Pilgrims and Patriots – A Thanksgiving Message from Kelly Shackelford

November 25, 2014

Dear Friend of Religious Liberty,

This week you and I—along with millions of Americans—will give thanks.  And we will remember all those who sacrificed that we might have freedom of religion.

Who are these courageous Americans?

Some of them you will only read about in history books.  The Pilgrims.  The Signers of the Declaration of Independence.  The men who waded into Nazi fire on the beaches of Normandy.  They risked all for freedom—including freedom to openly exercise one’s faith in God.

But there are others.  Today we walk in the presence of modern pilgrims and patriots—some of them less than 10 years old.  These are Americans with whom you and I are very blessed to be connected.

I can think of some very immediate examples—

I think of Dr. Eric Walsh, a client of Liberty Institute.  He was one of the top health professionals in the nation, until his employer decided to destroy his career because of what Dr. Walsh preached in his church as a lay minister.  But he won’t back down, and is fighting a legal battle not only for his freedom, but the freedom of others.

I think of Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk and  Lt. Col. Charles Pudil—two members of the U.S. military who risked their careers and future by blowing the whistle on violations of religious liberty.  They could have taken the easy way out, just as the pilgrims could have stayed in England and stayed quiet about their beliefs.  But that’s not what creates a free society.  So SMSgt. Monk and Lt. Col. Pudil put it on the line.  And by God’s grace, we helped protect them and are using the leverage of those victories.

I think of Liz Loverde, Audrey Jarvis, John Raney, Brooks Hamby, Angela Hildenbrand, Remington Reimer, Giovanni Rubeo, Erin Shead, the Kountze Cheerleaders and other brave students we have represented.  They stood up to the authorities and risked much by insisting on their religious freedom—and thereby are securing freedom for many more.  Many of them were threatened.  One of the Kountze Cheerleaders was harshly interrogated in a deposition to the point of tears.  But she wouldn’t back down.

The list goes on, like the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews Chapter 11, where the writer finally admits there are too many stories of faith to tell, saying, “And what more shall I say?  For time will fail me . . .”

So here’s my Thanksgiving request to you on this special day:

Please take a moment on Thursday to thank God for brave Americans like those I’ve mentioned—both those in the history books and those fighting for religious freedom today.  And please ask God for more of them!

Ronald Reagan said, “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.”

So I thank God for:

  • Our fearless clients.  Their courage is moving mountains as we defend and, yes, restore religious liberty in America.
  • Rewarding the faithfulness of such clients.  Just this month we’ve seen new evidence that the battle for religious liberty in the military—thought a lost cause by many just two years ago—is now moving in the right direction in large part because men like SMSgt. Phillip Monk and Lt. Col. Charles Pudil took the Pilgrims’ dangerous example and risked all for religious freedom.
  • Our Liberty Institute team.  Our staff attorneys, our entire Liberty Institute team, and our amazing volunteer attorneys across the nation.

And I thank God for you and every single supporter.  Together, we are a vanguard of religious freedom—fighting to keep this promised land of liberty.  And we are winning.


Kelly Shackelford
President & CEO

Other stories:

8 Days to a Victory: How Approval Was Won for the “Dare to Believe” Christian Club

Victory! Federal Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction in Challenge to Law Banning Churches and Schools

About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit

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