Category Archives: Church and State

Air Force Colonel Punished For His Religious Beliefs Fights Back

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, March 29, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today, First Liberty Institute, a national religious freedom law firm, sent a demand letter to the United States Air Force on behalf of its client, Colonel Michael Madrid, USAF.

First Liberty attorneys say the Air Force discriminated against Col. Madrid because of his religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality. They are asking the Air Force to rescind Madrid’s punishment or face further legal action.

“Colonel Madrid is the latest victim of the extreme political correctness that is destroying our military,” Mike Berry, Director of Military Affairs for First Liberty Institute, says. “The military should never discriminate against a service member because of his religious beliefs.”

Col. Michael Madrid is a decorated Air Force veteran, a former Naval aviator, and a flight surgeon who has served in the military for 26 years. As a Christian, he holds the traditional belief that marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman.

In 2014, an openly gay Airman was court-martialed and found guilty of serious misconduct. During the court-martial process, the Airman, who worked with Col. Madrid, accused Col. Madrid of having made derogatory comments about homosexuality.

Col. Madrid denied making such comments and submitted to a thorough Air Force investigation, where he explained that he holds traditional Christian beliefs about marriage. The Air Force found the allegations unsubstantiated, cleared Madrid of the charges, and closed the investigation. (Read more about the court-martial and investigation)

However, more than two years later, Col. Madrid was placed under a new commander, Major General John E. McCoy. Soon after, without any new evidence or new investigation, Maj. Gen. McCoy arbitrarily decided that Madrid had lied during the investigation and was guilty of the Airman’s accusation of making derogatory comments about homosexuality.

As a result, Maj. Gen. McCoy placed a Letter of Admonishment in Madrid’s permanent record. The letter virtually guarantees that Madrid, who has an otherwise stellar record and who is only one promotion away from the rank of Brigadier General, will never be promoted.

Today, First Liberty sent a demand letter to the United States Air Force, saying that Col. Madrid has been denied due process and demanding that the Letter of Admonishment be rescinded.

“Colonel Madrid submitted to an extensive military investigation and the Air Force cleared him,” Berry says. “Major General McCoy has no right to ignore the rule of law and arbitrarily decide, more than two years later and without any new evidence, that he can punish Col. Madrid.”

First Liberty attorneys say that although Maj. Gen. McCoy never provided reasons for his actions, they are consistent with a growing trend of extreme political correctness and hostility toward traditional religion in the military.

“At First Liberty Institute, we’ve seen multiple cases in which military officials have refused to tolerate service members’ traditional religious beliefs,” Berry says. “Colonel Madrid doesn’t hide the fact that he is a devout Christian. We are concerned that Major General McCoy judged and punished Madrid – a decorated Air Force officer – because he became aware of Colonel Madrid’s traditional religious views. If so, that not only harms the military, but it is illegal.”

“I feel like the full power of the Air Force is coming down on me because of my faith,” Col. Madrid says. “Now, after more than a quarter century of service to this nation, I feel like I constantly have to look over my shoulder. It’s incredibly intimidating.”

“Religious intolerance and discrimination against anyone in the military is inexcusable,” Berry says. “We ask the Air Force to take immediate action to hold Major General McCoy accountable and to provide justice and due process for Colonel Madrid.”

Read more about Madrid’s case at MadridCaseFacts.com

Texas Attorney General Releases Statement Supporting Justice of the Peace in Dispute with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

 

March 23, 2017) Montgomery County, Texas includes many of the suburbs north of the City of Houston in the Southeast part of the state. A Justice of the Peace there, Wayne Mack has a guest chaplain program. These volunteers offer support and counsel at the scene of death investigations. These volunteers are also called upon to lead a brief prayer at the beginning of Judge Mack’s court proceedings.

Last year Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick asked the Attorney General for a legal opinion on Judge Mack’s practices. It is worth noting that Lt. Governor Patrick has always enjoyed a large amount of support from Texas’ Pro Family/Christian Conservative movement. So it is likely that he requested the opinion to grant Judge Mack a degree of legal cover, not to stop the practices. In August of last year AG Paxton released opinion KP-0109. In this six page opinion AG Paxton held that Judge Mack’s actions were in line with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Town of Greece V. Galloway, and other precedents, and therefore were not in violation of the state of federal constitutions.

On this past  Tuesday March 21st.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed suit against Judge Mack seeking to end his use of chaplains. Paxton responded the following day with an official statement saying

“Judge Mack is fully complying with the Constitution by adhering to the model for opening prayers the Supreme Court endorsed just a few years ago,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The Freedom from Religion Foundation’s quest to expunge any vestige of religion from public life flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s holdings. I am confident our courts will follow years of precedents and not indulge a litigious group’s plea to rewrite the Constitution.”

Government Claims First Amendment Protects Only The “Right To Choose A Religion”

DENVER, March 21, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit heard oral arguments in a case filed by Ms. Mary Anne Sause, a Catholic former nurse who was ordered by police officers to stop praying in her own home.

In court briefings, government attorneys defended the police officers’ actions by arguing that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause only “protects an individual’s right to choose a religion.”

Attorneys for First Liberty Institute, a national religious freedom law firm representing Ms. Sause, say the government’s argument could set a dangerous precedent for how the First Amendment protects religious freedom.

“The Free Exercise Clause protects an individual’s right to do exactly that – to freely exercise his or her faith,” Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “The government’s attempt to redefine the First Amendment through this case could set a dangerous precedent for religious freedom.”

The case, Mary Anne Sause v. Timothy J. Bauer, et al., was heard before a three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit. Bradley G. Hubbard, Associate with Gibson Dunn, argued the case as co-counsel with First Liberty Institute.

“Prayer is essential to my faith and everyday life,” Ms. Sause said following the arguments. “Not a day goes by when I don’t pray. It is concerning to see the government claim the First Amendment protects my right to choose my religion, but not my right to pray in the privacy of my own home.”

“The First Amendment guarantees the right for all Americans to freely exercise their faith,” Taub says. “First Liberty Institute is committed to defending that freedom for every American.”

Read more about the case and view legal documents at FirstLiberty.org/Sause

Family Research Council Statement on NBA All-Star Game Re-Locating to New Orleans

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the NBA announced it will move the 2017 NBA All-Star Game to New Orleans, Louisiana. The game was originally scheduled to be hosted in Charlotte, North Carolina, but the NBA moved the game out of Charlotte in protest over passage of North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which provides common sense protections for bathroom privacy and against government overreach.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released the following statement:

“I commend North Carolina Governor McCrory for his political courage and moral clarity in not caving in to the NBA’s threats to move the All-Star game. He stared down the giant of the NBA and stood strong against government discrimination of private entities and for the principles of protecting privacy and safety in government buildings.

“My home state of Louisiana, like North Carolina, is one of 32 states in the U.S. that does not force private businesses to allow men in women’s showers, locker rooms, and restrooms. On the other hand, in New Orleans—the same as in Charlotte—the NBA will be free to divide the restrooms at its own event on the basis of self-professed ‘gender identity’ instead of objective biological sex, if it wishes to do so. Only politics—not the well-being of transgender persons or anyone else—motivated this disruptive and punitive move.

“The hypocrisy of the NBA over North Carolina’s HB 2 law is utterly stunning. The NBA is willing to turn a blind eye and play games in countries, like the People’s Republic of China, that regularly oppress their own citizens.

“The NBA should focus on basketball, not on redefining what it means to be male or female,” concluded Perkins.

High School Football Coach Files Lawsuit Against School District That Fired Him For Praying

BREMERTON, Wash., Aug. 9, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —  Today, former high school football coach Joe Kennedy filed a lawsuit against Bremerton School District (BSD) after the school district terminated him for offering a brief, quiet prayer at the fifty-yard line after high school football games.

Read the lawsuit at CoachKennedyFacts.com.

In the lawsuit, Coach Kennedy’s attorneys said, “Bremerton School District’s actions violate Coach Kennedy’s First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise, as well as his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion.” In the complaint, Coach Kennedy declined to seek monetary damages and instead simply requested that the school reinstate him so he can continue coaching the kids.

“When the school district fired me, I was devastated,” Coach Kennedy says. “I really hope that the school district will give me my job back so I can get back to doing what I love most: coaching my players.”

Coach Kennedy is represented by the national non-profit law firm First Liberty Institute, as well as Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Oldfield & Helsdon, PLLC, and attorney Anthony J. Ferate.

“Citizens who work for government are not banned from praying. That’s not the law. That’s religious hostility and discrimination,” Mike Berry, Senior Counsel at First Liberty Institute, says. “All we are asking is for Coach Kennedy to be reinstated and for the school to allow him to continue to pray alone at the fifty-yard line after the game.”

“The First Amendment guarantees Coach Kennedy’s rights to free speech and free exercise of his religion,” Rebekah Ricketts, attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, says. “We fully expect those constitutional rights to be vindicated when Coach Kennedy gets his day in court.”

“As a student at Bremerton High School, I was taught the importance of Constitutional Rights; the school district, by act, has specifically devalued Coach Kennedy’s,” attorney and Bremerton High School alumni Anthony J. Ferate added. “It’s time for Coach to be allowed to get back to serving as a positive role model to students in Bremerton.”

Coach Kennedy filed a charge of religious discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Bremerton School District in December. On June 27, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a right-to-sue letter to Coach Kennedy.

Read more and view legal documents at CoachKennedyFacts.com

About First Liberty Institute
First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

State Of Iowa Claims It Can Tell Churches What They Can Teach On Matters Of Sexuality

SIOUX CITY, Iowa, July 5, 2016  — Today, First Liberty Institute sent a demand letter to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (CRC), asking them to retract earlier statements claiming it has the authority to interfere with churches’ doctrine and operation. The letter was sent on behalf of Cornerstone World Outreach Church and is the first time a church has taken this type of legal action against the government over a sexual orientation and gender identity law. Read the demand letter

The Iowa CRC published a brochure called “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity – A Public Accommodations Provider’s Guide to Iowa Law.” (Read the brochure) In the brochure, they state that churches are considered places of public accommodation and as such, they generally may not be exempted from the state’s sexual orientation and gender identity law.

“This is a clear case of the state violating the sanctity of the church. It should send chills down the spine of every congregation in Iowa,” Chelsey Youman, Chief of Staff & Counsel for First Liberty Institute, says. “The State of Iowa claims it has the power to regulate what churches can teach about human sexuality and how they operate their facilities. The government has absolutely no authority to force a church to violate its religious beliefs. This is a massive violation of the First Amendment.” Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield, veteran Republican activist, and founder of FaithInspires.Org added ” The moment any part of government is allowed to dictate what our  churches teach, at that moment the First Amendment is extinguished !”

First Liberty Institute sent the demand letter to the CRC on behalf of Cornerstone World Outreach, a non-denominational, Bible-based church that teaches traditional, scriptural beliefs about marriage, sexual morality, and gender roles in the church.

“I am a father of five, and I am deeply concerned that the State of Iowa would try to tell us, as a church, what we can teach about matters of sexuality and how we are allowed to ensure the safety and privacy of our children,” Cary Gordon, Senior Pastor of Cornerstone World Outreach for over 21 years, says. “All we want is to be left alone to teach the Word of God and minister to our community in peace.”

First Liberty attorneys asked the CRC to grant Cornerstone an exemption and promise not to enforce the law against the church by August 4. If not, the attorneys say they are prepared to pursue “all available legal options.” PRNEWSWIRE contributed to this story.

Unconstitutional Court Censorship Prompts Daleiden First Amendment Federal Court Appeal

Thomas More Society Defends Planned Parenthood Exposé and “Undercover Journalism at Large”

SAN FRANCISCO, April 26, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — Thomas More Society attorneys filed an appeal last week with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for undercover journalist David Daleiden, arguing for reversal of a preliminary injunction that bars Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress from publishing undercover videos from the 2014 and 2015 annual meetings of the National Abortion Federation (“NAF”). Daleiden’s appeal assails the lower court’s decree as a blatantly unconstitutional “prior restraint” on free speech, based on repeated Supreme Court precedents that condemn such gag orders, most notably the famous Pentagon Papers case in which the Justices refused the federal government’s plea to stop publication of top secret files discussing the Vietnam war which had been leaked to the New York Times and Washington Post. The appeal brief also argues that release of undercover video of significant (if not paramount) public interest should not be suppressed, in order to protect the public’s right to know – a critical element of our professed democratic self-governance as an open and free society. Indeed, the United States Congress, numerous state legislators, and criminal investigators have subpoenaed and relied on Daleiden’s video releases to instigate hearings, new legal and regulatory initiatives, defunding measures, and also possible civil and criminal enforcement actions against the abortion industry. Congress itself had subpoenaed the suppressed videos and the lower court upheld that subpoena, which in turn led to a public hearing by the House Select Committee on Infant Lives, held last week.

This prejudicial censorship targeted at civilian investigator Daleiden threatens undercover journalism at large, explained Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, a national non-profit law firm. “The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is working in tandem with Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers and promoters to suppress David Daleiden’s First Amendment rights and to shut down the resulting investigations focused on the abortion groups’ involvement in baby parts trafficking,” stated Brejcha.

The Society’s appeal, filed with California-based co-counsel, comes on the heels of the preliminary injunction entered by District Judge William H. Orrick of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. NAF had sought entry of this censorship in response to Daleiden’s public release of a series of videos exposing illegal and unsavory practices by Planned Parenthood and other abortion industry participants. NAF’s principal claim in its lawsuit, filed last summer, is that Daleiden and CMP violated the federal Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), a 1970 federal law designed to combat organized crime.

About the RICO claims, Brejcha said, “These are totally inapposite charges in this scenario – charges that have been decisively rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. Equally as other investigative journalists for so-called mainstream news media, such as CBS’s Sixty Minutes, regularly resort to undercover journalism tactics to ferret out hidden crime, citizen journalists like David Daleiden have every right to penetrate the criminal underworld to bring to light and open to public scrutiny evidence of potential criminal wrongdoing.”

Read the appeal filed on April 19, 2016 for David Daleiden in the lawsuit by National Abortion Federation here.

Find additional background on the case at the following links:

About the Thomas More Society
The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. For more information, visit
www.thomasmoresociety.org.  

Christians React to Georgia Governor’s Veto of Religious Rights Law

The Georgia Governor’s Office announced yesterday that Gov. Deal was vetoing the Free Exercise Protection Act. The act was passed by the Georgia legislature in response to concerns by Christians in Georgia that they were too often being denied the right to exercise their faith in public.

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council reacted with the following statement,

“The Devil has gone down to Georgia again, but this time it was in the form of big business and cowardly politicians.

“Governor Deal’s veto of a watered down religious liberty bill, which would have barely afforded pastors and priests protections from the state over their beliefs over natural marriage, reveals how LGBT activists and their allies in big business are now not even willing to allow religious freedom within the four walls of a church.  It’s disappointing that only one day after Easter Sunday, Governor Deal announces the veto of a modest bill that would provide protections for churches threatened by government discrimination in the wake of the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage.

“No person or nonprofit should lose tax exempt status, face fines, lose a professional license or be punished by the government simply for believing what President Obama believed just a few years ago, that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. State coercion of faith-based organizations and their millions of adherents for the sake of a radical ideological agenda – all in the name of ‘freedom’ – is an affront not just to Georgians but to all Americans,” Perkins concluded.

Go to www.freetobelieve.com for more information on Americans targeted by the government for following their beliefs.

The Georgia Baptist Mission Board representing one of the state’s largest Christian denominations had this to say,

” Georgia Baptists are disappointed that Governor Nathan Deal has chosen not to listen to the voices of Georgians, and to veto HB 757, the “Free Exercise Protection Act.” This legislation, in keeping with the United States Constitution, guarantees our right to “exercise” religion and provides the ability to live and work consistent with our deeply held religious convictions.

In today’s culture, a growing trend is rising where people of faith are not given the ability to live out their faith in the public square, even bullied by those who do not share those long-standing and traditional values and morals. John 15:18-19 says: 18“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of this world. That is why the world hates you.” In addition, Romans 12:2 states “2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

As Christians we are obligated to love all people daily and share the Gospel, while at the same time, we should not be discriminated against because of our beliefs, nor forced to support any and all messages in today’s progressive culture. This is why religious protections have been enacted at the federal level and in over 30 other states.

“Georgia Baptists across the state have been praying for this protection for 3 years,” stated Dr. J. Robert White, Executive Director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. “While we respect the Governor, it is unfortunate that he has chosen to veto protections for people of faith in Georgia.”

Georgia Baptists express appreciation to Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, Speaker David Ralston and the many men and women of the Senate and House of Representatives who listened to their constituents and worked diligently over the past three years for religious liberty legislation in Georgia. “acooperating churches that partner together through the Cooperative Program, special mission offerings and mission efforts to share Jesus Christ across Georgia, throughout North America, and around the world. Churches give through the Cooperative Program and the State Missions Offering to support the missionaries and ministries of the Georgia Baptist Convention. In turn, Georgia state missionaries provide assistance, training, encouragement, and support for the ministries of Georgia Baptist churches and associations. http://www.gabaptist.org/

 

 

Church Sues for Religious Ban in Wine Country

TEMECULA, Calif., Feb. 10, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — Today, Calvary Chapel Bible Fellowship filed a complaint in federal court against the County of Riverside, California, based on the United States Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person’s Act of 2000.

Calvary Chapel Bible Fellowship, commonly known as “Calvary Wine Country,” is located in the region of California known as the Temecula Wine Country.

Calvary Wine Country opened its doors in 1996 when churches were once allowed to locate in the 17,900 acre Wine Country region – an area equal to 28 square miles. However, soon after Calvary Wine Country was approved, the County banned churches from the Temecula Wine Country, leaving Calvary Wine Country as a nonconforming use. Now, Calvary’s ability to expand its facilities for its flourishing congregation in the Wine Country is uncertain at best.

Calvary Wine Country plans to remain in the Wine Country and to build a larger sanctuary on its 28 acre adjacent property. However, the county’s zoning ordinances still ban churches and Calvary Wine Country is the only church in the Temecula Wine Country. Meanwhile, the County permits special occasion facilities, wineries, hotels, resorts, restaurants, and many other tourist related uses in the Wine Country.

Calvary’s pastor Clark Van Wick said, “It’s a tragedy to see our religious liberty eroded in this country where men and women have fought and died to protect our liberty. It’s un-American to see churches outlawed like we’re seeing here in the neighborhood I’ve lived in for 27 years.”

“This is a classic case for the federal religious land use law that protects churches and requires that zoning authorities treat religious assemblies on equal terms to other nonreligious assemblies,” said Robert Tyler, Managing Partner of Tyler & Bursch, LLP and counsel for Calvary Wine Country. He further commented, “Calvary Wine Country has long desired to just be a good neighbor, to work cooperatively with the county and to provide a place of worship for the thousands of residents that live in the Wine Country.”

Unfortunately, Calvary Wine Country has been the target of litigation by a “loose” organization named Protect Wine Country. Calvary Wine Country has had to fight a neighboring vintner, a special interest group, and other politically influential wineries just to continue its right to exist on its own property.

Robert Tyler commented, “It is ironic that Father Junipero Sera, the ‘Father of California Wine,’ planted the first known vineyard in California at the San Diego Mission de Alcala and vineyards graced the California Missions for many years. Today, however, Riverside County has determined that a church is no longer compatible with vineyards and has banned all religious assemblies from the Temecula Wine Country.”

Calvary Wine Country is represented by Advocates for Faith & Freedom in association with Tyler & Bursch, LLP. Robert Tyler filed one of the first lawsuits under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 on behalf of the Elsinore Christian Center located in Lake Elsinore, California. That suit resulted in a successful resolution wherein the City paid more than $1.6 million in settlement. Robert’s firm, Tyler & Bursch, LLP, has become one of the nation’s premier firms for handling religious land use cases on behalf of churches.

Advocates for Faith & Freedom is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts. You can visit our website at www.faith-freedom.com.
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A copy of the Complaint can be found here.

Foundation: IRS Withdraws Proposed Regulation

MONTGOMERY, Jan. 11, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — The Foundation for Moral Law, a Montgomery-based legal foundation dedicated to the defense of the United States Constitution and the right to religious liberty, hailed the Internal Revenue Service decision to withdraw a proposed regulation as a victory for nonprofits and religious freedom.

 

Late in 2015, the IRS proposed a regulation by which churches and other nonprofit organizations would collect and report the Social Security numbers of donors who give more than $250. But when the IRS proposal was placed on the regulation.gov website, over 34,000 persons and organizations posted comments, the overwhelming majority of them strongly against the proposal. Accordingly, last week the IRS announced that it was scrapping the proposal.

 

John Eidsmoe, Senior Counsel for the Foundation for Moral Law, posted comments opposing the proposed regulation. He noted that the regulation would impose an extra record-keeping burden on nonprofits, and that collecting, recording, and transferring this information could result in errors that would create confusion rather than clarity. He added that the proposal comes at a time when identity theft is a major concern and people are being cautioned not to give out their Social Security numbers except when absolutely necessary. He warned that the proposal could have a chilling effect on giving, and that donors might refuse to donate or keep their donations below $250 to avoid identity theft.

 

Foundation President Kayla Moore expressed her appreciation to all who spoke out against the proposed regulation, saying, “The IRS decision to withdraw this proposed regulation demonstrates that ‘we the people’ can get results when we speak out with a strong and united voice. The Foundation for Moral Law pledges to continue its mission as the guardian of religious liberty and constitutional freedom.”