is implemented by the least restrictive means. Because there is no compelling interest in censoring a chaplain’s religious expression during religious ministry, the Navy must accommodate.

REQUEST #2: Conduct an investigation to determine if CAPT Fahs’ actions or threatened actions violate any federal laws or military regulations and take appropriate action should violations be uncovered.

Under the Constitution, Department of Defense and Navy regulations, denial of Chaplain Modder’s request for accommodation constitutes religious discrimination in the Navy, and it is unlawful.

In Secretary of the Navy Instruction 1730.8B, Navy policy is to “accommodate the doctrinal or traditional observances of the religious faith practiced by individual members when those doctrines or observances will not have an adverse impact on military readiness, individual or unit readiness, unit cohesion, safety, discipline, or mission accomplishment.”

Department of Defense Instruction (DODI) 1300.17, provides that “unless it could have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline, the Military Departments will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs. . . .”

Like DODI 1300.17, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)prohibits the Navy from substantially burdening Chaplain Modder’s sincerely held religious beliefs without a compelling interest. Because it is a federal statute, a violation of RFRA is a legal cause of action, potentially exposing the Navy to civil liability.

REQUEST #3: Implement remedial measures within the appropriate Navy commands to ensure these violations do not occur again.

CAPT Fahs’ denial of Chaplain Modder’s religious accommodation request is unsupported by law, and violates federal law and military regulations. It is also inconceivable that a chaplain whom CAPT Fahs described as establishing the “clear benchmark” for the Professional Naval Chaplaincy could somehow be unfit for duty as a chaplain .

Failure to remedy these violations may also result in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Under the APA, a federal agency’s failure to follow its own regulations is reviewable by a federal court. CAPT Fahs did not follow DOD and Navy regulations. The Navy’s failure to remedy those violations may give rise to a cause of action under the APA, which could be reviewed in federal court.


Chaplain Modder, who holds a Doctorate in Military Ministry, has a stellar record which includes assignment as Force Chaplain for Naval Special Warfare Commandand service to elite forces such as DEVGRU (SEAL Team Six) and other Navy SEAL teams. Ironically, because he personified its core values, the Navy also featured Chaplain Modder earlier in his career in a recruiting video for chaplainsin which he explained the spiritual nature of the guidance he was privileged to offer.

Now, 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.

But the law is on the side of Chaplain Modder—and all chaplains and service members of the U.S. Military who want to exercise their faith. With the filing of Article 138, Liberty Institute is confident the U.S. Navy will be compelled to closely inspect CAPT Fahs’ unlawful actions against Chaplain Modder, and fully exonerate the chaplain so he can return to meeting the spiritual needs of his fellow service members.

Other stories:

Supreme Court Rules AGAINST Abercrombie & Fitch for Refusing to Hire Employee to Avoid Accommodating a Religious Practice

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

Thursday, June 11, 2015 12:18:00 PM

Supreme Court Rules AGAINST Abercrombie & Fitch for Refusing to Hire Employee to Avoid Accommodating a Religious Practice

In , last week the United States Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in favor of a Muslim woman, Samantha Elauf, whothe retailer Abercrombie & Fitch failed to hire because of her hijab—a religious head scarf required for modesty purposes which she wore because of, and in adherence to, her religious beliefs.

Elauf had interviewed for a model position at an Abercrombie & Fitch retail store in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After her initial interview, she would have been hired, but a district manager objected that Elauf wore a hijab.

The young woman filed a federal complaint due to Abercrombie & Fitch’s failure to hire her, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s initial decision for Elauf and instead ruled in Abercrombie & Fitch’s favor.


The Supreme Court reversed this judgment in its ruling and in its opinion, delivered by Justice Antonin Scalia, said that “The Tenth Circuit misinterpreted Title VII’s requirements in granting summary judgment.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that it is against the law for an employer:

"(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

(2) to limit segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” 42 U.S.C. §2000e-2(a)."

Additionally in the opinion, Justice Scalia noted that the Court disagreed with Abercrombie & Fitch’s argument “that an applicant cannot show disparate treatment without first showing that an employer had ‘actual knowledge’ of the applicant’s need for an accommodation.” Instead, Scalia explained, “an applicant need only show that his need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer’s decision.”

Moreover, Justice Scalia importantly stated: “Title VII does not demand mere neutrality with regard to religious practices—that they be treated no worse than other practices. Rather, it gives them favored treatment. . . .”


As hostility toward religion continues to grow across America, religious liberty in the workplace will continue to be a major area of emphasis for Liberty Institute. People of faith are asking more questions than ever before concerning what kind of religious expression is allowed in their places of employment—and to what extent. And that’s why employees and employers must know they have rights and what ispermissible.

Consider these important facts about faith in the workplace . . .

·      You cannot discriminate on the basis of religion.

This means religion cannot be used as a factor in hiring decisions, promotions, or treatment of employees.

·      You do not lose your religious liberty rights by engaging in business.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the case quashes the notion that Americans lose their religious rights by engaging in business. The case affirmed that all Americans—including business owners—have the rights to live and work according to their beliefs without fear of government compelling them to violate those beliefs. Perhaps most importantly, the Supreme Court ruled that courts are to question whether or not a religious belief is reasonable, meaning that your sincerely held religious beliefs are yours alone.

·      A business can be run on religious principles.

An employer does not discriminate on the basis of religion by affirming the faith of its owners in business objectives, and business owners are not required to abandon their faith when setting principles and ethics for their company. A business person of faith is free to run his or her business according to the ethics they have learned via religious instruction.

·      You may engage in religious speech in the workplace.

Employers can talk to employees about faith, so long as faith is not a requirement for continued employment or advancement within the company. Employers cannot, however, take adverse action against an employee for disagreeing with their religious views.

·      You may have prayer meetings and Bible studies in the workplace.

Employers are allowed to hold prayer meetings in the workplace, so long as attendance is not mandatory. Notices about these meetings should clearly say so, and the meetings are best held before or after work, or during breaks.

·      You may have employee training based on Biblical principles.

Employers are allowed to use training programs that are Biblically or faith-based. For example, an employer could require an employee to attend a management seminar that uses scriptural references as a part of its training. However, employees cannot be required to undergo religious training, participate in religious services or religious activities, or engage in behavior that would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.

·      You may be headed for a collision between your religious freedom and the new cultural orthodoxy.

Liberty Institute is currently representing several clients whose religious liberties have been compromised in workplace discrimination cases. Each of these cases points to a growing hostility toward employees’ religious rights in the workplace. Even though the law is on the side of religious liberty—as seen in the facts above and the Supreme Court’s ruling in —the rise of a “politically correct” corporate culture has made it necessary to have courageous people of faith willing to stand for their rights against discriminators, and expert lawyers ready to defend them. 


Liberty Institute will continue fighting against injustices in the workplace—and others like them—and is currently taking strong legal action in the following religious discrimination cases:

·      Former college football and NFL star and sports broadcaster Craig James was recently terminated by FOX Sports from his on-air position because of his religious beliefs concerning marriage. James expressed these views outside of the workplace during a U.S. Senate debate prior to working for FOX Sports.

·      Former editor-in-chief of Bob Eschliman was terminated for comments made on his personal blog about Scripture and the institution of marriage.

·      Dr. Eric Walsh, former Pasadena Director of Public Health, was offered a job by the Georgia Department of Health that was quickly withdrawn when the State reviewed sermons Dr. Walsh made in his church.

Other stories:

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

Thursday, June 11, 2015 12:17:00 PM

VICTORY! Federal Court Grants Family-Owned, Faith-Based Car Dealership Permanent Relief from HHS Abortion Pill Mandate

You wouldn’t know it from the media, but legal victories for religious liberty continue to pile up, despite a massive war raging across the nation. One of the areas of victory continues to be the push back against Washington’s attempt to force family businesses to violate their religious convictions for the sanctity of human life.

Last week, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia entered a permanent injunction in favor of Joe Holland Chevrolet in its legal challenge to the federal government’s Abortion Pill Mandate. The injunction permanently protects Joe Holland and his business, Joe Holland Chevrolet, a family-owned, faith-based car dealership in South Charleston, West Virginia, from being required to provide abortion-inducing drugs to employees. And, it prevents the federal government from punishing Joe Holland for obeying his conscience.

The Court’s ruling reaffirms the constitutional principle that every American is free to live and work according to their beliefs, without fear of punishment by their government,” said Jeff Mateer, Liberty Institute General Counsel. The government should never coerce faith-based, for-profit businessmen to violate their religious beliefs.”


In 2013, Joe Holland Chevrolet, represented by Liberty Institute,the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, and Robinson & McElwee, PLLC, filed a lawsuit against the federal government’s Abortion Pill Mandate.

The mandate, which was issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services after the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “ObamaCare,” requires organizations to provide coverage of FDA-approved contraceptives, including some abortifacients (drugs that chemically destroy a developing human life), to employees. The mandate applies to organizations with more than fifty employees or those who employ fewer than fifty people but still provide group health insurance. It exempts only churches, church denominations, and church auxiliaries.

That put Joe Holland in a bind. Joe Holland Chevrolet is a family-owned and operated car dealership with over 150 employees. In addition, Joe Holland is committed to running the business in accordance with his Christian faith. For example, the dealership is closed on Sunday, and its website states that the dealership’s purpose is “to glorify and honor God by being faithful stewards for all that is entrusted to us.”  

In an affidavit attached to the lawsuit, Holland wrote:

Yet, without the injunctive relief granted by last week’s ruling, Joe Holland Chevrolet would have faced penalties imposed by the federal government of over $15,000 per day (or more than $5.4 million each year) for failing to provide his employees with abortion-inducing drugs.

In last summer’s ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal government could not force closely-held businesses to comply with the Abortion Pill Mandate against their religious beliefs. Left unresolved by the ruling are cases in which the government continues to insist that non-profit religious ministries violate their beliefs in participating in the provision of objectionable contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

Liberty Institute’s non-profit clients who are challenging the Abortion Pill Mandate and its so-called “religious accommodation” include:

  • Insight for Living MinistriesIn October 2014, Liberty Institute filed a federal lawsuit seeking relief from the mandate on behalf of Insight for Living Ministries—the international Bible teaching ministry of Dr. Charles R. Swindoll. In November 2014, the federal court granted a preliminary injunction from the mandate, protecting Insight for Living Ministries from fines of $100 per day per employee while the case makes its way through the court system. However, the federal government now seeks to have that temporary protection revoked.

  • Christian Missionary Alliance (CMA) Retirement Communities and CollegesLiberty Institute represents several ministries affiliated with the CMA denomination, including Shell Point Retirement Community, The Alliance Community for Retirement Living, Chapel Pointe at Carlisle, Town and Country Manor, Crown College, and Simpson University. In February 2015, a U.S. District judge granted injunctive relief to these ministries—but the Department of Justice appealed that decision and asked the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to overturn the district court’s relief. Liberty Institute continues to defend the religious liberty of each of these ministries in court and on appeal.

The largest legal organization solely dedicated to restoring religious liberty in America, Liberty Institute remains committed to defending the rights of faith-based ministries and religious non-profits—and business owners—so that people of faith are not forced by their government to violate their religious conscience and abandon their sincerely-held religious beliefs. 

Other stories:

Remember Their D-Day Faith This Saturday

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

Thursday, June 04, 2015 11:07:00 AM

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