Friday, October 24, 2014

LAWSUIT: Insight for Living Ministries Seeks Relief from Federal Government's Abortion Pill Mandate

If Pastor Charles R. Swindoll's international Bible-teaching ministry does not comply, it faces fines of $100 per day, PER EMPLOYEE . . .



This week, Liberty Institute filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 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 in Frisco, Texas—seeking judicial relief from the Federal Government’s Abortion Pill Mandate.

The Federal Government’s Abortion Pill Mandate requires that even Christian ministries like Insight for Living Ministries must facilitate, participate, and assist in actions resulting in the provision of potentially life-threatening drugs and devices, which could harm or kill a fertilized egg.

"Our government should never force any religious ministry to violate the very faith that motivates their ministry," said Jeff Mateer, Liberty Institute's General Counsel.  “Americans oppose laws and regulations that force people of faith to abandon the beliefs that motivate their service to God.  And Insight for Living Ministries was founded to preserve and defend the unborn under the belief that life begins at conception in the womb.”

Liberty Institute President & CEO Kelly Shackelford added:  “The government has no right to force Christian ministries to violate their faith.  This mandate is unconstitutional.”

SEEKING A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION TO AVOID SIGNIFICANT HARMS

Because Insight for Living Ministries’ sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit it from following the mandate, the Christian non-profit faces and is subject to a $100 per day per employee fine and/or the loss of its insurance coverage.  Insight for Living Ministries has dozens of employees, and this fine would cause a severe economic consequence for this vibrant, international outreach.

Insight for Living Ministries is seeking a preliminary injunction so that it does not have to face significant harms of fines and/or the loss of its insurance coverage, while the case makes its way through the court system.

“The Obama Administration thinks the ‘religious accommodation’ solves any conscience problems,” said Matthew Kacsmaryk, Liberty Institute’s Deputy General Counsel.  “But it still requires Pastor Swindoll and Insight for Living Ministries to formally and materially cooperate in the provision of abortion-inducing drugs or services.  It is our hope that the District Court will follow the Supreme Court’s example in Hobby Lobby and grant an injunction for Insight for Living Ministries.

“Our nation was founded by religious dissenters who fled statist persecution and ratified a First Amendment that guarantees the Free Exercise of religion for all, giving rise to the proud American tradition of conscientious objection,” Kacsmaryk continued.  “Given that there are several less restrictive means available to the federal government—for example, the absolute exemption afforded churches, voucher programs, or direct subsidies to the end user—it is appalling that the Obama Administration requires Pastor Swindoll and Insight for Living Ministries to press the red button that ultimately dispenses abortion-inducing drugs.”

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 that are challenging the federal Abortion Pill Mandate.

But because of our unique strategy model—including America’s best attorneys who take religious liberty cases pro bono (free of charge)—we are confident we will prevail.

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.

Big Brother Is Watching and He Wants Your Pastor's Sermons!

Liberty Institute joins Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other religious liberty defenders in condemning the Houston Pastors' sermon subpoenas . . .



Last week, Liberty Institute President & CEO Kelly Shackelford joined Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at a press conference where he was asked to speak out in support of the First Amendment rights of five pastors in Houston, Texas—who were targeted by Mayor Annise Parker when the City issued subpoenas for their sermons and other church communications. 

The full house met Shackelford with a standing ovation, and cheered triumphantly when he asserted that “the city should withdraw their demands immediately, not just ‘narrowing the scope.’  They should withdraw their demands immediately.  And any public official who does not act immediately to do so should resign and is not fit to serve in any office in the state of Texas.”

HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN IN AMERICA?

The root of this unlawful subpoena is a new Equal Rights Ordinance in the city of Houston, colloquially known as “The Bathroom Bill.”  Among various amendments to Houston law—including many infringing on religious liberty—is a portion of the ordinance that has caused special concern for many families in Houston:  a section that allows members of the opposite sex into each other’s restrooms.  In response to this declaration, opponents of the bill signed a petition to place the bill on a referendum ballot—over 50,000 opponents.  Though far more than the requisite 17,269 signatures, the city of Houston rejected the certification, even though the City Secretary had certified the petition. 

Then, to fan the fire, although they are not parties to the litigation, a subpoena was issued demanding that five church pastors who spoke out in opposition to the ordinance hand over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity, or the city’s mayor, Annise Parker.  You read that right—American pastors were demanded by the government to hand over the sermons they preached from the pulpit or be held in contempt of court.

THE WILDFIRE RESPONSE

The Houston Pastors were immediately backed by a flurry of defense, including Senator Ted Cruz and Liberty Institute.  Liberty Institute has been at the forefront of speaking out in the pastors’ defense.  Just since last Thursday’s press conference:
  • Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer spoke out about the rights of the Houston Pastors on Chosen Generation radio show, and has conducted telephone conferences updating pastors in Texas and throughout America on the situation in Houston.
  • Liberty Institute President & CEO Kelly Shackelford defended the Houston Pastors and their constitutional rights on WTIC News, as well as in coverage in World Magazine, The Blaze and Breitbart.com.
  • Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys wrote a compelling piece for Canon & Culture explaining the similarities between the situation in Houston and the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Hobby Lobby case.
LEGAL SUBPOENA OR UNCONSTITUTONAL POLITICAL MOVE?

Even in the face of massive protest toward the illegality of her actions, Mayor Parker has insisted that the subpoena is legal, and that the pastors’ sermons weren’t what her administration was after:  it was their speeches.  But aren’t sermons still speeches?  And isn’t the mayor’s “amended” demand still blatantly unconstitutional?
The answer to both is “yes.”

“This is a wake up call,” Mateer said in his Chosen Generation interview.  “Just taking out ‘sermons’ is not enough.  This is a chilling effect.  It’s disgraceful, it’s immoral, and it violates the First Amendment.”

Of Houston’s mayor, Shackelford also shared at the Houston press conference:  “The Mayor should be ashamed.  And we should all be proud to stand up and defend the pastors who are resisting these blatant attempts to suppress their First Amendment rights.”

And, Dys said of the subpoenas:  “This is not the request made by one who seeks to understand the faith that has ‘once, for all, been delivered to the saints;’ it is a legal tactic designed to hoist the sermonizers of Houston on the pike for all the nation to see.”

HELP PASTORS & CHURCHES KNOW THEIR RIGHTS

Liberty Institute continues to support the Houston Pastors and their constitutional rights to freedom of religion and speech.  These brave men have taken a stand for religious liberty, the freedom of the pulpit, and the autonomy of the Church from intimidation by the State.  But, the fight will not end here.  Read and share Liberty Institute’s FREE, downloadable fact sheet, “Church & Government: Know Your Legal Rights,” and help spread the truth about pastors’ rights to free speech.

Liberty Institute will continue to defend religious liberty violations in America wherever they occur, and as the nation’s largest law firm committed solely to the defense of religious liberty, we are confident in our ability to defend you, your rights, and the United States Constitution.

But we cannot do it alone.  We depend on contributions from patriots like you—men and women who are determined to protect the values that this nation was founded upon.  That’s why we at Liberty Institute have over a 90% win rate—because we have the support and prayers of countless fellow soldiers in our fight for faith.  Please, help Liberty Institute to continue to defend Americans like the Houston Pastors, and consider a gift 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.

6 Steps to a Big Win for Religious Liberty in Our Schools

How having the right playbook can secure a victory . . .



In fall of 2013 and again this past August,Ward Melville High School officials in East Setauket, NY, rejected student John Raney’s application to start a Christian club.  John Raney was simply a student with a desire to serve his community as an outpouring of his Christian faith.  Seeking to organize his efforts, he submitted an application to form Students United in Faith, a club dedicated to encouraging fellow students and making a difference in their community through food and resource distribution for the underprivileged.

But each time his school said, “no,” he wasn’t satisfied—and each time Liberty Institute stepped in to confront the school.  Each year, under legal pressure from Liberty Institute, Ward Melville High School accepted John’s request, and the faith-based student club continues to serve his school and the community today.

But what does it take to win those victories, especially in cases involving students and school officials?  If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to win a case for people of faith like John Raney—and the members of Students United in Faith—here’s what you need to know:

STEP #1:  AN ALERT AND INFORMED COMMUNITY

Having eyes and ears across the country gives us a fighting chance.  Without Catholics for Freedom of Religion, a Long Island organization dedicated to educating people of their religious rights, we may have never represented John Raney.  When the group members heard of this then 16-year-old whose club had been denied acceptance at Ward Melville High School, they connected John with us and we were quickly on the case to help restore students’ religious liberty rights in this school.

STEP #2: COURAGE

John Raney has grit.  Giving into an oppressive bully would have been understandable considering his young age, but he chose to meet his opposition head on—twice.  Part of what contributes to our success is the determination and courage of people who know their rights and fight for them, even when they’re in the minority.  As long as people of faith continue standing up to those seeking to topple the First Amendment, religious freedom will be secured now and for future generations.

STEP #3: NETWORK OF EXPERTS

Like seeks after like.  It’s a social principle that is proved in our network of premier volunteer attorneys.  Yes, Liberty Institute features some of the most gifted constitutional attorneys in the country, but it’s how we position and mobilize our network that truly makes us consistently effective.  That is, the best volunteer attorneys want to work with us because of our standard of excellence, commitment to the First Amendment and desire for justice.

Liberty Institute’s expert staff attorneys, Hiram Sasser and Jeremy Dys, worked with our volunteer attorney Todd Harrison—a partner at McDermott Will & Emery—to represent John Raney in his case against Ward Melville High School.  Without this strategic partnership between constitutional and litigation experts, this would not have been possible.

STEP #4: DONOR SUPPORT

Our supporters ensure people like John Raney continue receiving the FREE representation they need.  Liberty Institute, as a pro bono non-profit law firm, depends on the generosity of like-minded friends, and we are deeply thankful for each one of them.

STEP #5: THE RIGHT VISION

We safeguard religious freedom in America.  It’s that simple.  And without a clear vision, even our best efforts will be inconsequential, or worse, ignoble.  Knowing this, we are devoted to our vision to see people of faith living without the fear of religious repression.

STEP #6: THE GRACE OF GOD

Religious expression isn’t a proposition up for discussion—it’s God given.  True, the citizenry of many countries do not enjoy many of the freedoms Americans have, and we are thankful to the Lord for blessing us with the privilege of serving others through him.  Without God’s grace, what we do wouldn’t be possible.  It’s God who enables us to protect the freedoms He has given us, but it’s the same God who expects us to serve and worship Him even when our faith and freedoms are being challenged.  Because of His grace, we work to ensure freedom of religious conviction and expression without fear of reprisal.

THE TRUE FIRST STEP: THE LAW

It’s worth mentioning that before the above six steps came the essential “first step”:  the Constitution of the United States and the laws, and court precedents that flow from it.  Even in an America where many aspects of the law have been misinterpreted and twisted against freedom, the fact is that the law is predominantly on the side of religious liberty—especially in cases like Students United in Faith.

Liberty Institute staff and volunteer attorneys who know how to use that law like a world-class surgeon knows how to use this instrument to achieve life-changing outcomes.  John Raney’s case has provided a textbook example of how to stand up to unlawful oppression and—with the help of the law, good lawyers, ardent supporters, and the grace of God—come out victorious.




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.

4 REASONS TO FIGHT: What the Houston Attack on Pastors Means in the War for Religious Freedom



During the week of October 12, the City of Houston delivered legal demands to five pastors to turn over their communications with church members, including their sermons and speeches.   This unlawful request stems out of efforts to repeal Houston’s “HERO” law (“Houston Equal Rights Ordinance”).  The HERO law, pushed by Mayor Annise Parker, included many provisions antithetical to religious liberty, including a section that allows members of the opposite sex into each other’s restrooms.

Many churches opposed the measure, and when it was passed by the City Council, many churches participated in a petition drive to put HERO to a popular vote.  Many Houston-area pastors—with every legal right to do so—likewise informed their congregations about this important, moral issue of the day. When the City mysteriously disqualified thousands of signatures on the petition, some citizens, faced with no democratic recourse, filed a lawsuit.  In response, the City issued subpoenas to five pastors (who are not parties to the lawsuit)—a legal demand for information, the refusal of which is punishable under law.  Those subpoenas demanded that these pastors turn over, among other things:



The order provoked a nationwide backlash, including a press conference where Liberty Institute’s President and CEO Kelly Shackelford demanded that Houston officials either withdraw the subpoena or resign from office.


“The City should withdraw their demands immediately, not ‘narrowing the scope’… they should withdraw their demands immediately.  And any public official who does not act immediately to do so should resign, and is not fit to serve in any office in the State of Texas.”
— Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of Liberty Institute

Why such a strong response?  Consider these 4 reasons for fighting the “Battle of the Pulpit,” courtesy of the expert attorneys of Liberty Institute:

REASON #1: THIS IS A TREND—NOT AN ISOLATED INCIDENT

Sermons and clergy are now targets for intimidation and worse.

For example, Liberty Institute is defending Dr. Eric Walsh, a leading executive and expert on public health with a long track record of success—someone America needs in a time when public health crises are daily headlines.  But Dr. Walsh was fired from his job because he is an ordained lay minister, and his sermons contained traditional beliefs held by millions of Christians, but not tolerated by the politically correct establishment.

Don’t miss that:  Dr. Walsh was fired because an employer, the state of Georgia Department of Health, didn’t like his sermons.  Sermons given by Dr. Walsh in his private capacity were requested, examined, and ultimately made grounds for his termination by his former employer.  We are convinced this instance of religious discrimination is blatantly illegal, and we have filed legal action to get justice for Dr. Walsh.

But it’s clear that religious discriminators desire a scorched-earth campaign to secularize America and scrape unwilling houses of worship off the cultural map.

REASON #2: AMERICA WAS BUILT ON SERMONS AND IN PULPITS

The pilgrims fled England in part because a tyrannical king didn’t approve of their sermons.  In the American Revolution, churches were burned because a tyrannical king didn’t approve of their sermons.

The Founders of America declared that all our rights, not just our religious rights, are “endowed by our Creator”—a higher power—and they are not to be violated, threatened, or abusively subpoenaed by government, a lower power.

The power to subpoena is the power to intimidate and harass.  Ultimately it is the power to suppress, the power to silence, and the power to control.  Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas said that silencing speech was, in his word, “totalitarianism,” and fundamentally un-American.

REASON #3: HISTORY WARNS AGAINST ATTACKS ON PULPITS

Nazi Germany is a picture of what happens when government seizes control of the pulpit.  In 1933 the Third Reich intimidated the churches into giving it control of their organizational leadership.  By 1934 the government issued the “Muzzling Order,” which regulated sermons and forbade speaking about certain controversial subjects.

Pastors who resisted the “Muzzling Order” were harassed.  One of them, Martin Niemoller, had his study ransacked by eight Gestapo agents looking for incriminating material.  In June 1937 Niemoller preached a sermon containing these words:

“No more are we ready to keep silent at man’s behest when God commands us to speak.  For it is, and must remain, the case that we must obey God rather than man.”

He was arrested and sent to the Dachau concentration camp.  The charge: “Abuse of Pulpit.”

REASON #4: THE LAW IS ON OUR SIDE

If we fight, we can win.  Bullies like Mayor Parker and the Georgia Department of Health are swimming against the tide of the Constitution, statutory law, and legal precedent.  With more than a 90% win rate, Liberty Institute knows this, having won numerous cases where churches and ministers were the targets of religious discriminators.

We know what many in government today tend to forget:  pastors are never obliged to render to government that which the government cannot require.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

First, download and share our FREE one-page fact sheet, “Church & Government: Know Your Legal Rights.”


Forward it to pastors, church leaders, and any person of faith you know.  Courage to stand often starts with knowledge that we can stand.

Second, support religious liberty with a gift to Liberty Institute.  As we said above, Liberty Institute is engaged in active legal cases to defend houses of worship, clergy, and ministries.

Third, pray.  Pray for courage among people of faith, and God’s favor in these days of conflict.


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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

New Chapter Opens in the Fight to Defend Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial


This week Liberty Institute heads back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and files an opening brief 



This week, Liberty Institute and our volunteer attorneys filed an opening brief on behalf of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association (MSMA) in the Trunk v. United States of America and Mt. Soledad Memorial Association, which is again at  the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Court—after the U.S. Supreme Court denied the request by the MSMA to review early the case this past July.

“We’re continuing to fight for this veterans memorial and the selfless sacrifice and service of all the millions of veterans it represents,” said Liberty Institute President and CEO, Kelly Shackelford.  “It is the least we can do for those who gave so much to us all.” 

Liberty Institute’s Director of Litigation Hiram Sasser adds, “If this cross comes down, then the World War I cross memorials at Arlington National Cemetery and elsewhere will be open targets for destruction or removal.”

HISTORY ON THE HILLTOP

The Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial has stood since 1954 as a symbol of the selfless sacrifice and service of our nation’s military.  Standing high on a hilltop in San Diego, California, the memorial includes a 29-foot cross with a plaque identifying it as a veterans memorial and is surrounded by eleven large granite walls that display the photos and names of our veterans, along with various and diverse religious and secular symbols.  Over 3,500 Americans are honored—including presidents (Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower), generals, and men and women whose names are not familiar, but who proudly served to help preserve the freedom we enjoy as Americans.

For more than 20 years, this veterans memorial has been the subject of a lawsuit brought about by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which claims the memorial’s cross violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.  Liberty Institute, and our volunteer attorney team at Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, joined the fight on behalf of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association to save the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial cross in 2012, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled the cross unconstitutional.

MILESTONES IN THE ONGOING COURT BATTLE

Here are a few of the major milestones (click here for an entire list) of how Liberty Institute has ramped up the efforts in this important fight:
  • February 2012 - On behalf the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association,(“MSMA”) Liberty Institute filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to have the Ninth Circuit decision overturned. The next month, the U.S. Department of Justice also joined the appeal.
  • June 25, 2012 - The U.S. Supreme Court denied the petitions to hear oral arguments in the case at that time.
  • July 2012 - The ACLU sought to have the MSMA removed from participating any further in the case as a party.
  • October 2012 - The federal district court judge rejected the ACLU’s attempt to remove the MSMA from the case, granting their request to intervene as a party.
  • July 2013 - In advance of a district court hearing, the ACLU submitted its brief in which it proposed its remedy to end the case:  tear down the cross.
  • December 2013 - U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns of the U.S. Southern District Court for the Southern District of California reluctantly ruled in favor of the ACLU, ordering the historic memorial cross torn down.  But the judge did grant a stay, giving Liberty Institute and our client the opportunity to appeal, which we did a few days later.
  • February 2014 - The U.S. government joined Liberty Institute and the MSMA in appealing the ruling.
  • March 2014 - Liberty Institute filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case immediately.
  • April 2014 - Numerous friend-of-the-court briefs poured into the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Liberty Institute’s petition.
  • June 30, 2014 - The Supreme Court denied the request by the MSMA to review the case early.
  • October 15, 2014 – Liberty Institute filed an opening brief in the Ninth Circuit.
WHAT IT MEANS TO OUR VETERANS

The first Korean War Veterans Memorial placed on U.S. soil, the memorial’s plaques commemorate the service of veterans, living and deceased, from the Revolutionary War up to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan—and it’s the only memorial in the nation which does so.  Over half of the veterans have been honored while still living, including these service members:
  • Captain Joseph John, USN (Ret) – whose daughter Jessica John Gercke says of Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial:  “This is such a wonderful, wonderful place, and I’m so happy that I have had the opportunity to get a plaque for my father while he is still alive.  What an honor this was for him to get to experience this with his family all around him.”
  • Brian “Iron Ed” Hiner, Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy – Afghanistan, Iraq, Philippines – “What an honor it is to have a place on this wall.  Such great men and women who have served and sacrificed for this country!”
  • Mary Earle Greenwald, Hospital Apprentice First Class, U.S. Navy – World War II – “My husband [James Greenwald, Lieutenant Junior Grade, U.S. Navy, USS McGinty (DE-365), Pacific Theater, Japan – World War II] and I each have a plaque on this wall.  My grandson Ed [Hiner] has his plaque up there, and I’m extremely proud of my family’s service.”

CARETAKERS AND DEFENDERS THWARTING DESTRUCTION

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

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

Liberty Institute volunteer attorney Allyson Ho, co-chair of the U.S. Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation Practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP,  serves as lead counsel for the MSMA and is leading the efforts to protect the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross.

GIVING BACK TO THOSE WHO GAVE ALL

Liberty Institute will never back down and is committed to this fight to save Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross in yet another phase of the battle.  And it’s our honor to defend memorials like these for men and women who are defending our nation’s freedom both at home and abroad.

But to continue the fight—and others across our great nation—we need the continuing support of friends like you.  So please donate now and help us unleash more attorneys for more cases in the church, in schools, in the public arena and in the military!



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