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Shark Tank: Will Your Church Be Safe? – Part 1



Is your church or denomination safe from damaging legal attack?  What about your favorite religious ministry or charity?  What about religious schools training future leaders your church needs—are they safe?  Or will they be crippled by anti-religious legal attacks?

Churches, ministries, and faith-based schools today live in a shark tank of anti-religious bigotrythat can mean legal and financial ruin unless they take legal steps now to protect themselves.

And that’s where Liberty Institute is helping dozens—and soon, hundreds—of religious institutions of all types and sizes.       

WHO ARE THE SHARKS IN THE TANK?

“All are at risk:  in addition to churches and synagogues, faith-based charities, orphanages, shelters, sororities, fraternities, and companies,”says Matthew Kacsmaryk, Deputy General Counsel and Managing Director of Direct Litigation, Research, and Education for Liberty Institute.

Mr. Kacsmaryk warns that churches and faith-based organizations 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.

Liberty Institute is assisting more than 25 faith-based organizations—including churches, adoption agencies, educational institutions, and ministries—by offering a free-of-charge “Religious Liberties Audit.”  He says, “Reviewing articles of incorporation, employment manuals, discipline policies, and other corporate documents, we try to identify any risk exposure.” 

Organizations that have already retained legal counsel may nonetheless benefit from a “Religious Liberties Audit” because Liberty Institute attorneys are trained to identify risks and develop solutions unique to their practice.  Mr. Kacsmaryk notes, “Lawyers trained in corporate or employment law may miss risks and solutions arising under the Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and various state laws.”

Anti-religious organizations are aggressive: they use Establishment Clause challenges, employment challenges, anti-discrimination challenges, and more.  Liberty Institute attorneys pour over the corporate DNA of a faith-based organization, looking for weaknesses:
  • What if an employee is terminated for immoral behavior and sues you? 
  • What if your religious schools declines to hire an applicant because her lifestyle or beliefs are antithetical to the affiliated church? 
  • What if a hostile anti-religious organization attempts to plant an infiltrator in your ministry and you refuse them? 
  • What if your church exercises church discipline and is sued?
  • What if an atheist demands to join your religious sorority and sues when they are turned down?
All these and more can seriously damage your organization.

A SURPRISING DEGREE OF DANGER

“You might be surprised,” says Mr. Kacsmaryk, “many churches don’t have robust written statements of faith, mission statements, or rules for how they operate, how they hire, how they discipline, and how they remove members.”

For ministries, he says, “We make certain that an organization expressly states that it is motivated by sincerely held religious beliefs and provides detailed explanations of those beliefs.”  Mr. Kacsmaryk warns, “If your religious organization lacks written statements of faith and fails to explain its beliefs in writing, Liberty Institute cannot easily defend your faith and beliefs in court.”

Today, the most common risk exposure involves the controversial topics of marriage and sexuality.  Mr. Kacsmaryk asserts, “With the rise of sexuality-specific anti-discrimination statutes and policies, churches need to expressly state their sincerely held religious beliefs so that they’re not later accused of a pretextual act of discrimination.”

What changes need to be made in such a case?

“Faith-based organizations need to flesh out what they believe with particularity before the infiltrator knocks on the church door, before the lawsuit is filed,” he says.  Many churches, faith-based organizations, and interdenominational charities lack the written statements of faith and policies necessary to defend a religious-liberties case: “Again, you’d be surprised by the large number of churches, faith-based organizations, and interdenominational clubs that lack written definitions of marriage, Christian sexual ethics, or procedures for disciplining or pastoring members who find themselves outside the boundaries of the organization’s rules and policies.” 

Through the Religious Liberties Audit process, Liberty Institute attorneys “seek to get those beliefs written down, codified, and enforced so that you’re not left without litigation exhibits if the time comes to defend your church.”  As an example, Mr. Kacsmaryk notes that the plaintiffs in the case—the Green and Hahn families—had well written statements of faith on file when the HHS mandate threatened their sincerely held religious beliefs: “it is difficult to litigate a victory without exhibits.”





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

Thursday, July 17, 2014 12:04:00 PM

UPDATE: School Claims Grad Speaker Forfeited First Amendment Rights!



Last week, the Brawley Union High School District informed Liberty Institute that it will not apologize to salutatorian Brooks Hamby for censoring references to his faith in three different versions of his graduation address.

Last month, Liberty Institute sent a demand letter to the school district requesting a statement exonerating Brooks of any wrongdoing, a meeting with the superintendent, and an assurance that lawful religious expression in students’ speeches would not be censored in the future.

The school district sternly refused all of our requests.  A 10-page responsesent by lawyers from a large California firm representing the school district stated thatthe District exercises control over the valedictory/salutatory speeches and only permits students to deliver content its administrators have deemed appropriate.”

The school district’s letter also stated:


Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys commented, “It is outrageous enough that this school censored a student’s speech just because he wanted to reference his faith, but now for the school to claim that students lose their First Amendment freedoms while the school controls them defies any explanation!” 

Dys continued, “We hoped to simply sit down for a quiet, inexpensive conversation.  Instead, we received an invitation to litigate our client’s First Amendment rights—an invitation our client may soon accept.”

REDACTING GOD FROM GRADUATION

In June, school officials told Brooks Hamby that he could not talk about his faith in his graduation speech.  After rejecting two versions of his speech, Brooks and his parents were called to see the principal the morning of the day of the graduation ceremony and were notified by the school district that if Brooks “interjects religious content, the sound will be cut off, and a disclaimer to the entire audience must be made explaining the district’s position.”

After receiving this information, Brooks wrote a third version of his speech, which he sent to the superintendent.  He received that version back with all religious references crossed out in black.

Brooks did not want to cause trouble, but neither could he compromise his faith and his convictions.

Brooks sent a fourth version of his speech to school administrators, but did not receive a reply before it was time for him to deliver his address.  In his speech, he referenced the previous three versions of his speech and included references to the Bible and his Christian faith.

Amazingly, the school did not silence Brooks’ microphone but allowed him to finish his speech.

FIGHTING FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN THE SCHOOL

Liberty Institute is on the forefront of the growing issue of valedictorians and salutatorians being forbidden to include religious references in their graduation speeches.  Our clients include:
  • Valedictorian in South Carolina Roy Costner IV ripped apart the speech school officials had approved and then proceeded to talk about his Christian faith.  Liberty Institute is proud of Costner for making the bold decision to stand for his faith.

  • Valedictorian in Joshua, Texas — When graduating high school senior Remington Reimer began to talk of the Constitution and his faith in his valedictory address, school officials shut off his microphone.  Liberty Institute sent a letter to Joshua ISD officials giving them 60 days to comply with state law.  In response, Joshua ISD issued a formal apology to Remington Reimer.

  • Valedictorian in San Antonio, Texas — Prior to Angela Hildenbrand’s graduation, a U.S. District Judge issued a temporary restraining order banning prayer offered by anyone during graduation and threatened “incarceration” for anyone violating the order.  Liberty Institute filed an emergency motion for intervention requesting relief from the temporary restraining order.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned the ruling, allowing Hildenbrand to exercise her constitutional right to freely express her religious beliefs.
HOW YOU CAN HELP

Liberty Institute is dedicated to continuing to fight to protect the rights of Brooks and students like him who courageously stand up for religious liberty, but we need your help!

What can you do?

  • Pray.  Your prayers are needed and vital as we work to protect the religious rights of students, teachers, and others in the school.
  • Donate now.  Your gifts make a huge difference in the work we do—every $1 you give translates into $6 of legal impact. 


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

Thursday, July 17, 2014 12:03:00 PM

Best Seller 'God Less America' Features Liberty Institute


In his best-selling book, author and “Fox News & Commentary” host Todd Starnes delivers the warning—Paul Revere style, while substituting his keyboard and microphone for a horse and a lantern—that secular radicals are trying to take over America and intensify the war on religious freedom.

“Todd Starnes is passionate about religious liberty,” Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer says.  “And he’s fearless when it comes to calling out organizations hostile to freedom of religion, the government, and anyone who wants to cleanse our nation of what our Founding Fathers described as our ‘first freedom.’  Every American needs to read and take to heart its warning.”

A MIGHTY FORCE IN THE WAR ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

A compellation of interviews with top conservative leaders, as well as commentary on recent news stories featuring attacks on religious liberty, also points to Liberty Institute as a legal powerhouse with a winning strategy to defend and restore religious liberty in America.

Concerning Liberty Institute, Starnes says:  “Liberty Institute has become one of my go-to sources for religious liberty stories.  The attorneys have mastered the concept of explaining legalese in a way that connects with the Average Joe.  I’ve found Liberty Institute to be fierce defenders of religious liberty.  It’s been my experience that when Liberty Institute takes up the cause of a persecuted believer—that a wrong will be righted.”

Starnes points to recent Liberty Institute cases, while artfully telling the stories of these people of faith, who are taking a stand and declaring that we are still one nation under God. . . .
  • Walt Tutka Upon request, teacher Walt Tutka gave a Bible to a student.  Tutka quoted the Bible while speaking to a student coming last through a door, saying, “The first shall be last, but the last shall be first.”  After the student questioned Tutka several times about the quote, Tutka used his own Bible to show the student where the quote originated.  Then, after the student said he did not own one, Tutka gave the boy his Bible.  This simple act ultimately led to his termination by his employer, the Phillipsburg School District in New Jersey.  Liberty Institute stepped in to help the teacher evaluate his legal options in challenging wrongful termination.  Tutka filed a charge of discrimination against the school district with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Tutka’s claims of religious employment discrimination are currently being investigated by the EEOC.

  • Audrey Jarvis A Sonoma State University, official told college student Audrey Jarvis to remove her cross necklace when she was working for the university’s Associated Students Production organization at a student orientation fair.  The supervisor told Jarvis that the chancellor had a policy against wearing religious items and said the cross necklace “might offend others.”  It might make incoming students feel unwelcome.  Assisted by Liberty Institute, Jarvis, a devout Catholic, filed a religious accommodation request with the university.  The university officials did the right thing, launched an investigation into the incident, and as a result, the university issued a formal apology to Jarvis.

  • Senior Master Sergeant Phillip MonkA 19-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk was relieved of his duties because of his faith and moral convictions.  SMSgt Monk respectfully declined to agree with his “politically correct” commander’s viewpoint about homosexual marriage when that commander demanded an answer.  Liberty Institute stepped in and filed a formal complaint with the military on Monk’s behalf.  During a meeting following the formal complaint filing, Air Force investigators abruptly read Monk his Miranda rights, accusing him of the military crime of making false official statements.  The Air Force investigation cleared Monk of any crimes, avoiding any potential court-martial or disciplinary action.  In February of 2014, the Air Force presented Monk with a prestigious award for his performance and conduct.  In May of 2014, the Air Force approved Monk’s request to officially retire, which will occur in January of 2015.

A NEW GENERATION BOLDLY TAKES A STAND

“Our nation stands on a precipice,” Starnes writes in the last chapter of “We are a people in grave danger. . . .  Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, and Kelly Shackelford, president of Liberty Institute, penned an open letter to the American people in 2013.  Hostility against religious liberty has reached an all-time high, they warned.  The freedom of religion is being pushed out of public life, schools, and even churches. . . .

“But friends,” says Starnes, “no matter how difficult these days have become, let not your heart be troubled.  The sovereign Lord is our strength. And I believe He is raising up a new generation of believers—young people who are fervent in their faith, a new generation of Billy Grahams and Billy Sundays.  Young men like Roy Costner and Jake Naman and young ladies like Audrey Jarvis who have raised their Ebenezer.  They considered the cost, they took a stand, and God honored their faithfulness.”

DEFENDING OUR “FIRST FREEDOM”

The only way Liberty Institute can stay strong in defending our “first freedom” and continue being victorious in religious liberty cases—which each have a chance of becoming precedent to defend or restore religious liberty—is through the continuing financial support of friends and loyal supporters like you. 

To help us fight the “Goliath” opponents, please donate now and share this cause with your friends.  And for more information about Todd Starnes and his latest book, , please visit www.toddstarnes.com.


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

Thursday, July 17, 2014 12:03:00 PM

Obama Administration to Ministries: VIOLATE YOUR FAITH



Are ministries compelled to violate their religious beliefs by facilitating the provision of abortion-inducing drugs to their employees?   Ministries say “No” and are ready to go to court to defend their integrity.

After the United States Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in last week many ministries are continuing to challenge the Obama Administration over its so-called “religious accommodation” to the HHS Abortion Pill Mandate.

In the “accommodation,” religious ministries must provide their insurance company with a form stating their objection to providing the contraceptives.  The insurance company then puts the organization’s employees in a separate plan that covers contraceptives.

Yes, the Obama Administration claims neither the employer nor employee would pay for contraceptive coverage.  But many religious organizations say the“accommodation” still requires them to cooperate in and facilitate the provision of a service that violates their religious beliefs, leading many non-profit organizations, including ministries and Christian colleges and universities, to file suit against the federal government.

TWO SIGNIFICANT VICTORIES

According to Jeff Mateer, Liberty Institute General Counsel, though the ruling left cases relating to religious non-profits and the Obama Administration’s “accommodation” unresolved, Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in the case provides the building blocks for those challenging the accommodation.

“It gives us such good language that the same day that was decided, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit decided another religious liberty case, involving a Catholic television network.  In that case, the 11th Circuit found that this so called “religious accommodation” violates federal law,” Mateer said.  “This was a great decision for religious ministries and bodes well for future challenges to the accommodation.”

Even more significantly, at the end of last week, the Supreme Court announced in a 6-3 ruling that Wheaton College, a Christian college in Illinois, does not have to comply with the accommodation while the case makes its way through the court system.

SUPREME COURT REJECTS JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPIN

During the Wheaton College case, the Obama Administration defended the accommodation, arguing that language contained in Justice Alito’sopinion meant the accommodation was acceptable.

However, in the majority decision for , Justice Alito explicitly stated that the Court was not ruling on the non-profit cases challenging the accommodation in the decision.  He wrote, “We do not decide today whether an approach of this type complies with RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] for purposes of all religious claims,” including a footnote reference to the Little Sisters of the Poor, an organization of nuns challenging the Obama Administration’s accommodation to the contraceptive mandate.

In a significant victory for Wheaton College and proponents of religious liberty, the Supreme Court implicitly rejected the Obama Administration’s claim that the decision declared the accommodation acceptable, with Justice Stephen Breyer joining the five justices who had ruled in favor of religious liberty in the case.

Last week’s victories at the Eleventh Circuit and the Supreme Court after the decision bode well for those challenging the Obama Administration’s accommodation.  “These are great sign posts for the future with regard to religious ministries,” Mateer commented.

PRESSING FORWARD IN THE FIGHT

Liberty Institute represents several non-profit ministries and Christian colleges who object to the accommodation and say it violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the law upon which Hobby Lobby successfully challenged the HHS Abortion Pill Mandate.

“In light of the Supreme Court’s decisions in and and the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in it’s time for the Obama Administration to scrap this whole mandate,” Mateer said, citing the enormous amount of attorneys’ fees that the government will have to pay if it continues to push the accommodation and lose in court.

However, the Obama Administration is unlikely to do so.  Mateer continued, “I would say we’re going to be in litigation for the next several months until the Supreme Court says that this religious accommodation, like the mandate that it comes from, violates federal law.”

Regardless of how the Obama Administration chooses to proceed, Liberty Institute is dedicated to protecting the religious liberty of those which the government is trying to force to violate their religious beliefs.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

First, please pray as we move forward.  Your prayer support is vital as we work to defend religious rights and work to preserve religious liberty in America.

Second, please donate now as we move forward with our representation of religious non-profits.  Due to our volunteer attorney model, every $1 you give translates into approximately $6 of legal impact.  Your dollars make a difference!


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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 11, 2014 8:49:00 AM

Freedom of Conscience Triumphs at Supreme Court



This week, in a landmark victory for religious freedom and freedom of conscience rights, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation in their challenge to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Abortion Pill Mandate, which required them to provide objectionable insurance coverage to their employees.

The Green and Hahn families, which own Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, respectively, believe that four of the twenty contraceptives required by the HHS mandate could result in abortion, the taking of innocent human life.  For these Christian families, providing abortion-inducing drugs would violate their deeply held religious convictions.

The Obama Administration argued that for-profit corporations do not qualify as “persons” under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and thus have no religious freedom protection and are not protected under that law.  But the Court repudiated those claims, saying “No known understanding of the term ‘person’ includes but not all corporations.

In a broad majority opinion upholding RFRA rights that dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg referred to as a “decision of startling breadth,” the Supreme Court rejected the notion that individuals lose their religious rights by entering into a business.  In the decision, the Court held that [t]he contraceptive mandate, as applied to closely held corporations, violates RFRA.

FREEDOM OF RELIGION NOT CONFINED TO CHURCH WALLS

President and CEO of Liberty Institute Kelly Shackelford commented, “This is a big win for freedom.  What the government was arguing for (that those in a for-profit business had no religious freedom protection) was very dangerous.  Today, that argument was soundly rejected, and that is good for America.”

In his concurring opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:


Jeff Mateer, General Counsel for Liberty Institute, remarked, “This is a landmark win for the freedom of conscience rights of every American, including business owners, recognizing that they are free to live and work according to their beliefs without the fear of government.”

Mateer added, “The Supreme Court recognized that citizens cannot be forced to choose between violating their faith and being punished by the government for following their faith.”

MANDATE A “SUBSTANTIAL BURDEN” ON RELIGION

The Supreme Court found that the HHS contraceptive mandate “imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion[.]”  Writing for the court, Justice Samuel Alito said, “We doubt that the Congress that enacted RFRA—or, for that matter, ACA [Affordable Care Act]—would have believed it a tolerable result to put family-run businesses to the choice of violating their sincerely held religious beliefs or making all of their employees lose their existing healthcare plans.”

Justice Alito also wrote that the HHS contraceptive mandate was not the least restrictive way for the government to accomplish their objective, saying “The least-restrictive-means standard [of RFRA] is exceptionally demanding . . .  and it is not satisfied here.” (citation omitted) 

WE CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Though the Supreme Court's decision is a landmark victory for religious liberty, the battle for religious freedom isn’t over.

Left unresolved by this week’s decision are the claims by religious non-profit ministries, such as Little Sisters of the Poor, other religious ministries, and Christian colleges and universities, many of whom we represent, where the government continues to insist that they violate their beliefs in participating in the provision of objectionable contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

Liberty Institute represents several for-profit companies and non-profit ministries who are in various stages of challenging the ObamaCare Abortion Pill Mandate.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

We are dedicated to continuing to fight for religious liberty in America.

Please continue to pray, and please consider a gift today as we work to preserve religious freedom.

To keep apprised of developments in the battle over freedom of conscience rights, visit www.libertyinstitute.org


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

Thursday, July 03, 2014 9:15:00 AM

Independence Day and Our God-Given, Founders-Recognized Rights



On Independence Day we must remember that, at the birth of our nation, our Founders acknowledged that all of our rights come from God.

It’s true!  Our Founders recognized the existence of God in one of our nation’s most influential documents in our history:    As the primary writer, Thomas Jefferson drafted in 1776 to declare that our rights—given by God—should not be taken away by the government. . . .


This Independence Day, as we celebrate the “free exercise” of religion, we share with you an open letter from Liberty Institute President & CEO, Kelly Shackelford, reminding us all of the religious liberty our nation’s Founders believed was the ground for all other rights—and how even though the attacks on our religious freedom are increasing, with skillful legal strategy we can still save religious liberty. . . .



The Declaration of Independence








HELP SAVE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Unless more Americans like you and other friends of Liberty Institute awaken to the rising tide of institutional hostility to religious liberty in America today, the legal action that could save religious freedom will occur.  That’s why we’re counting on you and other loyal supporters to help push back as we see the growing crisis of hostility to religion in America in four key areas:  the public arena, education, religious institutions and the U.S. military.

To help us fight, please spread the word and donate now and help Liberty Institute’s top national litigators continue winning in the fight to defend and restore religious liberty in America.  And to learn more about the incidents of hostility to religion in America—and to read through a collection of more than 1,000 legal cases detailing anti-religious bigotry through America—please download the latest edition of here.


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

Thursday, July 03, 2014 9:15:00 AM

WE WON'T BACK DOWN: Fight Continues to Save Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross

 . . .



This past Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the request by the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association (MSMA) to review early the caseopting to review the case later after it is considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Justice Samuel Alito issued a statement stating that because the order to remove the veterans memorial in San Diego is stayed (in other words, on hold) pending appeal, the Court will not bypass normal proceedings to hear the case.  Justice Alito said earlier this week:


“WE’LL CONTINUE TO FIGHT”

In response to the decision, Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelfordsaid:  “We will continue to fight for this veterans memorial and the selfless sacrifice and service of all the millions of veterans it represents; it is the least we can do for those who gave so much to us all.”

In 2011 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rule on the case, and determined that the memorial’s cross was unconstitutional.  However, because the Ninth Circuit ruling had not specified a remedy, when the case was appealed the Supreme Court sent it back to the district court, saying they could consider it again once the lower courts had determined what they recommended happen to the memorial.

In answer to the Supreme Court’s request for a proposed remedy, in December the federal district judge in San Diego—spurred on the by the ACLU—gave veterans 90 DAYS to take down the historic Memorial Cross, although he delayed its destruction to give us time to appeal.  This past March, we filed a petition giving the U.S. Supreme Court an opportunity to review the case immediately.

Now, as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision to decline that early opportunity . . . the case heads back to the Ninth Circuit, with a subsequent appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court likely at a later date.

A 20+ YEAR COURT BATTLE

For more than 20 years, this veterans memorial has been the subject of a prolonged lawsuit brought about by the ACLU because of the inclusion of the cross.  Situated high above San Diego, the Memorial Cross—a 29-foot cross surrounded by more than 3,500 plaques containing the photos, names, and diverse religious symbols of our fallen service men and women—is the first Korean War Veterans Memorial place on U.S. soil. 

The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association is comprised of veterans, who originally erected the Veterans Memorial in 1954 and have served as caretakers of the veterans memorial for more than half a century.

Each day this case lingers unresolved, the Greatest Generation fades into history with the Memorial that honors them(and veterans of all wars) still under threat of destruction.

Allyson Ho, Liberty Institute’s volunteer attorney and lead counsel for the MSMA and co-chair of the U.S. Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation Practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, said, “We look forward to the final resolution of the important question of the Memorial’s constitutionality, as the fate of hundreds of similar veterans memorials hangs in the balance.”

Adds Shackelford, “If this cross comes down, then crosses at Arlington National Cemetery and elsewhere will be open targets for destruction or removal.  Worse, it will be used as a precedent to drive our religious freedom and heritage into the shadows of our society.”

GIVE BACK TO THOSE WHO GAVE ALL

Liberty Institute now continues this fight to save Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross in yet another phase of the battle.  And it’s our honor to defend memorials like these for men and women who are defending our nation’s freedom both at home and abroad.

But to continue the fight, we need the continuing support of friends like you.  Liberty Institute has won at all court levels against all opposition.  And with your help, we can continuing winning against foes like the ACLU, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and more.

Please donate nowand help us unleash more attorneys for more cases in the church, in schools, in the public arena and in the military.


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

Thursday, July 03, 2014 9:15:00 AM

VICTORY! Judge Rules to Protect Rights of Pregnancy Resource Centers

 




Liberty Institute gained a huge victory this week for clients in Austin, Texas— including the Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin and Catholic Charities of Central Texas, who oversee the Gabriel Project Life Center, as well as the Austin Pregnancy Resource Center and the South Austin Pregnancy Resource Center.

In the case U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas Austin Division issued a final judgment and permanent injunction ruling that the Austin city ordinance targeting religious life-affirming groups is unconstitutional.  Finding that the ordinance was void for vagueness, the Court ruled that the City of Austin may not enforce its unconstitutional ordinances against the Diocese and other crisis pregnancy centers

“We are very pleased,” said Jeff Mateer, General Counsel for Liberty Institute.  “Our clients’ First Amendment Rights to free speech and religious exercise and expression have been upheld according to well-established constitutional law and the great work of these pregnancy resource centers to help women make informed decisions will no longer be hindered.”

VIOLATION OF FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS

In 2012, Liberty Institute challenged the constitutionality of the Austin ordinance that unfairly targeted PRCs, enforcing them to post false and misleading signs at their front entrances stating what services they do not provide.  Facilities that did provide abortions, however, were not required to post any signs or disclaimers referencing their services or procedures.

Pro-abortion groups such as the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and Planned Parenthood have implemented an aggressive strategy to establish these types of ordinances in cities across America.  Austin is the fourth local government in the United States to pass such ordinances, following Baltimore, Montgomery County and New York City, and Federal Courts blocked the enforcement of all three ordinances finding them to be violations of the First Amendment.

HELP PROTECT AND DEFEND YOUR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

As the attacks on PRCs, businesses, churches, students, teachers, and soldiers continue to increase, now more than ever Liberty Institute needs your support to help protect and defend your religious freedom in our nation.

Through your donation now, you help continue our winning strategy of a of local attorneys who are the best in America.  While many normally charge as much as $1,200 per hour, they take religious liberty cases (free of charge).

So that means for every $1 we spend on a case, we receive approximately $6 in legal time by our attorney network.  And that means every dollar of your gift goes a way toward bringing down our opponents including the ACLU, Freedom From Religion Foundation, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State!


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

Thursday, June 26, 2014 11:13:00 AM

Important Hearing Over Oklahoma Ten Commandments Monument




This week, a Liberty Institute attorney appeared before an Oklahoma state court in support of a motion for summary judgment in favor of the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol.  If granted, the motion, made by the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission, would result in the monument being declared constitutional—a major step forward in the case!

In August, the ACLU of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit seeking to have the Ten Commandments monument removed from the Oklahoma state capitol grounds.  Liberty Institute is co-counsel with the Attorney General of Oklahoma in defending the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission in this lawsuit.

LEADERS DEFENDING RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Liberty Institute has a long history of defending monuments, displays and memorials containing religious imagery.  We successfully restored the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross, and we are currently fighting to save the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross from being torn down.

Groups like the ACLU and Freedom From Religion Foundation are committed to removing these monuments from public view.  But Liberty Institute is committed to enforcing the law that allows Ten Commandments displays and veterans memorials with religious imagery.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

But, we can’t do this alone.  We need your continued prayer and generous financial support to continue the important work of enforcing the law that allows appropriate Ten Commandments monuments and veterans memorials with religious imagery.

Please,consider a gift today to help us fight back against the ACLU and maintain our winning track record of protecting our First Freedom.


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

Thursday, June 26, 2014 11:13:00 AM

UPDATE: Liberty Institute Demands Exoneration for Brooks Hamby



In response to Brawley Union High School’s (BUHS) rejection of salutatorian Brooks Hamby’s graduation speech earlier this month, Liberty Institute sent a Demand Letter seeking a public statement from the district exonerating Hamby of any wrongdoing and an affirmation that such censorship will not occur in the future.   In the letter, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys says:


Santa Fe,

DON’T CENSOR MY GRADUATION SPEECH

Earlier this month, Hamby engaged Liberty Institute to represent him after his graduation speech was censored three times.  After being notified that he was the salutatorian for his graduating class, Hamby turned in the first draft of his speech, which he wrote as a prayer—including the sentence:  “Heavenly Father, in all times, let us always be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven us.” 

After school officials rejected that version, he then rewrote it and submitted a second draft which mentioned the censorship of his original speech.  The school district also rejected the second version of his speech.  On the day of the ceremony, Brooks and his parents were called to see the principal and were notified by the school district that if Brooks “interjects religious content, the sound will be cut off, and a disclaimer to the entire audience must be made explaining the district’s position.” 

Brooks then rewrote a third version of his speech and sent it to the superintendent.  The school sent back  that version with all religious references crossed out in black—as if the school was attempting to block out obscenity or obscure classified material!.  The student didn’t want any trouble—but neither could he compromise his faith and his convictions, so he wrote a fourth version of his speech and prepared to deliver it at his graduation a few hours later that night.

Brooks referenced the previous three versions of his speech and exercised his fundamental right of religious liberty by including references to the Bible and his Christian faith.  Amazingly, the school did silence Brooks’ microphone but allowed him to finish his speech.  Liberty Institute is waiting for a response from the Brawley Union School District and will continue to fight for the rights of students who want to express their religious beliefs.

THE GO-TO LEGAL FIRM FOR STUDENTS’ RIGHTS

In the past three years alone, Liberty Institute has become the “go to” legal firm for students like Brooks and has successfully defended—more than any other organization—young men and women who want to express their faith in their graduation speeches.  Recent cases include: 

  • Valedictorian in South Carolina Roy Costner IV ripped apart the speech school officials had approved and then proceeded to talk about his Christian faith.  Liberty Institute is proud of Costner for making the bold decision to stand for his faith.
  • Valedictorian in Joshua, Texas – When graduating high school senior Remington Reimer began to talk of the Constitution and his faith in his valedictory address, school officials shut off his microphone.  Liberty Institute sent a letter to Joshua ISD officials giving them 60 days to comply with state law.  In response, Joshua ISD issued a formal apology to Remington Reimer.
  • Valedictorian in San Antonio, Texas – Prior to Angela Hildenbrand’s graduation, a U.S. District Judge issued a temporary restraining order banning prayer offered by anyone during graduation and threatened “incarceration” for anyone violating the order.  Liberty Institute filed an emergency motion for intervention requesting relief from the temporary restraining order.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned the ruling, allowing Hildenbrand to exercise her constitutional right to freely express her religious beliefs.

HELP STOP THE CENSORSHIP OF STUDENTS OF FAITH

As more and more of our nation’s students’ personal religious freedoms are being attacked today, we’re counting on generous friends like you to continue supporting the cause to defend and protect their First Amendment Rights.

Please donate now to help continue winning in this fight for religious freedom.  And if a public school attempts to censor your graduation speech, please contact Liberty Institute immediately for further advice and guidance.

You can also find out more about students’ religious liberties—including their right to mention God in graduation speeches—when you download Liberty Institute’s “Know Your Religious Rights Kit” NOW.


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

Thursday, June 26, 2014 11:10:00 AM

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