Counting Up The Biggest 30 Moments of Impact | First Liberty
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The Biggest 30 Impact Moments | First Liberty

Make it Count:
History In the Making

The Biggest 30 From multiple landmark Supreme Court cases, to a record-number of conservative judges being confirmed to our federal courts, the opportunities for impacting our nation’s future are bigger now than ever before.

This is history-making momentum—and your donation by June 30th will help ensure that we can fully capitalize on these historic opportunities.

With this unprecedented year of progress demanding more of our time, staff, and resources than ever, we need your support to meet these challenges head-on. And there’s no better time to give than right now, thanks to our $250,000 Challenge Grant making your dollar count even more.

We are witnessing history in the making. Join us in the movement to shape religious liberty for generations to come!

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Thank you for giving to protect religious freedom in your community.

Your gift will go straight towards defending victims of religious hostility in local communities all over the nation, ensuring that they have the legal protection they need.

For victims of religious persecution, who often feel like they have nowhere else to go when they suffer attacks on their faith—your donation today gives them the priceless gift of hope. Hope for freedom. Hope for justice. And hope for a better future.

Thank you for your commitment to protecting faith and freedom! Find out more about how we’re defending religious liberty in communities like yours here.


The Biggest 30 | First Liberty

Moment of Impact #17

Confirmation of Conservative Judges

“I recently had the opportunity to ask the President how he and his administration would ensure that only the best judges would move forward for confirmation. In front of about 1,000 evangelical leaders, the President told us that to make a change in our federal courts, he and his team would need to tap the expertise of respected constitutional firms, like First Liberty Institute, which gave me hope for the nominees that were to come. Thanks to your support, we continue to vet and check nominees, making sure that they have a clear record of protecting religious liberty as originally written in the First Amendment.”

Kelly Shackelford, President, CEO & Chief Counsel


The Biggest 30 | First Liberty

Moment of Impact #16

Founding Fathers Know Best

“As a young man, James Madison witnessed the arrest and persecution of Baptist preachers and followers in his Virginia hometown. This ultimately fueled his passion to fight for religious freedom. After college, Madison became a delegate to the Virginia Convention, vowing to advocate for legislation that would protect religious freedom for all. Subsequently, he became one of the most influential Founding Fathers who drafted the Bill of Rights, including what would become the First Amendment. What he believed in is what we fight for every, single day, which is the right for our clients to freely and openly live out their faith.”

Jorge Gomez, Content Strategist & Senior Writer


The Biggest 30 | First Liberty

Moment of Impact #15

Impact and Hope for Coach Kennedy

“This spring I was privileged to attend a conference where our CEO, Kelly Shackelford, participated in a panel discussion with our client, Joe Kennedy—the high school football coach from Washington that was fired for praying on the field after games. Just before the session began, we presented Coach with 2 huge stacks of cards, all of which were letters of support signed by supporters who wanted to offer him encouragement and hope while he fights the toughest battle of all: the right to live out his faith. With tears in his eyes and an awestruck look on his face, he graciously accepted them and thanked everyone via Facebook Live. It was an amazing moment to see the vast impact that each one of your signatures and heart-felt notes had on him. Truly amazing.”

Alison Nevans, Social Media Manager


The Biggest 30 | First Liberty

Moment of Impact #14

First in the Fight at the Supreme Court

“When I hear of an incident where religious freedom is under threat – I like to say, ‘First Liberty rides to the sound of the guns.’ It’s another way of saying that we aren’t afraid to jump into the fight. We recently saw ourselves in that situation. At the eleventh hour, we were asked to handle a case for two Catholic schools in Puerto Rico, where if the current ruling from the Puerto Rico Supreme Court stood, it could make for very bad law in the future. To overturn that decision, they needed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court – and so they turned to us. We charged towards the battlefront and submitted our petition to the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, and it’s possible that we could hear a decision soon. If a court or state agency can tell a church or school how to operate, it’s only a matter of time until government is telling churches what to believe.”

Hiram Sasser, General Counsel


The Biggest 30 | First Liberty

Moment of Impact #13

Seeing Millennials Impact the Future

“I love interning at First Liberty Institute, because they have given me the opportunity to work on cases that really matter. The right to freely express our religious convictions is one of our most fundamental liberties. I am able to work with brilliant attorneys to defend individuals who are simply trying to align themselves with their worldview. I feel so blessed to be a part of all of this. ”

Anastasia Frane, Harvard Law School Rising 3L and First Liberty Institute Intern


The Biggest 30 | First Liberty

Moment of Impact #12

Equipping Religious Liberty Advocates

“During the 2018 First Liberty Fellowship Program, it was so inspiring and encouraging to see a room filled with college students who were excited and motivated to learn more about religious liberty. As a member of the inaugural class of the Fellowship Program in 2016, I remember how encouraged I was by the work of First Liberty Institute. To have the opportunity to lead the program now is a dream come true. We have some of the brightest scholars from across the country participate as faculty members in our program, and the students walk away with the knowledge and skills to be the next generation of advocates for religious freedom. Through the Fellowship Program I have been able to pass along my passion for religious liberty to like-minded students and to those of my generation, and to see that passion in each of our Fellows brings me so much hope for the future of religious liberty.”

Christine Norwood, Head of D.C. Fellowship Program


The Biggest 30 | First Liberty

Moment of Impact #11

Impacting Court Decisions with Amicus Briefs

“Part of what we do here at First Liberty Institute is monitor court cases across America looking specifically for decisions that could affect your religious liberty. Earlier this year there was a case that would affect our ability to hold government officials accountable for restricting religious freedom, and we knew we had to act. I worked with our legal team to write and file what’s called an amicus brief, letting the court know where we stood on the issue. Writing amicus briefs is a significant way we’re able to impact the court’s ruling. In fact in one case, the Supreme Court cited our brief 12 times in their decision. It’s very exciting to be a part of not only our own cases, but all of the cases across our Nation impacting religious liberty.”

Lea Patterson, Counsel


The Biggest 30 | First Liberty

Moment of Impact #10

Being Motivated by Astonishing Stories of Bigotry

“Hearing the stories from the rabbis in Airmont, NY about the discrimination they face, the hostility from the Village’s government officials, the exorbitant fines for simply trying to practice their faith in their homes was simply stunning. It is astonishing that such bigotry still exists, but it does. From the very first conversation with rabbis, I was motivated to make sure that the Jewish community in Airmont gets the justice it deserves. I won’t rest until that happens.”

Keisha Russell, Counsel


The Biggest 30 | First Liberty

Moment of Impact #9

Kavanaugh & Gorsuch Upholding the Constitution

“On May 13, Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh joined a 5-4 decision to overturn a 40-year-old precedent, calling it “irreconcilable with our constitutional structure.” Their decision to uphold the Constitution is exactly what we expect from principled, conservative judges. It also causes us to wonder if the Court will overrule other precedents, like Lemon v. Kurtzman, which has haunted religious freedom for nearly 50 years. We’ll find out soon when the Court rules on the Bladensburg WWI Veterans Memorial case.”

Jorge Gomez, Content Strategist & Senior Writer


The Biggest 30 | First Liberty

Moment of Impact #8

Defending Religious Liberty by Influencing Culture

“It was amazing to have some of brightest minds from across the nation and as far away as Eastern Europe—academics, lawyers, and even a state supreme court justice—gathered in our office for a colloquium on the role of moral reasoning in grounding and protecting our first freedom. We were able to discuss religious freedom through the lenses of law, philosophy, theology, and history. Very few gatherings have such breadth and depth of expertise. The event served as a superb cornerstone for our efforts to protect religious freedom not only in law but upstream in culture.”

Andrew D. Graham, Executive Director for Policy and Education & Senior Fellow


Moment of Impact #7

Bringing Kelly’s Story to You

“I love a good story. And Kelly Shackelford’s stories about his 30 years fighting for religious freedom are fascinating. He’s a top attorney who knows how to win. He says right now we are seeing a seismic shift in the U.S. courts. Kelly thinks we’re on the brink of experiencing greater religious freedom than most of us have seen in our lifetimes. I got to ask him more about that in the latest episode of The Shackelford Sessions. You’ll want to hear why he thinks that’s about to happen and why we’re asking you to join the fight. ”

Stuart Shepard, Video Communications Manager

Watch the full episode.


Moment of Impact #6

Honoring the Sacrifices Made Defending Our Religious Liberty

“After observing the oral argument in The American Legion v. American Humanist Association (the Bladensburg WWI Veterans Memorial case), I emerged from the Supreme Court building and walked down the steps. A huge crowd of people, including media, supporters, protestors, and others, had gathered. As I reached the crowd, I saw a lady standing silently, solemnly, while holding a picture of what could only be her son’s Marine Corps Boot Camp photo. I asked if she was a Marine mother, and she explained that she was, but her son had been killed in combat in Afghanistan. She was here to show her support for the memorial, and that she understood why Gold Star mothers would want such a memorial. I told her that I was a Marine, and that I also work for First Liberty, the firm who is defending the veterans memorial. She thanked me profusely for our work, and gave me a warm embrace. I thanked her for her son’s sacrifice, and for her own sacrifice. I told her “Ma’am, don’t worry. That memorial is NOT coming down.”

Mike Berry, Deputy General Counsel


The Biggest 30 | First Liberty

Moment of Impact #5

There Really is Something Special About 30

“Our theme of 30 came about in a conversation with Kelly after one of his speaking engagements. The number ‘30’ kept coming up. As we talked we just put it all together. I knew 2019 was his 30th year defending religious liberty, and there was also the 30 year old comment by Justice Kennedy about the Lemon test, 30 years of discrimination against our Airmont clients, and the 30 hour rule in the Senate, just to name a few. It was undeniable. There really is something special about 30. This June 30th we’re counting up (instead of down) to 30 because Kelly has no intention of stopping—he’s counting on you for support as he continues to pursue the next crucial victory for our religious freedom!”

Todd Winking, Senior Director of Marketing


Moment of Impact #4

Standing with Our Clients Who Face Violence

“A house of worship we represent, Light of the World Gospel Ministries, recently became the target of physical violence and vandalism from debris being thrown at congregants & their vehicles—leaving broken windows, dents & damage. It’s a sad irony that vandals very likely used bricks and debris from the dilapidated building our client had previously petitioned the city to tear down. Our team worked diligently to bring media attention on the village after the violence occurred and as a result, the village tore down the deteriorating building. But, there’s still work to be done because village officials still won’t grant the building permits our client needs in order to serve their community. This is why we’re asking you to join the fight.”

Lathan Watts, Director of Legal Communications


Moment of Impact #3

Bladensburg Oral Argument

“My favorite moment from being at the Supreme Court during the Bladensburg Oral Arguments, was when opposing counsel was arguing that any real recognition of religion in the public realm is unconstitutional. Upon hearing her statement, I noticed Justice Breyer look up at the massive marble engraving containing symbols of the justice that the Supreme Court serves every single day and right in center are the Ten Commandments.”

Chelsey Youman, Senior Counsel

Watch the full Bladensburg Oral Arguments recap.


The Biggest 30 | Moment 2 | First Liberty

Moment of Impact #2

National Day of Prayer

“This year I was honored to attend the National Day of Prayer event at The White House where I witnessed President Trump’s remarkable speech on Religious Liberty. The moment I heard him say, ‘Our Nation acknowledges that religious liberty is a natural right, given to us by our Creator not a courtesy that government extends to us. The First Amendment recognizes the freedom of religion and safeguards this right against government infringement,’ I felt a sense of duty, valor and honor knowing that we are right in the middle of a year of opportunities, challenges and victories that will set the course of religious liberty for the next 40 to 50 years.”

Kelly Shackelford, President, CEO & Chief Counsel


The Biggest 30 | Moment 1 | First Liberty

Moment of Impact #1

FAA Investigates Religious Discrimination Against Chick-fil-A

“Federal tax payers shouldn’t have to subsidize religious bigotry’, was our first thought when we discovered San Antonio International Airport’s decision to ban Chick-Fil-A. After looking deeper into federal grants the airport receives & what governs them, we found a non-discrimination provision in a grant administered by the FAA. This is when we knew a letter must be sent to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao calling for an investigation. And, on May 24, the FAA’s Office of Civil Rights announced that it opened an investigation into San Antonio’s decision to ban Chick-fil-A from a concession contract at its airport.”

Lea Patterson, Associate Counsel

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