How First Liberty is Reclaiming Religious Freedom in This Unique Time

April 17, 2020
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by Jorge Gomez • 7 min read

Without question, the coronavirus outbreak has been a difficult situation for millions of Americans. Virtually nobody could have anticipated how much our lives would change due to this unprecedented national health crisis.

Even still, here at First Liberty we want to encourage you by letting you know: God is moving in incredible ways.

First Liberty’s been blessed in this special time with new and unexpected opportunities to protect and reclaim religious liberty for churches, faith-based nonprofits and people of all faiths across the country. And of course, we count it a privilege that we can keep serving and fighting for you and your family’s constitutional rights.

In this special feature, we want to share with you how First Liberty has been on the frontlines of the fight for religious freedom over the past several weeks, and how we continue to make a real, lasting impact for your First Freedom.

Without YOU helping us defend religious liberty, there would be no safeguard for houses of worship who serve and contribute essential services to our communities.

Will you stand strong and go All In with us to defend Our First Freedom?

Give today.

Local Victories with a Profound Impact

As many of you know, the COVID 19 epidemic and the restrictions imposed by government officials on public gatherings and worship services have placed significant stress on pastors, religious leaders and houses of worship nationwide.

With so many religious and local communities unsure of how these limitations affect them, our legal team has been working non-stop, burning the midnight oil to make sure that governments don’t discriminate against religious organizations and houses of worship. Here are just a few of our recent victories:

  • First Liberty attorneys intervened by sending a letter to the city of McKinney, TX urging city officials to alter mandatory stay-at-home orders to apply equally to churches. Thanks to our legal team’s swift action, within hours McKinney officials modified the mandatory stay-at-home order to allow religious services that are consistent with the guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
  • Similarly, city officials in Frisco, TX stated that they would alter their stay-at-home order to allow religious services consistent with CDC guidelines and Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order. The change came just hours after First Liberty Institute sent the city a letter explaining that its previous stay-at-home order was inconsistent with the Constitution, federal, and state law.
  • As part of our effort to remain vigilant of possible violations, our legal team sent a letter to Gainesville, FL officials notifying them of a local executive order that restricted religious gatherings unfairly and unevenly compared to other public gatherings. Thankfully, a county ordinance went into effect with a positive set of provisions that will allow religious services under current CDC guidelines.

Though they seem small, these triumphs are monumentally significant and have a profound impact in the everyday lives of communities who look to churches and nonprofits for relief in times of crisis. And thanks to your continued support, First Liberty can fight—and win—these important local victories.

Protecting the Rights of Churches and Nonprofits Nationwide

Beyond these local wins, First Liberty is also making an impact on a national scale.

With the recent passage of the $2 trillion stimulus package (the CARES Act), we worked with our volunteer network attorneys to make sure houses of worship and faith-based nonprofits could participate in the stimulus package. Together, we provided expertise and input to the White House, the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

Thanks to our involvement, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)—in charge of administering stimulus money provided under the CARES act—recently adopted an interim rule that ensures churches and faith-based ministries are eligible to receive loans under the legislation.

Indeed, this is a big victory, as religious institutions now have full freedom as part of the stimulus package. Indeed, because of this critical effort with our volunteer attorney network, churches and ministries across the nation are breathing a sigh of relief and will continue being able to provide essential services to millions of Americans.

A Resource You Can Trust

In addition to our work on the legal front, our team of experts is constantly developing and gathering resources, information and helpful guidelines to help churches and people of faith nationwide. Here’s an overview and a list of helpful links:

  • First Liberty’s “First Response,” an exclusive and interactive weekly teleforum with FLI attorneys and leading national experts to discuss the impact of COVID on religious freedom. Learn more about the weekly call and how you can listen to all episodes on demand here.
  • First Liberty’s team of expert has analyzed COVID-19 orders put into place by each state. Learn how your state has responded by downloading this free PDF: Religious Exemptions and Language in COVID-19 Orders.
  • A new First Liberty resource to help houses of worship: Guidance for Churches and Religious Institutions, which you can download for free here.
  • A dedicated informational, “one-stop shop” webpage where you can find expert analysis on government restrictions and other COVID state actions.
  • Expert analysis from Kelly Shackelford of the $2 trillion stimulus bill (CARES Act) and how we helped ensure the bill will provide relief to churches on an equal footing as secular organizations.
  • First Liberty’s continued thought leadership and expertise in the national media, as evident by our collaboration with Dr. Albert Mohler on this Washington Post editorial.

Religious communities and people of faith serve a special purpose in times of crisis by being a light, giving spiritual guidance, comfort and hope.

Thanks to you, your prayers and your steadfast financial support, First Liberty can continue to be a resource for them. In this dire hour of need, our nation’s churches and faith-based nonprofits need us to keep fighting for them, for their right to serve and reach out in accordance with their faith.

Giving your time, resources or your prayers is how you can be a light for houses of worship and people of faith who give so much to our communities.

We urge you to go All In with First Liberty, right now. This is a time for unity. Together, we can help preserve religious liberty and keep fighting for faith-based institutions who are reaching out in faith and service to those suffering the effects of the coronavirus.

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