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 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

Apr 3, 2017

A Baptist Minister in Massachusetts hauled a 1,235 pound cheese wheel the same day Jefferson wrote an infamous letter that was meant to assure the Danbury Baptists. Learn what the letter said and how a pastor and president impacted religious liberty at

Mar 31, 2017

Employees at the Minnesota Department of Corrections were required to attend nondiscrimination training. While some employees nodded off, completed paperwork or read, others read their Bible in silent protest. The three employees that read their Bibles were reprimanded. Learn what the Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit said about the case at

Mar 29, 2017

In 1975, residents of Harrisonburg, Virginia sued their school board. The lawsuit questioned the school’s practice of releasing students from school to receive religious instruction. Learn what the outcome of the lawsuit was at

Mar 27, 2017

Dr. Walsh, a lay minister and public health expert applied for the District Health Director position for the State of Georgia. After he was hired, something strange happened. Learn how First Liberty won the lawsuit against the state and defended Dr. Walsh’s religious liberty rights at

Mar 24, 2017

Commissioner James O’Neill recently revealed that officers may now grow a ½ inch beard and a turban in place of their cap. Learn why this new policy makes sense for religious liberty at

Mar 22, 2017

Saint Vincent Health Center in Erie, Pennsylvania had a policy for all employees to receive mandatory flu shots unless an employee can provide a medical or religious reason. But, some employees didn’t get an exception, even though they requested one for religious reasons. Learn what happened to the health center and the employees at

Mar 20, 2017

Dennis Blackhawk, a Lakota Indian bought a few black bear cubs for religious purposes. The State of Pennsylvania insisted that Blackhawk obtain a permit for his cubs and pay the state the associated fee. Learn how the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decided the case at

Mar 17, 2017

Mia Komarevic reported staff members for borrowing some of the designer items. The chastised managers retaliated against her by intentionally scheduling her to work on her Sabbath. Learn what the law says about this type of case at

Mar 15, 2017

Randall Krause filed a lawsuit against the Tulsa County Library Commission. Evidently, the Commission maintains a recycling program and, according to Krause, it constitutes an undue burden on the Free Exercise of his environmentalism. Learn what criteria the court uses to decide what constitutes a religion at

Mar 13, 2017

The Morris County freeholders board in New Jersey has been funding the restoration of churches through a trust fund. Learn how local organizations, including churches are supported through a neutral review committee at

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