Monday, May 22, 2006

Liberty Counsel Asks Supreme Court to Stop Partial-Birth Abortion

Today, Liberty Counsel filed a brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of the federal ban on "partial-birth abortion," arguing that babies who are only inches away from birth must be granted the same inalienable right to life as are all other Americans. The so-called "partial-birth abortion" procedure is actually infanticide, in that a baby is brutally killed during the birth process with only its head inside the mother.

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act is only part of a continuum of protection enacted by Congress to protect the unborn, partially-born and newly-born children, including the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, and "Laci and Connor's Law," which provides that a person who kills an unborn baby, along with the mother, is guilty of two crimes.

Liberty Counsel filed its amicus brief on behalf of Illinois nurse Jill Stanek in the case of Gonzales v. Carhart, which challenged the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003. Mrs. Stanek testified at the hearings on the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, offering Congress her first-hand accounts of watching babies born alive and then left to die. This prominent pro-life advocate helped bring this disturbing practice to Congress's attention.

Nebraska abortion doctor LeRoy Carhart, who successfully challenged a similar partial-birth abortion ban enacted by the Nebraska legislature, also brought this challenge to the federal law. Two similar cases were brought in New York and California. In all three cases, the appellate courts found the Act unconstitutional because it lacked a "health" exception. The other two cases are on hold while the Carhart case is decided by the Supreme Court.

Liberty Counsel's brief argues that Congress correctly determined that babies who are inches from birth must be afforded the inalienable right to life granted to children who complete the birth process, and that the right should not be interfered with by a claim that the "health" of the mother somehow justifies killing the child.

The partial-birth abortion procedure is gruesome and barbaric, and if performed on a convicted criminal would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Federal law imposes fines and criminal punishment for anyone who takes and destroys bald eagle eggs, but does not protect babies just inches from birth. Partial-birth abortion is never necessary to protect the health of the mother. Abortion doctors use the health exception, which contains no standards, to justify the procedure. This is a classic case of the fox guarding the henhouse. Babies who are inches from birth deserve the same protections under our laws as all other citizens.

Read more history of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban on Liberty Counsel's web site.

Monday, May 08, 2006

"Friend or Foe" Graduation Prayer Campaign

The "Friend or Foe" Graduation Prayer Campaign was launched today by Mat Staver, the Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, and Dr. Jerry Falwell, the Founder and Chancellor of Liberty University. The concept behind the campaign is similar to the successful Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign announced by Staver and Falwell last year.

The Friend or Foe Graduation Prayer Campaign will educate, and if necessary, litigate to ensure that prayer and religious viewpoints are not censored from graduation. Liberty Counsel's free legal memo outlines the current law. Liberty Counsel will defend any school that follows the law. When school officials censor prayer or religious speech, Liberty Counsel will file suit.

If a speaker is chosen using religious-neutral criteria, and if school officials do not edit the speaker's message or religious viewpoints, then the school is on safe ground. Thus, if a valedictorian, salutatorian, class officer or class representative delivers a message, the speaker is free to include religious themes and can voluntarily pray. The same principle holds true when an adult from outside the school speaks at graduation. Private, voluntary speech on public property is constitutionally protected.

Liberty Counsel has been defending graduation prayer since Staver founded the group in 1989. In Adler v. Duval County School Board, Liberty Counsel won the right of students to pray or give religious messages during graduation. The case went before a federal court of appeals five times (twice before a panel of 12 judges), and to the U.S. Supreme Court twice. The precedent-setting case against the ACLU established the legal principle that public schools are safe when they adopt an equal access policy for graduation where students or other speakers may present either secular or religious messages, including prayer.

Public schools may also hold graduation at religious sites such as churches if the reason for doing so is religious-neutral. One such reason is that the religious venue provides a more convenient or accommodating facility than the public school. Conversely, private persons or groups may rent public school facilities to conduct privately-sponsored graduation or baccalaureate ceremonies. In privately-sponsored ceremonies, the speakers may be chosen for the express purpose of delivering prayer or religious speeches.

Speakers do not lose their rights to free speech when they approach the graduation podium. If schools tell graduates they cannot pray now, they will pay later. The National Day of Prayer recognizes that our country was founded on prayer. Public schools should respect our national heritage and obey our Constitution.

Read Liberty Counsel's Legal Memorandum on Graduation Prayer