Liberty Institute News
We Can Win: Why Now is the Time to Stand for Religious Freedom

* * *

In 2015, Americans arrived at a tipping point. We entered a time when religious liberty will either be saved or lost. At the end of this period of time, which could be a year or more—but likely not longer than five years—America will be traveling one of two paths.      
We either will be on a path of restored religious liberty, having repelled the most severe assault on religious freedom in the history of our republic, or we will be on a path to becoming a nation devoid of religious liberty and its vital benefits.
It could go either way. We’re seeing things we have never seen before. Clearly, we have entered a period of trial for the future of religious freedom.

On a human level, the main determiner of America’s religious future will be people of faith, the very targets of growing discrimination. Even after decades of judicial activism and liberty-hostile legislation—even after a cultural war on religious belief from the worldly fortresses of secularist education, media, government and much of corporate culture—the law is still decisively on the side of religious freedom.
If people of faith stand up courageously and make use of these laws, their religious freedom can be saved.

I advise you not to buy into the constant barrage of negative hype through the media. Religious liberty is not dead. Keep in mind two crucial factors:

First, major federal and state statutes and court decisions are waiting to be used to reaffirm religious liberty. Second, skilled attorneys stand ready at the defense.

People of religious faith need to know they have it within their power to win the battle. And with that knowledge, they must then make the courageous decision to fight. If they do, I believe events will tip in their favor.
In one strategic sector of society after another, we are facing dramatic battles:


When a regime hostile to religious freedom wants to discredit and silence a faith, one of their first steps is to eradicate public symbols of that faith.

Some are pushing hard for that goal today.

Currently, Liberty Institute is defending veterans memorials on public property that are under attack because they contain traditional religious imagery, something that goes back through the history of America. In a key battle, the American Humanist Association is suing to tear is down the historic Bladensburg, Maryland WWI Veterans Memorial.

A local branch of the American Legion erected the memorial in 1925 to honor the 49 men of Prince George’s County, Maryland who died serving in WWI. The memorial was supported and partly funded by the mothers of those fallen veterans.

The American Humanist Association is suing to tear down the memorial simply because it is in the shape of a Latin cross—a symbol used during wars—specifically WWI—to signify the graves of fallen service members.

Should this historic veterans memorial fall, more will be targets. On the other hand, winning that case will protect all the other memorials. The war will be won. We are nearing the tipping point.

One synagogue currently under attack is Congregation Toras Chaim, an Orthodox Jewish home synagogue facing relentless discrimination and harassment from their own neighborhood and city.

After peaceably meeting in private homes for years, the members of the small congregation received unfounded complaints from a neighbor, threatening their right to gather together and worship. Fortunately, Liberty Institute helped Congregation Toras Chaim achieve legal victory in the first lawsuit. Now, the City of Dallas is attacking Toras Chaim again, attempting to shut down the Jewish families’ right to freely exercise their religious beliefs by meeting in a private home for worship.

Other examples of persecution of churches and ministries include the federal government’s insistence that Christian ministries facilitate in providing insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, even when that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.

We are representing several such ministries, including Insight for Living Ministries, the Bible-teaching outreach of Dr. Chuck Swindoll.

The law is on the side of religious liberty for Congregation Toras Chaim, Insight for Living Ministries, congregations, and the others we represent. But brave people of faith like Rabbi Rich, Dr. Chuck Swindoll, and others must be willing to stand. We’re at a tipping point, and what people of faith do in the near future will determine the outcome.


Sixty million students are also living at a tipping point for religious freedom and influence in the public schools where they spend so much of their time and energy. Ironically, most students of faith and most educators simply aren’t aware of lawfully protected religious liberty rights in the schools.

Bremerton High School in Washington State suspended assistant football Coach Joe Kennedy for privately praying after football games—something he had done without complaint for seven years. The school district’s verbiage and legal demand letters to Coach Kennedy prove that they are acting according to a grave misinterpretation of the First Amendment and case law precedent.

Imagine an America where public school students do routinely openly express their faith in schools without fear of opposition by school authorities. Imagine an America where public schools do protect faith as a daily, positive aspect of student life. That America could happen. We are at a tipping point.


In the shadow of a major victory for U.S. Navy Chaplain Wes Modder, who nearly lost his career for abiding by his faith in the military, a Marine waits to see if the highest military court will uphold her right to religious freedom.

Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling was told in 2013 to remove a Bible verse she had posted in her private workspace. When she refused, she was court-martialed, and told that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act didn’t apply. Her case is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF).

If CAAF refuses to uphold Sterling’s religious liberty in this case, it could have damaging ramifications for other members of the U.S. Military. If we win, it will be a landmark precedent covering all who serve in our military. We are at a tipping point.


Liberty Institute is representing Dr. Eric Walsh, one of top healthcare administrators in the United States, in a legal action against the state of Georgia, who fired him because of what he preached in his church as an ordained lay minister.

If Liberty Institute wins this very public case, it will send a message to other employers that such hiring and firing discrimination is against the law and unacceptable.

These are “tipping point” cases.


We can win in every area if people of faith are willing to stand up. We have the lawyers, so the key ingredients are clients—brave Americans choosing to insist on their rights—and other Americans willing to donate resources to make sure people of faith get the best legal representation.

America is entering a period that we call “a tipping point.” In this period, your religious freedom will either be saved or lost. It's a key time to be alive and to make the difference.

A Time To Stand 2016,

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 10:59:00 AM

They Walk Among Us

Dear Friend of Religious Liberty,

This week you and I—along with millions of Americans—have given thanks. And hopefully, we have remembered all those who sacrificed that we might have freedom of religion.

Who are these courageous Americans?

Some of them you will only read about in history books. The Pilgrims. The Signers of the Declaration of Independence. The men who waded into Nazi fire on the beaches of Normandy. They risked all for freedom—including freedom to openly exercise one’s faith.

But there are others. Today we walk in the presence of modern pilgrims and patriots—some of them still children. These are Americans with whom you and I are very blessed to be connected.

I can think of some very immediate examples—

I think of Coach Joe Kennedy, a client of Liberty Institute. He is a retired Marine and a beloved high school assistant football coach in Bremerton, Washington, who worked hard to cultivate a culture of community, unity, and brotherhood among his players. But Joe Kennedy is also a Christian. And just last month, he was suspended for his personal practice of praying at the 50-yard line after games. He isn’t backing down, determined to show what it means to stand up for something.

I think of U.S. Navy Chaplain Wes Modder, who was threatened with the termination of his 20-year career for merely counseling as a chaplain according to his beliefs. He could have taken the easy way out, just as the pilgrims could have stayed in England and stayed quiet about their beliefs. But that’s not what creates a free society. So Chaplain Modder put it on the line. And by God’s grace, we helped protect him and are using the leverage of that victory.

I think of sixth-grader Mackenzie Fraiser, members of two Fifth Ward churches, Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling, the Kountze Cheerleaders and other brave clients we have or are representing. They stood up to the authorities and risked much by insisting on their religious freedom—and thereby are securing freedom for many more. Many of them were threatened. Many of them were bullied. But they wouldn’t back down.

The list goes on, like the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews Chapter 11, where the writer finally admits there are too many stories of faith to tell, saying, “And what more shall I say?  For time will fail me . . .”

So here’s my post-Thanksgiving request to you, as the turkey settles and we bask in the love of our family and friends:

Please take a moment this weekend to thank God for brave Americans like those I’ve mentioned—both those in the history books and those fighting for religious freedom today. And please ask God for more of them!

Ronald Reagan said, “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.”

So I thank God for:

·      Our fearless clients. Their courage is moving mountains as we defend and, yes, restore religious liberty in America.
·      Rewarding the faithfulness of such clients. Just this month we’ve seen new evidence that the battle for religious liberty in the military—thought a lost cause by many just two years ago—is now moving in the right direction in large part because men like SMSgt. Phillip Monk, Lt. Col. Charles Pudil and Chaplain Wes Modder took the Pilgrims’ dangerous example and risked all for religious freedom.
·      Our Liberty Institute team. Our staff attorneys, our entire Liberty Institute team, and our amazing volunteer attorneys across the nation. 
·      And I thank God for you and every single supporter. Together, we are a vanguard of religious freedom—fighting to keep this promised land of liberty. And we are winning.


Kelly Shackelford
President & CEO

P.S. Liberty Institute will begin the month of December with a goal of receiving $3.1 million by the end of 2015. We desire to stay on our projected budget in our mission to win history-shaping legal victories that defend and restore religious liberty in America. If you are led to help us get a head start with a year-end gift today, your impact will be significant as a modern-day “pilgrim and patriot.” I thank God for you.

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 10:59:00 AM

Thanksgiving Reflections Part I: Thankfulness and Remembrance

With Thanksgiving Day less than a week away, we at Liberty Institute are committed to thankfulness. But we also recognize that thankfulness requires remembrance.
We thank our volunteer attorneys, our clients, and our supporters because we remember how their involvement has made our work possible.
We thank our veterans because we remember their sacrifice to defend our freedom and our home.
We thank God because we remember what He has done for us—as a nation and as individuals.
So in the week leading up to a holiday that is so easily overshadowed by turkey, football, and commerce, let me encourage you to take a moment to remember the history behind Thanksgiving Day itself.
As Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel wrote, “Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.”
President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation offers timeless wisdom for our nation’s future, and invaluable insight into our nation’s past. Read it here as you join Liberty Institute in remembrance of our heritage and thankfulness for our freedom. 

President George Washington recognized the importance of pausing on one day, together as a nation, to offer thanks for our blessings.

These are difficult times in our nation and the world, but his sentiment written over two hundred years ago is still true today.

Even as we fight to restore religious freedom, we must take time to pause with thankfulness, realizing what a rare blessing it is to have the freedom to defend our freedom.

May your coming week be filled with remembrance and thankfulness.

Other stories:

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

Thursday, November 19, 2015 2:21:00 PM

Six Things Every Student and Teacher Should Know About Religious Freedom and the Holidays

Historically, the Christmas season, while rich in religious meaning for some, has been rife with hostility toward religion for others. When it comes to the holidays and religious freedom in public school, there are six things attorneys at Liberty Institute want students and teachers to know now, so they can be prepared.


1. Schools can celebrate “Christmas” just as easily as they can celebrate “winter.”
As long as the school is not celebrating Christmas for the purpose of promoting or coercing others to follow Christianity, the school can refer to Christmas in their festivities. Educating students about Christmas is actually good education, as it provides an educational perspective of world history, the effect of religion upon culture, and the traditions of millions of Americans. Of course, while public schools can celebrate Christmas, they are not obligated to do so.

2.  Schools can deck the halls in Christmas decorations.
A school district is allowed to display Christmas decorations for use as a teaching resource and to educate on the cultural and religious heritage of the holiday.

3. Schools can include Christmas-themed artistic expressions in school plays.
A school can incorporate religious music, art, and drama into its school-sponsored performances, as long as it is presented in an objective manner as a traditional part of the heritage of Christmas.

4. Students can wish their friends a Merry Christmas by handing out religious gifts like candy canes.
As Plano ISD learned in the “Candy Cane Case,” if students are allowed to hand out gifts at a school party, then no one can bar children from giving gifts with religious messages. If a school official prohibits a gift because of its religious message, then the school is demonstrating unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination and religious hostility.

5. Students can talk about their faith in school assignments.
Students can express their faith in any of their personal work--something protected throughout the year by the First Amendment freedom of speech clause and freedom of clause. Student work should be graded on the basis of academic standards, not on religious content. Sixth-grader and Liberty Institute beneficiary Mackenzie Fraiser  is a perfect example of this.

6. School employees can talk about Christmas and religion outside of their official roles as educators.
Teachers and school employees can promote religion when not acting in their official functions, meaning before and after school, during break times, and any other time in their private life. This means that teachers can attend Christmas parties in their personal capacities, just like any other private citizen.


For more information about the religious rights of students and teachers year-round, download Liberty Institute’s free, online Religious Liberty Protection Kit for Students and Teachers by clicking here.

Other stories:

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

Thursday, November 19, 2015 2:20:00 PM

What’s at Stake: Will Supreme Court Order Ministries to Violate Their Beliefs on Abortion—or Pay Staggering Fines?

Last week, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari — agreed to hear the case — for seven faith-based non-profit ministries who are seeking exemptions from the HHS (Abortion Pill) Mandate. As the Court reviews the background facts, reads the briefs, and prepares to hear oral arguments, the good work of countless faith-based non-profit ministries hangs in the balance, including Liberty Institute clients.

“The Supreme Court opinion will likely control the outcome in two pending HHS cases, in the Eastern District of Texas and ministries in the Middle District of Florida,” said Matthew Kacsmaryk, Deputy General Counsel at Liberty Institute. He continued, 

“If the government prevails in arguing that the so-called accommodation is sufficient under RFRA, the longstanding American principle of conscientious objection will be reduced to a Paper Tiger: ‘just sign this paper and The Almighty Federal Government will absolve you of any moral complicity in the destruction of human life.’”

What’s at stake? Nothing less than the ability to conduct global outreach, to help more poverty-stricken children, to preach and teach the Bible to millions of people, to educate students, and much more.

If the Court rules against them, ministries would be faced with this choice: Either participate in a process you sincerely regard to be sin—or refuse to participate and that will hinder, or even cripple, your ability to conduct ministry.


The HHS Mandate is a portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” that requires group health insurance plans to provide coverage for FDA-approved abortifacient drugs or devices – for example, Plan B (the “day after pill”), Ella (the “week after pill”), and intrauterine devices (“IUD”) that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.

The HHS Mandate exempts churches, church denominations, and church auxiliaries, but provides no exemption for faith-based ministries like the Little Sisters of the Poor, Insight For Living, or the Christian and Missionary Alliance retirement communities and colleges.

After considerable pressure, the Obama Administration offered ministries a so-called “accommodation” that purportedly absolves them of moral complicity: sign a form stating your religious objections and thereby authorize third-party administrators and federal bureaucrats to dispense the abortion-inducing drugs or devices to your employees.  Whatever the plan type, employees are guaranteed to receive the FDA and ACA-approved abortifacients.


Ministries rejected it. As they saw it, they were not relieved of moral complicity. The government’s offer of “accommodation” still entangled them; still required them to facilitate the provision of drugs their faith told them would kill an innocent human being.

The 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) states that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless the government has a compelling reason to do so and the government is seeking to do it the only way it can be done.  The Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which administers ObamaCare, argues that offering the abortion pill “accommodation” removes that burden.

“The Supreme Court must determine,” explains Kacsmaryk, “if the so-called ‘accommodation’ adequately offsets the ‘substantial burden’ imposed on religious plaintiffs who sincerely believe that the HHS mandate violates the tenets of their faith by forcing them to formally and materially cooperate in the dispensation of abortion-inducing drugs and devices.”


He says, “Citing scripture and millennia-old religious teachings in Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, and Jewish traditions, religious plaintiffs all argue that the ‘substantial burden’ is by an HHS ‘accommodation’ that adds a piece of paper and a signature block to the process of dispensing abortion-inducing drugs and devices: ‘Sign here and the Affordable Care Act and HHS bureaucrats will do the dirty work.’”  

“Though their reasons reflect different faith-distinctive language — Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Jewish — all religious plaintiffs agree,” says Kacsmaryk “that the HHS ‘accommodation’ does not absolve them of moral complicityand therefore does not lessen the ‘substantial burden’ imposed.”


In , the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.—establishing that religiously affiliated, family-owned businesses could not be forced to violate their beliefs by complying with the HHS Mandate and providing certain kinds of contraception to their employees. It was a substantial victory for religious freedom.

The decision was limited to the protection of for-profit businesses, however, leaving non-profit ministries—which fall neither within the exempted church category nor the precedent—completely vulnerable to legal attack.

Since Obamacare became law, hundreds of non-profit faith-based ministries have brought their cases before court, hoping to preserve the same type of sincerely held religious beliefs as family-owned businesses under the decision. But several federal appellate courts ruled against them.

In September 2015, however, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit  shook things up, rejecting the government’s arguments and holding that faith-based non-profit ministries cannot be forced to provide abortion-inducing drugs in violation to their sincere religious beliefs. It was the first Court of Appeals to rule in favor of the faith-based non-profit ministries.

This “circuit split” has prompted the Supreme Court to grant certiorari in several prominent HHS cases, it is now more likely that the Court will rule favorably for faith-based non-profits.


This ongoing issue—and the Supreme Court’s decision to review these cases—matter for several reasons.

First, the positive impact and reach of religious non-profit ministries defies measurement. Consider the clients of Liberty Institute alone, who, though not plaintiffs in the cases currently before the Supreme Court for review, will be directly affected by the decision:

  •           Insight for Living Ministries (IFL) – this Bible-teaching ministry of renowned pastor Chuck Swindoll reaches thousands of people around the world with biblical counseling and guidance. Because the ministry’s core values do not allow the provision of the kind of abortion-inducing contraceptives included in the HHS mandate, IFL finds itself deep in a legal battle.

  •         Christian and Missionary Alliance Foundation (CMA) – this denomination also has worldwide impact, with 20,000 churches internationally and multiple other faith-based organizations that, though not churches, are affiliates or subsidiaries affiliated with CMA and aligned with its core values. Liberty Institute is currently representing four CMA retirement communities and two CMA colleges in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the HHS Mandate.
There are dozens more non-profit, faith-based ministries that are currently waiting on the Supreme Court to decide the legality of the HHS Mandate and to determine if they will be permitted to freely exercise their sincere religious beliefs—beliefs that say it is morally and ethically wrong to participate in the termination of unborn human life. Should the federal government prevail in this battle, religious non-profit ministries all around America will be affected, and their impactful work compromised.

Finally, by limiting exemptions to the HHS mandate to churches, church denominations, and church auxiliaries, the federal government is attempting to limit the exercise of religious beliefs to the four walls of church buildings—rather than allowing Americans “the free exercise” of their faith in all areas of life.


The question of religious non-profits’ religious rights is not yet decided. Non-profit ministry leaders, pro-life advocates, and religious liberty supporters have reason to hope that soon, both family-owned businesses and non-profit ministries may be exempt from the HHS Mandate.

Other stories:

The Legal and Historical Case for Religious Rights in the U.S. Military 

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015 11:52:00 AM

Texas Attorney General Agrees with Liberty Institute, Supports ‘In God We Trust’ On Law Enforcement Vehicles

There is nothing unconstitutional about displaying “In God We Trust” on law enforcement vehicles, says Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Paxton submitted an official opinion to Texas State Senator Charles Perry last week,arguing that the display of the national motto by the Childress, Texas police department and other law enforcement does not violate the Establishment Clause.

“Displaying ‘In God We Trust’ on police vehicles is a passive use of a motto steeped in our nation’s history that does not coerce citizen approval or participation,” Paxton’s letter read.


The controversy over “In God We Trust” on law enforcement vehicles ballooned in late September after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent over 60 letters to police departments and sheriffs’ offices around the country. The organization is demanding the removal of the national motto from law enforcement vehicles, alleging that such display violates the Establishment Clause.

When Childress Police Chief Adrian Garcia received one such letter, he publicly stated his refusal to comply with FFRF’s demands, formally retaining Liberty Institute to take legal action on his behalf.

Garcia’s decision to display the national motto was inspired shortly after the ambush and murder of Harris County Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth.

Garcia went to Facebook with a photo revealing the new decals.

“With all the attacks on police right now, it's a tough time to be in law enforcement,” Garcia said. “We are displaying the motto as a patriotic way to rally together.”

Garcia’s refusal to comply with the FFRF’s demands garnered national attention, with constitutional experts quick to highlight the historical and judicial arguments for the public display of the national motto.

“Throughout America’s history, the phrase ‘In God we Trust’ has been honored and celebrated as an expression of what it means to be an American,” wrote Jeremy Dys, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel in an editorial in September. “Any effort to remove it from our currency, silence its public utterance, sandblast it from our walls or paint over its display should be rejected as bald efforts to rewrite our history and destroy our heritage.


Dated November 4, 2015 and addressed to State Senator Charles Perry, Attorney General Paxton’s opinion referenced multiple past court decisions that affirmed the legality of the motto’s public display as consistent with “our nation’s historical practices and understandings.”

“There is an unbroken history of official acknowledgement by all three branches of government of the role of religion in American life from at least 1789,” the opinion stated, quoting U.S. Supreme Court case (1984). 

Specifically, the letter highlights court decisions that upheld the inscription of the national motto on county building facades, (.), and the constitutionality of displaying posters with the national motto in schools ().

Paxton concluded by postulating “a court is likely to conclude that a law enforcement department’s display of the national motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ on its patrol vehicles is permissible under the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.”

And as Dys penned in September, “No police or sheriff department should be bullied into removing ‘In God we Trust’ from their cruisers.”

Other stories:

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015 11:44:00 AM

The Legal and Historical Case for Religious Rights in the U.S. Military

Religious liberty in the U.S. military is under fire from politically correct government officials and radical legal organizations. Recently, we were asked by Members of Congress to provide legal and historical analysis in light of the argument that service members must leave their religious freedom rights at the base gate. Our answer was an emphatic, “No, they keep their rights.”

This answer is not just important for Congress and courts to hear. It is crucial that men and women in the military—or those who may be thinking of serving in the military—know the strong legal basis for their right to openly live and express their faith while in uniform.

Here is a brief summary of the legal and historical analysis supporting our claim that members of the military do not forfeit their religious liberty:


Despite serious attacks on religious expression, the American legal basis for religious liberty is strong and has withstood many challenges. Usually, we lose when we fail to stand up for our rights. When we do stand up, we win. Consider:

The U.S. Constitution itself is pro-religious freedom. The First Amendment outlaws government interference with the “free exercise” of religion.In 1789, Congress passed a law providing for the payment of legislative chaplains.

One hundred and ninety-four years later, in (1983), the Supreme Court upheld the payment of legislative chaplains, concluding that it “is not . . . an establishment of religion,” but rather “a tolerable acknowledgement of beliefs widely held among the people of this country.”

In (1952), the Supreme Court acknowledged, “we are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being” and that the First Amendment “does not say that in every and all respects there shall be a separation of Church and State. . . .Otherwise the state and religion would be aliens to each other—hostile, suspicious, and even unfriendly.’”

In (1987), the Supreme Court stated “this Court has long recognized that the government may (and sometimes must) accommodate religious practicesand that it may do so without violating the Establishment Clause.”

In (1990), the Supreme Court held that the Government “does not endorse or support . . . speech that it merely permits on a nondiscriminatory basis.” In other words, permitting religious speech is not establishing religion.

In (1995), the Supreme Court stated: “private religious expression receives preferential treatment under the Free Exercise Clause,” and warned that “discrimination against speech because of its message is presumed to be unconstitutional.”In other words, don’t suppress private religious expression even in public places! The Rosenberger decision said this is unconstitutional “viewpoint discrimination,” which includes unreasonable restrictions on “proselytizing . . . or even acts of worship.”

In (2005), the Supreme Court held that a Ten Commandments monument on public grounds did not violate the Establishment Clause, noting that “people may take offense at all manner of religious as well as nonreligious messages, but offense alone does not in every case show a violation.”

In (2010), the Supreme Court held that a memorial cross in a public park to honor WWI veterans did not violate the Establishment Clause.

In (2014), the Supreme Court held that allowing government officials to open their meetings with prayer does not violate the Establishment Clause.  Echoing the decision, the Court stated “offense . . .does not equate to coercion.”


Many secularists might read Point 1 and exclaim, “ This is incorrect. It’s a scare tactic aimed at frightening people of faith in the military into silence. So let’s look at actual military law.

The History of Military Law Favors Permitting Religious Expression

President Thomas Jefferson—often described as a strong church-state separatist—signed the Articles of War (the precursor to the Uniform Code of Military Justice) which “earnestly recommended to all officers and soldiers, diligently to attend In 1791, Congress passed the Military Establishment Act, which included the creation of the U.S. Army chaplaincy.

In 1799, Congress required commanders of U.S. Navy ships “to take care that divine service be performed twice a day, and the sermon preached on Sundays.”

In 1800, Congress encouraged U.S. Navy ships’ crews “to attend at every performance of the worship of Almighty God.”

To this day, the U.S. Navy maintains the tradition of saying a daily prayer aboard each vessel.

In 1950, a report to President Harry Truman stated:

“[I]f we expect our Armed Forces to be physically prepared, we must also expect them to be ideologically prepared. A program of adequate religious opportunities for service personnel provides an essential way for strengthening their fundamental beliefs in democracy and, therefore, strengthening their effectiveness as an instrument of our democratic form of government.”

In 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10631, prescribing the Code of Conduct for Members of the Armed Forces. Article VI concludes:

Current Federal Law Favors Open Religious Expression in the Military

The Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States applies to members of the military.

The 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)applies to military service members to the same degree that it does to civilians. In order to be lawful, a statute or regulation that burdens a service member’s religious expression must demonstrate that it: (1) furthers a compelling governmental interest; and (2) uses the least restrictive means to further the interest.

Department of Defense Policy Favors Open Religious Expression in the Military

Department of Defense Instruction 1300.17, Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the Military Services (2014) establishes the “policy, procedures, and responsibilities for the accommodation of religious practices in the Military Services.”

This important regulation states that the Department of Defense “places a high value on the rights of members of the Military Services to observe the tenets of their respective religions.”

It specifies and therefore restricts the circumstances that give a commander the authority to deny religious accommodation.

DoD Directive 1304.19, Appointment of Chaplains for Military Departments (2004) states that commanders are required to provide comprehensive religious support to service members. Chaplaincies are established to assist commanders in carrying out this responsibility.

DoD Directive 1350.2, Department of Defense Military Equal Opportunity Program (2003) prohibits discrimination based on several factors, including “religion.”

U.S. Air Force Policy Favors Free Religious Expression United States

Air Force Instruction 1-1 (November 12, 2014) states that as a government entity, the U.S. Air Force must allow free exercise of religion of its members, with the reasonable caution that superior officers must not appear to seem biased for or against those under their command because of religious beliefs.

This regulation also states: “Supporting the right of free exercise of religion relates directly to the Air Force core values and the ability to maintain an effective team. All Airmen are able to choose to practice their particular religion, or subscribe to no religious belief at all. You should confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from your own.”

U.S. Army Policy Favors Free Religious Expression

United States Army Regulation 600-20 (March 18, 2008) states that: “The Army places a high value on the rights of its soldiers to observe tenets of their respective religious faiths.”

The only restrictions are those that reasonably apply to any religious activity that would overtly impair military functions and readiness.

U.S. Navy and Marine Policy Favors Free Religious Expression

Secretary of the Navy Instruction 1730.8B (October 2, 2008) states: “Department of the Navy policy is to accommodate the doctrinal or traditional observances of the religious faith practiced by individual members . . .”

Again, the only restriction allowed is when religious activity to overtly impair necessary military functions.

U.S. Coast Guard Policy Favors Free Religious Expression

United States Coast Guard Commandant Instruction M1730.4B (August 30, 1994) states: “In keeping with the provisions of Coast Guard policy, unit commanding officers shall provide for the free exercise of religion for Coast Guard personnel, their dependents, and other authorized persons, and seek to accommodate the religious practices and observances of individual members when they will not have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, health, safety or discipline.”


Some may object that in our “enlightened” age, the courts are striking down such pro-religion policies as violating the First Amendment by breaching the so-called “separation between church and state.” However, much the opposite turns out to be the case. For example:

In 2010, a U.S. District Court upheld the right of a civilian employee at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to put decals on his car that included some carrying an overtly religious message. Even though some base personnel alleged the decals could be offensive, the Court ruled that the base commander engaged in “viewpoint discrimination” by permitting non-religious decals but banning those with a religious message, and ruled in favor of the religious rights of the base employee.

In 1997, a U.S. District Court ruled that Roman Catholic military chaplains could encourage their military parishioners to contact legislators regarding proposed laws they deemed of utmost spiritual importance. The military sought to prohibit the chaplains from engaging in such political activity, but the Court ruled for the chaplains, stating when chaplains “are acting in a religious capacity…it is wholly appropriate for them to advance their religious beliefs in that context.”

In 1985, a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the claim that a government-funded chaplaincy violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. In fact, the Court ruled that the Constitution “obligates Congress, upon creating an Army, to make religion availableto soldiers who have been moved by the Army to areas of the world where religion of their own denominations is not available to them.”

Amid the bluster of those who take aim at religious freedom in the military, it’s easy to get the misimpression that such freedom doesn’t exist, is vanishing, or can’t be reclaimed. The bluster is wrong. As we’ve seen, we have every reason to confidently assert our constitutional religious rights as applied to the armed services. Religious liberty is a military necessity. 


Liberty Institute has successfully defended active service members, veterans and veterans memorials in the past, including
U.S. Navy Chaplain Wes Modder
U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk
Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial
The Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross 
Click on the links above to read about these victories, and access our free, downloadable Religious Liberty Protection Kit for the U.S. Military here.

Other stories:

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015 11:39:00 AM

Making Our Children Weak—How Violating the Religious Rights of Teachers like Joe Kennedy Harms Society

by Mike Berry

From high school students to presidential candidates, people are acknowledging the constitutional rights of Americans like Coach Joe Kennedy—the high school football coach suspended from his job last week for praying on the football field after the conclusion of the game—to freely exercise their religion. But Bremerton School District doesn’t seem to get the message.

Advised by Liberty Institute last month that his seven-year practice of personally praying at the 50-yard-line after football games was constitutional, Kennedy continued his practice, even after Bremerton School District in Washington State threatened to punish him in September if he did not stop.

Despite a demand letter from Liberty Institute carefully explaining why Kennedy’s prayer is by the Constitution and court precedent, and offers from Liberty Institute attorneys to meet with the superintendent on amicable terms, the school bulldozed Kennedy’s rights with their off-base agenda—first denying Kennedy’s request for a religious accommodation, and then placing him on administrative leave just hours before his team’s last game of the regular season.

By relentlessly clinging to a gross misinterpretation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, Bremerton School District is violating the first freedom the First Amendment was intended to protect—religious freedom. It’s ironic, but not uncommon.

In today’s America, the Establishment Clause is frequently wielded as a sword—unwittingly by the misinformed and harshly by the hostile—to slash every expression of personal religious belief from public life.

In public schools, the misinformation (and in some cases, hostility) is especially rampant. And unless the misinformation is countered with truth, the ramifications will be detrimental to our children and our society.

In a place where students should be taught to value freedoms granted by the First Amendment, they are instead given a skewed interpretation of what the First Amendment means.

In a place where students should learn tolerance and appreciation for America’s historically diverse religious composition, they are instead taught that diversity of religious beliefs—and the expression of those beliefs—has no place outside the four walls of a church or someone’s home.

In a place where students should be taught to celebrate their individuality, defy bullies, and resist peer pressure, they are instead taught that staying true to one’s most closely-held religious beliefs in public is a crime, punishable by bullying from the government.

By defending this imaginary right to not be offended, schools are robbing students of the knowledge of what true freedom actually means. And in fact, it’s insulting.

By seeking to shelter students from any kind of diverse religious expression, schools are teaching students to be weak in their own convictions. How will students learn to stand up for what they believe in, if they see a coach for doing exactly that?

Fortunately, Americans everywhere—including students—are defying that notion, showing their schools that the right to express one’s beliefs .

Several social media users have posted to the Support Coach Kennedy Facebook page (which has over 17,000 likes), with pictures of high school football teams and players kneeling on the field before and after games in prayer. Others have shared photos of NFL players kneeling on the field to pray.

One young man named “Nick” posted this message addressed to Kennedy:

Media coverage of Kennedy’s story hasn’t slowed down, with TV hits on Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, Bill O’Reilly, CNN, and many more. 

This kind of support for Coach Kennedy continues to grow because Americans are waking up. Joe Kennedy woke up to the fact that he had religious freedom rights, even though he was a coach at a public school. Students and parents are waking up to the fact that they have religious freedom rights in school. Across our country, citizens that allowing teachers and coaches to express their religious beliefs is supported by the Constitution. And more Americans are realizing that it is unlawful to eradicate every visible display or hint of religion from the public arena.

It’s become obvious to most of us. It’s time more schools—starting with Bremerton School District—do their homework.

What Can You Do?Read, and share with others, Liberty Institute’s online Religious Liberty Protection Kit for Students and Teachers in Public Schools. Learn what is and isn’t permissible in public schools regarding your religious freedom. Pass this on to students, parents, grandparents, teachers, school officials, school board members, and youth pastors. And help more Americans “wake up” to their religious liberty rights in our schools.

Other stories:

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

Thursday, November 05, 2015 12:09:00 PM

Marine Court-Martialed for Displaying Bible Verse will go Before Military’s Highest Court

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF)—the highest court in the military—announced last week that it will hear the case of Lance Corporal (LCpl) Monifa Sterling, a U.S. Marine and Liberty Institute client who was convicted at a court-martial in 2013 for refusing to remove a Bible verse she taped in her workspace.

“Our Marines give up many freedoms when serving, but religious freedom is never one of them,” said Mike Berry, Liberty Institute Director of Military Affairs. “Their right to free religious expression should be protected. We are grateful the Court took the case and we are hopeful for a favorable ruling for our client.”

Attorneys with Liberty Institute and volunteer attorney Paul Clement will represent Sterling in the case before the CAAF. Mr. Clement is a former U.S. Solicitor General and current partner at Bancroft PLLC. He has argued over 75 cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, including the case.

“We are pleased that the Court agreed to review this important case,” Clement said. “We hope they will uphold the rights of our service members to religious freedom.”


LCpl Sterling’s case began over two years ago when, stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, she noticed that other service members had placed various personal items in their workspaces. A devout Christian, Sterling decided to express herself as well, printing out the words of Isaiah 54:17: “No weapon formed against you shall prosper.” She posted these words in three different places around her personal workspace.

Before long, LCpl Sterling’s supervisor—who also happened to be her former drill instructor—ordered her to remove the Bible verse, using profanity to describe the verses in the process. When LCpl Sterling asked why, her supervisor said, “I don’t like the tone.” Sterling explained it was her First Amendment right to display the Bible verse and declined to take them down, also stating that no other person in the unit ever complained about the verse.

The next day, LCpl Sterling discovered that her supervisor had torn down the Bible verse and threw it in the trash. The U.S. Government then charged LCpl Sterling with the crime of failing to obey a direct order because she did not remove the Bible verse.

During her initial trial, Sterling invoked her First Amendment rights and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), only to have the judge reject those claims. Then, on appeal, Sterling again raised the First Amendment and RFRA. But the court of appeals ruled that displaying Bible verses did not constitute religious exercise as a “part of a religious system of belief.”


While Liberty Institute and volunteer attorney Paul Clement waited to see if the CAAF would take Sterling’s case, notable politicians and policy makers expressed their public support for Sterling.

In early June, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed an (“friend of the court”) brief in support of LCpl Sterling, urging the CAAF to take her case. Attorneys General from four other states (Nevada, Arizona, South Carolina, and West Virginia) added their names to Pruitt’s brief, along with 43 members of Congress and the American Center for Law and Justice.

The brief explained the signers’ concern about the violation of Sterling’s religious rights, and the harmful precedents that could potentially be established by the continued denial of her rights.

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

Attorneys at Liberty Institute celebrated the brief as being “rare and unprecedented.”

“It is extremely important to have support from respected legal experts—like State Attorneys General—in cases like this one,” Berry said.


The violation of religious rights in the military is a real problem, according to experts at Liberty Institute.

“The government is clearly targeting religious freedom in the military,” Berry sad, adding that in recent years, Liberty Institute has defended service members from religious discrimination in all four branches of the military.

For instance, Liberty Institute defended Air Force Senior Master Sergeant (SMSgt) Phillip Monk, a Christian, after he was relieved of duties for his beliefs on marriage in 2013. Later, the Air Force cleared SMSgt Monk of any crimes and granted his request for retirement.

In September 2015, the Navy exonerated Liberty Institute client and 20-year chaplain Lt. Commander Wes Modder, who was relieved of duties in 2014 after sailors complained about Modder sharing his own biblical views in answer to their questions during private counseling sessions.

 “We have protected military members and vindicated their religious rights under the law,” Berry continued. “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.

The CAAF is anticipated to hear oral arguments in Sterling’s case in the spring of 2016.

Read more about LCpl Sterling’s case at
Read about the religious liberty rights of military members in our new, free, online Religious Liberty Protection Kit for the U.S. Military.

Other stories:

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

Thursday, November 05, 2015 12:05:00 PM

VICTORY: Houston Church Property Saved From Threats of Eminent Domain

A three-month legal battle for a Houston church’s property came to a close last week when the Houston Housing Authority (HHA) voluntarily dismissed all eminent domain proceedings against the historic Fifth Ward church, Latter Day Deliverance Revival Center.

“This is a significant victory for churches everywhere, and a lesson for government authorities on all levels—” says Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of Liberty Institute, “that you can’t just take a church’s property for the purpose of increasing tax revenue or public use.”

After unsuccessfully pressuring two long-time African-American pastors in Houston’s Fifth Ward to sell their neighboring church properties, the HHA threatened to forcibly seize the targeted properties through eminent domain. They intended to bulldoze the property of Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, and condemn land owned by Latter Day Deliverance Revival Church—using the collective space to generate tax revenue and build housing units.

Liberty Institute stepped in on August 4, 2015 alongside volunteer attorneys from Baker Botts LLP, suing the Houston Housing Authority for their unlawful threats against both churches. After a hearing on August 31, the HHA rescinded their threat to bulldoze the Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.

In late October, HHA representatives informed Liberty Institute attorneys that they were also abandoning all efforts to take Latter Day’s land. Now that threats against both churches have been dismissed, the members can continue to exist and minister in historically infamous neighborhood.

Eighty-three-year-old Bishop Roy Lee Kossie, who is celebrating his 60th pastoral anniversary this year, says, “We are overjoyed that we can now continue to minister to the Fifth Ward without fear of losing our property. This is where the Lord called Latter Day Deliverance Revival Church to serve and this is where we can now stay.”

 “We applaud the Housing Authority for making the right decision and respecting the right of this church to continue its ministry in the Fifth Ward,” said Aaron Streett, Liberty Institute volunteer attorney and partner at the law firm of Baker Botts. “Churches are vital to our communities and government should never threaten to push churches off their own property.”

Our clients are thrilled that they can continue ministering in the same community where they have been for 60 years without the heavy hand of government threatening to seize their property,” said Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for Liberty Institute.


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

“When we moved in to this area, it was considered the highest crime rate area in the city of Houston,” said Kossie. “People shot first and asked questions later. But we loved these people. We loved this community. We knew this was exactly where we needed to be.” 

After decades of serving in the community, the churches helped transform the Fifth Ward into a safer place. The Latter Day church used to be flanked by a nightclub and what Kossie called a “honky tonk.” Today, a church-run food pantry and youth ministry center have replaced them.

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

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


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

The Houston Housing Authority persistently pressured the pastors to sell the churches’ property, holding out the threat of using eminent domain to take the property if they would not sell. Bishop Kossie and Pastor Smith steadfastly refused to leave, even when the HHA began eminent domain proceedings.

“This is our home,” Kossie said at the time. “This is where the Lord called us to serve and this is where we want to stay. We aren’t giving up without a fight.”

Thanks to their fight—with the help of attorneys from Liberty Institute and Baker Botts—Kossie, Smith, and their churches’ members can stay in the Fifth Ward.

During the proceedings, Liberty Institute and Baker Botts asserted that the city’s threats of eminent domain against the two Houston churches violated Texas’ religious freedom law, including the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They noted that the churches have served as pillars in the Fifth Ward’s spiritual and social community for decades and that the City’s actions would force the churches out of the community they have served for over half a century. 

While the HHA maintains that they would like to purchase the coveted church property should either church ever decide to sell, they have promised to cease all efforts to seize the land by force.

“The HHA realized that they cannot seize a church’s property and give it to some other business in violation of the law.” Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys said. “Their decision to dismiss eminent domain proceedings will allow the Latter Day to continue their many outreaches that are so vital to this community.”

Other stories:

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

Thursday, November 05, 2015 12:05:00 PM

This feed has 50 articles on 5 pages << < 1 2 3 4 5 > >>

Take Action


Clay Christensen


Financial Accountability

Fundraising Chart 2015


Get Involved


© 2015 Liberty Institute | 2001 West Plano Parkway, Suite 1600 | Plano, Texas 75075
Phone: 972.941.4444 | Fax: 972.423.6162 | Email: | Contact | Privacy
Liberty Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to restoring religious liberty in America.
"The information on this website is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. The information here is meant to provide general information to the public.  Please contact us if you seek specific legal guidance about a religious liberty question or issue."