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?


CTxPAC coming February 3rd and 4th – Register Today!

January 17, 2012

Texans from all across the state will be convening in Austin, TX February 3-4, 2012 for the premier conservative grassroots event in the state, CTxPAC.   Liberty Institute is a founding sponsor of CTxPAC and our President and CEO Kelly Shackelford will be addressing the conference on Saturday, February 4th as well as leading a workshop.  Other founding sponsor’s of the event include Americans for Prosperity – Texas, FreedomWorks, New Revolution Now, and numerous Tea Party groups from across the state.  Just a few highlights of the event will include:

Great Speakers and Empowering Workshops: Hear from leading conservative leaders and have opportunities to meet conservative grassroots leaders from around Texas, get advice, and get up-to-date on the latest grassroots strategies and technologies.  Workshops will be conducted by Liberty Institute, Americans for Prosperity – Texas, FreedomWorks, Common Ground America, and others.

Presidential Town Hall and Texas Conservative Caucus: The conservative grassroots will make a historic pre-primary statement by conducting a caucus to choose a nominee for President. All registrants will be eligible to vote except discounted student registrants.  Invited Presidential Candidates and Campaigns include Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, and Ron Paul.  This will be an exciting, interactive event – so don’t miss your opportunity to join conservative Texans in voting.

Patriot Reception: Join us for this exceptional private reception that includes food, drink and entertainment. CTxPAC is over-flowing with opportunities to network and build relationships with other state and national activists and conservative candidates.  A highlight of the Patriot Reception will be the announcement of the Texas Top Ten Conservative Challenger Candidates.  Nominate your top 5 candidates here.

As we move into this all important 2012 election year, it is vitally important that we stay actively engaged and informed.  Be sure to check out all the event details on the CTxPAC website and you can register for the Friday night and all day Saturday events here.  Attendance is limited so please register today!


Watch Our Video on Texas Sonogram Case Victory!!

January 12, 2012

http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2012/January/Texas-Can-Enforce-Sonogram-Viewing-Law-for-Now/

By the way, big thanks goes to Attorney General Greg Abbott and Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell for doing an excellent job defending the Texas Sonogram law!!


Texas Sonogram Law Ruled Constitutional

January 10, 2012

Breaking News — Texas Sonogram law ruled constitutional! The Fifth Circuit Court (Edith Jones opinion) holds recently enacted Texas Sonogram law constitutional. The Fifth Circuit reversed Judge Sparks, vacating his granting of preliminary injunction, which had stopped enforcement of the Texas Sonogram law.

Check back to the blog today for a full press release with quotes from the bill’s authors, Senator Dan Patrick and Representative Sid Miller. Liberty Institute, on behalf of Senator Dan Patrick and Representative Sid Miller, had filed an amicus brief with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the law.

You can download the 5th Circuit Court opinion here

Update: See here for Liberty Institute’s press release.


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.


Conservative Texans Political Action Conference (CTxPAC) coming in February 2012

November 29, 2011

Texans from all across the state will be convening in Austin this coming February 3-4, 2012 for the premier conservative grassroots event in the state, CTxPAC.   Just a few highlights of the event include:

Texas Conservative Caucus:  The conservative grassroots will make a historic pre-primary statement by conducting a caucus to choose a nominee for President. All registrants will be eligible to vote except discounted student registrants.

Presidential Town Hall: With the primaries in Texas right around the corner from CTxPAC, the conference expects to draw presentations from top Presidential hopefuls.  Invited Presidential Candidates and Campaigns include Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum.

Empowering Workshops: Opportunities to meet conservative grassroots leaders from around Texas, get advice, and get up-to-date on the latest grassroots strategies and technologies.

Liberty Institute is a founding sponsor of CTxPAC, along with several other conservative organizations and tea party groups, and our President and CEO Kelly Shackelford will be addressing the conference on Saturday, February 4th as well as leading a workshop.  Be sure to check out all the details on the CTxPAC website and be sure to register here.  Attendance is limited so please register today!


Firth Circuit Rules in Candy Cane Case

September 28, 2011

In response to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the Morgan V. Plano Independent School District, known nationwide as the “candy cane” case, Kelly Shackelford, president of Liberty Institute released the following statement:

“We are encouraged that the Court rejected the principals’ argument that elementary students have no First Amendment protection and ruled that the principals did indeed violate the Constitution by censoring the religious speech of students.

However, we are disappointed that the Court decided not to hold the school principals responsible for their violation of the law.  That part of the ruling sends the wrong message to students that those responsible for teaching them good citizenship are not held responsible for violating the law.”

Morgan v. Plano Independent School District, involves students and families, represented by Liberty Institute, who were denied their free speech rights and who were discriminated against because their speech was religious in nature, including a young boy who was singled out and banned from handing out candy cane pens with a religious message at his class “winter” party, a little girl who was threatened for handing out tickets after school to a religious play, and an entire class of kids who were forbidden from writing “Merry Christmas” on holiday cards to American troops serving overseas. On appeal, the government officials argued that elementary students are too young to have First Amendment rights.

Sixteen judges sitting on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in this case last May, overturning the three-judge panel that ruled last year two principals could be held personally liable.  Two former U.S. Solicitors General, Paul Clement and Kenneth Starr, now president of Baylor University, joined Liberty Institute by arguing for the students.

This case has been in litigation for nine years, and will now move to the as-applied allegation, which, if proven, the court ruled would be violations of the Constitution. Liberty Institute will also examine whether to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the appeal on the two principals.


Guest Hosting the Ryan Rush Show this Afternoon on The Word (98.5/99.3 FM)

September 13, 2011

This afternoon, from 4 to 6 pm, I will be guest hosting the Ryan Rush Show on The Word (KLGO 98.5/99.3 FM).  Be sure to tune if you are able, and you can call in at (512) 637-WORD (9673).  If you are not in the Austin area, you can listen online at http://klgo.net/.

Liberty Institute President and CEO, Kelly Shackelford, will be calling in as well as local Tea Party leaders to discuss last night’s GOP debate.


The Response: Tens of Thousands turn out for day of Prayer, Fasting

August 8, 2011

This weekend, tens of thousands of people participated in the Response prayer event at Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX. With millions Americans struggling with unemployment, broken families and just wondering how they will make ends meet each month, it is a vital time for our country to repent and call out to God – just as the thousands did in Houston on Saturday.

Leaders from different political ideologies and denominations attended the all-day prayer event, including Liberty Institute’s president Kelly Shackelford, who lead a prayer at the event.  While some have attacked the event and Gov. Perry for initiating the event, Kelly Shackelford stated that “Calling for prayer for our nation is one of our country’s most enduring traditions, starting with our Founders; and our country desperately needs God’s intervention.”

In a recent editorial, Kelly Shackelford expands further:

“The very Founders of our country who wrote the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, on the same day as the First Amendment was adopted, passed a resolution calling for Americans to pray and give thanks to God. Sound familiar? It is, in fact, the same call as Gov. Perry gave. The Founders had no problem encouraging Americans to pray and thank God. They believed in religious freedom and that calling for prayer allowed every American to exercise, or not, religious freedom as they wished.”

Read the full editorial in the Christian Post here.


Texas Legislators Stand for Sonogram Law

August 5, 2011

Today, on behalf of Texas Senator Dan Patrick and Texas Representative Sid Miller, Liberty Institute filed an amicus brief in the lawsuit seeking to strike down Texas’ new sonogram law (HB 15).  Senator Patrick and Representative Miller were the authors of HB 15 in the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives, respectively.  Liberty Institute argues that HB 15 is consistent with Supreme Court and only requires the disclosure of truthful and accurate information to allow women to make informed decisions regarding their pregnancies.

“For years, women have been shielded from relevant information about their unborn child and the abortion procedure by abortionists who make money off of these women’s decisions,” said Kelly Shackelford, president/CEO for Liberty Institute. “This lawsuit seeks to ensure less information for women and is a sad attempt to continue the practice of blindfolding women who are considering abortion. Women should have a right to see the sonogram of their child.”

HB 15, which requires doctors or certified sonographers to perform a sonogram on women seeking an abortion at least 24 hours before the procedure, was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry on May 24, and is set to go into effect September 1. A federal court held a hearing on the law in July, but gave no indication of how it would rule.

“The sonogram brings Texas’ outdated informed consent laws into the 21st century by reflecting advances in sonogram technology and related fields,” said Sen. Patrick (R-Houston).  “Women must be given complete information about their pregnancies before making a life-changing choice regarding abortion.

“Just as doctor gives medically-relevant explanation of his or her patient’s condition before even a minor procedure, an abortion provider should offer such information to women seeking abortions,” said Rep. Miller (R-Stephenville). “This law protects Texans and empowers women with the critical and important information they need before making such a life-altering decision.”

Read the legislators’ amicus brief in Texas Medical Professionals Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey

 


Video of Ceremonial Signing of Budget

July 27, 2011

Yesterday, Gov. Rick Perry signed the 2012-2013 Texas budget.  Here is the video of the press conference and ceremonial signing.  Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of Liberty Institute, participated in the ceremony and his comments can be found at around 15:35 of the video.

 


Gov. Perry Signs Texas Budget: Liberty Institute Applauds Texas’ Fiscal Responsibility

July 26, 2011

Today, Gov. Rick Perry signed the 2012-2013 Texas budget in Amarillo, Texas. Texas legislators successfully balanced the budget without raising taxes or using the Rainy Day Fund.

Kelly Shackelford, president/CEO for Liberty Institute, attended the bill signing ceremony today and released the following statement:

“We are so thankful that Texas is not Washington, D.C., and Governor Perry and the Texas Legislature have shown the rest of the country how to pass a balanced budget without raising taxes. Fiscal responsibility protects families, brings greater prosperity, and protects our freedoms by not ballooning government. This is why so many people and businesses are moving to Texas.”


Guest Hosting the Ryan Rush Show this afternoon; Panelist for Austin Senate Candidate Forum

July 18, 2011

Update: Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford, State Senator Brian Birdwell, State Rep. Paul Workman, and SBOE Member Ken Mercer are all expected to call in live to the show today.

This afternoon, from 4 to 6 pm, I will be guest hosting the Ryan Rush Show on The Word (KLGO 98.5/99.3 FM).  Be sure to tune if you are able, and you can call in at 512-637-WORD (9673).  If you are not in the Austin area, you can listen online at http://klgo.net/.

I will also be a panelist for the upcoming Tour of Texas U.S. Senate Candidate Forum event in Austin.  I look forward to asking questions to the candidates running for U.S. Senate in Texas.  Here are the details for the forum:

Saturday, July 30th

4:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Texas Capitol Extension Auditorium

1100 N Congress Ave

Room E1.004

Austin, TX 78701

For more details, including details on how to submit a question you would like to see discussed by the Senate candidates, visit the event’s website here.

The event is free to attend, you just need to register here.


Yes, Prayer is a Protected Right, By Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute

June 20, 2011

Last week, the Americans United for Separation of Church & State, who lost their case to censor student speech at a  high school graduation ceremony, just outside of San Antonio, had their op-ed printed in the San Antionio Express News.

Our turn. http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/commentary/article/Yes-prayer-a-protected-right-1431271.php

This Op-ed was written by Kelly Shackelford, lawyer and President/CEO of Liberty Institute (we represented the valedictorian, Angela Hildenbrand in this case).


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