Friday, February 23, 2018

Wheaton College wins five-year battle against HHS mandate; court says federal government violated civil rights law, orders end to mandate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Wheaton College, one of the top Christian liberal arts colleges in the country, has won the right to carry out its religious mission without fear of government fines. Late yesterday a judge ruled in Wheaton v. Azar that the government would violate federal civil rights laws if it forced Wheaton to provide services like the week-after pill in its healthcare plans against its religious beliefs. The judge’s order permanently forbids the government from imposing that mandate on Wheaton, ending the College’s five-year legal battle, which included receiving protection against the mandate from the Supreme Court in 2015.    

This is the first district court order offering permanent protection from the HHS mandate after the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Zubik v. Burwell, which said that the government could not fine religious groups for following their faith and said it could find other ways to provide services to the women who want them. Yesterday’s decision permanently protects Wheaton from any current or future version of the mandate.   

“The government is not above the law—that’s why we have civil rights laws. Wheaton should never have had to go to court to protect its rights in the first place. This order ensures we won’t have to come back,” said Diana Verm, Wheaton alumna and legal counsel at Becket, which represented the College.    

Wheaton College was founded in 1860 by prominent abolitionist Jonathan Blanchard. Its religious mission “For Christ and His Kingdom” guides everything it does. That is why, in 2012, after receiving no response from HHS to its concerns, Wheaton filed a lawsuit to defend its right to operate according to its religious principles.  

The contraceptive mandate went to theSupremeCourtfivetimes, and each time the Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting religious groups. Yesterday’s order follows a new HHS rule that admits the federal government violated the law and provides temporary protection to religious objectors. However, the new rule was halted in late December by judges in California and Pennsylvania. The California and Pennsylvania orders have been appealed. Meanwhile, the court’s order will permanently protect Wheaton from any current or future version of the mandate. 

“We are grateful to God that the court recognized Wheaton’s religious identity and protected our ability to affirm the sanctity of human life,” said Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College. “The government should never have tried to force us to provide drugs and services against our faith, and we are pleased by the resolution of our case.” 

Wheaton College is represented by Becket and Christian Poland of Bryan Cave LLP.     


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

Abortion clinic escort’s false testimony in federal court tears hole in harassment charges

                            Thomas More Society cross exam destroys accusations                                                                         against pro-life sidewalk counselors

(February 23, 2018 – Brooklyn, NY) A star witness in New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s lawsuit against a group of pro-life sidewalk counselors admitted in federal court that her testimony was not true. In reality, Mary Lou Greenberg, who heads up the abortion escort program at Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, New York, testified on Wednesday, February 21, that her accusations against the life advocates on trial were “borrowed” from another escort, whose words were used to describe actions by different people at an entirely different clinic. 

“Greenburg also admitted that when a woman is leaving the clinic in the company of sidewalk counselors, she will insert herself, uninvited, into the conversation, and will follow the entourage continuing her comments,” explained Martin Cannon, Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “This is the same behavior the Attorney General is accusing the pro-life witnesses of engaging in, but calling it illegal harassment when done by them to save babies lives. Greenburg claims she is justified because she is providing ‘important information’ she feels the woman ought to have. By contrast, our clients are offering receptive women information that can save the lives of their babies.” 

The pro-life sidewalk counselors, ten of whom are members of Church@TheRock ( in Brooklyn, have been slapped with federal harassment charges by Schneiderman, for offering abortion-bound women information on life-affirming alternatives. The sidewalk counselors are represented by the Thomas More Society, whose legal defense of them is rooted in their Constitutionally guaranteed rights.  

Greenberg wrote in a sworn declaration: “They say that Choices does not care about them. The protesters say that ambulances come and take women away once or twice a day, that women have to have hysterectomies after an abortion, and that Choices throws away ‘the baby’ in the garbage. All of these are just lies.” 

On cross examination by Cannon, Greenberg admitted that she used those exact words in 2010 magazine article, quoting another escort at another clinic. That was two years prior to the weekly pro-life outreach conducted by Church@TheRock members outside of Choices, which commenced in 2012.  

The trial, which began on February 12, has garnered attention due to Schneiderman’s well-publicized support of the abortion industry and the notoriety of Choices’ owner, Merle Hoffman, the woman Forbes dubbed the “millionaire abortionist,” who has been providing abortions since 1971, two years before Roe v. Wade became law.  

Read more about People v. Griepp et al, heard in the United States District Court Eastern District of New York, before Judge Carol Bagley Amon 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

Churches, radio station file suit over city’s attempt to control religious employment, advertising, and facility use

De Pere, WI (Feb. 23) —A coalition of churches and a non-profit radio station filed suit yesterday challenging a sweeping ordinance that purports to control aspects of religious employment, facility use, and even advertising.  The plaintiffs are represented by Pacific Justice Institute, with local counsel Heidi Miller of Wauwatosa. 

The ordinance was enacted by the City of De Pere, near Green Bay, just before Thanksgiving last year.  It is set to take effect March 1.

The ordinance bars discrimination, broadly defining that term as well as public accommodation and employment decisions in ways that would severely curtail religious exercise.  The only exception for religious entities like the churches and radio station is for hiring people of the same religion.  That limitation would afford no ability to make employment decisions if a pastor, other employee, or applicant acts inconsistently with church teaching but continues to claim to be of the same faith or denomination.

The sweeping ordinance would also prevent public accommodations from denying use for events such as same-sex weddings or drag shows. 

The ordinance also affects advertising and purports to restrict the radio station’s ability to promote people or events consistent with its beliefs.  A broad reading would also affect the churches’ ability to promote Bible-based marriage conferences and potentially even sermons proclaiming age-old Christian teachings on sexuality.  The ordinance hands enforcement authority to the city attorney.    

Because the ordinance is written so broadly, and is devoid of typical safeguards such as religious employment exceptions, or even the ministerial exception unanimously recognized by the Supreme Court, PJI first sought amendments or assurances that the ordinance would not be interpreted or enforced in ways that impinged on religious freedom.  The City of De Pere refused to provide any such assurances, leaving the religious institutions vulnerable absent court action.   

PJI is asking the court in Brown County to either interpret the ordinance narrowly, or declare it invalid under the Wisconsin and U.S. Constitutions.

Brad Dacus, president of PJI, commented, “If cities can tell churches who they must hire, retain or promote, and to whom their sanctuaries and other sacred grounds must be made available, and what types of viewpoints may be espoused through advertising, our religious freedom is in serious jeopardy.  It is alarming that the City of De Pere would not enact basic protections of religious freedom.  We are very hopeful that the court will uphold the rights of these churches and this radio station.” 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Is Western Civilization committing suicide?

By Daniel Lattier | February 20, 2018

In the past century there have been numerous thinkers who have outlined the signs of the decline of Western Civilization. We have mentioned many of them in articles for Intellectual Takeout: Richard Weaver, Georges Bernanos, Alasdair MacIntyre, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Samuel Huntington, David Bentley Hart, and Rod Dreher.
I will now add another one to the list—British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990), who wrote the following in 1976:
“Similarly, it has become abundantly clear in the second half of the twentieth century that Western Man has decided to abolish himself. Having wearied of the struggle to be himself, he has created his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, his own vulnerability out of his own strength; himself blowing the trumpet that brings the walls of his own city tumbling down, and, in a process of auto-genocide, convincing himself that he is too numerous, and labouring accordingly with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer in order to be an easier prey for his enemies; until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keels over, a weary, battered old brontosaurus, and becomes extinct. Many, like Spengler, have envisaged the future in such terms, and now what they prophesied is upon us.”
It’s difficult to deny that many of the conditions of decline that Muggeridge lists are realities of today's life in America, which is regarded by some as the last best hope of Western Civilization. For instance…
“… his own impotence out of his own erotomania”: 
As reported by a recent Politico article titled “Too Much Netflix, Not Enough Chill,” in spite of the decrease in sexual inhibitions, “Americans are having less sex, the share of Americans who say they never once had sex in the past year is rising, and—perhaps most surprising—this revolution in sexual behavior is being led by the young.”
“… in a process of auto-genocide, convincing himself that he is too numerous, and labouring accordingly with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer in order to be an easier prey for his enemies”: 
According to the Centers for Disease Control, U. S. fertility is at an all-time low, and below the levels needed to replace an aging workforce and keep the economy stable. And there have been over 60 million abortions performed in the U.S. since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, which is estimated to have reduced today’s U.S. population by about 10%.
“… having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction”:
Student performance in American schools continues to decline, and they no longer read most of the Great Books that shaped Western Civilization. In many schools, students are being taught that past men (rarely women) of the West have not only made mistakes, but that the West itself is evil and must be systematically forgotten. As Notre Dame professor Patrick Deneen has noted, “What our educational system aims to produce is cultural amnesia, a wholesale lack of curiosity, history-less free agents, and educational goals composed of content-free processes and unexamined buzz-words like ‘critical thinking,’ ‘diversity,’ ‘ways of knowing,’ ‘social justice,’ and ‘cultural competence.’”
And then there’s the high prevalence of drug use: 45% of Americans above the age of 12 take prescription painkillers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives; 1 in 10 American adults take antidepressants (thirty years ago it was less than 1 in 50); 22% of Americans use marijuana (some do so legally); and an estimated 10% of Americans use illegal drugs.
But the question of whether these conditions are actually signs of civilizational decline represents a point of division in America today. A large percentage of Americans believe that the earth is already overcrowded, and thus, that any reduction in population is unquestionably good; that teaching America’s students to look more favorably on cultures other than their own is a necessary facet of “critical thinking”; and that increased use of pharmaceuticals is an indicator of medical progress.
Others, however, see the above conditions as indicators that Americans no longer believe the West is worth preserving, and are reminded of the words of another 20th-century thinker, Will Durant: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.”
This article was originally published on

Dan is a Senior Fellow at Intellectual Takeout. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas (MN), and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can find his academic work at E-mail Dan

New website helps women avoid shoddy healthcare clinics is a new resource for women researching reproductive care

AUSTIN, TX (February 21, 2018) – A new resource for women who are searching for reproductive care can now go to to see public inspection reports and learn which clinics have been cited for failing to adhere to basic medical standards.
All reports located at CheckMyClinic were sourced through public records and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). These clinics are mostly abortion facilities, many of which have been cited for gross medical conduct.
“Women absolutely deserve to know whether or not the clinic of their choice has failed to properly disinfect medical equipment or has exposed their patients to infection,” said Abby Johnson, president of And Then There Were None, and a former manager at Planned Parenthood. “During my time working at an abortion facility, I saw disgusting incidences of where our staff failed to properly take care of women, did not clean up the operating tables, and failed to disinfect instruments. It was gross.”
People who log on to CheckMyClinic are able to obtain information about the abortion facilities and read the reports themselves without any third-party commentary. The information is summarized in easy-to-read bullet points and the reports are all linked. Current laws regarding abortion, parental notification, and telemedicine are also given.
If women want to choose to another option rather than abortion, there are links to help lines that can aid them.
“The website is both for women seeking abortion as well as workers at these clinics who are interested in learning what their employer has been cited for in the past,” said Johnson. “If they want to get out of their abortion clinic and find other work, we can help them and there is a link for them. If they want to report medical misconduct, there is a link they can do that as well.”
An informed woman is an empowered woman,” said Johnson.
CheckMyClinic is geared towards anyone wanting to learn more about the healthcare facilities that they are going to or that they are working for.  Recent news of investigations into Planned Parenthood by the FBI and the $7.7M settlement with two companies who illegally sold fetal tissue have given women reason enough to pause when considering their options.
“Oversight for abortion facilities is lacking in most states. Most of these clinics operate with little to no accountability for years, as was the case with Gosnell's Philadelphia clinic deemed by investigators to be a ‘house of horrors.’ These questions remain: who determines the standard; who will uphold it; and who will enforce it?” concluded Johnson. “Abortion has been a lauded as a ‘private’ decision and in some ways, it seems that legislators and voters have decided that what happens behind those doors is none of our business and between a ‘woman and her doctor.’ But if we look at the inspection reports that are available, we see over and over again the grave misconduct of these physicians. Who can we trust?”


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

New York State attorney general’s office complicit in fake Facebook profile to persecute Pro-Life sidewalk counselors

     ANN ARBOR, MI – In startling courtroom admissions during cross examination by Thomas More Law Center (“TMLC”) attorney, Tyler Brooks, the New York Attorney General’s star witness admitted she created a fake Facebook page pretending she was a pro-life Christian to develop dossiers and entrap pro-life sidewalk counselors who appeared in front of the Choices Women’s Medical Center (“Choices”) in New York City’s Jamaica neighborhood. She then passed on the information to the Attorney General’s Office, which was already well aware of her fraudulent activities.

     The startling testimony came during a hearing last Thursday (2/15), conducted by U.S.  Federal District Court Judge Carol Bagley Amon, to determine whether she should grant Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s request for a preliminary injunction prohibiting pro-life sidewalk counselors from coming within sixteen feet of the Choices premises. The hearing before Judge Amon continues tomorrow (2/21), and is expected to last several more weeks.

     During last Thursday’s cross-examination by Brooks, the witness admitted creating the Facebook page under the fake name of Shelly Walker. The witness described her elaborate scheme to entrap the unwary pro-life counselors named in the Attorney General’s lawsuit. She went to great lengths to invent an entirely fictitious identity; using someone else’s photo she had found on the internet, listing her occupation as a bank teller and stating she was from Saginaw, Michigan, even posting weather reports from Saginaw, as if she were there.

     Moreover, in order to make her Facebook personality of Shelly Walker appear legitimate, she sent out hundreds of friend requests, friending hundreds of pro-lifers throughout the country. She purposely searched out pro-life and conservative groups and even claimed to be a supporter of Ted Cruz and Father Frank Pavone, an ardent pro-life Catholic priest. She fabricated an emotional personal story of being talked into an abortion by her husband, who she later divorced (none of it true).

     In real life, she’s a Choices escort leader who is strongly pro-abortion.  She does not share any conservative or pro-life views. Nevertheless, she created this fake persona of Shelley Walker to appear as a concerned pro-life advocate to gather information on and entrap pro-life counselors. In fact, she sent a friend request to Angela Braxton, one of TMLC’s clients in this lawsuit.  Braxton, not realizing this was really one of the Choices escorts, accepted her friend request, thinking Walker was a pro-life advocate like herself.

     She also admitted that she shared the information of the targeted pro-life counselors with the Attorney General’s Office.  The Office never told her to stop or to delete the information based on her fraudulent Facebook postings. In fact, the Office outfitted her with a concealed video camera to record pro-life counselors in front of Choices. Ironically, just three weeks ago, in an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered, the Attorney General highlighted his crack-down on fake identities, impersonations and fraud on the internet. Read the transcript of the interview here.

     On June 20, 2017, the Attorney General held a press conference in front of the Choices Center where he announced his lawsuit against fourteen pro-life sidewalk counselors, claiming they violated the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (“FACE”), the New York State Clinic Access Act and City laws. His lawsuit asked the Court to create a sixteen-foot buffer zone around the Choices premises and to levy fines, attorney fees and compensatory damages against the defendants.

     During the press conference, the Attorney General boasted that he had dropped out of school at seventeen years of age to work at an abortion clinic in Washington, D.C. Astonishingly, the Attorney General claimed, “We are not a nation where you can choose your point of view,” and that pro-life Christians “run their mouths” with “unlawful, un-American rhetoric.”

     The Thomas More Law Center is a leading pro-life national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. TMLC represents two of the fourteen persons sued by the Attorney General.

     Richard Thompson, TMLC’s President and Chief Counsel, commented upon the courtroom revelations of the Attorney General’s star witness: “I’m appalled at the Attorney General’s lack of respect for the First Amendment and his Offices’ encouragement and use of fraudulent means to obtain information so that he can persecute peaceful pro-life citizens who have become the voice of the voiceless. He has forsaken his responsibilities as an independent law enforcement officer and is now acting as an agent of the abortion industry.” 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Self-Proclaimed Christian abortionists chosen for Prayer Campaign

Pro-Life Action League Issues Call for Action during Lent

(February 15, 2018 – Chicago) This week, the Lenten season begins on the calendar of the church year. A 40-day period of spiritual reflection for Christians worldwide, Lent is also the time during which the Pro-Life Action League issues its annual Lenten Prayer Challenge. This year, the League is asking for prayer for a trio of abortionists who say it’s their Christian faith that inspires them to do abortions. 

It’s the irony of their faith-based justification for doing abortions that perplexes Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League. Scheidler asked, “How can they fail to see the contradiction between taking the lives of unborn children, and claiming faith in Christ, who entered the world as a child in the womb?” 

Pro-Lifers who accept the 2018 Lenten Prayer Challenge will pray every day and fast from one meal each week for the true conversion of these three abortionists:
  • Willie Parker, who just published the memoir, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice.He states that his Christian faith requires him to do abortions, “… And so I became morally convinced that is was not a conflict of my Christian values to provide abortion care, and in fact it became unethical to me not to do so.”
Sarah Wallett, who is so outspoken about her work being inspired by faith that she once came out of a meeting of abortionists and knelt down on the sidewalk to pray beside pro-life advocates protesting the event. During this prayer, she said, “I can imagine no person who is in greater need of Christlike love and excellent medical care than a woman who is faced with an untenable pregnancy, and I am grateful every day to feel thy spirit and thy guiding hand on my work.”
  • Leroy Carhart, who recently held a blessing ceremony at his new late-term abortion facility in Maryland. He sees no contradiction between religious faith and performing abortions all the way into the final weeks of pregnancy, declaring, “I think that abortion is both religious and moral… I’ve prayed with many of the patients here.”
Scheidler admits these abortionists are far from sympathetic figures, and that some may find it difficult to pray for them. But he cites the Biblical directive to, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44), and reminds people of faith, “If we, who fear and love God, won’t pray for these abortionists to repent and seek forgiveness for the lives they’ve participated in destroying, then who will?”  

Pro-lifers across the country will participate in the Lenten Prayer Challenge by praying for Parker, Wallett and Carharts each day, and fasting from one meal each week for their true conversion to Christ. 

Read more about the Pro-Life Action League here [].

Watch the video, Will you take the 2018 Lenten Prayer Challenge? here [].

 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, and is now headed by Joe’s son, Eric. 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.

Millionaire abortionist” to testify at trial against Pro-Life sidewalk counselors

(February 14, 2018 – Brooklyn, NY) Merle Hoffman, the woman that Forbes dubbed the “Millionaire Abortionist,” is scheduled to testify on February 15 against a group of pro-life Christian sidewalk counselors who have been slapped with a federal harassment lawsuit by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The charges have been brought against the pro-life advocates for offering abortion-bound women information on life-affirming alternatives. The sidewalk counselors are represented by the Thomas More Society, whose legal defense of them is rooted in the constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression.
Hoffman has been performing abortions since 1971, two years before Roe v. Wade became law. She runs the for-profit Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica-Queens, New York, where ten members of Church@TheRock ( in Brooklyn are on trial for witnessing for life. According the news reports, Hoffman’s abortion facility is estimated to see about 50,000 women a year and in 2016 generated a reported $10 million in revenues.
Martin Cannon, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, is defending the peaceful sidewalk counselors against false charges of harassment, threats and violence. He noted that New York has filed baseless claims against law abiding citizens solely to discourage any opposition to abortion. The State has presented no documented or verified instances of the use of force, threat of force, physical obstruction, or of following and harassing, which Schneiderman claims justify this unjust prosecution.
 “We expect to be vindicated,” stated Rev. Kenneth Griepp, a defendant in the lawsuit and the senior pastor at Church@TheRock. “As a voice for the unborn, we are committed to raising awareness about the more than 3,500 children that are being murdered every day here in America. We do so as peaceful people of God. Because the Thomas More Society attorneys understand that, they are able to ably defend us and protect the rights we are guaranteed under the United States Constitution and First Amendment. That includes the freedom to speak out against what we believe to be the grave evil of abortion and to offer lifesaving alternatives to women and their children.” 
 Background on the case is available 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

Friday, February 9, 2018

Maryland city to church: Stop worship services or leave; ADF attorneys file suit against city of Laurel for discriminatory zoning practices

BALTIMORE – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit Friday on behalf of a church against the city of Laurel, Maryland, after officials changed zoning laws to stop the church from holding Sunday worship services and serving the underprivileged in the community.

At issue is a series of unconstitutional zoning code changes that city officials adopted to stop Redemption Community Church from operating in the city’s downtown area. The law forces houses of worship to submit to an expensive, time-consuming, and uncertain special exception process that is not imposed on secular organizations.

“The government can’t discriminate against churches simply because they are religious,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “Despite making every effort to work with the city to comply with its burdensome zoning changes, Redemption Community Church is now being told to either stop holding worship services or pay severe fines. Federal law is clear: The city’s discriminatory practices violate the law.”

“The government is constitutionally required to treat religious organizations equally,” added ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “Laurel officials allow secular groups such as cinemas, theatres, comedy clubs, schools, and health clubs to locate downtown, but not this small church that wants to serve its community. That’s not legal or constitutional.”

From the first time that the church’s trustees visited 385 Main Street, they expressed the desire to use the facility to serve their community as a house of worship, among other things. When the church trustees toured the 4,500-square-foot property in February 2015, houses of worship were allowed to operate in the city’s downtown “C-V Zone.” The property was also advertised as ideal for multiple uses including “church/school” purposes.

But almost immediately after the church purchased the property, the city changed its zoning code to remove houses of worship on less than one acre as permitted uses in the zone and allow them only if a special exception permit application was individually approved. Once the new restriction banning parcels less than one acre passed, Redemption Community Church was saddled with a $470,000 investment and shattered hopes for its ministry.

As the complaint notes, the city’s changes in its code were not neutrally applied and were only adopted to single out the church. In fact, the city planner, Monta Burrough, asked a church representative in July of last year, “Are you doing church at your property?” and then said, “There are eyes everywhere, and you are always being watched.” The city then sent the church a cease-and-desist letter, threatening to fine it $250 per day if it continued to host worship gatherings during the weekend.

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Redemption Community Church v. City of Laurel, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. It asks the court to halt the city from enforcing its discriminatory code. John Garza of Rockville is one of more than 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF and is serving as local counsel in the case for Redemption Community Church.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

Chicago pastors appeal $1 billion in new taxes on churches Court ruling that overturns 64 years of precedent, threatening poor communities across the country

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Religious leaders of all faiths are fighting for equal treatment while serving some of the nation’s poorest communities. In Gaylor v. Mnuchin, an atheist-led lawsuit threatens a 64-year-old tax provision that enables pastors, rabbis, imams, and other faith leaders to live in the communities they serve. Represented by Becket, pastors on the South Side of Chicago and other religious leaders today appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, after a ruling last year authorized almost $1 billion in new taxes each year on them and other houses of worship across the country (hear their story in this 3 min. video).

For over 60 years, the federal tax code has allowed pastors, rabbis, imams, and other faith leaders to receive housing allowances that are not taxed as income—just like military service members, overseas workers, and thousands of other professionals. But in April 2016, the atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sued the IRS to deny this treatment to ministers alone. On October 6, 2017, a federal district court ruled that housing allowances for ministers unconstitutionally establishes religion, breaking with nearly 70 years of precedent and threatening ministers with almost $1 billion in new taxes each year.

“Our congregation’s mission is to serve this city; to fight against injustice and oppression, to be a shoulder to cry on, and to give encouragement to folks in need,” said Pastor Chris Butler of the Chicago Embassy Church. “It would have a devastating impact on small churches if suddenly a pastor had less time to devote to the community.”

Pastor Chris Butler is the leader of a predominantly African-American congregation, whose ministry includes mentoring at-risk youth, decreasing neighborhood crime, and caring for the homeless in Chicago’s neediest neighborhoods. Ending the housing allowance would discriminate against religious groups by treating them worse than many other secular employees who receive the same tax treatment. It would also harm poor communities by diverting scarce resources away from essential ministries. It could even force some small churches to close.

“The same group of atheists claimed it was unconstitutional to put Mother Teresa on a postage stamp, so it’s no surprise they’re trying to sic the IRS on churches,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel at Becket. “Treating ministers like other professionals isn’t an establishment of religion; it’s fair tax treatment.”

Becket intervened in the case in January 2017 on behalf of Pastor Chris Butler and Bishop Edward Peecher of Chicago Embassy Church, Father Patrick Malone of Holy Cross Anglican Church, and the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The Seventh Circuit is expected to hold oral argument and issue a decision later this year.


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

U.S. Bishops chairmen commend provisions in Budget Act that ensure houses of worship can apply for federal disaster assistance

WASHINGTON (February 9)–This morning, the Bipartisan Budget Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump.  The bill includes the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act, which codifies fair and equal treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters by enabling them to seek assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, chairman of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, praised Congress for including disaster relief fairness provisions in the Act:

“When hurricanes and other natural disasters strike, houses of worship are on the front lines of rebuilding efforts.  Churches, synagogues, and mosques are vital to their communities, and they, like other important community institutions, need help recovering from the impacts of natural disasters.  We applaud Congress for including provisions in the Budget Act that direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make disaster relief assistance available to houses of worship on the same terms as other nonprofit entities.  These provisions ensure that houses of worship are treated fairly.  That’s good not only for houses of worship but for the communities that depend on them.”

Links to letters of support for the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act can be found here: 
A backgrounder is available at:    

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Catholic bishops’ Pro-Life chairman praises Trump Administration for implementation of expanded Mexico City Policy

WASHINGTON–Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, thanked and praised the Trump Administration following release of its six-month report showing early signs of successful implementation of an expanded Mexico City Policy aptly renamed Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance.  

“As Chairman of the United States Bishops’ Committee, I again applaud this Administration for restoring our foreign assistance to its rightful goals of promoting health and human rights. Abortion undermines basic human rights, certainly for the child, and it also can wound the mother emotionally and physically. U.S. tax dollars have no business going to organizations that are unwilling to pursue health outcomes for every person and instead insist on promoting and imposing their abortion ideology on women and children. The six-month report just released by the Trump Administration provides early evidence that the vast majority of NGOs—729 out of 733—are willing and able to comply with this policy and that compliance does not appear to undermine delivery of appropriate health services.”