Major opportunities, and hazards, lie ahead in the next 12 months.
Powerful institutions are manipulating the law to secularize America and make people of faith into second-class citizens. But in 2017, attorneys defending religious freedom have an opportunity to change that secular future.
Perhaps the most promising opportunity lies in six areas of legal conflict—six “battlefields”—within the federal courts. First Liberty attorneys have an open door to: win or advance sweeping, historic victories in cases within these six battlefieds. Currently, First Liberty has nine cases in federal court with more coming, and state cases that have the potential of moving up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Here is a roster of these “battlefields,” and the cases within them:
#1 FREEDOM TO PRAY AND WORSHIP
Goal: Permanently protect public prayer and religious practice in schools, homes, houses of worship, and the workplace—now at great risk. We have three leading cases in federal courts and more in the pipeline.
- Coach Joe Kennedy, Bremerton, Washington. At issue: Exemplary coach fired for silently praying at midfield after high school football games because his school feared his personal prayer might violate the Constitution. Venue: U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
- Mary Anne Sause, Louisburg, Kansas. At issue: A woman ordered by police to stop praying in her own home. Venue: U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
- Chabad of Irvine, California. At issue: An activist group sues to prevent a small Orthodox Jewish congregation from continuing an atonement ceremony that’s been in practice for more than 1,000 years. Venue: Federal District Court.
#2 VETERANS MEMORIALS
Goal: Permanently protect veterans’ memorials in the shape of a cross, currently at great risk. We have one leading case in high federal court and more potential cases.
- Bladensburg, Maryland, WWI Veterans Memorial. At issue: American Humanist Association is suing to tear down memorial in the shape of a cross, alleging a violation of the First Amendment clause prohibiting a government establishment of religion. Venue: U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
#3 ACTIVE AND RETIRED MILITARY
Goal: Permanently protect religious freedom in the military. We have one leading case potentially going before the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Lance Cpl. Monifa Sterling. At Issue: U.S. Marine court-martialed for refusing an order to remove inspirational Bible verse from her workstation. Venue: Appealed to U.S. Supreme Court.
#4 EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES
Goal: Permanently protect people of faith in business and the workforce. We have two leading cases with U.S. Supreme Court potential.
- Aaron and Melissa Klein (“Sweet Cakes by Melissa”). At Issue: Faith-based family business penalized $135,000 for declining to create a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony. Venue: Oregon Court of Appeals—potential U.S. Supreme Court case.
- Eric Walsh. At issue: A top health official fired by the State of Georgia Dept. of Public Health for sermons he preached as a lay pastor. Venue: Federal District Court.
#5 MINISTRY AND CHURCH OPERATIONS
Goal: Permanently protect ministries’ and churches’ freedom to operate according to their faith. We have one active case in federal court with more potential cases.
- Insight for Living Ministries. At issue: International Bible teaching ministry of Dr. Chuck Swindoll threatened with millions of dollars per year in fines for declining to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs to employees. Venue: Federal District Court.
#6 DEFENDING TRADITION
Goal: Permanently protect traditional invocations at government meetings. We have one leading national case.
- Rowan County Commissioners, North Carolina. At issue: Commissioners sued by ACLU for opening meetings with an invocation, allegedly violating First Amendment prohibition of government establishment of religion. Venue: U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
WINNING THE FUTURE IN 2017
After years of seeing religious freedom threatened, America purged of tradition, and people of faith driven toward legal second-class status, First Liberty has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape the future of religious freedom in America. This can happen in large part through victories in these nine cases, being contested over six battlefields.
Each case entails hundreds, and often thousands, of hours of painstaking work by attorneys and support staff—and the dedication and tenacity of clients who refuse to surrender their religious rights.
“As I look at what’s ahead in 2017,” says Kelly Shackelford, First Liberty’s President, CEO & Chief Counsel, “I feel as if we are living in a turning point in history, and our attorneys, clients and supporters are at the hub of that wheel as it moves. It’s an honor, but also a great responsibility. The outcomes of cases like these can literally affect hundreds of millions of people, and the destiny of our country; 2017 will be a big year in when the history books are written.”
Reported by: First Liberty. Org – team of writers and legal experts.