Friday, September 29, 2017

Illinois Right to Life denounces Rauner action on HB40; Governor’s broken promise draws ire from Pro-Life community

(September 28, 2017 – Chicago) Today, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner broke his promise to not sign House Bill 40. This bill will force taxpayers to cover the cost of providing free abortions for those on Medicaid and for state employees. 

“We are absolutely devastated and heartbroken that our Governor went back on his promise and signed the extremely out-of-touch, abortion-expanding bill, HB40,” said Rosemary Hackett, President of Illinois Right to Life.  

“Right now, Illinois Right to Life and pro-life advocates throughout Illinois can only feel betrayed and deeply saddened for the thousands of additional unborn babies’ lives that will be lost each year because of Governor Rauner’s action. We are beyond disappointed that our governor is willing to ignore the voices of his state’s citizens and every member of his political party, and expand abortion in Illinois at taxpayer expense.”  

Once it becomes law, HB40 will force every Illinoisan to pay for free abortions for those on Medicaid and state employee health insurance, through the full nine months of pregnancy and for any reason, even when the latest scientific research has shown that the unborn child can feel pain and survive outside the womb. 
Last April, Rauner promised that he would veto HB40, saying he recognized that there were sharp divisions of opinion over taxpayer funding of abortion in Illinois. He also promised during his 2014 campaign that he would “have no social agenda.” In signing HB40, Governor Rauner has directly gone back on his promises.  

It has long been the policy of the state of Illinois, like the majority of other states in America, that its citizens should not be required to pay for other people’s abortions. Illinois’ current Medicaid program covers abortions in the rare cases of rape, incest, and when there is a threat to the health and life of the mother. In its current form, HB40 expands the Medicaid coverage to abortions for any reason.  

By signing this bill, it is projected that 12,000 or more additional babies will be aborted every year. This is based on data from the last period during which there was unrestricted Medicaid funding of abortions in Illinois. That will add to the 39,856 abortions per year already performed in Illinois.  

There is no cap on the number of abortions that could be covered under Medicaid and no cap on the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on these procedures. Based on figures from the last time Illinoisans financed unrestricted Medicaid funded abortions, at the current rate, state government spending could range anywhere from $1.8 million to $21 million.  

According to political analysts, Rauner will be the first governor in the country to initiate state taxpayer funding of abortion. This bill was deemed so extreme that every Republican member of the General Assembly voted against it, as did several Democrats.  

“With a swipe of his pen, the Governor has begun to change the character of Illinois and potentially America,” added Hackett. “Those who oppose abortion do so because science says abortion ends the life of an unborn child - something no American should have to pay for. Our country does not take pride in abortion, celebrate it, or work to increase them. Illinois is poised to be the first state in the country to unravel it all.”

USCCB prolife chairman urges passage of pain-capable unborn child protection act

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36). It is expected to come to the House floor the first week of October. The bill, introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), proposes a ban on abortions starting at 20 weeks after fertilization.
In a September 29 letter to the House, Cardinal Dolan wrote, “All decent and humane people are repulsed by the callous and barbarous treatment of women and children in clinics…that abort children after 20 weeks.”
“Planned Parenthood’s callous and disturbing practices of harvesting fetal body parts from late-term abortions, partial-birth abortions, and the deplorable actions of late-term abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell…, have shocked our nation and led many Americans to realize that our permissive laws and attitudes have allowed the abortion industry to undertake these procedures,” Cardinal Dolan said, calling the 20-week ban a “common-sense reform.”
The Cardinal offered reasons why “the proposed ban on abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization is a place to begin uniting Americans who see themselves as ‘pro-life’ and as ‘pro-choice’.” The first centers on the expanding range of fetal ‘viability’. “The Supreme Court’s past insistence that unborn children must be ‘viable’ to deserve even nominal protection is not meaningful or workable…[M]edical technology is moving the point of viability earlier in the pregnancy putting Roe on a collision course with itself.” Second, there are life-threatening dangers to women undergoing abortions beyond 20 weeks. Finally, addressing the proposal to perform late-term abortions in “mainstream” clinics, he notes that those clinics generally refuse to perform the risky procedures. “What does it say about us as a nation, if we will not act against abortions that even full-time abortionists find abhorrent?” Cardinal Dolan asked.
Cardinal Dolan reaffirmed the right to life of humans at every stage of development, and clarified that the Church remains committed to advocating for the full legal protection of all unborn children: “[E]very child, from conception onward, deserves love and the protection of the law…. [T]he real problems that lead women to consider abortion should be addressed with solutions that support both mother and child.”
For the full text of Cardinal Dolan’s letter to the House of Representatives, visit:

Thursday, September 28, 2017

St. Louis gets schooled on definition of discrimination

Thomas More Society attorneys say the city has no case for abortion sanctuary ordinance

(September 28, 2017 – St. Louis, MO) Attorneys for a home for pregnant women, a group of Catholic grade schools, and a for-profit holding company and its owner have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment against the City of St. Louis. The motion states that there is no valid justification for an Ordinance that purports to forbid employers and property owners from making employment, housing, and realty decisions in accordance with their beliefs about abortion and other controversial reproductive technologies. The Motion was filed by Thomas More Society attorneys on September 25, 2017 in the United States District Court for the District of Eastern Missouri.   

St. Louis’ Ordinance 70459 extends “protected class” status to any person who advocates or supports abortion, thereby discriminating against those who seek to promote life or offer pro-life alternatives to abortion. The nonprofit national public law firm, the Thomas More Society, represents those suing the City for violating their constitutional rights to freedom of religion and speech, among other federal and state laws.   

“The city has taken the protections typically granted to prevent discrimination for ‘race, age, religion, sex or disability’ and applied them to anyone who has made or expects to make ‘reproductive health decisions,’ where that term is defined so broadly as to include the decision to support, advocate for, or even perform abortions,” explained Sarah Pitlyk, Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “This legislative overreaction to alleged – but entirely unsubstantiated – ‘discrimination’ is a thinly-veiled political tactic intended to silence those who seek to protect the unborn.” 

Pitlyk, along with Thomas More Society President and Chief Counsel Tom Brejcha and Special Counsel Peter Breen, filed the motion seeking to have the law enjoined. They are asking to court to prohibit its enforcement, declaring this so-called “abortion sanctuary” ordinance “unconstitutional, unlawful, invalid, unenforceable, null and void.”  The filing lists numerous abuses of the federally and state guaranteed rights of Our Lady’s Inn, St. Louis’ Archdiocesan Elementary Schools, Frank O’Brien and O’Brien Industrial Holdings, plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The motion details violations of:  

·         First Amendment Rights of  Free Speech, Expressive Association, and Free Exercise of Religion

·         Fourteenth Amendment Guarantees of Due Process and Equal Protection

·         Missouri laws that prohibit mandating employer-provided insurance coverage for abortion (Mo. Rev. Stat. 191.724 and Mo. Rev. Stat. 376.805)

·         Missouri laws that mandate and fund 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)

·         Newly-enacted Missouri Senate Bill 5 (Mo. Rev. Stat. 188.125), which the State Legislature enacted in part to preempt Ordinance 70459, and especially to prevent the damage it would do to alternatives-to-abortion agencies such as Plaintiff Our Lady’s Inn 

“This law, which claims to address discrimination, is blatantly discriminatory against those who believe that abortion is harmful and whose religious beliefs hold it to be a grave evil,” stated Pitlyk.  “The law would require Christian organizations or Christian-owned companies to sell or rent property to individuals or organizations that promote or provide abortions; to pay for abortions through their employee health plans; and even to hire abortion advocates or proponents. It is a transparent attempt by the majority of the Board of Aldermen to advance their pro-abortion agenda by trampling the religious freedom and free speech rights of those with whom they disagree via a flagrantly unconstitutional abuse of legislative power.” 

Read the Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment in Our Lady’s Inn et al. v. City of St. Louis, filed September 25, 2017, by the Thomas More Society in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division 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


Becket hails nomination of Kyle Duncan to Appeals Court

While at Becket Duncan defended religious liberty for all
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, President Trump announced his nomination of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s former General Counsel S. Kyle Duncan to serve as a federal judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Becket, a non-profit law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious faiths, praised the nomination. 
“President Trump has hit a home run with Kyle Duncan,” said Montserrat Alvarado, executive director of Becket. “While at Becket, Kyle demonstrated his commitment to the equal protection of all Americans by defending the religious liberty of people of all faiths. Under his leadership, Becket helped a Sikh woman win the right to work for the federal government without violating her faith, helped Jewish prisoners obtain kosher meals, and helped Catholic nuns remain free to care for the elderly poor.” 
From 2008-2012, Kyle served as Louisiana’s first Solicitor General and then as General Counsel of Becket from 2012-2014. He currently runs his own firm in D.C.  
“Americans of all faiths should welcome Kyle’s nomination,” said Bill Mumma, president of Becket. “Very few lawyers have demonstrated the kind of empathy and understanding of people of many different backgrounds that Kyle has. He is an intelligent, upstanding man who will do great service for the Court and for all Americans.” 
The Senate will consider Duncan’s nomination later this year.
Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more).

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Pensacola counters attack on historic cross

City asks appeals court to preserve 76-year-old landmark
 WASHINGTON, D.C. – A historic cross that has stood in a Pensacola park since World War II should not be torn down, the city of Pensacola told a federal appeals court. The cross is one of more than 170 displays in the city’s many public parks, but four people sued the city in 2016 claiming that the cross is “offensive.” A federal judge ordered that the monument must be removed, but the city has now appealed.
The cross was placed in Pensacola’s Bayview Park in 1941 for a community gathering organized by a local community service group as the U.S. was on the verge of entering World War II. Pensacola, known as the “Cradle of Naval Aviation,” was heavily impacted by World War II. For decades, community events have been held at the cross, including Veterans Day and Memorial Day services. Today the cross continues to serve as a symbol of the city’s history and culture.
“Pensacola has a rich history, and it shouldn’t have to censor that history just because part of it is religious,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel at Becket, which is defending the City of Pensacola. “The constitution doesn’t treat religion like a nasty habit that must be hidden from public view; it treats it as a natural and valuable part of human culture. Pensacola can treat religion the same way.”  
Last year, the American Humanist Association sued the city on behalf of four people who said the cross was offensive. Two of those people live in Canada; the third lives outside the city; and the fourth has used the cross for his own “satanic purposes.” One of the plaintiffs had visited the cross for 23 years before filing the lawsuit. 
A federal judge ruled in Kondrat’yev v. City of Pensacola that the cross “is part of the rich history of Pensacola,” and that “the enlightened patriots who framed our constitution would have most likely found this lawsuit absurd,” but that his hands were tied by a 30-year-old decision from the appeals court, and so the cross must come down. That appeals court will now decide the cross’s fate.  
“This cross has been a positive symbol of unity for this community for over 75 years. One contrived lawsuit should not be allowed to tear it apart,” said Goodrich. 
Becket is representing the City of Pensacola and Mayor Ashton Hayward, and Becket attorneys are available for comment.   
 Additional Information:
Becket’s Opening Brief (September 26, 2017)
Case Page for Kondrat’yev, et al v. City of Pensacola (legal docs, press releases, images, news)  
Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more).

Monday, September 25, 2017

Queens Pro-Life Advocates Say NY Attorney General Claims of Harassment Are Without Merit: Thomas More Society Files Brief Supporting Motion to Dismiss in Abortion Clinic Access Lawsuit

(Queens, NY) The Thomas More Society attorneys are defending a group of peaceful pro-life advocates from Queens against New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman in a federal lawsuit that accuses them of threats and violence against abortion clinic patients. Last week the Thomas More Society filed a motion to dismiss the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit. The motion argues that the lawsuit is without merit because it is actually an assault on the First Amendment rights of pro-life sidewalk counselors.  

According to Thomas More Society General Counsel Andrew Bath, “Most of these pro-life advocates are members of the Church at the Rock in Queens,” he stated. “As life-affirming Christians, they peacefully counsel women who are considering having an abortion. They conduct themselves reasonably and compassionately and offer information about abortion alternatives to those willing to listen.”   

Schneiderman’s lawsuit, filed in June, was reputed to seek an end to what he charged is “a weekly pattern of threatening, obstructive and violent activity by a network of anti-abortion protesters at Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, New York.”  

Of the fourteen pro-life counselors that Schneiderman has singled out, ten attend Church at the Rock. The congregation has been witnessing for life outside of the abortion facility weekly since 2012. In June 2016, Schneiderman initiated a yearlong investigation, claiming to have received “complaints of the protesters’ extremely aggressive behavior.” He called the church members efforts to offer support and alternatives to women considering abortion and to advocate for the rights of the unborn, “horrifying” and “illegal.” However, in five years, there have been no arrests and not a single citation.  

Martin Cannon, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, explained that the accusations in Schneiderman’s lawsuit are unfounded, provide no particulars, and are composed of random claims that site no dates, times or circumstances.  “The AG’s alleged pattern of violence and vitriol on the part of these peaceful pro-life advocates is without basis. In fact, Schneiderman’s unwavering allegiance to abortion rights may have colored his judgment in this case, as there is not one documented and verified instance of the force, threat of force, physical obstruction, or following and harassing, of which he has accused our clients.”

The Thomas More Society supports the motion to dismiss the charges that Schneiderman has thrust upon the pro-life defendant for reasons, including:  

·        The Attorney General has no standing to act “on behalf of the people” as his vocal adherence to the cause of abortion renders him unable to distinguish the State’s interests from those of the Choices clinic and its wealthy abortionist owner. 

·        FACE, or the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances act, is unconstitutional by its very nature of censoring content in violation of the First Amendment rights to free speech. 

·        Schneiderman’s application of FACE is faulty, particularly targeting pro-life speech and seeking to punish those who hold a pro-life worldview. 

·        The alleged “weekly pattern of threatening, obstructive and violent activity” is insufficiently demonstrated and any standard of proof for Schneiderman’s accusations has not been presented. 

Schneiderman’s legal action seeks to create a 16-foot buffer zone around the abortion business premises at Choices, as well as punish the pro-life advocates by forcing them to pay damages, penalties, costs and the state’s attorneys’ fees.  

As a nonprofit public interest law firm, the Thomas More Society is vested in upholding the rights of free speech. Bath concluded, “These peaceful pro-life advocates have been exercising their right to free speech – which includes the freedom to share information on abortion alternatives- even if Mr. Schneiderman doesn’t like it. The New York Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks to deny our clients their fundamental First Amendment rights and is without factual or legal basis. We will vigorously defend our clients’ right to continue to peacefully deliver a pro-life message to abortion-minded women on the public sidewalk. This is why we are seeking a dismissal of the State of New York’s meritless attempt to deny our clients the rights guaranteed them by our Constitution.”  

Read the Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss by Griepp Defendants submitted to the United States District Court – Eastern District of New York in People v. Griepp et al by Thomas More Society attorneys here.  

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

Students, parents ask appeals court to stop Pa. school district from violating bodily privacy

EASTON, Pa. – Students and parents who filed a bodily privacy lawsuit against the Boyertown Area School District have appealed a federal district court decision that allows the school district to continue violating the privacy rights of students while their lawsuit proceeds. Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and the Independence Law Center filed the notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit on Monday. 

During the 2016-17 school year—without informing parents or students—the school district secretly opened its high school locker rooms and restrooms to students of the opposite sex, which violated many students’ bodily privacy rights. One male student involuntarily encountered an undressed female student while changing in the boys’ locker room. Three other students later joined the suit. 

“School officials have a duty to protect the privacy and dignity of all students,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “Because the Boyertown District has failed to fulfill its responsibility, we are asking the appellate court to protect their rights while the lawsuit proceeds. This is important not only for our clients, but for all students within the Boyertown Area School District.” 

“Many students and parents are rightfully concerned that the district’s new policy permits a student to unilaterally violate the privacy rights of other students based simply on that student’s beliefs about gender,” added Independence Law Center Legal Counsel Jeremy Samek, who argued before the court on Aug. 11. “A person’s privacy rights are theirs and theirs alone. Beliefs about gender shouldn’t be a license to violate privacy inside boys’ or girls’ locker rooms and restrooms. That defeats the very purpose of sex-separated facilities.”

The lawsuit, Doe v. Boyertown Area School District, claims violation of the fundamental right to bodily privacy under the U.S. Constitution; sexual harassment under Title IX, a federal law; and violation of a state privacy law. 

Independence Law Center is a Pennsylvania-based pro-bono legal organization dedicated to advancing civil rights.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Godfather of the Pro-Life Movement” Turns 90: Joe Scheidler Urges Well-Wishers to Send Birthday Cards to Planned Parenthood

(Chicago) On Thursday, September 7, 2017, Joe Scheidler will turn 90. The man Wikipedia calls the “Father of Pro-Life Activism,” and whom others have dubbed the “Godfather of the Pro-Life Movement,” will spend that day like he has each day for more than four decades: fighting the legalized killing of unborn children and urging others to do the same. 

Here are some of the reasons that Joe Scheidler, National Director and Founder of the Pro-Life Action League, is hailed by many as a pro-life hero:

        Joe has been there right from the beginning… In 1973, he founded the Chicago Office for Pro-Life Publicity, believing that the American people would rise up in opposition to abortion once they saw the scientific proof of the humanity of the unborn child. But when confronted by widespread apathy about the injustice of abortion, Joe turned to more creative strategies, launching 40 years of active leadership in the pro-life movement.
        Joe has always been active in demanding social justice… In the spring of 1965 he marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Montgomery, Alabama. It was a natural jump from speaking out for the civil rights of disenfranchised African-Americans to defending the right to life of unborn children who cannot speak for themselves. King’s organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, stood by Scheidler in his legal battles to protect the lives of children in the womb.

        The “Godfather” of the pro-life movement was victorious in the Supreme Court—twiceAfter 28 years of legal battles, Joe won the class action RICO case NOW v. Scheidler that singled him out as a primary enemy of abortion. The RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) laws were originally designed to address organized crime. No mobster, “Godfather” Joe won lopsided victories at the Supreme Court in both 2003 (8-1) and 2006 (8-0), and was finally vindicated once and for all in 2014 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

        A search for Joe’s name on the pro-abortion National Organization for Women website yields pages and pages of results… He is the pro-life advocate that abortion supporters can’t quit talking about.

        Joe is a pioneer in the controversial tactic of displaying images of abortion victims in the public square… His Pro-Life Action League continues to conduct Face The Truth tours across the nation, eliciting strong reactions from supporters and opponents alike.

        Joe was among the first to advocate “sidewalk counseling” outside abortion clinics… For the countless thousands of unborn babies saved through this compassionate pro-life outreach, Roe v. Wade has effectively been overturned. Sidewalk counselors inform women about the risks of abortion, offer them an opportunity to talk through their feelings, and direct them to free help at pro-life pregnancy centers.

        Providing a forum for abortion industry whistleblowers was another first for Joe… Since 1987, Joe has been hosting conferences at which former abortion clinic doctors, nurses, and other staff tell the shocking story of what it’s really like inside the abortion business—and what led them to renounce the killing of unborn children.

        Joe knows how to work in the trenches… He’s never sought out personal publicity or served as a figurehead. Joe has joyfully worked side by side with people in all sectors of the pro-life battle and is quick to credit others for their achievements. 

        This is not a phase, a gig, or a cause célèbre for Joe… His commitment to the defense of life stems from his deep religious faith. His many years studying theology and serving as the pro-life movement’s spiritual “Godfather” have helped Joe understand the far-reaching moral issues involved in abortion. He is deeply concerned for all who have been impacted by the legally sanctioned destruction of over 59 million unborn babies. 

        He IS Joe Scheidler, the “Godfather of the Pro-Life Movement.” You’ll find the official bio of Joseph M. Scheidler, National Director of the Pro-Life Action League, at 

About the Pro-Life Action League

The Pro-Life Action League was founded by Joe Scheidler in 1980 with the aim of saving babies from abortion through direct action. Not content to await a political or judicial solution to abortion, the League seeks to stop the killing of unborn children right now through all available peaceful means, including public protest, sidewalk counseling, education, youth outreach, and national leadership. Visit to learn more.

Court protects small-town prayer from pagan activist

WASHINGTON, D.C. A federal appeals court rejected a one-man crusade to eliminate the long-standing tradition of allowing county commissioners to open their meetings in prayer. In Bormuth v. County of Jackson, the court rejected pagan activist Peter Bormuth’s lawsuit against the county of Jackson, Michigan, addressing an important church-state issue that will likely set up the need for Supreme Court review because of its conflict with another recent ruling.  
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously protected legislative prayer in its Town of Greece v. Galloway decision, which required courts to consult history to interpret the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. Yet Bormuth attempted to dodge that ruling by using the discredited Lemon test to end the county’s prayer practice. The ruling by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati directly disagrees with a very similar case, Lund v. Rowan County, in the Fourth Circuit in North Carolina.
“The Court was right to look to our nation’s history—and not the archaic Lemon test—to interpret the Establishment Clause” said Daniel Blomberg, counsel at the non-profit, religious liberty law firm Becket. “And the court’s strong disagreement with a very similar case just decided in the Fourth Circuit means that the Supreme Court will soon have the chance to provide much-needed clarity in this area of the law.”
Legislators have opened meetings in prayer since before the founding of the country, and no one considered it to be an establishment of religion. As Becket explained in the friend-of-the-court brief that it filed with Stanford Law School Professor Michael McConnell, the Founders understood an establishment of religion to be government control of the church or government attempts to force people into or out of a church.
Yet the Lemon Test, named after the 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman case, ignores history and encourages anti-religious activists to file lawsuits against religious expression, including monuments to fallen soldiers and the national motto “In God We Trust” in U.S. currency. Town of Greece and yesterday’s Bormuth decision are important steps to ensuring that the Establishment Clause is interpreted in the same way the rest of the Constitution is: by analyzing it through its historical context.
“Small-town officials and weary judges shouldn’t be held hostage to activists determined to fight over anything that hints at religion in public life. Today’s ruling helps both reconnect the First Amendment with its historical roots and prevent future divisive church-state lawsuits,” said Blomberg.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

REPORT: America’s top universities deny students fair hearings

By FIRE September 5, 2017

·         A new survey reveals that the overwhelming majority of America’s top universities fail to provide students accused of serious misconduct with the most basic elements of fair procedure

·         A shocking 85 percent of top institutions maintain policies that receive a D or F grade for due process protections

·         Nearly 74 percent of institutions don’t even presume a student innocent until proven guilty

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 5, 2017 — Students accused of misconduct on campus are routinely required to defend themselves against serious accusations without even the most basic due process protections, according to a first-of-its-kind report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

“Spotlight on Due Process 2017” surveyed 53 of America’s top universities and found that a shocking 85 percent of schools receive a D or F grade for not ensuring due process rights. The schools were judged based on whether they guarantee those accused of campus misconduct 10 core elements of fair procedure, including adequate written notice of the allegations, the presumption of innocence, and the right to cross-examine all witnesses and accusers. FIRE awarded each institutional policy a grade based on how many of those elements it guaranteed.

“Most people will probably be surprised to learn that students are routinely expelled from college without so much as a hearing,” said Samantha Harris, FIRE’s vice president of policy research. “This report should be a huge red flag to students, parents, legislators, and the general public that an accused student’s academic and professional future often hinges on little more than the whim of college administrators.”

FIRE’s report found that 74 percent of top universities do not even guarantee accused students the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Making matters still more unjust, fewer than half of schools reviewed (47 percent) require that fact-finders — the institution’s version of judge and/or jury — be impartial.

Additionally, 68 percent of institutions fail to consistently provide students a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine their accusers or the witnesses against them — despite the fact that the Supreme Court has called cross-examination the “greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”

Most universities try students under one set of procedures for sexual misconduct, and an entirely different set of procedures for all other offenses. Of the 49 institutions in the report that maintain separate policies for sexual and non-sexual misconduct, 57 percent grant students fewer procedural protections in sexual misconduct cases — even when those cases allege criminal behavior. Troublingly, 79 percent of top universities receive a D or F for failing to protect the due process rights of students accused of sexual misconduct.

Of the 102 policies at 53 institutions rated for this report, not one received an A grade. Only two institutions — Cornell University and the University of California, Berkeley — earned a B for protecting student due process rights in both sexual and non-sexual misconduct cases.

The significant risk of erroneous findings from disciplinary procedures that do not include procedural safeguards are compounded by an April 4, 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Among other things, that letter mandated that institutions use the low “preponderance of the evidence” standard when adjudicating sexual misconduct cases. At institutions that provided few procedural protections to begin with, this mandate left accused students vulnerable to guilty findings unsupported by reliable evidence and reached without following fair procedures.

“The decisions made by campus tribunals have serious and lasting consequences,” said Susan Kruth, senior program officer for legal and public advocacy at FIRE. “Colleges and universities must maintain policies designed to help fact-finders arrive at the truth. That way, institutions can discipline students who have been fairly adjudicated to be guilty without needlessly punishing innocent students.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality, and freedom of conscience on America’s college campuses.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Change your child’s gender by the stroke of a pen? Custody fight over frozen embryos! All next on FOT

Brad Dacus, president
Pacific Justice Institute
Tuesday we’ll explore a couple of items that we haven’t talked about much in the past. First we’ll have our old friend Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, to discuss pending legislation in (where else?) California that would permit a parent to change the gender of their children – no questions asked – by simply filling out a form.

The law would also create a “third” gender for state driver’s licenses and birth certificates. There is another piece of legislation that would jail people for up to a year for not using a person’s pronoun of choice.
After Brad we’ll have a real first for FOT: a legal fight over frozen human embryos in a Colorado custody case. Special counsel for the Thomas More Society Rita Gitchell, who recently filed an amicus curie (friend of the court) brief on behalf of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, will join us.
The nub of the case is that dad wants custody of the embryos so they can be destroyed but
Rita Gitchell
Thomas More Society
mom wants to keep them for possible later implantation. How might the court decide? Rita has served as president and on the board of directors for the National Lawyers Association and is a member of the review board for the Diocese of Joliet.
So join Deacon Mike Manno and Pam Briddell Tuesday at 10 a.m. (Central) on Iowa Catholic Radio 1150 AM; 88.5 & 94.5 FM, and streaming on IowaCatholicRadio. You can also hear the repeat broadcast at 10 p.m. Podcasts of earlier programs can be heard here.
FOT is on the air courtesy of our loyal sponsors and underwriters: 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.