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.
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May 31, 2017

A Tennessee Governor has recently signed into law a measure protecting the religious liberty of Tennessee’s student-athletes. Find more about this law at

Welcome to the First Liberty Briefing. I’m Jeremy Dys.

Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee has signed into law a measure protecting the religious liberty of Tennessee’s student athletes.

The new law allows parents to opt their students out of participation in an athletic contest “if the event is on an official school holiday, observed day of worship, or religious holiday.” Moreover, it sets the authority aright by explaining that school officials “may not require a student to attend an athletic event” over the parent’s objection.

Some wonder how necessary such a measure is. They argue that schools already respect the religious choices of student-athletes and do not punish those students who, for religious reasons, sit out of scheduled contests. 

That, I suppose, is a debate for the ages. Whether athletes should participate on holy days is not a new issue, just watch the classic movie Chariots of Fire as but one example. Nonetheless, it is good to see the State of Tennessee explicitly stating that its school districts should be mindful that there are things to be respected of higher importance than sports.

Athletics can teach students much about life, diligence, and teamwork. But, life-balance is a critical element taught by sports in school as well. Today’s student-athletes are tomorrow’s business leaders who may be required to accommodate the religious practices of employees. Let us hope they learn the delicate balance of freedom well.

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

May 29, 2017

A writer for the Tampa Bay Times is calling for First Liberty client, Cambridge Christian School to form a league of their own after the FHSAA refused to allow Christian students to pray over the loud speaker. Learn more about the case and how we’re protecting students’ religious rights at

An editorial penned in the Tampa Bay Times has called for one of our clients to form a league of their own.

The author writes about Cambridge Christian School who earned the chance to play for a state football championship against another Christian school. Both teams asked the Florida High School Athletic Association to pray over the public address system prior to kick off. That request was denied by the FHSAA specifically because the requested speech was religious in nature.

The author supports the FHSAA. He writes: “If Cambridge and similar schools want public community prayer before their state championship games, they should leave the FHSAA and form their own private statewide Christian association and stage their own playoffs.”

Now, we were once told that if you wanted to pray in school, you should go to a private, Christian school. These students did, but now that they are there, this author would have them leave the league entirely.

Well, where does it end? Must religious picnickers form their own, private parks lest they be accused of violating the constitution for saying grace over their meal at a public park?

It was the FHSAA that engaged in religious discrimination against Cambridge Christian School. It would be an even greater offense to the Constitution’s protection of religious liberty to force these students further from public participation.  

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

May 26, 2017

The Florida legislature has proposed a bill prohibiting discrimination against students and teachers for religious expression at school. Learn more about what this bill can do for students and educators at

May 24, 2017

In Cutter v. Wilkinson, the Supreme Court has rightly strengthened our national commitment to religious liberty for both religious organizations and prisoners. Learn how the Supreme Court did so at

May 22, 2017

A recent case out of Fresno regarding our national motto, “In God We Trust,” is proving that American heritage is trying to be resisted by vehement disputants. Learn what this issue entails at

May 19, 2017

Recent studies prove that worldwide hostility to religion is increasing, and even more alarming is that government restrictions are not the only restrictions against religion. Learn more about the urgency to protect religious freedom at

May 17, 2017

President Trump is fulfilling his constitutional obligation by signing an executive order that prioritizes religious liberty within the Trump Administration. Learn how the president did so at

May 15, 2017

The Framers inserted a couple of words in the Oaths Clause to protect the religious conscience of citizens taking oaths. Learn how they implemented this protection at

May 12, 2017

Tucked away in the corner of the United States Constitution is an important phrase that demonstrates our country’s commitment to religious liberty. Learn why the Framers sought to protect religious liberty at

May 10, 2017

Recent news out of Carson City, Nevada reveals that some lawmakers in “The Battle Born State” have initiated legislation that would delete the state’s laws protecting the religious conscience of employers. Learn more about the proposed legislation at

May 8, 2017

A recent case out of Pennsylvania shows us that religious organizations remain subject to secular courts on matters neutral to religion. Learn what issues were brought before the courts at

May 5, 2017

James Gillespie Blaine proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that would, prevent any government aid to “sectarian schools,” especially Catholic schools. Learn what Justice Clarence Thomas said about the amendment at

May 3, 2017

Amish Families in the state of Maine are asking for the government to accommodate them to wear blaze red instead of orange. Learn why this accommodation could help achieve hunter safety at

May 1, 2017

News out of Alaska reports that officials on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly are thinking of ending their practice of prayer prior to their meetings. Learn more about legislative prayers at


Welcome to the First Liberty Briefing. I’m Jeremy Dys.

News out of Alaska reports that officials on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly are thinking of ending their practice of prayer prior to their meetings.

Assembly member Shaun Tacke said the move to end pre-meeting prayer is to be inclusive. Since some in the community believe in prayer before meetings and others don’t, he says, “having a strict policy of separation of church and state . . . excludes no one and includes everyone.”

I’m not sure that’s the right logic. By excluding legislative prayer, the assembly is excluding those who believe in such prayers, while favoring those who insist upon strict secularity in the public square. To quote Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in Greece v. Galloway, “Government may not mandate a civic religion that stifles any but the most generic reference to the sacred any more than it may prescribe a religious orthodoxy.”

The Supreme Court of the United States has twice explained, legislative prayers have a long history and tradition in our country, a tradition meant to lend gravity to the proceedings, while acknowledging the role religion plays in the life of our nation.

Legislative bodies like this assembly may choose to end their practice of legislative prayer, but they should understand that nothing in the history of our country or the doctrine of our Constitution compels them to do so.

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

Apr 28, 2017

Justice Alito is a proven defender of religious liberty. You may recall he authored the court’s opinion in Hobby Lobby, protecting the religious consciences of family-owned businesses. Learn how he’s challenging Americans to protect religious liberty at

Apr 26, 2017

Two school boards in Arkansas were told to stop opening their meetings with prayer. Of course, the advice came, not from their attorneys or the community the boards represent, but from a secularist group that just doesn’t like prayer in public. Learn what the Supreme Court and lower courts have to say about public and legislative prayers at

Apr 24, 2017

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reviewed a case involving the Birdville Independent School District after it a humanist group sued them. The humanist group argued students should not be permitted to have an invocation at the school board meeting. Learn how the court ruled at

Apr 21, 2017

Should courts make decisions on church doctrine or practices? How should churches go about their rights when it affects their congregation? Learn what happened to the Syrian Christian man at

Apr 19, 2017

Sometimes we think that the judicial system can and will solve all of our disputes. Learn about a recent case from the Court of Appeals that says there are some things a court cannot decide at

Apr 17, 2017

Even truck drivers deserve religious liberty—that may be the clear lesson from a case recently filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Learn about the case at


Welcome to the First Liberty Briefing. I’m Jeremy Dys.

Even truck drivers deserve religious liberty—that may be the clear lesson from a case recently filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

J.C. Witherspoon, Jr., Inc. hired Leroy Lawson in 2012. His job was to drive truck from the company’s South Carolina facility. During his pre-hire interview, Lawson informed the truck supervisor that, as a Hebrew Pentecostal for 35 years, he observes a religious Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. During that time, he explained, he is not permitted to engage in any labor.

Just weeks after his hire, the company mandated that all drivers work on Saturdays. Lawson complied, but at the end of his shift, he informed his supervisor that the day’s labor would be the last he worked on his Sabbath ever again.

Thankfully, his company accommodated his faith, until December of 2013 when they asked him to violate the observance of his Sabbath by working. Lawson refused and was promptly terminated. 

Lynette Barnes, the regional EEOC attorney handling the case, put it well in a press release: “Under federal law, employers have an obligation to endeavor to fairly balance an employee’s right to practice his or her religion and the operation of the company.” 

Much of life requires that we make compromises. Federal law—and the Constitution—suggests that an employee’s religion should never be one of them.

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

Apr 14, 2017

A group sent a letter to commanders of the air national guard base in Pease, New Hampshire to demand an end to prayer at official events. Learn more about the letter and how we responded at

Apr 12, 2017

Welcome to the First Liberty Briefing. I’m Jeremy Dys.

Ed McDaniels was a local pastor in Upshur County, West Virginia. One day, he asked the local school superintendent if he could place Bibles on a table in the local public school. He didn’t want to hand students anything; he just wanted to set out the material as a resource the students could take if they wanted to.

The school had a policy of allowing the local Little League, Boy and Girl Scouts, 4-H Club, and other community organizations to set their materials on a table. Students passing by could take the material or simply ignore it. In a separate policy, the school prevented the distribution of religious and political materials. Local residents sued the school system, claiming that the policy preventing distribution of religious materials also denied McDaniels access to the community information table.

Eventually, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit determined that distributing meant physically handing out materials. In fact, the court explained that, if the school kept the Bibles off of the community information table, it would breach its duty of religious neutrality and, in the words of the court, “evince the hostility toward religious speech that the Establishment Clause does not require and that the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses forbid. 

So, look around at your school. Perhaps there’s a community information table waiting to be stocked with Bibles

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


Apr 10, 2017

Bryan Finnemore was a self-described fundamentalist Christian. At the hydro-electric company where he worked, he oftentimes overheard a lot of vulgar statements that did not sit well with his religious beliefs and eventually filed a religious discrimination claim. Learn what the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine said about his claim at

Apr 7, 2017

The Lansing Housing Commission in Michigan allowed residents to use a community room for birthday parties, tutoring, and events. However, the commission refused to grant access to the community rooms for “religious worship, services, or programs.” Learn why religious discrimination is not cured by discriminating against all religions equally at

Apr 5, 2017

There is an effort in America to restrict chaplains in our military. Have you ever considered the enormous cost this could have on our armed forces? Learn about Chaplain Robert P. Taylor and the sacrifices he made for his unit

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