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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: February, 2020
Feb 24, 2020

After two years since First Liberty filed a lawsuit against the Village of Airmont, New York, the orthodox Jewish community will finally have its day in court. Get the full update and learn more at FirstLiberty.org/briefing.


In 2018, we filed a lawsuit alleging that government officials in the Village of Airmont, New York and the Suffern Central School District had engaged in a deliberate effort to dissuade Orthodox Jewish residents from staying in or moving to the Village of Airmont.

Town officials required multiple rounds of permitting and endless inspections, costing tens of thousands of dollars for Orthodox Jewish residents to be able to use their own homes for religious meetings.  They were even threatened with criminal sanctions by the Town of Airmont.

Even when presented with the prospect of the United States Department of Justice weighing in against them, town officials would not relent, filing motions to dismiss the legal action.  In January of 2020, Judge Vincent Briccetti issued an opinion, denying the town’s motions to dismiss.

My colleague, Keisha Russell said, “Our clients are thrilled that they will get their day in court.  We are pleased that the judge dismissed the effort by both the Village of Airmont and the Suffern School District to avoid accountability for their discriminatory actions.”

Perhaps this will make town officials more receptive to treating its Jewish residents with respect.  The Orthodox community in Airmont just wants to be left alone to peacefully worship and coexist without fear of criminal prosecution.

The First Amendment and federal law protect the right of all Americans to pray together in their homes free from unreasonable and intrusive government interference.

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


Feb 17, 2020

No one can deny Lawrence VanDyke’s excellent credentials for the federal court system. Attempting to deface his reputation nonetheless, the ABA and its progressive counterparts in the Senate questioned his impartiality toward LGBTQ litigants due to his faith. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


President Trump and I have a common friend in Lawrence VanDyke.  I know Lawrence from the time he’s spent volunteering with First Liberty Institute and as solicitor general of both Nevada and Montana.  President Trump nominated him to an open seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

As you might guess, he took a few shots during his confirmation hearing.  This time, the real culprit seems to be the American Bar Association.  Somehow, the ABA is perceived to be a neutral evaluator of judicial nominees.  So, rating Lawrence as “not qualified” is a severe blow to his nomination. 

When senators inquired if he would be fair toward LGBTQ litigants, Lawrence’s emotions got the better of him.  Choking back tears, he managed to say, “It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God.  They should all be treated with dignity and respect.” 

No one can honestly and credibly attack VanDyke’s sterling credentials. No one even tries. But attacks on someone’s legal research, writing, and advocacy are not in the playbook for today’s progressive left, which is driven by a militant secularism that worships at the altar of wokeness.

Lawrence VanDyke is a compassionate man with a brilliant intellect who has donated hours and hours of his professional career defending religious liberty.  I hope the senate ignores the ABA’s biased letter and confirms my friend, Lawrence VanDyke.

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

Feb 10, 2020

A Cameron, Missouri, school district superintendent has received a series of complaint letters regarding religious activity in school. However, these letters are rife with unsubstantiated claims and unidentified sources. In order to be taken seriously, legal             demand letters require litigants and facts—not anonymous threats and gripes. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


It should come as no surprise to find religion mixed with sports in America, whether that is Tim Tebow’s eye black or Coach Kennedy’s silent prayer.

However, with these public displays of religions often come needless, often intimidating complaints that are probably better ignored.

A group known for making noisy, public complaints about religion in public life groused to the Cameron R-1 School District in Cameron, Missouri. In a letter bearing the rough semblance of a legal demand letter, the group makes several unsubstantiated claims upon the school’s superintendent, demanding an investigation and that he “take immediate action” to end any religious activity.

But something always seems to be missing with these letters: A litigant.

Fundamentally, unless a lawyer, law firm, or legal organization identifies a plaintiff — a parent and/or student actually aggrieved by any of the alleged conduct attributable to the school district — such a letter amounts to little more than a public gripe.

Federal courts were not established to serve roving bands of censors and scolds. Only those with legitimate, legal standing are permitted to challenge complained-of behavior.

Religious liberty is a hallmark of our nation’s brand of freedom. The free exercise of religion, protected by the First Amendment, guarantees the rights of all citizens to exercise their faith. That freedom should not be casually limited by mere complaints from unidentified sources voiced by those who fund national television advertisements that mock religion.

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

Feb 3, 2020

In a recent speech, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that his leadership is informed by his Christian faith. Ignoring both the Constitution and precedent, secularists are now accusing him for his “proselytizing religious speech.” Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


We recently discussed Attorney General Barr’s excellent speech on religious liberty.  But, he’s not the only one in the Trump administration talking about religion.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also delivered a speech that progressives found troubling because he dared note that his leadership is informed by his Christian faith.

The fourth in line to the presidency admitted to learning a great deal about leadership while at West Point, in his service in the Army and Congress, and as director of the CIA.  Yet Pompeo  focused on how his faith has informed his leadership.

Secularists now demand that the Inspector General of the United States investigate and punish Secretary Pompeo for his “proselytizing religious speech.” 

It may come as a surprise to some that even civil servants look to their personal faith in making leadership decisions. When those decisions align with calls for social justice and progressive calls for economic equality, the Left celebrates.

Yet, admit that a secretary of state relies upon his faith to be humbler, listen better, and make wiser decisions, and suddenly it crosses the line into a constitutionally dubious attempt to establish an official church of the United States.

Americans of every walk of life — elected or not — are free to be known by their faith in both public and private life. More than that, they are free to rely upon that faith in their disposition, dialogue, and decisions.

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

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