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When the United Church of Cabot in Vermont asked voters to approve repairs to its historic church building with public funds, they agreed. However, someone raised an objection, but historic church buildings deserve repairs just as much as historic secular buildings. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing 

 Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Historic Churches Deserve Repairs Too

In Vermont, the United Church of Cabot needed repairs. Specifically, this historic church asked the voters to consider repairing the steeple, stairwell, along with other minor repairs.

The community uses the building for a variety of meetings and events. The taxpayers were even asked whether public funds—about $10,000—should be used to pay for these repairs.

When the voters agreed to the project, someone raised an objection.

A Vermont district court enjoined the repairs, concluding that the state’s constitution categorically prohibits the public funding of houses of worship.

But, the Vermont Supreme Court disagreed. In sending the case back to the lower court, it said that the “plaintiffs will have to demonstrate that painting the church building and assessing its sills is more like funding devotional training for future clergy.”

Well, that’s a difficult task.

If we have learned anything from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Trinity Lutheran it is that our country’s dedication to separating church and state means neutrality toward religion, rather than hostility.

If Vermont expends taxpayer dollars on other historic buildings, it is anything but neutral to refuse funding for an historic church building. The logic that claims that anything religious must be purged from public participation simply because it is religious is simply wrong, it goes against decades of precedent, and destroys our country’s rich heritage of diversity.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Justice Alito Challenges Americans to Protect Religious Freedom

Justice Alito is a proven defender of religious liberty. You may recall he authored the court’s opinion in Hobby Lobby, protecting the religious consciences of family-owned businesses. Learn how he’s challenging Americans to protect religious liberty at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito recently gave remarks to a group in New Jersey. His 45-minute presentation proved to be quite sobering.

Justice Alito Challenges Americans to Protect Religious Freedom

Image: Chip Somodevilla

Justice Alito is a proven defender of religious liberty. You may recall he authored the court’s opinion in Hobby Lobby, protecting the religious consciences of family-owned businesses. In other opinions, he has warned of the impact the sexual revolution may inflict upon the religious liberty of Americans.

In his latest remarks, however, Justice Alito told the audience, “You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. A wind is picking up that is hostile to those with traditional moral beliefs.”

But, the good justice ended with a word of caution and challenge. He said, “We are likely to see pitched battles in courts and Congress, state legislatures and town halls. But the most important fight is for the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans. It is up to all of us to evangelize our fellow Americans about the issue of religious freedom.”

That’s where you and I come in. Freedom—and especially religious freedom—is not a given in human history. It is something each generation must renew for itself. Telling the story of religious liberty, and its blessings, to one another is part of our responsibility as Americans. It’s also how we preserve liberty.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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A Satanist was imprisoned and fined after defacing a Jewish academy’s religious objects. But he didn’t understand one important truth about religious freedom. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

To Preserve Religious Liberty, We Must Respect Other Religions

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

The students and faculty of the Margolin Hebrew Academy were staying overnight at the Doubletree Hotel in Jackson, Mississippi en route to Gatlinburg, Tennesee. While there, they used a meeting room at the hotel to conduct their Sabbath worship service. A Torah, religious books, and musical instruments were left in the meeting room overnight with the intention of continuing with their worship the following morning.

To Preserve Religious Liberty, We Must Respect Other Religions

Image: Jackson Police Department

Justin Baker, a self-professed anti-Christian, anti-Semitic Satanist, was a security guard at the hotel that night and he discovered the religious objects. He spat on the Torah and defaced the books with profanity and phrases including “Hail Satan.”

Baker was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for his religious discrimination and required to pay $9,999.99 in restitution damages.

And, I somehow doubt he’s employed today as a security guard.

Baker may have been tempted to use religious liberty in a perverse attempt to justify his wicked actions, suggesting his adherence to the religion of Satanism motivated his actions.

He would be wrong.

Religious liberty is not a free pass to do what one likes. It is itself restrained for the good of religion as a whole and the dignity of the person. But, the principals of religious liberty never sanction destroying the property of another. Rather, religious liberty demands that we respect the religions with which we may disagree. When we break that societal, social compact and deny others the freedom to exercise their religion, it is proper for the authorities to enforce the penalties of the law.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central

and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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To most people, a pay raise suggests the recognition of hard work and appreciation from your company. However, after organizing his fellow law professors into a union, Sheldon Gelman lost committee appointments and soon his wife, Jean Lifter, was fired. Gelman received a raise, but the number caught everyone’s attention. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

A “Mark of the Beast” Does Not Mean First Amendment Violation

You probably have a similar opinion about pay raises that Sheldon Gelman and Jean Lifter did: they’re symbolic. Do a good job, and an increase in pay suggests that the company is grateful for the effort.

Gelman and Lifter were law professors at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Gelman organized his fellow law professors into a union with the support of Lifter, his wife, and over the objections of management.

The next Spring, the faculty, Gelman included, received a pay raise, but Gelman lost some committee appointments and, soon after, Lifter was terminated altogether.

One wouldn’t think much of it, but the dollar amount on the pay increase caught everyone’s attention. It was too intriguing to be coincidental. The newly organized union faculty received a raise of $666.

Taken alongside Gelman’s loss of committee influence and Lifter’s termination, the numerals seemed to send a message.

Gelman and Lifter sued alleging retaliation against a protected First Amendment freedom. But, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit wasn’t buying it.

There were simple explanations for the pay raise amounting to apocalyptic numbers. And, while Gelman’s union organizing was certainly protected by the First Amendment, there were no facts present to suggest the law school retaliated against him for doing so.

The lesson here is clear: if your paycheck shows the supposed “Mark of the Beast,” don’t assume your employer violated the First Amendment.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central

and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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As Han Solo told Luke, “That’s great, kid! Don’t get cocky.” Next on BreakPoint, a call for both thanks and renewed effort by defenders of religious freedom.

The HHS Mandate Rolled BackBack in May, the president signed an executive order instructing government agencies to ‘consider amending existing regulations’ to address the problems with the HHS mandate.

It was a solid first step toward protecting religious freedom, and many of us hoped that the promised second step would be soon forthcoming. And yet, at the same time I offered a reminder then that if we had even “gotten the executive order many of us hoped for, it still would have been, at best a temporary help.”

On Friday, a definitively more substantial step was taken by the administration to protect the rights of conscience. And once again, I’m grateful. And yet again, I offer a reminder that at most, this is a temporary reprieve, not a victory.

The step taken Friday by the administration addresses the most egregious parts of the HHS mandate: its indifference to religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

While the mandate excluded churches, it forced religious institutions such as colleges, hospitals, even religious orders to violate their conscience by providing and subsidizing abortion-inducing medication and contraception. The Obama administration took the nonsensical position that essentially only churches were religious employers.

On Friday, the DOJ announced what’s known as the “interim final rule,” which keeps the mandate in place for the vast majority of employers’ employees, but dramatically expands the Obama administration’s narrow categories for religious exemption.

Friday’s rule creates what the Beckett Fund called a “targeted, commonsense protection” for religious nonprofits and employers with religious and/or moral objections to contraception. And it ends the nonsensical state of affairs where religious colleges, Catholic nuns, and other religious non-profits are not considered religious employers.

And speaking of nonsensical, the response to this announcement was, to put it mildly, melodramatic. TheNew York TimesCNN and others breathlessly declared this a blow for women’s rights. A newspaper in Erie, Pennsylvania declared that “Dropping birth control coverage puts women’s health at stake.”

In reality, the number of women potentially affected by this change is the tiniest fraction of those otherwise covered by the mandate. And, as the Obama administration admitted before the Supreme Court, “there are many other ways for women to receive [contraceptive] services.”

Adding to the nonsense, the ACLU quickly announced that it would challenged the interim final rule in court, as did California. While they’re unlikely to prevail, it’s a reminder that we still have our work cut out for us.

For starters, this final interim rule doesn’t end litigation like the Little Sisters’ challenge. They still haven’t obtained a final relief from the courts. Until then, they can’t be sure where they stand legally. And this policy, just like the original mandate, can be changed depending on who’s in the White House. Only a legislative solution, not an administrative decision, can permanently protect religious freedom when it comes to healthcare law.

But an even more important change is needed, and that’s in the culture. Most often, as we like to say around here, politics is downstream from culture. Ultimately, no law or regulation can secure religious freedom if the cultural imagination is lost. And sadly, in this case it is.

Many Americans, especially on the left, think that religious freedom is just bigotry or is trying to impose faith on others. That’s untrue and unfair, but it’s still what they believe. As long as so many of our neighbors are ignorant about what the free exercise of religion means, our job has to be to help them understand.

As I said back in May, “This is where the battle for religious freedom will be fought, either won or lost, no matter who sits in the Oval Office.” It’s as true today as it was then, despite this very good news.

Visit Breakpoint.org to get further information about the many great books and other resources available there and you can link up to our social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

By Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.

The HHS Mandate Rolled Back: Good News, Still More Work to Do

Friday provided one piece of good news for religious freedom, but as John has reiterated, there’s still much to be done. Get equipped to inform the cultural imagination on why religious freedom is important for all people. Check out the resources linked below:

Resources

The Global Public Square: Religious Freedom and the Making of a World Safe for Diversity

  • Os Guinness | IVP Books | September 2013

The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture

  • Scott Klusendorf | Crossway Books | March 2009

The Gospel & Religious Liberty

  • Russell Moore, Andrew Walker | B&H Publishing Group | June 2016

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Recent studies prove that worldwide hostility to religion is increasing, and even more alarming is that government restrictions are not the only restrictions against religion. Learn more about the urgency to protect religious freedom at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Why a Renewed Commitment to Religious Freedom is of Urgency

Well, the numbers are out and they don’t look good.

Why a Renewed Commitment to Religious Freedom is of Urgency

Image: Jenseny Augustave

According to the Pew Research Center, for the first time in three years, worldwide hostility to religion increased in the year 2015. Between 2014 and 2015, those countries marked with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions—actual government policies and activity restricting the free exercise of the religion of its people—grew a full percentage point. During that same time period, social hostilities increased 4%. “Social hostilities” are “acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society.”

So, even if the government was not hostile in terms of official policy, the private actions of its people grew significantly.

Looking at the big picture, whether its government policies or private individuals, 40% of the countries across the globe are hostile to religion. That means that the world is inching closer to a majority of countries demonstrating hostility towards religion.

Of course, we can be immediately thankful for the great many protections we possess as Americans. But, let us not be lulled into thinking that our experiment in liberty is the historical norm.

Religious freedom is not something passed on from one generation to another by virtue of our DNA. It requires every generation to renew its commitment to liberty—and especially religious liberty—both here and abroad.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central

and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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First Liberty Institute received a victory when the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the county commissioner’s invocation in Jackson County, Michigan. The court determined that there was no constitutional violation with the offering of an invocation from a county commissioner. However, a similar case in Rowan County, North Carolina received the exact opposite ruling from the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

VICTORY! Court Rules In Favor of County Commissioner’s Invocation

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, sitting en banc, affirmed the decision of a federal district court judge.

That’s significant because that judge found no constitutional problem with the county commissioners of Jackson County, Michigan providing invocations on a rotating basis prior to their commission meetings. In Jackson County, the county commissioners do what most local lawmakers do: they start their meeting with the pledge of allegiance and then have an invocation to further solemnize the occasion. But, a local activist filed a lawsuit to put an end to the practice, claiming he was offended by the invocation.

Well, the Supreme Court has twice spoken to this.

Back in 1983, in Marsh v. Chambers, the high court gave approval to invocations before state legislative bodies. Then, in 2014, in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the court approved citizen-led invocations before city council meetings. Both decisions noted America’s lengthy tradition of opening public meetings with prayer.

But, the really interesting part of this story is the circuit split it creates.

First Liberty also represents the county commissioners of Rowan County, North Carolina who have a very similar practice.

In July, the Fourth Circuit disapproved of commissioner-led invocations.

The Supreme Court usually wants to resolve differences of opinion between circuit courts, so it might take a trip to the Supreme Court before these cases are fully resolved.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central

and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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In 1937, Wayman Presley raised money to erect a cross on Bald Knob. However, in 2012, Robert Sherman sued the state of Illinois for granting money to restore the cross because he found it offensive and did not want his taxpayer dollars going towards the restoration of the cross.

Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

It all started with a postal worker, a bunch of pigs, and an old time radio show. But, it ended in court.

Back in 1937, Wayman Presley, an Illinois postal worker, decided that it would be a good idea to erect a cross on Bald Knob. The fundraising was slow until Ralph Edwards interviewed Presley on the wildly popular radio show, “This is Your Life.”

Myrta Clutts must’ve heard the show because she soon conceived the idea to raise and sell pigs to finish the construction. Clutts, with the help of Presley, raised $30,000 worth of pork.Postal Worker, Pigs, Radio, Cross Ended Up In Court Together

So, there it stood: 111 feet of gleaming white concrete, 1,034 feet above sea level, near the Bald Knob Wilderness.

But, it turns out, not everyone liked it.

Robert Sherman didn’t. So, Sherman did what most don’t think to do when they disagree with an inanimate object: he sued the State of Illinois for giving out a grant to help restore the aging monument.

But, his lawsuit was dismissed.

Turns out Sherman didn’t have a dog, or a pig, in the fight.

Just because someone is a taxpayer is not enough connection to a case to challenge an action by the state. Sherman v. Illinois raises an important point: just because someone is offended by something religious does not mean a lawsuit will be successful.

State officials should remember that next time someone demands they purge religion from public view.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central

and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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When the government’s interest in timbering led to the destruction of land traditionally used by Native Americans for religious purposes, the Supreme Court ruled against the Native Americans. The opinion read, “Whatever rights the Indians may have to the use of the [land in question did] not divest the Government of its right to use what is, after all, its land.”

To learn more: FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Government Actions Violating the Free Exercise of Religion Require Scrutiny

In 1987, the Supreme Court was asked whether timbering operations within a National Park over a portion of land traditionally used for religious purposes by Native Americans violated the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.Government Actions Violating the Free Exercise of Religion Require Scrutiny

Justice O’Connor’s opinion in Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association concluded that:

“Whatever rights the Indians may have to the use of the [land in question did] not divest the Government of its right to use what is, after all, its land.”

But, not all the justices agreed. Justice Brennan, joined by Justices Marshall and Blackmun, disagreed. He reasoned that the timbering in question threatened the “very existence of a Native American religion.” He concluded on a somber note:

“Today, the Court holds that a federal land-use decision that promises to destroy an entire religion does not burden the practice of that faith in a manner recognized by the Free Exercise Clause . . . I find it difficult, however, to imagine conduct more insensitive to religious needs . . ..”

Thirteen years later, Congress would pass the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. At the least, RLUIPA would’ve required the government to demonstrate that its actions were the least restrictive in pursuit of a compelling government interest. RLUIPA, like RFRA, insists that government actions substantially burdening the free exercise of religion receive heightened scrutiny.

That protects all of our religious liberty.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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An atheist group attacked Sergeant Larry Gallo and his family after they were featured in an Air Force publication highlighting their medical missions trip to Central America. The group went as far as equating their missions trip to the Crusades and demanding that the publication be removed. To learn more: FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

Does Larry Gallo’s Serving the Poor Violate the First Amendment?

They were sick of a commercialized Christmas. The presents and general distraction from what they believed to be a season meant to remind us of something deeper led Larry Gallo and his family to look for something different.

So, they left behind the packages and bows to serve the less fortunate in Central America.

Does Larry Gallo's Serving the Poor Violate the First Amendment?

Senior Master Sgt. Larry Gallo’s job on this day was to entertain the children with coloring while their parents are being seen by medical staff. (Courtesy photo posted by AFRC)

Larry’s girls are physician’s assistants so it was natural for them to take on a medical missions role. Larry, a maintenance engineer, discovered that the kids in line needed some company. So, as his daughters provide the medicine, Larry kept the kids happy.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, Larry Gallo is better known as Sergeant Larry Gallo.

When the U.S. Air Force featured Gallo’s story in one of their publications, an atheist group said the article violated the First Amendment. They even alleged that Gallo’s story, “emboldens our Islamic enemies because we look like Crusaders and it enrages our Islamic allies.” They wanted the article taken down.

After a quick Internet search recently, I discovered that the article in question is still active on an Air Force website—and it should be. The Air Force should never cave to demands of censoring religion from public view. It should never punish those service members who put service over self, even outside the line of duty.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

(This podcast is by First Liberty Briefing. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central

and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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