Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fighting For Our Armed Forces…Both Past and Present

IN THE MILITARY

Recently, Liberty Institute uncovered a series of disturbing instances in which our brave service men and women – the very people who fight for our freedoms – are having their First Amendment rights taken away.

Read more about these shocking events. 

As the nation’s largest legal organization focused solely on defending religious freedom in America, Liberty launched the Armed Forces Religious Liberty Hotline, 1-800-259-9109, and Petition Drive to support persecuted members of the United States military.

In addition, our experienced team of constitutional attorneys – some of whom have severed in the armed forces – vows to provide legal defense for those in the military who are facing religious discrimination and hostility.

We have a long track record of success when it comes to defending our nation’s service men and women – both past and present. 

Currently, Liberty is fighting for the freedoms of our beloved veterans in several cases involving the constitutionality of their memorials.

We are leading the charge in the continued effort to save the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross, which has stood since 1954 as a symbol of the selfless sacrifice and service of our nation’s military. The memorial is a 29-foot Latin cross surrounded by six concentric walls that display the photos, names and diverse religious symbols of our veterans who paid the ultimate price for freedom.

For more than 20 years, this veterans memorial has been the subject of a lawsuit brought about by the ACLU, which claims the memorial’s cross violates the “separation of church and state.”  In late April, the federal district court judge in San Diego ordered the parties to participate in a mandatory settlement conference. If those discussions are unsuccessful, a hearing has been set for September 2013 to determine the fate of the memorial cross.

We also stepped in to help the city of Coos Bay, Oregon, after city leaders received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, demanding they remove a Vietnam Veterans memorial because it includes a cross. The city retained Liberty Institute to conduct an investigation and make a report and recommendation regarding the constitutionality of the memorial, which has stood for 41 years in Mingus Park.

In addition to these ongoing cases, we’ve also secured great victories. 

Just last November, we were able to witness the return of the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross, which was first erected in 1934 in honor of World War I veterans. After years of litigation (brought about by the ACLU), the case finally came to a close when more than 200 supporters turned out for a very special Veterans Day celebration to see the long-awaited restoration and rededication of the new memorial cross. Our clients, longtime memorial caretakers Henry and Wanda Sandoz, the VFW and The American Legion were present for the historic event – an event 13 years in the making.

We also secured a major win with our VA Case in which the director of the Houston National Cemetery informed a pastor that he could not pray “in Jesus’ name” at a Memorial Day service. Following the filing of the lawsuit, and upon further investigation, Liberty uncovered additional First Amendment violations taking place at the cemetery, including prohibiting volunteers with the National Memorial Ladies from saying “God bless you” to families; prohibiting family members from having the burial ritual with references to God they desired; and closing the cemetery chapel and using it as a storage facility.

While Liberty originally filed suit on behalf of Pastor Rainey, we amended our original complaint to add the VFW District 4, The American Legion Post 586, the National Memorial Ladies, and widows Lisa Ward and Geri Lakey as our clients.

After almost five months of litigation, U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes signed an order requiring the VA to lift the ban on prayer, to permit the burial rituals of the veterans organizations, including the references to God, to allow the use of the word “God” at national cemeteries, to revoke national policies hostile to religion, and to reopen the chapel at the Houston National Cemetery.

This win had far-reaching effects, and restored the constitutional rights of 22 million members of the U.S. military. 

Through your prayers and generous financial support, we have been able to continue the fight to protect the religious freedom of our nation’s military. But, the fight is far from over. In fact, the attacks are only increasing and they are growing in hostility.

Please consider a gift today to help us protect the First Amendment rights of our armed forces – both past and present. Each gift is critical, and every dollar donated doubles in value because of the world-class volunteer attorneys that work with us everyday, selflessly donating their time to this important cause.

Also, be sure to “like” Liberty Institute on Facebook to stay up-to-date on these critical cases!

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 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.