Religious Free Speech Victory at Sinclair Community College in Ohio

standupfreespeechMarch 12, 2013 — Sinclair Community College (SCC), of Dayton, OH, agreed to settle a federal lawsuit brought by the Thomas More Society and Ohio attorneys Curt C. Hartman, Christopher P. Finney, and Bradley M. Gibson, in response to actions by the college to prohibit students from distributing literature and displaying signage on campus.

“We are pleased that Sinclair Community College decided to join with its students to promote free speech instead of silencing or trying to control the content of their speech,” said Peter Breen, executive director and legal counsel of the Thomas More Society. “At its core, the university campus provides a place for students to debate and grapple with ideas, including ideas that may not be popular in certain quarters. Freedom of expression is an absolutely fundamental value in a democratic, self-governing society and indispensable to the educational process.”

The case was filed last summer in U.S. District Court, on the heels of a “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally opposing the U.S. Health and Human Services conscience-oppressing abortifacient-sterilization mandate. The rally had been organized and sponsored by members of the student body of the Dayton-based school.

Sinclair’s campus police forbade student-generated signage during that rally, and the lawsuit by the Thomas More Society and Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) alleged that the campus police had continued to engage in systematic censorship of free speech as at previous student-led rallies. The suit also alleged that students had been barred from distributing informational brochures to their classmates.

The lawsuit alleged that police stated the practice of disallowing signs and brochures was supposedly intended to comply with a school policy barring “disruptive behavior,” even though censoring the content of signs or brochures was nowhere addressed in the actual wording of the policy cited. It is fundamental First Amendment law that the content of free speech, no matter how “offensive” it may be to certain onlookers, deserves the very highest degree of legal protection, despite the fact that some of those hearing or seeing the speakers’ message may be “disruptive” and seek to impose their “hecklers’ veto” against the speakers. Here, the police — as is all too common — were the sole folks within hearing or sight of the pro-life messages displayed on the “offensive” signs who sought to enforce their own “hecklers’ veto.” In every such case, the Thomas More Society will hasten to support the right of pro-life speakers to have their “say,” loud and clear, in America’s public forums!

As a result of the lawsuit, SCC has adopted a new policy recognizing and allowing for the exercise of broader First Amendment Rights of students and groups hosting expressive activities on campus. The college also agreed to pay $9,000 to cover the plaintiffs’ costs and attorneys’ fees.

Thomas More Society recognizes and applauds the fine legal work provided by lead attorneys Chris Finney and Brad Gibson of the law firm of Finney, Stagnaro, Saba & Patterson Co., L.P.A., based in Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, and Curt C. Hartman, of Amelia, OH, which led to this very positive result. In addition, the Thomas More Society appreciates the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for writing to SCC President Steven Lee Johnson last year, asking Sinclair Community College to disavow the censorship of TVC’s event by the SCC police and to promise never to enforce such a ban against signs in the future.

A copy of the settlement letter can be found here.

Courtesy of https://www.thomasmoresociety.org/news/

Appeals court asked to remove bull’s-eye from Christians

By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily


Barack Obama

President Obama’s “hate crimes” law, one of the president’s early fulfillments of a campaign promise to homosexual lobbyists who backed his 2008 campaign, is heading for dangerous new waters as a lawsuit challenging it as being unconstitutional has moved to the appellate court level.

Officials with the Thomas More Law Center say they have appealed their lawsuit over the “hate crimes” law to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, raising pointed questions including why will the law attack Bible-following Christians who follow its instructions.

“According to the Bible, which Plaintiffs promote through their religious activities, homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity that are intrinsically disordered. The Apostle Paul, writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declares that those who engage in homosexual acts ‘shall not inherit the kingdom of God,’ stating further, ‘And such were some of you…,'” the appeal explains.

“Plaintiffs believe and profess that homosexuality is an illicit lust forbidden by God, who said to His people Israel, ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is abomination.’ In every place that the Bible refers to homosexuality, the emphasis is upon the perversion of sexuality. The person engaging in homosexual behavior is guilty of ‘leaving the natural use of the woman,’ meaning that his behavior is ‘against nature,’ and thus contrary to God’s will.”

“In Old Testament times in Israel, God dealt severely with those who engaged in homosexual behavior. He warned His people through Moses, ‘If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them,” the appeal continued.

“Consequently, Plaintiffs have ‘willfully’ engaged in, and will continue to ‘willfully’ engage in, conduct that is proscribed by the Hate Crimes Act because the Act does not limit its reach to physical acts of violence, but expressly includes within its reach so-called ‘hate’ speech and ‘hateful words,” thereby subjecting plaintiffs to federal investigation and punishment.”


U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa

The lawsuit, which has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, was brought on behalf of Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, and Pastors Levon Yuille, Rene Ouellette and James Combs.

It was dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan after Attorney General Eric Holder claimed the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and the plaintiffs failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

The complaint contends that the “hate crimes” law violates the plaintiffs’ civil rights, since it opens Christians to being the target of federal investigations, grand juries and even charges for opposing or publicly criticizing the homosexual lifestyle and “gay” activism.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include individuals who already have faced accusations by homosexual advocates that they bear responsibility for the actions of others for no other reason than their agreement with biblical condemnations of homosexuality.

The lawsuit cited the death of Andrew Anthos, a 72-year-old Detroit man allegedly the victim of a “hate crime” because of his “sexual orientation.” In that case, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force “blamed … Plaintiff Glenn’s ‘homophobic rants’ for causing his death.”

According to the lawsuit, the homosexual activist said, “It is appalling hypocrisy for these forces to pretend that their venomous words and organizing have no connection to the plague of hate violence against gay people, including the murder of Mr. Anthos.”

Anthos also was cited by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., as evidence of the need to extend federal “hate crimes” legislation to include “sexual orientation” as a privileged classification.

But the lawsuit said police and a medical examiner determined that Anthos died of natural causes.

The complaint also said, “The former director of policy for the Triangle Foundation, a Michigan-based homosexual lobby group that supported the Hate Crimes Act, publicly stated, ‘We personally believe that the AFA may support the murder of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.'”

Such statements, combined with the “hate crimes” law that now exists, provide a “tool” of intimidation for federal officials, including Holder, “to abuse their positions of power to stifle political opinion and opposition to the homosexual agenda,” the complaint explains.

“The Hate Crimes Act was clearly intended to intimidate Christians and their religious leaders into remaining silent concerning their religious beliefs that homosexual conduct is an abomination and a sin,” the law center said today.

Its brief tells the 6th Circuit, “This statute is all about elevating certain persons (homosexuals) to a protected class under federal law based on nothing more than their choice to have sex with persons of the same gender, while marginalizing strong religious opposition to this immoral choice.”

In fact, during congressional debate on the issue, supporters admitted that a homosexual attacking a Christian pastor would be protected from the law’s enhanced penalties that would apply should a Christian pastor attack a homosexual.

“Under the guise of enforcing ‘niceness’ and promoting ‘tolerance,’ homosexual advocacy groups have mobilized their financial power to purchase political clout which they now use to shut down any criticism of their deviant lifestyle. The truth is they are one of the most intolerant groups in our society and viciously attack anyone who opposes their point of view,” said Richard Thompson, chief of the law center.

“The sole purpose of this law is to use the threat of federal prosecutions and long jail sentences to silence Christians from expressing their Biblically based religious belief that homosexual conduct is an abomination and a sin.”

The center confirmed that statistics from homosexual advocacy groups reveal that the greatest threat of violence to homosexuals comes not from Christians but from other homosexuals.

The brief also explains how the attacks on Christians already are being strategized.

At a forum for the homosexual community held by the ACLU of Michigan, Barbara McQuade, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, stated, “We’re very eager to enforce the act.”

The brief says another federal prosecutor said, “We are so excited about this new law and the enforcement possibilities it provides for us.”

Robert Muise, the senior trial counsel for the law center, is handling the case, and said, “This new federal law promotes two Orwellian concepts. First, it creates a special class of persons who are ‘more equal than others’ based on nothing more than deviant, sexual behavior. And secondly, it creates ‘thought crimes’ by criminalizing certain ideas, beliefs, and opinions, and the involvement of such ideas, beliefs, and opinions in a crime will make it deserving of federal prosecution. Consequently, government officials are claiming the power to decide which thoughts are criminal under federal law and which are not.”

The law center revealed that all 50 states already have criminal laws punishing violence against others, Holder himself admitted there is no evidence “hate crimes” were unpunished at the state level, and in 2008, of the 1.38 million violent crimes reported, 243 dealt with the victim’s sexual orientation.

The Hate Crimes Act was dubbed by its critics as the “Pedophile Protection Act” after an amendment to explicitly prohibit pedophiles from being protected by the act was defeated by majority Democrats. In fact, during congressional debate, supporters argued that all “philias,” or alternative sexual lifestyles, should be protected.

Yuille is the pastor of The Bible Church in Michigan and national director of the National Black Pro-Life Congress. He hosts a radio program and “is often warned by his Canadian listeners that he will prosecuted under the new U.S. hate-crimes law for his public ministry.”

Ouellette is pastor of First Baptist in Bridgeport, Mich., with about 7,000 members, and the author of five books.

Combs is lead pastor of Faith Church, The Point Church, The Rock Church and The River Church, with about 10,000 members.

Obama signed the “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act” in October 2009 after Democrats strategically attached it to a “must-pass” $680 billion defense-appropriations bill.

The law cracks down on any acts that could be linked to criticism of homosexuality or even the “perception” of homosexuality. As Congress debated it, there were assurances it would not be used to crack down on speech.

Obama boasted about the “hate crimes” bill when he signed it into law.

“After more than a decade, we’ve passed inclusive hate-crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray or who they are,” he said.

The bill signed by Obama was opposed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which called it a “menace” to civil liberties. The commission argued the law allows federal authorities to bring charges against individuals even if they’ve already been cleared in a state court.

Courtesy of http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=237849

Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss in Indianapolis Homeschooling Case—TMS Pledges to Fight on

Last week, a judge denied a motion by the Thomas More Society to dismiss a case against a small homeschooling group in Indiana, the Fishers Adolescent Catholic Enrichment Society (FACES). While the State of Indiana refuses to let up on the small faith-based group, the Thomas More Society continues to vigorously defend the trial of the families involved.

“We remain confident that we will prevail in this hearing,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of Thomas More Society. “Our clients did go out of their way to accommodate the claimed disability of the home-schooled student for whom the discrimination charge was brought. We believe that the evidence will show—overwhelmingly—that the student’s mother wasn’t just asking for a ‘reasonable accommodation’ for her daughter, but for her own dictated form of accommodation, which is far more than any law does or should require.” Brejcha also said that the retaliation claim is equally baseless as no group can survive, let alone function, when its members are free to flout and circumvent the decisions of its established leadership.

A public hearing has been scheduled to proceed before the Indiana Civil Rights Commission’s appointed hearing officer at the Commission offices in Indianapolis on September 29th and 30th, with October 1st also reserved if needed. Discovery efforts in preparation for the hearing already have been proceeding apace and will increase during July and August, prior to the hearing dates.

While Thomas More Society lawyers Pat Gillen and Peter Breen expect to prevail at the hearing, the Society plans to appeal any adverse result. Brejcha said that if any appeal eventuates, the Society’s lawyers will renew FACES’ objection that the Commission has no jurisdiction—i.e., no legal authority—to oversee the internal affairs and membership decisions of such a small, informal group of eleven homeschooling families established to provide religiously-oriented social opportunities for their children.

Read the Judge’s full order below 
FACES – Judge’s Order on Motion to Dismiss

Courtesy of http://www.thomasmoresociety.org/2010/0623/indydismiss/#more-817

Judge Dismisses Case Challenging Parental Notification of Abortion Law in Illinois; Law Will Not Go Into Effect Until After Appeal

CHICAGO, March 29 /Christian Newswire/ — Today in Cook County Court, a judge dismissed the case challenging the constitutionality of the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act, while imposing a stay of his decision for 60 days to allow the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) time to file an appeal. Attorneys from the Thomas More Society appeared as “friends of the court” today in Court as Judge Daniel Riley delivered his ruling.

“Today’s ruling represents a great step toward ending underage secret abortions in Illinois. This written decision represents the first time an Illinois court has upheld the Parental Notice Act of 1995 against the ACLU’s challenge,” said Peter Breen, executive director and legal counsel at the Thomas More Society. “We look forward to the day that abortion providers are made to respect the rights of parents to know before their daughters are taken for abortions.”

The ACLU is expected to appeal. On appeal, the Thomas More Society will renew its request to intervene in the case to defend the contention that the Illinois Constitution does not include a right to abortion.

Thomas More Society attorneys conceived the idea to revive the dormant Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act in 2005 and led the successful effort to have the Illinois Supreme Court issue the required appeal rules in 2006. Since then, the Thomas More Society has fought to defend the law from attacks by the ACLU and other opponents, who attempted to defeat the law by arguing that the Illinois Constitution of 1970 included a strong right to abortion, even though abortion was virtually illegal in Illinois under the 1970 state constitution. Judge Riley ruled that the Illinois Constitution does include a right to abortion, but that parental notice is constitutional because the Illinois right is not broader than the federal right.

About the Thomas More Society
Founded in 1997, the Thomas More Society is a not-for-profit, public interest law firm based in Chicago and dedicated to fighting for the rights and dignity of all human beings, from conception until natural death. The Society vigorously defends clients in state and federal courtrooms around the country, addressing vital issues across the pro-life spectrum, including pregnancy discrimination, end-of-life health care, the right of conscientious objection for medical workers, freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, and peaceable nonviolent protest.

As a public interest law firm, the Thomas More Society is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, supported solely by private donations. Visit www.thomasmoresociety.org for more information.

 

Thomas More Society Settles Federal Lawsuit Against City of Aurora For First Amendment Violations at Abortion Facility

AURORA, Ill., /Christian Newswire/ — Tomorrow morning, attorneys for the Thomas More Society will ask Judge Virginia Kendall for leave to spread of record an agreed stipulation and settlement in federal court in Chicago, voluntarily dismissing their First Amendment lawsuit (Fox Valley Families, etc. v. Aurora), filed two years ago to protect the rights of citizens who pray and protest at the Planned Parenthood facility in Aurora. The settlement requires the City of Aurora to amend two ordinances claimed to be unconstitutional, mandates First Amendment training for Aurora police, and establishes a grievance process to handle disputes between the protesters and Aurora officials. While the case will be dismissed, the federal court will retain jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement.

“This settlement signals a successful end to our lawsuit, brought to protect the rights of those who pray and protest at abortion facilities in the City of Aurora,” said Peter Breen, Executive Director of the Thomas More Society. “Early on, Judge Virginia Kendall expressed her hope that the parties would reach an agreement that could serve as a model for the rest of the country. We believe this settlement agreement will become such a model.”

Some of the more detailed provisions of the settlement include:

  • Illegal City Signage: City street signs prohibiting any “picketing or protesting” will be removed.
     
  • Police Training: First Amendment rights and non-discriminatory law enforcement training will be required for all full-time officers of the Aurora Police Department.
     
  • Grievances Protocol: A new procedure for airing grievances that may arise is established, with designated liaisons for the parties meeting quarterly, and more frequently as necessary, to resolve disputes in a way to avoid court involvement.
     
  • Public Property: Protects right of pro-life individuals to use public sidewalks and parkways for prayer and protest.
     
  • Signs with Graphic Content: Graphic signs may be used in demonstrations, with appropriate warning signs displayed to alert passers-by.
     
  • Camera Installation: The City will install a high-resolution video camera to continuously record all activities near the facility, if it installs any such other cameras for law enforcement in the city.
     
  • Access Road Usage: Protesters who use the private access road near the facility will not be arrested, absent a property owner’s direction, and unless there is any serious criminal history, such incidents will be deemed ordinance violations subject to the grievance procedure.
     
  • Sidewalk Construction: To assure public safety, Aurora will take necessary steps to ensure a public sidewalk is constructed along the access road.

Case No. 07 C 4803
Fox Valley Families Against Planned Parenthood, Pro-Life Action League, and Eric Scheidler v. The City of Aurora

About the Thomas More Society
Founded in 1997, the Thomas More Society is a not-for-profit, public interest law firm based in Chicago and dedicated to fighting for the rights and dignity of all human beings, from conception until natural death. The Society vigorously defends clients in state and federal courtrooms around the country, addressing vital issues across the pro-life spectrum, including pregnancy discrimination, end-of-life health care, the right of conscientious objection for medical workers, freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, and peaceable nonviolent protest.
www.thomasmoresociety.org for more information.

As a public interest law firm, the Thomas More Society is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, supported solely by private donations. Visit

Thomas More Law Center Prepared to Legally Challenge the Health Care Bill as soon as the President Signs It into Law

March 22, 2010

ANN ARBOR, MI – Richard Thompson, President of the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, announced this morning the Law Center is prepared to file a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new Health Care Bill as soon as President Obama signs it into law.

Named in the lawsuit in their official capacities will be President Obama, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Eric H. Holder, Jr., the U.S. Attorney General, and Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Among the constitutional objections raised in the lawsuit will be Congress’s lack of authority to require private citizens to purchase or obtain health care coverage under penalty of federal law, as well as forcing Americans who oppose abortions to fund them with their tax dollars in violation of their fundamental rights of conscience and the free exercise of religion.

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life.  It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America.  The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities.  It does not charge for its services.  The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization.  You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit their website at www.thomasmore.org.

Attorney General Now Claims Illinois Constitution Contains Right to Abortion, Thomas More Society Responds by Seeking Leave of Court to Defend Parental Notice

CHICAGO, March 12 /Christian Newswire/ — Reacting to the recent claim by the Attorney General that the Illinois Constitution contains a right to abortion, attorneys from the Thomas More Society will appear in Cook County court on Monday, March 15, again seeking to intervene in the latest American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit, challenging the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 1995.

In Hope Clinic, et al., v. Brent Adams et al. (No. 09 CH 38661), Thomas More Society attorneys are representing Illinois State’s Attorneys Stu Umholtz (R-Tazewell), Ed Deters (D-Effingham) and Ray Cavanaugh (R-Henderson), and maintain that because there is no right to abortion in the Illinois Constitution, the ACLU’s latest challenge to parental notice is baseless. The Attorney General, representing various Illinois officials who are named as defendants, has moved to dismiss the case on other grounds.

“Because the ACLU has already lost in federal court, its lawyers must prove in state court that the Illinois Constitution of 1970 guaranteed a right to abortion that was even stronger than the federal abortion right upheld in Roe v. Wade, handed down in 1973. This is an utter falsehood plainly belied by the historical record. Yet, instead of defending the Illinois Constitution, whose Framers clearly left the issue of abortion to the legislature, the Attorney General has tossed the Constitution aside and conceded to the ACLU on this key issue,” stated Thomas Brejcha, President & Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Society. “Illinois parents have a right to know before their kids are taken for abortions. If the Attorney General won’t defend the parental notice law vigorously, we will do so, until the day when there are no more secret abortions performed on Illinois children.”

The Parental Notice of Abortion Act requires a child under age 18 to notify a parent, grandparent or step-parent in the home, or to go before a judge to get a waiver, prior to undergoing an abortion. The Act was prevented from going into effect in June 1995, by an injunction issued by the federal district court in Chicago. Fourteen years later, in August of 2009, the federal appeals court lifted the injunction. However, before the Act could go into effect, the Illinois Medical Disciplinary Board imposed a 90-day grace period on enforcement. On the day that grace period ended, November 4, the law was in effect for only a few hours before Judge Daniel Riley of the Cook County circuit court granted a temporary restraining order, again halting enforcement of the Act.

Judge Riley has granted Thomas More Society attorneys a special setting for their motion to intervene, at 10 a.m. on Monday. At 10:30 a.m., the court will hear the Attorney General’s motion to dismiss the ACLU’s case. Thomas More Society attorneys will be available for comment following the hearing.

About the Thomas More Society
Founded in 1997, the Thomas More Society is a not-for-profit, public interest law firm based in Chicago and dedicated to fighting for the rights and dignity of all human beings, from conception until natural death. The Society vigorously defends clients in state and federal courtrooms around the country, addressing vital issues across the pro-life spectrum, including pregnancy discrimination, end-of-life health care, the right of conscientious objection for medical workers, freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, and peaceable nonviolent protest.