by Marlee Tomlinson and Jorge Gomez • 6 min read
In the wake of ever-increasing religious hostility, First Liberty maintains an unparalleled record of success and our team of attorneys continues to be the best hope for victory for houses of worship and people of faith across the country.
This week, we’re excited to announce three important legal wins that will help ensure Americans and religious organizations can keep living out their faith and serving their communities without the threat of government discrimination or being forced to forfeit their beliefs.
Federal Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Chaplains Offering Invocations
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently issued a decision permitting First Liberty’s client, Judge Wayne Mack, to continue allowing chaplains to offer invocations at the start of his court sessions while a lawsuit against him is considered by the courts.
Judge Mack, whose duties include serving as a coroner for Montgomery County, created a volunteer chaplaincy program to aid members of the community while he conducts independent death investigations. In his role as Justice of the Peace, Judge Mack allows the multi-faith, volunteer chaplains to open his courtroom ceremonies with a brief invocation and the pledge of allegiance in order to honor their service.
This is a very favorable ruling for religious liberty because the Fifth Circuit stated Judge Mack “has made a strong showing that the district court erred” in siding with Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) in its lawsuit against the Montgomery County Judge.
What’s more, this decision is a sign of hope for a future victory to fully vindicate Judge Mack’s constitutional rights, as the Fifth Circuit also explained: “…as to FFRF’s individual- capacity claim, that too is likely to fail. The Supreme Court has held that our Nation’s history and tradition allow legislatures to use tax dollars to pay for chaplains who perform sectarian prayers before sessions.”
IRS Reverses Course, Restores Christian Organization’s Tax-Exempt Status
Last week, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it reversed its prior decision denying tax-exempt status to Christians Engaged, a Texas-based, non-partisan nonprofit that encourages believers to pray for their nation, vote, and be civically engaged.
In a letter issued in May, the IRS argued that Christians Engaged was not eligible for tax-exempt status in part because the organization’s “[B]ible teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican] party and candidates.”
First Liberty appealed the decision several weeks ago, arguing that IRS officials violated the Constitution and engaged in both viewpoint and religious discrimination against Christian Engaged, directly in opposition to the First Amendment’s protection of free speech and the free exercise of religion.
Thankfully, with this most recent victory, we’ve not only helped restore the constitutional rights of Christians Engaged, but have also secured an important win that will help put a stop to the toxic cancel culture that appears to be infiltrating our government—even the offices of the IRS.
Capitol Hill Baptist Church Free to Gather Without Government Restrictions
Last week, First Liberty secured an important triumph for Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) in Washington D.C., a congregation that’d been prevented by city officials from safely gathering for in-person services due to pandemic restrictions.
First Liberty reached an important settlement on behalf of CBHC, in which the District of Columbia agreed that it would not enforce any current or future restrictions on gatherings, as well as agreeing to cover the church’s legal fees.
This recent victory isn’t the first time we’ve successfully defended the constitutional rights of CBHC. First Liberty Institute and volunteer attorneys at WilmerHale LLP filed a lawsuit seeking to reclaim the church’s right to hold outdoor church services. In October of 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the church, effectively stopping D.C. government officials from discriminating against churches by prohibiting them from holding religious services.
While this recent string of victories offers hope for the future of religious liberty in our country, we cannot let our guard down. Americans continue being the targets of anti-faith bias and brazen discrimination—and we can only expect the number of attacks to continue increasing.
With your ongoing support, First Liberty will continue defending houses of worship and Americans of all faiths whenever their rights come under attack. Please give today to help ensure we remain on the frontlines of the fight, delivering more important victories that protect your right to freely live out your faith.