Twenty-nine-year-old Nada Higuera stood in the courtroom last April, her growing belly an accessory to her case briefs and plea binders.
As an attorney with Advocates for Faith & Freedom—a California-based non-profit law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty—Higuera was once again in Riverside County Superior Court Justice Gloria Trask’s courtroom to challenge the Reproductive FACT Act, or AB-775 (see “Free Speech vs. Forced Speech,” page 12). The statute, hailed by NARAL
Pro-Choice America as “historic,” and “set[ting] a precedent for the nation,” forces pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) statewide to advertise taxpayer-funded abortion and birth-control programs in their waiting rooms, signage and communications.
Signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2015, the FACT Act was immediately decried by the pro-life community. Every Golden State PRC would have no choice if AB-775 became law but to tell clients not only that free or low-cost abortions might be available, but exactly where and how to obtain them. In other words: They would be forced to violate their own missions and moral convictions while providing free advertising for the opposition.
Higuera took the case because it was, in her words, Read More
There’s so much good to report!
At Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court hearing about free speech, life, and religious liberty, the question was whether a law passed in California could force pro-life clinics and crisis pregnancy centers to advertise for the state’s free abortion program… in up to 13 languages, no less!
Although a lawsuit to stop the statute was struck down by the Ninth Circuit, you may recall back in October 2017, Tyler & Bursch’s pro bono attorneys, with funding from Advocates for Faith & Freedom, prevailed against this law on Free Speech grounds in Riverside County Superior Court in Scharpen Foundation v. Kamala Harris.
Still, California’s Attorney General persisted on defending this discriminatory law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where non-profit legal defense law firms from across the country took the lead. Advocates for Faith & Freedom’s research and amicus brief played a significant role in its opposition and was mentioned by three Justices at Tuesday’s hearing.
According to the Daily Signal, Justice Anthony Kennedy asked whether an unlicensed center ran a billboard that read “Choose Life,” would it have to include the disclosure in the same font and in multiple languages? Wouldn’t that be an undue burden?”
A Courthouse News Service article quoted both Justice Alito and Justice Gorsuch. “If you have a law that’s neutral on its face, but… when you apply all the exemptions, what you’re left with is a very strange pattern, and, gee, it turns out that just about the only clinics that are covered by this [law] are pro-life clinics,” Alito said. “Do you think it’s possible to infer intentional discrimination in that situation?”
While Justice Neil Gorsuch commented that the California law required pregnancy centers to “do the state’s job” at a significant cost to what Advocates for Faith & Freedom’sresearch set out to prove, are mostly nonprofit, pro-life facilities. “Well, but if you’re trying to educate a class of persons about their rights, it’s pretty unusual to force a private speaker to do that for you under the First Amendment,” Gorsuch said.
Commenting right after leaving the Supreme Court hearing with our client, Scott Scharpen, Tyler & Bursch attorney, Robert Tyler was optimistic, saying, “Based on the arguments, it certainly appears that victory is awaiting!”
Unlike Planned Parenthood, non-profit crisis pregnancy centers exist to support women who face difficult or unplanned pregnancies and receive no money or support from the government. It was apparent the Justices recognized the state’s majority pro-abortion lawmakers targeted these groups.
It was only through your prayers and financial support that Advocates was able to contribute the research and provide the pro bono legal services that we feel certain made a big difference in this case!
Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw His
unfailing love from me. ~ Psalm 66:20 (NLT)
In our neighborhoods, young Girl Scouts and their mothers are setting up cookie sales tables outside local grocery and retail stores. Teenage members of a church girls’ youth group offer these traditional family-favorites for sale from a colorful Girl Scout cookie booth in the church courtyard after Sunday service.
But, several years ago, an uncomfortable rumor began circulating over social media that a portion of Girl Scout cookie sale proceeds was donated to Planned Parenthood. Girl Scouts of America denies this rumor and says that no proceeds from cookie sales have ever been donated to Planned Parenthood.
Their official statement is, “Girl Scouts does not take a position on abortion or birth control. We believe these are matters that are best discussed within the family.” We’re good with that statement.
It was also rumored that Girl Scouts of America promotes and supports organizations with less than Christian social values, so raising money for them goes against our principles. Although local Girl Scout troops will tell you that one hundred percent of the net revenue raised through their cookie sales stays with them. The individual troops set goals on how to spend their proceeds.
Nationally, pro-life and religious liberty protections are strengthening. Yet, with bills like AB569 that ban Christian employers from requiring their employees to be pro-life in practice (as well as adhere to other biblical values), and laws like AB775 that required pro-life birth clinics to advertise for abortion services, California is ground zero for promoting anti-Christian policies through legislation.
Struggling against their own antithetical rhetoric, they voted to remove the requirement to provide one’s biological gender on birth certificates and drivers licenses while, at the same time, declaring anyone who does not believe in their version of global warming a “science denier.”
California’s liberal legislators have become not only an arm, but a hand and a mouth for left-wing special interest groups.
That’s why Advocates for Faith & Freedom is working hard to counter their anti-constitutional, anti-Christian alliances and policies. Below are three important cases we have been fighting on behalf of religious liberty.
Advocates attorneys are working side-by-side with other legal organizations by sharing our research from our success on the Scharpen case, submitting an Amicus brief, and more, for the NIFLA v. Becerra case, which will be argued before the High Court on March 20, 2018.
Religious land use
On March 22, 2018, Advocates for Faith & Freedom will submit the opening brief on appeal in the Calvary Chapel Bible Fellowship religious land use (RLUIPA) case.
Asked to represent Chino Valley Unified School District in their appeal involving opening school board meetings with an invocation prayer, Advocates for Faith & Freedom gave oral arguments in November 2017 and we’re awaiting the judge’s decision.
As you can see, these cases can sometimes take years to defend and the court fees are costly. Partnering with us in prayer, along with your financial support is important to our success in every case!
“The righteous shall flourish… in courts of our God.” Psalm 92:12-13 NIV
Yesterday, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission–the well-known case between a same-sex couple and a Colorado bakery owner–was heard in the U. S. Supreme Court.
In her first case before the High Court, Kristen Waggoner, Senior Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom defended the Colorado baker’s constitutional right not to be forced by the government to create a custom-designed cake in celebration of a same-sex marriage–that promoting this sentiment through his creative work violates his traditional Christian faith.
This case not only affects religious liberties–it effects all freedom of expression!
As Advocates for Faith & Freedom learned in our victory in the Scharpen case against California’s Reproductive FACT Act, the freedom NOT TO be forced to speak should be just as protected by our government as the freedom TO be allowed to speak.
“The Supreme Court has never compelled artistic expression, and doing so here would lead to less civility, diversity, and freedom for everyone, no matter their views on marriage,” said Waggoner.
And many Americans seem to agree, because while Advocates for Faith & Freedom and other religious organizations filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Jack Phillips’ religious liberties, several others who actually support same-sex marriage realize the danger of a government that forces speech and also filed briefs in support of Phillips’ right to decline the customer’s order.
‘My bakery, my family, my life, the work I get to do, is a gift from God and I want to honor Him in everything I do,” says Phillips.
However, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission is arguing that Phillips’ refusal to decorate the wedding cake demonstrated sex discrimination and intolerance–and since, with many of the cases before the high court these days, the decision may come down to the opinion of one moderate judge–all ears were on the questions and comments of Justice Kennedy.
Comments like this from 81-year-old Kennedy give us hope for a ruling in favor of fairness and equality: “It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs.
“My hope is that the court will use this case as an opportunity to say, ‘We’re protecting the liberty of both sides,” said Waggoner.
We pray that the High Court heard the oral arguments for freedom of expression with clarity and validity. We also pray that the arguments were received by the justices without bias and through His wisdom.
Advocates for Faith & Freedom would like to thank all our supporters for their ongoing prayers and tax-deductible donations which allow our attorneys to continue their pro bono work defending life and religious liberty cases like Jack Phillips’ in the courts!
We were blessed to be covered in prayer by so many of you at home, as well as those in the courtroom as our attorneys, Robert Tyler and James Long argued in the Ninth Circuit Read More
Yesterday, in Riverside County Superior Court, Judge Gloria Trask granted an injunction against the California State Attorney General and he is now prevented Read More