First Liberty cases appeared in over 1,000 media stories between January and July 2016, according to a report released by First Liberty Institute’s Media Team in early August.
The First Liberty Media Report details the mainstream media’s coverage of First Liberty’s clients and cases, underscoring what president Kelly Shackelford says is one of the most important aspects of defending religious freedom:
“Protecting religious liberty for all extends beyond the courtroom,” Shackelford said. “In order for someone to stand up for their religious freedom, they have to know what their rights are. That happens through education.”
“Media coverage is like a megaphone,” said Kassie Dulin, First Liberty Director of Legal Communications. “It amplifies our voice so we can reach the world with a message of religious freedom.”
Media outlets that have covered First Liberty’s cases in 2016 include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, The Associated Press, and more. Since January, members of First Liberty’s legal team were interviewed approximately 314 times, and First Liberty issued approximately 42 press releases.
For Dulin, one of the most impactful stories of 2016 so far was The Washington Post’s coverage of First Liberty’s oral arguments in April before the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces on behalf of client LCpl Monifa Sterling in April, who was court-martialed for refusing to remove a Bible verse from her personal workspace.
“The Washington Post covered the story in detail, explaining how the case could have ‘wide-ranging implications for how the military approaches religious freedoms,’” she said.
Although the Court ruled against Sterling four months later, a wide audience had the opportunity to learn about Sterling’s plight and the religious freedom issue at stake.
“It was amazing to see our client’s story chronicled in the nation’s paper of record, for everyone in the Capitol and in the world to read,” Dulin added. The case moves next to the U.S. Supreme Court.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: FIRST LIBERTY’S LATEST MEDIA COVERAGE
Here are some of the media’s most recent stories covering First Liberty cases, including some stories occurring after the publication of the media report:
First Liberty client Judge Wayne Mack appeared on Fox and Friends with Chief of Staff and Counsel Chelsey Youman on Monday to discuss his recent victory following an investigation about his volunteer chaplaincy program and practice of facilitating an invocation before court sessions. Texas Attorney Ken Paxton affirmed Mack’s practices, declaring both constitutional and in line with American legal tradition. Watch the Fox and Friends interview here.
First Liberty client Coach Joe Kennedy appeared with Senior Counsel Mike Berry on Fox News’s The Kelly File after suing the school district that fired him earlier this year. Bremerton Independent School District of Washington state fired Kennedy for personally praying at the 50-yard-line after high school football games. In the interview, Kennedy and Berry explain why he chose to file a lawsuit, and what he hopes to achieve. Watch the full Kelly File interview here.
Prominent attorney and former government official Ed Whelan covered the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces’s ruling in United States v. Sterling in his article “Military Court Botches RFRA” for National Review. Whelan writes that “the court’s ruling diminishes the religious-liberty rights of all members of our armed forces.” First Liberty plans to appeal Sterling’s case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Read Whelan’s article here.
The Daily Signal reported on First Liberty’s victory for Cornerstone World Outreach in Iowa. After the Iowa Civil Rights Commission released a brochure that threatened to regulate the free speech and operations of churches, First Liberty sent a demand letter. Three days later, the state of Iowa released a revised version of the brochure, claiming that the State would not encroach upon the rights of churches and ministers. Read The Daily Signal’s coverage of the victory here.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
According to Dulin, one of the best ways to help educate others about their religious freedom rights is to share information.
“Many First Liberty supporters ask how they can help defend religious freedom. One excellent way is to follow First Liberty on social media, then share articles about our cases,” she said. “The more our supporters share our stories, the more people will learn about how religious freedom is under attack, but how it can be defended.”
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