Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hospital that banned “God Bless America” responds with more censorship

Brad Dacus
A hospital that stirred nationwide outrage for ordering a military veteran not to say “God Bless America” in his e-mails has now implemented further restrictions.

Pacific Justice Institute represents SFC Boots Hawks (U.S. Army, Ret.), who served twenty years in the military and now works in the Quality Management office at Dameron Hospital in Stockton, where he has been recognized with such distinctions as Employee of the Year.  In November, 2013, SFC Hawks was told by a supervisor to remove the phrase “God Bless America” as one of three quotes in his e-mail signature block.  A supervisor was concerned that someone might be offended by the phrase and suggested it was equivalent to an employee saying, “Death to Christians.”

SFC Hawks complied with the directive but was placed on two days’ leave for “insubordination” when he said he wanted to seek legal counsel.  As a result, SFC Hawks spent Veterans’ Day suspended from his job and worried about his future, instead of being honored for his distinguished military service.

After receiving a letter from PJI Staff Attorney Matthew McReynolds, the hospital withdrew the charge of insubordination and changed the two days' leave to paid leave.  The hospital nevertheless continued to insist that SFC Hawks not say, “God Bless America.”

After PJI attorneys obtained and served the hospital with right-to-sue notices from the federal and state agencies that oversee workplace discrimination complaints, the hospital informed employees in March that it had instituted a new policy that a standardized signature block must be used by all employees, without deviation.

The president of Pacific Justice Institute, Brad Dacus, had the following comment on the new developments:  “It is astounding that Dameron Hospital believes it should respond to charges of illegal discrimination and censorship with even more censorship.  They apparently still believe that 'God Bless America' should be banned, and they are willing to institute new regulations muzzling all employees in order to accomplish that goal.  To date, the hospital has never apologized to Sgt. Hawks for suspending him over Veterans’ Day weekend, and it has apparently learned nothing from its inept handling of this incident."

Dacus further noted that PJI attorneys will be monitoring implementation of the new policy for any discrepancies in enforcement and will be keeping all legal options open. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

FOT & Iowa Catholic Radio: changing hearts and minds

This week is our spring Cara-a-thon is on the air to raise operating funds for Iowa Catholic Radio.  Join us this week and support our ministry with your prayers and if possible with your financial support.  You can make a pledge by calling 515-282-PRAY (7729).  Deacon Mike Manno and Gina Noll will be on the air Tuesday from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. (CDT), listen in and call or click on our web page ( and make a secure donation there. Our regular program will return May 6 with Dr. Ann Hendershott, professor of Sociology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.
Remember, our pledge line is 515-282-PRAY (7729), tune in and hear our message.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Here we go again, more problems for God on campus; ACLJ has to file suit on behalf of student denied admission because of his faith

Late yesterday afternoon, ACLJ filed a lawsuit on behalf of Brandon Jenkins against officials of The Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) in Maryland for denying Brandon admission to its Radiation Therapy Program in part due to his expression of religious beliefs. As one faculty member explained to Brandon, on behalf of CCBC, the “field [of radiation therapy] is not the place for religion."

Brandon first applied for admission to the Radiation Therapy Program in April 2013. He met the standards of a competitive candidate and scored the maximum points allowed during his observation. During the interview process, college officials asked Brandon, “What is the most important thing to you.” Brandon answered simply, “My God.”
Brandon was denied entry into the program. After Brandon inquired why he was denied, the Program Director, Adrienne Dougherty, told him:

"I understand that religion is a major part of your life and that was evident in your       recommendation letters, however, this field is not the place for religion. We have many patients who come to us for treatment from many different religions and some who believe in nothing at all. If you interview in the future, you may want to leave your thoughts and beliefs out of the interview process."
Brandon made several attempts to address with defendants the discriminatory reasoning upon which they denied his admission to the program. In response to a letter from the ACLJ outlining CCBC’s retaliation, CCBC defended Director Dougherty’s comments to Mr. Jenkins suggesting that such comments were merely intended to advise Brandon that "he not wear them [his religious beliefs] on his sleeve," and “[s]tated bluntly, that is not bad advice.”

Since Director Dougherty’s comments, CCBC has attempted to provide additional reasons for Brandon’s non-admission to the Program. Nonetheless, despite persistent denial by CCBC of unfair treatment, CCBC acknowledges that Brandon lost points during the interview process because Brandon allegedly stated that he was pursuing a career in radiation therapy at the behest of God. This, CCBC asserts, was not “the best answer.” CCBC further stated, "[c]andidates who describe thoughtful considerations about what the candidate will contribute as an individual to patients and the advancement of care make far better therapists than those who are told by others [God] to pursue the field. . . the fact is that in any secular job or program interview it is better to have a concrete reason for wanting to undertake the training at hand than to say only that God directed one to do it."  
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the district of Maryland in Baltimore, names a number of school officials as defendants. The complaint requests the court to declare that the actions taken by CCBC officials violated Brandon’s First Amendment rights and that defendants be prohibited from further retaliating and/or discriminating against Brandon based on his religious views and/or his expressions thereof. Further, the suit requests an injunction requiring CCBC to admit Brandon to the Radiation Therapy Program.

The ACLJ is defending religious freedom on campus from coast to coast. Last month, ACLJ attorneys won a jury verdict on behalf of a Christian conservative professor denied a promotion because of his free speech. Also last month, the ACLJ successfully defended a Christian campus ministry from attempts to prohibit the use of faith-based criteria in its hiring decisions.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tomorrow on Faith On Trial

Catherine Short
Catherine Short, legal director for Life Legal DefenseFoundation, will join us to discuss a proposed California judicial rule that would bar persons connected with the Boy Scouts of America from being selected as a state court judge.  The argument behind the proposed rule is that the Boy Scouts do not allow gay scoutmasters.  If this is adopted, how far will this extend: will members of churches that oppose abortion be banned from judicial office? And, as we know, what happens in California often times moves across the nation.

Join Deacon Mike Manno and co-host Gina Noll as they discuss this and other issues that impact people of faith at 9 a.m. (CDT) on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on  The program will be re-broadcast at 9 p.m.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Professor incites destruction of conservative student newspaper while university shrugs

Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter last week to the University of Minnesota–Morris after one of its professors encouraged students to trash all copies of an independent student publication because of the views it expressed. The following day, all the papers disappeared from their bins. Police say they are investigating.

Since that time, another edition of the frequently satire-driven conservative paper has been defaced. The ADF letter asks the university itself to investigate, publicly condemn the thefts, and take steps to protect the paper from further violations of its First Amendment freedoms.

“Universities should encourage the free exchange of ideas. They should not stand idly by while some people in the campus community engage in unconstitutional censorship,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. “While professors and other members of the UMM community are entitled to their personal opinions, they are not entitled to incite theft or deface property.”

In November of last year, an entire edition of The North Star, an independent campus publication published by a university-approved student organization, was stolen from campus distribution bins the day after UMM Professor Paul Z. Myers wrote a blog post inciting students to trash the paper because of its views. Myers, who called the newspaper a “disgrace,” wrote in the post that, “the North Star has worn out its welcome and must go. Treat their scattered papers as a hate-filled trash and dispose of it appropriately.”

Two months later, approximately 100 additional copies of The North Star were defaced after a pro-life article was featured on the cover. UMM has not publicly condemned any of the actions.

The ADF letter explains that “regardless of Professor Myers’s right to express his opinion about The North Star, as a government employee he has chilled The North Star’s speech by advocating that people steal the paper and throw it in the trash. When a government employee engages in acts that ‘would chill or silence a person of ordinary firmness from future First Amendment activities,’ he violates the First Amendment.”

“We ask UMM to publicly condemn these instances of theft and destruction, investigate what happened, and prosecute those responsible,” added ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “The university must take steps to protect The North Star and all other student publications from such viewpoint-based censorship in the future.”

Saturday, April 12, 2014

City says this ad too controversial, rejects it; ADF files lawsuit

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana’s public transportation company for refusing to accept this ad from a pro-life health care referral service for women in need. Citilink denied Women’s Health Link’s request simply because its website contains information on “controversial issues,” the city-run company says.

“No one deserves to be silenced simply for having a viewpoint that city officials don’t favor,” said Litigation Counsel Rory Gray. “When the city creates an opportunity for community advertising, it cannot single out pro-life organizations for censorship. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all people, regardless of their political or religious beliefs.”

Women’s Health Link is a free referral resource for women seeking physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental health care. Last October, Women’s Health Link asked to place the ad in Citlink’s buses.  

Citilink denied the requests twice because Women’s Health Link is associated with Allen County Right to Life, a pro-life organization, and because Citilink officials said that the Women’s Health Link website discusses “controversial issues.” Citilink has permitted many non-profit and government organizations to place public service announcements with various messages in the interior of their buses, including the state of Indiana, Parkview Health, and the United Way.

The complaint claims that Citilink’s advertising policies give “officials unbridled discretion to accept or reject private expression protected by the First Amendment.” The policies violate Women’s Health Link’s “fundamental rights, including its right to freedom of speech and freedom of association,” the complaint states.

“The city’s stated reasons for denying this ad do not pass constitutional muster,” added Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “We hope Citilink will change course by permitting our client’s advertisement and revising its policies so that everyone can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.”

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bryan Fischer of American Family Association next on FOT

Bryan Fischer
Next Tuesday on Faith On Trial: Bryan Fischer, Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association (AFA), where he provides expertise on a range of public policy topics. The mission of the AFA is to inform, equip, and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture, and give aid to the church here and abroad in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission.

In his role as a spokesman for AFA, Bryan has been featured on media outlets such as Fox News, CBS News, NBC, CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the BBC, Russia Today television and the Associated Press, has been a frequent guest on talk radio to discuss cultural and religious issues. He has been profiled in publications such as the New York Times, Newsweek, the New Yorker, and BuzzFeed.

Join Deacon Mike Manno and Gina Noll as they discuss the issues of the day with Bryan.  Live Tuesday at 9 a.m. (CDT) and rebroadcast at 9 p.m. on Iowa Catholic Radio 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming on

ADF: Michigan school district on solid ground to allow Easter egg hunt fliers

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys sent Dearborn Public Schools a letter this week affirming the district’s policy of allowing the distribution of fliers for an Easter egg hunt being held at a church. The district received misguided and inaccurate complaints that allowing distribution of the fliers is unconstitutional when, in fact, prohibiting the fliers is what would violate the First Amendment.

“The Dearborn situation is yet another example of the incredible amount of misinformation
Jeremy Tedesco
that exists about what the First Amendment truly protects,” added Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Churches have no less of a voice than any other group that benefits the community. Under the First Amendment’s religion clauses, faith-based speech is fully protected.”
A parent complained to Dearborn Public Schools about fliers promoting an “Eggstravaganza” Easter egg hunt at Cherry Hill Presbyterian Church after they were distributed to students as part of a district program that allows a variety of community groups to distribute such literature.

The ADF letter explains that “the First Amendment does not permit public schools to exclude churches from literature distribution…. We commend the school district for respecting citizens’ freedom of speech and for properly teaching students to tolerate opposing views.”

The letter also points out that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over the state of Michigan, has said that the “separation of church and state” is an “extra-constitutional construct [that] has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

County drops bid to turn church into bar

A church is in high spirits after six years of litigation with the County of San Diego for abruptly shutting them down. The County agreed to confer a Minor Deviation Permit to the church, allowing them to continue operations despite having been zoned many years ago—and unknown to the church—as a country-western bar.

“We’re extremely pleased with this positive outcome. Our affiliate attorney, Pete Lepiscopo, did an outstanding job representing this important church to the Guatay community,” said Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute and yesterday’s guest on Faith On Trial. “Our nation needs more churches, and governments not standing in their way.”

Guatay Christian fellowship had rented the same location for almost 25-years before San Diego County suddenly decided that it was improperly zoned and ordered the church to shut down immediately or face $2,500 in daily civil penalties and criminal penalties. In order to operate, the County demanded that the church obtain a Major Use Permit—something that would have cost them close to a half-million-dollars.

For six months, the church was not allowed to operate until Pacific Justice Institute secured a preliminary injunction against the County's cease and desist order. During oral arguments, District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller called the county's actions “draconian.”

In regards to the county's actions, the church's pastor, Stan Peterson, noted, "I could see this if we were crooks and hurting people, but we give to missionaries in Africa and Mexico."

“The faith and courage exhibited by Pastor Peterson and the congregation over six years have provided an example to other pastors and churches, much like David’s faith and courage when facing Goliath,” said PJI affiliate attorney Pete Lepiscopo, of the San Diego law firm, Lepiscopo & Associates, who represented Guatay Christian Fellowship in these matters.

Watch the original story about Pastor Stan, and Guatay Christian Fellowship:

Monday, April 7, 2014

OUTRAGE AT THE SUPREME COURT: Government punishment of NM photographer stands, compelled speech no problem for court

Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin
The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear Elane Photography v. Willock, the case of a photographer who was told by the New Mexico Supreme Court that she must, as “the price of citizenship,” use her creative talents to communicate a message with which she disagrees or suffer punishment.

Nonetheless, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Elane Photography and its owners, Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin, point out that the central concern in the case—government punishment of Americans for declining to create or promote messages with which they disagree—is alive in other ADF cases moving forward around the country.

“Only unjust laws separate what people say from what they believe,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “The First Amendment protects our freedom to speak or not speak on any issue without fear of punishment. We had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would use this case to affirm this basic constitutional principle; however, the court will likely have several more opportunities to do just that in other cases of ours that are working their way through the court system.”

“Americans oppose unjust laws that strong-arm citizens to express ideas against their will,” added Senior Counsel David Cortman. “Elaine and numerous others like her around the country have been more than willing to serve any and all customers, but they are not willing to promote any and all messages. A government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions is a government every American should fear.”

Next Faith on Trial: Co-ed showers & liberal bulling of traditional marriage supporters

The movement to allow individuals to “chose” their gender when using public restrooms, lockers, and school showers is on the move.  California has permitted it and an effort by the Pacific Justice Institute to repeal it by popular referendum has been stymied by the state’s secretary of state who has disqualified more than 131,000 signatures – including one of PJI’s own attorneys – on a petition calling for the referendum.

Brad Dacus
The idea is spreading and recently the Maryland legislature has approved a similar measure and several local jurisdictions have adopted the same law.
Fighting back against this is PJI and its president, Brad Dacus, an old friend of FOT will join us Tuesday morning to discuss this and another issue that has been troubling: the continued bulling of those supporters of traditional marriage. Recently Brendan Eich was forced to resign from his position as the CEO of the internet browser Mozilla when it was revealed that he had contributed to the Proposition 8 campaign to keep traditional marriage in California.  Mr. Eich was only the latest in the bulling of Proposition 8 supporters and others who support traditional marriage.

Join Deacon Mike Manno and Gina Noll as they discuss the implication of these matters with Brad.  Tuesday live at 9 a.m. (CDT) and re-broadcast at 9 p.m. on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming on the ‘net at

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

University pitches student paper, pays $101,000 in fees and damages to student group.

Oregon State University [OSU] has paid $101,000 in attorneys’ fees and damages in the wake of a lawsuit that Alliance Defending Freedom won on behalf of students in 2012. A final document ending the case was filed with a federal district court Wednesday.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed the lawsuit in 2009 on behalf of OSU Students Alliance, a recognized student organization that published an independent student newspaper, The Liberty. Officials confiscated the paper’s bins--which contained copies of the paper--without notice and threw them next to a dumpster. The university claimed it did so as part of an effort to beautify the campus, but it left untouched the numerous distribution bins of the other student newspaper, The Daily Barometer.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit concluded in October 2012 that OSU officials violated the constitutionally protected freedoms of The Liberty when they confiscated its bins and tossed them onto a trash heap. The university appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case last year.

“Universities should encourage the free exchange of ideas. When they instead choose to shut down constitutionally protected speech, it can be costly,” said Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker. “Students don’t deserve censorship for having viewpoints that university officials don’t prefer.”

Months after the lawsuit was filed, the university changed its policy regarding the distribution of student publications. The change allowed The Liberty to resume its campus-wide distribution after being excluded from most of the campus for nearly a year; however, the university continued to argue that it had not violated the students’ constitutionally protected freedoms.

The 9th Circuit disagreed and said in its ruling that it had “little trouble finding constitutional violations” and that the university’s unwritten policy that led to trashing the newspaper’s bins “materialized like a bolt out of the blue.”

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Florida school cafeteria worker rebukes 5-year-old for saying grace over lunch; Liberty Institute intervenes on behalf of student

Today, Liberty Institute attorneys sent a demand letter, on behalf of clients Marcos Perez and his daughter, to school administrators at Carillon Elementary School in Oviedo, Florida, requesting that school officials cease engaging in religious discrimination in violation of federal and state law. Last week, a school lunchroom supervisor told Marcos Perez’s 5-year-old daughter that it was wrong to bow her head in prayer before she ate her lunch.

"Of course, students can pray at school!" said Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys.  "As the Supreme Court held over half a century ago: Students do not ‘shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.’  The school is in violation of Department of Education guidelines that specifically protect this type of prayer, and thus could jeopardize its federal funding.”

The Perez Family cited this offense to their daughter’s religious liberty as the most immediate reason to remove their daughter from the public education system. “Mainly because of this incident, we have exercised our option as parents to teach our daughter at home,” said Marcos Perez.  “We live in a very good school district, but we cannot, in good conscience, send our daughter to a school where her religious liberty has been compromised.”

Liberty Institute continues to investigate this situation on behalf of its clients and other students, who experience unnecessary censoring of their religious liberty while at school. Last Fall, Liberty Institute represented 10-year-old Erin Shead, whose teacher informed her that she could not write an essay about Jesus as her hero.  That situation lead to the Tennessee General Assembly passing a bill with overwhelming bipartisan support to expand student religious liberty.  Similarly, Liberty Institute is still investigating claims by a mother in South Carolina, who was told that her 8-year-old daughter could not complete a similar school assignment for fear of violating the so-called, "separation of church and state."