Friday, May 30, 2014

Arizona county forcing closure of church that helps homeless

Church must raise $68K for tax bill it doesn’t owe to stay alive;
State Supreme Court refuses to hear church's case!

La Paz County is forcing a small church in Quartzsite City that helps the homeless to close its doors by June 15 unless it pays $68,000 in back-taxes and penalties that both state law and the Arizona Department of Revenue say the church doesn’t owe.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent Church of the Isaiah 58 Project of Arizona in a lawsuit over the taxes, but because state courts have been unwilling to defer payment of the back-taxes until litigation has completed, the congregation is now facing foreclosure because it operates on a shoestring budget of only $50,000 per year. Supporters of the church have contributed money to help it pay the illegal tax bill so that it can stay open and continue its lawsuit, but it still needs about $30,000 to avoid foreclosure due to a tax lein on its property.

“Churches shouldn’t live in fear of being punished by the government when they’ve not done anything wrong, but that’s precisely what is happening to this church. If La Paz County officials have their way, this church will lose everything,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “The county assessor illegally levied these taxes against the church even though the Arizona Department of Revenue provided a letter stating that the church should owe no taxes. We join community leaders and the homeless whom the church serve in hoping that the church will obtain the amount it needs to continue operating and to continue its legal fight against this injustice.”

Under state law, the church qualified for an exemption from property taxes and filed the appropriate paperwork with the La Paz County property assessor. The assessor sat on the church’s paperwork for three years before granting a tax exemption and then only granted it for the years 2009 and later, leaving the church with back-taxes for 2007-2008 that it should not owe.

A September 2013 decision from the Arizona Court of Appeals in Church of the Isaiah 58 Project of Arizona v. La Paz County upheld an earlier Tax Court ruling that said the church should have paid the tax bill before challenging it as illegal. ADF attorneys have argued, however, that state law does not require the church to do so when it is challenging an illegally assessed tax so high that the congregation can’t pay the bill and ask for a refund later.

The Arizona Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal, leaving the church with no choice but to raise enough money to pay the illegal tax bill so it can stay open, continue its lawsuit, and then seek a refund of the bill if it prevails.

Houston City Council approves LGBT ordinance

Wednesday, the Houston City Council and lesbian Mayor Annise Parker, by a vote of 11-6, approved the controversial LGBT ordinance that has dogged the Council for weeks. The Council was forced to delay action on the issue due to a flood of opposition amongst a diverse group of citizens and local leaders and fear over the impact of enforcement on public safety and the local economy. During public testimony before the final vote, leading local African American pastors walked out of the council chambers after homosexual advocates were given priority placement for testimony at the beginning of the meeting, while the Mayor and some council members voted to keep the pastors further down on the list.

Mayor Parker has conceded that the ordinance would apply to men who seek to use
women’s bathrooms. The city attorney has also admitted that the ordinance can be used to prosecute photographers and private business owners who choose not to participate in same sex ceremonies, when doing such causes them to violate their conscience and/or religious beliefs. With this vote, the Houston City Council has said that homosexual conduct trumps religious liberty and free speech.

“Today the Houston City Council voted to have homosexual conduct trump religious liberty and free speech with this ordinance,” said Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values Action. “This ill-advised power grab by Mayor Parker will be used a weapon to attack people of Christian faith, and that’s a shame.”
Supporters of Texas Values Action sent over 110,000 e-mail messages in opposition to the ordinance have already been sent to the Council members in a matter of weeks, more than the 98,000 votes Mayor Parker received in her re-election in 2013.

Breitbart reports that there is now a movement to recall Mayor Parker.

Bogus trespass charges dismissed against pro-lifer in Sioux City

Thomas More Society-Omaha defends sidewalk counselor
vs. Planned Parenthood complaint

Attorneys from the Thomas More Society have successfully defended pro-life sidewalk counselor Peggy McGinty against spurious trespass charges brought by the Sioux City Planned Parenthood. Ms. McGinty has been providing peaceful, pro-life sidewalk counseling outside Planned Parenthood’s Sioux City, Iowa facility for 14 years, but in December of 2013, Planned Parenthood persuaded city authorities to bring criminal trespass charges against her after she drove into its parking lot and quickly turned around. Thomas More Society attorneys won a dismissal of her case last week, on May 22nd, without trial, when Planned Parenthood’s witness failed to appear.

“We are always ready and honored to provide pro-lifers with timely, strong, and reliable legal defense,” said Martin Cannon, attorney for Thomas More Society-Omaha. “When slammed with false criminal charges, Ms. McGinty and other peaceful pro-lifers need not be left defenseless against such intimidating tactics on the part of Planned Parenthood, which takes delight in threatening pro-lifers with fines and jail time and urges authorities, as in this case, to bring false charges which it then fails to back up.”

For over a decade, Peggy McGinty has been a regular pro-life sidewalk counselor in Sioux City, where she also works with Mary's Choice, a crisis pregnancy center that shares a property line with the abortion facility. Planned Parenthood has tried to frustrate the pro-lifers by erecting a very tall, opaque fence around its property, to prevent sidewalk counselors from seeing or communicating with abortion-bound women who enter the lot.

Mary's Choice, however, countered this tactic by building an elevated platform on its own side of the fence so that counselors could offer assistance to women heading for the abortion facility.

On a very cold morning last December 6, Ms. McGinty was ill and couldn’t be there for her counseling. But as she puts it, “I don’t want the babies to die alone.” She drove to the clinic to find out if it was open before she called sidewalk counselors to take her place. Because of the tall fence, Ms. McGinty couldn't see whether there were any cars in Planned Parenthood’s parking lot, and the gate to the elevated platform on the Mary's Choice side was frozen to the ground.

Peggy drove into the Planned Parenthood lot to see if there were cars there. There were no “No Trespassing” signs posted.  However, as she entered the parking lot to quickly turn around, the Planned Parenthood security guard zoomed out in his car from behind the building, blocking her exit. She signaled to him to roll down his window, but he refused, calling police instead and lying to them that she was a repeat offender. Then Peggy was arrested and charged with criminal trespass.

On May 22nd, Ms. McGinty, Thomas More attorney Martin Cannon, and local pro-life attorney Zachary Hindman appeared in court, prepared for trial. Planned Parenthood’s security guard, who had blocked Ms. McGinty and called the police, had been directed to appear in court for the trial. But he never showed up, and the case was dismissed.  Sioux City’s prosecutor is wiser now and will likely scrutinize the abortionists’ complaints more carefully before bringing new criminal charges against pro-lifers.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Professor Clay Christensen on Religious Freedom

Clay Christensen is the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Religious freedoms in the military; next on FOT

Travis Weber
As a follow-up to our Memorial Day weekend, Tuesday’s FOT guest is Travis S. Weber, the Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, where he focuses on all manner of legal and policy issues pertaining to religious freedom, especially those of our military service members.

Travis is an attorney holding a J.D. from Regent University School of Law and an LL.M in international law from Georgetown University Law Center. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the navy piloting E-6 aircraft.  Before joining FRC he served as a private attorney litigating federal civil rights cases and military-related legal issues.

Join Deacon Mike Manno and co-host Gina Noll as they visit with Travis and discuss other legal and societal issues involving people of faith. All on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming on, beginning at 9 a.m. (CDT) and re-broadcast at 9 p.m. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and Cornerstone University win in federal court against HHS mandate

A federal court issued an order this week that halts enforcement of the Obama administration’s HHS mandate against two Christian colleges: Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa and Cornerstone University in Michigan.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent the colleges in a lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration’s mandate that forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions and under threat of heavy penalties, to provide insurance coverage for pills and procedures that many Christians oppose. The two colleges object to the government’s conclusion that they are not sufficiently religious to qualify for the extremely narrow religious exemption from the mandate.

“Christian colleges should remain free to operate according to their defining beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “Under this mandate, religious employers have no real choice: they must either comply and abandon their religious freedom, or resist and be taxed for their faith. If the government can force Christian colleges to act contrary to their deeply-held religious convictions, then the government can do just about anything. The court was right to block enforcement of this unconstitutional mandate.”

The lawsuit, Dordt College v. Sebelius, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Western Division, argues that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well as the First and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

“With full knowledge that many religious organizations hold the same or similar beliefs, the Defendants issued regulations that…trample on the freedom of the Schools and millions of other American organizations and individuals to abide by their religious convictions and comply with moral imperatives they believe are decreed by God Himself,” the lawsuit states, adding that the mandate “illegally and unconstitutionally coerces the Schools to violate” those imperatives “under threat of heavy fines and penalties.”

The lawsuit also points out that “the government has provided thousands of exemptions…for various groups, such as large corporations, but refuses to exempt most religious groups from this unprecedented Mandate. Moreover, the Mandate does not apply to countless ‘grandfathered’ employer group health plans, through which millions of American women receive health insurance coverage, belying any contention that the Mandate advances some compelling government interest.”

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys are also litigating 19 other lawsuits against the mandate. The lawsuits represent a large cross-section of Protestants and Catholics who object to the mandate.

Victory: Florida School District finally lifts Bible ban! Under pressure, school district allows Bible reading, educates employees

Liberty Institute triumphed in an important religious freedom win for students in the public school system. In a victory for religious freedom, Broward County Public Schools assented to our demands to comply with the law by allowing Giovanni Rubeo and other students to read the Bible in “free reading time” and in the “Accelerated Reader® Program.”

They also educated all district employees that the law requires them to allow students this right.

This concession from Broward County Public Schools came after Liberty Institute sent two demand letters and threatened legal action if the school refused to restore Giovanni’s religious rights.

The case received national press coverage from Fox News, the Drudge Report,, and Faith On Trial on Iowa Catholic Radio, as well as flood of support for Giovanni and religious freedom poured in from Americans across the nation.


In April, Giovanni Rubeo, a fifth-grader from Ft. Lauderdale, FL, was reading his Bible during “free reading time” when he was told by his teacher to “put it on my desk.” 

The teacher then informed Giovanni’s father in a phone message that the Bible and “those books”—meaning religious books—were not allowed in “my classroom.”  The recorded voicemail awoke millions of Americans to the crisis of religious discrimination in America’s public classrooms.


According to Jeremiah Dys, Senior Counsel at Liberty Institute, "Now the Broward County Public Schools says it will allow the Bible as part of the Accelerated Reader Program and recanted what [its spokesperson] said to the Miami Herald and Sun Sentinel on May 6, 2014. We are pleased they are now complying with the law and will allow students to read their Bible during free reading time and within the Accelerated Reader program.”

He continued, “We do not know if the teacher is in trouble with the school district, but we will continue to monitor this school system carefully to ensure that their actions toward student religious liberty continue match their words."

The Rubeos are not alone in their battle to freely live out their faith. Other students are also experiencing infringement of their religious rights, though the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to carry out our faith in our daily lives free from government interference and prohibits government hostility to religion.

You can monitor these issues every Tuesday at 9 & 9 (CDT) on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming on; and also by following us on Facebook and this blog.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Colorado hospital to kids: 'Sex is fun ... we're here to help'

From our friends at OneNewsNow:

“A federally funded children's hospital in Colorado is providing underage children free birth control, the "morning-after" pill, and even intrauterine devices – and under the law, parents don't have to know about it.”

More abortion horror stories

After yesterday’s program with Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, I received an e-mail
Abby Johnson
from a listener involved in pro-life activities here in Des Moines.  She told me about a person she later helped who had a prior abortion.  The woman, she wrote, “coded during the abortion - then seized on the abortion table and not only did PP never call 911 (telling her boyfriend they didn't want alarm the other patients) but they never gave her a directive to go see a doctor to get checked out.”

And they say they only want to help women!

In other abortion news, LifeSiteNews is reporting that police recently had to break-up a fight between a 15-year old girl and her mother inside a Bedford Heights, Ohio Planned Parenthood clinic.  The mother was apparently trying to force the daughter to have an abortion that the girl did not want; the daughter wanted to keep her baby.

Another 15-year old girl was reportedly locked inside an abortion facility when she and her mother changed their minds about going through with the abortion. Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic manager, and now a pro-life activist and founder of the group And Then There Were None, received text messages from the girl, who said she was locked inside a room at Buffalo Women’s Services.

Reports of forced abortion are common especially for young girls who see no clear option. In one prominent example from 2000, Florida mother Glenda Dianne Dowis pointed a gun at her 16-year old daughter while taking her to an abortion clinic.  Dowis was later sentenced to two years community service for her actions.

Last October, a Pennsylvania judge dropped charges against a mother who police said beat her daughter in the abdomen when the girl refused to have an abortion.

-- Deacon Mike

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

ADF opposes effort of the NAACP and the ACLU to repeal Arizona ban on sex- and race-based abortions

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a friend-of-the-court brief Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit urging it to reject the NAACP’s lawsuit against an Arizona bill that prohibits sex- and race-based abortions.

ADF attorneys along with ADF-allied attorney and University of St. Thomas Law Professor Teresa Collett represent bill sponsor Rep. Steve Montenegro, U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, Dr. Alveda King, and multiple African-American and women’s groups who oppose such abortions. Montgomery is also serving as co-counsel.

“Every innocent life deserves to be protected, and that’s especially true of any babies targeted for death simply because of their sex or race,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. “Nothing about an abortion committed on the basis of sex or race is medically necessary or constitutionally protected. The fact that groups who supposedly exist to protect the interests of minorities and women are attacking this law is scandalous.”

A district court dismissed the lawsuit in October of last year, but American Civil Liberties Union attorneys representing the Maricopa County branch of the NAACP and the National Asian-Pacific American Women’s Forum appealed that decision.

The Frederick Douglass Foundation, Susan B. Anthony List, Radiance Foundation, National Black Pro-Life Union, and University Faculty for Life also joined the brief in support of the Arizona bill.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Are abortion clinics safe for women?

Tomorrow on Faith on Trial our guest will be Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, one of the leading pro-life Christian organizations in the nation. Operation Rescue has been in the forefront investigating the numerous injuries to women in abortion clinics across the nation. These stories of mutilation and death and the sometimes callous reactions of clinic staff are not covered by most of the mainstream media.

Troy actively worked on behalf of the pre-born for over twenty years. Through innovative new tactics, Newman’s work is responsible for the closure dozens of abortion clinics around the nation. He continues as an innovator of new tactics that have helped close abortion clinics and garner criminal prosecutions for abortionists from coast to coast.

In 2006, Newman bought and closed Central Women’s Services, an abortion clinic in Wichita, Kansas, that has been renovated and now serves as Operation Rescue’s national headquarters and a memorial to the pre-born.

Join Deacon Mike and co-host Gina Noll as they discuss these issues and the danger to women’s health from these clinics tomorrow morning at 9 (CDT) on Iowa Catholic Radio, 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on  The program will be re-broadcast tomorrow evening at 9 for those who cannot listen in the morning. And don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @FaithOnTrial, and subscribe to this blog to keep up to date on activities and legal issues involving persons of faith.

Friday, May 16, 2014

High school principal allows mixed-sex bathrooms and changing areas; ADF cites privacy right of students in appeal to school district

Alliance Defending Freedom has sent a letter to Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky that asks it to reverse a decision by the Atherton High School principal to allow children to use bathrooms and changing areas reserved for the opposite sex. The letter provides a recommended policy that addresses the school’s concerns about discrimination without allowing the sharing of bathrooms.

The ADF letter explains that, contrary to the principal’s decision, no law requires public schools to allow boys into girls’ restrooms or girls into boys’ restrooms. In fact, the district
could be subjecting itself to legal liability for violating students’ privacy rights and placing them in potentially unsafe conditions.

“A school district’s duty is to protect its students,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “The school district should adopt policies that protect student privacy and safety, not open itself to legal liability from students whose privacy rights are harmed by misguided policy decisions.”

“Every student has a right to privacy and safety. There is no legal mandate that requires every child in the district to give up these rights because a boy wants to use the girls’ restroom,” added ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “The only sensible, objective, and enforceable policy is one that ensures single-sex access to areas where children undress or engage in other activities that require privacy. The ADF model policy addresses the problems the district is trying to solve without compromising student privacy and safety.”

The ADF letter cites pertinent legal precedent, including a 2006 U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruling that employers do not violate federal law when they restrict restrooms and changing areas to members of the same sex for privacy and safety reasons.

“Based on such cases, JCPS does not have any legal duty to open changing areas to opposite-sex students as a means to prevent discrimination. There simply is no discrimination in protecting young children from inappropriate exposure to the opposite-sex,” the ADF letter states.

“Permitting students to use opposite-sex restrooms would seriously endanger student safety, undermine parental authority, and severely impair an environment conducive to learning,” the letter continues. “These dangers are so clear-cut that a school district allowing such activity would clearly subject itself--and its teachers--to tort liability. We therefore suggest that JCPS reverse the decision of Atherton’s principal and prohibit students from using opposite-sex changing areas.”

In the letter, ADF offers to defend the school district free of charge if it adopts the ADF-recommended policy and then faces any legal challenge over it in court. Clint Elliott, one of more than 2,300 attorneys allied with Alliance Defending Freedom, is serving as local counsel in the matter.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Texas DOT bans 10 Commandments from private property

Today, Liberty Institute on behalf of Hemphill, TX resident Jeanette Golden sent a demand letter to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) after it banned her from placing a Ten Commandments sign on her own private property.  According to an e-mail from the TXDOT Associate General Counsel, “the sign cannot be permitted” and “no permit is possible.”  The TXDOT attorney also joked that he “wonder[ed] how they’d feel about a quote from the Quran?” 

In the letter, Liberty Institute attorneys explain that the ban violates Mrs. Golden’s right to freedom of religious expression, and specifically the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (TRFRA), federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Article I, Section 6 of the Texas Constitution. The letter gives the department 60 days to respond, and it requests that TXDOT immediately rescind its ban and removal order, and allow Mrs. Golden to keep the religious sign on her private property. 
“It is outrageous that TXDOT is preventing Texans from having signs on their own private property,” said Mike Berry, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel and a former FOT guest.  “Religious freedom and private property rights are some of the most sacred rights Texans and Americans enjoy, dating back to the founding of Texas and our nation.  It is also shocking that a TXDOT attorney would belittle the religious beliefs of Texans.”

In August 2013, Mrs. Golden, acquired a 6 x 12-foot sign, depicting the Bible’s Ten Commandments from the organization God’s Ten.  She placed the sign on her private property, located near Hemphill, Texas, in Sabine County.  

Modern family? Birth certificate bill offers new options

California is well on its way to further redefining the family, this time through a bill that would change state-issued birth certificates.

AB 1951, by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), would alter birth certificates to offer couples expanded choices for designating themselves.  According to its sponsor, Equality California, “Assembly Bill 1951 would allow parents to self-designate as ‘father,’ ‘
mother’ or ‘parent,’ eliminating inaccurate designations and confusion for LGBT parents.”

The bill would thus allow a lesbian couple to state on a birth certificate that a child has two mothers, a mother and female “father,” or two female "fathers."  Likewise, a gay couple could self-identify as two fathers, a father and a male “mother,” or two male "mothers."

Pacific Justice Institute sent a letter to Gomez formally opposing AB 1951.  The bill passed through the Assembly late last week and is now in the Senate.  AB 1951 is supported by the ACLU, the mayor and City Council of Los Angeles, the AFSCME union, Planned Parenthood of California, and several gay rights groups.  

Brad Dacus, a frequent FOT guest and president of Pacific Justice Institute, commented, “In a season where we have just celebrated Mother’s Day and will be celebrating Father’s Day next month, it is astounding that lawmakers want to render these concepts meaningless.  Playing a labeling game does not change the reality of whether one is a dad or a mom. These types of absurd laws make our state a laughingstock and diminish respect for the law.  They also make it clearer than ever that redefining marriage is just the starting point for LGBT activists who want to redefine everything about the family.”

Californians should contact their state Senators to voice their concerns about AB 1951. Citizens in all states are encouraged to ask candidates seeking election in this year’s midterm elections whether they support or oppose redefining marriage, family, and gender.

Monday, May 12, 2014

FOT’s first anniversary broadcast tomorrow 9 a.m. CDT

Attorney Rick McConville
Tuesday we celebrate our first full year on air as a half-hour program.  Joining us in studio for our celebration, and contributing to our discussion of recent cases involving people of faith, will be our chief underwriter Attorney Rick McConville, of Coppola, McConville, Coppola, Hockenberg & Scalise PC in West Des Moines. Rick is an old friend of Deacon Mike, they both attended St. Theresa grade school, Dowling Catholic, and Creighton University within a few years of one another.

Additionally, joining us by phone will be Attorney Frank Harty who is local counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty representing a Mennonite couple in Grimes, Dick and Betty Odgaard, who have refused on religious grounds to rent their facility out for a same-sex wedding. Frank will be giving us an update on that case. In addition we’ll be discussing the fall-out from some other news including the removal of a verse of Psalms from a Cedar Rapids fire truck, the Satanic Black Mass at Harvard, the latest in the abortion wars and may other matters of interest.  

So tune-in Tuesday morning at 9 (CDT) to listen to Deacon Mike, Gina Noll, and Rick McConville discuss all the latest legal news that affect people of faith.  The program will be re-broadcast tomorrow night at 9 p.m. on Iowa Catholic Radio 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming live on  And don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook and sign up to follow us on Twitter and subscribe to this blog; these are great ways to keep up with the news between programs.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Can students read bible in school? Of course they can, but too many schools and parents don’t know or understand the law

It seems that every week we have at least one news story about a student who is being told not to read the bible during his free time, or that she can’t say grace before her lunch.  Kelly Shackelford, president of the Liberty Institute, discusses this in this news clip.

You can get the booklet that Kelly spoke of by clicking here.

‘Under God’ in Pledge upheld by Massachusetts’ Highest Court

Today Massachusetts’ highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court, unanimously rejected the latest lawsuit challenging the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, ensuring that Massachusetts schoolchildren may continue reciting the Pledge in full each morning. The American Humanist Association, an atheist advocacy group, sought to overturn the Pledge in the lawsuit, claiming that the words “under God” were unconstitutional. Local Massachusetts schoolchildren, their parents, and the Knights of Columbus intervened in the lawsuit to defend the Pledge.

“Today the Court affirmed what should have been obvious—‘God’ is not a dirty word,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit law firm that has defended the Pledge for over a decade. “And it isn’t discriminatory either. The words ‘under God’ are a reminder to our children that government doesn’t give us our rights and it can’t take them away either. Preserving the Pledge protects the rights of every American.”
This is the Becket Fund’s fourth win in court protecting “under God” from attack. Last year, after Middlesex Superior Court Judge Jane Haggerty ruled in favor of the Pledge, the American Humanist Association appealed her decision to Massachusetts’ highest court. Oral arguments were held on September 4, 2013.

The unanimous Court rejected the American Humanist Association’s argument that recitation of the Pledge discriminates against atheist schoolchildren. Stating that recitation of the Pledge is completely optional, the Court ruled that no child must be silenced from reaffirming timeless American ideals because others disagree. Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, writing for the unanimous court, stated “Here there is no discriminatory classification for purposes of [the law] — no differing treatment of any class or classes of students based on their sex, race, color, creed, or national origin. All students are treated alike.”
“For those who have been attacking the Pledge we would offer this: our system protects their right to remain silent, but it doesn’t give them a right to silence others.” Rassbach added.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Obamacare forcing pro-life family to pay for abortions

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a Connecticut pro-life leader and his family that are losing their health plan due to Obamacare filed suit in federal court last week claiming the family is now being forced on to the state’s health insurance exchange, which only offers plans that require them to pay for other people’s abortions.

The lawsuit also challenges secrecy clauses within Obamacare which forbid Americans from being told prior to enrollment whether the plans they would purchase on an exchange will include abortion coverage. The clauses also forbid Americans from being told how much of the premium is a federally mandated abortion surcharge that pays for other people’s elective abortions.

“With Obamacare, if you like your current plan, you can’t always keep it, and you may have to pay for other people’s abortions in your new plan,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. “Neither the Constitution nor federal and state law allow for this type of government coercion. The Obama administration may not place a very high value on respecting a person’s constitutionally protected freedoms, but both federal and state law do. We are asking the court to stop the individual mandate from violating the rights of this family.”

“No one should be forced to pay for other people’s abortions,” added ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “In America, we don’t separate what people do from what they believe, and that’s why Obamacare’s attack on the freedoms of Americans must stop.”

Barth and Abbie Bracy have insurance through a private insurer, but Obamacare has forced the insurer to cancel the policy effective later this year. Now being forced on to the Obamacare exchange in the state of Connecticut, the Bracys are left only with plans that include a mandatory surcharge used to fund the elective abortions of others. Ironically, Barth Bracy is executive director of The Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee and has warned people of exactly the problems his family is now facing.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Prof. Anne Hendershott of Franciscan University: tomorrow on FOT

Professor Anne Hendershott
This week’s guest is Dr. Anne Hendershott, professor of sociology and the director of the Veritas Center for Ethics and Public Policy at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She will be joining Deacon Mike Manno and Gina Noll to discuss the pressure some Catholic schools are under to abandon their moral teachings. She will discuss with us some of the recent cases across the country and where she thinks this is all heading.

Professor Hendershott is the author of several books including The Politics of Abortion (2006), and The Politics of Deviance (2002).  She is well known for her research and writings that fuse Catholic social teachings with contemporary cultural issues. She regularly writes opinion pieces for The Wall Street Journal, Catholic World Report, The Washington Times, National Review Online, Crisis Magazine and other news outlets.
Join the deacon, Gina, and the professor Tuesday morning at 9 (CDT) on Iowa Catholic Radio 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM or listen to the program stream at  The program will be re-broadcast at 9 p.m.

U. S. Supreme Court upholds legislative prayer!

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday strongly affirmed the freedom of Americans to pray according to their own beliefs at public meetings. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent the town of Greece, N.Y. in the lawsuit, Town of Greece v. Galloway.

“The Supreme Court has again affirmed that Americans are free to pray,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “In America, we tolerate a diversity of opinions and beliefs; we don’t silence people or try to separate what they say from what they believe. Opening public meetings with prayer is a cherished freedom that the authors of the Constitution themselves practiced. Speech censors should have no power to silence volunteers who pray for their communities just as the Founders did.”

“As a practice that has long endured, legislative prayer has become part of our heritage and tradition, part of our expressive idiom, similar to the Pledge of Allegiance, inaugural prayer, or the recitation of ‘God save the United States and this honorable Court’ at the opening of this Court’s sessions…,” the court’s opinion states. “That a prayer is given in the name of Jesus, Allah, or Jehovah, or that it makes passing references to religious doctrines, does not remove it from that tradition.”

Although the case centers on a New York town’s prayer practice, the court’s decision has ramifications upon other similar cases still in progress in lower courts. ADF attorneys will seek to resolve those cases in light of the decision, and they plan a nationwide campaign to inform governmental bodies at all levels that they are free to include prayer in their public meetings.

“You shouldn’t be forced to forfeit your freedom to appease someone who doesn’t like what you say or believe,” said ADF Senior Counsel Brett Harvey, a recent guest on FOT. “Opponents of prayer want to use government to attack our freedom, but the Constitution established our government to protect our freedom.”

“The Supreme Court has reaffirmed that the practice of prayer before legislative bodies is firmly embedded in the history and traditions of this nation,” Hungar added. “In so doing, they have simply reinforced what has been true about America since its founding: Americans should be free to speak and act consistently with their own beliefs.”

Sunday, May 4, 2014

FOT host is new director of deacons in Des Moines diocese

Faith on Trial host Deacon Mike Manno has been named diocesan director of the diaconate by Bishop Richard Pates, bishop of the diocese of Des Moines. He officially starts as director May 15.

Deacon Mike opening "Right
to Life" day at the Iowa Capitol
Deacon Mike was ordained August 14, 2010 and serves St. Augustin Parish, Des Moines.  An attorney, he has hosted FOT since last May when the program began.  He also writes a monthly column for the diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Mirror, and is the co-host for the bishop’s weekly program, In the Heartland with Bishop Pates.
He also serves as chaplain for Bridges of Iowa, a faith-based substance abuse treatment program and is also a board member for InnerVisions HealthCare, an unplanned pregnancy and STD medical clinic. He is the author of two murder mysteries, Murder Most Holy and End of the Line.  He lives in West Des Moines, Iowa with his wife, Luanne, and two “four-legged kids,” Bo and Buster.

He succeeds Deacon Michael Riley who has served as director for the past ten years and who announced his retirement this spring.  Named associate director was Deacon Fred Cornwell of Adair, Iowa.
Deacon Mike can be contacted at

Friday, May 2, 2014

Texas Values claims proposed Houston ordinance is a threat to Christians, private sector

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is an open lesbian, has announced a proposed wide-reaching LGBT ordinance that she plans to fast track into law within the next two weeks. This special rights ordinance is a direct threat to people of faith and traditional morality in the City of Houston. The ordinance would give government new power to force private individuals and businesses to affirm homosexual conduct and actual or perceived “gender identity” or face serious criminal penalties.

All legitimate anti-discrimination protections, including race, color, national origin, sex, and religion are already protected in state and federal law. The reality is that this ordinance will only serve to specifically impose “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes onto the private sector of Houston, while centralizing the power of investigation, fines (up to $500/day), and punishment under the Mayor.

The ordinance, much like San Antonio’s controversial anti-Christian ordinance, is a direct threat to any person in Houston that holds a biblical or traditional view of marriage or sexuality, whether in government or in business. Here is an analysis of just a few of the serious problems with the ordinance:

The ordinance would force employers and a private business owner to violate their religious and moral convictions. It subjects individuals to criminal prosecution for refusing to participate in the celebration of the homosexual lifestyle because of their religious beliefs or conviction of conscience.  A similar law in New Mexico was used to force a Christian Photographer to use her gifts and talents to affirm and participate in a same-sex ‘commitment ceremony’ that she disagreed with or face punishment by the state.

The ordinance falsely equates race with sexual conduct. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination based on race (and color, national origin, sex, and religion). It is disingenuous to attempt to hijack the Civil Rights movement by comparing an inborn, involuntary, and immutable trait with sexual conduct or transgender behavior. The U.S Supreme has declined to subject classifications based on “sexual orientation” to the “strict scrutiny” legal standard that applies to race.

The ordinance will allow men access to women’s bathrooms, shower rooms, and locker rooms. The proposed ordinance requires Houston businesses to make all women’s bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms available to all who are dressed in female attire, without regard to biological sex. This will place women and children at risk.

The ordinance increases government interference in the private sector. It would essentially substitute the judgment of Lesbian Mayor Parker for that of the employer regarding what qualities or characteristics are most relevant to a particular job. Houston businesses could be forced under penalty of law to hire people that openly promote behavior that is contrary to their religious convictions.

The ordinance is declared a “public emergency” while providing no evidence of any systemic discrimination. The mayor is seeking to shut out the public in the process, asking that the ordinance “be passed finally on the date of its introduction.” There is no evidence of a need for this sweeping ordinance, and it is clear the mayor does not want the ordinance to be properly vetted.

It is reported that the ordinance will considered by the full council on May 7. If approved, the ordinance would go into effect immediately.

Texas Values is an organization dedicated to preserve and advance a culture of family values in the state of Texas. You can check out its web site here. This article was reprinted from the Texas Values blog.

ADF chief recounts recent victories for life

By Alan Sears

Things are not going altogether according to plan for Planned Parenthood, thanks to your support for the tireless efforts of Alliance Defending Freedom staff and allied attorneys across the country to preserve women’s health and safety and protect life in the womb. In just the last few weeks alone, by His grace, we’ve seen a solid array of wins in this critical arena, in states like:
·         Alabama, where Planned Parenthood has challenged the state’s law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Planned Parenthood asked the judge to rule immediately in its favor. Instead, he ordered the case set for trial.

·         Arizona, where a federal court refused to place a hold on a state law requiring abortionists to dispense their life-ending drugs according to federal Food and Drug
Alan Sears
Administration rules. (The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco has now overridden the lower court’s decision and put the hold in place, pending review – but did not criticize the decision.)

·         Kansas, where Planned Parenthood pressed for two of their facilities to receive priority in state funding – but a federal court ruled that state law put public health departments and hospitals at the front of the funding line. Indeed, the court ruled, the state doesn’t have to fund Planned Parenthood facilities at all. (The decision is one in a groundswell of state efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, in wake of a Congressional investigation urged and assisted by ADF attorneys.)

“Planned Parenthood’s efforts to put their profits ahead of the safety of women and children continue to fail,” says ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. “America’s largest abortion seller has not succeeded so far in its opposition to common-sense laws that put women’s health and well-being ahead of Planned Parenthood’s bottom line.”

But the greatest victory of all came in Colorado, where earlier this month the state senate was poised to pass Senate Bill 14-175, the noble-sounding “Reproductive Health Freedom Act.” The bill would have, in the words of our friend and ally Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, “essentially shut down any attempt to pass life-affirming legislation in Colorado ever again. More than that, it [would have enshrined] the ‘right to abortion’ into Colorado law.”

Specifically, the bill would have blocked required waiting periods for abortion, mandatory ultrasounds for expectant mothers, and restrictions on abortion pills for minors. It would have allowed girls of 10 or 11 to obtain abortions without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

But the bill’s almost certain passage began to falter in the face of testimony from ADF Attorney Natalie Decker and others. Hesitations grew when more than 1,000 people showed up at the state capitol on Tuesday, April 15 to pray with Archbishop Aquila and then flooded the state capitol building to express their opposition to the bill.

Then, from Tuesday to Thursday, state senators were overwhelmed with calls and emails from constituents voicing their own opposition – many of whom showed up at the capitol in person again on Thursday. Senate leaders got the message, and in a procedural move, effectively killed the bill.

In the wake of the bill’s demise, people reported seeing Planned Parenthood lobbyists – the main force behind the bill – crying over their loss. We pray God would touch those same hearts to weep for the lives of children aborted in the womb.

Please join me in praying for that day to come soon – and even sooner, for the day when no children are aborted at all. And in the meantime, let us rejoice in these God-given victories, and give thanks for all those who continue to find the courage to speak out boldly, faithfully for the preservation of life. And thank you – for doing so much to make all of this possible.

Alan Sears is president, CEO, and general counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom