Here at the ACLJ, we are often engaged in legal battles that may last years before we are able to achieve ultimate victory. It is important to remember that the road to victory may be a long one. And, you should know, that our attorneys work consistently and continuously to stand up for your religious and constitutional freedoms – to ensure that we succeed in these critical battles.
Our most recent victory against the Obama Administration’s unconstitutional and illegal targeting of grassroots conservative organizations is a perfect example of a legal and advocacy fight years in the making.
You may remember that in the spring of 2013, President Obama’s IRS admitted to targeting conservative groups that were seeking non-profit status. On May 29, 2013, the ACLJ filed a lawsuit against the IRS on behalf of numerous targeted organizations. During the last 3 years, the ACLJ has battled with the IRS in court. As we’ve explained before, the district court originally dismissed our claims:
In reaching its determination, the district court adopted the flawed argument presented by the IRS that the court could provide no effective remedy for the injuries suffered by the targeted organizations because the IRS had ceased all components of the targeting scheme. This simply isn’t true.
Notably, two of the non-profit organizations we represent on appeal are still awaiting a determination on their applications for tax exemption after many years. That’s right. One group has been waiting for more than six years, another for nearly six years – in limbo – still no decision from the IRS.
In addition, 36 of our non-profit clients were only granted tax exemption following significant delay or withdrew their applications for exemption after the IRS pummeled their First Amendment rights to free speech and free association through unconstitutional delay and intrusive and unnecessary requests for information. These unconstitutional information demands required the disclosure of donor lists, internet passwords and usernames, and the political and charitable activities of family members.
We appealed that flawed decision, and just a few days ago the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed with us that the district court’s dismissal was wrong.
In its opinion, the appellate court agreed that the district court’s decision dismissing our clients’ – 38 non-profit organizations from 22 states subjected to numerous violations of their First Amendment rights – claims was made in error on the unfounded position that the IRS had since ceased all allegedly illegal activity.
The appeals court’s decision allows our constitutional claims against the IRS to move forward. The targeted groups will get their day in court. Yet this takes time. One of our clients still being targeted by the IRS and awaiting a final determination originally applied for tax-exempt status in December of 2009. That’s right, that client has been waiting for nearly 7 years for the IRS to act on its application. The fight continues to this day and could continue for months or even years into the future. But our commitment to, and work for, our clients never wavers. During these long battles, we must press in, stand our ground, and continue our advocacy.
Another example began in 2011 when an atheist group known as the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) demanded that a 60-year-old WWII Memorial statue of Jesus be removed from Big Mountain in Montana. The ACLJ began a full campaign complete with a petition, sending a letter to the U.S. Forest Service countering the FFRF’s demand and urging the Forest Service to continue to renew the permit for the Memorial. After receiving our letter, the Forest Service did renew the permit.
The angry FFRF then filed suit in federal district court. In response, the ACLJ filed two amicus briefs, and the federal court agreed with us that the statue is constitutional. In both of these briefs, we represented thousands of concerned Americans and numerous Members of Congress.
Again displeased with this result, FFRF took the fight to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The ACLJ filed an amicus brief, this time in support of the district court’s decision, and a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit upheld that court’s decision. Finally, FFRF demanded that the decision be reviewed by the full panel of the appeals court. However, the request was denied. After nearly five years of countering FFRF’s attack on the WWII Memorial, we achieved a significant victory! During those five years, our attorneys’ efforts to achieve a victory never faltered.
Similarly, in the case of Saeed Abedini, the Christian pastor who was imprisoned in Iran for nearly 3 and a half years, over 1.1 million people from across the globe joined us in the fight for his freedom. It was a long and grueling fight. During those 3 years of harsh imprisonment, the ACLJ repeatedly engaged in efforts to draw attention to his plight and to seek his freedom, advocating on Capitol Hill, at the United Nations, and around the world. Earlier this year, after vigorous and continued advocacy, Pastor Saeed was released from Iranian prison and returned safely to the United States.
Continued advocacy where results are seemingly slow or non-existent is extremely important. It is especially important in cases such as that of Asia Bibi — the Pakistani Christian mother of five who is imprisoned in Pakistan and on death row for blasphemy. Asia Bibi has now been on death row for her Christian faith more than 2,100 days – nearly six years. 2,100 days in prison is a long time; it is even longer when every one of those days you are unsure if you will live to see the next day.
Here at the ACLJ we understand the importance of long battles and the difficulties to be faced on the road to victory. We continue to fight tirelessly for justice and freedom. You can join our efforts and help us remind those we fight for that they do not fight alone.
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