Info

First Liberty Briefing

First Liberty Briefing is an exclusive podcast hosted by First Liberty Institute’s Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys. In about 90-seconds, three times a week, Jeremy recalls the stories that have shaped America’s religious liberty, from the founding era to current legal battles and more. It’s an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people, and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.
RSS Feed Subscribe in Apple Podcasts
2019
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2018
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2017
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June


All Episodes
Archives
Now displaying: June, 2019
Jun 24, 2019

Taking offense does not render a lawsuit, and this is supported by the Supreme Court of the United States. Letters of offense due to religion can be ignored because the law does not exist to resolve offense. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


Lawsuits exist to redress actual injury.  But, it seems that some activists think lawsuits exist to resolve offense.

You hear it all the time.  Recently, activists complained about the presence of a Bible at a VA Medical Clinic.  A World War II veteran donated it.  He was a prisoner of war and thought it appropriate that the VA display it as part of a POW/MIA remembrance table at the clinic.  Right on cue, an angry activist sent a letter claiming offense, demanding that this historic Bible be removed.

First Liberty Institute sent a letter reassuring the VA that the display is perfectly legal.  We reminded them that removing any Bible from such a display could not only dishonor the memory of the brave men remembered, it might actually be unlawful. Offense is not a cause of action. And the Supreme Court of the United States agrees. 

In Town of Greece v. Galloway, Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, explained:

Offense, however, does not equate to coercion. Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable; and an Establishment Clause violation is not made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious views.

So, if you ever get a threatening letter that is based entirely upon someone being offended by the presence of a religious item or symbol, just ignore it.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

Jun 17, 2019

Just how far must an employer go to accommodate a person’s religious belief at work? Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


Just how far must an employer go to accommodate someone’s religion at work?  That’s a question being presented to the Supreme Court of the United States in Patterson v. Walgreens

Darrell Patterson worked for the drugstore which promoted him to be a trainer of customer-care representatives.  The company scheduled him to work on a Saturday, which interfered with his observance of the Sabbath as a Seventh Day Adventist.  The company refused to let him swap shifts with a colleague working the same job, but offered to return him to his previous position, which Patterson argues would be a demotion.  He refused and Walgreens fired Patterson.

The case explores whether a company must offer an accommodation to an employee if doing so will cause undue hardship.  The current definition of “undue hardship” means something more than a “de minimis cost.”  That’s a fancy way of saying that an undue hardship is trifling, minimal, or so insignificant that it can be ignored.

Patterson’s case has enormous potential to resolve a number of questions left unresolved by the lower courts. Employers and employees both benefit from such clarity.  While employers should respect the religious conscience of its employees, the law does not require them to bend over backwards to do so.  Still, employers should probably err on accommodating their employee’s religious beliefs more rather than less. 

To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

Jun 10, 2019

No one likes a test, especially one based on one’s character or religious belief, and no one should be forced to pass a religious test for office. But does Article VI apply to the states? Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


No one likes a test.  At least not the kind that are unfair, meant as a pass/fail standard upon the character of a person.

That is why the Framers of the United States Constitution included a prohibition on a religious test for office in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.  But, did that federal prohibition apply to the states?

That is a question presented by Roy Torcaso to the Supreme Court of the United States. Torcaso, a professed atheist, wished to be a notary public in the State of Maryland, but could not declare his belief in God, as required by the Maryland Constitution. 

Justice Hugo Black explained in Torcaso v. Watkins that the prohibition on religious tests for office in the U.S. Constitution was to be extended to state constitutions as well.  He wrote, “neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person ‘to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.’"

That is similar to what James Madison wrote in Federalist 52, where he explains that “the door of this part of the Federal Government, is open to merit of every description, whether native or adoptive, whether young or old, and without regard to poverty or wealth, or to any particular profession of religious faith.”

In other words, you don’t have to pass a religious test to qualify for public office in America.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

Jun 3, 2019

Coach Kennedy, a high school football coach in Washington, was fired for taking a knee and saying a silent prayer after football games. First Liberty fought this case all the way to the Supreme Court and despite the troubling decision, they declined to review his case. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


On January 22, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States denied Coach Joe Kennedy’s petition to review his case. That’s a setback, but one with a silver lining.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, issued a statement accompanying the denial.  In one part, Justice Alito explained that the court requires additional information that further litigation should supply. In another, he criticized the Ninth Circuit’s decision, characterizing it as “troubling.” 

But then the Justices noted that the petition rested solely on a free speech claim, and not a claim under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.  As he explained, that is likely “due to certain decisions of this Court,” namely the 1990 decision of Employment Division v. Smith.  Justice Alito observed that the effect of that decision has been to “drastically cut back on the protection provided by the Free Exercise Clause.”

As Coach Kennedy’s attorneys, First Liberty Institute is eager to return to the District Court, answer the questions the justices raised in their statement, and give the Court another opportunity to protect the right of every American to engage in private religious expression, including praying in public, without fear of getting fired.

Thankfully, the Supreme Court seems to understand that banning all coaches from praying just because they can be seen is wrong and contradicts the Constitution.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

1