COVID-19: First Response Teleforum | First Liberty

First Response: COVID-19 Q&A Teleforum

Millions of Americans are adjusting to the new normal brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. Government officials, trying to stem the spread and effects of the pandemic, have imposed restrictions on large gatherings—including churches and other religious institutions. How should America’s faithful respond? Do these state-mandated restrictions conflict with the First Amendment and religious freedom?

Join First Liberty Institute attorneys for an in-depth look at the legality of state-mandated restrictions and your right to live out your faith.

For more about First Liberty’s response to COVID-19 and resources for understanding how religious liberty is being impacted, visit COVID-19: FLI’s Response.

This Week’s Call

Congressman Mike Johnson joins First Liberty’s Justin Butterfield and Jeremy Dys on this week’s episode to discuss the liability associated with the reopening of America for houses of worship and ministries.


About Justin & Jeremy

Justin Butterfield is the former Senior Advisor for Conscience and Religious Freedom in the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Jeremy Dys is First Liberty’s Special Counsel for Litigation and Communications.


Submit Your Questions

Email your questions in advance of each week’s episode at AskFLI@FirstLiberty.org.


Listen to This Week’s Episode


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Who’s Liable after COVID-19?

May 22, 2020

A Conversation with Rep. Mike Johnson

One of the concerns about life after COVID-19 is that, despite trying their best to follow the guidance and rules from the CDC, state, and local government, someone might still contract the coronavirus and try to blame religious organizations for it. Justin and Jeremy sit down with Congressman Mike Johnson (R-LA) to sort through what that means for religious liberty.


Personal Rights, Authoritarianism, and Post-Pandemic America

May 15, 2020

Personal Rights and COVID-19

Senator Ted Cruz joins Justin and Jeremy on this week’s episode to discuss personal rights during the COVID-19 pandemic and the interplay between religious freedom and authoritarianism. We also discuss Senator Cruz’s thoughts on how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect America’s approach to our foundational freedoms in the future.

If you would like to subscribe to Senator Cruz’s podcast Verdict, which we discussed during this episode, you may find it here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/verdict-with-ted-cruz/


Protecting Your First Freedom

May 8, 2020

What does government overreach look like?

Justin and Jeremy have a conversation with two of America’s leading thinkers Former First Liberty network Attorney and former Acting Attorney General of the US Matt Whitaker joins Justin and Jeremy to discuss protecting your First Amendment rights as houses of worship begin to re-open. In particular, they will dive into current cases in Kentucky and Washington State where governors in both states have issued orders that unlawfully prohibit religious worship.

Guidance for Churches and Reopening America

May 1, 2020

Returning to Normal? Religious Life After COVID-19

Justin and Jeremy have a conversation with two of America’s leading thinkers about the role our nation’s houses of worship may play in reopening America again—and what they should consider when they do. First,Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr. president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary joins to discuss the questions churches should ask about returning to in-person services and why churches meet in person anyway. Then, Dr. Charmaine Yoest, a Vice-President with the Heritage Foundation joins to discuss what freedom means and the role religious freedom plays within that American vision for freedom—especially during and after a pandemic.

Additional Resources


Religious Liberty in the Time of Pandemic

April 24, 2020

What is Our Country’s Posture Towards Religious Liberty?

This week Rep. Vicki Hartzler (MO) joins Jeremy and Justin to discuss recently passed economic relief legislation and offers her thoughts on what religious liberty has looked like during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, explains what his conversations with President Trump and Vice-President Pence have revealed about the country’s posture toward religious liberty in the time of pandemic. Finally, Jeremy and Justin reveal a long awaited for announcement.

Additional Resources:


Major Victories for Drive-In Church Services

April 17, 2020

Drive-In Services Resume in Kentucky and Mississippi

First Liberty’s Justin Butterfield and Jeremy Dys on are joined by U.S. Senator. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Kevin Gallagher, Senior Associate at WilmerHale to discuss the latest frontline updates on how to protect religious freedom during the COVID-19 crisis including 2 major victories in Kentucky and Mississippi for drive-in worship services.

Additional Resources


The “Place to Worship” Initiative

April 9, 2020

Preserving Religious Freedom During the Coronavirus

In this episode, Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice joins Justin and Jeremy to discuss how the U.S. DOJ’s “Place to Worship Initiative” is preserving religious freedom, even during the novel coronavirus.  Then, one of First Liberty’s former clients, Dr. Eric Walsh, joins the call to give his perspective on public health, ministry, and even religious liberty from his unique perspective as someone with a doctorate in public health, a lay minister, and whose religious liberty that was once invaded by the state.

Additional Information


The Latest from the Frontlines

April 3, 2020


Protecting Religious Freedom and Understanding the CARES Act

Justin Butterfield and Jeremy Dys bring you the latest frontline updates on how to protect religious freedom with new government restrictions being imposed during the COVID-19 crisis with special guest Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Next they are joined by Matt Martens – Co-Chair, Securities Litigation and Enforcement Practice Group at WilmerHale – to discuss how the COVID-19 Stimulus bill (CARES Act) could help churches and religious organizations.

More About the CARES Act


Bonus Episode

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
of Executive Orders

March 27, 2020


How Has Your State Responded to COVID-19?

FLI’s legal team has analyzed the COVID-19 orders put into place by each state. Learn how your state has responded by downloading our pdf:


Churches Helping Communities

March 27, 2020


Additional Resources from the White House

For those of you who participated in our March 27 call with First Liberty and White House officials and would like to know more, and for those of you who missed that call, here is some important information the White House asked us to share with you.


Religious Freedom and the Coronavirus

March 20, 2020


How should America’s faithful respond to state-mandated restrictions conflict with the First Amendment and religious freedom?

Join First Liberty Institute attorneys, Justin Butterfield and Jeremy Dys, as they examine the legality of state-mandated restrictions and your right to live out your faith. In addition, they will answer your questions regarding religious liberty and the coronavirus.

COVID-19 Response Guide | Free Download

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