Thursday, August 27, 2015

Liberty Institute Adds Noted Attorney, Constitutional Expert, and Author Ken Klukowski to Legal Team



As another step in our effort to defend and restore religious freedom for more Americans, Liberty Institute announced this week that noted attorney, national bestselling author, and constitutional expert Kenneth A. (“Ken”) Klukowski is joining the Liberty Institute legal team as Senior Counsel and Director of Strategic Affairs.

The growing threat against America’s religious liberties led us on a search for qualified additions to our team of constitutional experts,” said Liberty Institute President, CEO & Chief Counsel Kelly ShackelfordKen Klukowski exemplifies Liberty Institute’s tradition of excellence and dedication to defending the religious liberty of every American. He will expand our ability to assist clients whose religious liberty rights are being threatened as well as strengthening our connections with allies in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere to secure victories for religious liberty. We are excited to welcome Ken to the family.”

Ken Klukowski comes to Liberty Institute with a diverse background in law, public policy, politics, and media.  Previously, Ken served as Special Deputy Attorney General for the State of Indiana, on faculty at Liberty University School of Law, as senior fellow at the Center for Religious Liberty of the Family Research Council, and a fellow and senior analyst at the American Civil Rights Union. He also served as a law clerk to Chief Judge Alice Batchelder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  

His published work includes coauthoring two books: the national bestseller The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency, and Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America, published by Simon & Schuster.  He has authored eight law review articles, and lectured and debated at over 70 laws schools throughout the country on constitutional principles. He is also a respected legal journalist with numerous articles published at the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and Investor’s Business Daily, among other publications, as well as working as legal editor with Breitbart News Network.

In 2011, Klukowski authored a legal brief cited in U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson's decision to strike down the Affordable Healthcare Act (ObamaCare); Judge Vinson wrote that he relied “heavily” upon the brief when determining that the entire law was unconstitutional, and not only its individual mandate. Although the U.S. Supreme Court eventually upheld ObamaCare in a highly controversial decision. Klukowski’s brief uncovered a point that played a pivotal role in almost bringing down the entire law and changing a key aspect of U.S. history. That is the level of legal precision he brings to Liberty Institute.

“Ken adds a new dimension to our team, but at the same time he fits right in,” said Jeff Mateer, General Counsel for Liberty Institute. “We have high standards for our staff attorneys. They are all accomplished, all brilliant, and all passionate for the cause of religious freedom in America. And most crucial, they constitute the dynamic hub of a massive legal network of freedom. They enable us to unleash a network of elite volunteer attorneys in locations across America and in specialized areas such as appellate law or military law.  This is unique and effective, and produced legal victories. And now Ken Klukowski will add to that winning capacity.”







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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.

YOUR TURN TO STAND: Religious Liberty Rally Inspires Americans to Action

By Liberty Davidson



We’ve seen the stories—bakers, florists, members of the military, business owners, and hard-working public servants who stood up for their beliefs and are paying the price. We know their names because they roll through our newsfeed sandwiched between celebrity gossip and the latest Vine. But for an audience of nearly three thousand last weekend, those stories became real.

Last Friday night, I had the privilege of attending the Rally for Religious Liberty in Des Moines, Iowa. Over 2,500 people ranging from families with babies, to teens, to grandparents gathered under the banner of religious freedom.  The event was streamed live to thousands more who could not attend in person.

Liberty Institute was one of only two non-profit legal organizations invited to participate, with President and CEO Kelly Shackelford opening the event with a personal video message.

“In the over quarter century that I’ve been fighting for religious freedom, I’ve never seen anything like what I am seeing right now,” he said.

But talking about growing attacks on religious liberty is one thing. Meeting the people who have been attacked is another. The rally gave the audience the opportunity to meet everyday “heroes” who took a stand for religious liberty.

They met people like Liberty Institute’s client Phillip Monk, a USAF combat veteran who was relieved of duties and kicked out of his unit because he could not agree with his commander’s views on marriage.

They met Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of a Portland-area bakery who received a $135,000 fine because they declined to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.

They also met Kelvin Cochran, Barronelle Stutzman, Dick and Betty Odgaard, and Blaine Adamson—all ordinary people who found themselves under legal attack for choosing their faith over conformity.

During an onstage roundtable discussion, each of these individuals shared details of their cases—how their simple decision to adhere to their beliefs resulted in harsh repercussions, from heavy financial penalties, to vandalism, to death threats against themselves and their children.

These victims of religious discrimination—“heroes” as many duly called them that night—never went looking for a legal battle. But as they all attested, when they were forced to choose between betraying their faith and facing the earthly consequences, the choice was clear.

As Phillip Monk put it, “If I’m forced to choose between my commander and my Creator, I know where I’m going.”

He received thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

“The event was powerful because it showed the human toll of the battle for religious liberty,” said Michael Berry, Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs for Liberty Institute. “Here were real people, with families, dreams, homes and businesses, many of whom nearly lost everything simply because of who they are and what they believe.  These were no longer just names in a news story, they were real-life examples of why we must all take a stand for our Constitutional freedoms.”

Religious liberty is becoming an important issue for Americans everywhere, especially in light of the upcoming presidential election; nearly every candidate has addressed the issue in some way.

Throughout the night, I spent a lot of time talking with people at Liberty Institute’s booth near the entrance of the building. One overarching theme prevailed among those who stopped by—the fight for religious liberty is real, and they felt it.

One family told me how they often street evangelize in their town, but was told to stop. They also told me about their wheelchair-bound daughter, whose rehab center told her she must go outside to talk about her faith. Another woman said she was warned that she should keep her Christianity a secret.

The people at the rally were people like you—concerned for America’s future, hungry to know how they can help restore religious freedom—and thrilled to learn how Liberty Institute is doing just that.

One man approached the booth, looked me in the eye, and said, “Thank you.”

Later, I was able to listen to a few legal experts discuss what they thought to be the most poignant moment of the night—when special guest Naghmeh Abedini, wife of imprisoned Pastor Saeed Abedini, took the stage. Her husband has been captive in Iran for three years—tortured and isolated from his family—because of his faith.

Even the American “heroes” of the night said Pastor Saeed’s story put everything into perspective.

Despite the numerous attacks in America, we do have religious liberty. While hostility to religion is undoubtedly growing in our culture, we are blessed to have a legal foundation for our defense. People in other countries—like Pastor Abedini in Iran—don’t.

That is precisely why it is so vital that we defend our religious liberty while we still have the freedom to do so.

One question recurred throughout the night: “What will you do when it becomes your turn?”

Americans, it is your turn. You may not be facing religious persecution at this moment. You may not have lost your income, your friends, or your life’s work. But your fellow Americans have—and millions around the world have lost much more.

It is every citizen’s turn to join the fight for religious freedom in America, so people like Naghmeh Abedini can have hope that there is still a place in the world where freedom is valued; so Americans can continue to live according to their conscience; so we don’t lose the liberty that generations of Americans have died to defend.

Your turn is now, America. Will you take a stand?

Liberty Davidson is a writer for Liberty Institute, with a B.A. in Journalism from Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.




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Defending Employees Against Unlawful Religious Discrimination 



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.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

ANSWERS: What Happens When They Come After Your Church, Your Favorite Ministry, or Even Your Job?



2015 may be remembered as the year of the great anti-religious liberty flood. Legislation protecting religious freedom for employers and employees was labeled “hateful discrimination.” The U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision turbocharged a campaign by secular activists to use “sexual liberty” to overthrow religious liberty.

This flood of hostility to religion is not a matter of intellectual theory. It will affect you, your church, your favorite ministries, the workplaces of people all around you, and the society in which you live.

Almost as soon as the Chief Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in the same-sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges, was handed down, Liberty Institute’s offices were awash with more requests for legal help than ever before.

Despite the fact that all nine Supreme Court Justices upheld religious liberty, the decision was immediately misused to trample the religious rights of employees, business owners, and others. While the threats to religious freedom swelled, so did support for those who were attacked. The entire nation was riveted.

The good news is that there is hope. The law is on the side of religious liberty—but it takes knowledge and preparation to stand for your religious freedom when it is attacked. This knowledge begins by knowing what is at risk. Here are a few areas already facing opposition:

QUESTION: Could outreach and compassion ministries be targeted and jeopardized? ANSWER: Yes.

Orphanages, rescue missions, and even evangelists could be faced with the choice to either violate their religious beliefs, or shut down all or part of their outreach—unless there is strong action by lawyers to intervene.

To see why, simply observe what already happened in states where same-sex marriage was legalized. Despite assurance before legalization that religious liberty would not be touched, after legalization the attacks began. Some examples:

·      When Massachusetts imposed same-sex marriage a few years ago, Catholic Charities Adoption Services of Boston—a ministry with more than 100 years of placing orphans—was forced out of business because they refused to violate their faith.

·      The Salvation Army of San Francisco was forced to stop vital ministry to the elderly and homeless because they refused to violate their beliefs on sexual morality in volunteering and employment.

·      Even before the Court ruled, Liberty Institute was contacted by an evangelistic ministry facing a potential “discrimination” threat.

QUESTION: Could tax exempt statuses of churches, religious schools, and students with loans for religious colleges? ANSWER: Yes.

During the marriage case arguments, Donald Verilli, the U.S. Solicitor General and the Obama administration’s top lawyer before the U.S. Supreme, actually told the Justices during oral argument of the same-sex marriage case that religious institutions who stubbornly held to traditional beliefs on marriage could be at risk of losing their tax exempt status. His response to Justice Samuel Alito’s question about that possibility was, “It will be an issue.”

QUESTION: Could you—or people you know—lose a job, business, income, or career because of this firestorm of religious persecution? ANSWER: Yes.

This is already happening—and it’s going to get worse. Liberty Institute is defending multiple clients who lost their jobs and careers because of religious beliefs they expressed outside of the workplace. They include:

·       Dr. Eric Walsh – A respected health official terminated by the Georgia Health Department for religious beliefs expressed in his church.  Liberty Institute filed a Charge of Discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and exposed embarrassing emails showing unlawful discrimination. Liberty Institute expects to win for Dr. Walsh.  

·      Craig James – A former NFL and college football star, Craig James was fired after one day of working for Fox Sports as a sports broadcaster—for something he said on the campaign trail over a year previously concerning his religious beliefs about marriage. Liberty Institute and James filed a lawsuit against Fox Sports in early August.

·       Bob Eschliman – An award-winning newspaper editor from Iowa fired for expressing his religious belief on his personal blog. Liberty Institute recently announced that Bob Eschliman and Shaw Media amicably resolved an employment dispute with a confidential settlement agreement with which Mr. Eschliman was pleased. Liberty Institute attorneys praised Shaw Media for recognizing religious rights in the workplace.  We hope this sets the tone for victories in other cases—but clearly, this will be an area of intense legal conflict.

Now is not the time to become complacent about your religious liberty. The law is still on your side. That’s why the attorneys at Liberty Institute provide resources and legal defense to people of faith free of charge. So if the day comes when you find your religious freedom on the line, you won’t be unprepared or unprotected.

How Expert Lawyers Can Help You and Others

As part of Liberty Institute’s plan for responding to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision and the general attack on religious freedom, we are providing protection to thousands of churches and organizations through our “Religious Liberty Protection” webpage.  This service gives faith-based organizations a great deal of protection, helping them incorporate pages of religious protection language into their documentation. This greatly improves ministries’ and churches’ ability to keep outreach flowing to millions of people without being sued, prosecuted, restricted or shut down.

The threat to religious liberty in America is real—and growing faster than ever before. People of faith can successfully defend this precious First Amendment freedom, but it requires remaining alert, aware, and involved. Are you prepared?



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Back to School – 10 Religious Liberty Facts for Every Student 


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.

Religious Liberty Emerges as Hot-Button Issue for Presidential Candidates



In an effort to maximize their appeal, presidential candidates are fixating on the issues foremost in Americans’ minds. Amid inevitable controversies like immigration, healthcare and national security, one topic has dominated discussions and elicited entire events – religious liberty.

In recent years, threats to religious liberty have skyrocketed. The 2014 edition of Undeniable (Liberty Institute’s annual survey of hostility to religion in America) shows a 25 percent increase in attacks from the 2013 edition. It also reveals a 133 percent total increase since the very first edition three years ago.

Even with this steady, nationwide increase, religious liberty remained an inconspicuous issue for the many Americans in years past. Not any more.

The prominence of religious liberty as a political issue spiked last year during the Hobby Lobby v. Burwell controversy, which highlighted aspects of the Affordable Care Act that some religious business owners could not condone. For proponents of religious freedom, the decision in favor of Hobby Lobby was viewed as a victory. But it in no way eradicated the threat.

Legalizing same-sex marriage in June 2015, the Obergefell decision cannoned religious liberty into the spotlight once again. Despite Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion, which explicitly upheld the right of Americans to act according to their sincerely held religious beliefs regarding marriage, the decision opened the door for multiple new attacks on religious freedom—something that Americans in general seem to recognize.

A recent poll by World Magazine of 100 evangelical leaders revealed that for the majority, domestic religious liberty is the most important issue.

Another poll in July showed that despite the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage, the majority of Americans still value religious liberty as paramount.

Religious liberty is no longer an issue that presidential candidates can ignore—and neither can we.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY – A TOPIC OF DEBATE, DISCUSSION, AND CONCERN

Candidates from both ends of the political spectrum are weighing in on religious freedom. It was heavily addressed in the first Republican debate earlier this month, with multiple candidates promising to defend it should they be elected. Democratic candidates have also addressed religious liberty—and though some tackle the issue from the opposite angle as GOP hopefuls, the fact remains that religious liberty is an issue they cannot ignore.

Major national events featuring and dedicated solely to religious liberty are springing up rapidly, with thousands of concerned Americans flocking to attend. For instance:

·      Nearly two thousand are anticipated to attend the Rally for Religious Liberty, hosted in conjunction with the Iowa State Fair by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz this weekend. Organizers have invited Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford to record a short video message to kick-off the event.

·      Many presidential candidates will be participating in the first-ever National Religious Liberties Conference, “Freedom 2015,” in Des Moines, Iowa this November. Expected to draw thousands, the Freedom 2014 conference is co-sponsored by Liberty Institute, and will feature Kelly Shackelford as a keynote speaker.

·      Breakout sessions at the 10th annual Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC this September will include conversations about religious liberty, and audiences will have a chance to hear from presidential candidates and Liberty Institute’s President Kelly Shackelford and General Counsel Jeff Mateer. Liberty Institute is also a co-sponsor of Values Voter Summit.

No matter where they stand on the issue, it is clear that anyone hoping to earn a seat in the Oval Office must address religious liberty in some way or another. And if the number of candidates attending events like the ones listed above is any indication, religious liberty is a topic of legitimate concern to multiple 2016 hopefuls. This bodes well for America’s future—but not well enough.

BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE – WHY WE CAN’T UNTIL THE 2016 ELECTIONS

While the next election cycle will be crucial, many battles in the war for religious freedom will be fought before November 2016. The future of religious freedom will be won, or lost, in court—not at the ballot box.  Elections are important.  Yet the crisis for religious liberty is moving too fast for an electoral fix. With more and more legal action involving religious business owners, employees, students, and ministry leaders, courts are the center of this battlefield, not the White House or Congress.

We should pay attention to what candidates have to say about religious liberty—but we must also pay strict attention to what is happening in the courts. The precedents set by the cases currently in court will establish years-long ramifications for America, regardless of the outcome of the 2016 elections.


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Back to School – 10 Religious Liberty Facts for Every Student



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, August 14, 2015

7 Back-to-School Religious Liberties Every Teacher Must Know



Teachers play an invaluable role in our society and the lives of our children. There is no doubt about it.  But sadly, a teacher’s role of educating, answering questions, and encouraging students is being threatened because of the persistent myth that all religion has been expelled from our schools.

Before they welcome their new students and call the first roll this year as people of faith and government employees, Liberty Institute encourages teachers to protect themselves against attacks on their religious liberty by learning about their First Amendment Rights.

1) Teacher-to-Teacher: A teacher may engage in religious expression during the workday and in public forums.

As long as their religious expression is not disruptive, is unrelated to official duties, and generally not in the presence of students, teachers may express their faith. Entering the schoolhouse gate does not require teachers to shed their First Amendment rights of freedom of religious expression and speech. If you can talk with other teachers and school officials about the movie you watched last night, then you can talk about your faith.

2) Teacher-to-Student: A teacher may discuss religion with a student, but is much more limited in doing so.

When talking with students, teachers must carefully distinguish between government and private speech.  While representing the school in an official capacity, namely at school-sponsored events and in the classroom, teachers’ speech is government speech.  A public school may not endorse any particular religion, nor may it favor religion or non-religion.  Teachers must remain neutral.

But if a student initiates the conversation—asking a teacher about her faith, for instance—a teacher may discuss her faith with that student. If the student wants to stop the conversation, however, the teacher may not continue to discuss her religious beliefs with the student.

When not at a school function or working as a teacher, teachers’ speech is private speech, and they may discuss their faith with anyone—teacher or student—at those times.
                       
3) An employer cannot discriminate against a teacher based on religion.

A public school may not oppose or be hostile to any religion, including discriminating against an employee for his/her religious beliefs. 
           
Public schools may not take adverse action against teachers because of their religion, just as schools may not take adverse action against teachers because of their gender, race, or ethnicity.

For example, if teachers are in an employee-only area where they are permitted to discuss various non-religious topics, school officials may not reprimand them for discussing religion.  Similarly, if teachers may wear non-religious jewelry as a school employee, they may also wear religious jewelry.

4) An employer must seek to accommodate a teacher’s religious faith.

If an employee holds a sincere religious belief that conflicts with employment policy and requests an accommodation, an employer must honor that accommodation request if possible.

First, such employees must inform their employer of their belief and the conflict it presents with employment policy. Second, such employees should work with their employer toward a reasonable solution.

However, because each situation is unique, the type of accommodation available will vary from case to case.  (If you are a teacher or know of one who is unsure if a public school has violated First Amendment rights, please contact Liberty Institute.)
           
5) A teacher is protected from harassment from co-workers and supervisors based on his or her religious beliefs.

Employers must protect employees from harassment for religious beliefs and practices in the workplace.  However, the harassment must be significant and objectively considered to be abusive.  Please contact Liberty Institute in order to assess whether or not the hostility of your work environment is sufficient for legal action.)

6) In general, a teacher can hold employee-only prayer groups or Bible studies on campus.
           
If it doesn’t interfere with class time, public schools may not discriminate against an employee activity just because it is religious.  If teachers can hold non-religious meetings on campus during non-instructional time, they can also hold religious meetings on campus during non-instructional time.  The school must treat non-religious and religious groups equally.

As long as it is not disruptive and employee-only, teachers can discuss and engage in religious activity just as they would discuss and engage in non-religious activity such as sports, politics, etc.

7) A teacher can participate in baccalaureate ceremonies when it is not an official school event.
As private citizens, teachers have the right to attend and participate in privately sponsored baccalaureate ceremonies.  As long as teachers act in their personal capacity and not their official capacity, they have the right to attend and participate.

YOUR FREE BACK-TO-SCHOOL RESOURCES

As teachers finalize their lesson plans and put the finishing touches on their classrooms, they don’t have to fall for the myth that courts have expelled all religion from public schools.

Courts—including the U.S. Supreme Court—grant broad religious freedom in public schools.  So has the U.S. Department of Education!  And to help people of faith know and exercise those rights, the legal experts at Liberty Institute have created FREE, easy-to-understand back-to-school resources that teachers—and students—can download now at our Back-to-School page.




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One of the most important battles for religious liberty today is securing the legal rights of students. Liberty Institute provides students with some of the best lawyers in America at no charge. We have recently reversed bans on Bible clubs, Bible reading, prayer, religious themes in class assignments, and more. Please consider joining this effort for our nation’s students with a tax-deductible donation today. Thank you!




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