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WE CAN WIN: Why Now Is the Time to Stand for Religious Freedom

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February 26, 2015

First Liberty Institute President & CEO, Kelly Shackelford

First Liberty Institute President Kelly Shackelford’s new e-book now available

Editor’s note: Kelly Shackelford explains why America is at a tipping point in the battle for religious freedom, and why he believes people of faith hold the key to victory. Excerpted from his new e-book: A Time to Stand 2015: Why Saving Religious Freedom Depends on What People of Faith Do Next.

 


As the year 2015 began, Americans entered a tipping point.
 We entered a time when religious liberty will either be saved or lost. At the end of this period of time, which could be a year or more—but likely not longer than five years—America will be traveling one of two paths.       

        

We either will be on a path of restored religious liberty, having repelled the most severe assault on religious freedom in the history of our republic, or we will be on a path to becoming a nation devoid of religious liberty and its vital benefits.

        

It could go either way. We’re seeing things we have never seen before. Clearly, we have entered a period of trial for the future of religious freedom. 

        

WHO WILL DETERMINE THE OUTCOME? 

Prayer is definitely needed at this crucial time. On a human level, the main determiner of America’s religious future will be people of faith, the very targets of growing discrimination. Even after decades of judicial activism and liberty-hostile legislation—even after a cultural war on religious belief from the worldly fortresses of secularist education, media, government and much of corporate culture—the law is still decisively on the side of religious freedom.

        

If people of faith stand up courageously and make use of these laws, their religious freedom can be saved. 

I advise you not to buy into the constant barrage of negative hype through the media. Religious liberty is not dead. Keep in mind two crucial factors:

FIRST, major federal and state statutes and court decisions are waiting to be used to reaffirm religious liberty. SECOND, skilled attorneys stand ready at the defense. 

People of faith need to know they have it within their power to win the battle. And with that knowledge, they must then make the courageous decision to fight. If they do, I believe events will tip in their favor.

        

In one strategic sector of society after another, we are facing dramatic battles:

SAVING VETERANS MEMORIALS

Maryland “Mothers’ Memorial” for WWI Veterans


When a regime hostile to religious freedom wants to discredit and silence a faith, one of the first important steps is to eradicate public symbols of that faith.

Secularists are pushing hard for that goal today. 

Currently, First Liberty Institute is defending several veterans memorials on public property that are under attack because they contain traditional religious imagery, something that goes back through the history of America. Memorials at risk include:

  • The historic Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego, California. The ACLU is representing groups who want to tear down a 29-foot cross that is an essential element to the memorial and has stood since 1954. 

Should even one of these monuments fall, more will be targets.  On the other hand, winning that case will protect all the other memorials.  The war will be won. We are nearing the tipping point.

           

PROTECTING CHURCHES, SYNAGOGUES AND MINISTRIES

Dr. Chuck Swindoll

  

It will happen soon. Either clergy, the pulpit, and the sanctity of ministry will be protected—or we will enter an era of de-sanctification of religion in America.

First Liberty Institute is representing Dr. Eric Walsh, one of top healthcare administrators in the United States, in a legal action against the state of Georgia, who had fired him because of what he preached in his church as a lay minister.

Other examples of persecution of churches and ministries include the Obama Administration’s insistence that Christian ministries participate in providing insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs. Even when that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs! 

We are representing several such ministries, including Insight for Living Ministries, the Bible-teaching outreach of Dr. Chuck Swindoll. 

First Liberty Institute is also winning in one community after another to enforce the right of houses of worship to exist and minister where people need it most. We have won for churches, synagogues, and homeless ministries, and protected street evangelists and sports events outreaches.

And that’s the good news: we can win. The law is on the side of religious liberty for Dr. Walsh, Insight for Living Ministries, congregations, and the others we represent. But brave people of faith like Dr. Eric Walsh, Dr. Chuck Swindoll, and others must be willing to stand. We’re at a tipping point, and what people of faith do in the near future will determine the outcome.

TAKING BACK THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Fifth-grader Giovanni Rubeo

Sixty million students are also living at a tipping point for religious freedom and influence in the public schools where they spend so much of their time and energy. Ironically, most students of faith and most educators simply aren’t aware of lawfully protected religious rights in the schools.

But that can change rapidly. We’re seeing it happen!

Indeed, at First Liberty Institute in 2014 we saw the seeds of a very possible future as our attorneys won case after case for students in the public schools. The intensity of the attacks on students’ rights picked up—but so did the victories for faith! For example:

A 2nd-grader was told she could not read her Bible during free reading time. We stepped in, and the school apologized.

  • A school employee told a 5-year-old girl it was “not good” to pray over her meal at school. The school was forced to retract.
  • A fifth-grade teacher ordered a boy to stop reading his Bible during an advanced reading time. After a national outcry and some education on the law, the school district conceded the boy was within his rights to read the Bible.

           

That was just a small sample of our 2014 education victory parade.

Imagine an America where public school students do routinely pray, read Scripture, and openly express their faith in schools without fear of opposition by school authorities.  Imagine an America where public schools do protect faith as a daily, positive aspect of student life. That America could happen.  Soon.  We are at a tipping point.

RECLAIMING THE MILITARY

First Liberty Institute Senior Counsel & Director of Military Affairs, Mike Berry

Beginning in 2006 the assault on religious liberty in the military escalated with the activity of the anti-religious freedom Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Indeed, MRFF called for 400 officers to be court-martialed for expressing their faith.

The rise of MRFF coincided with the ascendancy of Barack Obama to the White House and a “politically-correct” tilt in military policy.

But in 2014, the momentum began to reverse in the right direction. 

A coalition of pro-religious freedom organizations formed, with legal input by First Liberty Institute ’s Senior Counsel & Director of Military Affairs, Mike Berry. We used a tone of sobriety, firmness and respect, in distinction to MRFF’s inflammatory rhetoric. We began to remind leaders in Congress, the Pentagon, the branches of service, and elsewhere that law, military codes, and court decisions guaranteed service members religious liberty and access to spiritual support. 

Members of the military who challenged attempts to suppress their religious liberty were protected by First Liberty Institute . In one case, our client’s reprimand was torn up and he was assigned to educate other officers on conflict resolution regarding religious conscience conflicts! 

           

The year 2014 ended with a committee hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives where MRFF’s position was exposed as baseless overreaction. The Department of Defense and U.S. Air Force issued rulings that began to move back in the direction of religious liberty.  And 2015 began with our client, U.S. Army Chaplain Joe Lawhorn, protected after being punished for mentioning his faith in a suicide prevention training.

The tide may be turning. We are at a tipping point, and the next few years will be critical.

SAVING FAITH IN THE BUSINESS WORLD

Dr. Eric Walsh

A British lawyer recently described to me how religious freedom was lost in the UK when people of faith chose their incomes over their faith. That’s what we’re facing here in 2015—we’re at a tipping point.

I’ve mentioned the case of Dr. Eric Walsh v. the Georgia Department of Health. The attack against Dr. Walsh is not only an attack on church and ministry, but it is a workplace attack as well. 

If First Liberty Institute wins this very public case, it will send a message to other employers that such hiring and firing discrimination is against the law and unacceptable.

Likewise, if we win a similar case in James v. FOX Sports—a victory against one of the biggest broadcast corporations in the world—employers will notice, and people of faith in the workplace will be emboldened.

These are “tipping point” cases. 

But it doesn’t end there. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood in their challenges to the ObamaCare Abortion Pill Mandate set up a cascade of challenges to government infringement upon religious liberty.

The battle for the faith in the marketplace is erupting. For example, the Supreme Court may or may not rule in favor of nationally-imposed same-sex marriage, but the languageof any decision will determine whether religious liberty is sheltered from an adverse marriage decision in the marketplace.

America is deciding whether we are going to go the way of the United Kingdom, or whether our roots of faith are deeper and our spiritual backbone stiffer.

WE CAN WIN

We can win in every area if people of faith are willing to stand up. We have the lawyers, so the key ingredients are clients—brave Americans choosing to insist on their rights—and other Americans willing to donate resources to make sure people of faith get the best legal representation.



Ask for Kelly Shackelford’s Eye-Opening New Book—for Free!

America is entering a period that nationally known attorney Kelly Shackelford calls “a tipping point.” In this period, your religious freedom will either be saved or lost.

In A Time to Stand 2015: Why Saving Religious Freedom Depends on What People of Faith Do Next, Kelly gives you a concise, information-packed, eye-opening review of where and why the battle will be won or lost . . . and what you can do to stand.

Other stories:

OUR HERITAGE MATTERS: Protecting America’s Public Religious Expressions of Faith

About First Liberty Institute
First 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 www.FIrstLiberty.org.

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