“Under God” License Plate Now Available

April 2, 2012

One State Under God Texas license plateThe “One State Under God” license plate, which features a picture of Calvary Hill, is now available for order online from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. A portion of the proceeds will go to a nonprofit ministry in East Texas that supports outreach to at-risk children.  You can order the license plate here.

While some extreme liberal activist groups, like Texas Freedom Network, were in favor of banning the plates and allowing the government to exclude a person’s private choice to express their strongly held religious beliefs, these groups are simply out of the mainstream of Texas values. The phrase “One State Under God” was almost unanimously passed by the Texas Legislature and added to the Texas Pledge in 2007.  The purchase and design of a specialty license plate is a private decision and a private endeavor that merely passes through the DMV as one of many private or public arrangements that Texas participates in with the public. In this debate on the “Under God” license plate, the left simply continues to show part of its true agenda is to attack private choices of free expression and speech, especially when they are expressions of a strongly held religious belief, particularly Christianity.

Liberty Institute testified in favor of the “One State Under God” license plate, which passed the Texas DMV board in December of last year. See our press release from last December here.


Texas Rally for Religious Freedom -Tomorrow – Texas Capitol-South Entrance!

March 22, 2012

Please stand with us and make your voice heard for Religous Liberty!  Tomorrow, noon, Texas Capitol South Entrance, just along 11th street, we’ll be speaking at one of the many Religious Freedom rallies being held across the country to push back against the Obama Administration’s effort to force religious entities to violate their conscience through Obamacare provisions by having the government force private religious entities to pay for health measure that violate their conscience.  Let me say that again, the government is forcing private religions to violate their religious beliefs and pay for acts that violate their religious beliefs.  I thought these people wanted the government and religion to be separate.  The double standard could not be more obvious.

Let’s also be clear, women have access to abortifacients and birth control at nearly every corner drug store often at a low cost. Access is not the issue.  The issue is that some people have such an entitlement mentality that they think that the government should force you to violate your own religious beliefs with your own private money and pay for their choices.  If Planned Parenthood is so vital to women like they claim, than why aren’t the Hollywood liberals and Lance Armstrong giving more of their private money directly to Planned Parenthood?  If PP is so important than they should be able to survive off private donations.  If not, than their value has been oversold, as we’ve known for many years.

If the government can force religions to pay for free devices on a life and death issue that forces the religious entities to violate their own beliefs, than the religious freedom protection we have in the U.S. Constitution is meaningless and we will all be defenseless against the federal government.

Is personal responsibilty being taught in government schools anymore?  Apparently not enough, if at all.

Stand with Us tomorrow for Religious Liberty!  http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/377925832232013/


Texas Joins Lawsuit Against Obamacare’s Abortifacient and Contraception Mandate

February 28, 2012

The State of Texas has joined in the lawsuit against Obamacare’s mandate for contraception and abortifacient drug coverage.  Texas now joins Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Carolina in the fight for religious liberty.

Liberty Institute’s supports the state’s stand on this important issue:

“We are in full agreement with the actions taken by the State of Texas in its efforts to dismantle Obamacare,” said Jonathan Saenz, Director of Legislative Affairs with the Liberty Institute. “On behalf of all religious organizations, we want to add our voice to the outcry taking place throughout Texas and the nation by sending a message to the President that we are well aware and not naive to his ever-growing and deceptive ploys that continue to violate religious beliefs protected by the First Amendment.”

Contact other state Attorney Generals and ask that your state get involved

Check out Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott discussing the lawsuit here.


A Stand for Religious Liberty at God and Country Rally

February 23, 2012

Kelly Shackelford God and Country Rally Athens TXOn a cold and wet morning this past Saturday, hundreds of Texans packed the Lakewood Church of the Nazarene in Tyler, TX to take a stand for religious freedom and to educate and encourage pastors and their congregations to stay informed about important issue of faith.  Local pastors and state and national leaders, including Liberty Institute’s President Kelly Shackelford, laid out how our religious liberty is under assault.  The first amendment has rarely been attacked so openly and overtly like what we are seeing today. Just a few recent examples include: (1) the Obama administration’s HHS mandating that Catholic institutions and other religious organizations must provide abortifacents and birth control in violation of their own teachings and conscience, (2)  the Obama administration challenging the right of churches to hire their own pastors and employees based on their religious beliefs at the U.S. Supreme Court,  and (3) liberal activist groups like the ACLU trying to tear down crosses at our veteran’s memorials around the country.

Here is a video with some of the highlights from the rally:

The genesis of the God and Country movement in fact started here in Texas last December when an atheist group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation demanded that a Nativity scene in Athens be removed from the court house lawn.  In an inspiring show of support for religious freedom and the true meaning of the first amendment, thousands of people gathered in Athens on December 17, 2011 to stand against the ever growing attacks on Christians and people of faith.  As a result, the first amendment prevailed and the Nativity scene was not removed.

If there ever was a time, the time is now for people of faith to take a stand and for pastors to lead their congregations in engaging in the important issues of faith going on in our culture.

One of the most important ways they can do that is to inform and encourage people of faith to vote.  As we are in primary election season, it is important for churches to know that they can register their members to vote, to pass out and encourage their members to use our voters guides, and for pastors to know that they can speak out on important issues like religious liberty as they feel lead to from the Lord.

As witnessed in the God and Country Rally, we are excited that people are starting to wake up and see what is at stake. We look forward to continuing to be part of the fight to reclaim and defend our religious freedoms, and it certainly will be one of our top priorities as we head into the next legislative session.


Rally for “God and Country” this Saturday

February 14, 2012

In case you haven’t noticed, your religious freedoms are under attack. From the Obama administration’s HHS mandating that Catholic institutions and other religious organizations must provide abortifacents and birth control in violation of their own teachings and consciences to liberal groups like the ACLU trying to tear down crosses at our veteran’s memorials around the country, the very foundations of our first amendment are under assault. Here in Texas last December, an atheist group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation demanded that a Nativity scene in Athens be removed from the court house lawn.

God and country rally

In an inspiring show of support for religious freedom and the true meaning of the first amendment, thousands of people gathered in Athens on December 17, 2011 to stand against the ever growing attacks on Christians and people of faith.  Building on that rally, the “God and Country” movement is:

Calling all Christian Leaders, regardless of faith, and conservatives throughout America to harness our voices in a network of alliances to reclaim our First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and the “free exercise” of our religion.

The kick-off event is the God and Country Rally this Saturday in Tyler. See the details here:

God And Country Rally

 Doors Open 9:00 A.M. CST

February 18, 2012 · 10:00 A.M. CST

Lakeview Church of the Nazarene

10818 Spur 248 · Tyler, Texas

No Charge

 Seating is limited to 500 capacity

 RSVP at God-Country.org

Liberty Institute’s President and CEO, Kelly Shackelford, will address the rally along with other Christian leaders and pastors from across the state. To quote Dr. Nathan Lorick, a founding pastor of the movement, “This is a time when Christian Leaders should stand up for Christianity in America by becoming active in the pulpit while speaking with their congregations about protecting their first amendment rights.”  We encourage people to attend the event to learn about the significant rights that Churches and Pastors have to stand up for truth and to educate and engage their congregations on the importance of voting.

It’s time to take a stand to reclaim and defend our religious freedoms.  If you will not, who will?


Just in Time for Christmas, Infamous Candy Cane Case Appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court

December 22, 2011

Liberty Institute released the following press release today:

Plano, Texas, December 22, 2011—Today, days before Christmas, Liberty Institute filed a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in Morgan v. Swanson, (known nationwide as the “candy cane” case), asking the Court to hold government officials accountable for violating students’ First Amendment rights. Liberty Institute filed the petition on behalf of Plano ISD students who, during Christmas 2003, were banned by school officials from distributing candy cane pens, pencils and other gifts containing religious messages to classmates during non-curricular activities and after school—a clear violation of their constitutional rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.

“Every school official knows that engaging in religious viewpoint discrimination against students is unconstitutional,” said Kelly Shackelford, Esq., president/CEO of Liberty Institute. “Saying that school officials can engage in such religious discrimination without any responsibility is not the law and would send exactly the wrong message to millions of school children and their families.”

The petition asks The Supreme Court to review a deeply divided en banc decision of the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which narrowly granted two school officials, Lynn Swanson, Principal of Thomas Elementary School, and Jackie Bombchill, Principal of Rasor Elementary School, qualified immunity, despite numerous constitutional violations. While recognizing that the school officials violated the Constitution, a majority of the court determined that the law, however, was not clearly established enough to hold them responsible. In July 2010, a unanimous panel of the Fifth Circuit denied the school officials qualified immunity recognizing that the law prohibiting viewpoint discrimination is clearly established and also rejected the school officials’ argument that elementary school students have no First Amendment rights.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who will argue the “Obamacare” lawsuit in the Supreme Court in March, serves as co-counsel with Liberty Institute and argued the case alongside former U.S. Solicitor General Kenneth Starr at the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in September. Clement also co-wrote the petition for review to The Supreme Court.

After eight years in litigation, the candy cane case has come to symbolize what many call “the war on Christmas.” Since 2003, the case has affected change throughout the nation, reshaping school district policies, influencing changes to state law, evoking questions about religious expression in schools and forcing the examination of student’s First Amendment rights. By taking the case, the U.S. Supreme Court would likely clarify the law nationwide, which affects over 40 million students.

Liberty Institute is a non-profit legal firm that works to restore and defend religious freedoms in schools, churches and the public arena. Visit www.LibertyInstitute.org or www.CandyCaneCase.com for more information.


Texans Rally in Athens, Say “Don’t Mess with Christmas”

December 21, 2011

Athens_Tx_Nativity_Rally_Henderson_CountyThis past Saturday, an estimated 5,000 Texans rallied to support the Nativity Scene at the Henderson County Courthouse in Athens, Tx. The Wisconsin based Freedom From Religion Foundation, who has a history of attacking religious freedom around the country, had sent a letter to county officials stating that the religious display on the courthouse lawn should be removed from county property.  On Saturday, with law and history on their side, 5,000 Texans stood for true religious freedom and sent the clear message: “Don’t Mess with Christmas in Texas.”

The rally was filled with moving music and speech as Pastors from all around the area united in support of the Nativity scene.  Pastor Nathan Lorick of  First Baptist Church of Malakoff, encouraged the crowd to no longer stand as the silent majority and challenged everyone to recognize that “the truth of the Bible was not a mere afterthought but instead a foundational basis on which we live.”

Please check out some great pictures and video from the rally below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*Special thanks to our local conservative and tea party friends for proving the pictures and video

 


War on Christmas comes to Henderson County

December 16, 2011

Athens_Tx_Nativity_Henderson_CountyIf Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sounds familiar to you, it’s likely because they are the same atheist group currently behind the attacks on the Tenth Mountain Division’s Big Mountain Jesus statue in Whitefish, Montana, the veterans memorial, that Liberty Institute is defending. They are also the same group that earlier this year filed suit against Governor Perry and the Houston Prayer rally and lost.  It seems FFRF is also investing much of their energy into waging war on Christmas, with the latest attack taking place in Athens, Texas in Henderson County.

In Henderson County, FFRF sent a demand letter to county officials demanding that they remove a nativity scence from the courthouse square. The County correctly responded to FFRF that the nativity scene was constitutional under established U.S. Supreme Court precedent.  The group also made known their plans to post a sign reading “At this Season of the Winter Solstice, LET REASON PREVAIL.” The banner goes on to state that religion is a “myth and superstition.” Fortunately, local pastors and Christians are taking a stand against the false claims by FFRF and will be holding a rally at the courthouse this Saturday, December 17, 2011.

Pastor Nathan Lorick of First Baptist Church in Malakoff, a neighboring town to Athens stated in a recent article that “The point that I’m standing on is that we are seeing persecution on Christianity on the rise in America and I think there’s some great examples of that even recently, one being what we are going through,” he said. “Christianity for far too long has been the silent majority. We need to stand up and speak up in love, but with conviction. We believe enough in our God and we believe enough in our faith that we need to take a stand for what we believe in.”

Pastor Lorick, who will be officiating the rally on Saturday, really hit the nail on the head.  As we have seen with our stand on the “Under God” license plate, unless Christians stand up for their rights, the left will continue to try to chip away at our religious freedom piece by piece.  We applaud the folks from Henderson County and from across the state that will be standing up for religious freedom this Saturday.

Update: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has put out a statement offering support to the Henderson County Judge over the challenge to the Courthouse Nativity Scene.  See the statement here.


“Under God” License Plate Debate Continues

December 15, 2011

Update 2: Here is video of the debate on CNN

Update 1:  Today’s (12-16) CNN interview has been moved up to 12:00 p.m. Be sure to tune in.

This morning on KTRH 740 in Houston, Liberty Institute’s Director of Legislative Affairs, Jonathan Saenz, debated Kathy Miller, President of the extreme liberal group Texas Freedom Network, on the recent “One State under God” license plate that was passed last week by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board.  The Texas Freedom Network and other liberal groups had launched an unsuccessful campaign to defeat the plate.

You can listen to the exchange below:

Be sure to catch Jonathan and Mrs. Miller live on CNN tomorrow at 12:15 p.m. debating this issue again.  It should be an interesting debate so be sure to tune in.

In a related story, an opinion piece in the LA Times actually argues we should ban all specialty license plates and even states that “states might want to consider banning bumper stickers…”  I thought the left was for free speech?  In this debate on the “Under God” license plate, the left really continues to show part of its true agenda is to attack our private choices of free expression and speech, especially when they are expressions of a strongly held religious belief, particularly Christianity.


“Under God” License Plate Is Mainstream Texas, Period

December 9, 2011

Texas_Flag One State under God

The “One State under God” plate is a reflection of Texas voters and Texas values, as well as Texas’ support for the private religious speech of all in this state.  A purchase and design of a specialty license plate is, after all, a private decision and a private endeavor that merely passes through the DMV as one of many private/public arrangements that Texas participates in with the public.  Approval of the “One State Under God” specialty plate is not controversial, as some media are now trying to spin the story (see the Statesman story and Fort Worth Star-Telegram story).

In the state of Texas, the phrase “One State under God” is, in fact, decidedly noncontroversial and widely supported.  The phrase was added to the pledge to the Texas Flag in 2007 by the Texas Legislature (HB 1034) and supported by Liberty Institute, with only one elected official voting against it.  The vote in the Texas Senate was unanimous.  In the Texas House, the vote was almost unanimous, with Democrat Donna Howard being the only Texas House member to vote against the phrase.

In 2010, the fifth circuit federal court of appeals upheld the phrase “One State under God” in the Texas pledge as constitutional, after it was challenged by a couple from Dallas.  Liberty Institute was also a part of this victory.

Further, the appearance of one or more crosses on a specialty license plate is not controversial.  The following specialty license plates are available in Texas with one or more crosses: El Paso Mission Valley, University of St. Thomas, and Southwestern University.  The University of Mary Hardin Baylor uses a church graphic for its specialty plate.  There over 130 specialty license plates in Texas that can be purchased by a private individual with a wide variety of messages and symbols.  I don’t remember any stories being written or any so-called “controversy” when those plates were approved.

What is controversial is how common place it has become for some activist groups to target and attack individuals and elected officials based on their personal religious beliefs, particularly Christians.  Texas Freedom Network is one group engaged in this type of behavior and they don’t even hide it, as their mission statement says they “counter the religious right.”  It’s also controversial that the media seems to give these types of groups a pass, because I guess us Christians should just turn the other cheek.

The reality is, the phrase “One State under God” is not controversial for Texas, at all.

The “Under God” plate is a reflection of Texas voters and Texas values, period.  An issue does not become “controversial” just because extreme liberal groups like Texas Freedom Network and Americans United for Separation of Church and State once again choose to attack a person’s private choice to express their strongly held religious beliefs, particularly Christianity, and see this as an opportunity to create division along political lines. These extreme liberal activist groups continue to lose at the legislature, state boards, and the ballot box, and the latest stinging loss over the “Under God” plate is just the most recent example of how out of touch they are with the mainstream and with Texas & American values in general.

See Liberty Institute’s press release on the Texas DMV passing the “One State under God” plate from yesterday here.


“Under God” License Plate Prevails In Texas (Updated)

December 8, 2011

One State Under God Texas license plate

This morning, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) board, voted (4-3) to approve a new specialty license plate with the phrase “One State Under God” and a graphic with three crosses.  The new plate is used to support youth outreach to at risk children, through a private entity. This is not the first specialty license plate in Texas to include “God” or a cross.  Specialty license plates are already available in Texas with the following phrases: “God Bless Texas”, “God Bless America”, and “One Nation Under God”(on behalf of the Catholic Knights of Columbus group).  Specialty license plates are also available in Texas with one or more crosses: El Paso Mission Valley, University of St. Thomas, and Southwestern University.  The University of Mary Hardin Baylor uses a church graphic for its specialty plate.  There over 130 specialty license plates in Texas that can be purchased by a private individual with a wide variety of messages and symbols.

The phrase “one state under God” is not controversial for Texas.  The phrase was added to the pledge to the Texas Flag in 2007 by the Texas Legislature (HB 1034), with only one elected official voting against it.  The vote in the Texas Senate was unanimous.  In the Texas House, the vote was almost unanimous, with Democrat Donna Howard being the only Texas House member to vote against the phrase “one state under God”.

In 2010, the fifth circuit federal court of appeals upheld the phrase “one state under God” in the Texas pledge as constitutional, after it was challenged by a couple from Dallas.

Leading up to the board meeting, some activist groups that claim to support religious freedom and free speech mounted an online effort to defeat the “Under God” plate.

“The DMV’s vote is a victory for religious freedom and free speech.  Private speech, protected by the First Amendment, should not be subjected to second class treatment.  The four members of the DMV board made the right decision. Anyone who opposed this plate either doesn’t know the law or has no respect for the First Amendment,” said Jonathan Saenz, Attorney & Director of Legislative Affair for Liberty Institute.  Mr. Saenz testified before the DMV board in favor of the new plate.

The National Council of Jewish Women testified against the plate.  There was no other opposition at the meeting from the public.


Vote Today on “One State Under God” Texas Specialty License Plate

December 8, 2011

At TX DMV hearing and vote on specialty license plate with phrase “One State Under God” and three crosses. Federal court has already upheld “One State Under God” in Texas Pledge and there are already several specialty license plates that have crosses and churches as part of their graphics. So they should be a simple vote. But we’ll be testifying to give DMV some good insight on making the right decision.


KXAN story on Fort Worth ISD Santa Ban

December 6, 2011

As we reported last week here, the Fort Worth ISD has gotten itself in a sticky situation with it’s apparent ban on Santa and gift exchanges in its classrooms.  Liberty Institute talked with KXAN about this story late last week.  You can see KXAN’s news video on the story below and read their story here:

While the left loves to argue that there is no War on Christmas, it is clear that governments, at all levels and in misguided efforts to be politically correct, are increasingly trying to trample on the First Amendments rights of citizens and students.


Santa/Christmas Ban In Texas School District? FWST Says So, Then ISD “Clarifies” Its Position

December 2, 2011

The Fort Worth Star Telegram posted a story this morning about an apparent (click here) ban on Santa and gift exchanges in the Fort Worth I.S.D. public schools.

It’s sad that a government spokesperson for FWISD has to make it clear that it’s okay for school students to say “Merry Christmas” to each other during the school day.  But of course the left wants you to believe there is no War on Christmas.

The Forth Worth ISD quickly reversed…I mean “clarified” itself shortly thereafter the fire storm of parent outcry and the homepage article started buzzing around.  Here’s the FWISD statement.

FWISD says they have no ban on Santa Claus or Christmas and that gift exchanges are allowed at school, just not during instructional time.

Update: I was just interviewed on the new attacks on Christmas. Look for story at 6 pm tonight on KXAN in Austin.


Key House Bills Referred to Committees

February 17, 2009

HB 36-Rep. Corte- Ultrasound & Heartbeat Bill
Relating to informed consent to an abortion.
2/12/2009 H Referred to State Affairs

HB 44-Rep. Corte- Sign Required regarding real function of Emergency Contraception
Relating to disclosing information to persons obtaining emergency contraception.
2/12/2009 H Referred to Public Health

HB 109-Rep. Phillips – Choose Life License Plate
Relating to the issuance of “Choose Life” license plates and the creation of the Choose Life account in the general revenue fund.
2/12/2009 H Referred to Transportation View all actions

HB 125 Rep. Betty Brown-Voter, proof of identification
Relating to requiring a voter to present proof of identification.
2/12/2009 H Referred to Elections View all actions


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