Thursday, November 20, 2014

IT'S HAPPENED AGAIN! Another NY Public High School Denies Student's Faith-Based Club - "Dare to Believe"

On behalf of 16-year-old Liz Loverde, Liberty Institute is fighting back against this carbon-copy religious discrimination



Less than two months after high school student John Raney—and his Christian club, Students United in Faith—was unlawfully discriminated against at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, New York, a gross violation of religious liberty rights has happened AGAIN in another New York public high school.

When 16-year-old Liz Loverde presented her proposal to have her “Dare to Believe” Christian club recognized as a student club at Wantagh High School in Long Island, New York, the high sophomore was told “NO” by her principal—because Dare to Believe is a Christian club.

On behalf of Liz, Liberty Institute delivered a demand letter this week to the Wantagh High School principal, and two other Wantagh Union Free School District officials demanding they reconsider their position, approve Liz’s proposal, and grant official recognition to her club, Dare to Believe, by Monday, November 24, 2014.

“LOVE IS LOUDER”

In her four-page club proposal, Liz also shared her objective to reach out to her community through visiting nursing homes and holding toy and food drives.

She wanted to share with her fellow teenagers that “love is louder” than depression, self-harm, pressure, bullying, school, home life, addiction—and other problems or struggles in their lives.  Liz also pointed to the difference learning about biblical principles made in her life and what she knew they could do for others.

Liz wrote:

“Life appeared to me as something not worth having or living.  Maybe, right now, teenagers are feeling the same way I did, and saying that life has nothing for them and that no one would care if they lived or died.  Through ‘Dare to Believe’ Christian Club I want students to know that while they’re going through these tough times (depression, parents’ divorce, self-harm, suicide, anxiety, bullying, etc.), Jesus Christ offers them another view of life; a life that is truly beautiful.”

But when Liz’s principal denied her request, this courageous 16-year-old didn’t back down.  She calmly approached her principal again and this time convinced the school official to present Liz’s club proposal to the board of education.

Liz thought she would soon see her club receive the full authorization and benefits afforded to other approved extracurricular clubs at Wantagh High School, including Variation Club, a “gay-straight-everyone alliance” club, W.A.R.R. (Wantagh Animal Rights and Recycling), and Rube Goldberg.  All of the high school’s more than 30 extracurricular clubs are allowed to make announcements and hang posters to advertise at the school.

SEPARATE . . . BUT NOT EQUAL

Liz was hopeful Dare to Believe would be able to have equal access just like the other clubs in her high school.  But only days after agreeing to present Liz’s proposal to the board of education, she called Liz to her office and told her she had changed her mind.

“I felt terrible,” said Liz at a press conference on November 17, 2014 which was held just hours after the demand letter was delivered.  “Wantagh High School has over 30 clubs, and they wouldn’t recognize mine because it was faith based.” 

Liz and her fellow students who want to have their Christian club recognized by the school as an official club have been denied equal access—and that’s a gross violation of The Equal Access Act of 1984 which was established to protect students in religious discrimination situations just like this 30 years ago.

“Students of faith in New York public schools have the same freedom to form and have the school recognize a religious club as other students,” said Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel with Liberty Institute.  “School officials on Long Island do not seem to understand that The Equal Access Act of 1984 makes it illegal to deny students—and especially a minority of students—the right to form a Christian club on campus.”

“I HOPE YOU CAN COME AND HELP US”

Because Liz had seen a local television news report about the similar incident involving Liberty Institute client John Raney and his Students United in Faith club, she knew to contact us.  “In Ward Melville High School a similar thing happened, and they contacted Liberty Institute and they got a Christian club,” she said.  “I hope you can come and help us.”

Liberty Institute exists to help defend and protect the religious liberty rights of people and faith and will continue to work on behalf of Liz Loverde until the matter is resolved.

“All students have a right to meet on campus,” Dys also said at the press conference.  “They can’t be denied simply because of their faith.”

In an interview on Fox News’ The Real Story w/Gretchen Carlson, Liberty Institute’s Director of Litigation Hiram Sasser said:  “We’re going to hold the school’s feet to the fire and they’re going to allow this club.  They’re either going to do it the nice way by just simply saying ‘yes’ or we’re going to have to go to the courthouse, and they’re going to have to have the law applied to them.”

“We just want to study the Bible together and serve our classmates and community by exercising the same freedom that everyone else has at our school,” added Liz.  “Wantagh High School has more than 30 official student clubs.  Why won’t Wantagh recognize our faith-based student club?”

STAND WITH LIBERTY INSTITUTE CLIENT LIZ LOVERDE

This is outrageous religious discrimination against Liz and her fellow students who simply wanted to start their Dare to Believe club to learn more about biblical principles and participate in community outreach.  It is a clear violation of federal law, and it must stop immediately.

But we need your help!  Here’s how:

  • GIVE A DONATION – Help equip Liberty Institute to fight for the religious liberty rights of students in our nation’s schools with your donation today.  We can’t fight this battle alone, and we need the ongoing support of concerned Americans like you to help bring down Goliath opponents to our First Freedom—including the government, ACLU, Freedom From Religion Foundation and others!
  • PRAY WITH US – Please commit to pray for students like Liz Loverde that they would be unwavering in their courage to stand up for religious freedom—and that Liberty Institute’s constitutional staff attorneys and our national network of volunteer attorneys will be victorious as they defend and protect religious liberty for students and all Americans in our nation today!



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

3 Things You Need to Know About The Equal Access Act


When high-school sophomore Liz Loverde submitted her proposal to start a “Dare to Believe” Christian club at Wantagh High School in Long Island, New York, her principal told her no!  But Liz was persistent, and explained to her principal that she had a right to start the club—thanks to The Equal Access Act, written into federal in law in 1984.  Liz’s principal still refused to allow the club, and therefore violated federal law.

Liberty Institute has chosen to stand beside Liz as she bravely fights for her right to equal access at her school.  The Equal Access Act gives Liz a right to form her club—but what exactly does the Act say?

Here are three things you need to know about The Equal Access Act:

1.  It’s against the law to deny a student club based on its members’ religious beliefs.

“It shall be deemed unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance and which has a limited open forum to deny equal access . . . to students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings.”

The Equal Access Act states that prohibiting a club because of its religious affiliation is unlawful. When Liz’s principal said that a club that focuses solely on the Bible would be prohibited at the school, the principal forbade the club’s existence based solely on the content of the speech of the students in the club.

2.  If a school already has one student-led, non-curriculum club that meets outside of class time, then it must allow others and cannot discriminate.

A public secondary school has a limited open forum “. . . whenever such school grants an offering to or opportunity for one or more non-curriculum related student groups to meet on school premises during non-instructional time.”

By allowing another non-academic club to meet, Liz’s high school has created a “limited open forum.”  Her school, therefore, cannot deny access to a Christian club if it does allow access to the Rube Goldberg Club, Wantagh Animal Rights and Recycling (W.A.R.R.), or Variation Club (a gay-straight-everyone alliance club).  And it allows all three to meet.

3.  For students who want to create a non-curriculum club, they must be afforded the same opportunities as other clubs.

If a school allows other non-curriculum clubs to meet during non-instructional times, it must do so for all clubs alike.  Schools must provide fair opportunities for any club to meet, and to do so they must uniformly provide:

  • “the meeting is voluntary and student initiated;
  • there is no sponsorship of the meeting by the school, government or employees;
  • employees of the school or government are present at religious meetings only in a non-participatory capacity;
  • the meeting does not materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school; and
  • non-school persons may not direct conduct, control, or regularly attend activities of student groups.”

WE’VE SEEN THIS BEFORE—AND WE’VE WON!

Less than a month ago, Ward Melville High School also prohibited a Christian club. Ward Melville school officials denied Students United in Faith—a religious club—to be recognized as a club on the school campus. Liberty Institute quickly sent the school a letter, explaining the illegality of their discrimination, and demanding that the school amend their decision. The school complied, and Students United in Faith now meets at Ward Melville High School as an official student organization.

We are confident that the principal and superintendent at Wantagh High School will react similarly, and that Dare to Believe will soon be a recognized student club and afforded all of the benefits of the high schools more than 30 other extracurricular student clubs.

That’s why on Monday, November 17, 2014, Liberty Institute sent a demand letter to Wantagh High School and the Wantagh Union Free School District, explaining that The Equal Access Act very clearly protects Liz’s right to form Dare to Believe.  We hope that the school district corrects their mistake and respond favorably.  In the event that they do not, however, Liberty Institute is fully prepared to defend Liz’s constitutional right to free speech, and her additional freedoms as outlined in The Equal Access Act.

Defending the rights of students like Liz is what we do at Liberty Institute.  Our top tier constitutional attorneys are experts on religious liberty, and our volunteer attorney network consists of some of the most successful and influential lawyers in the nation.

But resources like these don’t come cheap, which is why we need help from supporters like you.  Consider a gift to Liberty Institute today, and help play a crucial role in defending religious liberty in this great nation.




CLICK HERE to hear Fox News host Gretchen Carlson sound off on The Equal Access Act after a recent interview with Liberty Institute's Hiram Sasser and our client Liz Loverde.



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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.

Freedom From Religion Foundation Attacks Its Next School - Mt. Vernon ISD

But Liberty Institute won't let hostility toward religious freedoms in our nation's schools stand!



Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is at it again!  This time, FFRF is attacking Mt. Vernon Independent School District (ISD) in Mt. Vernon, Texas, over allegations of “overtly promoting religion.”

But what exactly were these “promotions”?  According to FFRF, the school is promoting religion by displaying motivational quotes, of which 5 out of over 100 are historical statements that mention God or the Bible; allowing the parent-teacher association to sell its T-shirts in the school; and allowing a teacher to display gifts that students gave to her, including some crosses.  FFRF has demanded that Mt. Vernon ISD create an action plan to end these religious “violations”—or else face legal retaliation!

LIBERTY INSTITUTE STANDS WITH THE SCHOOL DISTRICT

Liberty Institute is standing in full support of Mt. Vernon ISD.  The district has asked us for guidance on this issue, and we are working with district officials now to ensure that this allegation ends in a victory for Mt. Vernon.

“We’re committed to helping Mt. Vernon ISD protect free speech and religious liberty rights of students, parents, and teachers afforded them by the Constitution,” said Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer.

Liberty Institute comes to the Mt. Vernon ISD matter prepped with a playbook of previous similar cases:

  • In September 2014, FFRF launched a similar assault on two Midlothian ISD schools, demanding that dedication plaques outside of the school be torn down because they contained a cross and were dedicated “in the Year of Our Lord.”  With Liberty Institute’s help, thousands of Midlothian friends and residents spoke out in opposition, and today the plaques remain untouched.
  • This past football season, FFRF attempted to bully the Arkansas State University football team into removing crosses from their football helmets, placed to memorialize two team members who recently passed away.  Liberty Institute blocked the attempt, sending a letter to the University that explained the constitutional protections of these memorial helmet decals.  The University decided to ignore FFRF and keep the helmet crosses.
  • In an effort to share positive and uplifting message with their football players, the middle school and high school cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas, made a decision to paint Bible verses on run-through banners at games.  Their inspirational signs were suddenly banned after the superintendent received a complaint from FFRF.  Liberty Institute defended the cheerleaders at the district court and won.  The school district appealed the case, but we are confident that liberty will once again prevail at the Texas Supreme Court.

LIBERTY INSTITUE WILL FIGHT: CAN WE COUNT ON YOU?

In each of these cases, FFRF attempted to squelch religious liberty, and each time they were stopped by our top-notch legal defense.  Liberty Institute’s nine full-time constitutional attorneys—along with our network of dozens of volunteer attorneys—are the premier defenders of religious liberty in America, and are dedicated to protecting citizens like the students, staff, and parents at Mt. Vernon ISD.

But we need supporters like you to help Liberty Institute win against opponents like FFRF and make it possible for us to offer FREE, easy-to-understand resources for students, teacher, and school officials so they can know their religious liberty rights, including:
  • Know Your Religious Rights Kit – fully equips students, parents, and teachers to know their religious liberties in public schools and be prepared to defend and restore their rights when they come under attack.
  • Student Bill of Rights in Schools Brochure – a condensed version of our “Know Your Religious Rights” kit that gives a quick overview of students’ rights when it comes to religious speech, expression, or practice in public schools.
  • Teachers Guide – gives instructors great guidelines for how they can maintain their First Amendment rights—including freedom of religion and speech—in schools.
Your prayers and donations make the difference, and give our team the tools they need to outsmart opponents like FFRF, and defend victims of attack like the students, parents, and teachers in Mt. Vernon ISD’s schools.  So thank you for standing with us today!


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

Friday, November 14, 2014

VICTORY: Federal Court Grants Insight for Living Ministries Relief from Federal Abortion Pill Mandate Fines

Pastor Charles R. Swindoll’s international Bible-teaching ministry provided an injunction while case makes its way through the federal court system   



This week, a U.S Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas granted a preliminary injunction to Insight for Living Ministries, the Bible-teaching ministry of well-known ministry leader, Pastor Charles R. Swindoll—founder and senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church, Frisco, Texas, and former president and current chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary.  Insight for Living Ministries is seeking judicial relief from the federal government’s Abortion Pill Mandate.

This means that the international Bible-teaching ministry will not have to comply with the mandate nor pay a $100.00 per day PER EMPLOYEE fine while the case makes its way through the court system.  The mandate threatens to cause a severe economic consequence to this international ministry.

“We are very encouraged by this outcome,” said Matthew Kacsmaryk, Liberty Institute’s Deputy General Counsel.

“This is an important victory for faith-based ministries that seek to provide life-affirming healthcare insurance for all their employees.”  Mr. Kacsmaryk explained, “IFLM believes it is a religious imperative to provide healthcare insurance and defend unborn human life.  Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the federal government cannot force IFLM to choose between these two religious beliefs.”

FORCING PEOPLE OF FAITH TO ABANDON THEIR FAITH

Last month, IFLM joined other Christian non-profits, schools, and organizations that are challenging the Abortion Pill Mandate when Liberty Institute filed a federal lawsuit on its behalf.  The Abortion Pill Mandate requires IFLM formally and materially cooperate in the dispensation of abortion-inducing drugs and devices that have the intent, design, effect, or risk of terminating unborn life or preventing its implantation and growth post-conception.

Other Liberty Institute clients that have filed lawsuits include:
  • Shell Point Retirement Community, the Alliance Community for Retirement Living, Chapel Pointe at Carlisle, and Town and Country Manor (all affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance [CMA] denomination)

  • Simpson University and Crown College (CMA colleges)

  • Valley Forge Christian College (affiliated with the Assemblies of God denomination)
Insight for Living Ministries and other Christian non-profits, schools, and charities are fighting back against the “religious accommodation” to the Abortion Pill Mandate because of its several problems affecting religious liberty rights:

  • Religious ministries and colleges must transfer to an insurance company the ministry’s authority to provide the mandated contraceptives to its employees.

  • The insurance company then uses that legal and moral authority to provide the organization’s employees the abortion-inducing drugs the ministry objects to providing.

  • Somehow, the Obama Administration claims neither the employer nor employee would pay for the abortion-inducing drugs.

  • Even more remarkably, the Obama Administration thinks this solves any conscience problems.
But the ministries Liberty Institute is representing disagree and assert that the “accommodation” still requires them to cooperate in and facilitate the provision of a service that violates their Christian faith and forces them to abandon their religious beliefs.

Liberty Institute is committed to defending the religious liberty rights of Insight for Living Ministries—and other clients—to ensure people of faith do not have to violate their religious conscience and abandon their sincerely held religious beliefs.

HELP PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF FAITH-BASED MINISTRIES

Without the financial and prayer support of concerned Americans like you, Liberty Institute would not be able to represent Insight for Living Ministries and other Christian non-profits, schools, and organizations.

And with your commitment to join us in this fight, we are confident we will prevail, because of our unique strategy model:
  • Home-Field Advantage – Our national network of local attorneys “know the local territory” and how to win, wherever in America the case is litigated.

  • All-Star Attorneys – Our network features only America’s best attorneys.  Many normally charge as much as $1,000 per hour . . . yet they take religious liberty cases pro bono (free of charge).

  • Multiplied Impact of Every Dollar – For every $10,000 we spend on a case, we receive approximately $60,000 in pro bono (free) legal time by our all-star attorneys across the nation.  That means every dollar donated to Liberty Institute by concerned Americans goes a long way to bring down Goliaths like the ACLU!
So with your generous donation, please help support this effort today!  And thank you for joining with us as we work to defend religious rights and work to preserve religious liberty across America.




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.

CAPITOL HILL FACEOFF: Liberty Institute's Mike Berry to Counter Opponents of Religious Freedom Before Congressional Hearing

Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs will testify on the government's effectiveness in protecting religious expression in the military



Liberty Institute Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs Mike Berry has been invited to testify before the United States House of Representatives Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee on Religious Accommodations in the Armed Services on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. ET in Washington, D.C.

Berry, who served for seven years as an attorney in the U.S. Marine Corps—including a combat tour in Afghanistan, and an invitation to teach law at the U.S. Naval Academy—will speak on the state of the protection of religious rights for military service members and how well recent changes to Department of Defense (DOD) policies are being implemented (CLICK HERE to watch the subcommittee hearing LIVE online on Wednesday afternoon, November 19).

While Berry acknowledges that legal action from Liberty Institute and others has helped the DOD move in the right direction—especially with the Air Force’s recent revised policy governing religious accommodation in the Air Force—he asserts, in a recent interview below, that there is still much work to be done to protect the constitutional rights of our service members.

Read more about what Berry’s testimony will include at the upcoming Military Personnel Subcommittee hearing, and why Liberty Institute is recognized as a subject matter expert in the field of religious liberties.

***

What do you anticipate members of Congress will want to hear from you and the others who testify at this hearing?

They will want to know whether the religious climate in the military has changed within the past twelve months, and if so, then how has it changed?  Is it better or worse?  And that’s really why Liberty Institute has been invited to participate and testify at this hearing.  We are on the front lines of this battle every day, and this is our opportunity to report what we observe.  Congress takes this issue seriously, and they want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly.

A very vocal opponent to religious freedom in the military—Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s Mikey Weinstein—was also invited to testify.  

The minority gets to invite one or two witnesses, and they decided to invite Mikey Weinstein—likely because he’s probably the loudest voice on the other side.

He’s publicly stated that he is strongly in favor of restricting First Amendment rights for service members.  He has such a narrow view of the law and of the Constitution, and therefore religious liberty.  It’s really an inappropriate view that is supported neither by the law nor the Constitution.  But nevertheless that’s what he seeks.  But rest assured, our testimony will be dignified, credible—and accurate.

Can you share any highlights of your testimony?

My goal is to provide real life examples for the Military Personnel Subcommittee.  Liberty Institute isn’t there simply to talk about conjecture and speculation regarding religious hostility within the military.  I’m going to tell Congress that we represent real people who have actually suffered as a result of hostility against religion in the military.

What specific Liberty Institute cases will you refer to?

Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk and Army Lieutenant Colonel Charles “Chuck” Pudil, as well as some of the issues that our veterans face.  Even though this committee doesn’t specifically deal with veterans affairs, the issues they face are still related to the military, and it’s certainly relevant to religious hostility in the military.  They’re all real life examples of what happens when religious liberty is not protected and when our service members don’t enjoy the rights guaranteed by our Constitution.

Courts have repeatedly said these rights apply equally to service members.  To deny them is shameful, embarrassing, and damaging to our nation.  It affects our national psyche when we see those who are so willing to sacrifice their own freedoms are not even given the same protections and the same freedoms that civilians have.

If they ask you about opponents—like Military Religious Freedom Foundation—that are trying to attack religious freedom in the military, what will you say is the way to fight back?

Education and moral courage by our military leaders—and not just leaders at the Pentagon level, but leaders at all levels having moral courage to care more about being legally correct than being politically correct.  Military leaders need to do what’s right by their troops above all else—above their own careers, and above their own reputations.  I honestly believe the majority of our military leaders abide by that principle, but it’s always the two percent that do not who cause these issues to surface.  That, I think, is perhaps the biggest issue we see.

There’s also a lack of understanding about the rights our service members have, and that’s why I prepared the white paper, “The Role of Religion in the United States Armed Forces,” to help provide some historical and legal background so that folks can see that this isn’t new.  We’ve addressed this issue many times in our nation’s brief history, both in Congress and in our courts.  Historically, as a nation we’ve said that we value religious freedom in our military.  In fact, not only do we value it, we deem it a necessity and a bedrock principle of freedom.  It’s served us well for over 200 years thus far.  Why are we now trying to change it into something it was never meant to be?

What is the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee on Religious Accommodations in the Armed Services and why is there a need for it?

Congress is broken down into many committees, whether it’s armed services, intelligence, foreign affairs, finance, ways and means, etc.  And from there, each committee may be further broken down into subcommittees.  As its name indicates, the Armed Services Committee deals with the armed services, so they oversee everything that affects the military.  The Military Personnel (MILPERS) Subcommittee, which deals with much more than just personnel issues, is chaired by Representatives Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Susan Davis (D-CA).

What will be discussed at the November 19 subcommittee meeting?

There have been so many high-profile incidents of religious hostility in our military in recent years.  The MILPERS Subcommittee had a hearing back in January 2014.  At that hearing, they received testimony from several generals and high-ranking Pentagon officials.  That was one side of the story.  Now, they’re going to receive the other side of the story from those who confront these issues from outside the Pentagon.  They want to know if the changes regarding freedom or religious speech and exercise in the armed forces have been implemented through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)—which is the bill that Congress passes every year in order to keep our military funded and running—in the manner that Congress intended.  Basically, they want to know whether the military is doing a good job of following orders.

It sounds like the Department of Defense is really trying to do the right thing as it relates to stopping religious discrimination in the military.

In general, yes.  They have been steadily and continuously trying to enhance religious liberty protection in the military and trying to send a clear message to the military that says:  “Look, Congress is serious about this.  We’re not going to merely pay lip service to religious freedom and say ‘mission accomplished’ and move on.”  And that’s largely because groups like Liberty Institute and the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition continue to inform Congress and the public by letting them know we’re still having problems.

Who else besides Liberty Institute was invited to testify?

I will be joined by Travis Weber Esq., Family Research Council’s Director for the Center for Religious Liberty, Dr. Ron Crews, Chaplain (COL), USAR Retired, and the Executive Director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, Rabbi Bruce E. Kahn, D.D., CAPT, CHC, USN (Ret), and of course, Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq., founder and President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Can any member of the subcommittee ask you a question during the hearing?

Yes, this is their hearing.  That being said, some, by reputation, are more likely to ask questions.  Just like when we talk about the Supreme Court, we know that certain justices on the court historically do not ask many questions, if any at all, during Supreme Court arguments and some have a reputation for asking more.  It’s the same with members of Congress.  You have to do your homework going into it and know who’s likely to be friendly or hostile.

What do you hope will be the outcome after the November 19 hearing?

I hope that this is an issue that will continue to receive priority that it deserves, that religious freedom isn’t something to which our government will merely pay lip service, and that they’ll actually implement some of the recommendations that we make.  I’m going to recommend that they institute some formal education requirements to eliminate some of the confusion, misinformation, and lack of knowledge about our constitutional rights and how they apply to the military.

We have education and/or training for all kinds of other issues.  For example, when there were allegations of a sexual assault epidemic in the military, Congress told them, “You’re going to fix it.”  And the military responded by devoting an incredible amount of resources to fixing it.  And they are doing the same thing now with severe head trauma and PTSD.  So why can’t we do the same with religious freedom?  We ought to value the moral and spiritual well-being of our troops every bit as much as we do their physical and emotional well-being.

Why is it important that Liberty Institute stays at the forefront of keeping religion expression in the military?

Because we are one of the very few voices with the level of subject matter expertise that we have on the military.  If we don’t lead that charge, then my fear is that nobody else will.  Or worse, the wrong voice will fill that void.  There are some other groups out there that care about the military, but I think Liberty Institute really has the perfect combination of passion, ability, and subject-matter expertise.

So many within Liberty Institute are veterans or are part of military families and care at a personal level about military issues.  That gives us a unique advantage.  As a reservist who continues working as a military attorney, my ear is very close to the ground.  That works to Liberty Institute’s advantage because both of my jobs require me to stay informed about military legal issues that are going on.  I have a lot of friends and colleagues who are still serving, and that also helps a great deal.  It’s really an intangible advantage that Liberty Institute has, and yet another reason why with great ability comes great responsibility.

How can friends and supporters of Liberty Institute help?

Any of our supporters who are in the military, who have loved ones who are serving in the military—it is our hope that they not be afraid to reach out to Liberty Institute and contact us so that we can help.  It’s confidential, and we want to help protect and restore religious liberty rights for service members and veterans.

If you serve in the military or if you have a loved one or a friend who’s serving and if you even suspect that something isn’t right, please let us know by requesting legal help online or by calling our toll-free military legal help hotline, 1-800-259-9109.  As the saying goes:  If you see something, say something!

STAND WITH US . . . HELP PROTECT RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION IN THE MILITARY
  • WATCH the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee on Religious Accommodations in the Armed Services LIVE on Wednesday, November 19, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. ET.  Click here to watch online.
  • PRAY for continued victories in Liberty Institute cases in which our in-house constitutional attorneys and nationwide network of top-notch volunteer attorneys are defending service members and their religious liberty rights.
  • GIVE a donation today to help Liberty Institute continue to offer legal help to defend and secure religious freedom for our servicemen and servicewomen, so they may express their religious beliefs without fear, harassment, or punishment.




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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.