Protecting our first freedoms:
Faith, conscience and speech

Voice your values: Legislative action

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First Liberty


What Happened to Colonel Who Didn't Want to Praise an Airman's Same-Sex Marriage

The Daily Signal commentary by Tony Perkins

November 16, 2017

"“His career is likely over,” First Liberty Institute’s Michael Berry told Fox News’ Todd Starnes, “and he will likely have to retire as a colonel instead of a general.” Berry, who’s representing Bohannon in the case, could only shake his head. “This sends a clear message—if you do not have the politically correct viewpoint, you are not welcome in the military. The military is no longer a place of diversity and inclusion if you are a person who holds to a traditional belief on marriage.” ... 

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Will Anti-Religious Military Policies Under Obama Change With Trump, Mattis?

The Stream

November 3, 2017

"Spiritual fitness is just as important as physical fitness in the military, says First Liberty's Deputy General Counsel and Director of Military Affairs. Religious hostility in the military is nothing new. But we’re seeing more of it, said First Liberty Institute’s Deputy General Counsel and Director of Military Affairs Mike Berry. In an interview with The Stream, Berry said he hopes that this will change under President Trump and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. “This shouldn’t be something novel or new, this concept of promoting religious freedom within the military,” Berry explained. The Congress that established the Continental Army expected we would have “a healthy respect and promotion of religious freedom.” That has continued through the years. Religious freedom attacks have been rejected because the nation and its leaders understood that troops should be spiritually fit as they were physically fit. He believes we’ve lost sight of that in recent years. "

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Documented Cases of Religious Discrimination Jump 15%

The Daily Signal commentary by Ian Snively

September 25, 2017

"Freedom of religion isn’t as protected as some Americans may think. In fact, reported attacks on religion are increasing in the U.S. and, according to First Liberty Institute, the evidence is undeniable. The 2017 edition of a First Liberty report called “Undeniable” shows threats to Americans’ First Amendment rights spanning the past five years. The number of documented incidents of religious discrimination grew 15 percent in 2016 compared with 2015. The number of incidents increased by 133 percent, from 600 to more than 1,400, between 2011 and 2016. “We’re in a battle right now for religious freedom in the future of our country,” First Liberty President Kelly Shackelford said in a Facebook Live video Sept. 12. "

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The Quantum Leap in Hostility to Religious Rights: No Bible for 9-Year-Old, Just 1 of 1,400 Cases

CBN News

September 14, 2017

"The number of attacks on religious liberty is growing in the United States. That's the finding from researchers at the First Liberty Institute, a Texas-based, non-profit legal group fighting for religious rights in America. Every year, the institute publishes a survey compiling all the cases it's found on religious liberty attacks. 'This year's survey represents a 15 percent increase in just the past year. And an alarming 133 percent increase in the last five years,' General Counsel Jeremy Dys said. Dys cited a 418-page publication entitled, "Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America," which documents 1,400 attacks on religious liberty this year. He called it the most comprehensive compilation of its kind. First Liberty Institute CEO Kelly Shackelford told reporters about the kinds of cases that come across the institute's doorstep. Giovanni Rubeo, a nine-year-old Floridian was told, along with his classmates, they could bring any book to school for free reading time. But when he brought his Bible, he got in trouble with his Ft. Lauderdale school. First Liberty took up the case and won."

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Religious Freedom Attorneys Tell White House They Want Broader Exemptions for Contraceptive Mandate


July 26, 2017

The attorneys met with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney this week, where they handed out a letter explaining the need to make the draft final. "Our clients have been litigating against the government's effort to punish business owners and ministry leaders for following their religious beliefs and moral convictions since 2013," said Matthew Kacsmaryk, Deputy General Counsel for First Liberty, in a statement. "As President Trump recognized in the Rose Garden on May 4, it is time to reaffirm ‘America's leadership role as a nation that protects religious freedom for everyone.' That starts by finalizing this draft interim final rule and ending years of litigation." One of the most notable cases to come out of the HHS mandate controversy was the Little Sisters of the Poor five-year battle with the Obama administration.

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High School: Students May Not Pray or Mention Jesus

Todd Starnes

June 13, 2017

Moriah Bridges wanted to thank God for His immeasurable blessings on Beaver High School's graduating class. But she could not, because she was told it was against the law. "The selected students may still address their class and indicate the things that they wish/hope for their class, but they may not do it in the style of a prayer and most certainly may not recite a prayer that excludes other religions (by ending ‘in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" or "in the matchless name of Jesus,'" principal Steven Wellendorf wrote to Moriah in a letter. "The last lesson this school district taught its students is that they should hide their religious beliefs from public view," First Liberty Institute attorney Jeremy Dys told me. "That fails the test of the First Amendment. School officials - in violation of the First Amendment - forced Moriah to censor her personal remarks during the closing exercise of her commencement ceremony merely because of the religious viewpoint of her remarks," the attorney said.

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Bakers Who Lost Their Bakery For Not Making Same-Sex Wedding Cake Have Day in Court

First Liberty

March 2, 2017

Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals heard the case of Aaron and Melissa Klein, a couple who lost their bakery for running their business according to their religious beliefs. During the oral arguments, the Kleins' attorneys argued that the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) violated the Kleins' constitutional rights to religious freedom, free speech, and due process. "The government should never force someone to violate their conscience or their beliefs," Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, says. "In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs. We hope the court will uphold the Kleins' rights to free speech and religious liberty."

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Defending conscience rights at Hacksaw Ridge and in the HHS cases

First Things commentary by Matthew Kacsmaryk

November 4, 2016

On May 18, 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its Final Rule implementing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Like previous federal laws, Section 1557 forbids healthcare providers from discriminating against individuals due to their race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. Unlike previous federal laws, however, the new Section 1557 rule redefines the protected class "sex" to include three new categories not listed in the original non-discrimination statutes: (1) "gender identity," (2) "sex stereotyping," and (3) "termination of pregnancy"-with no express religious exemption or accommodation for conscience rights. In the three months since Section 1557 took effect, the ACLU has filed lawsuits against Catholic healthcare providers Dignity Health (California) and Ascension Health (Michigan). 

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U.S. Marine court-martialed for refusing to remove Bible verse in her workspace

First Liberty

August 10, 2016

United States Marine Corps Lance Corporal (LCpl) Monifa Sterling was court-martialed after she refused to take down Bible verses she had posted in her workspace and for reposting the verses after her supervisor threw them in the trash. A trial court ruled against Sterling, giving her a bad conduct discharge and reducing her rank. Sterling appealed to the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, but the appeals court also ruled against her. First Liberty Institute stepped in and appealed Sterling's case to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF)- the highest military court. On August 10, 2016, the CAAF ruled against Sterling, denying her constitutional right to religious freedom. First Liberty announced they will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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New Rule Requires Doctors To Treat Trans Patients As Their Pretend Sex

The Federalist commentary by Maria Servold

June 22, 2016

Doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies may soon face lawsuits for treating male and female patients according to their biological sex, thanks to a health care rule finalized in May as part of the Affordable Care Act. On the same day President Barack Obama announced his controversial transgender school bathroom policy last month, a somewhat more sinister mandate was finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with consequences for health care providers, insurance companies, and American taxpayers. The regulations also threaten the freedom and independence of health care professionals who "believe maleness and femaleness are biological realities to be respected and affirmed, not altered or treated as diseases," the Heritage report states. People with religious beliefs that contradict this regulation have no legal options but compliance or filing lawsuits, said Matthew Kacsmaryk, a deputy general counsel at the First Liberty Institute.

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Hostility Toward Religion in America Is 'Undeniable,' Report Says

Daily Signal commentary by Leah Jessen

March 1, 2016

Discrimination against Americans of faith is on the increase, but if they stand up for their religious liberty, they can prevail, a new report says. "Hostility to religion in America is rising like floodwaters," Kelly Shackelford, president, CEO, and chief counsel at First Liberty Institute, writes in the report. "This flood is engulfing ordinary citizens who simply try to live normal lives according to their faith and conscience." The report documents more than 1,200 legal cases involving persons who believe they have been discriminated against because of their religious beliefs.

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Oregon Bakers Get New Legal Representation From Former H.W. Bush White House Counsel

Daily Signal commentary by Kelsey Harkness

February 23, 2016

Aaron and Melissa Klein, the Oregon bakers who were ordered to pay $135,000 for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, have assembled a new legal team to take their case through the appeals process. On July 2, 2015, Brad Avakian, commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, ordered the Kleins to pay $135,000 for the emotional, physical, and psychological damages they caused a lesbian couple, Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, for refusing to make a wedding cake. "They've assembled a world-class team of appellate attorneys including Boyden Gray," Jeremy Dys, a senior counsel at First Liberty, formerly known as Liberty Institute, told The Daily Signal.

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Ronald Reagan: Champion of religious liberty

FOX News opinion piece by Kelly Shackelford

February 6, 2016

Because Reagan the individual understood religious faith, Reagan the statesman understood its value to a free society. "Without God," he said, "there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure." For this reason, Reagan rebutted attacks on religious values as attempts to "abrogate the original terms of American democracy." He supported both judicial and legislative action to restore prayer and other religious activity to public schools, including the 1984 Equal Access Act. He left a federal judiciary populated with Reagan judges who made key rulings in favor of religious freedom.

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Football Coach 'Devastated' After Being Suspended for Post-Game Prayer

The Daily Signal commentary by Leah Jessen

November 1, 2015

Washington state high school football coach Joe Kennedy, inspired by the Christian faith-based film "Facing the Giants," walks to the 50-yard line after games to thank God for the players he has the opportunity to coach. As of Wednesday, Kennedy has been suspended and is no longer able to participate in football program activities because of his post-game prayers. "We tried to meet with the school officials in-person but they refused to meet," Hiram Sasser, deputy chief counsel for Liberty Institute, said in a statement. "We were only able to have a brief hour and a half call with their lawyer, and the result was a letter banning private prayer just a few hours before last Friday's game. It is unfortunate this school district is choosing litigation instead of a simple meeting."

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