Around the Institute: What’s Happening at First Liberty

September 29, 2023
First Liberty Insider | Around the Institute

A weekly roundup of important headlines and exciting things happening at First Liberty.

Faith Under Fire, California Style

First Liberty Associate Counsel Kayla Toney wrote an op-ed for WNG discussing our Faith Under Fire case. She discusses our recent appeal of a federal court decision that sided with the city of Stockton, California in firing Fire Chief Ron Hittle for attending a conference held at a church. Toney writes:

“These legal issues not only affect Chief Hittle, but also the 23.7 million Americans employed by the government. If left uncorrected, the panel’s decision propounds the error that public employees must still self-censor their religious activity for fear of reprisal. Religious Americans must be free to live and work without fear of their careers going down in flames. The law requires nothing less.”

Illinois City is Trying to Ruin Religious Campground

The City of Des Plaines, Illinois filed a lawsuit demanding that the Chicago District Campground, Inc.—a religious organization better known as the Methodist Campground—demolish over 70 of its wooden structures.  The campground has been host to some of Christianity’s most influential evangelists, including DL Moody, Billy Graham, and Billy Sunday.

First Liberty is defending the campground in state court. Our legal team argues that the city is violating constitutional, state, and federal law by retaliating against the Campground for hosting a Christian revival in defiance of the city’s unlawful COVID-19 restrictions.

“They wanted to eliminate the campground. We’ve seen this before when the local government is met with blowback,” Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys said. “It seems like retribution. That’s not how this country has operated throughout its history. The campground is now being punished for daring to challenge the city.” 

Related News:

Journal & Topics: Charge Des Plaines Trying To ‘Ruin’ Campground; Mayor Says Safety Is City’s Main Goal

Journal & Topics: Religious Freedom Institute Joins Methodist Campground’s Defense Against Des Plaines Lawsuit

Radical Group is Off Base About Removing Christian Bookstore from Fort Liberty

The deceptively named “Military Religious Freedom Foundation” (MRFF) is trying to remove a small Christian bookstore operating at an Army and Air Force Exchange Service mall location in Fort Liberty, North Carolina. The radical group says the Faith2Soar concessionaire allegedly violates the separation of Church and State.

First Liberty is defending Joshua Creson, a military veteran who owns the store.

MRFF “is flat-out wrong on the law,” said Mike Berry, First Liberty Director of Military Affairs. “It would be unconstitutional and illegal for the government to exclude a bookstore or any other type of business from operating in an AAFES area simply because they are a Christian or other faith-based business.”

Related News:

Military Times: Activist wants ‘unconstitutional’ Christian bookstore off this base

The Christian Post: Activist group pressures military base to remove Christian bookstore

Mark Levin Quotes First Liberty

Mark Levin’s newest book discusses increasing attacks on religious liberty. He directly cites First Liberty’s research and litigation of religious freedom cases at the Supreme Court. On pages 271 and 272, quotes an op-ed from Kelly Shackelford:

“Put another way, for the first almost 100 years of our republic, there were zero cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and 110 years passed before the high court heard a case on the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause—and then not another case on either clause for another 41 years after that.

Since 1940, litigation on religious liberty has exploded at an alarming rate in nearly every area of religious life: school prayer, legislative prayer, release time education, religious land use, distribution of religious literature, conscientious objection, wearing religious head coverings in military service, the Pledge of Allegiance, religious beard length and so forth.

Our country has witnessed a barrage of litigation directed at the fundamental freedom of religious liberty—more than 75 cases since 1940. The numbers do not lie: It took 110 years to see three Supreme Court cases challenging religious liberty, but only 80 years to litigate more than 75 more. Religious freedom has been under increasing siege for eight decades now.”

Levin is a nationally syndicated talk-radio host, host of LevinTV, chairman of Landmark Legal Foundation, the host of the Fox News show Life, Liberty, & Levin, and the author of seven consecutive #1 New York Times bestsellers.

Congratulations Justin Butterfield for 10 Years of Service

Deputy General Counsel Justin Butterfield is celebrating 10 years at First Liberty. Justin’s knowledge, experience and exceptional legal acumen are an essential part of First Liberty’s success over the past decade. His contributions have taken our organization to great heights.

Justin served on our staff for seven years and returned to First Liberty after serving for two years as Senior Advisor for Conscience and Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In his role at HHS, Justin launched a new division of the HHS Office for Civil Rights under Roger Severino dedicated to protecting Americans’ rights of conscience and religious freedom.

Justin, we applaud you for your incredible work ethic, and we are truly blessed to have you on our team. Thank you for your dedication, expertise and the contagious sense of humor that you bring to the office every day. We wish you a happy work anniversary and look forward to many more years of work together.

Justin Butterfield | First Liberty

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