History & Timeline | First Liberty
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History & Timeline

First Liberty Institute history began in 1997, founded as a non-profit law firm focusing on Texas litigation, with Kelly Shackelford as President and CEO. (It was originally founded as a division of the Free Market Foundation and called Liberty Legal Institute). As Liberty Legal, we won several landmark victories in Texas, including:

  • Protecting the rights of senior citizens to pray over their meals at government-run facilities
  • Establishing the doctrine of Church autonomy at the Texas Supreme Court
  • Defending the constitutionality of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol

In 2009, Liberty Legal officially became Liberty Institute, quickly gaining renown as the premiere legal organization defending religious liberty in the State of Texas and beyond. During this time, we successfully:

  • Won a landmark victory protecting a cross-shaped veterans monument
  • Secured the release of an American missionary from a Haitian jail
  • Protected the First Amendment rights of elementary students
  • Stopped the government from banning prayer at military funerals

In 2014, we founded our Military Division, focused on protecting the religious liberty of service members and veterans, with Senior Counsel Mike Berry as the Director of Military Affairs. The Military Division has achieved significant victories for military members, including:

  • Clearing charges against a wrongfully-terminated Air Force veteran
  • Exonerating a chaplain relieved of duty for expressing his faith in counseling sessions
  • Defending the cross-shaped Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial

In February 2016, Liberty Institute officially became First Liberty Institute. Today, First Liberty is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious liberty for all Americans. Our current cases include:

  • Protecting Orthodox Jews’ rights to meet in a home for worship
  • Defending a football coach fired for praying after a game
  • Representing a Marine court-martialed for refusing to remove a Bible verse from her workspace
  • Defending the constitutionality of the cross-shaped Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial

View our current cases here

In less than 20 years, First Liberty expanded from a statewide organization to a national organization with active legal matters throughout the country.

As religious liberty violations against Americans of all faiths continue to increase, First Liberty continues to grow—championing religious liberty for all.

To read more about First Liberty’s history, see the First Liberty Timeline of Major Victories and Events.

To read more about our mission and vision, please visit the About Us page.

First Liberty Logo - Restoring Religious Liberty for All Americans

To The American Legion:

As a grateful citizen, I support your effort to honor those who have fallen in battle and to keep the Bladensburg WWI Veterans Memorial standing as a visible reminder of valor, sacrifice, endurance, and devotion.

Veterans memorials like the one in Bladensburg, MD are symbols reminding us of the sacrifice of our service members and the cost of war. Tearing down the Bladensburg Memorial would erase the memory of the 49 fallen heroes of Prince George’s County—like they never even existed.

We cannot allow the Bladensburg Memorial to be bulldozed.

Please know that you have my support and backing in your petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.