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
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Whew!! 2017 has been a whirlwind of activity with President Trump winding down his inaugural year in office. Lost behind many of the sensational headlines and storylines has been a record-setting year of judicial appointments that will help to shape our culture not only in 2018 and into the 2020 mid-terms, but also for years to come. The future looks bright for those of us who embrace our God-ordained religious freedoms.
Making good on one of his central campaign promises, President Trump has already seen 12 of his federal appeals court nominations, a record for first-year presidential appointments. The previous record was 11 by Presidents Kennedy and Nixon. The conservative nominees all solidly embrace the U.S. Constitution; no revisionists among them. In addition to their conservative philosophies, many of Trump’s appointments are young enough that their influence will be entrenched in American law for decades to come!
But even though the president has been operating at a record pace, there is still a tremendous backlog of judicial vacancies.
Many of Trump’s nominations are being held up by Democrats who are trying to obstruct his presidential prerogative to appoint judges. Such is the case in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court, which governs the western
U.S. The 9th Circuit, the most liberal—and overturned appellate court in the country—has four vacancies (three of which have been vacant a year, the fourth for two years) with two more coming in 2018. The vacancies include a seat in California, as well as Arizona, Hawaii, and Oregon.
Despite the desperate need to fill those seats, Trump’s nomination to fill the Oregon seat has been stalled by politics. The highly qualified nominee, Ryan Bounds, has been awaiting confirmation for three months while Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley try to use procedural grounds to block the appointment.
In addition to the appeals court, federal district courts in California (the central and southern divisions), have seven existing vacancies, with one more coming Dec. 31. Nominees have yet to be named to those positions. We believe the make-up of the nation’s district courts is absolutely critical because they hear roughly 60,000 cases annually. In addition, nominees to the appellate court are often culled from the ranks of the district courts.
Although there are no current vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court—thanks to Neil Gorsuch’s April confirmation—most experts anticipate that Trump may have the opportunity to appoint at least two justices with the long rumored-retirements of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal, and Anthony Kennedy, a moderate who frequently casts the tie-breaking vote.
The judicial composition of these courts is particularly crucial in California where the legislature is overwhelmingly liberal. Often the only recourse we have in protecting religious liberties is through the court system, which has systematically eroded to the left. As a result, the greatest legacy of the Trump Administration could be his efforts to remake the courts.
As we head into 2018 with a watchful eye toward promising judicial appointments, Advocates for Faith & Freedom’s attorneys are diligently working on several court cases that have significant ramifications for religious freedom:
The Scharpen Foundation v. Kamala Harris against CA AB775
In October, Advocates’ attorneys successfully argued before a Riverside County Superior Court Judge that California’s Reproductive FACT Act infringes on constitutional free speech by compelling pregnancy care centers to engage in speech that is contrary to their spiritual beliefs. The state will likely appeal.
National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear this sister case to Scharpen. We are working closely with NIFLA’S lead counsel because of valuable research we uncovered during our preparations on the Sharpen suit. That information will likely influence the High Court.
Calvary Chapel Bible Fellowship v. Riverside County
Our client maintains the city of Temecula violated federal law (RLUIPA) by denying the church’s permit to expand its existing facility on its own land within the wine country. Earlier this month we filed our notice of appeal to the 9th Circuit.
We have also supported several other high profile lawsuits by filing Amicus Briefs:
Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission
Colorado baker Jack Phillips is being sued for discrimination for refusing to decorate a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on December 5. Our brief is filed on behalf of a notable constitutional law school professor.
Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington
Similarly, flower shop owner Barronelle Stutzman declined to create floral arrangements for a long-time customer’s same-sex wedding. Stutzman lost her case in Washington. Our brief is filed on behalf of a notable constitutional law school professor.
California, et al. v. Hargan, et al.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is challenging to overturn President Trump’s executive order partially removingObama-era mandate that all insurance policies cover contraceptives. Trump’s order exempts employers who object on religious grounds. Our brief is filed on behalf of American Center for Law and Justice.
When you consider your year-end or year-round charitable giving, please remember Advocates for Faith & Freedom with a tax-deductible donation.
While we remain grateful that your faithful prayers continue to encourage us through these court battles, without your financial generosity, we would not be able to continue to work on pro bono cases that uphold our Christian beliefs.
Happy New Year & God bless you,
We won again! And I have a riveting story that underlies this significant case that thwarted the abortion industry. I hope you will read through this inspiring newsletter. Read More
“Who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions…”
Hebrews 11:33 (ESV)
Since our founding 12 years ago, thousands of courageous Christians have partnered with Advocates for Faith & Freedom in the fight for religious liberties and to end the tyranny against Christianity. You may remember a few of our cases from over the years where, through God’s blessings, your faithful prayers and generous financial support, we have been victorious for His kingdom!
Pearlie Jenkins and Healing Hearts Outreach Ministry took on the Memphis Housing Authority! Standing for free assembly and exercise of religion in 2007 when her Bible study was banned from her retirement home, Pearlie contacted Advocates. Just 3 days after our complaint was sent, the MHA not only decided to permit the Bible study, they also adopted a policy protecting the religious liberties of all the residents!
High School student Chad Farnan “stood up for Jesus” against his teacher and the entire Capistrano Valley Unified School District! In 2007, Chad exposed his teacher’s frequent hostility in the classroom towards religion and in particular, Christianity—once telling his students that, “When you put on your Jesus glasses, you can’t see the truth.” With the help of Advocates’ attorneys, in the first case of this type, a Federal Court initially found that some of the teacher’s comments of violated the Establishment Clause!
With a desire to bring “spiritual revival to a depressed area,” Lake Elsinore Christian Center and Pastor Jim Hilbrant fought City Hall…and won! When City officials denied the church a building permit, they sought our help in the first-ever case of violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). In 2007, after a seven-year battle that was pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, the City of Lake Elsinore settled, paying the church $1,205,000, in a precedent-setting victory for religious land use protection for churches all across the nation!
In 2008, Superior Court employee Mindy Barlow and her group’s six-year-long, lunch-time Bible study meetings were suddenly no longer allowed, while other groups were still permitted, so she contacted Advocates to file a complaint on her behalf. Ms. Barlow “just wanted the judicial system to… apply the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.” The Superior Court’s Administration agreed to settle, permitting Ms. Barlow and the Bible study group to resume their access to the free exercise of religion in the courthouse facilities!
In December 2013, two brave first-graders won the war on Christmas by fighting against religious bullying and intimidation in their schools!
Little Isaiah Martinez was not allowed to share a Christmas legend with his classmates about a candy-maker who created candy canes to symbolize the life of Jesus Christ. His West Covina school teacher told him, “Jesus isn’t allowed in school.” After we filed a Federal Lawsuit, the School District agreed to craft a new district policy that accommodates religious liberties at all of its campuses!
That same month, Brynn Williams’ Temecula Valley school teacher prevented her from completing her class assignment to share her family’s Christmas tradition. As she began describing the Bethlehem Star from atop her family’s Christmas tree, before she could quote John 3:16, her teacher interrupted with, “Stop right there! Go take your seat!” She later explained, in front of the entire class, that talking about the Bible or sharing its verses was not allowed in school. After receiving Advocates for Faith & Freedom’s demand letter, asking for an apology, the School District agreed to allow Brynn to complete her speech in her class and provide First Amendment training to its staff!
We are honored to have partnered with these inspiring Christian soldiers who have stood in the gap with us in the fight to protect and defend religious liberty across our nation. Because of your support, we have been able to represent all of these individuals without charge!
Advocates for Faith & Freedom has grown over the years and we now have eight Christian attorneys! Through their hard work, time and sacrifice, Advocates for Faith & Freedom is making a difference in our laws and culture!
But there is more work to do! We ask for your continued prayers and are thankful for your tax-deductible support for three important, precedent-setting court cases that we are litigating today:
- The Scharpen Foundation v. CA Attorney General – defending free speech and the sanctity of life. We had a victory at our hearing in State Superior Court – October 30, 2017!
- Calvary Chapel Bible Fellowship v. the County of Riverside – defending their religious land use rights. We are awaiting Riverside County Superior Court Judge’s decision by
November 9, 2017.
- Chino Valley Unified School District v. Freedom From Religion Foundation – defending the right to ceremonial prayer before school board meetings under the Establishment Clause. The judge will hear our oral arguments in the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeal on November 8, 2017.
We are grateful for your ongoing support of our vital ministry. Through God’s blessings, your continued prayers and your tax-deductible gifts, Advocates for Faith & Freedom will continue to be a strong Christian voice for justice in the courts!
In His Service,
On my recent visit to Washington D.C, I was told that scores of historical books describing America’s Christian heritage have been ousted Read More
If you follow us on Facebook and receive our Advocates In Action emails, you’ve heard about my recent trip to Washington, D.C. Advocates for Faith & Freedom was honored to be a sponsor of Church United’s Awakening Tour for California pastors.
Church United’s founder, Pastor Jim Domen, admits his purpose is to “disrupt” California pastors and bring a revival to the churches of California. And I believe Read More
We filed a major brief on April 26, 2017 in the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeal in our defense of Chino Valley Unified School District and its longstanding policy that allows an opening prayer before its public school board meetings.
The School District became the target of a federal lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an aggressive, anti-religion organization Read More
Should a church be allowed to remove a high school youth pastor from his position if he coerced his pregnant girlfriend Read More