For years, the ACLJ has fought—and continues to fight—to defend your Constitutionally protected freedoms. Your support allows us to fight for the lives of the unborn, defend the Constitution, and protect the religious liberties of all U.S. citizens.
Here are a few of the victories that you’ve helped us achieve over the last few weeks and months.
We secured a victory for a Maryland high school student’s religious liberty. This student attempted to complete her school’s required community service hours by assisting with church services and other activities at a local nursing home. After performing her hours at the nursing home, school officials announced that “missionary work” would not qualify as community service because it does not benefit the general community. The student’s mother contacted the ACLJ and we immediately took action. Our attorneys explained to the mother that community service includes those activities performed through a church. Armed with our advice, the student resubmitted a detailed list of her community service activities to the school. We are pleased to report that the school accepted her hours without issue.
We defeated another attack on First Amendment freedoms, when one of our country’s service members, Major General Craig Olson, was threatened with a court martial for participating in a National Day of Prayer event where he publicly discussed being a Christian and gave God credit for his success. Mikey Weinstein, founder of the anti-Christian Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), attacked General Olson for his comments—calling for him to be court martialed for speaking about his faith. Upon learning of MRFF’s outrageous claim, the ACLJ sent a letter to Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark A. Welsh III. In our letter, we detailed Mikey’s outlandish tactics and explained that General Olson’s remarks did not violate the Establishment Clause or Air Force policy. We can happily report that the Air Force agreed with our determination and found that no violation had occurred. We are actively committed to defending the rights protected by the First Amendment of those who serve our country.
In June, the United States Supreme Court decided Reed v. Town of Gilbert, an important case for citizens’ First Amendment liberties. In this case, a local church wanted to place temporary signs throughout the community that advertised the time and location of its worship services. However, the community’s sign code did not treat churches the same way it treated other organizations. The sign code allowed other organizations to post larger signs for a longer time period than church signs. We argued in our amicus brief to the Supreme Court that this constituted a content-based restriction on speech and that the Ninth Circuit’s decision was wrongly decided. Ultimately, the Supreme Court overruled the Ninth Circuit and held that the sign code’s restrictions were content-based and could not survive strict scrutiny. This is a significant victory for free speech.
We also helped secure another significant victory in June before the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The Sixth Circuit held that a Tennessee public school district’s use of a Christian school as its “alternative school” did not violate the Establishment Clause. Due to budget constraints, the school district closed its alternative school—an important state-mandated program for students with disabilities. Attempting to save the program, the school district contracted with a local Christian school. Not only did this agreement save the school district money, but it allowed the students to continue to receive these otherwise unavailable services. Unfortunately, two teachers sued the school district because of the scripture verses found on some of the Christian school’s materials and the various religious symbols located in the chapel. We filed an amicus brief with the court and explained that the school district’s use of the Christian school was for economic reasons, and the services provided were secular and distinct from the Christian school’s mission. The Sixth Circuit agreed with our arguments and upheld the use of the Christian school as an alternative school for the Tennessee public school district.
In April, we assisted a religious ministry after the city tried to trample on its Constitutional rights. The ministry registered to use a city convention center for a religious conference. To advertise the event, the city listed event information on its electronic advertising board. After posting the information, the events coordinator informed the ministry that they could no longer use the board for their conference because of the religious terminology used in the advertisement. The ministry reached out to us for help. After being contacted by the ministry, we spoke with the city’s attorney about the situation. Following our conversation with the city’s attorney, we were informed that the ministry’s conference would again be advertised on the board. We are privileged to fight for the free speech rights of religious organizations throughout the country.
Finally, we helped ensured that the heroes of the Fort Hood terrorist attack received the benefits they deserve. As you will recall, a radical Islamic army major attacked and killed thirteen soldiers and wounded many more at Fort Hood, Texas. With your help, we demanded that the Obama Administration grant these heroes the honor they deserve. As we previously reported, the Administration decided to award Purple Heart medals to the victims, but not the benefits that come with receiving these medals. We are proud to report that the Administration announced that the victims of this horrific attack will finally receive the benefits they greatly deserve.
It is with your support that we are able to continue fighting for freedom. Thank you for standing with us.
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