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Religion Clause Blog: The Conway, Arkansas Log Cabin Democrat reports that yesterday the Conway school board approved a policy that will allow youth ministers back on school campuses, after their lunch hour visits with students were temporarily suspended in reaction to a complaint by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
FRC: Three public interest law firms (Alliance Defending Freedom, Liberty Counsel, and Liberty Institute) have offered to give counsel to BSA in their efforts to maintain their policy. Those standing with the Scouts are strong in number, but the other side will continue to use bullying tactics to eliminate this common sense policy. This is why we must redouble our efforts.
AP: “The decision from the Boy Scouts today is no doubt a victory. And it’s a result of people standing up and standing for the timeless values and moral principles that the Boy Scouts teach and they stand for themselves.” – Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values
ABC2: In a letter to top Boy Scout officials, Liberty Institute, Liberty Counsel and the Alliance Defending Freedom note that the Supreme Court upheld the ban as part of scouting’s self-defined mission to instill morals, so making gay membership optional would suggest the Boy Scouts no longer consider homosexuality immoral.
Biz Journals: Making the proposed policy change would have profound implications regarding religious liberty and First Amendment rights,” said Liberty Institute President Kelly Shackelford in concert with Mathew Staver, Chairman and Founder of Liberty Counsel, and Gary McCaleb, Chief Solicitor and Executive Vice President of Alliance Defending Freedom. “We are also happy to provide representation to protect your First Amendment rights if you choose to continue respecting and adhering to your longstanding view of what the Scout Oath means when a scout promises to be “morally straight.”
Counton2.com: In a letter to top Boy Scout officials, Liberty Institute, Liberty Counsel and the Alliance Defending Freedom note that the Supreme Court upheld the ban as part of scouting’s self-defined mission to instill morals, so making gay membership optional would suggest the Boy Scouts no longer consider homosexuality immoral. The letter says that would expose scout troops that disagree to discrimination lawsuits they can’t afford.
One News Now: In a letter to top Boy Scout officials, Liberty Institute, Liberty Counsel and the Alliance Defending Freedom note that the Supreme Court upheld the ban as part of scouting’s self-defined mission to instill morals, so making homosexual membership optional would suggest the Boy Scouts no longer consider homosexuality immoral.
Examiner.com: Kelly Shackelford, voted one of the top 25 lawyers in Texas, told a packed crowd today about his defense of the right to pray of preachers, students and veterans.
Newsmax: Murry said the district has hired Liberty Institute, a law firm that handles religious liberty cases, to help with the complaint and to investigation the issues regarding equal access for visitors to the school.
No appeal to heaven unless a judge approves the prayer: Supreme Court asked to review atheist’s victory
Chris Gacek of FRC at the Washington Times: In May 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit issued an aggressive, secular ruling in a “legislative” prayer case arising from a small town in western New York. In Town of Greece v. Galloway . . . The court applied a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis that paid close attention to the content of the prayers. The court recognized the prayers “did not preach conversion, threaten damnation to nonbelievers, downgrade other faiths, or the like.” Nevertheless, the court balanced factors like the proportion of prayers offered by self-identified Christians, whether prayers “contained uniquely Christian references,” and finally whether the person offering the prayer used first-person plural pronouns (“we” or “us”).
Inquisitr.com: The Liberty Institute offered free legal service to an Ohio middle school’s fight to keep a portrait of Jesus Christ donated by a student group several decades ago. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded the image be removed from the rural southern Ohio school.
Christian Post: David Cortman, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Christian Post that the board punished Tutka for a crime he did not commit. “It is often said that the punishment should fit the crime. This doesn’t …
Citizen Link: “The school district violated the First Amendment by dismissing him,” said Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer, adding that the school district’s policies are “hostile to religion.”
Liberty Institute: oday, on behalf of several distinguished Christian theologians and scholars, Liberty Institute filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the United States Supreme Court supporting a request for the High Court to hear an important religious freedom case that could determine the future of prayers before legislative bodies throughout the U.S. The theologians seek to overturn the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s ruling in the case Galloway v. Town of Greece, which declared the town’s legislative prayers unconstitutional because they were not religiously diverse. A copy of the brief may be found here.
Liberty Institute: The San Angelo Police Department of San Angelo, Texas, is the newest target of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s (FFRF) aggressive efforts to systematically remove faith from public view.
KTUL.com: Some civil rights groups say legal action is possible over a Ten Commandments monument installed Thursday on the Oklahoma state Capitol grounds.
The Press-Enterprise: During the ceremony, Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Texas-based Liberty Institute, which focuses on religious-freedom cases and was involved in the Mojave cross case, talked of the indignities that crosses on the site have been through. “This memorial has been bagged, it’s been torn down and it’s been stolen,” he said. “And now it’s back, it’s up and you’re standing on VFW property,” Sasser said to loud cheers and clapping. “It’s fantastic.”
Religion Clause Blog: Add one more lawsuit to the dozens already filed challenging the contraceptive coverage mandate under the Affordable Care Act. Yesterday, Criswell College in Dallas, Texas filed suit. The complaint (full text) in Crisell College v. Sebelius, (ND TX, filed Nov. 1, 2012), describes Criswell as “a Christ-centered institution of higher learning.”
Star Telegram: The district says the students are speaking under a state law that requires school districts to establish a “limited public forum,” giving students the right to speak publicly before all school events. Juniors and seniors interested in speaking are selected at random, Birdville schools spokesman Mark Thomas said.
LIberty Institute: Liberty Institute is responding to misinformation being disseminated by atheist groups to public school districts throughout the country. In legal information letters mailed this month, Liberty Institute encourages and reminds school administrators that the Constitution still protects the rights of students to engage in free speech and religious expression at various events.
Federal District Court Rejects ACLU’s Attempt To Exclude Veterans Association From The Landmark Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross Case
PR Newswire on Sacramento Bee: Today, the United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of California granted intervention to the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Association (the “Association”) allowing the Association to continue as a party in the landmark case, Steve Trunk, et al v. City of San Diego, et al. It overrules the ACLU’s attempt to have the Association excluded from the case.
Religion Clause Blog: In Wood County, Texas yesterday, a state trial court dismissed a lawsuit that had been brought challenging the County Commissioners’ routine opening of their sessions with prayer and seeking removal of the “In God We Trust” motto prominently displayed in the county commissioners’ meeting room.
PR Newswire: Today, Liberty Institute and its local counsel Bryan Hughes on behalf of the Wood County Commissioner’s Court applauds the ruling of a state district judge who granted a summary judgment, dismissing the lawsuit against the County for opening its sessions in prayer and for displaying in its courtroom America’s national motto “In God We Trust.” The ruling was made during a summary judgment hearing at the Wood County Courthouse in Quitman, Texas.
Citizen Link: The Liberty Institute announced Thursday its formation of Texas Values, an organization dedicated to the preservation of faith, family and freedom in the state.
Christian Post: A day after receiving a letter from the FFRF, the superintendent of the Kountze ISD banned the banners. He says he’s a Christian, but that the Supreme Court ruled religion must be kept out of the public schools. That’s hogwash according to Liberty Institute, the national, non-profit law firm that represents the cheerleaders. All twelve girls, along with one parent each, signed on to a lawsuit requesting the court delay enforcement of the superintendent’s ban. A judge granted a temporary restraining order . . .
Statesman.com: Passionate calls to action were met with a chorus of “amens” at the Hays County Commissioners Court this morning as about 25 residents urged commissioners to continue starting their weekly meetings with a prayer.
WISTV: Liberty Institute senior counsel Mike Johnson says the Supreme Court has ruled that students don’t lose their constitutional rights when they enter school.
News-Journal.com (Wood County Democrat): A hearing is set on Oct. 16 on a lawsuit filed by a man who objects to Wood County having “In God We Trust” posted in the courtroom as well as commissioners beginning each of their sessions with prayer. In May the commissioners agreed to retain services from the Alliance Defense Fund and Liberty Institute for representation in the suit filed by Charles Frederick Scott, III, of Hawkins alleging the county is violating the U.S. Constitution . . . Erin Leu of Liberty Institute said, “The law is entirely clear in this.” She noted there are two issues . . .
WorldNetDaily: “Religious hostility is the red light on the dashboard that tells us we have a problem and that violence will come next if not fixed,” Shackleford says.
. . . A final quote from Justice Black’s dissenting opinion in In re Winship is pertinent: “When this Court assumes for itself the power to declare any law—state or federal—unconstitutional because it offends [a] majority [of the court’s] own views of what is fundamental and decent in our society, our Nation ceases to be governed according to the ‘law of the land’ and instead becomes one governed ultimately by the ‘law of the judges.’” In order to preserve the people’s most fundamental individual liberty and uphold the rule of law rather than the rule of man, the Supreme Court should reverse Perry v. Brown.
Mineola Monitor: A hearing is set on Oct. 16 on a lawsuit filed by a man who objects to Wood County having “In God We Trust” posted in the courtroom as well as commissioners beginning each of their sessions with prayer. In May the commissioners agreed to retain services from the Alliance Defense Fund and Liberty Institute for representation in the suit filed by Charles Frederick Scott, III, of Hawkins alleging the county is violating the U.S. Constitution. This month Liberty Institute, on behalf of the Wood County Commissioners court, filed a motion for summary judgement “to end the frivolous lawsuit.”
Engage Family Minute (links to audio): General Counsel to the Liberty Institute joins us on today’s edition of Engaging the Issues to examine its latest report: The Survey on Religious Hostility in America.
CNA: A report examining court cases from recent years has found that hostility towards religion has grown to unprecedented levels in the United States. The newly-updated Survey of Religious Hostility in America serves as “a testament to the radical shift in our culture’s worldview” on religion, said Kelly Shackelford, president of Liberty Institute, and Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council.
One News Now: The joint study from Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council (FRC) records up to 600 incidents of hostility toward religion, most of which have occurred within the last ten years.
GOP USA: But just days ago, attorneys for the Mount Soledad Memorial Association learned that the ACLU has been negotiating with the Department of Justice without including the group that actually maintains the cross and memorial site. That sparked concern on Capitol Hill.
Incumbent David Medina, on the state’s highest civil court since 2004, boasts support from Gov. Rick Perry, six retired Republican Supreme Court justices, 22 members of the Texas Legislature or U.S. Congress and several politically influential groups, including Texans for Lawsuit Reform and the Texas Medical Association. Challenger John Devine, a former district judge, boasts support from members of prominent religious and conservative groups, including Eagle Forum, Concerned Women of Texas and Liberty Institute, which fights legal battles on behalf of Christian priorities and issues.
Report: “Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa”
PublicEye.org (authored by Kapya John Kaoma and published by Political Research Associates): Conference panelists varied from a new brand of less vitriolic pro-traditional family advocates such as Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at University of Virginia, to Piero Tozzi, an attorney for the right-wing Christian group the Alliance Defense Fund, to Floyd Godfrey, a practitioner of the harmful and discredited practice of reparative or conversion therapy for “treating” same-sex attraction . . . The ACLJ is now one of the principal legal advocacy groups in the conservative movement, along with the Alliance Defense Fund, Liberty Counsel, the Liberty Institute, and the Thomas More Law Center.
PR Newswire: Liberty Institute Files Brief at U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Behalf of Christian Theologians and Scholars, including Drs. Wayne Grudem, Darrell Bock, Mark Bailey, Peter Lillback, Stephen Evans, Wayne House, and J. Michael Thigpen
Hugh Hewitt and Joe Infranco at National Review: Hamlet, Shakespeare’s melancholy Dane, epitomized the man paralyzed by indecision, never sure how he should feel or act. With the decision to deny review in the case of California’s Mount Soledad Veterans’ Memorial, the U.S. Supreme Court’s long-awaited guidance on religious traditions feels like an extended version of that play.
Religion Clause Blog: In the case, a 3-judge panel of the 9th Circuit held that the now federally-owned Mt. Soledad Memorial featuring a 43-foot high cross conveys a government message of endorsement of religion that violates the Establishment Clause. Subsequently the full 9th Circuit refused an en banc rehearing. However 5 judges, joined an opinion dissenting from the denial of en banc review.
Liberty Institute (links to audio): Kelly highlighted the latest in our fight to preserve veterans memorials that contain religious imagery, including the pending Supreme Court decision on the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross case in San Diego, and the land transfer settlement that will pave the way to restoring the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross in California.
Education Week: The appeal stems from a long-running lawsuit over several incidents in which administrators in the Plano, Texas, school district allegedly barred students from distributing items such as religious-themed candy canes or pencils with messages like “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” or “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
One News Now: In what has come to be known as the “candy cane” case, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the student’s right to express his faith at school had been violated. However, attorney Hiram Sasser of the Liberty Institute says his group is pursuing further litigation because the court did not hold school officials accountable
News-Journal.com: On Friday Wood County Commissioners decided after a brief executive session to retain services from the Alliance Defense Fund and Liberty Institute for representation in a pending lawsuit over prayer and the posting of “In God We Trust” in the courtroom.
Liberty Institute Sets Epic Battle–Whether The Supreme Court Will Allow Religious Imagery On Veterans Memorials–To Acoustic Music
Sacramento Bee: On Memorial Day – as Liberty Institute awaits a response from the U.S. Supreme Court over their appeal to save the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Cross from being torn down by atheist groups—the group will unveil a new music video, titled “Don’t Tear Me Down.” Beginning Monday, May 28, tune-in at www.DontTearMeDown.com.
One News Now: To accommodate the ACLU, the Lewisville Independent School District has decided to label it “student remarks” instead. Hiram Sasser of the Liberty Institute says that is unnecessary. “They’re concerned about using the words ‘invocation’ and ‘benediction.’ There’s nothing legally magical about using those words,” he asserts. “They want to be able to use those words to describe the opening remarks and closing remarks, where students are allowed to pray and [are] certainly free to do so.”
Dallas Morning News: The Lewisville school district has always allowed students to say prayers at high school graduations . . . “I don’t think there’s any legal requirement not to use ‘invocation’ or ‘benediction,’” said Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Liberty Institute, a Plano-based non-profit legal firm focused on religious issues. “They can have corresponding secular meanings.”
Liberty Institute: Opulent Life Church has enlisted the help of Liberty Institute to protect the church from discrimination by the city of Holly Springs, MS. The church wishes to expand their current space in downtown, but due to zoning restrictions the church must get the approval of 60 percent of nearby residents and the town’s Mayor before they can expand.
El Paso Times: Bopp, who also is mentioned in the article, said the purpose of the James Madison Center is not to help get Republicans elected, and McConnell “was not involved in (the center’s) day-to-day operations.” Instead, the James Madison Center became involved in the case at the behest of the Alliance Defense Fund, Bopp said. “This case has revealed that your Texas campaign-finance laws have some bad features,” he said . . . The Liberty Legal Institute didn’t respond last week to questions for this story. The Alliance Defense Fund, a national organization that had already joined the recall fight, also says in its mission statement that it fights for constitutional freedoms. “ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through . . . ” [more]
News from The Associated Press: A nonprofit legal firm, Liberty Institute in Washington, D.C., planned to file its petition Thursday . . .
Findlaw: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Wednesday in the Texas Sonogram Bill case, Texas Medical Providers, et al v. David Lakey.
NYTimes.com: “The free-speech rights of students and teachers are under an all-out assault,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of the Liberty Institute, a Christian legal group in Plano, Tex. He described one continuing legal case in which “children had pencils ripped out of their hands” because they carried a Christian message and students were “banned from writing Merry Christmas to the soldiers.”
OneNewsNow.com: Hiram Sasser of Liberty Institute tells OneNewsNow the couples are trying to twist state law to suit their own agenda. “These are two men who claim they want to get a divorce, and the proper remedy in this state is just to declare the marriage void. It’s the same result as if the marriage never happened,” Sasser explains.
NYTimes.com: Hiram Sasser, a lawyer for the Liberty Institute, a conservative legal advocacy group, said that because the ski resort is already leasing much of the mountain from the Forest Service, the federal government has no right to ban the statue merely because some people might not like it.
OneNewsNow.com: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas is taking an unusual stance and defending students’ rights to wear religious symbols at school.
World Net Daily: “Although we are disappointed that the Ninth Circuit denied requests to have the full court rehear this case, we are encouraged that five of the judges agree with us and believe the cross should stay,” said Kelly Shackelford, attorney for the memorial . . . Joseph Infranco, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, also praised the 23-page dissent.”The political agenda of secularist groups should not be allowed to uproot memorials that honor the sacrifices of America’s fallen heroes and their families,” he said. [more]
Federal District Judge Lynn N. Hughes signed a consent decree ordering the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to stop banning prayer and the word “God” at national cemeteries, to revoke national policies hostile to religion, and to reopen the Chapel at the Houston National Cemetery.
The Daily Texan: The Texas Center for Defense of Life, Law of Life Project, Alliance Defense Fund and Liberty Institute are representing Austin area pro-life pregnancy resource centers who say the city is violating their First Amendment rights as well as attacking their moral position on abortion.
OneNewsNow.com: Liberty Institute is filing a lawsuit against the city of Austin, Texas, for its ordinance that limits the constitutional rights of free speech for pregnancy resource centers.
Religion Clause: Under the proposed consent decree (full text), reached after mediation by a former Texas Supreme Court justice, the government agreed to 50 stipulations that facilitate the VFW, the Memorial Ladies and the American Legion’s providing honor guard ceremonies and condolence cards, including religious expressions, unless the family objects . . .
Pantagraph: But the religious leaders are bolstered by well-funded Christian legal organizations supporting their cause. The most prominent — the Alliance Defense Fund, a group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that spent $32 million in 2010 — is challenging a 1954 tax code amendment that prohibits pastors, as leaders of tax-exempt organizations, from supporting or opposing candidates from the pulpit. The fund sponsors Pulpit Freedom Sunday, in which it offers free legal representation to churches whose pastors preach about political candidates and are then audited by the Internal Revenue Service. (So far, no IRS investigations have been triggered.) Last fall, 100 churches participated — up from 33 in 2008. This year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday scheduled for Oct. 2, is expected to draw more than 500 churches. [Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute quoted]
Tom Hambruger and Matea Gold at Tribune Washington Bureau via Kansas City Star (also in Sacramento Bee): As pastors speak out on political matters, they’ve drawn admonitions from groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which warns that such activism could jeopardize their churches’ nonprofit status. But the religious leaders are bolstered by well-funded Christian legal organizations supporting their cause. The most prominent – the Alliance Defense Fund, a group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that spent $32 million in 2010 – is challenging a 1954 tax code amendment that prohibits pastors, as leaders of tax-exempt organizations, from supporting or opposing candidates from the pulpit. The fund sponsors Pulpit Freedom Sunday, in which it offers free legal representation to churches whose pastors preach about political candidates and are then audited by the Internal Revenue Service. (So far, no IRS investigations have been triggered.)
OneNewsNow.com: District Attorney Keith Treadway believes the law prohibits prayers over the public address (PA) system at sporting events, but Kelly Shackelford of the Liberty Institute says the Freedom From Religion Foundation is misinforming people. “You have a right to speak a religious thought, even if it’s on government property, even if it’s on a PA system that’s government -owned, even if it’s on a public street, a public park, which are also government property,” he contends.
CitizenLink: “This emanates from some written policies that the people who aren’t religious shouldn’t have to hear religious things. But these policies are leading to people being robbed of the ceremonies they want for their husbands and fathers,” said Liberty Institute President Kelly Shackelford. “We’ve clearly got a director here who’s out of control and is anti-religious, but she thought she could get away with it because of the policy.
One News Now: Gregory Baylor of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) says the problem surfaced when discriminatory policies against religious organizations were discovered at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). We resolved that situation with [UTSA], and we had a concern that other … public colleges and universities in the state of Texas might have similar policies,” Baylor explains.
San Antonio Express-News: The Alliance Defense Fund, a network of Christian attorneys opposed to abortion and gay marriage, has sent letters to 136 public colleges . . . Gregory Baylor, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, said the federal Civil Rights Act and the Texas Employment Discrimination law exempt religious employers from the discrimination ban.“It is not permissible for an auto manufacturer to say, ‘We don’t want any Hindus on the manufacturing line,’ but it is permissible for the local synagogue to say, ‘We want our rabbi to be Jewish,’” Baylor said. Douglas Laycock, a professor at the University of Virginia Law School and expert on religious liberty laws, agreed . . .
Shackelford, whose Plano-based group pushes for limited government and promotes Judeo-Christian values, said he has been telling callers that Perry has long favored an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as being only between a man and a woman.
ADF, allies send letters urging campus officials to change any job posting policies discriminating against religious organizations
Christian Post: Two other senators have already called for Ocasio to step down. Hutchison is asking the Veterans Affairs Secretary to investigate the circumstances surrounding Ocasio’s actions, according to KHOU.
Fox News: he people who packed onto the grounds were pastors and lawmakers, war vets, moms who lost children in battle, and just regular everyday Americans. Americans like Kimberly Walker who are not happy with the cemetery’s director.
The American Legion: On June 28, Liberty Institute in Dallas filed court papers alleging that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the director of the Houston National Cemetery, Arleen Ocasio, are engaging in “religious viewpoint discrimination” in violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The American Legion will support the case as an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) as soon as possible.
Kelly Shackelford: Yes, prayer a protected right: It’s called freedom of speech, and student taught us a lesson.
Freedom isn’t that complicated. As freedom-loving Americans, we all know when it is violated. This is why there was an immediate and clear public outcry when there was an attempt to censor citizens’ speech at the Medina Valley High School graduation. Most everyone knew that this attempt, backed by threat of “incarceration,” was wrong.