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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: November, 2019
Nov 25, 2019

Cases have recently reached the U.S. Supreme Court hinging on the court’s definition of “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The justices’ potential altering of this definition would greatly injure the democratic process as well as the state of religious liberty in America. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


The day after the Supreme Court of the United States opened the 2019-2020 term of the court, the Justices heard argument in three cases over what is meant by a single word in a federal statute.

The cases involve two homosexual men and one transgendered woman terminated from their jobs because of their sexual orientation.  The federal statute, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of, among other things, a person’s sex. That’s the word up for debate. 

Activists have labored since at least 1974 to update Title VII’s definition of sex to include any number of gender identities and sexual orientations, but Congress has declined to act.

Part of the reason for that has to do with the very real fear expressed by religious conservatives at the potential loss of key religious liberty protections.  They fear becoming the next Aaron and Melissa Klein. 

Cutting off that democratic debate—one that allows concerns for the protection of religious liberty to be accounted for—is unwise.  The question everyone should be asking is what does yet another decision on a significant cultural question by judges mean for our democratic republic? 

Equality and nondiscrimination means very little in the hands of a democracy that can be altered by the stroke of the judicial pen.

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

Nov 18, 2019

Activists challenged Lehigh County in Pennsylvania for retaining a cross symbol among the various elements displayed in its county seal. Following the precedents set in The American Legion v. AHA, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld Lehigh County’s right to include the cross in its seal. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


Activists who dislike the presence of anything religious in public can no longer safely assume that judges will order religious symbols hidden from public view. 

In recent decades, progressives have turned to the courts to accomplish what ought to be done in the political arena. No less is that true than when it comes to religiously expressive symbols that appear in public. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in The American Legion v. AHA is correcting the faulty understanding of the First Amendment.

In Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, for instance, that county’s seal includes various elements symbolic of their community, including a cross.  That, activists say, establishes a religion in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.  Mercifully, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit disagreed.

Judge Thomas Hardiman explained that what matters is less how old a particular religious symbol is and more whether its use fits within our country’s longstanding traditions.

He said, “The Lehigh County seal fits comfortably within a long tradition of State and municipal seals and flags throughout our Republic that include religious symbols or mottos which further confirms its constitutionality.”

Rather than allow judges to force the removal, destruction, or censoring of religiously expressive monuments, symbols, or practices, The American Legion line of cases safeguards the history of our country, the text of our Constitution, and the simplicity of a self-governed local community.

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

Nov 11, 2019

Because Jeremy and Kristy Morris shared the Gospel via their annual Christmas display, their HOA sued them. This legal action amounts to nothing more than unlawful religious discrimination in housing, an injustice that First Liberty has taken on in the fight for our constitutional freedoms. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


Some months ago on the First Liberty Briefing, I introduced you to Jeremy and Kristy Morris.  Located in northern Idaho, the Morrisses have been embroiled in a lawsuit with their homeowners association over their annual Christmas display.

But, they don’t just put up Christmas lights to look at them.  The Morrisses want to bless others with their light display.  And so, they decided to spread a little Christmas cheer by inviting folks onto their yard, sharing the Gospel with them over a cup of hot chocolate and asking for donations for disadvantaged kids in the area. 

But the HOA told them to get rid of the lights and based their disagreement with the display on the Morrisses’ religion.  Jeremy and Kristy sued and convinced a jury that the HOA engaged in unlawful religious discrimination in housing.  But, the judge overruled the jury and entered judgment in favor of the HOA instead.

In October 2019, First Liberty and our volunteer attorneys at Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher appealed the judge’s decision and asked the Ninth Circuit to reinstate the jury’s decision.

As Kristy Morris explained, “I had to go to court because I invited my neighbors for Christmas.  I truly hope the judges on the Ninth Circuit will free us to be able to once again celebrate Christmas and raise money for charity.”

Me too.  No one should have to fight to spread a little Christmas cheer outside their own home.

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

Nov 4, 2019

Judge Tammy Kemp has received criticism for giving her Bible to a convicted felon in an act of compassion and mercy. Any judge that hands any holy writ to someone in an effort to encourage the improvement of his or her life is legal and worth defending. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


Everyone seems to have been moved by the remarkable story of forgiveness and mercy of Brandt Jean, brother of Botham Jean tragically killed in 2018 by an off-duty police officer in his own apartment.

Many have even taken note of Judge Tammy Kemp’s actions as well. After sentencing was complete, Judge Kemp descended from the bench, visited with the Jean family, and was moved to give her personal Bible to Amber Guyger, the newly sentenced felon, when she greeted her.

Ignoring the example of humanity, healing, and mercy demonstrated by Judge Kemp, the Freedom From Religion Foundation stepped in to ruin the moment.  They filed a complaint with the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, calling the act of Judge Kemp an “abuse of power.”

Our country has a longstanding tradition of respecting the reality that our leaders have both a professional, official role and yet may retain their personal humanity.  Not only should Judge Kemp be permitted to be human, including the parts of her humanity informed by her religious beliefs, any judge that hands any holy writ to anyone in any effort to encourage the improvement of their lives is worth defending.

The protests of Judge Kemp should stop and those protesting ought to join the rest of the nation celebrating the compassion and mercy Judge Kemp demonstrated. We should all be thankful the law allows Judge Kemp’s actions. We stand with her and will gladly lead the charge in defending her noble and legal actions if necessary.

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

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