In just the last few weeks and months, we’ve secured some major victories for faith and freedom. Your continued support makes this possible. By signing petitions, joining letters, and adding your name to briefs, you are defending the Constitution, protecting lives, and fighting for the persecuted.
Here are just a few of the many victories that you’ve made possible already this year.
On January 30, 2015, we won a unanimous victory allowing a Ten Commandment monument to remain on public land. It’s a case we’ve been fighting for years, one that I successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court in Pleasant Grove v. Summum. This time the Utah Supreme Court unanimously upheld a trial court’s ruling in favor of the ACLJ’s client, Pleasant Grove City, Utah, in a state-court lawsuit filed by Summum, a religion established in Salt Lake City in 1975. Summum claimed that the Utah Constitution requires the city of Pleasant Grove to place a monument to its Seven Aphorisms in Pioneer Park. Pioneer Park is a historic public park, which holds numerous city-owned items, including a Ten Commandments monument. The court, however, rejected Summum’s argument, instead finding that while individuals and groups enjoy a right to engage in First Amendment protected activities while on park grounds, that right does not extend to private individuals and groups seeking to construct permanent displays in the park. Thus, Summum could not force Pleasant Grove to include the Seven Aphorisms monument in Pioneer Park, nor could it force the removal of the Ten Commandments.
The ACLJ continues to fight to free American Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen who has been wrongfully imprisoned in Iran for two and a half years. Since his imprisonment, Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, tried, unsuccessfully, to meet with President Obama to discuss Pastor Saeed’s case. In January, however, over 100,000 Americans signed a petition requesting that President Obama meet with Pastor Saeed’s wife and children to talk about Pastor Saeed’s imprisonment during a scheduled visit to Boise, Idaho (Pastor Saeed’s hometown). On January 21, 2015, after this tremendous show of support for the Abedinis, President Obama met with Naghmeh and her two children. During the meeting, President Obama stated that Pastor Saeed’s freedom is a “top priority” for the Obama Administration. President Obama’s meeting with the family of a man imprisoned merely for his Christian beliefs helps demonstrate to the world—and Iran in particular—that religious persecution is a very real issue, and one that must be addressed. This was a major step forward as we continue to fight for Pastor Saeed’s freedom. Our work continues both in this country and abroad to secure his release.
On February 5th, we secured a landmark court victory for religious freedom. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld our client’s right to choose the spiritual leadership of its organization. This case served two critical purposes. First, we successfully secured the religious freedom of one faith-based organization. Second, we helped ensure this freedom for other religious organizations and establish that the right to choose spiritual leadership cannot be waived. We are happy to report that the federal appeals court agreed with our argument and upheld the First Amendment rights of this organization and set a resoundingly positive precedent many others like it.
On February 6, the Obama Administration finally decided to award purple hearts to the victims of the terrorist attack at Fort Hood. This is a major victory for true heroes. The Administration previously denied the terrorist nature of this attack despite the strong evidence to the contrary. We fought for the victims to receive these awards, and nearly 72,000 Americans signed our petition to President Obama and the Secretary of Defense. We are proud that these American soldiers can now receive purple hearts, a much-deserved honor.
An affiliate of our European Centre of Law and Justice (ECLJ) was able to successfully defend a Christian who was unjustly accused of murder. On February 7, 2015, Imtiaz Masih, a Pakistani Christian who was falsely accused of killing his Muslim employer’s brother, was acquitted of murder. Imtiaz was tortured into making a false confession, and the court held that the prosecution failed to establish its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The acquittal is an important victory for the rule of law in a legal system where, all too often, Christians are falsely accused of crimes.
On February 17, the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas enjoined President Obama’s illegal Executive action on immigration from taking effect. We have been aggressively fighting in Congress and the courts to defeat this unconstitutional power grab. We filed an amicus brief on behalf of 68 Members of Congress and thousands of Americans. In our brief, we argued that the President violated the Constitution, as he did not have the authority to take the actions that he did. We are pleased with the court’s decision and have since filed two more amicus briefs in this case – with additional briefs to be filed – as we continue to defend the Constitution against lawlessness.
Also in February, we secured a major legal victory for pro-life free speech – speech that literally saves the lives of unborn children. A settlement was reached in a case in which the ACLJ represented two pro-life sidewalk counselors who were threatened with a loitering citation if they continued to engage in sidewalk counseling outside the Fort Myers Women’s Health Center in Fort Myers, Florida. In October 2014, the ACLJ filed a lawsuit on behalf of the pro-life counselors against the City of Fort Myers and one of its police officers, and on February 27, 2015, the court entered a Consent Judgment and Order. The Consent Judgment allows the counselors to continue exercising their rights protected by the First Amendment, including sidewalk counseling, praying, distributing literature, and engaging with pedestrians. This is an important victory allowing truly lifesaving work to work to continue unabated.
These recent victories demonstrate the breadth and importance of the ACLJ’s continued engagement in religious freedom issues, both nationally and internationally. Your support, your voice, is making a tremendous impact in the fight for faith and freedom.
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Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), one of the most prestigious law firms in the country. He is an accomplished Supreme Court advocate, renowned expert on religious liberty, a number 1 New York Times-bestselling author, and a respected broadcaster. Jay Sekulow is an attorney with a passion for protecting religious liberty – freedom – democracy. For nearly a quarter of a century, he’s been on the front lines – working to protect religious and constitutional freedoms in the courts, in Congress, and in the public arena. At the Supreme Court of the United States, Jay Sekulow has argued 12 cases – including several landmark cases which have become part of the legal landscape in the area of religious liberty litigation.
Used with the permission of the American Center for Law and Justice.