Busy Season: 7 Big Cases We’re Fighting. Help Us Win Them.

October 20, 2023
Seven Key Battles | First Liberty Insider

by Ethan Tong  • 7 min read

In the last few years, we’ve been winning. A lot. Just in the last two years alone, we won all three cases that we brought to the U.S. Supreme Court. But fighting for religious liberty doesn’t end after three cases. So many more Americans still need their rights defended in court.

This season, we have a many new battles and lawsuits that we’re fighting, plus several cases that have been working their way through the courts for years. And the stakes are higher than ever. Decisions in each of these will affect houses of worship, religious schools, coaches, teachers and public employees. They’ll affect military service members. They’ll affect workers. In other words, they affect everyday Americans—including YOU.

Here’s a brief rundown of seven huge cases that you can help us win.

1) Judge Hensley: Argument Set for October 25

Judge Dianne Hensley, a justice of the peace in Waco, TX, has religious convictions that prevent her from performing same-sex weddings. But out of fairness, Judge Hensley went out of her way to ensure everyone who wanted to get married could do so. She established a convenient option just blocks away from her own Courthouse office in McLennan County. What’s more, no one complained—not a single person. Even still, she was wrongfully punished. She was brought before the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct and issued a warning. We’re set to argue her case at the Texas Supreme Court on October 25.

2) Rachel Spivack: Awaiting Oral Argument

Rachel worked at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, which required vaccinations but allowed for religious or medical exemptions. Rachel applied for a religious accommodation because her Orthodox Jewish faith prohibits her from being vaccinated. She included a letter from her rabbi outlining her religious convictions. But the DA denied her request and fired her. Even worse, 10 other employees were allowed to keep working without being vaccinated. This discrimination and unfair treatment are illegal. We’re awaiting oral argument in her case and expect it to happen soon.

3) Woolard, Gonzales, and Dodson Families: Lawsuit Filed

California won’t allow three families to choose a religious education. Many parents choose charter schools with homeschool programs. But the state says public funds given to parents to purchase materials and classes cannot be used to purchase religious curricula. If you recall, three Supreme Court cases (including our 2022 landmark case, Carson v. Makin) have said that is discriminatory and unconstitutional. We filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Education, asking them to follow the law.

4) Jace Yarbrough: Lawsuit Filed

Major Yarbrough, an Air Force veteran, was invited to speak at a private retirement ceremony. Consistent with his religious beliefs, he warned about the dishonesty and the growing “cancel culture” in our country, including the military. But someone didn’t like what he said. When his speech was reported to the Air Force, they sent him a “Letter of Admonishment” that could tarnish his record and ruin his career. That punishment is arbitrary and capricious. And illegal. We’re fighting in federal court to save Jace’s career.

5) Heather Rooks: Lawsuit Filed

Heather is a member of the Peoria Unified School Board in Arizona. She was ordered to stop quoting Bible verses during school board meetings after a radical secular organization sent a “cease and desist” letter. Censoring her is as ridiculous—and unconstitutional—as prohibiting a person from quoting Confucius or any other philosopher. We filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf.

6) Coach Hugh Freeze: Defending Against Anti-Religion Groups

The Auburn University football coach is being targeted for going to “Unite Auburn,” an event where students gathered to worship and be baptized. That’s ridiculous. A coach is not “coercing” his students simply by his participation. In response to attacks by anti-religion groups denouncing his actions, we set the record straight on national television, explaining that coaches and public employees have a constitutional right to express their religious beliefs. This isn’t over yet, and we continue to defend Coach Freeze.

7) White Rock Chapel: Letter Sent to City

The city of Addison, Texas is using zoning regulations to block a small African-American church  from living out its faith. City officials denied building permits so the church could renovate its historic property and gather for worship and Bible study, as well as serve its surrounding community. That’s unreasonable government interference. We sent a letter to the city explaining that the law demands they approve the church’s permit.

We are winning. But we’re not finished. These are all crucial cases for the individuals affected by discrimination—and for religious Americans as a whole. And we need your support. Now is the time to press in to ensure our rights remain protected. Can we count on your continued support to help keep our streak alive?

The Battle Is Not Over | First Liberty Insider

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