Protecting Our God-Given, Constitutional Rights – With Mat Staver from Liberty Counsel: Four to 12 years ago, we were fighting the federal government to protect our constitutional freedoms. Now, we are having to stand against lower-level officials like mayors or governors. Is attending church criminal behavior? Should Californians face a year in jail just for attending church or meeting in their homes? How are judges appointed by Trump responding differently than Obama appointees to religious freedom cases? Tune in to hear this important update from Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel.
Air Date: 09/08/2020
Guest: Mat Staver
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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My name is Rick Green, former Texas legislator and America’s Constitution coach. And I’m here with David Barton, he’s America’s premier historian and the founder of WallBuilders. Also, with Tim Burton, national speaker and pastor and president of WallBuilders.
Alright, David, Tim, later in the program, Mat Staver back with us from Liberty Counsel, their website is LC.org. And of course, Mat’s on the program often because he has so many cases out there all over the country defending liberty, and specifically, the First Amendment and today, we’re going to get an update from him on some of those cases.
But I think all of our friends that are out there that have these organizations like First liberty and Liberty Counsel and ATD. I bet they are busier this year than they have ever been. There are so many churches in need of legal counsel right now, just to be able to gather, not because they’ve been sued by some ACLU group or our what was it, freedom from religion foundation, usually, that’s what we’re talking about. But this year, they’re just trying to get together and have praise and worship and allow somebody to get up and speak from the pulpit with people actually in the audience.
Well, guys, one of the things we even identified, I think, earlier this week, is that for the previous presidents administration, were these our friends who’re these religious liberty attorneys, where they were so busy was fighting things coming from a federal level, from different departments, from different regulations that were violating someone’s religious liberty, that were imposing on someone’s convictions.
And at this point, it’s just so interesting that these guys who are now our friends are not fighting the federal government, they’re fighting in almost every single State. Because even if you have a state where it might be a Republican governor, and the governor is not imposing bad restrictions or regulations, you might have some very liberal mayors and some cities in those towns and these mayors are imposing these crazy restrictions or a city council or whatever the case might be.
Ideologies in Our Nation
It’s so interesting that even though we have now a different level of leadership for the nation, that same ideology is still permeating in so many lower level positions. And that’s why you’re seeing so many battles with different States from their governors or with different major cities from their mayors to see so many of these problems that are keeping, I mean, really you, Rick mentioned some of these organizations that’s keeping them so busy right now with what’s going on.
And so when you look at all these legal groups that are having to defend these things right now, and Mat Staver is going to be with us shortly and Mat is with Liberty Counsel. And talking to Mat, they have litigation and legal action going in 40 different States. Well, you’re not only arguing the First Amendment, now you’re going to bring the State Constitution into it and what the State Constitution says with its religious clauses as well.
So I think, it really in some ways really kind of complicates this, because many these are in State courts, some are in federal courts. And so, Tim, as you pointed out, it’s not that we’re having to fight this stuff at the federal level now. Now, we’re getting into State courts and that really takes a lot more preparation, technical stuff, because when you’re in federal courts, you can choose any of the hundreds of federal courts and you can make the same argument in any of them.
When you go into Maine versus California versus Texas versus Oklahoma versus North Dakota, you’ve got State Constitutions to deal with and so it requires bars a lot from these guys. And that’s why we appreciate them. They do such a good job of preparation and a good job of defending their clients and a good job of advocating for constitutional principles, both State and federal. And they do a great job of winning many of these cases, including Mat Staver, who we have him on regularly because he’s got so many irons in the fire that there’s just new stories all the time.
Well, he’s going to be with us when we come back from the break. Stay with us, folks, Mat Staver, our special guest today on WallBuilders Live.
Alexis de Tocqueville
This is Tim Barton from WallBuilders with another moment from American history. Alexis de Tocqueville, a political official from France, traveled to the United States in 1831 and penned his observations in the now famous book, Democracy in America. Being from France, what he found in America was completely unexpected to him. He reported, “Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention.
“And the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this. In France, I’d almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom, marching in opposite directions. But in America, I found that they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.” De Tocqueville recognized that it was biblical Christianity and the morals it produced that made America great.
For more information about Alexis de Tocqueville and the positive influence of Christianity in early America, go to wallbuilders.com
We’re back here on WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us. Great to have Mat Staver back with us from Liberty Counsel, website is LC.org. Some of the best legal minds in the country and tons of cases across the country right now, dealing with religious liberty and other constitutional issues and the COVID crackdowns. Mat Staver, good to have you back, man. I know you’re busy, busy, but I appreciate your time.
Welcome Mat Staver
Good to be with you always.
So last time, we had you on, I think 40 States different cases going, now with school back in and people not knowing whether what to do with school, we got homeschool exploding in a good way, so there’s just a lot happening and I know your plate is full. So, I don’t even know which priorities to try to get an update from you on. What would you say are probably some of the hottest cases right now?
Well, we have several going on and we’re representing lots of pastors across the country and multiple states. But one of them is Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry. It’s located in Pasadena, California, but we have 162 churches throughout the State that we’re representing. That’s part of the Harvest International Ministry.
But this week, what we just got is a letter from the Pasadena prosecutor’s office to pastor Cheon and it threatens that they will be facing criminal charges up to a year in prison for each one. It says, “Each day in violation is a separate violation and carries with it a potential punishment of up to one year in jail and a fine for each violation.”
It also goes on to say, “That this applies to your church owners”, which they don’t have owners, it’s board of directors, I guess. “Administrators, operators, staff, and parishioners in the above mentioned criminal penalties as well as the potential closure of your church.” So, Rick, this is an amazing situation, because if they go to the church on Sunday for worship, every single parishioner could face one year in jail and a daily fine of $1,000…
For attending church.
Criminal to Attend Church?
For attending church. And unbelievably, some people may say, well, we can still have church at home in our own fellowship. Not in California. In 80% of the population of California, 30 some counties, this also was banned in your home, so you can’t have private worship in your home with anybody who doesn’t live there.
You can’t have a Bible. You can’t have praise and worship. you can’t have any fellowship in your home with someone who does not live there. It is criminal.
You know, I’ve always been very careful about criminalizing Christianity, those kinds of terms or that in America, we’re facing persecution, when in many cases, it’s just discrimination. Persecution, I’ve always thought of as in foreign countries where people get arrested for going to church or they get thrown in jail for their belief in Jesus Christ. But that, Rick, is happening here. It is criminal in California to have any worship in person, in a church or even in your home with someone who doesn’t live there.
Let alone the singing that Governor Newsom doesn’t want anybody doing. And you mentioned something right at the end of that letter that sounded eerily familiar to the Chicago case you had where they threatened to “Summary abatement” or whatever that term was to literally tear down the church. What was that part of the letter, something about to…?
It says the closure of your church.
An Amazing Venue Threatened
Literally shut it down.
Shut it down. Now this particular church of Harvest Rock is the famous Ambassador Auditorium. This was not built by this church, but they got it for a very good price a few years ago. It was originally built by Herbert W. Armstrong of the Worldwide Church of God and he spared no expense.
But the church went through a split, some of the factions became evangelical, and they weren’t able to keep the building. So Harvest Rock has that building. This is an impeccable auditorium.
Luciano Pavarotti actually has performed there, people of that caliber, because of the acoustics in this particular facility is provided by the church to the local symphony orchestra in Pasadena for performances because of its incredible high quality. They’re threatening to close that. They’re threatening to close down this church, that the church in turn, allows the community to use for various kinds of events.
They are able to share the gospel at the beginning of these events, even if it’s not sponsored by the church. They have these amazing singers come there and they’ll do that, but they open it up with a little presentation of the gospel. They’re threatening to close down that church and they’re threatening to criminalize anybody who dares enter that church to worship the Lord Jesus Christ.
What Will the Supreme Court Say?
I am curious about your kind of take inside baseball on the US Supreme Court, you know, the five, four decision on, I think, it was the Nevada case dealing with casinos versus churches. But I mean, Kavanaugh, several of Gorsuch, I mean, they lambasted the situation. But Robert wasn’t relatively ready to do an injunction.
Do you think it comes down to the merits, not just an injunction, but actually a finding of whether or not there’s a compelling interest, whether or not it’s narrowly tailored all that? I know, that’s an impossible question to answer. But just your gut, I mean, do you think this ever gets solved at this point without the governors backing off?
You know, the Supreme Court back in 1947, in the Everson case, said that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment means and it goes through several different things that you can establish a national church. But it also says that neither a State nor the federal government can force someone to attend church nor stay away from church against his will.
Now, if that’s still good law, and it’s never been overruled, that particular section, that statements, you can’t get much more clear than that. So I think when we get a case to the Supreme Court, on the merits, because what we’ve had is no ruling on the merits yet, there’s been extraordinary injunctions pending appeal.
And for our listeners, Mat, just so they know. I mean, the justices are reticent to second guess the health officials on a temporary injunction without reviewing everything about the case, right? That’s kind of conundrum we’re in.
That’s right. Yeah, it’s an emergency it’s like and then they’re being asked to jump into a case that has still not been finally decided by the Courts of Appeal that it’s coming from. But when we get one, in fact, we do have one now the Eleanor case that you talked about what the persecution against the Romanian pastors where they did all kinds of things, including threatening to bulldoze and destroy the church. That particular case is now final.
And we are in the process of filing what’s known as a “petition for writ of certiorari”, which we’ll do in the next few weeks. But again, that decision is not going to be had by the Supreme Court any time soon. It’s not going to be a quick decision. It’s going to be in the normal process of the deciding.
So it’ll be somewhere, I think, in this term where we have one of these cases there. And I think at the end of the day, we’ll win that case. How in the world can the Supreme Court countenance something like this where it’s criminal to worship even in your home, but yet the same governor allows tens and even in LA 100,000 protesters to come shoulder to shoulder, front to back with no social distancing at all? Not only does he allow it, he says this, “God bless you. Keep doing it.” That’s governor Gavin Newsom.
Wow! You know, I thought when all this, we were a month into this and you had all these cases starting across the country, I thought, okay, well, even these ones that have to, we got to wait on the merits and all that, well, it’ll prevent us from being in the situation five years from now, because we’ll get some good decisions.
I didn’t think we would still be in the middle of this. Five months later! And I looked at the history on this and some churches in some cities, they did close for a few weeks back in 1918 in the Spanish flu, but it was just a few weeks, nothing like that five months stuff we’re dealing with now nationwide.
Churches Are Still Closed
There’re churches that are still closed around the country. Now, there are some churches that unfortunately are closed like in Florida, but not because of the law. The governor now said that attendance at church and houses of worship is essential activity as far back as April the 1st, no restrictions, but some churches have chosen to close their doors. I can tell you when they decide to eventually have church in again, they’re probably going to be surprised that the people that they had are going someplace else where there’s real shepherds that are taking a stand. And I think that’s what’s happening.
But unfortunately, there’s other places like in California. And this is just something if I can just even convey this. Every Sunday morning, but every day, I think about our pastors, these real shepherds, there’s some out there that are hirelings, but I’m talking about real shepherds like this that are willing to give up their freedom so that others can have freedom.
Especially on Sunday morning, when I wake up, I’m burdened in prayer for all of these pastors, the shepherds that are out there standing. Because when they go and leave in the morning, and they walk into their church, they don’t know what the day is going to hold, they don’t know whether they’re going to be arrested, they don’t know whether they’re going to be booked, they don’t know whether they’re going to be criminally charged. They don’t know what that day holds, but they’re going anyway. And God bless these pastors that are standing up.
Amen. Amen. Well, and if I could just brag on you for a second. God bless you for standing with them. Because without the legal advice and without knowing that Liberty Counsel’s coming alongside them, it’s that much harder to stand. And I went to a deal just a few nights ago, Mat, with some fellow Christians and kind of a worship service and it was in a barn and some great music by Rory Feek, even and we just, I was in tears the whole time because we were fellowshipping and we were worshiping the Lord. And it was just, I thought, he told us not to forsake the fellowship for a reason and people are missing that…
It’s Not the Same Online
To tell you, there’s the difference between watching online in your home and being in fellowship with other believers. There’s a big difference there. Not only that. There are people that can come to that fellowship that are hurting that you’re not going to be able to see online, but you see them there, and God leads you to them and just a touch, just a song, just the fact of seeing people praising the Lord can ultimately change their destiny.
I got to ask you real quick before I let you go on the science part of the Judges seeing this and all the pleadings and everything. I mean, at this point, there’s so much data available that we know now this isn’t what we thought it was going to be in March. Do you see that any movement in terms of how the Judges are responding to that at this point? I mean if that question makes sense, you know what I’m saying?
Yeah, no, I know, it really depends upon the Judge and it depends upon somebody who’s just going to pair it what the State says, which is this old information that has turned out to be much of which not true or contradictory. Or are they really interested in the Constitution? And what we’re really seen as a difference in constitutionalist. Frankly, what we’re seeing is a difference in Trump appointees versus Obama appointees to be truthful.
That’s really the stark difference that you see in the lower courts as to which way they go and how they’re going to respect religious freedom versus these other things such as the cases with the protesters, which should be pretty obvious. But they, oh, no, that’s different. But religious was, oh, no, that’s very dangerous. You can’t do that. And they don’t even look at the constitutional arguments, some of them don’t. So that’s a real problem and it really comes back to the Judge. Where’s their position on the Constitution?
Yeah. Well, brother, we appreciate you. We want to send people to the website today, LC.org. And that’s the best place to, you know, make sure you’re on the email list, folks, then you’ll get updated on the various cases and as decisions happen and new cases are filed. And man, it seems like you’ve got a new case every day, man. Maybe more than one case every day.
I know you’re getting flooded. And so funds help. It helps you with staff and local attorneys that you need and all those things. We really encourage people LC.org, if you’re looking for a way to help, this is the place to do it. LC.org, make a donation there and follow Mat’s good work. We’d love you, brother. Appreciate you. Thanks for the time today.
Oh, thanks, God bless, Rick.
Stay with us, folks. We’ll be right back with David and Tim Barton.
Hi, friends, this is Tim Barton of WallBuilders. This is a time when most Americans don’t know much about American history or even heroes of the faith. And I know oftentimes we, parents, we’re trying to find good content for our kids to read.
And if you remember back to the Bible, to the book of Hebrews, it has the faith Hall of Fame where they outline the leaders of faith that had gone before them. Well, this is something that as Americans, we really want to go back and outline some of these heroes, not just of American history, but heroes of Christianity in our faith as well.
I want to let you know about some biographical sketches we have available on our website. One is called The Courageous Leaders collection. And this collection includes people like Abigail Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Francis Scott Key, George Washington Carver, Susanna Wesley, even the Wright brothers. And there’s a second collection called Heroes of History.
In this collection, you’ll read about people like Benjamin Franklin or Christopher Columbus, Daniel Boone, George Washington, Harriet Tubman, friends, the list goes on and on. This is a great collection for your young person to have and read and it’s a providential view of American and Christian history. This is available at www.wallbuilders.com. That’s www.wallbuilders.com.
We’re back here on WallBuilders live. Thanks to Mat Staver for joining us. We’re back with David and Tim Barton now. And you guys, I mean, obviously a lot of cases out there. But California seems to be the hotbed of litigation right now for churches, because all over the State, different cases that are being dealt with our friend, Rob McCoy, and so many other pastors.
I think it’s kind of cool, though, the California pastors are standing up boldly in a state that we make fun of half the time when we talk about how far liberal California has gone. Instead, we’re talking about bold pastors that are standing up against those things.
And it’ll be interesting to see if we can have some kind of local news here in the sense that, Tim has been out to California multiple times and there’s been all these threats of mayors and others with fines and whatnot. But you got a specific one coming at you recently. They said, well, we don’t know because the mayor is now threatening to arrest. And you speak in at the church, I mean, you could get arrested for being out here.
Discrimination or Persecution?
Yeah, got an email from the church staff and said, “Hey, just so you know, we got this note from the city and they said that they’re going to send the police out because they really don’t want us having church. And we don’t know if the police coming means that they’re going to issue fines, because we do know that they’ve threatened arrest before and we don’t know if we might get arrested.
We just want to make sure, Tim, are you okay with that?” And I said, “Are you kidding me? This would be like a badge of honor. If I got arrested for speaking in a church, sign me up. This is my Paul and Silas moment. Absolutely. I would embrace that.” But this is the reality of California.
And we just identify, there’s so many great pastors out there who are standing up in the face of crazy opposition. And looking at this crazy opposition, we still can criticize California, because the reason these pastors are being highlighted as so courageous because of how bad the policies are out there. And I think one of the things that Mat said that was very interesting to me is that discrimination is different than persecution.
For a long time, Christians have faced discrimination. But persecution is when there is a level of penalty or criminalization for what you are doing, for, in this case, your faith. Because now, we’re not even talking about a system or standard of behavior that’s unacceptable.
It’s not that you’re being penalized because you stole something, because you abuse somebody, because right, no, it’s not a negative behavior. It’s something that now you are being penalized for being a Christian and for following your beliefs.
Although I would say that’s a negative behavior to them, which is why they wouldn’t penalize it, I would say that being a Christian is what they don’t care for and what they don’t want, because look how they’re targeted. But I thought to the point that Mat made, and I thought, like you Tim, the distinction between discrimination and persecution, they had big distinction. But so too, is the distinction he made between a shepherd and hireling.
And a shepherd, the Bible tells us, Jesus tells us that a shepherd sees the danger and we’ll go throw himself in front of the flock. And so you have pastors who are willing to give up their own freedom to stand for the freedom of others, versus other pastors who are saying, well, you know, we don’t want to get in trouble and we don’t want this happening. So, no, no, no, you got to be willing to stand up to the danger and give up your freedom to preserve the freedom of others. And so I thought that was a big distinction.
And then I thought the point he made was really strong to about, we’re seeing a big distinction between Trump Judges and Obama Judges. And that distinction, I mean, that is so big, whether the Constitution is going to prevail, it shouldn’t depend on your Judge, but today, it does. I mean, it shouldn’t matter.
If you’re a federal Judge who took an oath to uphold the Constitution, it shouldn’t matter who appointed you, you should uphold the Constitution. But that’s just not where we are. And so what we’re seeing is it does matter who pointed the Judges as whether the Constitution is going to be in effect.
Constitutionally Protected God-Given Rights
Well, one of the things we’ve talked about in America that has made us unique for so long, is that we have always had constitutionally protected God given rights. You can make the argument that you have a God given right no matter what nation you live in. Well, that’s true.
You could be in China and say I have the freedom of speech, God gave me the Freedom of speech, but God did give it to you. But if that government doesn’t recognize it, you will not be able to enjoy that God given right unless it is politically protected.
America has been so unique, because we have politically protected our God given rights, arguably better than any other nation for the last several hundred years. And what we are seeing now is a direct attack on those God given rights. And it’s not that they will cease to be God given rights if the government doesn’t recognize them anymore.
But, it’s that we will not be able to enjoy them without the threat of political or in this case, criminal punishment. And this is why we talked about the Constitution, we talked about faith, we talked about the role and engagement of the church and why this matters so much.
The Founding Fathers understood that our Constitution, John Adams says “Our Constitution is made only for a moral and a religious people. It’s wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” We have to have a religious, a biblical foundation.
Because we recognize our rights come from God and the majority of the nation recognizes that, then we’ll begin to choose leaders who recognize that oh, those are God given rights, government can’t take those away. And when we politically protect our God given rights, our inalienable rights, then we can enjoy those freely without fear of, in this case, is Mat Staver talking about persecution.
Protecting Our God-Given, Constitutional Rights – With Mat Staver
And I will say as he pointed out, kudos to those pastors who are standing up right now not knowing what they will face, but knowing the message of the gospel. The Word of God is so important that they’re going to pay whatever price they have to, to make sure they’re sharing the gospel and sharing the Word of God every Sunday.
You know, it takes an effort on each of our parts, right? We all have to share and we all have to be a part of the solution in some way and certainly, being able to gather and reignite each other on Sunday morning and is so, so important or Saturday night or whenever your church or your synagogue or your house of worship meets. We just want to encourage people start getting back together
And special thanks to Mat Staver and all those attorneys out there that are coming alongside our houses of worship, defending them against these draconian unconstitutional, unprecedented COVID crackdown orders from these governors across the country that have decided that they are dictators and emperors. They don’t need a legislature.
They don’t need anybody else. They’re making up the rules all by themselves. And six months later, we’re still following them. Why is that? Why are we putting up with tyranny? It’s time to say no, America is a republic. Each of our states are Republics, guaranteed by Article IV, Section 4 of the United States Constitution. And it’s time for we the people, the citizens to stand up and say we’re taking our freedom back.
Thanks for listening today to WallBuilders Live. Check us out today at wallbuilderslive.com.