Ninth Circuit Forbids School Board Invocations and Censors Private Citizens

PRESS RELEASE

Tyler & Bursch, LLP July 25, 2018 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Desare Ferraro at 951-600-2733

Ninth Circuit Forbids School Board Invocations and Censors Private Citizens

Chino, CA —Today, the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled that the Chino Valley Unified School District board policy that allows invocations before the start of school board meetings is a violation of the Establishment Clause. The Fifth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals came to a different conclusion in 2017 in American Humanist Association v. McCarty.

The Ninth Circuit further affirms the District Court’s injunction that enjoins the CVUSD school board members “from conducting, permitting or otherwise endorsing school sponsored prayer in Board meetings.”

“This requires the Board to censor or otherwise remove individuals who attempt to say a prayer, or anything that might resemble a prayer, during the public comment period,” said Robert Tyler of Tyler & Burch, LLP and legal counsel for CVUSD. “Such an overbroad injunction is a clear violation of the right of private citizens to address their local representatives in public meetings and is dangerous to the First Amendment.” Footnote 20 of the Ninth Circuit’s opinion makes this point more clear.

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld ceremonial prayer at city council meetings in Town of Greece v Galloway. In that decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy noted the historical significance of such invocations. “Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government…,” Kennedy wrote.

The CVUSD school board will be meeting in the coming weeks to determine its next course of action.

A copy of the Ninth Circuit’s Opinion can be found here.

The Riverside County law firm of Tyler & Bursch, LLP, represents CVUSD, with the support of Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a nonprofit legal organization.

Email info@faith-freedom.com to receive press releases. Also, join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our progress in this case and others. To learn more about Advocates for Faith & Freedom, visit www.faith-freedom.com or Tyler & Bursch, LLP, visit www.tylerbursch.com

Advocates for Faith & Freedom is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts. The firm, in association with Tyler & Bursch LLP, has represented clients across the country on matters governing land use and religious liberty in the public square.

Advocates’ Pro Bono Attorney finds Hope and Redemption in Pro-Life Case

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, “blatantly unconstitutional.” PRCs, she says, should have the same freedom of speech—or, in this case, non-speech—as everyone else.

Yet Higuera had a much deeper connection to the case she was arguing—one that had slammed into her as a teenager, but had since remained mostly out of sight and out of mind.

But now, a growing daughter tucked safely within her, Higuera’s spirit played host to the ever-present question: Should she tell them?

Hidden Abuse

Higuera was raised in northern California, the eighth daughter born within a thirteen-year span to devout Muslim parents who had emigrated from Palestine. While her childhood was fairly “Americanized, and felt very much like a normal American’s,” as Higuera tells Citizen, it also included her mother wearing headscarves, her father praying to Mecca five times a day and attending mosque services. Everyone in her family spoke Arabic.

In 1992, Higuera’s parents took a fellow Middle Eastern immigrant under their wing, a man about her father’s age. He became like a trusted uncle—but quickly zeroed in on the youngest daughter, often getting Higuera alone starting around the age of 6.

“He would offer to help my parents with errands and then take me to work after hours. He would come up with all kinds of reasons,” Higuera says. “If I said no, my parents thought that was rude and questioned why I was not being obedient.”

His behavior soon turned sexual.

“My personality is a peacemaker, and I didn’t want to stir up trouble,” says Higuera, now 30. “I didn’t tell my parents anything. I never had the courage to say, ‘Here’s what’s happening.’ ”

Even if Higuera had spoken up, she wouldn’t have known what to say. Her family was so shuttered about discussing sex that one sister had no idea what would happen on her wedding night. And as a child in elementary school, Higuera knew even less.

The years passed, and the abuse continued, unseen and unchecked. In the meantime, five of Higuera’s sisters entered arranged marriages—four of them before graduating from high school, with one becoming a bride at 14.

Though her siblings would eventually provide Higuera with 23 much-loved nephews and nieces, she saw how each sister with an arranged marriage grew deeply unhappy. And as her “uncle” kept sexually abusing her, Higuera followed suit: silently surviving.

That is, until she was 16, and took a pregnancy test. It was positive.

The girl who didn’t even realize that her abuser’s actions could create a child had no idea how to tell her family. So Higuera wrote a note to her sister, who then informed their parents.

“Anyone who got pregnant out of marriage was unclean,” Higuera explains. “It devastated my parents. [They] said, ‘We’re going to get this taken care of—your sister’s going to take you to get an abortion.’

“And within a few days, that’s what happened.”

There was no discussion at home before or after the procedure. Nor did anyone at the abortion facility discuss fetal development with Higuera or tell her what her options were.

“I remember [them] telling me I might bleed a little,” Higuera says.

The high school sophomore returned home, “kind of checked out” mentally, as Higuera says, to survive. After a stern upbraiding from a brother-in-law, Higuera’s abuser fled the country, unpunished.

Higuera couldn’t see how that was right. She was a good daughter who loved her family, innocent and sincere. Why had this happened?

It wasn’t until more than a decade later, when AB-775 required her to professionally revisit the world of unplanned pregnancy and abortion, that she would truly see how “our God of justice,” as she says, was “patiently healing and redeeming” her all along.

Meeting Christ

In 2005, Higuera bucked the family tradition of arranged marriage and went to college. As a student at Chico State University, she was unsure of her desired career but positive of one thing: She was pro-choice. A woman should have access to abortion, she thought, especially in cases like her own.

Today, she’ll tell you she was “repressing everything” back then with the gusto of a “typical female student at a liberal college.” It was more coping mechanism than true belief, since she received virtually no trauma counseling after her years of abuse.

“God knew I wasn’t ready [to deal with it],” Higuera says. “He’s been so patient through this whole process.”

A major part of that process was hearing the Gospel for the first time at 18 from a high school friend. The message and prayer resonated with Higuera, but as she joined the college scene, she pushed thoughts of Christ away.

“I thought it was crazy that you could be forgiven for all your sins [that would happen] tomorrow,” she says. “That struck me as so unjust.”

Even so, Higuera “knew there was a lot of power in the Gospel still.” The story of the Cross stayed with her, and after hearing it again at a friend’s church when she was 20, the former Muslim became a Christ-follower.

Her parents’ reaction was swift. Higuera was brainwashed, they said; Jesus was just a man and it’s blasphemy to say otherwise. What’s more, they insisted, if she maintained her Christianity, they had no choice but to cut all ties with her.

Higuera was initially devastated. Wasn’t professing faith in Jesus supposed to solve problems? That night, while reading her new Bible, she found 1 Peter 4:14: “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (NIV). And then Matthew 10:34: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (NIV).

Instantly and ironically, reading that brought Higuera complete peace. And to her great shock, two weeks later her mother called and “acted like nothing had happened,” Higuera says. Indeed, her father gladly walked her down the aisle when Higuera married her Jesus-loving husband Grant four years ago, and since then, along with Higuera’s mother, “has been really pleased and surprised with Christians in general.”

Higuera had a rock-solid faith, a degree in criminal justice, a wonderful husband and a warm relationship with her parents, sisters and their children.

But what about the rest of her life? What was she supposed to do with her past abuse and abortion trauma?

Headed to Court

At a friend’s suggestion, a somewhat ambivalent Higuera took the admissions test for law school. To her surprise, she passed, and in 2010 found herself a student at the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento.

“I ended up loving and being good at it,” Higuera says. “I still didn’t know why God would bring me through law school. I thought surely I wasn’t the typical lawyer.”

After passing the bar in 2014, Higuera heard about Robert Tyler, a partner at Tyler & Bursch, LLP in Murrieta, Calif., and the founder of Advocates for Faith & Freedom. She gave him a call, intrigued by the idea of becoming a faith-based attorney. Tyler hired her, not knowing her back story.

When the FACT Act passed in 2015, the pro-life plaintiffs assembled a legal team from the American Center for Law and Justice and Advocates for Faith & Freedom. As Higuera studied the merits of the case, she knew she wanted to take it—pro bono—but not necessarily because of its pro-life implications; instead, the constitutionality questions drew her.

Tyler tells Citizen he wasn’t surprised when Higuera stepped up.

“These types of cases attract some of the best lawyers because of the impact they have on society,” he says. “It requires a significant personal sacrifice of time and money to take [them on] … These cases separate great lawyers from the rest of the pack, and Nada has risen to the challenge.”

Higuera dove in, immersing herself in reading pro-life literature and interviewing the staff and clients of PRCs like the Scharpen Foundation. As she prepared her case, Higuera did not initially see how “God was using these [activities] to help me heal” from her past trauma. Since her conversion, she recognized the sanctity of life; wasn’t that enough?

“It was God slowly giving these little things, just working on my heart, knowing I was repressing [my abuse],” Higuera says. “Even though I knew my client provided post-abortion counseling and I needed it, I would never say, ‘Please help me, please counsel me.’ But working with people in the pro-life community—doing it from a legal perspective—allowed me to absorb everything.”

In early 2017, Higuera became pregnant with her daughter Nyla and continued working. She often felt Nyla move during legal proceedings, filling her with awe—even preborn, her daughter was advocating for life! As the pregnancy progressed, people often remarked on the uniqueness of a pregnant lawyer in court on behalf of preborn children and their parents.

“It fascinated them,” Higuera says. But how much more fascinated would they be, she wondered, if they knew everything?

To Glorify God

In her eighth month of pregnancy, after much prayer, Higuera decided to tell her boss and coworkers what had happened to her as a kid.

“I don’t necessarily want to publish my story all over the world,” she says. “But if it glorifies God, then I do.” And that story certainly gave the Lord all credit; no one she told had heard of an abuse survivor and abortive mother not only learning “the truth about abortion and the evil that it is” but also defending preborn children through California’s notoriously liberal legal system.

When Higuera thanked her boss for the opportunity to work the case—and heal—he returned the gratitude. “I was so thankful to her for sharing her testimony and putting in so many hours to defend life and liberty,” Tyler says. “I immediately told Nada that I was so impressed with how she has overcome so many obstacles to become such a wonderful person of faith.”

Finally speaking her story out loud made it clear that God had been quietly involved all along.

“Here I am, a pregnant woman going through these different stages, yet I can still just walk in [during any trimester] and get an abortion,” Higuera says. “So knowing the impact of what I did, being able to grieve that death and loss of a baby was just so real to me being pregnant. It was all part of the healing and redemption process.”

Indeed. And when Judge Trask ruled in favor of the Scharpen Foundation on Oct. 30—agreeing that pro-life clinics being forced to refer clients to abortion facilities is wrong—Higuera knew it was a true team effort, not only between herself and co-counsel, but also God and Nyla, who was born in September.

“Looking back at all the guilt and shame, and now God put me in courtrooms advocating for pro-life clinics—it’s so far from where I was,” Higuera says. “He did it so gently, so patiently. It was so personal to use this case to help me, to really understand His grace and love for me. It’s just amazing.”

For now, Higuera is busy not only with ensuring laws like the FACT Act stay unwritten and unpassed, but also settling into new motherhood.

Her hopes for Nyla, meanwhile, are fairly standard: To grow up knowing Christ, fulfilled, within a supportive community.

But Higuera does have another small dream for her second child.

“How beautiful would it be if she becomes a lawyer and can say, ‘Even when I was in the womb, I was in the courtroom, fighting for life?’”

Just like her mama.

 

Originally published in the January 2017 issue of Citizen magazine.

 

 

 

 

As Long As They Continue Their Attack, Advocates Will Continue To Fight!

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.

Free speech 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.

Religious expression 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

              The good news is that we know God is in charge, so as long as anti-Christian organizations and lawmakers in California continue their attack on religious liberties, Advocates for Faith & Freedom will continue to defend the constitutional rights of Christians.

Judicial Whirlwind is a Positive Sign for 2018 and Beyond...

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, Robert Tyler General Counsel

Thank You For Your Prayers of Support!

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 for the Chino Valley Unified School District against an injunction on invocations at their school board meetings. Joining us at the U.S. Court of Appeals in Pasadena were Church United's Jim Domen and Barbara Lesure, PIHOP's Brenda Higgins and Luis Verano, the McClintock's, Calvary Chapel Chino Hill's Gina Gleason and others!

The 3-judge panel's decision can be expected in 3-6 months. Please pray that they will recognize our country's time-honored tradition of prayer before legislative meetings and rule in our favor.

    In addition to your prayers, your tax-deductible donations are greatly appreciated so we can continue our pro bono work, fighting for religious and constitutional liberty!

Unconstitutional: Court Orders State Attorney General Not to Enforce California’s Reproductive FACT Act

Yesterday, in Riverside County Superior Court, Judge Gloria Trask granted an injunction against the California State Attorney General and he is now prevented from enforcing the Reproductive FACT Act. Click to see our Press Release. In the clearly ideological vote that completely ignored freedom and liberty, the Democrat-controlled California state legislature’s passing of AB 757, known as the Reproductive FACT Act, infringed on its own citizens’ free speech by compelling speech.

          Our lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Scharpen Foundation challenging the California law that requires pro-life pregnancy centers to provide their patients with contact information for local abortion clinics.  In its decision, the Court found that “the Reproductive FACT Act violates Article I, Section 2 of the California Constitution.”

     Judge Gloria Trask explained, “Here, the State commands clinics to post specific directions for whom to contact to obtain an abortion. It forces the clinic to point the way to the abortion clinic and can leave patients with the belief they were referred to an abortion provider by that clinic…. In Scharpen’s case that would be inaccurate, profoundly inaccurate.” “Compelled speech must be subject to reasonable limitation,” continued Judge Trask. “The statute compels the clinic to speak words with which it profoundly disagrees when the state has numerous alternative methods of publishing its message…. In this case, however virtuous the State’s ends, they do not justify its means.”   “We are thrilled with Judge Trask’s ruling, which is a huge victory for free speech,” said Scott Scharpen, founder and president of The Scharpen Foundation, which operates the Go Mobile For Life pregnancy clinic. He added, “The whole notion of being compelled to share information with our patients about abortion availability, which is contrary to our mission and purpose, is fundamentally wrong. Lives will be saved because of this ruling.”

With funding raised by Advocates for Faith & Freedom, Tyler & Bursch’s lawyers strategically filed the lawsuit in state court because the California State Constitution provides greater free speech protection than the First Amendment.

Tyler & Bursch, LLP attorney Robert Tyler lauded, “It is a great day in California because we know that freedom of speech is still a protected constitutional right. Judge Trask is absolutely correct that the State can’t force a pro-life clinic to advertise abortions on behalf of the State and its abortion mills.” He continued, “If the State Attorney General appeals, we will continue to defend our client’s pro-life speech all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Many of us are not aware that the Preamble of the California Constitution states, "We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution." 

In an irony that only God could have conceived, Nada Higuera, the attorney who argued the case, discovered she was pregnant with her first child when she initially pleaded this pro-life case. She gave birth to her baby girl just a month before her convincing final arguments were heard by the judge.

“As a young female and defender of speech, I am thrilled to know that our work is not in vain, said Higuera. I’ve regrettably had an abortion. And I’ve just recently experienced the incomparable joy of having a baby. I wish I would have had the opportunity to visit a pro-life clinic when I was just 16 years old and contemplating an abortion.

Yesterday’s ruling established that “[C]ompelled speech of a political or cultural nature is not the tool of a free government.”  Essentially, “The legislature may not use the wall of the physician’s office as a billboard to advertise the availability of low cost abortions….”

The ruling provides injunctive relief statewide and prevents the law from being enforced effective immediately.

Along with the American Center for Law & Justice, Tyler & Bursch, LLP also represents Livingwell Medical Clinic in a concurrent case in federal court. We are awaiting a decision in November from the U.S. Supreme Court as to whether the High Court will take the case. Our two-front strategy has given us the ability to win in either federal or state court...or, God willing, both.

      We are grateful to God for the wisdom of the words written in our state constitution! We also thank you for your faithful prayers and your tax-deductible donations which allow our Advocates attorneys to continue their pro bono work defending life and liberty in the courts!

Celebrating 12 Years - Serving Courageous Christians In Their Fight For Religious Liberty

“Who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions...” Hebrews 11:33 (ESV)

Dear Friends,

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,
 Robert Tyler General Counsel

Your Prayers Made All the Difference!

“Cast your burden upon the LORD, and he will sustain youand uphold you; he will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Psalm 55:22 AMPYour Prayers Made All The Difference!

On Wednesday, October 18, Advocates for Faith & Freedom attorneys, Bob Tyler and Nada Higuera, gave their final arguments on the Scharpen Foundation case, challenging the California law that requires pro-life clinics to advertise for abortion clinics.Your prayers were felt as attorney Higuera, who just gave birth to a healthy daughter last month, presented a well-researched and convincing case that we are optimistic resonated with the judge.

Judge Gloria Trask assured us she will issue her ruling by November 21 and we will let you know as soon as we hear. This will be Judge Trask's last case, as following a 40-year career, she will be retiring.

We were grateful for the many pro-life supporters who filled the courtroom seats in theRiverside County Superior Court, including such well-behaved children, they even received a compliment from the judge!

And thank you to our faithful supporters at home! From the final preparations to the start of the hearing, to the closing arguments, your prayers made all the difference!

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We Got Another Big Victory for Life & Free Speech!

You may recall we are representing the Scharpen Foundation in challenging AB775 the Reproductive FACT Act where we filed a lawsuit in both federal and state courts. The California statute requires pro-life pregnancy centers that are Christian-based in just about all cases, to provide women the contact information for where they can get free and low- cost abortions.

After arguing for three hours in the Superior Court in Riverside County on April 6, 2017, the California State Attorney General’s motion to dismiss our case was just denied this last week!

According to the judge, this law “forces the clinic to point the way to the abortion clinic.”

In her ruling, Judge Gloria Trask wrote that “the required notification is compelled speech which on its face violates freedom of speech protected by Article 1, Section 2 of the California Constitution.”

With funding raised by Advocates for Faith & Freedom, Tyler & Bursch’s lawyers strategically filed the lawsuit in state court because the California State Constitution is supposed to provide greater free speech protection than the First Amendment.

Ms. Nada Higuera, our staff attorney who argued the case, said that “Judge Trask explains that because free speech is involved under the State Constitution, the Court must strictly scrutinize whether the legislation is lawful. After scrutinizing the law, the judge agreed with our analysis that the law is an unconstitutional violation of free speech.”

Freedom of expression on public issues should be protected at the highest level.  Therefore, this law should be analyzed using strict scrutiny. The ruling warned that the state’s “ability to impress free citizens into State service in this political dispute cannot be absolute; it must be limited.”

In her ruling, the judge explained that this state-compelled speech “is not merely the transmittal of neutral information.” She agreed with our attorneys that this is not just calorie counting or a health hazard warning on smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol. This issue - which is “contentious and raises issues that are religious, cultural, political and legal” - is about the more than four decades-long dispute over abortion.

          The Reproductive FACT Act compels the clinic to “speak words with which it profoundly disagrees” and “places too heavy a burden upon the liberty of free thought.”         

Given the language in the ruling, Tyler & Bursch’s General Counsel Robert Tyler is confident that “while this ruling is not the final judgment, this interim ruling foreshadows what will be the judge’s final decision. She makes her opinion known that the law is unconstitutional.”

   Our next hearing is set for July 21, 2017, where the court will give direction on how our case should proceed - whether the case will actually have a trial or whether it should be simply decided by briefing.

Concurrently, we also represent Livingwell Medical Clinic in federal court. This statute was previously upheld in that case as not violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution before a three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit. That case is pending a determination from the U.S. Supreme Court as to whether the High Court will take up our case. Our two-front strategy gives us the ability to win in either federal or state court.

Although it appears that victory is at hand in state court, we would not be able to do any of this without the generous financial support from friends like you. Won’t you please consider donating just $25, $100, $200 or more so we can continue fighting for religious liberties in the courts?

While Advocates for Faith & Freedom depends on our supporters for the funds to fight these important cases, we first and foremost thank you for your continued prayers.

Thank you for your faithful prayers and your donations

They Sued Chino Valley Unified for Freedom of Religion! Really?

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 based in Wisconsin.

After losing in the lower court, the School Board approached our lawyers to take over their defense.  Our lawyers at Tyler & Bursch now represent the School District in the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeal. Advocates for Faith & Freedom is raising the funds to underwrite this very expensive and nationally significant case and we need your financial support.

Would you partner with Advocates for Faith & Freedom with your tax-deductable donation for our pro-bono defense of the School District?

This case is so important that we asked some of our friends and colleagues to file amicus briefs/friend of the court briefs. Jay Sekelow of American Center for Law and Justice, Alliance Defending Freedom, the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, and Freedom, Law and Religious Practitioners have all filed supporting briefs. Many more are likely to be filed.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation claims that the School District’s policy of allowing prayer before its public board meetings violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Without your support and our strategic defense, the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s radical view of the First Amendment will become the law of the land.

The lower court initially sided with the Freedom From Religion Foundation and ordered the School District to stop the invocations before board meetings. Our appeal seeks to reverse the lower court.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled 5-4 in Town of Greece v. Galloway that opening City Council meetings with prayer does

not violate the Establishment Clause, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The U.S. Supreme Court also held that legislative prayer is considered to have “historical precedent” and “lends gravity to public business, reminds lawmakers to transcend petty differences in pursuit of a higher purpose, and expresses a common aspiration to a just and peaceful society.”

Because of your enormous outpouring of prayers and generous financial support, I think it’s important to share more excerpts from our brief, so you can read what was actually cited and submitted to the court. You can also view our entire 70 page brief. Here are a few excerpts from our brief:

The prayers offered at the start of the Board of Education meetings were constitutionally permissible, legislative prayers under Marsh and Town of Greece. The District Court held that the Marsh/Town of Greece legislative prayer exception does not apply to school boards…. The district court erred. The line of cases concerning prayers at school do not apply to opening prayers at the Board of Education meetings because those prayers are constitutionally permissible legislative-prayers.

. . . .

           The Legislative prayer exception was established for State Legislatures and “other deliberative bodies”. These “ceremonial” prayers were simply a “recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government to alter or define. . . .”

. . . .

The Supreme Court extended the Legislative prayer exception to local legislative bodies. “In Marsh, the Nebraska state legislature opened each session with a prayer. Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783, 784-85 (1983). A citizen sued, claiming the practice violated the Establishment Clause. Id. at 785. Relying on the “deeply embedded” history and tradition of our country, the Supreme Court held that the practice of allowing opening prayers for a legislative body or “other deliberative public bodies” did not violate the Establishment Clause. Id. at 786, 795. Indeed, the Court found that the Framers of the Constitution “did not consider opening prayers as a proselytizing activity or as symbolically placing the government’s official seal of approval on one religious view. . . . Rather, the Founding Fathers looked at invocations as ‘conduct whose . . . effect . . . harmonized with the tenets of some or all religions.” Id. at 792 (quoting McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 442 (1961).)”

. . . .

“The Supreme Court in Marsh and Town of Greece found that prayers before deliberative public bodies are Constitutional legislative prayers to which the traditional Lemon test [a three-part test  put  forward  in  Lemon v. Kurtzman which is used to assess whether a law violates the Establishment Clause] does not apply.”

. . . .

“The Fifth Circuit recently held that prayers delivered by elementary and middle school students during the ceremonial portion of school board meetings do not violate the Establishment Clause. The Fifth Circuit reasoned that school boards are deliberative public bodies to which the legislative prayer exception applies.” At the strategic guidance of Tyler & Bursch’s lawyers, the Chino Valley Unified School District board members have wisely agreed to amend its policies to restrict some of the more controversial comments of board members during public meetings and to focus this appeal solely on the constitutionality of allowing a ceremonial prayer at the beginning of school board meetings.

We are confident that we will prevail with the appeal, whether at the Ninth Circuit or before the U.S. Supreme Court. We’re fighting for invocations; something that’s been going on since the founding of our country. That is why this case is of utmost importance to religious liberty in our country.

There is no other country in the world whose morals and laws are influenced more by Christian values than ours. But, those principles are being silenced by extreme groups like Freedom From Religion Foundation.

As always, Tyler & Bursch and Advocates for Faith & Freedom offer our services pro bono in protecting religious liberty in order to confront these anti-Christian organizations.

If you are able, your tax-deductable gift to Advocates for Faith & Freedom for $25, $50, $100 …or more, will allow us to continue to fight these court battles and ensure we remain free to believe, worship, and pray in this “one nation under God.” God bless you for your generosity, your faithfulness, and your prayers.

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Legal Update

  • Also known as Go Mobile For Life, The Scharpen Foundation is challenging Xavier Becerra, Attorney General of California on California’s "Reproductive FACT Act" which compels Christian-based, pro-life clinics to post a notice advising the women they serve that free or low cost abortions are available, along with where they can be obtained and a phone number. The judge in this case is expected to issue a preliminary written decision any day now and we look forward to presenting our evidence in a full trial to prove discrimination of pro-life clinics statewide. Through litigation, we have uncovered covert discrimination. The law purports to apply to thousands of licensed medical clinics. But after exemptions, it really only applies to approximately 82 pro-life organizations!

 

  • In a unique, two-pronged strategy, as Advocates for Faith & Freedom argues for the Scharpen Foundation in Superior Court, we are concurrently awaiting a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in the Living Well Medical Clinic case (sister case to Scharpen) as to whether the High Court will accept our federal case for review, challenging California’s anti-life law.

 

  • If you’ll remember, in the free speech VICTORY of Mackey v. Meyer, three federal appellate judges in the Ninth Circuit issued a final ruling in favor of a Christian man who was unlawfully arrested for reading the Bible aloud in front of the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Having won our appeal in the Ninth Circuit, the CHP settled and agreed to pay $10,000 to our client! We will now file a motion to recover attorney fees to support future cases.  
  • Instead of making a final ruling in April on the religious land use case of Calvary Chapel Bible Fellowship County of Riverside the U.S. District court hearing resulted in the judge asking both sides to submit additional briefing on specific issues. Based on the oral arguments at the April hearing, we’re optimistic that we will persuade the judge to rule in our favor at our final hearing in August, and that he will find that Riverside County’s zoning ordinance unlawfully discriminates against churches.

 

  • Church United, an organization whose purpose is to reach California pastors with the message to be bold in proclaiming a Biblical worldview to their congregations, has invited me to join them along with 170 plus pastors on their fully-sponsored trip to Washington, DC. Our goal is to encourage and support those courageous pastors who no longer wish to stay silent about the moral and ethical issues facing our culture today.