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Our History

First Liberty Institute was founded in 1997 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 document of Church autonomy at the Texas Supreme Court
  • Defending the constitutionality of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas Capital

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 and watch our video: