Liberty Counsel Cases



Liberty Counsel has had many victories. Highlighted below are a few examples of how we are restoring the culture.

 

Religious Freedom

United States Supreme Court Cases

McCreary County, Kentucky v. ACLU of Kentucky, 545 U.S. 844 (2005) – Liberty Counsel represented McCreary County Kentucky in a challenge brought by the ACLU against display of historical documents that included the Ten Commandments. The United States Supreme Court heard the McCreary County case along with the Texas case of Van Orden v. Perry. The Court issued split decisions on the cases: upholding display of a six-foot-tall granite Ten Commandments monument on the Texas capitol grounds, but ruling against the Ten Commandments as part of a larger display on law in two Kentucky courthouses. In McCreary County, a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Souter, and joined by Justices Stephens, O’Connor, Ginsburg and Breyer, the Court upheld the lower court’s decision against the Kentucky displays. In the majority opinion, Justice Souter said that the ruling does not mean that a sacred text can never be integrated into a governmental display on law and history. Justice Scalia, joined by Justices Thomas, Rehnquist and Kennedy dissented with Justice Scalia reading his dissent from the bench to emphasize his disagreement with the Court's opinion.

Other Courts

Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively, 2017 WL 2435285 (D. Mass., 2017) – Liberty Counsel successfully defended Pastor Scott Lively against charges that he violated international law for doing nothing more than preaching Biblical truth regarding homosexuality. Lively was sued by a foreign homosexual advocacy group seeking to silence anyone who dares challenge the dangerous onslaught of moral decline.

CEF of Ohio, Inc. v. Cleveland Metropolitan School District (D. Ohio, 2017) – CEF will no longer be charged for use of school facilities for its after school Good News Club after Liberty Counsel’s lawsuit prompted the district to settle and seek assistance in drafting a new policy that will not violate the constitutional rights of religious groups.

Dunnavant v. Clay Family Policy Forum (Fla. 4th DCA, 2015) – Liberty Counsel represented a Florida pro-family organization which was falsely accused of altering a local political candidate's responses to a survey used to prepare a voter guide for the November 2014 general election. Rather than retract the false allegations, the candidate sued the organization in state court. Liberty Counsel countersued the candidate, and successfully exposed the candidate's own alteration of documents, leading to the candidate's withdrawal of her lawsuit.

Liberty Counsel v. Plainfield (N.D. Ill., 2013) – Individuals and groups are able to use the Plainfield community room for religious gatherings after Liberty Counsel challenged the village’s policy banning religious meetings.

Child Evangelism Fellowship of Minnesota v. Minneapolis Special School District #1, 690 F.3d 996 (8th Cir. 2012) – Students attending after school Good News Clubs in Minneapolis have full access to all services offered to the district’s chosen “community partners” after Liberty Counsel challenged the district’s removal of Good News Clubs from full access to the services. Lack of access had kept many children from attending. The appeals court found that the school district had engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.

Child Evangelism Fellowship of Minnesota v. Elk River Area Sch. District #728, 599 F.Supp.2d 1136 (D. Minn. 2009) – Children in the Elk River Area School District and their parents have the opportunity to learn about the after-school Good News Clubs during district open house events. Liberty Counsel successfully challenged the school district’s unconstitutional policy of limiting participation at such events to “patriotic clubs,” a designation that was meant to permit groups such as Boy Scouts to distribute literature at such events but prohibit the faith-based youth enrichment program of the Good News Club.

Anchorage Baptist Temple v. Coonrod, 166 P.3d 29 (Alaska 2007) – Religious schools in Alaska can continue to provide tax-exempt residences to their teachers after Liberty Counsel successfully defended a state law creating the tax exemption against a challenge by the ACLU. Providing homes for the teachers allows the schools to recruit teachers they could not otherwise afford to hire.

Child Evangelism Fellowship of South Carolina v. Anderson School District Five, 470 F.3d 1062 (4th Cir. 2006) – Children in South Carolina can attend Child Evangelism Fellowship’s after-school Good News Club after Liberty Counsel successfully challenged the district’s denial of access to school facilities. The district must now allow access on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other youth enrichment programs. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a district court ruling in favor of the school district and found that the district’s policy violated the First Amendment.

Heinkel v. School Board of Lee County, Florida, 194 Fed. Appx. 604 (11th Cir. 2006) – Students in Lee County public schools can distribute pro-life literature to their fellow students on the National Day of Remembrance after Liberty Counsel successfully challenged the school district’s denial of students’ request to distribute the literature. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the district’s actions were unconstitutional.

Zion’s Hope (Holy Land Experience Ministries) v. Donegan, (Fla. 9th D.C.A. 2005) – Liberty Counsel successfully challenged a determination that property owned by the Holy Land Experience was subject to property taxes despite being a museum and owned by a church. During the pendency of the case, the Legislature granted a property tax exemption to the Holy Land Experience.

Books v. Elkhart County, Indiana, 401 F.3d 857 (7th Cir. 2005) – Citizens in Elkhart County can learn about the key documents that led to the founding of our country after Liberty Counsel successfully defended an historical document display donated to the county by a private citizen that included the Ten Commandments. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the display did not violate the Establishment Clause.

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum v. Montgomery County Public Schools, 2005 WL1075634 (D. Md. 2005) – Students in a suburban Washington D.C. school district were spared from a radical sex education curriculum that denigrated religious beliefs about human sexuality. The curriculum would have directed children to “religious organizations” that affirmed same-sex relationship. After a federal district court issued a temporary restraining order against the school district, board members agreed to find a new curriculum and institute a citizens’ advisory committee.

Nussbaumer v. State, 882 So. 2d 1067 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004) – Liberty Counsel successfully defended a pastor against a subpoena to produce records of his counseling with a congregant who was a defendant in a criminal case. The Florida Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s determination that the pastor was a psychotherapist and affirmed that there are no exceptions to the clergy confidentiality privilege in Florida. The sacred relationship between a pastor and congregant was maintained in Florida.

Open Homes Fellowship, Inc. v. Orange County, 325 F. Supp. 2d 1349 (M.D. Fla. 2004) – A church’s drug abuse and discipleship program was saved from eviction and given the zoning exception necessary to continue its successful rehabilitation program. Liberty Counsel successfully sought court protection and obtained a ruling that the county’s actions violated the church’s rights under the Equal Protection clause.

Wigg v. Sioux Falls School District, 382 F.3d 807 (8th Cir. 2004) – Public school teachers can lead Good News Clubs after school in public schools in which they teach after Liberty Counsel successfully challenged a decision by a South Dakota school district. Barbara Wigg wanted to lead a club after her responsibilities as a public school teacher were completed for the day. The appeals court reversed a decision by a lower court that would only allow her to lead clubs at other schools.

Westfield High School L.I.F.E. Club v. City of Westfield, 249 F. Supp. 2d 98 (D. Mass. 2003) – Student members of a Bible club were suspended from school for distributing candy canes with a religious message to fellow students. The federal district court found that the district had violated the students’ First Amendment rights in forbidding them from distributing faith-based literature to their fellow students during non-instructional time.

Focus on the Family v. Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, 344 F.3d 1263 (11th Cir. 2003) – Liberty Counsel halted the censorship of advertisements on transit authority bus shelters when it successfully challenged a transit authority policy that had rejected posters advertising Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out” event.

Diaz, et al. v. Bloomberg, et. al. (N.Y. 2003) – Liberty Counsel successfully challenged New York’s attempt to open the nation’s first public school for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and questioning” youth. New York agreed to revise the admission requirements for the school and permit Liberty Counsel to monitor compliance for three years.

Peachlum v. City of York, Pennsylvania, 333 F.3d 429 (3d Cir. 2003) – Liberty Counsel successfully defended a resident who had been cited for putting a religious sign in her yard. After the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling, the city settled the lawsuit and she was able to keep her sign posted.

Dunamis Community and Outreach Ministries v. Volusia County, Fla, (M.D. Fla. 2002) – A Christian church sought to locate in Cassadaga, a community that was traditionally limited to spiritualists and psychics. The county denied a zoning variance after residents spoke against having a Christian church in their community. Liberty Counsel successfully challenged the county’s denial of a zoning variance on the grounds that the denial violated the Constitution and federal law (RLUIPA). The county settled the lawsuit and granted the zoning variance, allowing the church to build its facilities.

CEF v. Los Angeles Unified School District (C.D. Cal. 2002) – Students in the Los Angeles area can attend Good News Clubs after Liberty Counsel successfully challenged the district’s denial of access to school facilities for the after-school club.

Heard v. Taylor Community Development Corporation (E.D. Mich. 2002) A public housing resident posting an 8-inch "24 Hr. Prayer Station" in her own window. The housing authority tried to evict her for violating the community’s sign policies.  Liberty Counsel filed suit alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act and the First Amendment. The housing authority settled the lawsuit by paying damages and adopting a policy permitting the display of religious signs.

Deida v. City of Milwaukee, 206 F.Supp.2d 967 (E.D. Wis. 2002) – A Wisconsin woman challenged a state law and city ordinance that prohibited literature distribution on car windshields. After Liberty Counsel filed suit, the federal court declared the law and ordinance unconstitutional. As a result, people could freely exercise their First Amendment rights to free speech by sharing written information.

Falwell v. Miller, 203 F. Supp. 2d 624 (W.D. Va. 2002) – Liberty Counsel successfully challenged a long-standing state constitutional provision that prohibited churches from incorporating, The federal court held that the prohibition against incorporating was violated the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. The State Corporation Commission was required to allow Thomas Road Baptist Church to incorporate. All churches in Virginia were then permitted to incorporate and gain the related benefits, including limited liability for members.

Brunner v. School Board of Manatee County, Florida (M.D. Fla. 2002) – Churches in Manatee County were able to continue renting meeting spaces in public school facilities after Liberty Counsel successfully challenged an ACLU lawsuit seeking to have the such rental agreements declared unconstitutional.

Adler v. Duval County Sch. Bd., 250 F. 3d 1330 (11th Cir. 2001) (en banc) – Students in Duval County gained the right to present graduation speeches of their choosing, which could include student-initiated prayers. Liberty Counsel successfully intervened on behalf of students in a case brought by the ACLU. The case went to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals three time and twice to the U.S. Supreme Court, and established the legal principle that public schools are free to adopt a policy that permits students or other speakers to present secular or religious messages, including prayer, at commencement ceremonies.

Juzwick v. Borough of Dormont, 2001 WL 34369467 (W.D. Pa. 2001) – Liberty Counsel obtained a federal injunction against the Borough’s policy of treating religious information differently than other information. The Borough took the position that an event presenting religious materials cannot be “civic or community” and cannot be granted free use of facilities. As a result of the lawsuit, a resident was permitted to use a community room free of charge to celebrate the United States Constitution with a display featuring religious materials.

Nyman v. School Board of Kettle Moraine, No. 01 C 285 (E.D. Wis. filed Mar. 21, 2001) – A second grader had was publicly humiliated for exchanging cards with Candy during free time with her classmates, because her cards contained religious themes. Other students shared a wide variety of cards ranging from a popular singer to fortune-telling, but were not confiscated. After Liberty Counsel filed suit, the school agreed to adopt a comprehensive policy regarding religion which allows religious literature distribution. The policy also addressed Bible Clubs, prayer, clothing with religious writing or symbols, religious themes in homework, artwork and other class assignments and teaching about religion.

Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. City of Marshfield, 203 F.3d 487 (7th Cir. 2000) – A donated statue of Christ remained on site on private property that was once part of a public park after Liberty Counsel successfully represented the organization that purchased the property from the city. The presence of the statue was challenged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The appeals court upheld the continued presence of the statue with modifications of a disclaimer and fencing.

Connor v. Palm Beach County, 1996 WL438779 (S.D. Fla. May 29, 1996) – Liberty Counsel successfully challenged a county ordinance that prohibited political and religious speech in county park.

Amicus Briefs

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comey, 137 S.Ct. 2012 (2017) – Children using the community playground at Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia Missouri will no longer be deprived of a save playground surface just because the playground is owned by a church. The U.S. Supreme Court determined that the State of Missouri violated the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment when it denied Trinity Lutheran Church a state grant for its community playground based solely on the fact that Trinity is a church. Liberty Counsel filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on behalf of itself and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference/Conel arguing that the state’s actions violate the First Amendment and disregard decades of public/private community service partnerships that the Supreme Court has found do not violate the First Amendment.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, 134 S.Ct. 2751 (2014) – For-profit corporations that operate in accordance with their religious faith are entitled to the same protections under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as are individuals after the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Hobby Lobby could not be compelled to offer abortifacients (abortion-inducing drugs) and abortions under its health insurance policies. Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief on behalf of itself and Liberty University arguing that the abortifacient mandate under Obamacare violated the religious free exercise rights of faith-based employers.

Town of Greece v. Galloway, 134 S.Ct. 1811 (2014) – The Supreme Court upheld the Town of Greece’s policy of opening their City Council meetings with prayer, saying that it did not violate the Establishment Clause. Liberty Counsel filed an Amicus Brief in which it urged the Court to abandoned the maligned “Lemon” test for Establishment Clause challenges and replace it with an objective test.

Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, 563 U.S. 125 (2011) – An Establishment Clause challenge to Arizona’s educational tax credit law’s inclusion of faith-based schools was dismissed when the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the taxpayers challenging the law did not have standing to bring the lawsuit. Liberty Counsel filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of itself and the American Association of Christian Schools urging the Court to abandon an ineffective legal test and adopt a new test that would be more in keeping with the intent of the Establishment Clause.

Snyder v. Phelps, 562 U.S. 443 (2011) – The Supreme Court upheld the right to picket at soldiers’ funerals. Although Liberty Counsel expressly condemns the offensive tactics employed by Phelpses and deplores the content of their rhetoric, Liberty Counsel filed an Amicus Brief in support of the First Amendment freedoms of all Americans that could be affected by the outcome of this case. Although Liberty Counsel recognizes that such protests and picketing events are offensive and in poor taste, the group also recognizes that the bad facts of this case could have negatively affected the legitimate free speech rights of law-abiding Americans. This case could give a veto right to anyone who claims the speech of another is “offensive.” Today the offensive speech of the Phelpses was on trial, but tomorrow it could be religious, pro-life or pro-family speech, or any other speech for that matter. Liberty Counsel’s brief requested that the Court not expand the concept of a “captive audience” to include viewing a protest later on television.

Pleasant Grove v. Summum, 555 U.S. 460 (2009) – The Supreme Court found that Pleasant Grove City, Utah did not violate the free speech rights of Summum, when it declined the group’s request to erect a monument containing its philosophical beliefs in a city park. Summum’s philosophy used Egyptian symbols and words, sold wine, and performed mummifications. Liberty Counsel filed an Amicus Brief in support of the city, arguing that the city was not required to open government property to outside groups.

Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418 (2006) – The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a church’s right under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to use a sacramental tea. Liberty Counsel was part of a coalition of faith-based organizations on whose behalf an Amicus Brief was filed in support of RFRA to preserve religious freedom.

Van Orden v. Perry, 545 U.S. 677 (2005) – The Supreme Court determined that a granite monument of the Ten Commandments on the ground of the Texas State Capitol did not violate the Establishment Clause. Liberty Counsel filed an Amicus Brief discussing the role that the Ten Commandments has played in U.S. history, showing that acknowledging that history does not violate the Establishment Clause.

Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709 (2005) – The Supreme Court concluded that the Religious Land Use and Institutional Persons Act (RLUIPA) did not violate the Establishment Clause. Liberty Counsel was part of The Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion which filed an Amicus Brief in support of the law.

Newdow v. Elk Grove, 542 US 1 (2004) – The Supreme Court said that Atheist Michael Newdow could not bring a claim on behalf of his daughter challenging the constitutionality of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school. Prior to the ruling, schoolchildren in states covered by the Ninth Circuit (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) were barred from saying the pledge of allegiance with the inclusion of the phrase “Under God.” Now, there is no prohibition against saying the entire pledge in those states. Liberty Counsel filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of itself, Wallbuilders and William Federer which discussed the long history of acknowledging God in public and arguing that such acknowledgement does not violate the Establishment Clause.

Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98 (2001) – Children attending public schools can hear the Gospel at their schools after the school day is over through Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Good News Clubs. In this landmark opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court found that permitting after-school Good News Clubs at public schools did not violate the Establishment Clause and that the clubs had to be provided access to school facilities on the same terms and conditions as were other after-school youth enrichment programs. Liberty Counsel filed an Amicus Brief asking the Court to restore its “public forum” free speech standard that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals had misinterpreted. 

Boy Scouts of America v. Dale 530 U.S. 640 (2000) – A private organization (the Boy Scouts of America) could not be compelled to accept homosexuals as leaders. The U.S. Supreme Court founded that forcing the organization to accept such a leader would violate its rights of expressive association under the First Amendment. Liberty Counsel filed an Amicus Brief in support of the right of expressive association.

 

Sanctity of Human Life

United States Supreme Court

Madsen v. Women's Health Center, Inc., 512 U.S. 753 (1994) – Liberty Counsel successfully challenged portions of a City of Melbourne ordinance that imposed 300-foot buffer zones around abortion clinics and private residences of clinic workers and require that pro-life demonstrators obtain permission to speak to those associated with the clinic. The United States Supreme Court (6-3) struck down the 300-foot zone around people going in and out of the clinic and struck down the ban against images that could be seen from inside the clinic.

Other Courts

Joiner v. City of Columbus, Mississippi, No. 1:14CV090 (N.D. Miss., Jan. 4, 2016) – Liberty Counsel successfully challenged unconstitutional parade and handbill ordinances which had previously resulted in the arrest of a pastor and other pro-life individuals. The pastor had been arrested and jailed for four hours simply for holding a sign alongside a busy intersection in the city stating that abortion kills children.

Holder v. Pine, No. 9:10-CV-80971 (S.D. Fla., Jan. 16, 2012) – Liberty Counsel successfully defended Mary Susan Pine against charges of violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), brought by then Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder.  The allegation was that she obstructed access to an abortion clinic by stepping in front of a vehicle at the clinic.  “The Court is at a loss as to why the Government chose to prosecute this particular case in the first place,” the wrote the judge. “The Court can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the Government and the PWC [Presidential Women’s Center], which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine's activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine's conduct.”

Women's Emergency Network v. Bush, 323 F.3d 937 (11th Cir. 2003) – “Choose Life” license plates became available to Florida drivers after Liberty County successfully defended against abortion activists’ challenge to the plates. Liberty Counsel intervened in the case to represent the interests of pro-life pregnancy centers and purchasers of the plates.

Morris v. City of West Palm Beach, 194 F.3d 1203 (11th Cir. 1999) A Florida city changed its policy requiring a permit for standing on the sidewalk after Liberty Counsel filed suit on behalf of people who were threatened with arrested. Although the city changed its unconstitutional policy, the appeals court determined that the pro-life individuals were still prevailing parties in the case.

Christ's Bride Ministries, Inc. v. SEPTA, 148 F.3d 242 (3d Cir. 1998) – Advertisements from a pro-life ministry warning against the link between abortion and breast cancer cannot be censored by a Pennsylvania transportation authority after Liberty Counsel successfully challenged the transit authority’s policy.

Cheffer v. McGregor, 41 F.3d 1422 (11th Cir. 1994) – Liberty Counsel filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a pro-life individual who was subject to a state court’s ban on entering a “buffer zone” around an abortion clinic. She did not violate the ban, but was prohibited from exercising her freedom of speech. The state court order was reversed following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Liberty Counsel’s Madsen case.

Amicus Briefs

McCullen v. Coakley, 135 S.Ct. 2518 (2014) – The Supreme Court invalidated portions of a Massachusetts law establishing “buffer zones” around abortion clinics that were designed to limit the free speech activities of pro-life advocates. Liberty Counsel filed an Amicus Brief urging the Court to not grant abortion clinics special exemptions from free speech guarantees.

Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007) – The Supreme Court upheld a federal law prohibiting a particularly gruesome type of abortion known as “partial birth” abortion. Liberty Counsel filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of Jill Stanek and the Association of Pro-Life Physicians arguing that the law was a proper exercise of Congress’ authority and should be upheld.

Scheidler v. NOW, 547 U.S. 9 (2006) – Pro-life advocates fought for several years against claims brought by pro-abortion groups that the pro-life groups’ activities amounted to conspiracy to close abortion clinics in violation of RICO and the Hobbs Act. In the 2006 decision, the Supreme Court determined that the groups’ activities did not fall under the federal laws. Liberty Counsel filed an Amicus Brief in support of the pro-life advocates arguing that their activities do not fall under the federal laws.


Marriage and Family

Miller v. Davis, 667 Fed.Appx. 537 (6th Cir. 2016) – Successfully defended Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis against lawsuits filed to force her to violate her sincerely-held religious beliefs by signing her name to the marriage certificates. Ms. Davis was jailed for several days by a federal judge for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same or opposite-sex couples. Liberty Counsel succeeded in having her released from jail, returned to the post of County Clerk, and obtained a dismissal of the lawsuits filed against her.

Smelt v. County of Orange, 447 F.3d 673 (9th Cir. 2006) – After two individuals filed a federal lawsuit against the Orange County, California, Clerk seeking a same-sex marriage license and claiming that the California Marriage Laws and Federal DOMA violate their constitutional rights, Liberty Counsel intervened to defend the laws. The District Court upheld the constitutionality of DOMA and the Plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the District Court ruling. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Advisory Opinion to Attorney General re: Florida Marriage Protection Amendment, 926 So.2d 1229 (Fla. 2006) – Liberty Counsel represented the proponents of a ballot initiative to amend the Florida Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. Every ballot initiative must be approved by the Florida Supreme Court to ensure that title is accurate and that it meets the single subject rule. Liberty Counsel filed a brief with the Florida Supreme Court arguing that the title was accurate and that it did not violate the single subject rule. The Court upheld the ballot title and summary.

Kantaras v. Kantaras, 884 So. 2d 155 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004) – Liberty Counsel successfully challenged a lower court ruling finding that a “marriage” between a female-to-male transsexual and a female was valid because gender is a state of mind. The Florida Court of Appeals found that the purported marriage was invalid as was the purported adoption of the mother’s children by the male to female transsexual in accordance with Florida law that marriage is defined as the union of one (biological) man and one (biological) woman. The mother retained custody of her children whom the lower court had given to the male-to-female transsexual partner.