Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Pro-Life advocates’ lawsuit prompts free speech education for Chicago police

                  Thomas More Society wins in abortion “Bubble Zone” settlement
(May 31, 2017 – Chicago) Chicago area pro-life advocates achieved a victory this week with a court settlement that results in Constitutional rights education for Chicago police. The Thomas More Society’s challenge on behalf of the Pro-Life Action League, Live Pro-Life Group and several individual pro-life counselors resulted from misapplication of Chicago’s abortion-protective “bubble zone” ordinance. In multiple cases, overenthusiastic or mistaken enforcement of this city ordinance [MCC § 8-4-010(j)(1)] resulted in alleged violation of the First Amendments rights of those sharing life-affirming alternatives with women seeking abortions. While the City did not admit liability, it agreed to pay attorneys’ fees.
The “bubble zone” ordinance, which has been applied exclusively at abortion facilities, designates a 50-foot radius from an entrance door as an area in which persons are prohibited from intentionally approaching closer than 8 feet to another person, unless the person consents, for the purpose of engaging in a covered act, defined as "passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education or counseling with" the other person. 
Officers will receive training on such matters as:
Both pro-life advocates and abortion escorts and clinic personnel, if they approach closer than 8 feet from another person (within the 50 foot radius from a clinic entrance) in order to engage in a covered act, must have consent from the other person;
An approach to engage in covered acts is allowable if the person approached consents either verbally or nonverbally;
Just standing in a designated area does not amount to approaching a person within that area -- there must be some movement toward the person to constitute an approach.
Ann Scheidler, Anna Marie Scinto Mesia, David Berquist and Veronica Price peacefully exercised their First Amendment rights on the public ways near Chicago abortion facilities by reaching out to women who approached the clinics. The complaint that has resulted in this settlement was filed to address the alleged unconstitutional constraints that police enforcement of Chicago’s “bubble zone” ordinance placed on the peaceful work of these “sidewalk counselors.” A primary issue has been that Chicago police officers erratically applied the ordinance against them, by, for example, requiring sidewalk counselors to stay 50 feet away from a clinic entrance door.  The police also selectively enforced the ordinance against sidewalk counselors but not against abortion clinic escorts. 
In January, United States District Judge Amy J. St. Eve denied the City of Chicago’s motion to dismiss the federal complaint challenge to the “bubble zone” ordinance insofar as it challenged the constitutionality of the ordinance “as applied.”  She decided that since 2009, when the law was enacted, sufficient instances of discriminatory and inconsistent enforcement had been alleged to warrant a hearing on whether the Chicago police enforced the ordinance with “deliberate indifference” toward the rights of the plaintiffs.  She also decided, however, that since the Chicago ordinance was based on a Colorado statute that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court (in Hill v. Colorado, 530 U.S.703 (2000)), she was not authorized to find the law itself to be unconstitutional.  That ruling would have to come from a higher court than hers, she concluded.  The settlement of the "as applied" claim allows an immediate appeal of plaintiffs' challenge to the ordinance itself. 
Thomas More Society Counsel Thomas Olp explained, “Pro-abortion propaganda claims that pro-life counselors intimidate women approaching abortion clinics. That is not true.  That type of engagement would be ineffective. Pro-life sidewalk counselors compassionately and calmly approach women, one-on-one, to offer them information about abortion alternatives. The bubble zone law impedes that interaction, unconstitutionally, we believe, in violation of our clients’ First Amendment rights. With this settlement, we have secured Chicago's agreement to train its police force on the correct application the ordinance. If there continue to be problems in how the ordinance is applied, we will enforce the settlement agreement or re-file new allegations.  But we also do intend to continue our argument in the higher courts that the law itself is unconstitutional.” 
The Thomas More Society, on behalf of the plaintiffs, plans to pursue the unconstitutionality of the “bubble zone” ordinance with an appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. 
Read the settlement agreement in the case, Veronica Price et al. v. The City of Chicago et al., here
About the Thomas More Society: The 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. For more information, visit

Colorado State University drops unconstitutional student group funding policies

     Settlement reverses decision to deny Students for Life funding because speaker’s 
                 topic ‘didn’t appear entirely unbiased as it addresses…abortion’

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Colorado State University has agreed to drop unconstitutional policies that enabled university officials to deny a student organization’s funding request strictly because of the group’s pro-life views. As part of the settlement ending a lawsuit that Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed on behalf of the campus chapter of Students for Life, the university has agreed to overhaul its policies to ensure that all student groups will have equal access to mandatory student activity fees charged to all students.

“University officials shouldn’t use mandatory student fees to favor some views while shutting out others,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer. “We commend Colorado State for making the necessary changes to ensure that Students for Life, or any other recognized student organization, will not be discriminated against because of their viewpoint when they request funds for speech activities.”

Under the terms of the agreement, CSU has agreed to make several reforms. First, it has eliminated its discriminatory and unconstitutional “diversity grant” program, through which it denied Students for Life’s request for funds to host a pro-life speaker. CSU officials engaged in viewpoint discrimination when they denied the request, stating that the speaker “did not appear entirely unbiased as it addresses the topic of abortion,” and therefore its diversity grant committee worried “that folks from varying sides of the issue won’t necessarily feel affirmed in attending the event.”

Additionally, the university has also agreed to modify its student organization funding policies so that they now include clear, objective, and viewpoint-neutral criteria for evaluating funding requests. The revised policies also eliminate a prohibition against funding any faith-based activities, or those involving a “religious service.”

“Today’s college students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, commissioners, and voters. That’s why it’s so important that public universities model the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students,” added ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “When a university discriminates against some viewpoints in funding student groups, the marketplace of ideas is skewed toward the government-prescribed orthodoxy. Colorado State did the right thing by eliminating these flawed policies.”

In light of the settlement in the case, Students for Life at Colorado State University v. Mosher, ADF attorneys filed a voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Abortion sanctuary city? Incorrect use of ‘gendered’ language? Next FOT

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson and Thomas More
President Tom Brejcha at press conference announcing the lawsuit
Is the City of St. Louis angling to become an abortion sanctuary city? According to a federal law suit filed by the Thomas More Society, it just might be.  

The city recently passed a new ordinance that creates protections for anyone who has “made a decision related to abortion,” even when the abortin is not their own. It forbids any entity, including Christian organizations and individuals whose teachings hold abortion to be a grave sin, from refusing to sell or rent property to individuals or corporate organizations that promote or provide abortions. The ordinance also compels private business to include abortion coverage in their employee health plans. 

 “This ordinance does not exempt individuals with sincere religious, moral or ethical objections to abortion from its requirements in any way,” stated Sarah Pitlyk, special counsel
Sarah Pitlyk
Thomas More Society
for Thomas More Society and Tuesday’s FOT guest, “and even for qualifying religious organizations, the exemption for employment, housing and realty is extremely limited. That is unconstitutional, and directly violates both federal and state law.” She added: “Ordinance 70459 is unlawful and unenforceable, and we fully expect the court to invalidate it.”

Sarah received her J.D. from Yale Law School after earning a master’s degree in Philosophy from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in Applied Biomedical Ethics from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, where she studied as a Fulbright Scholar. In addition to practicing law, Sarah has taught philosophy and bioethics at the university level. She graduated summa cum laude from Boston College. 

In addition to Sarah we’re going to welcome Adam Steinbaugh, Senior Program Officer and Investigative Reporter for The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Recently FIRE reported on efforts at the University of Rochester to sanction 55 student groups for either being single-gender organizations or for their improper use of “gendered” language.  
Adam Steinbaugh

Adam graduated cum laude from Loyola Law School in 2012. Following law school, Adam practiced entertainment-focused civil litigation in California and authored an eponymous blog, where he covered a wide range of topics involving the First Amendment and the Internet. He later joined Popehat, and his commentary on internet and free speech issues has been featured in The Guardian, ArsTechnica, Channel 4, the CBC, and various other outlets. 

So join Deacon Mike Manno and co-host Pam Briddell as they discuss these and other issues of concern to people of faith Tuesday at 9 a.m. (central) on Iowa Catholic Radio 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM; and streaming on and heard on our Iowa Catholic Radio app which can be downloaded free from the app store. The program will be re-broadcast at 9 p.m. Pod casts of past programs can be found here.

FOT is on the air courtesy of our loyal sponsors and underwriters: Attorney Rick McConville, Coppola, McConville, Coppola, Carroll, Hockenberg & Scalise PC 2100 Westown Parkway, West Des Moines, 515-453-1055; Confluence Brewing Company – off the Bike Trail just south of Grey’s Lake, 1235 Thomas Beck Road where there is live entertainment in the tap room every Thursday; and Robert Cota,Farm Bureau Financial Services, 200 West 2nd Ave., Indianola, Iowa 50125, 515-961-4555 or 515-205-5642.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Student club asks court to halt policy that resulted in arrests for handing out Constitution

Kellogg Community College censored club supporters in part because students ‘from rural farm areas…might not feel like they have the choice to ignore’ them

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a Young Americans for Liberty chapter and one of its student organizers at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek filed a motion and brief in federal court Wednesday that asks for the school’s speech policies to be suspended after campus security arrested three people handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution while talking with students about the club on a sidewalk.

The school claims the club supporters violated its Solicitation Policy, which states that students and others must obtain permission from the school before they engage in any expressive activity anywhere on campus, including distribution of any written material. The lawsuit, Young Americans for Liberty at Kellogg Community College v. Kellogg Community College, filed in January, explains that the policy is unconstitutional for that reason, and also because it grants college officials too much discretion to restrict the content and viewpoint of student speech if it does not “support the mission of Kellogg Community College (KCC) or the mission of a recognized college entity or activity.”

“Because public colleges have the duty to protect and promote the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, we are asking the court to prevent KCC from enforcing its unconstitutional policy while our lawsuit proceeds,” said ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham.
Travis Barham
Alliance Defending Freedom
“Like all public colleges, KCC is supposed to be ‘the marketplace of ideas,’ but instead, it arrested these club supporters for exercising their freedom of speech, and, ironically, for handing out copies of the very document—the Constitution—that protects what they were doing.”

On Sept. 20 of last year, KCC students Brandon Withers and Michelle Gregoire, along with three other YAL supporters were on a large, open walkway in front of the Binda Performing Arts Center on KCC’s campus talking with students about the club and handing out pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution. Withers, Gregoire, and the other supporters were not blocking access to buildings or pedestrian traffic and were not interfering with any KCC activities or other planned events on campus.

KCC administrators and campus security eventually approached them and said that they were violating the Solicitation Policy because they had not obtained prior permission from KCC, and that they were not allowed to conduct expressive activity in this location on campus.

In the exchange, captured on video, one of the administrators told the supporters that “engaging [students] in conversation on their way to educational places” is a violation of the Solicitation Policy because it is an “obstruction to their education” to ask them questions like, “Do you like freedom and liberty?,” adding that he was concerned that the students from “rural farm areas…might not feel like they have the choice to ignore the question.”

The officials instructed Withers, Gregoire, and the others that they must immediately stop engaging in their speech activities and leave campus. When Gregoire and two of the other club supporters politely informed KCC’s chief of public safety that they were going to continue exercising their First Amendment freedoms by talking with students and handing out copies of the Constitution, he arrested them and charged them with trespass. After ADF and allied attorney Jeshua Lauka intervened, the charges were dropped, but the policies restricting student speech remain in effect.

“Today’s college students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, commissioners, and voters,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. “It makes no sense for a tax-funded college to forbid students from advocating for our constitutionally protected freedoms on their own campus. We hope the court will act swiftly to stop this school from violating its students’ rights.”

Lauka, with the Grand Rapids law firm David & Wierenga, P.C. is serving as local counsel in the case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

Parents sue San Diego School District over "Anti-Islamophobia" campaign

Yesterday, the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) filed a federal civil rights lawsuit yesterday on behalf of a group of concerned parents against the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) challenging the constitutionality of the district’s controversial “Anti-Islamophobia” program.  Named defendants also include every member of SDUSD’s Board of Education and Superintendent Cynthia Marten.  In addition to six parents, FCDF is representing Citizens for Quality Education – San Diego (CQE-SD), a local grassroots organization dedicated to public school reform, and the San Diego Asian Americans for Equality (SDAAFE), which defends the interests of the Asian American community and promotes active involvement in public affairs.

Last month, SDUSD’s Board of Education approved an “Anti-Islamophobia” initiative in a purported effort to combat bullying and harassment of Muslim students and their families.  As part of the initiative, Muslim students will be provided with special religious accommodations; teachers must receive new training and resources on how to advocate for Muslims; and the school district must review and vet its curriculum to ensure that it promotes a positive interpretation of Muslim culture and history. Most controversially, the school district seeks to explore and engage in formal partnerships with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a self-described Muslim civil rights organization. Students of other faiths are excluded from this program, including Jewish students, who statistically face an overwhelmingly higher level of bullying and discrimination than do Muslims.
Charles LiMandri, FCDF’s President and Chief Counsel, commented: 
“As it stands, tens of thousands of Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu students, as well as other non-Muslim students, walk through the schoolhouse gate vulnerable and exposed to bullying and discrimination as a result of their religious beliefs.  Meanwhile, Muslim students can feel safe as the School District’s favored religious group, with the full power of the government and an outside Muslim advocacy group at their disposal. The School District’s actions are blatantly unconstitutional and run contrary to America’s enduring belief in religious equality.”
Of particular concern is the School District’s active collaboration with CAIR, which has longstanding, verified ties to radical Islam.  For example, several of CAIR’s top executives have been convicted of terror-related crimes, the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office previously named CAIR an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror case (the FBI has terminated any outreach activities with CAIR), and the United Arab Emirates has designated CAIR as a terrorist organization.
LiMandri commented:
“Despite its message of diversity and tolerance, CAIR’s ultimate mission is to change American society and advance radical Islam.  It is entirely reasonable for parents to question whether CAIR is pushing the School District to indoctrinate students with a favorable, one-sided teaching of Islam.  Moreover, it is deeply troubling that School District officials have consistently dismissed parents’ genuine concerns as bigoted, anti-Muslim rhetoric.  That line of reasoning is akin to saying that the Constitution itself is Islamophobic.”
On April 27, LiMandri sent a letter to all members of the Board, warning them that the “Anti-Islamophobia” program raises serious constitutional concerns and would likely result in a “needless, lengthy, and expensive court battle”.  LiMandri recommended that the Board rescind its authorizing vote and consider an alternative approach.  However, the Board has indicated through various statements to the media that it intends to defend the program at all costs for the sake of “standing up to hate”.  Consequently, the local community began to mobilize an opposition, and parents sought out FCDF to help them challenge the School District’s divisive program in court.
According to FCDF’s complaint:  
“Under the guise of this anti-bullying program, Defendants have fallen in with [CAIR] to set up a subtle, discriminatory scheme that establishes Muslim students as the privileged religious group within the school community.  Consequently, students of other faiths are left on the outside looking in, vulnerable to religiously motivated bullying, while Muslim students enjoy an exclusive right to the School District’s benevolent protection.”
The School District, with over 125,000 students enrolled in its K-12 schools, received just seven reports of religion-motivated bullying from July 31, 2016, to December 31, 2016.  The district did not disclose how many of those incidents were directed at Muslim students.
FCDF filed the complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.  It is asking the court to declare that SDUSD and its officials violated plaintiffs’ constitutional and statutory rights and to grant an injunction to preliminarily and permanently stop the implementation and enforcement of the “Anti-Islamophobia” program.  In addition, FCDF is asking for nominal damages and an award of their reasonable costs of litigation, including attorneys’ fees and expenses

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Today we welcomed our new co-host Pam Briddell

Pam Briddell
Today we welcomed Pam Briddell as FOT co-host. Pam is a member of St. Pius X Catholic Church and a frequent visitor and lector at the Basilica of St. John, where her husband, Vance, is a parishioner. She is retired from the pastoral care department at Mercy Hospital, where most people remember her as Pam Murphy. She works part-time at Divine Treasurers and is a graduate of St. Joseph’s Academy, now part of Dowling Catholic High School. Welcome aboard, Pam, we look forward to your contributions to the continued success of Faith On Trial.

Victory for Vermont health professionals after pro-suicide group drops appeal

Compassion & Choices withdraws appeal of court decision that affirmed pro-life           physician groups aren’t mandated to counsel, refer for assisted suicide

RUTLAND, Vt. – A pro-suicide group has dropped its appeal of a federal court’s decision which affirmed that a Vermont law can’t be interpreted to require pro-life health professionals to counsel or refer patients for assisted suicide. As a result, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit officially dismissed the appeal Monday, thus ending the case.

The withdrawal of the appeal by Compassion & Choices leaves in place a consent agreement between physician groups and the Vermont Attorney General’s office, which agreed that the court was correct in deciding that the state’s Act 39 does not force conscientious professionals to ensure all “terminal” patients are informed about the availability of doctor-prescribed death.

“Vermont health care workers just want to act consistently with their reasonable and time-honored convictions without fear of government punishment,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H Aden, who argued before the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont in November of last year in Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare v. Hoser. “Conscientious Vermont healthcare professionals are in agreement with the state that the law doesn’t force them to participate in this heinous process, and they are pleased that the nation’s foremost advocate of assisted suicide, Compassion & Choices, has abandoned its effort to force them to do so.”

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and ADF-allied attorney Michael Tierney represent the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Christian Medical and Dental Association, groups of medical professionals who wish to abide by their oath to “do no harm.”

Act 39, Vermont’s assisted suicide bill, passed with a very limited protection for attending physicians who don’t wish to dispense death-inducing drugs themselves, but state medical licensing authorities construed a separate, existing mandate to counsel and refer for “all options” for palliative care to include a mandate that all patients hear about the “option” of assisted suicide. For that reason, the groups representing pro-life health professionals filed suit.

The court ruled that the groups lacked a legal right to bring the lawsuit because the law actually doesn’t force them to act contrary to their conscience—a finding that Compassion & Choices initially opposed. The dismissal of the appeal leaves Vermont healthcare professionals free to “do no harm” without fear of retaliation for their pro-life views.

Gender confusion for children causes confusion for the courts

Here is Deacon Mike Manno’s latest article in The Wanderer

Court: Senior citizens can seek punitive damages in religious discrimination suit against home owners association

Bakersfield, CA—A court has rejected the latest attempt by a homeowners’ association to shield itself from punitive damages for shutting down Bible studies and a Sunday worship service.   

Like many retirement communities, Solera at Kern Canyon has a central clubhouse and recreation facilities where numerous interest groups like book clubs and water aerobics meet.  About ten years ago, several members of the community began meeting together on Tuesday mornings for a men’s Bible study.  Two different women’s Bible studies were later formed.  In 2014, some of the men felt a need to serve physically challenged residents who have difficulty leaving the community by offering informal worship on Sundays.  The Sunday services quickly became the best attended weekly event held at the clubhouse.  Participants come from a wide variety of denominational backgrounds, and it is not a formal church.  Unlike most churches, no offering is taken, and the retired pastor who does most of the preaching does not receive a salary.   

Late last year, an anti-religious resident who does not attend any of the groups demanded that they cease.  Among other invectives, it was suggested the Romans should have finished off the Christians while they had the chance.  In response, the HOA Board just before Thanksgiving ordered all four groups to stop meeting in the clubhouse indefinitely.  After one resident filed suit in late December and an injunction hearing was scheduled, the Board reluctantly allowed the groups to resume meeting while it considered further restrictions.  Leaders of the religious groups are now regularly denounced at the HOA Board meetings and they receive numerous harassing phone calls.  

Pacific Justice Institute joined the suit earlier this year representing the leadership of the four groups.  At a hearing held last Thursday in Kern County Superior Court, the judge denied four motions on behalf of the homeowners’ association, its Board of Directors and its general manager to strike the punitive damages.  The court observed that the allegations, if proved, would be akin to racism and other forms of civil rights violations justifying punitive damages. 

Matt McReynolds, the PJI attorney who represented the groups’ leaders last week at the hearing, noted, “We are encouraged that the court recognized the seriousness of the allegations in this suit.  While it is not our clients’ desire to punish or be vindictive toward anyone, they simply want to worship in peace, and they continue to face harassment and hostility unlike any other group in the community.  We look forward to moving ahead with this case on their behalf.” 

Brad Dacus, the president of PJI and frequent FOT guest, noted, “It is an honor and privilege to represent senior saints who are using their retirement years to pursue God and serve their neighbors.”

The next clash in the case is expected over new draft rules and regulations that, if implemented, could eliminate one or more of the four religious groups and give the HOA Board authority to shut down any group deemed by the HOA Board to be causing division or embarrassment.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

“Last Man Standing,” pro-life students being harassed, and … a new co-host? Next

A firestorm erupted when ABC Television announced that the popular sitcom “Last Man Standing,” staring the Tim Allen, was cancelled. A lot of rumors, charges, and counter-charges floated throughout the media, social and otherwise, that the program was cancelled because its star was a conservative and supporter of President Trump, and the program reflected conservative and Christian values.

For those who have not seen the program, Tim’s character, Mike Baxter, runs a sporting goods store, The Outdoor Man, which is similar to The Bass Pro Shop. He is married and has three daughters, one was a teenage mother, the middle daughter is a less than scholarly beauty, and the youngest is a tom-boy and Mike’s favorite.  There is a lot of play back and forth between him, his wife, and two of the daughters about politics, responsibility, and faith. As
Dan Gainor
Media Research Center
dad, Mike takes a decidedly conservative view on all matters and the program has been a hit with good ratings for six years.
So why was it cancelled? Tuesday we’ll have Dan Gainor, vice president of business and culture for the Media Research Center to discuss the how and whys of ABC’s decision to cancel its popular program.
Kristan Hawkins
Students for Life
In addition to Dan, we’ll have back Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life America to discuss a few new cases in which they have become involved. One concerns a Pennsylvania high school that refuses to allow students to form a pro-life club even though the students have met the requirements set down by the school. The other concerns a Fresno State University professor who continues to erase and remove pro-life messages the school permits on campus. Both have been the subject of previous blog articles that can be found here, and the second one here.
And we may have a big surprise in that we might have a new co-host for Deacon Mike. Sadly, as you recall, Gina Noll left the program due to conflicting time commitments and we had to say good-by last week. So, does Deacon Mike have a new co-host? Check in Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. to find out on Faith On Trial: 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM and streaming on; FOT can also be heard on our downloadable app which you can get at the App Store. FOT is re-broadcast at 9 p.m. (all times Central) and podcasts of earlier programs can be found here.
FOT is on the air courtesy of our loyal sponsors and underwriters: Attorney Rick McConville, Coppola, McConville, Coppola, Carroll, Hockenberg & Scalise PC 2100 Westown Parkway, West Des Moines, 515-453-1055; Confluence Brewing Company – off the Bike Trail just south of Grey’s Lake, 1235 Thomas Beck Road where there is live entertainment in the tap room every Thursday; and Robert Cota, Farm Bureau FinancialServices, 200 West 2nd Ave., Indianola, Iowa 50125, 515-961-4555 or 515-205-5642.

Abortion proponents not “Protected Class” according to lawsuit against St. Louis

Thomas More Society and Archbishop Robert Carlson Defend Rights of Catholic Schools,  Religious Nonprofits and Privately-Owned Businesses

 (May 22, 2017 – St. Louis, MO) A home for pregnant women, a group of Catholic grade schools, and a for-profit holding company and its owner have come together to sue the city of St. Louis for violating their constitutional rights to freedom of religion and speech, among other federal and state laws.
The case, filed today by the Thomas More Society asserts that the recently enacted city Ordinance 70459 extends protected class status to any person who advocates or supports abortion – while discriminating against those who seek to promote life or offer pro-life alternatives to abortion.
“The city has taken the protections typically granted to prevent discrimination for ‘race, age, religion, sex or disability’ and applied them to those who have made or expect to make ‘reproductive health decisions,’” explained Sarah Pitlyk, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, “where ‘reproductive health decisions’ is so overbroad as to include any decision that is any way related to contraceptive use or abortion. The law would therefore force nonprofit organizations like Our Lady’s Inn, whose mission is to promote and facilitate abortion alternatives, to hire abortion advocates, despite their opposition to the ministry’s reason for existence.”
Pitlyk noted that the Missouri legislature continues to fund life affirming programs, including $6.46 million for the Alternatives to Abortion program, and has cut support of Planned Parenthood and other agencies that perform or refer for abortions not necessary to save the life of the mother. She stated, “The City of St. Louis, by pushing an abortion agenda, is clearly out of step with the rest of the state.”
Our Lady’s Inn, the Archdiocesan Elementary Schools of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, O’Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC, and Frank Robert O’Brien are seeking judicial review of Ordinance 70459, also known as Board Bill 203 Committee Substitute, because it violates their rights under the U.S. Constitution and various Missouri statutes.
The ordinance, enacted in February, was represented as addressing discrimination in employment, housing and realty against individuals who have had, or were planning to have, abortions. Proponents and sponsors of the ordinance, however, were unable to point to the actual occurrence of any such discrimination in the City of St. Louis. Pitlyk labels it, “a remedy in search of a problem.”
The complaint lists multiple federal constitutional causes of action against the ordinance, including violations of the:
  • Free Speech clause of the First Amendment
  • Right to Expressive Association under the First Amendment
  • Religion clauses of the First Amendment
  • Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
  • Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment 
City of St. Louis Ordinance 70459 also violates the following Missouri state laws, according to the filing:

  • Two laws that prohibit mandating employer-provided insurance coverage for abortion (Mo. Rev. Stat. 191.724 and Mo. Rev. Stat. 376.805)
  • Two laws that provide for maternity homes, adoption and pregnancy assistance for low-income women (Mo. Rev. Stat. 188.325 and Mo. Rev. Stat. 135.600)
  • The Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Mo. Rev. Stat. 1.302 and Mo. Rev. Stat. 1.307) 
The language of the new law creates protections for anyone who has “made a decision related to abortion,” even when the abortion is not their own, and even includes legal protections for corporations and all business organizations. It forbids any entity, including Christian organizations and individuals whose teachings hold abortion to be a grave sin, from refusing to sell or rent property to individuals or corporate organizations that promote or provide abortions. The law’s limited religious exemptions are vague and undefined and do not cover individuals. The ordinance also purports to compel private businesses to include abortion coverage in their employee health plans, despite sincere objections by company owners—a requirement that has already been held unlawful by the Supreme Court of the United States (Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius et al.) and is also unlawful under Missouri law.
“This ordinance does not exempt individuals with sincere religious, moral or ethical objections to abortion from its requirements in any way,” stated Pitlyk, “and even for qualifying religious organizations, the exemption for employment, housing and realty is extremely limited. That is unconstitutional, and directly violates both federal and state law.” She added: “Ordinance 70459 is unlawful and unenforceable, and we fully expect the court to invalidate it.”
About the Thomas More Society: The 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. For more information, visit

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Pennsylvania high school discriminates against pro-life club

Thomas More Society defends student rights in Allentown

(May 17, 2017 - Allentown, PA) – Attorneys from the Thomas More Society have sent a demand letter to administrators at Parkland High School in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The letter charges that the school’s denial of a request by some students to form a pro-life student group is unconstitutional and must be reversed.  

St. Thomas More
Last fall, two students tried to start a Students for Life group at Parkland. The school’s assistant principal informed the duo that they needed an advisor and that they would also need to submit a club proposal. The girls found an advisor and submitted their proposal in March 2017.
The application was denied, verbally, by the assistant principal, who stated that the group was too “political” and “controversial.” Junior Grace Schairer, one of the club applicants, sent an email to the assistant principal on April 6, requesting to know what steps could be taken to overcome the objections to the student pro-life group. The school permits other clubs, including the Gay Straight Alliance, the Political Science Club, and the Fashion Club. She received no response.   

Elizabeth Castro, a senior at the Allentown high school, observed, “We met all of Parkland High School’s requirements for beginning a club at the school. We were denied simply because we are pro-life.” She explained, “As a club, our purpose is to create a life-affirming culture at our school, educate our peers on the issue of life, hold diaper drives to support pregnant and parenting students, and become a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. The school is not only denying our right to start a group but also denying the opportunity for others at our school to learn about the greatest human rights social injustice of our time.” 

“There is absolutely no question that the law protects the right of these students to form this club at their high school,” stated Jocelyn Floyd, Thomas More Society special counsel. She noted that the response from Parkland High School administration reflects a common misconception. “However,” she added, “this administration’s denial of a pro-life club is especially surprising, because this district’s policy expressly allows students to form clubs with ‘any lawful objective.’” 

“The high school students we work with are passionate defenders of life and, oftentimes, their schools put up unnecessary and unconstitutional obstacles when they try to start Students for Life clubs,” said Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins. “The school’s baseless claim that the club would be too ‘controversial’ and ‘political’ is a common excuse we hear – and it’s always infringing on the First Amendment rights of pro-life students, treating them as second-class citizens because they happen to want to educate their peers on the horrors of abortion and help pregnant and parenting students at their school.”

The communication to Parkland administration from the Thomas More Society states that the denial of the pro-life club violates the First Amendment, the Federal Equal Access Act, and Parkland School District’s own policies. The letter demands that Parkland’s administration immediately approve the application for the Students for Life club at Parkland High School. 

About the Thomas More Society

The 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. For more information, visit 

About Students for Life of America

Students for Life of America  dedicated to ending abortion by educating students about the issues of abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide; identifying pro-life student leaders; equipping student pro-lifers with the training, skills and resources to be effective and successful; and promoting student activity to other local, college and national organizations. For more information, visit

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Farewell to Gina … Thanks for all you have done; you made our show great!

Gina Noll 
Today we had to bid farewell to our co-host, Gina Noll. Gina first appeared on FOT in October of 2013 when the show went live; for the first four months of the program it was taped in interview segments and the editing staff put it together in a half-hour format. When the show was moved from its weekend taped format to Tuesday morning live, Gina joined Deacon Mike Manno and served as co-host until today. During that time we have broadcast 175 different weekly shows, not including special broadcasts including the twice yearly Car-a-thons. She has made a big difference to the structure and make-up of FOT, all to the good. But all things apparently must come to an end. Gina’s family and employment demands have been increasing and she asked to be let out of her responsibilities at Iowa Catholic Radio. We will miss her; she was a valuable part of FOT and the radio station and made both better as a result of her efforts. God bless you, Gina, and may He keep you and your family safe and happy in the coming days.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Fresno State U. professor sued for erasing, censoring students’ pro-life sidewalk chalk expression

ADF represents Students for Life chapter at Fresno State in new lawsuit
FRESNO, Calif. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a pro-life student organization filed suit in federal court Thursday against a Fresno State University professor who instructed students from his class to join him in defacing and erasing the group’s sidewalk chalk messages that affirmed life.

“No university professor has the authority to roam the campus, silencing any student speech he happens to find objectionable and recruiting students to participate in this censorship,” said ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham. “Like all government officials, professors have an obligation to respect students’ free speech rights. And they should encourage all students to participate in the marketplace of ideas, rather than silencing those with whom they happen to differ. The professor’s actions here represent a flagrant violation of the First Amendment.”

In April, the Fresno State Students for Life received permission to chalk positive, life-affirming messages on the sidewalks leading to the university’s library. As its members finished chalking these messages on the morning of May 2, Gregory Thatcher, a public health professor, confronted them and falsely alleged they could not chalk messages near the library, and could only express themselves in the so-called “free speech area.” (The university eliminated this speech zone in June 2015.)

After club president Bernadette Tasy explained she had university permission to chalk messages in that spot, Thatcher announced that he would return to erase the messages shortly. He then recruited at least seven students from his 8:00 a.m. class to erase and deface the pro-life chalk messages. When Ms. Tasy reminded him that the club was acting with full permission, Thatcher walked over to one of the pro-life messages and began erasing it himself, claiming that he was exercising his free speech rights. And he erroneously proclaimed, “College campuses are not free speech areas.” The enclosed video documents Thatcher’s hostile statements and actions.

“Today’s college students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, educators, and voters. That’s why it’s so important that university professors model the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students, and why it should disturb everyone that this Fresno State professor, like so many other university officials across the country, is communicating to a generation that the Constitution doesn’t matter,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom.

The lawsuit, Fresno State Students for Life v. Thatcher, explains that Professor Thatcher’s decision to erase Students for Life’s expression, to recruit students to help in his censorship, and to harass and intimidate the group violates their fundamental right to freedom of speech. Additionally, the complaint asks the court to block Thatcher “and any other persons acting on his behalf or at his direction from interfering, disrupting, or altering any future lawful expressive activities that [Fresno State Students for Life and its members] conduct.”

“Fresno State Students for Life received full permission to chalk pro-life messages near the library. Rather than countering with his own message, Dr. Thatcher took the illegal approach of censoring speech and inciting students to help in this,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “No students should have to endure this kind of intimidation and harassment for simply expressing their views, but especially not those who want to help the women betrayed, and the preborn children killed, by the abortion industry.”

Students for Life of America is the nation’s largest pro-life youth organization and currently serves more than 1,040 groups in colleges, high schools, and medical schools across the U.S. Attorney Michael L. Renberg of the Fresno law firm Parichan, Renberg & Crossman is serving as local counsel in the case, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

Religious freedom in the military is this week’s topic on FOT

Michael Berry
First Liberty Institute
Joining us this week on FOT will be Michael Berry, Senior Counsel & Director of Military Affairs for First Liberty Institute, where he focuses on cases involving religious liberty within the armed forces. He joined First Liberty Institute in 2013 after serving for seven years as an attorney with the U.S. Marine Corps. From 2009 until 2013, Berry served as an appellate litigator, arguing numerous cases before various federal appeals courts. In 2008, Berry was selected for a high-profile combat deployment to Afghanistan with a Marine Corps infantry battalion. From 2009 – 2012, Berry served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the United States Naval Academy.

Michael will be discussing three cases in which he is involved:
Col Madrid
1. Colonel Michael Madrid, a decorated Air Force veteran who has honorably served in the military for 26 years. He is also a devout Christian. In 2014, a service member undergoing a court-martial accused Col. Madrid of making derogatory comments about homosexuality. Col. Madrid denied making such comments and submitted to a thorough Air Force investigation, where he explained that he holds traditional Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality. The investigation ultimately cleared him of the charges. Two years later, Col. Madrid was placed under a new commander, Maj. Gen. John E. McCoy, who accessed the report and, without any new evidence or new investigation, arbitrarily decided Madrid was guilty and punished him.
2. United States Marine Corps Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling was convicted at a court
LCpl Sterling
martial after she refused to take down Bible verses she had posted in her workspace and for reposting the verses after her supervisor threw them in the trash. The military courts ruled against Sterling, giving her a bad conduct discharge and reducing her rank. First Liberty Institute stepped in and appealed Sterling’s case to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF)— the highest military court which ruled against Sterling, denying her constitutional right to religious freedom. First Liberty appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court on December 23, 2016.
3. Oscar Rodriguez, Jr. is a decorated Air Force veteran who has delivered a patriotic flag-folding speech over 100 times at civic and military events. In March 2016, a retiring service member asked Rodriguez to deliver the flag-folding speech at his retirement
Oscar Rodriguez
ceremony, to be held at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento. Rodriguez agreed, but when he began the speech, uniformed Airmen assaulted him, physically dragged him out of the ceremony, and kicked him off the military base because the speech included the word “God.”
You will hear these and other stories of interest to people of faith from our guest and Deacon Mike Manno and Gina Noll. We also expect a special announcement about FOT any day now.
FOT airs every Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. on Iowa Catholic Radio 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM; and streaming on It can also be heard on our downloadable app that is available free from the app store. Podcasts of earlier programs can also be found here.
FOT is on the air courtesy of our loyal sponsors and underwriters: Attorney Rick McConville, Coppola, McConville, Coppola, Carroll, Hockenberg & Scalise PC 2100 Westown Parkway, West Des Moines, 515-453-1055; Confluence Brewing Company – off the Bike Trail just south of Grey’s Lake, 1235 Thomas Beck Road where there is live entertainment in the tap room every Thursday; and Robert Cota, Farm Bureau FinancialServices, 200 West 2nd Ave., Indianola, Iowa 50125, 515-961-4555 or 515-205-5642.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Kentucky appeals court upholds victory for printer, deals blow to government coercion

FRANKFORT, Ky. – A Kentucky appeals court issued a ruling Friday that affirms a Lexington printer’s freedom to decline orders that would require him to promote a message in conflict with his religious beliefs.

In 2014, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission ruled that Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals must print messages that conflict with his faith when customers ask him to do so. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys appealed the order to the Fayette Circuit Court, which reversed the commission’s ruling and affirmed Adamson’s freedom to live according to his faith. The commission then appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals in Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals.

“Americans should always have the freedom to believe, the freedom to express those beliefs, and the freedom to not express ideas that would violate their conscience,” said Campbell, who argued before the appeals court in December of last year. “Today’s decision is a victory for printers and other creative professionals who serve all people but cannot promote all messages. It is also a victory for all Americans because it reassures us all that, no matter what you believe, the law can’t force you to express a message in conflict with your deepest convictions.”

In 2012, Adamson declined to print shirts with a message promoting the Lexington Pride Festival, an event that the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization hosted. Although he declined to print the shirts because of the message that would have been on them, he nevertheless offered to refer the GLSO to another printer who would have made the shirts. Unsatisfied, the GLSO filed a complaint with the commission—despite eventually receiving the shirts for free from another printer.

The appeals court opinion written by Chief Judge Joy A. Kramer found that Adamson did not engage in unlawful discrimination. She explained that no evidence demonstrates that Hands On Originals “refused any individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations it offered to everyone else because the individual in question had a specific sexual orientation or gender identity.” In fact, Adamson regularly does business with and employs people who identify as LGBT.

The concurring opinion by Judge Debra Hembree Lambert says that Hands On Originals is protected by Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Statute, and that Adamson has the right under that law to operate his business consistently with his “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

“We commend the court’s ruling, which upholds the First Amendment’s promise that everyone, including businesses and their owners, can decide for themselves the ideas and beliefs that they choose to express,” added Bryan Beauman of Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney, PLLC, of Lexington. Beauman, one of nearly 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, is co-counsel for Adamson and Hands on Originals.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

ADF offers to help Colorado colleges, universities comply with new ‘free speech on campus’ law

DENVER Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys announced that they will offer no-fee legal assistance to Colorado’s public colleges and universities to help ensure that campus policies protect students in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and a new state law that protects students’ free speech.

On April 4, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law a bill that specifically guarantees the freedom of students to engage in all forms of speech activities: speaking, distributing written material, peaceful assembly, voter registration, and circulating petitions—among others. The ADF letter to Colorado colleges and universities offers to advise them on complying with the new statute.

“Of all places in America, public colleges and universities should be laboratories for democracy and the free expression of ideas for all speakers, not just those favored by school officials,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer. “The objective of this effort is to ensure that university and college officials are informed of their obligations to uphold free speech on campus and to assist administrators in reviewing their policies for compliance with both the Constitution and this new law.”

As the ADF letter to the schools notes, one of the protections that Senate Bill 62 offers is the abolishment of restrictive and unconstitutional so-called “speech zones” that schools have used to limit students’ ability to speak publicly on campus. The law also mirrors constitutional protections by prohibiting school officials from discriminating against campus speakers on the basis of their viewpoints. Importantly, it also ensures student speech cannot be restricted because some listeners express opposition to, or react negatively to, their expression. Such action is known as a “heckler’s veto” because it unconstitutionally allows those who oppose certain speech to censor that communication which they oppose.

“Today’s college students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, commissioners, and voters,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “That’s why it’s so important that public universities model the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students, and why it should disturb everyone when many colleges fail to defend these constitutional values. We commend Colorado for taking these rights seriously and will be pleased to assist the state’s colleges and universities in revising any policies necessary to comply with this law.”

SB 62 passed the Colorado House of Representatives and Senate with very strong bipartisan support. Earlier this year, Langhofer testified before both chambers in support of the bill. Colorado joins Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri, Utah, and Virginia among states that have recently enacted legislation to abolish restrictive “speech zones” on college campuses. Since many college and university administrators either ignore or misunderstand principles of free speech on campuses across the country, states have stepped up to the plate with legislation to remind their school administrators of the core constitutional protections of the First Amendment.
Barry Arrington, one of nearly 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel for the effort.