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PUBLIC RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION UNDER FIRE! Rowan County Appeals Lawsuit Over Prayer Before Commissioners’ Meetings




This week, along with The Gibbs Law Firm and Alliance Defending Freedom, Liberty Institute and its high-profile volunteer attorney—Allyson Ho, the only female lawyer who has argued two cases in the last Supreme Court of the United States’ term—filed a brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the case of , defending the right of the Rowan County, North Carolina commissioners to open their meetings in prayer after the prayer was challenged by The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“PART OF OUR HERITAGE AND TRADITION”

For many years, the Rowan County Commissioners opened their meetings with legislation prayer—an activity, as described by Supreme Court Justice Kennedy in his opinion in that“has become part of our heritage and tradition, part of our expressive idiom, similar to the Pledge of Allegiance, inaugural prayer, or the recitation of ‘God save the United States and this honorable Court’ at the opening of this Court’s sessions.”

Rowan County allowed each commissioner, on a rotating basis, an opportunity to offer an invocation or lead a moment of silence at the beginning of each commissioners’ session—which also includes a call to order and the Pledge of Allegiance. Each commissioner decided whether to open with a moment of silence or a prayer (of which the content was also his or her decision). No one was required to participate in the invocation. They could remain seated, leave the room, or arrive after invocation.

But in March 2013 on behalf of three Rowan County resident, the ACLU objected to the invocations. After a two-year legal battle, a federal court ruled that the Rowan County Board of Commissioners violated the Constitution with their prayer practice before meetings. Liberty Institute and its allied attorneys are now appealing this ruling.

“We are honored that someone of Allyson Ho’s reputation and accomplishment is leading this appeal for our client,” says Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute Deputy Chief Counsel. “Her extensive experience before the United States Supreme Court is impressive and extremely helpful on this issues.”

Ms. Ho is nationally recognized as a “superstar appellate lawyer” as noted in After earning a Ph.D. from Rice University and a J.D. from University of Chicago Law School, Ms. Ho clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and currently serves on the bipartisan Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee. Most recently, Ms. Ho served as lead counsel in Liberty Institute’s successful defense of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego, California.

LEGISLATIVE PRAYERS DO OFFEND THE ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE

In its 52-page brief, Liberty Institute asserts that the legislative prayers offered by the county commissioners do not offend the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment under and but resolve this case and require a reversal.

·      In 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Nebraska Legislature’s practice of opening its sessions with prayer by a chaplain paid by the State did not violate the Establishment Clause.

·      —In 1984, the United States Supreme Court ruled that governmental bodies may open their meetings in prayer—delivered by local, volunteer clergy—without violating the Establishment Clause, including prayers with specific religious references.

Liberty Institute applies the rulings of these two cases further in three key points of its argument:

1.     Opening legislative meetings with prayer violate the Establishment Clause.

The plaintiffs challenged the contents of the prayers that opened and solemnized the Rowan County Commission’s meetings. But the Supreme Court, in , held that opening town meetings with faith-specific prayers does not violate the Establishment Clause. Once the Supreme Court decided , this should have been an easy case to resolve in Rowan County’s favor. The district court reversibly erred in concluding that Rowan County’s legislative prayer practice falls outside of and merely because legislators deliver the prayers. As the Supreme Court explained in it is perfectly permissible for legislative prayer to “reflect the values [legislators] hold as private citizens,” and “an opportunity for them to show who and what they are.”

2.    The county’s legislative prayers do not fall outside of and and cannot be viewed as “coercive.”

In the Supreme Court clarified that legislative prayers are constitutional so long as they do not “over time” show that the invocations “denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation, or preach conversion” … The district court did not identify a single prayer—let alone a of prayers —that denigrate[d] nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten[ed] damnation, or preach[ed] conversion.” … Plaintiffs were simply asked to stand for the opening ceremony—including the invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance—and, as Justice Kennedy anticipated in , and the record establishes here, plaintiffs were not required to participate in the invocation.

3.     and affirm a tradition of legislative prayer.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in quotes and asserts that “‘in light of the unambiguous and unbroken history of more than 200 years, there can be no doubt that the practice of opening legislative sessions with a prayer has become part of the fabric of our society.’” The Rowan County commissioners’ opening prayers are part of the tradition of legislative prayer affirmed in and and the district court’s contrary judgment should be reversed. Any other result requires the banning of prayer proclamations by all elected officials, including mayors, governors and the President of the United States.

FIGHTING BACK AGAINST INCREASING ANTI-FAITH EFFORTS

The law is on the side of religious freedom, and that’s why Liberty Institute wants to help Rowan County commissioners and other localities fight back and win the battle to protect public religious expressions of faith—including, among others:

·      Public prayer before government meetings
·      The display of Ten Commandments and Nativity scenes or menorahs on public and private property
·      The use of “In God We Trust” in government buildings and documents





Public prayer is as old as America—and part of American life. Please consider a donation to help defend public prayer in this important case and others. It makes a difference. Thank you!



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

Friday, July 31, 2015 10:39:00 AM

RESOLVED: Shaw Media, Bob Eschliman Reach Settlement Honoring Religious Liberty




This week, Liberty Institute announced that their client, Bob Eschliman, and Shaw Media amicably resolved an employment dispute with a confidential settlement agreement. The settlement follows Eschliman’s termination from the over a year ago.

Bob Eschliman released the following statement upon the resolution of this matter without resorting to litigation:


Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel for Liberty Institute and attorney for Eschliman, said: “Shaw Media showed true leadership in respecting free speech and religious liberty in the resolution to this matter. Our client is very happy with the outcome and appreciates the manner in which Shaw Media resolved this dispute. Religious liberty in the workplace is an important issue in our nation today.”

He added, “Companies who find themselves in similar situations should follow Shaw Media’s good example in resolving these situations in an amicable manner.”

HOW IT ALL STARTED

As Liberty Institute’s newsletter previously reported, Bob Eschliman is an award-winning journalist who had worked for thein Newton, Iowa as the Editor-in-Chief since 2012. Eschliman had begun a personal blog before his employment with the newspaper on which he shared his own personal thoughts, and he made his employer aware of his blog. Last spring, Eschliman wrote a post on his personal blog defending his religious views regarding Holy Scripture and the institution of marriage.

But, a public outcry eventually led to Bob’s dismissal from his position as editor-in-chief of the .  In an editorial published the next day, the president of Shaw Media, who is also the owner of the , explained that Bob had been terminated because of the opinion he expressed on his personal blog, calling into question his ability to lead the .

In July 2014, Liberty Institute, along with volunteer attorney Matthew Whitaker—a former United States Attorney and partner in the Des Moines law firm of Whitaker, Hagenow, & Gustoff, LLP—filed an official charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of Eschliman. The charge before the EEOC was dismissed prior to last week’s settlement.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN THE WORKPLACE

In July 2014, a newspaper columnist wrote an op-ed implying that journalists with Christian views—like Eschliman—might not be able to approach stories objectively and should leave the secular world of journalism.

In a response published in the same newspaper the next month, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys and volunteer attorney Matthew Whitaker defended religious liberty. They cited the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a law which protects Americans from unlawful religious discrimination.

Despite laws protecting religious liberty, attitudes of religious discrimination in the workplace are on the rise. Other Liberty Institute clients include:

  • Dr. Eric Walsh—A public health official with an exemplary career, Dr. Walsh was hired by the Georgia Department of Public Health, but was
    terminated after State employees watched videos of several sermons that Dr. Walsh delivered in his church. 

  • Craig James—A TV sports analyst, James was terminated when his employer learned he had publically expressed his religious beliefs concerning marriage.

  • Walt Tutka—Tutka, a teacher, was fired for quietly giving a Bible to a student upon the student’s request. In December 2014, the EEOC found that Tutka was discriminated against by his employer.

However, Americans in the workplace—including employees, employers, and business owners—do have religious liberty rights. Liberty Institute has produced a FREE downloadable resource, titled “7 Things Every Business Person of Faith Should Know,”which informs and equips people of faith in the business world to know their rights and freely exercise their faith at work.






One of the most important battles for religious liberty today is securing the legal rights of people of faith in the workplace—outstanding Americans such as Bob Eschliman. Liberty Institute provides such clients with some of the best lawyers in America . Please give a donation to celebrate this victory . . . and to help defend  men and women of faith. Thank you!




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

Friday, July 31, 2015 9:35:00 AM

WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION: Media Coverage Swells after Liberty Institute Client Sues Ford Motor Company




The story of a man who was unlawfully fired for expressing his religious beliefs is gaining national coverage after Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit on his behalf earlier this month. The lawsuit alleges that a corporate giant and one of its contracting companies violated clear federal and state laws prohibiting religious discrimination against employees.

“We are hopeful that all Americans, both employers and employees, will become aware that the law protects the sincerely-held religious beliefs of employees,” said Jeff Mateer, General Counsel for Liberty Institute. “Employees don’t leave behind their religious liberty rights when they enter the workplace, and employers must respect these legal rights or face consequences.”

The media coverage involves Mr. Thomas Banks, who worked for Ford Motor Company and one of its contracting companies, Rapid Global Business Solutions.   Mr. Banks was fired last August after respectfully expressing his sincerely-held religious views in his comment in an online, intra-company forum. Little did he know that exercising his First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and free speech would cost him his job.

While the story is appalling, it is not isolated. Cases like this are now catching the attention of news outlets—and stirring the indignation of Americans everywhere.

MEDIA COVERAGE EXPLODES

Since the lawsuit was filed earlier this month, the story has resulted in abundant media coverage from news outlets across the nation. Here’s what some of these sources are saying about the case:

·       Mitch Albom, a local talk radio show host on WJR 760AM in Detroit, Mich., asked his listeners whether they agreed with the termination. The general consensus among the callers was that it was unjustified.

“If you don’t want people to complain about something, why are you having a comment section?”Albom asked, referencing the space at the bottom of the company’s article specifically intended for employers’ discourse. “It just seems weird to me that you can actually be let go for that [commenting].”

·       Patch.com covered the story, quoting the lawsuit:




·       WTSP.com, a news website in Tampa Bay, Fla., shared the story from




 UNLAWFUL DISCRIMINATION EXPOSED

On behalf of Mr. Banks, Liberty Institute—along with our volunteer attorney in Michigan, Timothy Denney—filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on January 28, 2015, charging Ford Motor Company and Rapid Global Business Solutions with religious discrimination and retaliation after the company fired Mr. Banks based on his religious beliefs. 

On July 10, with Liberty Institute and attorney Timothy Denney of Rickard, Denney, Garno and Associates by his side, Mr. Banks filed suit against his former employers.

“We are disappointed that Ford Motor Company terminated an employee solely because he expressed his faith to the company in a forum where input was solicited,” said Cleve Doty, Liberty Institute Counsel“Despite federal law protecting religious employees, Ford punished an employee for his beliefs rather than encouraging a truly diverse workplace where, like America, employees are free to express a wide range of religious and personal beliefs. At Ford, if you speak about your faith, you may be terminated—at least until Ford is held accountable."

DISCRIMINATION NOT WORTH IT

This incident is just one in a line of instances of competent employees being stripped of their jobs because they expressed their religious beliefs. But each is a And the employers who have stepped outside the law are being opposed by expert attorneys, putting employers on the defense for their discriminatory actions:

·      Dr. Eric Walsh– A respected health official terminated by the Georgia Health Department for religious beliefs expressed in his church.  Liberty Institute filed an EEOC complaint and has exposed embarrassing emails showing unlawful discrimination. We expect to win for Dr. Walsh.  

·      Craig James – A sportscaster fired by FOX Sports Southwest for his religious beliefs regarding traditional marriage. Liberty Institute subjected company executives to grueling interrogation, revealing damaging contradictions. Preparation of further legal action is under way.

·      Bob Eschliman – An award-winning newspaper editor from Iowa fired for expressing his religious belief on his personal blog. Liberty Institute is aggressively pursuing legal action against a media company for their clear violation of law.  

Employers are finding that engaging in religious discrimination is unwise from both a legal and public relations standpoint. And employees are being made aware that they that can be defended, and that good lawyers and even the media will be interested when those rights are violated.

It’s part of the ongoing struggle to sustain America as a place where people of faith are welcomed in the workplace according to the law, and recognized for the immense contributions they bring.  





Other stories:


Mt. Soledad Is Saved. So Why Am I Worried?



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

Friday, July 24, 2015 8:05:00 AM

Mt. Soledad Is Saved. So Why Am I Worried?
by Christopher Corbett



If my atheist dad were still alive, this would be a good week for him. That’s because one of his favorite landmarks—the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross—has been saved. With the transfer of the site to the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association (MSMA), it is now permanently protected from demolition after 25 years of hair-raising attempts to remove it, including efforts by my father’s fellow atheists.

Our middle-class house in San Diego sat on the edge of a suburban plateau under the memorial. It was about two miles away, and our family enjoyed sitting on the back patio peering out at the distant lighted memorial at twilight. Yes, my dad was an atheist, but he loved that cross.

My dad loved the memorial cross because he was a veteran—a WWII B29 tail gunner, though the war ended before he saw action—and the cross was part of a place dedicated to veterans in a military town. He loved it because it reminded him of sacrifice, patriotism, and nobility. He loved it because it was part of the cultural and physical heritage of San Diego, which had been settled by Spanish missionaries planting crosses. To him, taking down the cross would have been like taking down the mountain itself—a violation of community identity.

He was irritated when the first attacks on the memorial began. He died shortly thereafter, but I know he would have been shocked to witness the relentless lava flow of intolerance that flares up from well-funded special interests whenever with religious connections has to do with the government.

A SECULAR INQUISITION TO GAIN A SECULAR AMERICA

It’s stunning. If a simple prayer is offered before a town meeting, they darkly warn that the First Amendment is all but revoked—even though America’s founders offered hours of prayers If a veterans memorial is found to exist having a traditional religious symbol of sacrifice, secular activists sound the alarm as if the Spanish Inquisition is back in session—even though our tolerant founders allowed various kinds of religious imagery in public locations.

So the secularists started their own Inquisition. In 2010, the ACLU was at the U.S. Supreme Court trying to tear down a solemn veterans memorial cross in the Mojave Desert. Liberty Institute recruited some of the best lawyers in the nation—working at no charge because of their love of country—to stop them. Now Liberty Institute and its volunteer attorneys have staved off ACLU attempts to scrape the “offensive” veterans memorial cross off the face of Mount Soledad. Once again, an embattled veterans memorial with a cross will still stand.

Why, then, am I worried? Because the secular Inquisitors aren’t finished. Right now, lawyers for the American Humanist Association are suing to tear down a historic veterans memorial in the shape of a cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, erected with funds by mothers of men who died in World War I. Good grief. But no matter—the Inquisitors want it gone, so once again Liberty Institute has recruited a top law firm to defend a veterans memorial with religious imagery.

Similar groups have attacked the cross memorial at Ground Zero. Attacked a Vietnam memorial cross in the Pacific Northwest. If and sets a precedent, what happens to the Argonne Cross at Arlington Cemetery? Or Arlington’s Canadian Cross of Sacrifice? Or the phrase, “Known But to God” on the Tomb of the Unknowns? It’s all “religion” on government land. One bad precedent and they could topple like bowling pins.

YES, THE WORST CAN HAPPEN

Want a scary thought? The litigious Freedom From Religion Foundation has even criticized the predominance of crosses and Stars of David marking graves at the American-owned Normandy WWII Cemetery at the site of D-Day. Do they have visions of rolling a strike over that hallowed ground?

Please don’t say, “It could never happen.” Earlier this year, a prominent liberal legal group intimidated the city of King, North Carolina to remove a Vietnam veterans memorial because it contained religious imagery. In the Mojave case, a federal judge had pad-locked over the large memorial cross, and only a narrow 5-4 vote at the Supreme Court liberated it. And twice, the Mt. Soledad Memorial was ordered taken down. Losing the case could have been the domino that toppled many other memorials and erased religious symbols from our public landscape.

But this week, I’m sure my late father—the atheist, the veteran, the patriot—would be celebrating the victory keeping in place the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross. And he would be urging others to stand in the boots of those who can no longer fight by helping preserve the memorials built for their honor.







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 www.LibertyInstitute.org.

Friday, July 24, 2015 8:05:00 AM

VICTORY: Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross Saved from Being Torn Down




This week, the U.S. government sold the historic Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego, CA to our client, the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association (MSMA). The sale of the memorial and its surrounding land should end a long legal dispute regarding the constitutionality of the memorial on government land.

Liberty Institute Deputy Chief Counsel Hiram Sasser said, “The Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross has stood since 1954 as a symbol of the selfless sacrifice of our nation’s veterans. Such a sacred memorial should receive our highest honor and protection. Today’s actions will ensure that the memorial will continue to stand in honor of our veterans for decades to come. This is a great victory for the veterans who originally placed this memorial and the Korean War veterans the memorial honors. We thank our lead counsel, Allyson Ho, and her team at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, who worked tirelessly to defend the memorial, leading to this ultimate victory.” 

LEGAL STORM DESCENDS ON PEACEFUL MOUNT

The Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial is the first Korean War Veterans Memorial on U.S. soil. Standing high on an 800-foot hilltop in San Diego, California, it includes a 29-foot cross with a plaque identifying it as a veterans memorial. The memorial is surrounded by large granite walls that display photos and names of America’s veterans, along with various and diverse religious and secular symbols. Over 3,500 Americans are honored—including presidents (Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower), generals, and men and women whose names are not familiar, but who proudly served to help preserve America’s freedom.

The site is also among the most prominent veterans memorials in the nation. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and several military bases stretching up the coast, for decades it has been a pilgrimage destination for veterans, their families, and other citizens, and for that reason an important part of national, regional, and community heritage.

But for more than 20 years, this veterans memorial also has been the target of high-profile legal attacks seeking to destroy it.

Most significantly, it has been the subject of a lawsuit brought about by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which claims the memorial’s cross violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. In January 2011, during the legal dispute over the memorial, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled the cross unconstitutional.

Liberty Institute and its volunteer attorney team at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP joined the fight on behalf of the MSMA—which is comprised of veterans who originally erected the memorial in 1954 and who have served as caretakers of the memorial for more than half a century—to save the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial cross. In February of 2012, Liberty Institute filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the MSMA seeking to have the Ninth Circuit decision overturned. The next month, the U.S. Department of Justice also joined the appeal.

However, because the Ninth Circuit ruling had not specified a remedy, the Supreme Court sent it back to the district court, saying the Supreme Court could consider it again once the lower courts had determined what they recommended happen to the memorial.

ACLU: TEAR DOWN THIS CROSS!

In July 2013, in advance of a district court hearing, the ACLU submitted its brief in which it proposed its remedy to end the case: . Five months later, U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns of the U.S. Southern District Court for the Southern District of California reluctantly ruled in favor of the ACLU, ordering the historic memorial cross torn down. But the judge did grant a stay, giving Liberty Institute and the MSMA the opportunity to appeal. Liberty Institute and the MSMA did so a few days later, and in February 2014, the U.S. government joined Liberty Institute and the MSMA in appealing the ruling.

In March 2014, Liberty Institute filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case immediately. However, on June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court denied the request by the MSMA to review the case early, instead opting to review the case after it was considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In October 2014, Liberty Institute filed its opening brief in the Ninth Circuit, and the next month 27 strategic allies (including 13 states, 3 U.S. military veterans, multiple public policy organizations, and Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA) stepped forward with several friend-of-the-court briefs, urging the appeals court to rule in favor of allowing the cross at the memorial to remain standing.

After more than two decades of attempts to remove the cross had not achieved that result, and with the prospect of a long judicial battle ahead and defenders of the cross unwilling to yield, last year a legislative remedy was proposed. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 called for the federal government’s sale of the property to the MSMA, and this was passed by Congress and signed by the President, leading to the transfer of the land.

With the transfer of the site, the goal of saving this historic memorial intact has been accomplished, and the legal threats against the cross will presumably cease.

PROTECTING THE HONOR OF VETERANS’ SACRIFICE

Liberty Institute is grateful for the victory protecting the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross and is committed to continuing to defending veterans memorials that are under attack for containing religious imagery.

“This is a day to celebrate,” says Liberty Institute’s General Counsel Jeff Mateer. “But the work is not over in protecting veterans memorials from legal attacks by organizations opposed to veterans memorials containing religious imagery on public land.”

In addition to the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, Liberty Institute is currently defending the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial, a cross-shaped memorial that honors servicemen from Prince George’s County, Maryland, who died in World War I. In 2010, representing the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Liberty Institute assisted in preventing the ACLU from tearing down the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross in a precedent setting U.S. Supreme Court case.

So the battle goes on. With hundreds of veterans memorial containing religious imagery or inscriptions on government land across the nation, the protection of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial is another welcome moment in a long and important struggle.





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The Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, including the cross, survived because Liberty Institute supporters allowed us to recruit and coordinate one of the leading appellate attorneys in the nation—who represented our client ! Please give a donation to celebrate the Mt. Soledad victory . . . to help defend  such landmarks of America’s heritage, and restore religious freedom to Americans in strategic, high-impact legal cases. Thank you!



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

Thursday, July 23, 2015 1:37:00 PM

DISCRIMINATION IN THE MILITARY: 43 Members of Congress Join Public Outcry of Support for Court-Martialed Marine




Last week, the groundswell of support continued for Liberty Institute client Lance Corporal (LCpl) Monifa Sterling when 43 Members of Congress, along with the American Center for Law and Justice, signed their names to a friend-of-the-court brief which asks the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) to grant the court-martialed Marine’s Petition for Grant of Review.

Leading the effort to support LCpl Sterling’s Petition were, among others, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Congressman John Fleming (R-LA).

“America is starting to wake up to the growing hostility shown toward service members who are being punished for exercising their religious beliefs,” says Liberty Institute President & CEO Kelly Shackelford. “With this added support from 43 Members of Congress, we are hopeful CAAF will take notice and agree to accept the case. Our Marines give up many freedoms when they serve our country. The least we can do is protect their right to express their religious beliefs.”

TARGETING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE MILITARY

LCpl Sterling, a devout Christian, was criminally prosecuted by the Marine Corps in May 2015 for displaying a Bible verse in three places her personal workspace—after she declined taking them down when her supervisor ordered her to do so because she “didn’t like the tone.”

Liberty Institute now represents her—along with volunteer attorney Paul Clement, a partner at Bancroft PLLC and former Solicitor General of the United States, who has argued over 75 cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, including the important case.  Liberty Institute and Bancroft are appealing her case to CAAF, which is the highest military court with cases subject to review by the United States Supreme Court. In its brief, Liberty Institute asks the court to hold that the appellate court should have applied the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in LCpl Sterling’s case, protecting her right to post a Bible verse as a form of religious expression.

“The government is clearly targeting religious freedom in the military,” says Mike Berry, Liberty Institute Director of Military Affairs. “And nobody is immune. In the past couple of years, Liberty Institute has defended service members in all four branches of the military, from officers to enlisted service members to chaplains. We have protected military members and vindicated their religious rights under the law. Yet, we must continue to do so, so every person of faith in the military feels safe again, regardless of rank, age, color, gender, or branch of service.”

BLOWING THE WHISTLE ON REDEFINING RELIGIOUS “FREE EXERCISE” 


Now, 43 Members of Congress have joined the growing coalition to support religious freedom in our military. They challenge the lower court’s finding that somehow Sterling’s use of a Bible verse was not “religious exercise” and thus was exempt from RFRA’s protection.

Congress was responsible for writing and passing RFRA, and these Members therefore know that Congress intended RFRA to apply in situations like LCpl Sterling’s—which the lower court completely missed. They also found the court missed the definitions prescribed by other U.S. Supreme Court cases

Their argument in the brief states in part:


“NO WEAPONS FORMED AGAINST ME SHALL PROSPER”

How could the display of one Bible verse lead to all of this?

When LCpl Sterling first chose to display her favorite Bible verse on her computer in her workspace at Camp Lejune, North Carolina, she simply thought she was falling in line with her fellow service members—who also had personal items in their workspaces. LCpl Sterling printed out Isaiah 54:17 (“No weapons formed against me shall prosper”) and taped it up in three places where she worked.

But when her supervisor—who also had been LCpl Sterling’s former drill instructor—saw the scripture, she ordered the service member to take it down. Citing her First Amendment right to post the Bible verse, LCpl Sterling declined. When she returned to her workspace the next day, LCpl Sterling found that the slips of paper with her favorite verse had been thrown into the trash. Instead of complaining, LCpl Sterling printed three copies and again taped Isaiah 54:17 to different areas of her workspace. Again, the next day they were found in the trash . . . and soon thereafter LCpl Sterling found herself court-martialed.

LOOKING TO CAAF TO PROTECT SERVICE MEMBERS’ RIGHT TO RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION

Displaying a small verse from the Bible is unquestionably and constitutionally protected religious exercise and expression of faith. But if LCpl Sterling’s court-martial is allowed to stand, it would set a dangerous precedent for all service members of America’s military who—acting within their First Amendment rights—wish to express their religious beliefs.

Liberty Institute is grateful for the outcry of support from the 43 members of Congress and the Senate who are calling for RFRA to be applied, and is hopeful the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces will decide to take LCpl Sterling’s case for review.





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UPDATE: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Fails to Restore Religious Liberty of Veterans at Kansas VA Medical Center



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

Friday, July 17, 2015 12:03:00 PM

Firewalls Put to the Test—Liberty Institute Advises County Clerk Katie Lang


The religious freedom of a County Clerk is under fire in Hood County, Texas, following last month’s Supreme Court decision in  legalizing same-sex marriage.

Even before the Supreme Court decision, religious liberty experts identified several firewalls to keep the newly-minted right to same-sex marriage from canceling out the clear and foundational right to religious liberty. These firewalls, as articulated by Liberty Institute President & CEO Kelly Shackelford, included:

·      Language in the decisionreaffirming the rights of religious dissenters to any redefinition of marriage. At least three important briefs asked the Court for such language—including the one filed by Liberty Institute on behalf of a large group of well-known Christian institutions and individuals such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Thankfully, the opinion did include a reaffirmation of religious rights.

The attacks against Hood County (TX) Clerk Katie Lang is one of several early tests around the country of the first two firewalls, and therefore is an important case.

RIGHTS COLLIDE AFTER MARRIAGE IS REDEFINED

Katie Lang, an elected County Clerk in Hood County, Texas, is a strong Christian who holds a sincere religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. After the Supreme Court’s decision redefining marriage, Ms. Lang knew she could not personally issue a same-sex marriage license without violating her conscience. Referring to Attorney General Paxton’s statement on June 28, which affirmed the religious freedom of government employees, Ms. Lang recused herself from personally issuing same-sex marriage. She then informed the public that other Hood County Clerk staff members were ready and available to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The non-binding legal opinion by the Attorney General explicitly cited the first two “firewalls”—the language in the decision, and the Texas RFRA.

Late Thursday afternoon on July 2 (just before the office was to close), a same-sex couple walked into the Hood County Clerk’s office and immediately demanded a marriage license. A staff member provided them with an application, but noted that the county’s marriage licenses still contained gender-specific references and explained that the gender-neutral licenses had been ordered but not yet come in. The couple requested that the County Clerk’s office issue the gender-specific licenses anyway. Though they had not been approved for issuance, Ms. Lang contacted the County Attorney to ask for guidance on whether the marriage license could still be issued with gender-specific references.

The County Clerk’s office was closed on Friday due to the July 4th holiday, but Ms. Lang communicated with the County Attorney over the holiday weekend. As soon as the attorney gave authorization to issue the pre-existing license, Ms. Lang’s office issued it, having the marriage license ready even before the office opened on Monday morning, July 6. 

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY OPPONENTS WASTE NO TIME TESTING THE FIREWALLS

Inexplicably, the same-sex couple filed a lawsuit against the Hood County, even though they knew that the clerk’s office was working to issue the license as soon as possible, and did so less than one business hour after it was requested.

The lawsuit seems to fly in the face of the two firewalls upon which the County relied, as stated in Attorney General Paxton’s legal opinion: the Supreme Court opinion and Texas religious freedom laws. 

What did the Court opinion say? While the June Supreme Court decision mandated that all states issue and recognize same-sex marriage, the majority opinion reaffirmed religious liberty protections for those citizens whose deeply held religious views cause them to disagree. Justice Anthony Kennedy writes:


All nine Supreme Court Justices agreed with Kennedy. 

And one day after the decision, Attorney General Paxton cited the opinion the Texas RFRA, concluding:

While Lang invoked these very rights when she declared that she would not be issuing same-sex marriage licenses, the same-sex couple that is suing is choosing to ignore them. Even so, there is little reason to fear. The attack against the County is based on a misuse of Kennedy’s opinion. The County’s defense is based on law.  
LIBERTY INSTITUTE: “HOOD COUNTY FOLLOWED THE LAW”

Undeterred by malicious, uninformed attacks against religious liberty, Liberty Institute is standing up for Lang’s legal right to recuse herself based on her sincerely held religious beliefs.

As evidenced by Kennedy’s and Paxton’s statements, denigration such as this against Lang were anticipated; the firewalls were cited by Shackelford and other religious liberty experts for this very reason, and that reason wasted no time in showing up. These cases should not catch supporters of religious freedom off-guard, but it is crucial to remain confident and courageous in defending religious individuals’ right to live out their beliefs. 
“The Supreme Court’s decision did not overturn the First Amendment,” said Shackelford. “Ms. Lang has a constitutional right to live and act according to her beliefs. She followed the law by ensuring her office complied with the Supreme Court’s decision, allowing the couple to receive a marriage license while her conscience rights are protected.”

STRENGTHEN YOUR RESOLVE

Lawsuits like the one against Hood County are springing up all across the nation as opponents of religious liberty misuse Kennedy’s opinion and test the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment. There are several things you can do to protect yourself against possible attacks:

  • Know your defenses. As demonstrated by Katie Lang, the firewalls against attacks exist. But they won’t help you if you don’t know what they are. Click here to download FREE religious liberty rights resources.
  •  Speak up. Lang sets a good example in this area. She wasn’t shy about standing for her beliefs, and she knew and cited her religious rights. Even though others are attempting to bully her into submission, she is not backing down. In so doing, she is courageously strengthening the defense of all Americans and their religious freedom.
  •  Spread the word. Every voice makes a difference. When more Americans know about the work of organizations like Liberty Institute, they will stand up for all people of faith and demand the restoration and protection of religious freedom that our Founding Fathers intended.
“In the post-world, it is vital that we protect the rights of all Americans,” Shackelford says, “including government employees’ rights to religious liberty.”

The ultimate firewall is the willingness of free people to stand up for their freedom.




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UPDATE: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Fails to Restore Religious Liberty of Veterans at Kansas VA Medical Center



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

Friday, July 17, 2015 12:02:00 PM

UPDATE: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Fails to Restore Religious Liberty of Veterans at Kansas VA Medical Center




This week, Liberty Institute sent a follow-up demand letter to Leigh Bradley, Office of General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The letter seeks restoration of the religious liberty rights of veterans who are members of an official Native American Sweat Lodge established in 2008 as part of religious services offered at the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas. The letter states that due to the medical center’s actions, the Sweat Lodge, which holds religious services central to Native American faith, has been unable to meet three out of the past five months.

The follow-up letter, sent after the Department of Veterans Affairs failed to respond to Liberty Institute’s initial inquiry regarding the matter, requests a response by noon on July 22, 2015 and warns that if the Department of Veterans Affairs fails to do so, Liberty Institute will file a lawsuit to protect the veterans’ religious liberty.

“The egregiousness of the VA Medical Center’s unlawful discrimination against and hostility toward our clients and others of the Native American faith has only increased,” says Liberty Institute Deputy Chief Counsel Hiram Sasser in the letter. “The VA Medical Center’s total disregard for the religious liberty of those who adhere to Native American faith traditions forces us to prepare for litigation.”

A TIMELINE OF HOSTILITY: CURTAILING RELIGIOUS EXERCISE OF VETERANS OF NATIVE AMERICAN FAITH

Liberty Institute’s letters expose the medical center’s discrimination against veterans who practice Native American faith—discrimination that has included medical center employees referring to the Sweat Lodge’s Spiritual Leader as “heathen,” “Injun,” and “chief.” A timeline of the hostility is outlined below:

  • 2008: The VA medical center sets up a permanent Sweat Lodge after a trial period the previous year met with success. A substance abuse counselor at the medical center—one of the few people remaining who are qualified to lead a Sweat Lodge—was appointed to be the Sweat Lodge’s sole Spiritual Leader. The Sweat Lodge holds religious services that include a religious meal once a month and has served and benefited many veterans in the area.

  • MARCH 2015: An interim VA supervisor at the medical center who was recently placed over a division that oversaw the Sweat Lodge told the Spiritual Leader the Sweat Lodge could not conduct its services anymore. She gave no explanation for the decision. A policy review was initiated that caused the Sweat Lodge to be unable to meet in March.

  • APRIL 2015: After members of the Sweat Lodge complained, the medical center agreed to reopen the Sweat Lodge. However, the same interim supervisor then told the Spiritual Leader that the Sweat Lodge could no longer hold its religious meals in the place it had done so for many years. The supervisor also told the Spiritual Leader he could not store a small amount of supplies needed for the Sweat Lodge—made up of disposable plates and a few towels—in his office. In addition, despite the fact that other employees were allowed to display objects honoring other religions, she ordered the removal of Native American religious items from the spiritual leader’s office.

  • MAY 2015: In a meeting that included several medical center officials, including the director of the medical center, the Spiritual Leader was told that the religious meals and storage of the Sweat Lodge’s supplies in his office could continue.

  • JUNE 2015: However, the day the spiritual leader returned from a yearly ceremony important to the Native American faith, the medical center suspended the Spiritual Leader and ordered him to stay away from the VA medical center for at least 14 days. He was also forbidden from contacting members of the Sweat Lodge, even to inform them of his suspension—though the supervisor and the VA medical center are aware of the Native American faith’s requirement that the Spiritual Leader be present in order for the Sweat Lodge to conduct religious services. As a result of the suspension, the Sweat Lodge was not able to hold religious services in June.

    Liberty Institute sent an initial letter bringing the matter to the attention of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and seeking action to protect the veterans’ religious liberty. In addition, Congressman Tim Huelskamp of Kansas sent a letter of inquiry to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in support of the veterans’ religious liberty rights.

  • JULY 2015: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs failed to respond to Liberty Institute’s letter, and the medical center once again prevented the Sweat Lodge from conducting its service. The medical center instead offered to replace the Sweat Lodge’s religious service with an activity that originally was to include watching the movie (an “offensive attempt to pacify a clearly disregarded religious minority,” Sasser later called it in Liberty Institute’s follow-up demand letter). On July 14, Liberty Institute sent its follow-up demand letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs promising a lawsuit if the Department of Veterans Affairs did not act to resolve the matter.

PROTECTING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOR VETERANS OF ALL FAITHS

Liberty Institute is dedicated to protecting the rights of veterans of all faiths to exercise the freedom they fought to defend. The largest legal organization dedicated solely to defending religious liberty in America, Liberty Institute will continue working to ensure that the Sweat Lodge is allowed to operate and defending the veterans’ right to freely exercise their faith.





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

Friday, July 17, 2015 11:56:00 AM

Kansas VA Hospital Curtails Religious Exercise of Military Veterans of Native American Faith



Our nation’s veterans have served and sacrificed for freedom—including free exercise of religion as guaranteed in the First Amendment. That’s why it is crucial that someone fight for veterans when their religious freedom is denied, including when it is denied by the government agency directed to serve them.

For that reason, in late June Liberty Institute sent a demand letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of military veterans who are members of an official Native American Sweat Lodge at the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas. The Sweat Lodge serves and benefits many veterans in the area.

A Sweat Lodge and its ministers are an essential part of Native American faith, and a blatant disregard for the religious liberty of those whose worship is centered around the Sweat Lodge is not only a violation of these veterans’ religious liberty rights, but sets an ominous precedent for the religious freedom of veterans of any faith.

 Liberty Institute’s letter brought to the attention of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs the hostile actions of an interim supervisor at the medical center that caused the Sweat Lodge to be unable to hold religious services two of the past four months—stating that those of Native American faith were the only religious group at the center to experience such harassment.

The letter sought action by the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure the protection of the veterans’ religious rights. It also informed the department of Liberty Institute’s continuing investigation of whether the interim supervisor’s discriminatory actions toward those of Native American faith is a symptom of a “larger, systemic problem” in the medical center in Wichita and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The persistent and unlawful hostility and discrimination leveled against the Sweat Lodge is a direct violation of our clients’ fundamental rights to the free exercise of their religion,” says Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel for Liberty Institute in the letter. “If the VA Medical Center continues its unlawful treatment of [the Sweat Lodge’s spiritual leader] and prohibits him from conducting the religious services of the Sweat Lodge, the religious services will cease and the Sweat Lodge will die.”

THREATENING THE ABILITY OF VETERANS TO EXERCISE THEIR FAITH

Since 2008, the sweat lodge at the VA medical center in Wichita has been led by Randy Hilderbrand, a substance abuse counselor at the medical center and the sole spiritual leader of the Sweat Lodge and one of the few Native American spiritual leaders remaining who are qualified for that position. The Sweat Lodge holds religious services, which include a religious meal, once a month. In addition, in order for the Sweat Lodge to hold services, the Native American faith requires that the spiritual leader be present.

However, in March 2015, an interim VA supervisor recently placed over a division that oversaw the Sweat Lodge told Mr. Hilderbrand that the Sweat Lodge could no longer conduct services. She gave no explanation as to why, and a policy review was initiated that caused the sweat lodge to be unable to meet in March.

After members of the Sweat Lodge complained, the VA medical center agreed to reopen the lodge in April. However, the same supervisor then told Mr. Hilderbrand that the Sweat Lodge could no longer hold its religious meals in the place it had done so for many years and that he could not store a small amount of supplies needed for the Sweat Lodge—made up of disposable plates and a few towels—in his office. She also ordered the removal of Native American religious items from his office, despite the fact that other employees were allowed to display objects honoring other religions.

UNLAWFUL DISCRIMINATION AGAINST NATIVE AMERICAN FAITH

In a May meeting with VA medical center officials, Mr. Hilderbrand was told that the religious meals and storage of the Sweat Lodge’s supplies in his office could continue, Liberty Institute’s letter stated.

But on June 16, 2015, the day Mr. Hilderbrand returned from attending a yearly religious ceremony central to the Native American faith, the supervisor suspended Mr. Hilderbrand and ordered him to stay away from the VA medical center for at least 14 days. He was also forbidden from contacting members of the Sweat Lodge even to inform them of his suspension—though the supervisor and the VA medical center were aware that the Sweat Lodge could not conduct services if Mr. Hilderbrand were not present.As a result of the suspension, the Sweat Lodge was not able to hold religious services in June.

Liberty Institute’s letter stated:


KANSAS CONGRESSMAN ADVOCATES FOR VETERANS’ RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

U.S. Congressman Tim Huelskamp of Kansas also sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs seeking the protection of the veterans’ religious liberty. In his letter of inquiry, he noted the “serious allegations of religious hostility” against the medical center and wrote that he hopes “this incident does not reflect a systemic problem within the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Congressman Huelskamp, who is a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, also described the medical center’s lack of responsiveness to his office’s inquiries for further information after his office was given the impression that the matter was resolved. He then stated:



PRESERVING THE FREEDOM AMERICA’S VETERANS FOUGHT TO DEFEND

Our nation’s military veterans have sacrificed so that people of faiths can freely exercise their religious beliefs—whether in a VA hospital, a workplace, a church, a public school or elsewhere across America. Liberty Institute is confident its clients’ religious liberty rights to practice the Native American faith will be protected restored at the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas.




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

Friday, July 10, 2015 2:29:00 PM

POST-SUPREME COURT MARRIAGE DECISION: Where Do People of Faith Go from Here?




Late last month, the Supreme Court issued its 5-4 decision in the case of .  In the midst of all the coverage of this case, people of faith may have missed the silver lining in 103-pages of the opinion: All nine Supreme Court Justices recognized the vital role of religious liberty.

From the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:


Dissenter Chief Justice John G. Roberts reminded that the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage. . . . There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this Court.” And in Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent he chastises the majority for not allowing “the definition of marriage to be left to the political process—as the Constitution requires” and asserts that “the majority’s decision short-circuits that process with potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty.”

LIBERTY INSTITUTE PAVES THE WAY FOR INCREASED PROTECTION

Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer explains that while the Court did what was asked in the non-profit legal firm’s friend-of-the-court brief— 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”—we now have two fundamental rights.

 “The Court’s decision recognized that there’s a fundamental right to same-sex marriage,” Mateer says. “And at the same time, we have a First Amendment that protect religious liberty and protect free speech.We will see that play out over the next months or perhaps over the next years, as those two rights clash.”

That’s why Liberty Institute has developed a 5-point legal strategy to deal with the post-America that is now upon us. “This is not the end,” Liberty Institute President & CEO Kelly Shackelford said in a special video where he explained the strategy for Liberty Institute friends and supporters this week. “This is the very beginning of the battle for religious freedom, andit’s a battle we can win.”

Liberty Institute plans to take winning legal action with the following response strategy:

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.

Our most current victories for religious freedom include:
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—laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), U.S. military regulations, and numerous court precedents are on our side. The Court’s marriage ruling does not change the truth that Americans have a constitutional right to speak and to act according to our beliefs.

In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage last week, Liberty Institute has also heard from numerous government employees—including county clerks, justices of the peace, and others—who have questions about their conscience rights and are seeking advice and assurance of the First Amendment’s protections of their sincerely-held religious beliefs. 

Other recent legal matters in which Liberty Institute has used existing laws include in defending and restoring religious liberty for people facing persecution because of their faith include:
  • Lance Corporal (LCpl) Monifa Sterling, who was court-martialed for displaying a Bible verse in her personal workspace.
  • U.S. Navy Chaplain Wes Modder, who’s facing career-ending punishment for expressing his traditional, Biblical views in answer to a very small number of military personnel’s questions about faith, family, and marriage during private counseling sessions.
  • Dr. Eric Walsh, who was fired by the State of Georgia Department of Public Health for his religious beliefs he had expressed in church.
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.

Recent legislation Liberty Institute has played a role in include:
  • North Carolina’s law– asserts 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.
  • Michigan’s law (HB 4188, HB 4189, HB 4190) – protects the rights of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies in the state to operate according to their religious beliefs.
  • Texas Pastor Protection Act- 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.
In all, Liberty Institute attorneys have advised 13 states and the U.S. Congress regarding how new legislation should be worded to withstand legal challenges by opponents of religious freedom.

4.     Use Religious Liberty Audits to Protect Churches, Ministries, and Businesses. Liberty Institute attorneys are employing Religious Liberty Audits to enhance legal protection for faith-based organizations that are vulnerable to attack by litigious individuals and organizations that are offended by traditional religious viewpoints and seeking to litigate employment or discrimination claims in furtherance of a larger political or cultural agenda. 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.

A sampling of the the large number of national and state faith-based organizations Liberty Institute is currently helping include:
  • Churches
  • Adoption agencies
  • Educational institutions
  • Ministries 
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.

Our most recent staff attorney additions include:
  • Chelsey Youman, Esq., Counsel for Liberty Institute
  • Cleve Doty, Esq., Counsel for Liberty Institute
  • Matthew Kacsmaryk, Esq., Deputy General Counsel and Managing Director of Direct Litigation, Research, and Education
STAY THE COURSE AND CONTINUE THE FIGHT TO KEEP OUR FREEDOMS

In his interview with Todd Starnes on FOX Nation’s The Dispatch w/Todd Starnes this past Monday, Kelly Shackelfordencouraged people of faith to be diligent, stay the course, and continue the fight to keep our freedoms.

“It’s true that this decision has opened up what will undoubtedly be attacks on religious freedom in numerous areas,” Shackelford said. “But the good news is that decision last Friday did not overrule the First Amendment, and the First Amendment protects people and their free speech and their free exercise of religion.”

“The very reason this country was founded was so people could actually dissent or maybe disagree with the government’s position. That’s why people came on boats to found this country. Our Constitution protects that, and we’re just going to have to fight these things out. . . . If we’re diligent in doing that, we can win and keep those freedoms.”





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

Friday, July 10, 2015 1:25:00 PM

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