Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Inside the ACLU's Pro-Illegal Alien Agenda

Liberty Counsel President Anita Staver recently participated in a lengthy interview on the Andrea Shea King show, with Hazelton, PA mayor Lou Barletta. The issues was the illegal alien problem in that city and the immigration crisis in America.

Andrea Shea King has posted some information on her "Radio Patriot" blog today, including the recorded interview.

There is also an important Petition to President Bush at www.libertyaction.org

Monday, August 20, 2007

CNN Presents: God's Warriors, Featuring Mathew Staver and Rev. Jerry Falwell

CNN visited Liberty Counsel, Liberty University and its School of Law recently as part of an extensive documentary regarding the effect of Christianity on politics, culture, and public life. CNN will debut "God's Warriors," a three-night documentary premiering tomorrow, which investigates three faiths: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Each faith is featured separately, from 9 to 11 pm ET, beginning with Judaism on Tuesday and ending with "God's Christian Warriors" on Thursday night.

"God's Christian Warriors" will lead off with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University, the world's largest evangelical university. Christiane Amanpour flew from London to conduct the interview, which was Rev. Falwell's last media appearance before he died on May 15.

Following Rev. Falwell are interviews with Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, and Megan and Mandy Chapman. Staver spoke about training a new a generation of lawyers, judges and policymakers to influence law and public policy from the perspective of a Christian worldview. He also spoke of Liberty Counsel's success defending religious freedom in the courts. Megan and Mandy were Liberty Counsel clients, whom Liberty Counsel successfully defended against the ACLU regarding graduation prayer. They both now attend Liberty University, and Megan is an intern with Liberty Counsel.

CNN spent eight days filming Liberty Counsel and Liberty University. One of the interviews with Dean Staver was done against the backdrop of the School of Law's unique Supreme Courtroom, where the central features reflect an exact replica of the U.S. Supreme Court.

CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour traveled to six countries on four continents with the intention of discovering how three major religions impact people's lives and the world around us. As Amanpour explains, "There are millions of people around the world who feel that their faith is being ignored - pushed aside - and they are certain they know how to make the world right. We cannot and should not ignore them. And, with this report, we've tried to explain them."

The Christian worldview animates everything we do. We are training a new generation of lawyers, judges, policymakers and world leaders to have a positive impact on law and policy. Our faith does matter. Silence and apathy are not an option. Prayer and action will change the culture for good.

Friday, August 17, 2007

California Supreme Court Considers Conflict Over State Defense Of Marriage Act

Today Liberty Counsel filed briefs at the California Supreme Court in the ongoing battle to protect marriage laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Liberty Counsel represents the Campaign for Children and Families (CCF). Opposing parties include San Francisco and several pro-homosexual groups. The California Supreme Court is expected to hold oral argument in this case early next year and could ultimately decide whether or not same-sex couples have the right to enter into same-sex "marriages."

The constitutionality of California's marriage laws was challenged more than three years ago. In February 2004 Liberty Counsel filed suit on behalf of CCF and its executive director, Randy Thomasson, to stop San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The court ruled that the mayor did not have authority to issue the licenses based upon his personal belief that the marriage laws were unconstitutional. Meanwhile, several same-sex couples and the city of San Francisco filed four separate lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the marriage laws. Those four lawsuits and Liberty Counsel's original action were consolidated and have gone through several court hearings and appeals, until finally reaching the California Supreme Court.

In this case, Liberty Counsel argues that the rights of married couples cannot be given to same-sex couples unless the California constitution is amended. California's Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2000, means that same-sex "marriages" are not legally recognized in California, whether performed in state or out of state. Any other interpretation of the Act would violate both the Full Faith and Credit Clause and the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the United States Constitution.

Marriage is a universally recognized social institution, and not even the legislature can change the meaning of the relationship. Allowing same-sex couples to claim marital rights will destroy the unique institution that forms the bedrock of every civilized society.

Read the briefs in PDF format:

Supplemental Brief

Reply Brief

Monday, August 13, 2007

Renowned Constitutional Attorney Joins Liberty Counsel's Legal Team

Steve Crampton Becomes Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel

Stephen M. Crampton has joined Liberty Counsel as Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel. Crampton previously served for several years as Chief Counsel of the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Crampton has practiced constitutional and civil rights litigation since 1993. He has served as lead counsel in numerous cases, many of which have resulted in reported decisions in state and federal district and appellate courts. In his role as a policy advisor, Crampton has assisted in drafting legislation and advising lawmakers on constitutional issues at both state and national levels.

Crampton frequently speaks around the country on current events and social issues. He has appeared as a guest on nationally televised news programs on CNN, FOX News and MSNBC. He has been quoted in major publications such as The Washington Post, The Washington Times and the National Law Journal. He has authored columns appearing on Alan Keyes' RenewAmerica.com, WorldNetDaily.com, AFA.net, and ChristianWorldviewNetwork.com, among others.

Mr. Crampton received his law degree from the University of New Mexico, where he was a member of the Law Review. He is admitted to practice law in the states of Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and New Mexico, before every federal appeals court, and the United States Supreme Court.

Steve Crampton is a terrific addition to our legal staff. It has been a pleasure to collaborate with Steve on litigation, case strategy and policy issues for many years, but it is even more exciting to actually have him join the Liberty Counsel team. His presence will strengthen our already excellent litigation team.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Candidates Court Same-Sex Couples While Most Americans Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

The Democratic presidential candidates will reach out to homosexual and lesbian voters through an upcoming televised debate scheduled for August 9 on a cable network geared toward supporters of the same-sex lifestyle.

The Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual and lesbian rights advocacy group, will host the event along with Logo, a cable network geared to the homosexual and lesbian community. Early reports indicate that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Barack Obama and John Edwards will participate in the debate in Los Angeles at 6 p.m. on August 9, which will air live on Logo.

One of the topics on the debate will be whether the candidates support same-sex marriage, adoption, civil unions and the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for homosexuals and lesbians. The candidates' positions on these issues will determine not only which candidate the homosexual and lesbian voters will support, but will provide information for the majority of Americans who reject the radical homosexual agenda and support traditional family values.

Over the past year an increasing number of Americans have recognized that same-sex marriage should not be legalized. According to the most recent national survey released by the Pew Research Center, 57% of the public oppose same-sex marriage. Last year only 51% opposed same-sex marriage. The results clearly show that opinion is shifting. More and more Americans are supporting the centuries-old definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Additionally, the results of the survey showed that the majority also oppose so-called "civil unions," which is merely a different way of giving same-sex couples the benefits of marriage under a different name. The number of supporters for civil unions, which would give same-sex couples many of the same rights and benefits as married couples, dropped to 45%, the lowest it has been since 2003. Only 11% of the public say that same-sex couple parenting is good for society, while 50% say it is bad for society. The survey results are found in an 88-page Pew Research Center report that compiled interviews of over 2,000 randomly chosen adult participants.

Public support for traditional marriage will continue to grow as more Americans realize that the institution of marriage is the bedrock of our society and is necessary to support the healthy development of this Nation's families. Same-sex marriage is a misnomer. Rather than being a variant of marriage, it is the deconstruction of marriage and will unravel the family.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Judge Forces Idaho To Fund Estrogen Treatment for Man Who Thinks He Is A Woman

Federal district Judge Mikel Williams ruled on Friday that the Idaho Department of Correction must provide an inmate with estrogen therapy. The judge will consider continuing treatment when the issue goes to trial. The inmate believes that he is a woman trapped in a man's body. The man, who castrated himself using a disposable razor blade while in prison, demanded female hormone therapy. He also changed his name from Randall Gammett to Jenniffer Spencer. The man is serving a 10-year sentence for escape and possession of a stolen car.

After prison officials refused estrogen therapy, but instead offered testosterone therapy to replace the hormones lost to castration, the inmate sued, alleging he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment and other constitutional violations.

State officials said the inmate was in prison for several years before demanding treatment. In 2004, he survived an attempted suicide. Two months later he tried to castrate himself, failing in the first attempt but later succeeding. He was diagnosed with an unspecified sexual disorder and bipolar disorder.

Liberty Counsel is a nationwide legal organization with experience in litigation of transsexual legal issues. In June 2004, Liberty Counsel won a case on behalf of a Florida woman against the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented a woman who, after watching an MTV program and so-called "sex reassignment surgery," changed her name from Margo to Michael, began testosterone treatment, and then had a total mastectomy and hysterectomy. This person then wanted to be considered "male" for purposes of Florida's marriage laws. Although a trial court judge wrote an 809-page opinion claiming that gender is primarily a "state of mind," Liberty Counsel got the ruling overturned on appeal. The appeals court ruled that "the common meaning of male and female . . . [refers] to immutable traits determined at birth."

Hormones and plastic surgery do not change a person's sex, which is an immutable trait fixed at birth. Plastic surgery and hormone treatment to alter a person's sexual appearance is no more warranted than is liposuction for an anorexic. The state should not be compelled to fund so-called sex reassignment surgery, especially when such treatment is not widely accepted, is experimental, and has not been shown to resolve the disturbed mental behavior.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

School District Faces Federal Lawsuit for Stonewalling Religious Club

Today Liberty Counsel filed a federal lawsuit against the Gadsden City School District on behalf of Child Evangelism Fellowship of Alabama (CEF) and its director, Ed Solomon, because of the district's discriminatory treatment of CEF. The lawsuit asks that the district be required to treat CEF clubs on an equal basis with secular groups that have used school facilities. CEF staff made several written and oral requests to Gadsden City School Superintendent Rob Russell for a meeting about the club, but the superintendent refused to discuss the issue.

The district policy states that "organizations devoted to instruction of children or well-being of the community" shall be permitted to use district facilities so long as the applicant obtains permission from the principal and the superintendent. The policy does not contain any timelines, procedures or other free speech safeguards that are required by the Constitution.

District facilities have been used by various secular groups including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Junior Achievement, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Cub Scouts. In July 2004, CEF applied to meet after school with Bob Russell, the superintendent. The superintendent did not respond and refused to return calls. CEF then sent another written request in August 2005, and the superintendent ignored the request and refused to return phone calls. In September 2006, CEF send a third written request and made repeated phone calls to Mr. Russell, and he refused to meet with CEF representatives. He also refused to respond to emails. Earlier this year, CEF contacted Liberty Counsel for assistance. Even after Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to Mr. Russell and the school board members, the district did not respond.

Good News Clubs are a free, nationwide, after-school program for children between the ages of five and twelve. At the meetings, trained CEF teachers present lessons from the Bible and teach children character development, moral values, interpersonal skills and respect for authority.

Liberty Counsel has been successful in helping CEF fight discrimination against Good News Clubs all across America. Many issues are solved without litigation, but Liberty Counsel does not hesitate to sue when school officials are unwilling to abide by the Constitution.

The history of this case illustrates why the policies affecting speech must have specific criteria and time limits, so that government officials are precluded from censoring speech by inaction or delay. Good News Clubs teach morals and character development from a Christian viewpoint, and they have been profoundly effective in changing the lives of young children for the better. Good News Clubs are good for students and good for schools. Public schools should be begging Child Evangelism Fellowship to start Good News Clubs.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Lawsuit Causes County To Reverse Course And Allow Religious Flyers in Parks

Yesterday, in response to a federal lawsuit filed by Liberty Counsel, Orange County officials agreed to not prohibit Shirley Snyder from distributing religious literature in the public parks. Liberty Counsel filed the lawsuit on July 20, after Snyder was stopped in Cypress Grove Park from passing out tracts about Jesus and a flyer announcing a church service.

A park official filed an affidavit in federal court yesterday stating, "If Shirley Snyder would like to distribute leaflets or other printed matter within Orange County Parks, she may do so within normal park hours of operation without prior approval from Orange County." The affidavit also showed that the Orange County Board of County Commissioners amended the Orange County Parks and Recreation Division's Rules and Regulations yesterday by removing the restrictions against literature distribution in the public parks. The former rules were unconstitutional because they required prior approval of the literature by the county.

The first hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for August 17 at 9:30 a.m. before Judge John Antoon II at the federal courthouse in Orlando. Although the County has agreed to allow Snyder to distribute literature in the parks in the future, the new policy does not undo the damage caused by the County's original literature ban. An opportunity lost is an opportunity that can never be regained.

The First Amendment guarantees that public parks and sidewalks in America will remain free and open to expression. Orange County should have known better than to ban religious literature from our public parks. Government officials have a responsibility to educate themselves about constitutional rights, so they don't have to learn their civics lessons in court.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sixty Groups Decry Judiciary Committee's Inaction On Judicial Nominees

Yesterday a coalition of about 60 groups, including Liberty Counsel, delivered a letter to each member of the Senate Judiciary Committee urging them to make sure "each and every judicial nominee is given a hearing and is reported out of committee for consideration by the full Senate in a timely manner." The letter complains that the lack of progress by the committee "has made it impossible for the Senate to fulfill its constitutional duty of advice and consent in good faith."

The letter points to evidence of the lack of action: "Five appeals court nominees - three of them waiting to fill vacancies declared 'judicial emergencies' - and 14 district court nominees are languishing in the Judiciary Committee. Four additional appeals court nominations have just been announced. Several nominees have been waiting for more than a year for the committee to do its job."

The groups also decry the fact that some "nominees are being subjected to obstruction borne of partisan politics" and cite as a prime example the "ugly campaign of character assassination" against Judge Leslie Southwick, who sat for 12 years on the Mississippi Court of Appeals. Judge Southwick is a well-qualified Iraq War veteran nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The letter states that "broken promises and personal attacks on nominees that have accompanied this inaction - as well as the unfairness of denying qualified nominees a fair up-or-down vote by the full Senate - only add to the public perception that your committee is not living up to its responsibilities." The letter concludes by requesting that Judiciary Committee members accomplish the necessary tasks "by putting statesmanship above politics and special interests."

Our judicial system is far too important to fall victim to partisan politics. The federal court system desperately needs more good judges, but many well-qualified individuals will refuse to serve rather than subject themselves to the whims and endless delays of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In order to administer justice in the courts, we need judges. It is time for the Senate Judiciary Committee to set aside partisan politics and begin serving the public.

A copy of the letter is posted on Liberty Counsel's website at www.LC.org/news.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Liberty Counsel Sues Florida County For Banning Religious Flyers in a Public Park

Liberty Counsel filed a federal lawsuit today against Orange County, Florida for prohibiting a woman from distributing flyers to people in a public park inviting them to an Easter service at her church. Liberty Counsel represents Shirley Snyder in a lawsuit requesting the federal court to enjoin Orange County from violating Snyder's right to freedom of speech and religion so that she can distribute religious literature in the public park.

On April 1, Snyder was at Cypress Grove Park in Orange County inviting people to an Easter service scheduled for the following Sunday at Orlando Baptist Church. She also distributed pocket-size tracts about Jesus Christ. Snyder was told by a county employee who worked in the park that she must stop passing out the literature because it was illegal to do so.

Snyder spoke with the park supervisor, who gave her a copy of the Parks and Recreation Department Rules and Regulations. The supervisor told her not to distribute literature again until she followed the rules and regulations which required permission to distribute literature in public parks. The supervisor told her to submit a copy of the literature along with a written request containing the specific days she wishes to hand out literature and the means of distribution. A committee would review her request and grant or deny permission.

The county's rules violate Snyder's constitutionally protected right to free expression. Of all places, speech in public parks is highly protected, both by history and by the courts.

Synder has traditionally distributed religious literature during the Easter season. In April, 1993, Snyder wanted to distribute literature at the Orlando International Airport on Good Friday, but the airport required a lengthy application process, onerous identification requirements and liability insurance. Liberty Counsel filed suit against the airport and obtained a restraining order against the airport and gained Snyder the right to distribute the literature. The airport changed its policy as a result of the suit.

In America, we do not need permission from a government committee prior to mechanically handing a flyer to a willing recipient in a public park. The government cannot create speech-free zones in public parks. Protecting private religious expressing was the motivating factor behind the First Amendment. The voice of freedom is most at home in public parks.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hate Crimes Amendment Sneaks Into Senate Defense Reauthorization Bill

Washington, DC - The so-called "hate crimes" legislation took a new form yesterday when Senators Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) introduced the controversial amendment to a Defense Reauthorization bill. This move will could push senators to vote on the issue as early as this week.

Introduced as the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Kennedy amendment is one of more than 100 amendments attached to the Defense Reauthorization bill. An ABC 20/20 investigation showed that the Matthew Shepard murder, portrayed by activists as a hate crime because Shepard was homosexual, was in fact a bungled robbery that had nothing to do with Shepard's homosexuality.

Hate crimes laws are actually "thought crimes" laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience and subject individuals to scrutiny of their beliefs rather than focusing on a person's criminal actions. Hate crimes laws will have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior. Evidence of a person's beliefs will be used against any individuals who are even suspected of committing a crime. In a debate on a similar bill that passed the House in May, Rep. Artur Davis, who supported the bill, admitted that under this law a minister could be charged with the crime of incitement if the minister preached that homosexuality is a serious sin and a person in the congregation left church and committed a crime against a homosexual. Liberty Counsel has published a legal memo that explains the dangers of hate crimes legislation.

The White House called this bill "unnecessary" and "constitutionally questionable," pointing out that "State and local criminal laws already provide criminal penalties for the violence addressed by the new Federal crime." President Bush has promised to veto the bill.
Hate Crimes legislation that includes sexual orientation is bad law because it criminalizes speech and does nothing to prevent violent crimes. All crimes are motivated by hate. Hate Crimes laws will not be used to punish the perpetrator, but will be used to silence people of faith, religious groups, clergy, and those who support traditional moral values.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Supreme Court Ruling on Faith-Based Initiatives

Washington, DC - Today, the United States Supreme Court in a 5 to 4 decision, rejected a challenge by a radical separationist advocacy group that sued to stop federal funding of "faith-based programs." The case of Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation challenged funding for federal faith-based programs as a violation of the Establishment Clause. Justice Alito read the Court's opinion which held that taxpayers cannot challenge actions of the Executive Branch as violations of the Establishment Clause.
In 2002 President Bush established a Faith Based and Community Initiatives Plan to award grants intended to connect faith-based programs and grassroots community organizations to the United States' One-Stop Career System. This program has proven to be helpful within communities nationwide, offering services such as rehabilitation programs, assistance to the homeless, and providing career services to those in need.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed a lawsuit against the director of the program, Jay Hein, claiming that federal tax dollars supporting religion was a violation of the Establishment Clause. The trial court held that FFRF lacked standing to sue, but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision reversed the order. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and ruled against FFRF, which will stop the suit from going forward.
FFRF argued that taxpayers who objected to federal funding of the faith-based programs should be allowed to sue to block such funding. Today's ruling rejecting this claim creates a precedent that the mere status of being a taxpayer does not provide grounds to object to the federal government's spending based on an alleged violation of the Establishment Clause. Had the Court ruled the other way and allowed broad taxpayer standing to challenge the disbursement of federal funds, the floodgates of litigation would be open for any taxpayer to sue the federal government by claiming any number of federal disbursements caused them to be offended.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation would like nothing more than to wield a wrecking ball across the land to demolish religious expression. The ruling by the Supreme Court is a significant setback to this organization's wrecking ball agenda.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

President Bush Vetoes Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill

Washington, D.C. - Today President George W. Bush, for the second time, vetoed an embryonic stem cell research bill. Speaking in the East Room of the White House where last year he vetoed a similar bill, President Bush stated, "I made it clear to Congress and the American people that I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line." "Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical, and it is not the only option before us," he said.
The veto ceremony was attended by patients and scientists who oppose research that involves human embryos. During the veto ceremony, President Bush also issued an executive order which directs that the Health and Human Services Department promote research into "pluripotent" stem cells. These stem cells have the potential to regenerate cell types and body tissues without use of embryonic stem cells.
In response to the veto, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) stated, "When I am president, I will lift the ban on stem cell research."
The Bush administration has correctly made a distinction between adult stem cell research, which the President supports, and embryonic stem cell research, which the President opposes. The former does not have the moral dilemma of creating life only to destroy it through research, as does the latter.
President Bush has taken a principled stand that promotes science while respecting the sanctity of human life. Science and morality are not enemies. While we must find ways to cure disease and save lives, we must never devalue human life in the process. Our first commitment must be to life, because without the right to life, all other rights are illusory. The President has always maintained the proper balance between science and morality.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Supreme Court Says States Can Require Unions To Obtain Consent From Workers Before Funding Politics

Washington, DC - The United States Supreme Court ruled today that states can require labor unions to obtain consent before spending mandatory fees collected from nonmembers for election-related purposes. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the unanimous opinion in the case of Davenport v. Washington Education Association.
The Court held that because a public-employee union collects the nonmember funds only with the affirmative approval of the State of Washington, the state can place a condition on the collection of funds from state employees who are not members of the union.
Traditionally, the burden has been put on workers to object to the union's spending. Workers have a First Amendment right to object to political spending, entitling them to a refund of a portion of their dues. A Washington state voter-approved initiative was passed to require the unions to obtain approval from the fee payer instead of requiring the fee payer to request a refund from the union. The 70,000-member state teachers' union vigorously objected to the law.
The law in the State of Washington has since been changed by the state's Democrat-controlled legislature and governor and, again, makes the nonmembers request a refund. However, the principles of this ruling will impact other states that may decide to pass similar laws. It will also refuel the debate about the problem of compulsory unionism and the First Amendment issues raised by forcing workers to support unions in order to enter a chosen profession.
This case illustrates the audacity of some union leaders who argued they have a constitutional right to extract money from employees to pay for their political objectives. Unions cannot advance their liberal political agendas by extorting wages from employees. An employee should not be forced to fund objectionable ideological causes as a prerequisite to earning a living.

Child Evangelism Fellowship Overcomes Unfair Discrimination At County Fair

Caldwell, ID - The Canyon County Fair & Festival Board has reversed its decision to add unconstitutional restrictions to Child Evangelism Fellowship of Idaho's (CEF) use of fair exhibit space. Shortly after Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter, the Board agreed to allow CEF to continue its tradition of face painting and sharing literature and a Christian message to children at the fair, which will be held July 26-30. The Board has now provided a new contract for CEF that will allow the ministry to operate a booth at the fair without the discriminatory restrictions.
For the past decade, CEF has distributed trinkets, literature, and offered free face painting to children at the fair. When CEF applied for a booth earlier this year, the Board refused to allow CEF to serve children unless parents were also present. Fair director Rosalie Moore told Bob Smith, the state director for CEF, that the restriction was based on the religious materials and presentations of CEF. The only other vendor at the fair with a similar restriction was Gideon International, the other exhibitor presenting a message with a religious viewpoint.
Liberty Counsel intervened on behalf of CEF by sending a demand letter, pointing out that the restrictions were a violation of CEF's right to freedom of speech. The Board's attorney responded, promising a new contract for CEF to specifically allow face painting and exclude any restrictions based on religious viewpoints. Liberty Counsel also stated in the letter that applying the same restrictions to Gideon International was also unconstitutional, and the Board agreed to also lift the restrictions from that group.
CEF is an international, nonprofit organization which has been in existence for over seventy years and is currently in 157 countries. CEF sponsors Good News Clubs, an after-school enrichment program for elementary-age students, as well as a number of other outreach activities designed to teach biblical principles, moral values, character qualities, and respect for authority.
A barrier based on the religious viewpoint of groups seeking access to government-sponsored events like county fairs violates the right to freedom of speech. Whether the government bans a group from a fair because of the group's religious views or imposes discriminatory restrictions based on religion, the outcome is the same - the Constitution is violated. Instead of imposing restrictions, the government should welcome Child Evangelism Fellowship's positive messages of respect, morality and character development.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

School District Learns That Religious Discrimination In Sports Is Out-Of-Bounds

Buckner, KY - On Monday, the North Oldham County School District reversed a decision that discriminated against junior Kim Osborne because of her religion, after receiving a demand letter from Liberty Counsel. In a letter to Superintendent Paul S. Upchurch, Liberty Counsel explained how a volleyball coach's denial of Kim's request to miss practice to attend a Christian youth event violated the First Amendment.
Kim had attempted to get approval from Coach Brian Jones in January to miss practice, a full six months before a Lutheran Church National Youth Gathering. Coach Jones he said he would speak with another coach about the situation. Believing that the coach would accommodate her request, Kim raised money for the gathering, paid for registration and purchased a plane ticket before she learned recently that if she missed practice, she would be thrown off the volleyball team.
Coach Jones told the three-year team veteran that summer practice was absolutely mandatory and refused to excuse her for the event. However, he allowed two other players to miss a week of summer practice to attend the Governor's Scholars Program, a Kentucky program to encourage future civic and economic leaders. Kim was told to choose between her place on the team or her trip to the Christian event that only takes place once every three years. Karen Osborne, Kim's mother, contacted Liberty Counsel for assistance.
Now that the school district has agreed to grant Kim the same accommodation given to her teammates who miss for nonreligious reasons, she is free to attend the Christian event without losing her place on the volleyball team.
Students do not have to choose between their faith and participation in sports. If a school can accommodate students who need to attend secular events, then failure to accommodate attendance at religious events is unconstitutional.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Liberty Counsel and Campaign for California Families Defend Marriage in CA

San Francisco, CA - Today, on behalf of Campaign for California Families, Liberty Counsel filed a 93-page brief at the California Supreme Court in defense of the state's marriage laws. The brief urges the California Supreme Court to uphold the centuries-old institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Liberty Counsel has filed its brief only days after the California legislature voted on two bills that would deconstruct marriage. The California Assembly passed AB 43, which would permit same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses. Meanwhile, the California Senate passed SB 11, which would grant marriage benefits to unmarried heterosexual couples. Such benefits are already available to same-sex couples since the passage of AB 205. AB 43 is the second time the legislature has tried to institute same-sex "marriage" in direct contradiction to the will of California voters, who in 2000 overwhelmingly passed Proposition 22, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The legislature has no authority to pass laws authorizing same-sex marriage because they contravene Prop 22, which was passed by the people in a statewide vote.
Prop 22, which affirms the institution of marriage, is the subject of the case presently before the California Supreme Court. Liberty Counsel's brief filed today asks the Court to uphold marriage, which is recognized "as a social institution based upon the biological and social facts of human sexuality and reproduction, which are what enable society to continue." For more than 150 years, the California Supreme Court has recognized that "marriage is the institution upon which the structure of society is built." Nothing in the last 150 years has changed that reality.
Marriage between one man and one woman is the foundation of society. Procreation and the best interest and well-being of children are sound reasons to support traditional marriage. Same-sex relationships can neither create nor prepare future generations like opposite-sex couples. Marriage stabilizes opposite-sex relations and fosters an environment that is in the best interest of children. Deconstructing marriage to include same-sex relationships will damage children and severely impact future generations.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Law that Booted Churches from Commercial Zones Gets the Boot

Washburn, WI - The City Council of Washburn, Wisconsin, voted to repeal its zoning ordinance, which violated the First Amendment and federal law, to eliminate discriminatory restrictions on churches. The ordinance previously prohibited any church from locating on commercial property, even though the code permitted other nonreligious public assemblies within the same commercial districts.
The change in Washburn was made as a result of Chequamegon Community Fellowship's attempt to purchase a commercial building earlier this year. Pastor David Johnson had to cut short negotiations to purchase property on which to build the church when he was informed by the city that churches were prohibited in the commercial district.
The week before a crucial meeting of the City Planning Commission, church officials contacted Liberty Counsel for assistance. After reviewing the ordinance, Liberty Counsel concluded that the city code violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), as well as the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. As a result, a presentation to the City Planning Commission was prepared that requested the illegal restriction not be applied. The Commission unanimously voted to recommend that the City Council change the ordinance and allow churches within the commercial district. Now, the Council has formally passed the recommended amendment and removed the illegal zoning restriction.
Local governments may not establish 'church-free' zones. Historically, churches have been viewed as a benefit to society. Churches not only nourish the human soul, they also provide for many daily needs of the community. Local governments must allow churches to minister in every zoning district in order to reach the people.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Zoning Ordinance That Banned Churches Rescinded Following Lawsuit

Titusville, PA - Following a federal lawsuit by Liberty Counsel on behalf of Lighthouse Christian Center, the City Council of Titusville, Pennsylvania, has now voted to modify its zoning ordinance to eliminate a discriminatory zoning provision that prohibited any church from locating in a commercial district.
Until last summer, Lighthouse was located in a nearby town in a small building with no sewer or running water. The church outgrew the facility and then secured an opportunity to lease within Titusville's C-1 commercial zone. The Titusville zoning code did not allow churches, but permitted theaters, clubs, lodges, bars and amusements in its commercial districts. Lighthouse was forced outside the city of Titusville, where it rented a temporary building that lacks heat and insulation.
Following settlement of Liberty Counsel's lawsuit and the passage of this new ordinance, Lighthouse moved to a downtown facility where it can operate its outreach program, which will include a Christian bookstore, television ministry, outreach to teens, and church services.
Liberty Counsel sued the city on behalf of Lighthouse in July 2006, alleging that the city's "church-free" zoning ordinance violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The city settled the lawsuit for violations of RLUIPA and the United States Constitution by agreeing to allow the church to locate downtown, amending its code and paying attorney's fees.
We are pleased that local governments are getting the message that churches are not second-class property owners. The First Amendment and federal law both provide that churches and houses of worship should receive equal, if not preferential, treatment to other similar zoning uses. Churches are not orphans to any zoning district.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

LC Asks Supreme Court To Apply Federal DOMA to Protect Parental Rights

Yesterday Liberty Counsel filed a Petition with the United States Supreme Court, asking the Court to resolve a nationwide split in opinions between various state courts concerning the parental rights of fit, biological parents over unrelated third parties. The Petition asks the Court to reconcile two federal laws, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA).
This case concerns the right of Lisa Miller, the fit, biological mother of a five-year-old daughter, to decide that Janet Jenkins, who has no biological or adoptive relationship to Lisa's daughter, should not be declared a parent to Lisa's child. Janet, Lisa's former same-sex partner, has had no regular contact since the child was seventeen months old. The Petition asks the Supreme Court to review the Virginia Court of Appeals' decision that Virginia must enforce a Vermont order declaring Janet a parent of Lisa's biological child.
DOMA allows states to reject parentage and custody orders arising from same-sex relationships, while PKPA requires states to give full faith and credit to another state's custody orders. DOMA should trump PKPA because it was enacted later. A key issue addressed in the Petition is the constitutional right of a fit, biological parent to decide whether a legal stranger should be given parental rights over a biological parent's child.
Lisa Miller is represented by Mathew D. Staver, and law professor Rena Lindevaldsen, who is of counsel with Liberty Counsel.
The Federal Defense of Marriage Act was designed to protect state sovereignty. One state, like Vermont, Massachusetts or California, must not be allowed to force other states to accept same-sex relationships. A child should not be forced to accept an unrelated third party as a parent, when the child already has a suitable biological parent.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Student-Initiated Prayer and Youth Minister Allowed at Graduation After All

Omaha, AR - Two members of the Omaha High School senior class, chosen by their classmates to open and close their graduation ceremony on Friday, were initially told by school administrators not to pray. School administrators similarly nixed a youth ministry leader selected by the students as the commencement speaker but changed course after the involvement of Liberty Counsel.
After school administrators announced there would be a problem with student prayer and a speaker with a religious vocation at graduation, Kendon Underwood, vice president of Omaha High's senior class, contacted Liberty Counsel to challenge the opposition seniors were facing from school officials. The students were told their opening and closing remarks could not consist of a student-initiated and student-led prayer, despite the unanimous approval of the senior class. They were also told their choice of Harrison K-Life director David Griffith to speak was unacceptable because K-Life is a Christian ministry and he might use graduation to speak about religious topics.
Liberty Counsel demanded the school district reverse that position, citing the First Amendment's prohibition on viewpoint discrimination and government censorship of free speech. The school district's attorney responded by denying the allegations and assuring Liberty Counsel that the students could pray but insisting the superintendent had the right to decide there would be no speaker at graduation. Liberty Counsel, now representing Underwood and Griffith, refused to accept the compromise solution of prayer but no speaker. The school district relented and allowed the student-initiated prayer and the student-selected speaker. Underwood gave an invocation and Griffith's remarks included references to his heroes, including Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesus Christ, and encouraged the graduates to do worthwhile things that mattered because their lives are valuable gifts from God.
It is a shame that school officials continue to make it difficult for students to commemorate their graduations with an acknowledgement of God. Rather than being an alien to the Constitution, religious speech is a preeminent freedom.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Tribute to Our Friend and Pastor, Jerry Falwell

Lynchburg, VA - It is with sadness and a deep sense of loss we report that Rev. Jerry Falwell passed away this morning while working in his office at Liberty University. News reports cannot begin to explain the tremendous impact this great man of vision had on his family, his community, the Nation and indeed, the world. God abundantly blessed Rev. Falwell with over 50 years of ministry at Thomas Road Baptist Church and 36 years at the helm of Liberty University.
Rev. Falwell loved God and he loved people. His convictions in biblical principles were matched by the depth of his compassion for people. He made you feel like you were the most important person in a room, even though it was filled with dignitaries. He cared for each person and he loved the students at Liberty University.
We have never known a man who had so many important obligations and commitments and yet who always had time for people. As pastor of a mega-church with a myriad of ministries, too many to mention, Chancellor of the world's largest evangelical university, founder of several national parachurch ministries, husband, father and grandfather, he always took time to stop and greet people with a genuine smile, a firm handshake (or sometimes a friendly punch in the rib cage) and a deep voice filled with wisdom and uncanny insight.
Only hours ago we were working on the final agenda for this week's graduation and hooding ceremony for Liberty University School of Law. He was looking forward to addressing the first graduating class of the law school. The School of Law was part of Rev. Falwell's vision when he founded the University in 1971. Launched in August 2004, this Saturday, May 19, 2007, marks another milestone in the history of the university, with the inaugural graduation. While he will not be physically present for this milestone event, he no doubt will be rejoicing in Heaven.
Rev. Falwell's legacy will live on in the millions of people he touched, and his vision will carry on through his family and the graduates of Liberty University. While we are missing a beloved pastor, leader and friend, his family is missing a beloved husband, father and grandfather. Our prayers are with his wife, Macel, his children, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Jonathan Falwell, and Jeannie Falwell Savas, and his grandchildren.

Monday, May 14, 2007

ACLU Cannot Force School District to Censor Seniors at Louisiana Graduation

Ouachita, LA - The graduating seniors at the six high schools in the Ouachita Parish School District voted to have a fellow student give a message during this week's graduation ceremonies. Up in arms over the possibility the students will include religious themes or prayer at graduation, the ACLU issued a letter accusing the district of "trying to do an end-run around the Constitution with the so-called student-led prayers."
The ACLU wants the district to censor prayer and religious messages from graduation, even if presented by students. The Louisiana chapter of the ACLU has intentionally ignored the distinction between school-sponsored prayer as contrasted with prayer or religious speech that is solely the decision of the students. In Adler v. Duval County School Board, Liberty Counsel successfully defended, against the ACLU, a graduation policy governing student speech. The school district implemented the legal principle established in the Adler case and, therefore, permits students to determine whether they want a fellow student to present a message. If so, the elected student is then permitted to present a message of his or her own choice.
Mathew D. Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, was the lead counsel who successfully defended against the ACLU in the Adler case. The case went to the trial court twice, the federal court of appeals five times (twice before a panel of 12 judges) and to the U.S. Supreme Court twice. This case recognized that public schools are safe when they adopt an equal access policy for graduation, where students or other speakers are permitted to present a secular or religious message of their choice.
Liberty Counsel's "Friend or Foe" Graduation Prayer Campaign seeks to educate and, if necessary, litigate to ensure that prayer and religious views are not suppressed during graduation.
As long as there are graduations, there will be times when prayer and religious messages are part of the ceremonies. Religious viewpoints cannot be excluded from graduation ceremonies. When the message is the choice of the student or the speaker, religious viewpoints, including prayer, are permissible. The ACLU is wrong – schools must not censor private religious speech from graduation."

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

School District Ordered to Pay Damages for

Greenville, SC - The Anderson School District has been ordered by a federal appeals court to pay $99,776.74 in attorney's fees and costs for censoring Child Evangelism Fellowship. The court ruled in a unanimous 3-0 opinion, in Child Evangelism Fellowship v. Anderson School District Five, that the South Carolina school district violated CEF's constitutional rights by charging the group a fee while allowing other groups to use district facilities at no cost. Liberty Counsel represents CEF of South Carolina, which sponsors after-school "Good News Clubs" in elementary schools.
CEF was charged a fee to use school facilities, although the district waived fees whenever deemed "in the best interest of the district." Fees were waived for the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, Students Against Destructive Decisions, the local Democratic Party, and a host of other groups, but no waiver was extended to the Good News Clubs. After filing suit, the district changed its policy and sought to "grandfather" free use to the previously authorized groups.
The appeals court ruled the district policy unconstitutional, stating that "government may not bar religious perspectives on otherwise permitted subjects ... [and] communities of faith may not be arbitrarily excluded from the protections of the Free Speech Clause ... Government need not fear an Establishment Clause violation from allowing religious groups to speak under the same reasonable, viewpoint-neutral terms as other private parties ... In sum, speech is not to be selectively permitted or proscribed according to official preference." This case represents a significant legal precedent, because it requires speech-restrictive policies to contain clear standards to prevent government officials from engaging in viewpoint discrimination, much like the case law that has developed to govern prior restraints on speech.
Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, who argued the case on appeal after breaking his hand in an automobile accident a few hours before, stated: "This decision marks the end of a three-year battle to preserve Child Evangelism Fellowship's constitutional rights. The court of appeals hit the bull's-eye. School officials should take notice. Equal access is the law, and equal access means equal treatment in every respect. Good News Clubs teach respect, morality and character development. Instead of hassling Good News Clubs, schools should embrace the clubs. These clubs make a positive difference in the lives of children.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Annual "Friend or Foe" Graduation Prayer Campaign Finishes Fifth Successful Season

On May 7, 2007, Liberty Counsel announced its fifth annual "Friend or Foe" Graduation Prayer Campaign. On the website www.LC.org is a detailed legal memorandum that has been used to successfully defend students' right to have voluntary, student-initiated prayer at graduation ceremonies all across the nation. Liberty Counsel seeks to educate and, if necessary, litigate to ensure that prayer and religious viewpoints are not censored from public school graduations. Two examples of this season's successes include:

School administrators at West Morris Mendham High School in Chester, New Jersey, planned to censor the song "The Lord Bless You And Keep You," from the June 26th graduation program until Liberty Counsel intervened on behalf of choir member Lauren Ide. The students and parents at the school were upset that the song, which was traditionally a part of the program, was being banned. After Liberty Counsel issued a demand letter, school district officials decided to allow the choir to sing the song at graduation.

Two Omaha High School seniors in Omaha, Arkansas, were initially told by school administrators not to pray at their May 18th graduation. The school also nixed a youth ministry leader who was selected by the students as the commencement speaker. After involvement of Liberty Counsel on behalf of class vice president Kendon Underwood, the students were allowed to pray and to have their chosen graduation speaker.

This year many students began wearing Liberty Counsel's red "I WILL PRAY" wristbands as a reminder to pray all year round, not just at graduation.

Students and invited speakers do not shed their constitutional rights when they step up to the graduation podium. School officials should neither command students to pray nor prohibit them from praying. When in doubt, remain neutral and allow the speaker to present a message of his or her own choice.

Impact of Annual "Friend or Foe" Graduation Prayer Campaign Continues to Grow

Orlando, FL - The launch of Liberty Counsel's "Friend or Foe" Graduation Prayer Campaign is being announced again this year by Mathew Staver, the Founder of Liberty Counsel and the Dean of Liberty University School of Law, and Dr. Jerry Falwell, the Founder and Chancellor of Liberty University. Liberty Counsel seeks to educate and, if necessary, litigate to ensure that prayer and religious views are not suppressed during graduation ceremonies across the Nation.
Last year Liberty Counsel represented Megan Chapman, a graduating senior in Russell Springs, Kentucky, who found herself the subject of a court order obtained just before graduation by the ACLU. The order said she could not pray during her graduation message, although she was chosen as class chaplain. But the lawsuit generated more, not less, prayer. During the ceremony the entire senior class rose and recited the Lord's Prayer. Then Megan stepped to the podium and told her classmates what God had done for her and shared her faith in Him. After hearing about the situation through Liberty Counsel, Dr. Falwell offered both Megan and her twin sister Mandy full scholarships to attend Liberty University. Megan is finishing her first year of college at Liberty University, where she volunteers at Liberty Counsel's Virginia office. After graduation, she now plans to attend Liberty University School of Law.
As part of this year's Graduation Prayer Campaign, Liberty Counsel has created red prayer wristbands which students can wear as a reminder to pray at graduation and all throughout the school year. The wristbands are embossed with "I WILL PRAY" and "PRAY WITHOUT CEASING - I THESS. 5:17." Students have the constitutional right to wear religious jewelry and to pray during noninstructional times while at school. Liberty Counsel also has a free legal memo on graduation prayer which is available online at www.LC.org.
In order to receive federal funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, every local school district must certify that it is not engaging in any policy or practice which interferes with constitutionally protected prayer. Schools may lose federal funds if they fail to comply with the guidelines.
The purpose of Liberty Counsel's 'Friend or Foe' Graduation Prayer Campaign is to protect religious viewpoints at graduation. Liberty Counsel will be the friend of schools that recognize the free speech rights of students and the foe of those that violate their constitutional rights. The key to graduation prayer is that the school should remain neutral - neither commanding nor prohibiting voluntary prayer or religious viewpoints."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

School District Reverses Suspensions Against Students Who Were Praying

********The students will begin praying today, May 1, which is significant
for some of the Russian immigrant students, as this is "May Day,"
the day the former Communist Soviet Union celebrated Communism

Vancouver, WA - Twelve Heritage High School students, who were suspended in March for praying together in the large commons area of their cafeteria, have been vindicated. Liberty Counsel represented several of the students in an appeal of the suspensions to the Evergreen School District. As a result, the suspensions will be purged from their files and there will be no negative impact on their academic records.

The District has also agreed to recognize the students' right to pray in the cafeteria when other students are gathered there before school. The cafeteria commons area is a large area that will easily accommodate groups as large as 20 students without blocking access for other students. In addition, the students will be provided a room to start a club.

The students will begin praying today, May 1, which is significant for some of the Russian immigrant students who were suspended, as this is "May Day," the day the former Communist Soviet Union celebrated Communism.

A few weeks before their suspension, the students tried to start a prayer club to meet before school, but they met with resistance from Vice Principal Alex Otoupal. Since the students understood that the school would not permit a club, they decided to gather together as individuals in the cafeteria before school to pray, but they were sent outside in the cold by the vice principal after one Satanist student complained to school officials. After the students insisted on praying in the cafeteria, they were suspended.
Students have the constitutional right to gather together to pray before school, just as they can gather to discuss sports, music or movies. In these days of discord and violence, schools should know better than to ban students from praying. What a terrible message would have been sent to these students, some of whom immigrated from the Communist Soviet Union. Now they have learned that one person can make a difference in America when standing up for religious freedom."

Monday, April 30, 2007

Supreme Court Sidesteps Conflict Between States Over Same-Sex Unions

Washington, DC - Today the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to take one of the many facets of a complicated legal battle between Virginia and Vermont over same-sex unions and the right of fit, biological parents against unrelated third parties. The case is Miller v. Jenkins. Liberty Counsel represents Lisa Miller.
Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins entered into a Vermont civil union while residents of Virginia. Lisa gave birth to her minor child through artificial insemination from an anonymous donor, but the relationship ended when Janet became abusive and Lisa became a Christian. The Vermont Supreme Court granted parental rights to Janet, who continues in her lesbian lifestyle. However, in Virginia, where Lisa resides, the state law and constitutional amendment do not recognize any rights associated with same-sex marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships.
The Court was asked to review one of the rulings in the battle between Vermont and Virginia. Specifically, the Court was asked to review a Vermont Supreme Court decision that extended parental rights to Janet Jenkins over the objections of Lisa Miller, the fit, biological parent.
In deciding not to take the matter, the Court did not rule on the merits of the case. The case is still pending at the Vermont trial court, following the ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court. Once the trial court rules on visitation and custody, the case will go back to the Vermont Supreme Court and another petition will then be filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the High Court also has before it another petition of a ruling from the Virginia Court of Appeals. At the same time, the case is also currently pending before the Virginia Supreme Court.
The clash between Vermont and Virginia illustrates the need for protection, so that one state is not forced to accept same-sex unions from another state. This case will soon return to the High Court. Same-sex advocates are using children to further their agenda. The agenda is self-centered. That is sad, because children are not political fodder.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

School Agrees To Let Third Grader Perform Christian Song In Talent Show

Portland, OR - The administration at Mount Scott Elementary School has allowed third grader Kelli Bobst to perform a Christian song she selected for a school talent show, after initially denying her request. A letter to school officials from Liberty Counsel quickly resolved the issue after Kelli's mother, Karen Bobst, asked for assistance.
The situation arose when Kelli chose the song "God's Love Is For You" to audition for the talent show scheduled for April 19. The music teacher said that Kelli was not permitted to sing a Christian song unless other religions were also represented. Kelli's mother confirmed the statement with the music teacher and learned that other students had also been told that the principal would not allow them to sing Christian songs.
Karen contacted Liberty Counsel for assistance. Liberty Counsel sent a letter to the principal and to the superintendent of the North Clackamas School District, advising the school district of the constitutional principles governing student religious expression in public schools. The letter pointed out that that when the school conducts events such as talent shows, where students choose their own material, the school cannot restrict the material on the basis of the religious content. Restrictions based on religious content violate the students' constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religion.

After receiving the letter, the principal notified Kelli's mother that Kelli would be permitted to sing the song she had selected and that other students could also sing Christian songs.
At the talent show on April 19, Kelli entertained the audience with "God's Love Is For You." Another student sang "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands."
Student-initiated speech endorsing religion is fully protected by the Constitution. It is unconstitutional to eliminate Christian viewpoints from a school talent show or any other time where secular viewpoints are permitted. The free speech right of students is not that difficult to understand. Common sense and the Constitution both compel equal treatment of Christian viewpoints.

Monday, April 23, 2007

County Detention Center Avoids Lawsuit By Allowing Inmate Baptisms

In Clovis, NM after a demand letter and threat of a federal lawsuit from Liberty Counsel, the Curry County Detention Center administration reversed its position and allowed a local prison ministry to baptize six inmates in a portable baptismal pool. The warden has also agreed to allow a portable baptismal pool to be used for monthly baptisms at the detention center.
The prison ministry of the Sixteenth & Pile Church of Christ contacted Liberty Counsel for assistance after Warden Leslie Johnson and county officials refused to permit baptism by immersion at the local detention center. The ministry offered to provide a mobile baptismal tank in a secure area of the facility and to pay any additional security costs. Ministry leaders also advised the warden that a prison ministry in neighboring Portales, New Mexico, had utilized a similar procedure without incident.
Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to the warden and the county explaining that failure to allow the baptisms violated the inmates' constitutional right to free exercise of religion and also violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. The county continued to emphatically refuse to allow the baptisms, until the prison ministry warned the warden that it was serious about pursuing the matter further and advised the county that a federal lawsuit by Liberty Counsel was unavoidable.
With the high rate of recidivism, prisons are in desperate need of better ways to rehabilitate inmates and make them productive citizens. Christian conversion and faith play a key role in transforming broken lives into new beginnings. Rather than throwing up roadblocks to Christian faith and worship, prisons should welcome the positive changes that the Christian conversion brings and the role that baptism plays in the inmates making a public confession of burying the old life and being resurrected to a new life in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Practical Impact of the Supreme Court's Decision on Partial-Birth Abortion

Washington, D.C. - Roe v. Wade is on its last leg. The Supreme Court has given a roadmap for abortion regulation. First, states can pass laws requiring abortion doctors to give explicit information to potential clients about how the abortion is performed. Second, health and safety regulations that apply to other doctors need not exempt abortion doctors. Third, this case gives a shot of adrenaline to the pro-life movement which will impact the Presidential election.
The Supreme Court recognized that lack of informed consent harms women. "[S]ome women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained. . . . Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow."
In a decision so fraught with emotional consequences some doctors may prefer not to disclose precise details of the means that will be used, confining themselves to the required statement of risks the procedure entails . . . . It is, however, precisely this lack of information concerning the way in which the fetus will be killed that is of legitimate concern to the State. . . . The State has an interest in ensuring so grave a choice is well informed.
The Court has provided states with a unique opportunity to enact informed consent laws to protect the unborn and also to protect women from hasty and uninformed decisions. The abortion rate will decline when doctors are required to accurately describe the procedure to women.
The opinion also states that "the law need not give abortion doctors unfettered choice in the course of their medical practice, nor should it elevate their status above other physicians in the medical community." States are now free to pass and enforce clinic regulations matching those of other medical facilities. Oftentimes abortion clinics have been subject to fewer regulations because of the fear that such restrictions constitute an "undue burden" on the "right" to abortion.
The most important effect of the Supreme Court's partial-birth abortion decision could be the most lasting. What a difference one Justice makes! This 5-4 victory underscores the importance of electing a President who will appoint judges who uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. The pro-life community must take advantage of the opportunity to make a lasting impact on the future of this nation. If we miss this chance of a lifetime, we will die with the blood of the unborn on our hands. But if we act decisively, we will witness the demise of Roe v. Wade.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Partial-Birth Ban Upheld!

Today the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Justices Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas voted to uphold the ban on partial-birth abortion. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion and Justice Ginsberg wrote the dissent, joined by Souter, Breyer and Stevens. The Court upheld the ban, stating, "The government may use its voice and its regulatory authority to show its profound respect for the life within the woman." Justice Thomas added in a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Scalia: "I write separately to reiterate my view that the Court's abortion jurisprudence, including Casey and Roe v. Wade, has no basis in the Constitution."
Liberty Counsel filed amicus briefs in the cases considered by the Court, Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood and Gonzales v. Carhart, pointing out that Congress rightly determined that the procedure is not medically necessary to preserve the health of the mother. The Court recognized that the ban protects women from harm that can occur, stating: "It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns, only after the event, what she once did not know: that she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast developing brain of her unborn child, a child assuming the human form."
The tide is turning and the culture of life is being restored at the highest levels. What a difference one Justice can make in the battle for life! This case involves the same doctor and the same law that the Court considered several years ago, but now we have a different Court that has come to the right decision on the side of life.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Church Challenges Constitutionality of Property Tax Assessment

Panama City, FL - Circuit Court Judge Glenn Hess held a hearing this morning in a case involving the constitutionality of assessing property taxes on church property used as a pastor's residence and for other church uses. Several months after Faith Christian Family Church filed a lawsuit against Bay County Property Appraiser Rick Barnett to contest the tax assessment, Pastor Marcus Bishop retained Liberty Counsel to take over the case.
During today's hearing, Judge Hess granted Liberty Counsel's request to file an amended complaint on behalf of the church. The amended complaint points out that assessing a tax on the church parsonage violates several provisions of the United States Constitution, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), Florida's Religious Freedom Restoration Act and other state statutes.
Amending a complaint is a routine matter, typically accomplished with consent of the parties. Barnett is using a private attorney to defend this case. The attorney refused to agree that the church"s complaint could be amended, forcing Liberty Counsel to litigate the motion to amend at today"s hearing.
Church property used as a parsonage is eligible for a tax exemption throughout Florida. Bay County"s property appraiser has developed a new and unique standard for determining whether to grant tax exemptions to church property. Barnett is alone among Florida property appraisers in refusing to exempt church parsonages that are not adjacent to houses of worship. Barnett denied the church"s application for a tax exemption on its parsonage and has assessed property taxes on the property since 2004.
The church uses the parsonage not only as a residence for the pastor, but also as an extension of the church's ministry. The parsonage is used as an office for church business, for Bible study and sermon preparation, pastoral counseling sessions, church staff, committee and board meetings, church leadership training classes, church fellowship events and dinners, prayer groups and Bible studies, storage of church records, production and storage of sets and materials for its television productions and as housing for visiting ministers, speakers and out-of-town board members.
Erik Stanley, Chief Counsel of Liberty Counsel, commented: "Churches should to be able to focus on their mission, rather than worrying about the next move of their local property appraiser. This battle has broad implications for all churches in Florida. If property appraisers are allowed to decide which church property is taxable, then churches will gain exemptions only at the whim of government officials seeking more revenue. The power to tax is the power to censor, to control and ultimately to destroy."
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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gideon Bible Distribution in Public Schools

St. Louis, MO - This morning the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral argument involving Gideon Bible distribution in public schools. In Doe v. South Iron R-1 School District, federal district Judge Catherine Perry issued a preliminary injunction barring the school from allowing any outside group to offer Bibles to willing students at any time on school property, including noninstructional time. Liberty Counsel represents the District in Annapolis, Missouri, and has appealed the injunction, arguing the injunction is unconstitutional because it requires the District to discriminate only against a particular religious message - the Bible.
The South Iron R-1 School District has had a long-standing open access policy that allows many groups to present literature and information to students at District schools. The many diverse groups include the Army Corps of Engineers, Red Cross, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Iron County Health Department, Missouri Water Patrol, Missouri Highland Healthcare, and Union Pacific Railroad. In 2006, the District passed a written policy setting forth its long-standing open access policy. This policy confirms the District's intent to create a limited public forum during noninstructional time outside of the classroom.
The ACLU filed suit, seeking to prohibit the Gideons from distributing Bibles under the policy. Judge Perry issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the distribution of the Bible, which she described as an "instrument of religion." Judge Perry also ruled the open access policy unconstitutional under a novel (and unconstitutional) theory that it must allow a private third party the opportunity to veto the distribution request of the private applicant.
Erik W. Stanley, Chief Counsel of Liberty Counsel, stated, "There is no violation of the Establishment Clause when a school creates a neutral policy and allows a wide variety of groups to give literature to students. Singling out the Bible for censorship is patently unconstitutional."
The First Amendment provides that community groups must receive equal treatment under an open access policy. The Bible is not a radioactive device that harms children. Religious viewpoints are clearly protected. The ACLU might not like the fact that equal access means equal access for religious speech, but equal treatment is required by the Constitution.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Defense of State Marriage Laws Continues Before California Supreme Court

San Francisco, CA - Yesterday Liberty Counsel filed its opening brief in the California Supreme Court in the ongoing consolidated same-sex marriage cases which address the constitutionality of California's marriage laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The cases originated in February 2004 when Liberty Counsel filed suit on behalf of Campaign for California Families and its executive director, Randy Thomasson, to stop San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The California Attorney General asked the California Supreme Court to decide whether Mayor Newsom's actions were lawful, and the Court ruled that he mayor did not have the authority to issue the licenses based upon his personal belief that the marriage laws were unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, several same-sex couples and the City of San Francisco filed four separate lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the marriage laws. Those four lawsuits and Liberty Counsel's action were consolidated and heard by a Superior Court judge in San Francisco, who found the laws unconstitutional. The California Court of Appeal reversed the judge, ruling that the marriage laws are constitutional and refusing to create a new right "changing the definition of so fundamental an institution as marriage." The matter was then appealed to the California Supreme Court where briefing is now underway. The City is arguing that preserving marriage as an institution involving the union of one man and one woman discriminates against homosexuals who want to marry.
The City's argument that marriage discriminates against homosexual relationships misunderstands the purpose of marriage which is to promote stable relationships between men and women, which is the only union where national procreation can occur. It also misunderstands the importance gender in families. Gender makes a significant difference in the well being of children. The City isn't arguing for a minor change in marriage, but for a deconstruction of the institution of marriage. The essence of marriage rooted in our history has always been union of one man and one woman. We have never allowed, for good reason, a myriad of diverse human relationships united under the banner of marriage.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Federal Court Strikes Down School Policy

Syracuse, NY - On Friday a federal district court issued an opinion finding that school officials had violated a fourth grader's free speech rights by denying her request to distribute religious flyers during noninstructional time. The court also ruled that the school's literature distribution policy is unconstitutional. The student, Michaela Bloodgood, is represented by Liberty Counsel.
In 2004, when Michaela was a student at Nate Perry Elementary School in Liverpool, New York, she asked permission to give a flyer that she wrote to her friends and classmates during non-instructional time. The flyer stated: "Hi! My name is Michaela and I would like to tell you about my life and how Jesus Christ gave me a new one. I asked Him to come into my heart and save me from my sins. This is what He has done for me. 1) Jesus Christ helped my parents decide to get remarried in November and then I will get to see my Dad everyday. 2) He helped me memorize Bible verses and say them in front of my church. 3) He helped me learn piano and play psalms and hymns and sing with grace in my heart to the Lord. 4) God cared enough for me that He gave me victory over thinking about something bad that happened to me. 5) Now that I am saved, God gave me peace in my heart and the truth that I am going to heaven instead of the other place. Praise the Lord."
School officials insisted that Michaela could not distribute the flyers because of the potential for divisiveness, litter and that students might believe the school was endorsing a religious message. The school banned all literature distribution by students. Liberty Counsel's lawsuit contended that the school cannot totally ban literature distribution by students during noninstructional time, any more than it can ban verbal communication, without violating the First Amendment.
The district court opinion stated that "none of the reasons the District articulated for denying [Michaela's] request indicate more than undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance, which is not enough to overcome the right of freedom of expression." The opinion also stated that "the Court cannot say the danger that children would misperceive the endorsement of religion is any greater than the danger that they would perceive a hostility toward religion as a result of the District's denial of [Michaela's] request to distribute her flyers."

Religious speech is constitutionally protected, even in the public schools. School officials had no right to silence Michaela's personal Christian testimony. Michaela was simply attempting to express to her friends how Jesus changed her life. She has every right to express her religious views at school, and that right has been vindicated.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Police Back Away From Threats To Arrest Christians

Canon City, CO - In response to a demand letter from Liberty Counsel, the Canon City attorney issued a written response stating that its police will not arrest those who engage in constitutionally protected speech on public sidewalks within the city. Additionally, the city's chief of police issued a written warning to his officers and dispatchers stating that "individuals have an absolute right to preach and be in front of businesses as long as they are not blocking the ingress/egress of the building. We will not threaten to arrest them for disorderly conduct over a free speech matter." The police chief's warning to his officers concluded with the following words in all caps for emphasis: "USE EXTREME CAUTION AND DON'T BE DRUG INTO THE POTENTIAL OF A FEDERAL CIVIL ACTION FILED AGAINST YOU, ME AND THE CITY OF CANON CITY."
Liberty Counsel was contacted by Norman Robinovitz and Bill Phillips, two evangelists who have stood on public sidewalks talking to people about their Christian faith and handing out literature over the past seven years. On three evenings in March, after they shared their Christian faith with individuals outside of two local bars, someone called police to investigate these activities. After the third call, the men were threatened with arrest for disorderly conduct. They were told if they continued their activities they were "headed for jail time." At all times Robinovitz and Phillips were peaceful and did not amplify their voices. The complaints were obvious attempts by the bar owners and workers to prevent the evangelists from speaking to the bar patrons.
Liberty Counsel Senior Litigation Counsel David Corry sent a letter to the city of Canon City advising that discussion of one's faith, distributing literature and witnessing on public sidewalks were activities protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Liberty Counsel demanded assurances that the evangelists would not be arrested for sharing their faith and requested an immediate response.
Peaceful speech on public sidewalks is a protected activity over which opposing hecklers or political correctness have no voice. Extreme caution ought to be exercised by police officers and other government officials when their own ideologies or members of the public pressure them to silence peaceful voices in public places.

Monday, March 12, 2007

U.S. Attorney General Launches New Initiative to Protect Religious Freedom

In Washington, D.C. U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recently announced that the Department of Justice is launching an initiative to protect religious freedom called "The First Freedom Project." This new initiative focuses on increasing enforcement against religious discrimination and protecting religious freedom. Liberty Counsel, a national public interest litigation, education and policy organization, applauds the Attorney General for launching this initiative to help stop religious discrimination.
A key element of the First Freedom Project will include regional training seminars hosted by the Department of Justice (DOJ). These seminars will be for religious, community, and civil rights leaders, government officials, attorneys and others interested in religious freedom. No prior legal experience is necessary to attend these seminars.
The first three regional seminars are set for Kansas City, Missouri on March 29; Tampa, Florida on April 25; and Seattle, Washington on May 10. Each seminar will be held from 9:00 a.m. until noon. These seminars will cover religious discrimination in public schools and colleges, religious discrimination and public employees, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, public accommodation and equal access to public facilities. The First Freedom Project also has a new web site located at www.FirstFreedom.gov. For more information about the regional seminars, interested participants can call the DOJ at (202) 353-8622 or Liberty Counsel at (800) 671-1776.
I applaud Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for launching the First Freedom Project to protect religious freedom in this country. Liberty Counsel has been dedicated to protecting religious freedom since 1989. At Liberty University School of Law we are training a new generation of lawyers to protect religious freedom. Since religious freedom occupies first place in our Bill of Rights, it is obvious that the Founders realized its importance.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Liberty Counsel Defends Ten Commandments Display In Florida

In Cross City, FL Liberty Counsel has agreed to represent Dixie County in a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU, after the county permitted a local company to erect a Ten Commandments monument near the county courthouse.
The stately black granite monument, standing over five feet tall and weighing roughly six tons, was purchased by Anderson Columbia, a highway construction company. The company asked for and received permission to place the monument near the Dixie County courthouse. Anderson Columbia prides itself on community involvement and has also donated labor and materials for a track at a local high school.
The ACLU is seeking removal of the monument, damages and attorney's fees, claiming that the monument is a violation of the Establishment Clause. Liberty Counsel has represented more than a dozen displays on government property that include the Ten Commandments. Most recently, Liberty Counsel prevailed in cases at the Sixth and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeal against challenges brought by the ACLU.
In 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a 6-foot granite monument displayed on the state capitol grounds in Austin, Texas, was constitutional. Citing the Supreme Court case, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a stand-alone Ten Commandments monument in a city park, in an 11-2 ruling against the ACLU.
Dixie County is not establishing a religion by allowing a private company to place a monument in a location where similarly donated monuments may be placed. The Ten Commandments are universally recognized as symbolic of the law and are appropriate for display in courthouses and similar settings. Public display of the Commandments is consistent with our nation's history and with the First Amendment. There are more than 50 depictions of the Ten Commandments in the U.S. Supreme Court, and there have been thousands of displays throughout the country for many years.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Liberty University School of Law's Supreme Court Trial Room

Lynchburg, VA – The long anticipated unveiling of the unique Supreme Courtroom at Liberty University School of Law (LUSL) became a reality during a dedication ceremony this afternoon. The Supreme Courtroom reflects the vision of the law school, and it is designed to inspire vision in its students. The mission of LUSL is to train lawyers, judges, educators, policymakers and world leaders in the rule of law from the perspective of a Christian worldview.
The central features of the room are patterned after the United States Supreme Court. Attention to detail makes the Supreme Courtroom distinct from other law school courtrooms. The beauty of the Supreme Courtroom is stunning; its design reflects a state-of-the-art, one-of-a-kind facility; its functionality is unparalleled. The actual blueprints of the interior chambers of the U.S. Supreme Court were used in its construction and design. The bench for nine Justices, the angles, the elevation of the bench from the floor, and the distance of the bench from the podium are all exact. The four large Roman columns behind the bench reflect the columns behind the Supreme Court's bench. At 4,400 square feet, the interior of the Supreme Courtroom is larger than the interior of the Supreme Court, and unlike the Supreme Court, the Supreme Courtroom is equipped with cutting-edge AV and IT technology. Cameras at the front and back, a document projector and a smart technology podium allow document viewing, PowerPoint, video, and the internet to be projected on two 16- by 9-foot retractable screens.
The Supreme Courtroom will be a venue for preparing real cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, actual court sessions by state and federal courts of appeal, reenactments of historic cases, moot court competitions, and national speakers. The room will host a speakers' forum with historian David Barton of WallBuilders on Wednesday, the Lynchburg Bar Association's continuing legal education program a few days later, and a Christianity and American History Conference next month with Dr. Daniel Dreisbach and others.
LUSL graduates its first class in May and currently has 150 students, with plans to accommodate a total of 450 students on campus in the full-time J.D. program. Future leaders in law will be trained in the Supreme Courtroom, including some who will one day argue before the Supreme Court and perhaps even serve as a Justice on the High Court. We will read of their exploits and feel the impact these young champions will have on the culture.
When students walk into the Supreme Courtroom, it is our intention to inspire them to lift their eyes and raise their expectations to new heights. There is no question that some of our students will argue before the Supreme Court. Others will aspire to the heights of government, public policy, public interest law, education, business, private practice or missions. We are equipping them to use law as a fulcrum for good throughout the world."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Alaska Court Allows Church To Defend Tax Exempt Status

In Anchorage, AK on Friday the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that a church will be allowed to defend a lawsuit brought by the ACLU challenging certain tax exemptions.
Anchorage Baptist Temple (ABT) sought to intervene in two lawsuits challenging a statewide tax exemption on real property owned by a religious organization when the property serves as the residence of an educator in a private religious or parochial school. The ACLU and other plaintiffs allege that the exemptions violate equal protection and establishment clauses of the state and federal constitutions. ABT is represented by Liberty Counsel. Dr. Jerry Prevo is the pastor of ABT.
ABT operates a number of ministries, including alcohol and drug abuse recovery programs, community outreaches, children's programs, a bus transportation service, music programs, and Anchorage Christian School, a K-12 school serving approximately 700 students. ABT owns six residences that house teachers at Anchorage Christian School. These residences are integral to ABT's educational mission, in that they enable ABT to recruit and retain a well-qualified teaching staff, despite being unable to offer the wage and benefit programs offered by public schools.
The "religious teacher exemption" enacted by the Alaska legislature applies to ABT's teachers' residences, as well as similar properties owned by other religious organizations. Without the exemption, ABT would have to divert approximately $23,000 per year from its other services to pay property taxes. That continuing tax liability would force ABT to choose between recruiting and retaining teachers and providing services to the community. Other churches will face similar hardships if the tax exemption law is invalidated.
Alaska Baptist Temple will now have its day in court to defend a fair and reasonable tax exemption against the ACLU's frivolous attack. Evidently the ACLU would rather kick the teachers out in the cold. This attitude shows a callous indifference to the educational needs of Alaskan children.