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God’s Not Dead 2 Among Top 5 Movies in America on Opening Weekend

Earning over $8 million on opening weekend, the Pure Flix film contains similarities to real-life cases

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April 8, 2016

God’s Not Dead 2 landed in the number four spot in the nation last weekend, opening in over two thousand theaters across the country and grossing $8.1 million.

The God’s Not Dead sequel tells the story of Grace Wesley, a public school teacher and a Christian who faces religious discrimination and hostility for mentioning Jesus in the classroom.

Though the storyline is fictional, it is inspired by true events and “does a terrific job of depicting the kind of battles our clients face in real life,” says Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty.

The largest legal organization in the nation exclusively dedicated to protecting religious freedom for all Americans, First Liberty has successfully defended—and is currently representing—multiple students and teachers who have faced religious discrimination and hostility.

ONGOING BATTLES FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN SCHOOLS

  • First Liberty currently represents Walt Tutka, a substitute teacher who was terminated in 2013 for giving a student a Bible after the student repeatedly asked Tutka to help him locate a Bible verse, and mentioned he did not have a Bible. Though the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a final determination letter in favor of Tutka almost two years later, attorneys at First Liberty are still awaiting further action by the EEOC, which they hope will lead to the ultimate resolution of the case.
  • First Liberty also represents Coach Joe Kennedy, who was suspended and eventually fired from his coaching job in 2015 for personally praying at the 50-yard line after high school football games. He hasn’t coached a game since.
  • At the end of 2015, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) banned Cambridge Christian School (CCS) from praying before their championship football game against another Christian school. First Liberty represents CCS and sent a demand letter to FHSAA in January 2016. First Liberty is committed to continue fighting FHSAA’s unconstitutional prayer ban.

VICTORIES FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN SCHOOLS

  • In 2014, First Liberty achieved victory for Liz Loverde, a high school student whose proposal for a student club was denied simply because it was a religious club. First Liberty sent a letter to the school officials, and within one week the school recognized Loverde’s club.
  • In 2012, First Liberty successfully defended graduating high school senior and valedictorian Angela Hildenbrand after a judge banned prayer during her graduation ceremony and threatened that anyone who disobeyed the order could face arrest and incarceration. After First Liberty got involved, Hildenbrand was permitted to pray and express her faith during her graduation address.
  • Just last year, First Liberty restored the right of Mackenzie Fraiser, a sixth-grader who was led to believe it was illegal to include a Bible verse in her school assignment. First Liberty sent a demand letter to Fraiser’s school, and two days later, the school issued an official apology, and Fraiser was allowed to resubmit her school assignment with the Bible verse included.

THE BATTLE IS REAL

These are just a few examples of the First Liberty clients who have faced religious discrimination and hostility at school and elsewhere.

In a March interview with Canada-based Context with Lorna Dueck, God’s Not Dead 2 director Harold Cronk discussed the motivation for making the sequel to God’s Not Dead.

“I think religious freedom is something we need to be concerned about, not only as Christians but as Americans,” he said. “Anybody’s religious views and freedoms should be held dear and it feels like we’re starting to lose some of those.”

His comments align with those of First Liberty’s President and CEO.

“It’s time people realize that the battle for religious freedom in America is real,” Shackelford said. “[God’s Not Dead 2] is helping to spread the message about that.”

“I hope that by seeing this movie, more Americans will realize the magnitude of the hostility so many people of faith are facing right now, and that our religious freedom is meaningless unless we are willing to take a stand,” said Mike Berry, First Liberty Senior Counsel.

The DVD release, set for later this year, will feature a special video from First Liberty explaining the real fight for faith that America faces today.

Click here to learn more about religious liberty rights for students and teachers in public schools.

Watch the trailer for God’s Not Dead 2 here:

News and Commentary is brought to you by First Liberty’s team of writers and legal experts.

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