Around the Institute: What’s Happening at First Liberty

June 9, 2023
Around the Institute | First Liberty Institute

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

First Liberty Staff Speak at Prison Seminary Foundation Conference

First Liberty Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys and Stephen O. Presley, Senior Fellow at First Liberty’s Center for Religion, Culture and Democracy, recently teamed up to present at the Fourth Annual Conference for the Prison Seminaries Foundation. The conference was hosted on the campus of Mid-American Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Prison Seminaries Foundation, led by Burl Cain the long-time warden at Angola Prison in Louisiana and Denny Autrey, a former dean of Southwestern Seminary, is a coalition of over thirty seminaries located in prison systems around the country. Their mission is the moral rehabilitation of inmates through theological education and spiritual formation. Through their programs, these seminaries help train ministers that will remain in the prison system and serve the prison population.

Dys and Presley spoke on the topic of “Safeguards to Secure in the Role of Church/State in Prison Reform.” Presley drew from his experience teaching in a seminary in the Texas prison system and encouraged these ministers to continue their mission even though the culture is changing. Now more than ever we need faithful leaders discipling students and training courageous pastors to serve others, even in prison. Dys discussed the ways that these programs can prepare themselves legally to carry out their mission. He remained them that they already have religious liberty, and they just need to exercise it. It was an encouraging gathering and a reminder that God is at work and carrying out his plan of redemption even in the darkest places.

Congratulations Dave Holmes for 10 Years of Service

This week, First Liberty Executive Vice President and Chief Operating/Financial Officer Dave Holmes celebrates 10 years at the organization. Dave’s work ethic, professionalism and dedication have set an exemplary standard for everyone at First Liberty.

Dave, your commitment to the cause and your leadership have taken First Liberty to great heights. Words are not enough to thank you for the incredible work and passion that you bring each and every day. With our best compliments on your decade of service, we pray for many more fantastic years of work together.

First Liberty Writes Letter to Oklahoma Charter School Board, Leading Board to Approve Nation’s First Religious Charter School

The Oklahoma Virtual Charter School Board recently voted to reject an application by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City to create a Catholic virtual charter school. The board denied the application out of concerns about providing government funds to a religious school. First Liberty attorney Hiram Sasser sent a letter to the board explaining that denying funds to the school because of its religious identity is religious discrimination, citing our recent Supreme Court win in our Treat Children Fairly case, Carson v. Makin. Based on that letter, the board voted 3-2 to approve the school, the nation’s first religious charter school fully funded by the government. Americans United for Separation of Church and State called the board’s decision a ”sea change for American democracy” and vowed to fight the decision in court.

On Capitol Hill: First Liberty Coordinates Effort to Restore Cross at VA Facility

First Liberty’s team in Washington, D.C. coordinated a congressional letter calling for a cross to be restored at a VA facility. An Austin-area VA clinic removed a cross with the words “Remember our Veterans” from its lobby after receiving a complaint from the deceptively named Military Religious Freedom Foundation. First Liberty brought the matter to the attention of members of Congress and worked with them to draft a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs calling for the cross’s restoration.

“Unfortunately, the removal of this cross is a part of a much larger campaign to scrub religion from the public square by perverting the Establishment Clause,” said Kelley McLean, First Liberty’s Deputy Director of Government Affairs. “Hostility towards religion has no place in our Establishment Clause. The VA should honor our veterans by upholding the law, which was bravely fought for and restore the cross back to its original place.”

It’s Time to Honor the Law

First Liberty Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys wrote an op-ed for WORLD discussing our ongoing defense of life-affirming pregnancy resource centers that are being attacked and vandalized nationwide. Dys calls for an equal application of the FACE Act, a federal law protecting these centers:

“The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) must take seriously its duty to investigate these crimes and indict criminals under the FACE Act. That the DOJ has returned just a single indictment in the face of more than 100 acts of intimidation and violence toward life-affirming reproductive health facilities has left many Americans wondering whether U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has chosen party politics over the rule of law.

Violence is never an appropriate response to political, ideological, or religious disagreements and those who express their disagreement in violent reactions against life-affirming reproductive health facilities must be held accountable under the law.”

Celebrating a “Rising Star” in Our Accounting Department

Please join us in congratulating Austin Waugh, First Liberty Senior Director of Accounting and Legacy Planning, for being named a “Rising Star” by the Texas CPA Association. This award is given to a very select group of “CPAs under 40” for their innovative leadership and outstanding contributions to the accounting industry in their community.

Celebrating a “Rising Star” in Our Accounting Department | Austin Waugh | First Liberty

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