They Walk Among Us

November 24, 2015

In a two-part series, Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford shares his reflections surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday.

Dear Friend of Religious Liberty,

This week you and I—along with millions of Americans—have given thanks. And hopefully, we have remembered all those who sacrificed that we might have freedom of religion.

Who are these courageous Americans?

Some of them you will only read about in history books. The Pilgrims. The Signers of the Declaration of Independence. The men who waded into Nazi fire on the beaches of Normandy. They risked all for freedom—including freedom to openly exercise one’s faith.

But there are others. Today we walk in the presence of modern pilgrims and patriots—some of them still children. These are Americans with whom you and I are very blessed to be connected.

I can think of some very immediate examples—

I think of Coach Joe Kennedy, a client of Liberty Institute. He is a retired Marine and a beloved high school assistant football coach in Bremerton, Washington, who worked hard to cultivate a culture of community, unity, and brotherhood among his players. But Joe Kennedy is also a Christian. And just last month, he was suspended for his personal practice of praying at the 50-yard line after games. He isn’t backing down, determined to show what it means to stand up for something.

I think of U.S. Navy Chaplain Wes Modder, who was threatened with the termination of his 20-year career for merely counseling as a chaplain according to his beliefs. He could have taken the easy way out, just as the pilgrims could have stayed in England and stayed quiet about their beliefs. But that’s not what creates a free society. So Chaplain Modder put it on the line. And by God’s grace, we helped protect him and are using the leverage of that victory.

I think of sixth-grader Mackenzie Fraiser, members of two Fifth Ward churches, Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling, the Kountze Cheerleaders and other brave clients we have or are representing. They stood up to the authorities and risked much by insisting on their religious freedom—and thereby are securing freedom for many more. Many of them were threatened. Many of them were bullied. But they wouldn’t back down.

The list goes on, like the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews Chapter 11, where the writer finally admits there are too many stories of faith to tell, saying, “And what more shall I say?  For time will fail me . . .”

So here’s my post-Thanksgiving request to you, as the turkey settles and we bask in the love of our family and friends:

Please take a moment this weekend to thank God for brave Americans like those I’ve mentioned—both those in the history books and those fighting for religious freedom today. And please ask God for more of them!

Ronald Reagan said, “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.”

So I thank God for:

·      Our fearless clients. Their courage is moving mountains as we defend and, yes, restore religious liberty in America.

·      Rewarding the faithfulness of such clients. Just this month we’ve seen new evidence that the battle for religious liberty in the military—thought a lost cause by many just two years ago—is now moving in the right direction in large part because men like SMSgt. Phillip Monk, Lt. Col. Charles Pudil and Chaplain Wes Modder took the Pilgrims’ dangerous example and risked all for religious freedom.

·      Our Liberty Institute team. Our staff attorneys, our entire Liberty Institute team, and our amazing volunteer attorneys across the nation. 

·      And I thank God for you and every single supporter. Together, we are a vanguard of religious freedom—fighting to keep this promised land of liberty. And we are winning.


Kelly Shackelford

President & CEO

P.S. Liberty Institute will begin the month of December with a goal of receiving $3.1 million by the end of 2015. We desire to stay on our projected budget in our mission to win history-shaping legal victories that defend and restore religious liberty in America. If you are led to help us get a head start with a year-end gift today, your impact will be significant as a modern-day “pilgrim and patriot.” I thank God for you.

Other stories:

We Can Win: Why Now is the Time to Stand for Religious Freedom

About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit

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