Blog Archives

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

Federal Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction to Prevent the Release of Additional Planned Parenthood Videos

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — The National Abortion Federation (NAF) has been granted a preliminary injunction by Judge William Orrick to keep David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress from publishing material recorded at NAF’s annual meetings in 2014 and 2015.
Essentially, Judge Orrick’s ruling came down to a balancing test that pitted Daleiden’s First Amendment rights against NAF’s assertions that continued publication of videos will result in “irreparable harm.” The First Amendment lost.
Although Judge Orrick acknowledged that “debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open” (quoting New York Times v. Sullivan), his ruling prevents accurate information from being included in the public debate on an issue of paramount importance.
Ironically, Judge Orrick justified this incursion on the First Amendment in part by reference to other protected First Amendment activity by third parties, namely Internet comments that he characterizes as “threats and harassment” against abortion providers. In a further blow to the First Amendment, he blames all incidents of illegal activity at abortion clinics since July on CMP and Daleiden’s earlier videos releases.
Life Legal’s opposition to the injunction centers on the public interest inherent in the videos. Because American taxpayers support a large part of Planned Parenthood’s activities at a cost of over $500 million per year, the public has a right to know whether the corporation is engaging in criminal or unethical behavior. The public also has an interest in Planned Parenthood’s callous disregard for the lives of children in the womb that is evident in the footage already released.
In his ruling Judge Orrick asserted that “the majority of the recordings lack any sort of public interest.” Given that the investigators had to keep their recordings devices running at all times when they were at the meetings, it is hardly surprising that this is the case. But that is no excuse to suppress those recordings that do contain information of public interest.
“The videos have resulted in numerous Congressional and Senate hearings, the creation of a select Congressional panel to investigate Planned Parenthood’s activities, and a historic vote by both the House and Senate to defund Planned Parenthood,” notes Alexandra Snyder, Life Legal’s Executive Director. “It is unclear from Judge Orrick’s ruling what additional events would have to transpire to trigger the threshold of sufficient public interest in this case.”
Judge Orrick cites select portions of the videos in which NAF affiliates discuss the potential profitability of selling fetal tissue as well as changes to the abortion procedure in order to harvest certain parts or intact fetuses, yet inexplicably concludes that he finds “no evidence of criminal wrongdoing” or even an interest in engaging in illegal acts.
However, in the conversations mentioned by Judge Orrick, clinic owners responded positively to CMP’s offer to make the sale of fetal tissue “extremely financially profitable.” In one example, the owner of an abortion clinic says that providing aborted babies “is a nice way to get extra income in a very difficult time.” Providing fetal tissue for valuable consideration (i.e., “extra income”) is a federal crime.
These statements cannot be dismissed, as they raise serious questions about the willingness of NAF affiliates to engage in illegal conduct.
Judge Orrick denied NAF’s request to expand the injunction and granted Life Legal’s motion objecting to NAF’s evidence that failing to grant the injunction would result in “irreparable harm.”
Life Legal plans to appeal the ruling.
About Life Legal Defense Foundation
Life Legal Defense Foundation was established in 1989, and is a nonprofit organization composed of attorneys and other concerned citizens committed to giving helpless and innocent human beings of any age, and their advocates, a trained and committed voice in the courtrooms of our nation. For more information about the Life Legal Defense Foundation, visit www.lldf.org.

Religious freedom restrictions thaw at Snow College

U.S Postage Stamp, 1957

U.S Postage Stamp, 1957 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Attorney sound bite:  Travis Barham

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Snow College has changed several policies to restore greater religious freedom to its campus and settle an Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit filed in October of last year
on behalf of a Christian student group. In light of the settlement and
corrected policies, the group has voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit.

College
officials banned the Solid Rock Christian Club from including religious
speech as part of a homecoming event. The college, located in the town
of Ephraim, also denied the club benefits that it extended to other groups.

“Colleges
are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas,” said Alliance Defending
Freedom Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham. “Snow College has done
the right thing in recognizing that the First Amendment protects the
freedom of all students to gather with those of like mind and to express their ideas, and that includes students of faith and religious ideas.”

Snow
College policies treated student organizations “associated with
religious institutions” very differently than other student groups.
While most groups could meet in campus facilities without charge,
advertise their events without fees, and seek funding for their
activities, Snow College prohibited religious student groups–including
Solid Rock Christian Club–from doing the same.

In addition, Snow
College officials prohibited Solid Rock from displaying a Christian
message and cross as part of the school’s “Paint the Town” homecoming
event, in which student groups decorated the front windows of participating local businesses.

When
Solid Rock began decorating its assigned window with a cross and a
message that incorporated the homecoming theme with the group’s
Christian message, school officials instructed the club to stop,
claiming the group was not allowed to “paint any religious symbols or
anything related to religion.” Later, college officials removed the
students’ message from another building, telling the students in an
e-mail that their Christian message “is in poor taste.”

According to the settlement,
the college has agreed “not to adopt or enforce the provisions of the
old policies…that deny student organizations ‘associated with religious
institutions’ the privileges afforded other student organizations.” The
settlement states that college officials “have already implemented [the]
revised policies…and have published them to Snow College students on
April 1, 2013.”

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed its voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit Solid Rock Christian Club v. Wyatt in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah on April 10. Frank D. Mylar, one of more than 2,200 allied attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, served as local counsel in the suit.

Court Asked to Immediately Stop the HHS Mandate by Nation’s Largest Organization of Catholic Business Leaders

Logo of the Thomas More Law Center.

Logo of the Thomas More Law Center. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ANN ARBOR, Mich., July 26, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, today announced it has filed an emergency motion asking that Federal District Judge Robert H. Cleland of the Eastern District of Michigan stop the HHS Mandate which goes into effect on August 1, 2012. The motion was filed late yesterday afternoon.

The backdrop for the Law Center’s motion for a Temporary Restraining Order is one of the U.S. Supreme Court’s greatest statements on our fundamental rights recognized by the Bill of Rights: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Click here to read entire motion.

Thomas More Law Center attorney, Erin Mersino, is the lead counsel in the lawsuit. Joining as co-counsel is Charles LiMandri, the Law Center’s West Coast Regional Director.

Mersino stated, “We have asked Judge Cleland to set a court hearing on our motion for the earliest possible time to prevent immediate injury to our clients’ right of conscience. Without the Court’s intervention, the HHS mandate effectively penalizes their free exercise of religion.”

The Thomas More Law Center filed its federal lawsuit on May 6, 2012 against the Obama administration on behalf of Legatus, the Nation’s largest organization of top Catholic business leaders, and the Ann Arbor-based Weingartz Supply Company, and its president Daniel Weingartz, also a member of Legatus.

The purpose of the lawsuit is to permanently block the implementation of the HHS Mandate which requires employers and individuals to obtain insurance coverage for abortions and contraception on the grounds that it imposes clear violations of conscience on Americans who morally object to abortion and contraception.

The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the HHS Mandate under the First Amendment rights to the Free Exercise of Religion and Free Speech and the Establishment Clause. It also claims that the HHS Mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the Administrative Procedure Act.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center commented, “The Obama administration deliberately declared war on the Catholic Church by promulgating the HHS Mandate. And contrary to what they want you to believe, this case is not about contraception. It is about the religious freedom of Christians, in this case Catholics, to peaceably practice their faith free from government coercion. If the government succeeds in this case, the religious freedom of all Christians is in danger.”

The motion for a temporary restraining order focuses on violations of the Plaintiffs’ rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

“Legatus” is the Latin word for “ambassador”, and its members are called upon to become “ambassadors for Christ” in living and sharing their Catholic Faith in their business, professional and personal lives. It currently has over 4,000 members in 73 chapters located in 31 states. It was founded in 1987 by Tom Monaghan, the former owner of Domino’s Pizza, to bring together the three key areas of a Catholic business leader’s life — Faith, Family and Business.

Named as Defendants in the lawsuit are Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the of the Department of Health and Human Services; Hilda Solis, Secretary of the Department of Labor; Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Department of the Treasury; and their respective departments.

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Judeo- Christian heritage and moral values, as well as a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America. The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities. It does not charge for its services. The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at www.thomasmore.org.

VA Tech changes discriminatory student fee policy

U.S. Supreme Court building.

U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ADF letter prompts university to strike policy language that excluded certain religious activities from funding
Thursday, July 05, 2012

ADF attorney sound bite:  Matt Sharp

BLACKSBURG, Va. — After receiving a legal memo from the Alliance Defense Fund, Virginia Tech has revised its student activity fee policy so that faith-based student groups can receive funding for religious worship and similar activities. Previously, faith-based groups were denied access to the funds for these activities even though all students are required to pay activity fees.

“The university is supposed to be the marketplace of ideas. America’s colleges and universities should recognize the constitutionally protected rights of religious students just as they do for all other students,” says ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Matt Sharp. “We commend Virginia Tech for taking prompt action to change its policy to allow funding for these important religious activities of faith-based student groups, as the Constitution requires.”

Virginia Tech’s Student Activity Fee Allocation Policies and Procedures originally stated that “[o]rganizations will not be provided funding to support religious worship or religious proselytizing.” After ADF informed the university that its policy violated the First Amendment, the university removed the restriction from its policies.

As the ADF letter states, Virginia Tech’s policy makes student fees “broadly available to a multitude of student groups expressing a virtually limitless range of views, yet bans the use of these funds for ‘religious worship or religious proselytizing.’” The letter explained that the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that “a public university must distribute these student fees in a manner that is consistent with First Amendment protections.”

Last year, ADF won a significant lawsuit at the University of Wisconsin in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit concluded that the university could not deny student activity fee funds to a Catholic student group on the grounds that the group held to a religious viewpoint.

The ADF letter concludes that “a public university should invite robust debate and dialogue on every conceivable issue, be open to the widest possible ideas and views, and adopt policies that encourage the fullest possible exercise of First Amendment freedoms.”

ADF sent the letter to Virginia Tech as part of its nationwide effort to change unconstitutional policies at public universities. Virginia Tech joins UCLA and several other universities that have made changes in response to ADF letters.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

 

American Civil Rights Union Urges Supreme Court to Adopt ‘Coercion Test’

English: Restoration of the Mt. Soledad Cross

Image via Wikipedia

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — In an amicus brief submitted today to the U.S. Supreme Court, the American Civil Rights Union argues for a new constitutional standard protecting religious freedom.

The case, Mount Soledad Memorial Association v. Steve Trunk, et al, involves the cross at the Mt. Soledad veterans memorial in San Diego, which the ACLU and other groups want torn down. The Court may decide to hear the case later this year.

The ACRU’s argument — the ‘Coercion Test’ — is that public religious expression does not violate the Constitution’s prohibition against establishment of religion unless it involves coercion. ACRU General Counsel Peter Ferrara, author of the brief, which asks the Court to accept a Writ of Certiorari to hear the case, explains:

“At the time the First Amendment was adopted, the countries of Europe all had ‘Establishments of Religion,’ which meant official government religions enforced by laws requiring attendance at the official church, regular contributions to it, and other preferences in law for members of that church. These establishment policies all involved government coercion to force citizens to support the one favored church. Almost all of the American colonies had such establishments as well, with legal compulsion or coercion as their hallmark.

“These practices, and anything like them involving coercion in regard to religion, are what the framers meant to prohibit in adopting the Establishment Clause, for this is what an Establishment of Religion meant at the time. They did not mean, however, to prohibit any voluntary, public, religious speech, or religious expression or symbolism, which do not involve any such coercion.”

“We hope the Court takes the case and that the justices adopt the Coercion Test so that communities all across America can breathe easier when it comes to public expressions of our religious heritage,” said Susan A. Carleson, chairman and CEO of the ACRU. “It’s time to end the constant harassment by those who misread the First Amendment and demand to erase all traces of religion from the public square.”