Today, First Liberty Institute is currently working on over 100 legal matters in at least 20 states, representing people of all faiths whose religious liberty rights are being threatened.
Organizations including the ACLU, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, American Atheists, government officials, and many more are spending millions each year to destroy your religious freedom in courts across America—from local jurisdictions all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court!
It’s a daunting situation for people of faith in this ongoing battle—for people like you who want to freely worship and express their sincerely held religious beliefs and take full advantage of the First Amendment freedoms guaranteed to us all in the U.S. Constitution. That’s why we want you to know these five facts about the current state of religious liberty in America:
FACT #1: Hostility against people of faith is at an all-time high.
A war is currently raging in our nation that threatens to eradicate our religious freedoms. Hostility against religious liberty has reached an all-time high, and those attacks are increasing at an unprecedented rate.
A few years ago, First Liberty Institute sensed that the attacks on religious liberty in our country were dramatically increasing, so we decided to catalog these attacks on religious liberty. In 2012, we released our first edition of The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America that documented nearly 600 incidents. Every incident was sourced to either a reported court decision or media source. In 2014, we completed our third edition which documents almost 1,400 incidents of religious hostility. That’s an increase of 133 percent in just two years! It’s undeniable that no part of our country is immune from these attacks.
FACT #2: The assault on the religious liberty rights of our children and teachers in public schools is led by misinformation and disregard of established precedent.
Outside anti-religion groups like the ACLU and Freedom From Religion Foundation—which alone sends out approximately 1,000 demand letters each year, yet only filed three lawsuits in 2014—are intent on intimidating and bullying school districts and others seeking to suppress religion in our public schools. More times than not, these demand letters misinform and misstate the law, and even more troubling is that lawyers who represent school districts often are uniformed about the current state of the law.
A student speech case example:
Kountze Cheerleaders (Kountze, Texas) — In an effort to share positive and uplifting messages with their football players, the middle school and high school cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas, made a decision to paint Bible verses on run-through banners at games. Their inspirational signs were suddenly banned after the superintendent received a complaint from FFRF. First Liberty Institute defended the cheerleaders at the district court and won. The school district appealed the case, but we are confident that liberty will once again prevail at the Texas Supreme Court.
A teacher right’s case:
Walt Tutka v. Phillipsburg School District (Warren County, New Jersey) — A school district fired substitute teacher Walt Tutka for handing a Bible to a student who had requested it. On behalf of Tutka, First Liberty Institute filed a Charge of Discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). After a grueling two-year legal fight, last month we received the EEOC’s Final Determination letter, finding that Tutka was discriminated against by the school district.
FACT #3: Powerful and well-funded forces are seeking to purge religion
from public life.
There are those who are fully committed to remove any mention of God or religion from our public life.
Leaders such as President Obama and Hillary Clinton speak of “Freedom of Worship.” This is a deliberate choice of words, not an accident. Freedom of Worship refers to what we do in the four walls of our churches and places of worship. It seeks to restrict us to inside those four walls. Our Founders did not choose “freedom of worship.” Instead, our Constitution grants us “Free Exercise.”
We not only have a right to believe, but we can live and act upon our beliefs.
Churches and religious ministries are under attack when they seek to engage culture. We saw this recently in Houston, Texas when the Mayor sought to subpoena the sermons of pastors.
People of faith in the workplace are being penalized because of their religious beliefs. Employers are being mandated to take actions contrary to their religious beliefs—including flower shops, B&Bs, photographers, bakers, wedding chapels, and every employer who offers health insurance.
Employees are being fired because of their religious beliefs.
In these cases, we have filed employment actions and those investigations are pending. And most recently in the news, there is also the Atlanta Fire Department Chief Kelvin Cochran—a devout Christian man, who just last week was terminated because his boss objected to his religious beliefs.
FACT #4: The attacks on faith and religious expression are now occurring
even against members of our military and veterans.
Veterans memorials are under attack:
We are fighting to protect these memorials which contain religious imagery that honor the selfless sacrifice and service of those who served.
What’s more, even service members are also under attack. The case of SMSgt. Phillip Monk relieved of his duties because he disagreed with his commander’s views concerning marriage. First Liberty Institute’s latest case of religious discrimination in the military involves Chaplain (Captain) Joseph “Joe” Lawhorn, a Chaplain in the military. Chaplain Lawhorn was reprimanded for speaking about his religious beliefs—including how his Christian faith helped him counter depression—during Suicide Prevention training, and First Liberty Institute has come to his defense.
FACT #5: There is hope. When we stand up for religious liberty we win.
We can and do win. We win over 90 percent of our cases, because we are right on the law and we have a proven method that leads to success. We employ a successful volunteer attorney model which allows First Liberty Institute to partner with some of the top attorneys in the nation. Our staff attorneys are subject matter experts, and our national network of volunteer attorneys are the best of the best living and working in the jurisdictions where cases are pending.
We work with 24 of the top 50 law firms in our nation today. Our volunteer attorneys include world-class litigators like former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement (who has argued more at U.S. Supreme Court than anyone else currently living), U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (when he was in private practice), and former Texas Solicitor General Jim Ho.
We have the law and the formula for success on our side. But we also need people of faith to stand up—people like Scott Rainey.
Pastor Scott Rainey stood up when he was told he couldn’t pray in Jesus’ name at Houston National Cemetery. This led to veterans standing up when they were told they couldn’t mention God during burial services at the cemetery. This, in turn, led to a group of women who honored veterans at their funerals—the National Memorial Ladies—standing up when they were told they couldn’t tell family members “God bless you.” And this led to widows standing up to have God mentioned during their husbands’ burial services.
The end result was a great victory for not only Pastor Rainey, the VFW, The American Legion, the National Memorial Ladies, and three widows—but for over 21 million veterans and their families because our court win resulted in court-ordered national policy changes protecting the religious liberty rights of all Americans.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Suffice it to say, one person can make a difference in the battle to restore religious liberty in America—starting with you! Here’s what you can do:
About First Liberty Institute
First 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 www.LibertyInstitute.org.