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First Liberty Briefing

First Liberty Briefing is an exclusive podcast hosted by First Liberty Institute’s Deputy General Counsel Jeremy Dys. In about 90-seconds, once 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.
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Now displaying: October, 2019
Oct 28, 2019

For the first time in U.S. presidential history, President Donald Trump hosted a meeting at the United Nations dedicated to religious freedom. This is an extremely important step on the path to eradicating religious persecution across the world. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


Never in American history has a United States president hosted a meeting at the United Nations dedicated to religious freedom. 

But, in late September 2019, as the delegations from around the world descended on the UN General Assembly in New York City, President Donald Trump hosted a meeting focused on international religious freedom.

He explained that, “The United Sates is founded on the principle that our rights do not come from government; they come from God,” but then admitted that “the religious freedom enjoyed by American citizens is rare in the world.”

Indeed it is.  As he explained, “Approximately 80% of the world’s population live in countries where religious liberty is threatened, restricted, or even banned.” 

President Trump called upon them to “end religious discrimination.”  After announcing the formation of a coalition of U.S. businesses that will work to protect religious freedom globally, President Trump ended with this observation, “Too often, people in positions of power preach diversity while silencing, shunning, or censoring the faithful.  True tolerance means respecting the right of all people to express their deeply held religious beliefs.”

Indeed it does and, whatever else might be said of President Trump’s foreign policy, his administration appears concerned for the persecuted church.  As he said to the persecuted church, “The United States of America will forever remain at your side and the side of all who seek religious freedom.”

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

Oct 21, 2019

In a recent town hall, Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke contended that religious institutions should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage. His statement is an overt attack on The First Amendment and Justice Anthony Kennedy’s promise of the continued protection of religious liberty in Obergefell v. Hodges. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


At yet another town hall event for Democratic presidential hopefuls, candidate Beto O’Rourke once again peeled back the veneer of political centrism to reveal a disturbing threat to religious liberty. 

Asked if he thought that religious institutions should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage, Beto wasted no time casting off the shackles of centrism and told the world what the left really believes.

"Yes,” O’Rourke said immediately, “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for any one or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us.”

That’s a far cry from former Justice Anthony Kennedy’s promise in Obergefell v. Hodges when he said “that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost sincere conviction” their religious beliefs regarding human sexuality. 

Indeed, Kennedy promised that “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”

Yet under an O’Rourke administration, organized religion will have to pay its own freight. 

O’Rourke’s purpose is to expand the borders of the increasingly far left.  He will not win the presidency.  Still, we ought to take with deadly seriousness that he is saying what his party is increasingly thinking.

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

Oct 14, 2019

After the American Legion decision was announced, an activist group is trying to remove a cross from a memorial on Vero Beach. Removing the cross from the monument would reveal a hostility toward religion, which Justice Alito ruled against in The American Legion case. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing


There has been a war on religiously expressive monuments, symbols, and practices occurring in public for some time.  The Supreme Court’s decision in The American Legion v. AHA put an end to that, but some haven’t given up the fight.

Back in 1964, residents of Vero Beach, Florida put up a “Lest We Forget” monument. The monument itself looks to be maybe four feet high and about as wide.  On top, sits a cross, at the most 19 inches tall and 12 inches wide.

In 2017, a group of activists threatened Vero Beach officials, demanding they remove the memorial or at least knock off the cross from atop the monument.  But, nothing came of it.  Now, after The American Legion v. AHA, the same group is making noise once more.

I’m not sure why. As you may have recently heard on the First Liberty Briefing, the Supreme Court has explained that monuments like this are “presumptively constitutional.”

The passage of time may further reinforce that this memorial is in keeping with the history and tradition of our country, but what is certainly true is that those opposed to the cross on top of this memorial have no neutral solution.  Taking a sledge hammer to the cross atop this memorial would reveal a certain hostility toward religion that, as Justice Samuel Alito observed in The American Legion v. AHA, tearing down monuments in the name of the law would be “evocative, disturbing, and divisive”

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

Oct 7, 2019

The landmark decision in The American Legion case protects war memorials from destruction all across the country. Americans no longer need to fear these religious symbols on government property. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


Over the last five episodes, we have been winding our way through the Supreme Court’s decision in First Liberty’s case The American Legion v. AHA.  Before we move on to other areas of religious liberty, let’s tie the whole thing together.

It’s undeniable that The American Legionis a landmark decision.  The days of activist courts catering to the offense of those who would illegitimately weaponize the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause to attack religious symbols on public land are over.

Not only is the Peace Cross safe from destruction, so are the hundreds of war memorials honoring veterans across the country.

Our Founders would’ve been appalled at attempts by activists to purge the landscape of religious symbols in our country.

We are a religious people, living in a diverse society. None of us should be surprised at the presence of religious symbols interspersed with secular ones in the public square.  Quite simply, Americans need no longer fear reprisals against the display of the Ten Commandments, a Nativity scene, or the national motto on government property.

It is fitting that a memorial to the men who died in the “war to end all wars,” now ends the war to end all memorials with religious shapes or symbols.  Thanks to the efforts of The American Legion, and some good lawyering at First Liberty Institute, today we have more freedom than we did just a few weeks ago.

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

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