Friday, March 16, 2018

Pro-life student group lawsuit prompts end to ‘trigger warnings’ at Ohio University

ADF attorneys represent Students for Life at Miami U. of Ohio

CINCINNATI – Miami University of Ohio has agreed to change its unconstitutional policies that authorized officials at its Hamilton campus to require students to post signs “warning” others about their group’s pro-life display. As part of a settlement ending a federal lawsuit that Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed on behalf of the campus chapter of Students for Life, the university has agreed to revise its policies to respect the free speech rights of all students, regardless of their viewpoint.

“We commend the university for quickly recognizing that its officials do not have the authority to censor student speech simply because of how someone might respond to it,” said ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham. “By revising its policies to respect students’ constitutionally protected rights, the university has fostered the marketplace of ideas that public universities are supposed to be. After all, the only permission slip students need to speak on campus is the First Amendment, and they cannot be forced to post ‘trigger warning’ signs simply to share their ideas.”

Last year, Students for Life sued university officials after they shut down the group’s annual Cemetery of the Innocents display. When Students for Life sought approval to hold the display, an official informed the group’s president that the display would only be permitted if the group placed signs around campus warning people about its content. She justified this “trigger warning” requirement by saying the display might cause “emotional trauma” to those who might see it, and she offered to discuss “less harmful” ways the group could express its pro-life views.

Under the settlement agreement, Miami University of Ohio has disavowed one policy officials used to impose the warning sign requirement, a policy that also created a complex, burdensome permit system for speech activities. It agreed to revise a second policy used to justify the warning signs so that other student groups will not face similar mistreatment. And it agreed to revise a third policy so officials cannot stifle speech simply because it could “cause alarm, annoyance, or nuisance.” The university has also agreed to pay Students for Life’s damages and attorneys’ fees.

“Today’s university students will be tomorrow’s voters and civic leaders,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “That’s why it’s so important that public colleges and universities exemplify the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students. Miami University has shown it wants to do that by taking quick corrective action in agreeing to revise their policies to protect free speech.”

“Tolerance is a two-way street,” added Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins. “Just like any other student group seeking to promote its message, Students for Life members should be free to share their love and concern for mothers and their children without government censorship. These policy changes will protect the views of all students, not just those favored by a few administrators.”

In light of the settlement agreement reached in Students for Life at Miami University of Ohio, Hamilton v. Trustees of Miami University of Ohio, ADF attorneys dismissed the lawsuit on Thursday.

Thomas W. Kidd, Jr. one of more than 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel for the Students for Life chapter. Students for Life of America is the nation’s largest pro-life youth organization and currently serves more than 1,200 groups in colleges, high schools, and medical schools across the U.S. 

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference chairmen urge support for the ‘First Amendment Defense Act’

WASHINGTON—Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, gave their strong support for the First Amendment Defense Act, which was recently introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) in the U.S. Senate: 

“We welcome and applaud the recent reintroduction of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). The USCCB has been vocal in support of the legislation since its inception. FADA is a modest and important measure that protects the rights of faith-based organizations and people of all faiths and of no faith who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. For example, in a pluralistic society, faith-based charitable agencies, and schools should not be excluded from participation in public life by loss of licenses, accreditation, or tax-exempt status because they hold reasonable views on marriage that differ from the federal government’s view. 

The leadership of the Catholic Church will continue to promote and protect the natural truth of marriage as foundational to the common good. The Church will also continue to stand for the ability of all to exercise their religious beliefs and moral convictions in public life without fear of government discrimination. 

We are pleased to support the First Amendment Defense Act, and we urge Congress to pass this important legislation.” 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Christian student group out in cold at Michigan University

Wayne State University boots group because it asks its leaders to share its faith

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Christian student group is fighting for its right to continue serving at the same campus it has been on for over 75 years. In InterVarsity Christian Fellowship v. Wayne State University, an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship student group, represented by Becket, sued Michigan-based Wayne State University after school officials stripped them of official recognition just because the group requires its leaders to affirm their faith. Wayne State has over 400 student groups that contribute to its intellectual and cultural diversity, all of which are free to select leaders who embrace their missions—except, suddenly, one Christian student group.
InterVarsity welcomes all students to its meetings and to join as members. It requires only that its leaders believe in and live out its faith. Yet in 2017, Wayne State rejected the group’s constitution, derecognized InterVarsity, and cancelled all of InterVarsity reserved meetings. Wayne State’s reason?  After 75 years, Wayne State decided that InterVarsity’s religious leadership requirements violated school policy. Meanwhile Wayne State actively violates its own policy in many of its programs, and allows dozens of other larger student groups do the same.
“Don’t Michigan universities have bigger problems than who leads Bible studies?” said Lori Windham, Senior Legal Counsel at Becket, which represents InterVarsity. “Wayne State should focus on educating students instead of playing belief police.”
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Wayne State is one of the oldest InterVarsity chapters in the country, and has held weekly Bible studies, meetings, and organized service opportunities on campus for over 75 years. For instance, in 2009 the group sponsored a series of campus events that raised awareness regarding human trafficking. And the group regularly hosts discussions of important issues, like the intersection between faith, race, and social justice.
Now InterVarsity is given second-class status, forced to rent tables like outside vendors if it wants to host discussions or reach out to new students. It can no longer reserve meeting rooms for free like other student groups.
“Asking religious leaders to practice what they preach isn’t discrimination, it’s integrity,” said Windham. “Targeting one Christian group that’s served the campus for over 75 years, while giving itself and dozens of larger groups a pass is truly discriminatory.” 


Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Edina Minnesota School Board settles lawsuit with conservative students, denies wrongdoing

By Jon Miltimore

Jon Miltimore
A school board in Minnesota settled a federal lawsuit filed last week that had accused the district of violating the First Amendment rights of conservative students.
Edina High School, which has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the Minnesota’s best schools, came under scrutiny last year after it was revealed the school had implemented an ideologically-driven curriculum (first reported by Intellectual Takeout here and here).
The controversy reached a crescendo last fall when a group of conservative students sued the school district after claiming their organization, the Young Conservative Club, was terminated after club members took to social media to criticize a student-led protest of the U.S. flag and the National Anthem. (The district denies terminating the club.)
Erick Kaardal, an attorney representing the students, had called the school’s action “a clear case of discrimination against students with conservative beliefs by a school whose policies have been documented as promoting an extreme ideological agenda.”
According to attorneys representing the students, Edina High School agreed to the following:
  • U.S. flags will hang in every classroom.
  • The Young Conservatives Club can be reinstated as a school-sponsored club, or a non-sponsored club…with the ability to exercise free speech without consequence.
  • USA Day is restored to Spirit Week, and district administration cannot object to the theme.
  • District Policy 628 (Education Programs, Student Activities Program) and the EHS Club Guidelines and Responsibilities policies were amended to include language that respects students’ right to free speech, and that revocation may not be based on the exercise of free speech or free association rights.
“The result of the settlement for the students is First Amendment freedom—something they did not have before the settlement,” Kaardal said. “Now and forevermore, the Young Conservatives Club will be able to criticize Edina Public Schools’ ideology in a First Amendment-protected way.”
Though the district agreed to tweak its free speech policies, officials denied wrongdoing and pointed out no monetary damages or fees were paid. 
Officials also said the absence of U.S. flags in many classrooms was the result a two-year construction project, during which flags were removed so they would not be damaged.
You can read Edina School District's entire statement here.
Jon Miltimore is the Director of Digital Media of where this article was originally published.

USCCB chairmen call faithful to prayer and action urging Congress to enact the Conscience Protection Act

WASHINGTON–Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty urge the faithful to flood Congress with emails and calls asking for enactment of the Conscience Protection Act as part of the 2018 funding bill and to pray for this outcome. Congress is currently considering whether to include the Conscience Protection Act in must-pass government funding legislation, and a decision on the Conscience Protection Act’s inclusion will be made prior to March 23, 2018.

The joint statement follows:

“Increasing and fierce attacks on conscience rights regarding abortion cry out for an immediate remedy. Nurses and other health care providers and institutions are being forced to choose between participating in abortions or leaving health care altogether. Churches and pro-life Americans are being forced to provide coverage for elective abortions—including late-term abortions—in their health care plans. Opponents and supporters of abortion should be able to agree that no one should be forced to participate in abortion. Congress must remedy this problem by enacting the Conscience Protection Act now as part of the FY 2018 funding bill.

We call on all the faithful to pray and to act by emailing and calling Congress in the coming week especially on Monday, March 12 with the message that enacting the Conscience Protection Act is urgently needed to protect Americans from being forced to violate their deeply held convictions about respect for human life. Your calls and emails to your Members of Congress really do make a difference, so please act now to protect conscience rights!”

Members of Congress can be reached by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and asking to be connected with your representative or senator.  Or you can email and call your Members of Congress quickly and easily at

The USCCB has also created a video available on its YouTube channel and

For additional information and videos featuring nurses who were forced by their employers to choose between their jobs and participating in abortions go to

Monday, March 5, 2018

No justice for Native Americans in Oregon

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of the Klickitat and Cascade tribes in Oregon were denied justice late Friday after a federal magistrate judge ruled that the government is free to bulldoze sacred Native American burial grounds and destroy sacred artifacts. The tribal members plan to appeal the ruling in Slockish v. U.S. Federal Highway Administration, which dramatically narrows the religious freedom rights of Native Americans by saying that a key federal religious freedom law cannot be used to protect their artifacts and sacred sites. (Watch their story. 

In 2008, while widening Highway 26 near Mount Hood, the Federal Highway Administration destroyed a sacred site that included a stone altar, ancient burial grounds, a campground, and trees and medicinal plants used for religious rituals. Although tribal members repeatedly alerted officials to the importance of the site, and there were many ways to widen the highway while still protecting it, the government refused to listen and bulldozed the site.   

“For centuries Native Americans have endured the destruction of sacred places by the federal government, and it’s heartbreaking that the court would say this completely preventable destruction was okay,” said Carol Logan, member of the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde. “All we want is the return of our sacred artifacts, the rededication of the area for our ancestors, and the promise that we can continue to worship as our tribes have done for centuries.” 

The tribal members sought justice under a federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—which was enacted in 1993 after the Supreme Court neglected to protect religious freedom for Native Americans. Nevertheless, the magistrate judge’s opinion said, “Even where the government’s actions would virtually destroy a group’s ability to practice their religion the Constitution simply does not provide a principle that could justify upholding [their] legal claims.”   

“The federal government has repeatedly shown a callous disregard for Native American religious beliefs,” said Stephanie Barclay, counsel at Becket. “For these tribes, this burial ground was their church. Our religious freedom laws wouldn’t allow the government to destroy other churches with impunity, and it shouldn’t be any different for Native Americans.” 

Plaintiffs Wilbur Slockish and Johnny Jackson are Hereditary Chiefs of the Klickitat and Cascade tribes of the Yakima Nation and Carol Logan is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde.  They are joined in their lawsuit by the Cascade Geographic Society and the Mount Hood Sacred Lands Preservation Alliance. They are represented by Becket, together with Seattle-based law firm Patterson Buchanan Fobes & Leitch and Oregon City attorney James Nicita. 


Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win-rate before the United States Supreme Court. For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more here). 

Federal appeals court orders formal responses to petition that judge step down in abortion lawsuits

Thomas More Society and David Daleiden Sought “Writ of Mandamus” for Removal of Allegedly Biased Judge

San Francisco, California -- Last December 2017, the legal team for undercover citizen journalist David Daleiden, who exposed the abortion industry’s role in the trafficking of aborted baby body parts, filed a petition for an “extraordinary writ of mandamus” in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The petition asked that the appellate court order that William Orrick, a San Francisco federal judge, step down from presiding over two lawsuits, owing to an apparent conflict of interest and other facts creating the appearance of bias. On Wednesday, February 28th, a three-judge “motions panel” ruled that Daleiden’s “petition for writ of mandamus raises issues that warrant an answer.” The panel ordered that the abortion groups suing Daleiden in Judge Orrick’s courtroom, namely, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (“PPFA”), its many California-based affiliates as well as others, and the National Abortion Federation (“NAF”), file answers to the mandamus petition within 14 days. The panel further directed that in their answers, the abortion groups “shall address the basis for the district court’s denial of [Daleiden’s] motion for disqualification of Judge William H. Orrick under 28 U.S.C. Secs. 144, 455(a) and 455(b)(1).” And the panel specified that, “in particular,” the answers [shall] address Judge Orrick’s relationship with Good Samaritan Family Resource Center.” 

The three-judge panel is comprised of Senior Circuit Judge William C. Canby, Jr., Senior Circuit Judge Stephen S. Trott, and Circuit Judge Paul J. Watford. They added in their terse order that Judge Orrick might also “address the petition if [he] so desires,” either by filing an answer in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals or by issuing an order and serving a copy on the appellate court. Daleiden is to file a reply in 5 days after service of the answers, and all relevant papers “shall be referred to the next available motions panel.” The order was to be served not only on Judge Orrick, but also on District Judge James Donato, to whom Judge Orrick had referred Daleiden’s initial motions for disqualification and who denied both of them.

Peter Breen, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, explained, “We welcome this ruling by the 9th Circuit panel as we were asking the court to order Judge Orrick to do what he should have done preemptively on his own…that is, recuse himself and step aside from presiding over a case in which he has had a direct, personal, and decades-long relationship with an organization whose property and employees were alleged by the abortion provider plaintiffs to be endangered by our client’s citizen journalism, namely, the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center (GSFRC), of which he was a founder and longtime officer and director, and which houses one of the plaintiff PPFA affiliate’s facilities. This relationship was established during Judge Orrick’s leadership tenure on the board, and GSFRC continues in an active joint venture with this plaintiff PPFA affiliate. At the same time, Judge Orrick has been held out to the public as serving as an Emeritus Board Member of GSFRC. This relationship was not discussed to the parties, nor did Judge Orrick disclose its full extent or duration to the U.S. Senate during his confirmation process.” Other facts were also cited as having created the appearance of bias.

Judge Orrick issued a gag order, which Daleiden is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down as an illicit “prior restraint” on free speech, censoring Daleiden’s remaining video footage taken at NAF annual meetings in 2015 and 2016. On Monday, February 26th, NAF’s counsel filed its opposition to the Supreme Court hearing the appeal. Earlier, NAF had formally waived its right to respond, but the justices ordered that it respond. 

A copy of the filed petition for a writ of mandamus in Planned Parenthood et al v. the Center for Medical Progress et al and National Abortion Federation v. the Center of Medical Progress et al is available here.

Read background on this and related cases in which the Thomas More Society is defending Daleiden for his exposé of Planned Parenthood’s participation in trafficking baby body parts here. 

About the Thomas More Society

Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago and Omaha, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. Visit for more information. The Society represents David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress together with Life Legal Defense Foundation and the Law Office of Charles LiMandri, based in California, as well as former L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley and his former assistant prosecutor Brentford Ferreira.