Fighting For Religious Liberties: Listen to First Liberty’s speech at the Pro-Family Legislators Conference. Tune in now to hear Kelly Shackelford, president, and CEO of First Liberty Institute, share how our First Amendment right is not only being disregarded but is increasingly being attacked.
Air Date: 03/08/2017
Guests: Kelly Shackelford, David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
- WallBuilders | American historical events, founding fathers, historical documents, books, videos, CDs, tapes, David Barton’s speaking schedule.
- Pro-Family Legislators Conference
- First Liberty Institute
Download: Click Here
Transcription note: As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture! This is WallBuilders Live with David Barton. He’s not with us today, America’s premier historian because we’re going to the conference that he hosts for legislators from across the nation.
It’s called the Pro-Family Legislators Conference. One of the speakers he had in this year was Kelly Shackelford from First Liberty Institute. If you heard yesterday’s program you got the first part of Kelly’s presentation there at the legislators’ conference. Today we’re getting the conclusion.
But never fear, if you missed yesterday you can get it right now online at WallBuildersLive.com. Let’s jump right in and pick up where we left off yesterday with Kelly Shackelford at the Pro-family Legislators conference.
What Will It Be, Your Career Or Your Faith
You’ve seen a lot of these things right? The bakers, the florist, but it’s coming into people at the workplace where people are being fired because somebody at the workplace find- it’s not anything to do with work, it’s just they find out where they go to church, or what they believe, and they try to use that.
They to trying to pull these concepts into the ethics codes of every profession, every licensing. So, this is something that every legislator definitely should be aware of this, this is what they’re trying to do.
Almost everybody has a profession, right? I don’t care if you’re a teacher, or a hair braider, or you know, you name it, there’s usually an ethics code or professional code. And so when you bring these things and you say, “Well, you’ve got to have these ethics or you can’t be in this career.” It’s a way to coerce and force people to give up their career or their faith.
One of the ones I know everybody’s heard about is the two with the Oregon bakers. This Christian couple formed a bakery. They had this lesbian couple come and say, “We want to buy baked goods from you.” The bakers knew they were lesbian and they had no problem selling baked goods and loving them and everything else.
Then they said, “We want you to do our wedding cake.” And they said, “We can’t do that because of our faith. But we’re happy to refer you.” And then the next thing they knew the state was coming after them.
I think most of you probably heard they’ve now been fined $135,000, their business is bankrupt, the judge ordered them not to speak publicly of their beliefs on marriage. And sometimes I think we don’t see that these are real people. So I just want to show you a little video so you can see that this is really happening to real people.
The Bakers Who Were Sued For Their Faith
I’ve always been very artistic. It’s definitely my passion. I put all of myself, my heart, and my soul into it. And then I step back and it’s this beautiful work of art, and again, you get to eat it.”
We dedicated our bakery before we opened our shop because we wanted everything that we did in our shop to be done to glorify the Lord, to put a smile on God’s face. It was definitely a really good booming business.”
“It was a normal day at the shop. When she came in with her mom I asked for the name of the bride and groom. This time she informed me the cake was for her and it was two brides. I was apologetic. I informed her, ‘I’m really sorry, we don’t do cakes for same-sex weddings.”
“We served these two women in the past. We had a great time. When I do a cake I feel a part of what these people are celebrating. For me to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding would fully go against what I believe.”
“About two weeks afterward, I got a letter in the mail from the Oregon State Department of Justice, or the attorney general’s office. We had to pay them $135,000, nothing was off limits. Our vehicles, our house, everything was on the table for this judgment. Soon after that, we saw some of the worst things you can imagine.”
“We have five beautiful children.”
“We had people saying, ‘I hope your kids get sick and die.”
“I mean, we lost our business. I always just thought that it was going to be a family business. That we would get to have that for the rest of our lives. We worked so hard to build something up, something that you poured your heart into and was your passion. To loose that has just been devastating for me. All because we couldn’t participate in the event, we had our business over? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
The government here is violating the Klein’s constitutional rights. Their rights to free speech, the free exercise of their religion, and their religious liberty. All Aaron and Melissa Klein want is the right to be able to run their business consistent with their faith. Instead, the government has destroyed their business in going after them personally.”
“We stood for our faith, to me, that’s what they’re saying we did wrong, is that we stand for what we believe. I do not regret it at all. God has drastically changed my life. And I am somebody today that is so different from who I was before.The way I feel like, with our business, is that I would give my business up in a second for him because of what he’s done for me.”
“This time they went after the Kleins. If they can take their rights away, what’s to keep them from taking your rights? If the government can tell the Kleins that they can’t live out their beliefs, they can come after any of our beliefs on anything.”
How First Liberty Has A 98% Win Ratio
So, Kleins, great people, still getting death threats to this day, over three years after their case, and with having a new profession and everything else. We filed the briefs at the Court of Appeals in Oregon. And we have a ways to go, this should end up at the Supreme Court most likely.
I know some of you are like, “I’m shocked or this is depressing. I don’t want to have him back again.” Let me tell you the good news. The good news is we have a method of dealing with this and it’s working.
There’s going to be a lot of opportunities for you and what you can do as well. You don’t hear a lot of good news so I’ll show you our little story first. We were a state group originally, but when you start winning 97-98%your cases people start saying, “Why don’t you come outside of our of your state?” So we did. The reason is our model.
All the legal groups that you see out there, left wing, right wing, they use the same model. Which is, raise as much money as you can, hire as many attorneys you can with that money, put them in an office in D.C. or New York or somewhere, and then fly around them around the country and covers as many cases as you can cover. That’s not our model.
Our model is, there’s all these people of faith who went to law school because of their beliefs and their commitment and they want to stand for what’s right. And 30 years later these are the best litigators in the best law firms in the country and they’ve done honorable work for their clients but they’ve never gotten to do a case for their faith or their country.
The Method Works
So, we go to those best of the best. We sit down and say, “Look, if we give you everything you need are you willing to give your time on one of these cases?” They’re like man, I’ve been waiting my whole life. Sign me up.”
We know what’s going to happen when we give them that first case. For the first time in their life all their talent, all their gifts, all their training is lined up. They’ve never felt that before. It’s unfair, but we now know we have them for the rest of their lives as one of our volunteer attorneys.
Then they give cover to the younger attorneys. They get to work on that. And so if you were to take the top 100 law firms in the country, a significant percentage of those don’t just give their time on our cases, they fight each other over who gets to give their time.
It’s meaningful to them, but the result of this is sort of twofold for us. Number one, on an average case for every 1,000 we spend we get 60,000 donated. So it’s leveraging the resources. It’s wonderful.
But the other thing, I never expected this, is the win-loss ratio. If you look at the nonprofit legal world you’d find that they’re 50/50, win a case, lose a case, ACLU or whoever it is. Win lose, win lose, win lose. If they’re really good maybe they’re 60-40. We’ve been winning for over 15 years in a row way above 90% of our cases. And it’s because of this method.
If we have a case in Oregon, our attorney lives in Oregon. So one of the biggest law firms in Oregon, when he goes into court and looks at the judge, they are in elementary school together, right? You can only do that if you have the body of Christ. We have the biggest law firm in the world.
So when the ACLU guy flies in from New York City, I mean he’s he’s playing an away game. He doesn’t know that community. He doesn’t know those. So add to that that these are best attorneys, right?
When I mentioned that military case earlier, that we argued at the highest military court, who argued that force? Paul Clement, Former Solicitor General of the United States, number one advocate right now the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bring A Speaker To Your Area
Hey, this is Tim Barton with WallBuilders. And as you’ve had the opportunity to listen to WallBuilders Live, you’ve probably heard a wealth of information about our nation, about our spiritual heritage, about the religious liberties, and about all the things that make America exceptional. And you might be thinking, “As incredible as this information is, I wish there was a way that I could get one of the WallBuilders guys to come to my area and share with my group.”
Whether it be a church, whether it be a Christian school, or public school, or some political event, or activity, if you’re interested in having a WallBuilders speaker come to your area, you can get on our website at www.WallBuilders.com and there’s a tab for scheduling. If you’ll click on that tab, you’ll notice there’s a list of information from speakers bio’s, to events that are already going on. And there’s a section where you can request an event, to bring this information about who we are, where we came from, our religious liberties, and freedoms. Go to the WallBuilders website and bring a speaker to your area.
If The Election Had Gone The Other Way
When we get these great attorneys, they live in the community. They know the judges, and religious freedom is what this country is built on. We should win these cases. And so I want you to be encouraged.
We’re getting pulled out of Texas and going national. We’d beaten the ACLU in every case, but we just weren’t as big. So we knew we had to grow and go national, and we did that. When we started we had 3,000 supporters, they were all in Texas. I want you to see a year ago at the end of last year where we were.
There’s people all over the country saying, “I want to be a part of something that works. That’s going to change this country.” What all those new people are doing is allowing us to increase how many people we can help.
When we started, this is what we were doing, these were our cases being pulled out of Texas. This is at the end of last year. And that was turning away 90% of the requests. I mean, we have got tons of attorney saying, “Let me work on the case.” We’ve got tons of people saying, “We need help.”
The only slowdown is our support structure for it because in an average case, about 15% is us and then 85% is a volunteer attorneys. So we can’t loosen them until we do our work.
So for every attorney we add on our staff that frees up about 20 of the national litigators, so we’re going as fast as we can. We just can’t keep up with what’s going on. But I did want you to see that there is some good news out there as well.
Let me tell you what I just said to our staff, and I want to pass this on to you, is that this election that just occurred, for us and what we do, is religious freedom open up. I’m going to understate it when I say, “hundreds” of doors of opportunity for massive improvements, expansion, restoring religious freedom, in all kinds of different ways, Supreme Court appointments, I mean, we’re already speaking into that process about those.
But there’s also going to be hundreds of federal judges below there we’re going to be speaking into. These are going to be appointed for life. We had cases all the way into federal court appeals, very soon going to the Supreme Court that we knew would be losses if there was one election and that now we feel very strongly will be wins on religious freedom.
We Have Just A Two Year Window
It will set precedent that will probably be in place for 30 to 40 years, and that’s just the beginning. I mean, executive orders, right? That can be issued. You saw all these military things. All it takes is a commander in chief to say, “Here’s an executive order about what’s going to happen and what’s not going to happen to our chaplains and to those in the military who exercise their faith.”
I mean some of these things can be done quickly, right? Everybody is talking about Obamacare. We’ve got all kinds of lawsuits. We’re representing for-profit Christian groups like Hobby Lobby groups, and they’re in litigation. We’re representing Chuck Swindoll Insight For Living, and nonprofit Christian groups who are being told they have to do what Obamacare wants them to do by abortifacients in all of this, right?
Fighting For Religious Liberties
You’ve heard of the Little Sisters of the Poor, those lawsuits are still going on. And you think, “Well, if they get Obamacare repealed.” They don’t even have to, a President Trump can say, “You work for me in the HHS, this is stopping immediately.” Right?
And that doesn’t even begin to talk about the appointments to all the different positions and what they will be doing, the legislation that can now go through nationally. And that’s where I want to come to you, the legislation that now you can do in your state. One of the things that happened in this election is all the states moved in the same direction. I mean, not all, but overall.
I think 32 governorships now on the Republican side, etc. And that’s what’s so unusual about this on this, it’s not just about an election of a President Trump. It’s a President Trump, and a Republican House, and Republican Senate. It was like 1930 something when that really happened the last time.
I feel like there is, on a national scale, there’s a two-year window. We don’t know if it’s going to be longer than that or not. There’s a two-year window to do tons of things that could be established.
You Can’t Force Us To Violate Our Faith
Our military guy on our staff, he said, “I kind of feel like we’ve been beaten back against the river. And now the enemy has run and there’s all this ground we can take back. But we only have a certain amount of time and we’ve got to go and we’ve got to establish.”
I want to flip through real quickly some ideas for you. Again, the reason I’m not going through these in depth is because each of you might have particular questions on particular pieces of legislation. Those are things that just call us, we can talk you through it, etc. We’ll have a little Q&A, but I at least want to show you what’s already out there.
So, here’s a legislation update on religious freedoms legislation. There’s a ton of stuff you can do, very specific things that deal with specific areas that you lock in protection that if it comes back the other direction in the future you’ve got that protection locked in in your state.
One is adoption and foster care. I think everybody’s heard about the situation with Catholic Charities like being told in Massachusetts and in Illinois, “Yes you’re doing most of the adoptions and child placement in this state but we’re not going allow you to do any more unless you sign a statement saying that you’ll place kids with two men or two women instead of a married couple.”
Well, they’re not going to do that. And how many of the child placement groups are faith-based groups? Many of them, that’s why they’re in that. And so what this bill does is it simply says that the government can’t discriminate against you. If the government wants to place children through some other groups, that’s fine, but they can’t force these groups to violate their faith because they’re placing children with married couples and etc.
So this is a great piece of legislation, a lot of sympathy on this piece of legislation, a lot of people who could testify and very important. So it’s called the Home Act. I know in Texas and I think nationally it’s referred to that too.
Some Great Bills Are Passing
It’s passed in Michigan, and again so you guys, it’s all worked up. You know you might have to tweak it a little bit but we’ve got it. Two things, while I’m talking through these, if you want to get the information and if you’re not already on our list and want to get information like an e-mail every week and a letter every month I would encourage you to get that because it’s going to inform you of things that are going on that you might not even realize are going on in your state and they are and you might even want to address it in some way, but get to keep you in the know.
If you’re already on our list and you’re getting the information. The other reason I’m passing this out is, if you want this legislation we can send you a little booklet that lists the text of the legislation. The arguments behind it, the information that you can then use, however you want to use it.
This is the first one, I think that’s self-explanatory. It’s a great bill, very important bill, affects a lot of children, a lot of families.
Next one, Clerks and Magistrates, right? Everybody’s heard about this one. This is a matter of what do- you know the Kim Davis situation or the K.D. Lang in Texas situation. There’s a bunch of these.
There’s some bills already out there, in North Carolina that passed. It’s missing some things that could make it a little better. But the point is, I think you get the concept of this. The way we’ve always worked in this country is, we’ve always allowed accommodation for people based on their religion.
We’ve never forced people in their employment to engage in activity that violates their faith. If we can accommodate that by allowing other people to do those duties. And that’s all this is, it’s kind of basic.
This goes way back in our country as a tradition, that somebody might have a problem doing a particular act, and if somebody else can do it, then that’s what we require in law to respect the religious freedom of those people that have an objection to whatever that duty is.
Religious Conscience Bill
The next one, college religious groups. There’s a horrible Supreme Court decision that basically allows colleges to discriminate against Christian groups by saying that they can’t require that their leaders be Christian.
Well, there’s a bill that takes care of that. Kansas passed it. It’s a real simple, pointed thing you can do to allow religious freedom and make sure that they’re not discriminated against in their groups, whether it’s the Christian Legal Society, or whatever the group is. It’s a basic piece of legislation, real simple and real poignant.
Counselors, I think everybody has heard the situations of either people at universities going through a counseling degree or other situations where the state is trying to punish them because they don’t want to, for instance, let’s say, counsel a homosexual couple on how to have a better homosexual sex.
They say, “Look, I’ve got a religious issue here. Or I’ve got a philosophical difference here. And so I’m going to refer them to someone else.” They say, “Oh no, you now can’t be a counselor anymore.” Or, “We are going to come down with all the power of the state.” So this is a protection, against, it’s freedom of conscience, religious conscience type bill.
Moment From American History:
This is David Barton with another moment from America’s history. In the case Lee versus Wiseman the Supreme Court ruled that for an adult to mention the word, “God” at a public graduation, constituted both psychological and religious coercion against his students.
Yet, consider the actions of William Samuel Johnson, a signer of the Constitution, and one of America’s leading educators who served as the first president of Columbia College. At his graduation exercises, William Samuel Johnson declared to the students, “You this day have received a public education. The purpose whereof had been to qualify you better to serve your Creator and your country. Your first great duties, your sensible, are those you owe to heaven, to your Creator and Redeemer.”
Founding Father William Samuel Johnson believed that a public graduation was an appropriate setting to remind students of the duties which they owed God. For more information on God’s hand in American history. Contact WallBuilders at 1 800 8 REBUILD.
Protecting Religious Broadcasters
First Amendment Defense Act, this is a bigger one that affects a lot of issues. It says, “The government can’t punish you because of your beliefs on marriage being a man and a woman.” They can’t punish you. That can happen in a lot of different ways, as I’ve just been referencing.
To be honest, that’s exactly what the Supreme Court said in the decision, the Of Bergenfield decision. We wrote a brief in that case. We knew they were about to legalize same-sex marriage by fiat by the Supreme Court. So we wrote a brief on behalf of all the national religious broadcasters Charles Stanley, Billy Graham, organization Franklin Graham, etc.
We said, “Look, everywhere they’ve done this. The next thing that’s happened is they’ve taken away free speech and religious freedom.” So we kind of we wanted to push them to say something about that. And they did.
In the Of Bergenfield decision there’s a paragraph where, this is the Kennedy and the liberals and the majority said, “Finally, we want to make clear that while we’re saying that a state can’t say that marriage is only a man and a woman, private individuals and groups are fully protected by the First Amendment to advocate on opposite sides, to push different beliefs, etc.”
This law is really what they said the law was going to be. Or is it going to be the other approach? Which is use gay marriage, this decision at the Supreme Court as a weapon to attack everybody who has different religious beliefs? That’s what they said it wasn’t going to be used for.
Specific Legislation Already Drawn Up
Well, this bill makes clear that in your state we’re not going to allow the state to punish people because they believe marriage is a man-woman. That’s a right they have, that’s a religious freedom they have, etc. And then the omnibus bill. This is the bill that sort of, the idea was to do a bill that has every one of these situations in it.
So, there’s a paragraph that takes care of all the things you’ve seen, like you know, the Kleins that we mentioned earlier, or wedding vendors, religious groups having a right to hire employees that have religious beliefs that are consistent.
It takes each one. And the reason it does that is, if you decide in your state, “We can get this one, this one, and this one through but not this one.” You can just pull the paragraph out.
So it makes it really easy for you to, I mean, if you can hang the whole thing and get all the areas covered, that’s what they did in Mississippi.That’s great, but if you don’t you can take parts of it. So that’s what’s called the omnibus bill.
The bill was struck down by an Obama appointee judge. It was just fascinating what he said in his opinion, this is a federal district court judge in Mississippi, is that the omnibus bill was unconstitutional because it established religion by protecting religious freedom.
So, the free exercise clause, you didn’t know this, was unconstitutional because it’s doing favors for religion. And so when you protect religious freedom you’re engaging in an establishment of religion. That’s that’s what he said. So this is up on appeal now and I feel pretty confident of it. This is the lawsuit if you see the lawsuit.
Those are just some examples. I wanted you to see that there was specific legislation already drawn up. There might be more things that can be done. But there are a lot of opportunities right now. I think we need to take advantage of the opportunities to establish protections for religious freedom. I think we’re in a real battle for the future of religious freedom, in total.
We’re In A Battle
Some people say that I’m too far when I say this, but I really believe this, because I’ve been doing this for a long time and watching. We’re in a battle right now for whether we will have religious freedom period. OK? It’s no longer, “Where’s the line?” Where in a discussion that might be over in four years or five years.
We’re are going to save religious freedom, or we’re going to lose it. If you think I’m going too far, ask yourself at least six months ago, tell me one state you could pass a basic religious freedom that says, “Religious freedom is protected. Burden on the government.” You saw everybody who tried to do this. Indiana, Arkansas, Georgia, everywhere. And it’s uncontroversial.
I mean, just a few years back Bill Clinton was signing this into law. And it was unanimously passed through the Senate. So we’re in a battle for the whole concept. And so these specific bills are great because they begin to educate people how they impact real lives.
You’re going to be part of a mega battle over the future of religious freedom. So let us know if we can help. Again, give us a card say, “I want the legislate stuff.” And we’re happy to do that. Get you an e-mail or something like that. Any time you see this and we can help that’s what we’re here to do. Thanks for having me today!
Friends, that was Kelly Shackelford you were just listening to. He’s the founder and president of First Liberty Institute. They do an amazing job! We’ll have links to their website at our website today. He was speaking at the Pro-Family Legislators Conference and if you missed the first part yesterday, it’s available on our website right now at WallBuildersLive.com.
Encourage you to take the two part series and share it with your friends and family.
Very powerful, very hopeful message for what could be coming in 2017 this very important pivot year for the United States. Appreciate you listening today. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live!