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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: August, 2019
Aug 26, 2019

Tim Goeglein and Craig Osten’s book, “American Restoration: How Faith, Family, and Personal Sacrifice Can Heal our Nation”, addresses solutions to cultural problems that our society is facing in religious liberty today. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


Tim Goeglein and Craig Osten just released their new book, “American Restoration.”  It’s a critical examination of our time and place, recognizing the cultural battles our society faces and proposing common sense solutions to the problems Tim and Craig identify. 

I’m particularly taken by their evaluation of the state of religious liberty in our country today.  There’s a recognition throughout the chapter that there is a clash between world views and religious liberty seems to be losing ground. 

Their solution is simple, yet profound.  “If we are to restore religious liberty, we must engage,” they say.  “We must be involved.  This is a time for a historic flood tide of faithful men and women to get involved in the media, in culture, and in public policy debates at the local, state, regional, and national levels.”  That’s both vitally true and should be obvious to any reader paying close attention.

But, here’s the payoff. After calling for involvement at every level, they conclude, “But in doing so, we cannot compromise the core beliefs of our faith if we are to successfully restore America’s spiritual formation and God-given freedoms.”

Compromise erodes freedoms and that is not less true in the battle for religious freedom.  The loss of religious freedom is itself a loss of freedom.  And, at the same time, the more gains for the free exercise of religion we achieve, the more free our nation becomes. 

The founders understood that.  My friends Tim Goeglein and Craig Osten do too.  Perhaps you ought to also read their new book, “American Restoration: How Faith, Family, and Personal Sacrifice Can Heal our Nation.”

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

Aug 19, 2019

South Dakota has new law that public schools will display the national motto, “In God We Trust”, and many people are unhappy about it. Every circuit court has deemed it constitutional and it has been upheld that the motto has nothing to do with the establishment of religion. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


Under a new law, South Dakota’s public schools will now display the national motto on school property.  But, not everyone is very happy displaying “In God We Trust” on public property. 

One anti-religion activist called the idea “exclusionary and aimed at brainwashing American schoolchildren.” 

Well, the only brainwashing seems to come from anti-religion activists with a bent to exclude, based on inaccurate information! Indeed, few words are more in keeping with our history and law than the National Motto. 

Francis Scott Key included the line, “And this be our motto: ‘in God is our Trust’” in the further verse of the Star Spangled Banner. It went on our coins in 1864 and became the official motto in 1956, a year before it appeared on all our currency. It’s even displayed above the Speaker’s Rostrum in Congress!

Every one of the 11 circuit courts of appeal to consider the motto has deemed it constitutional.  The Ninth Circuit has twice upheld the motto, explaining in one case that the motto “has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion.”

So, the next time you hear someone suggest that it violates the constitution, just use the words of the Sixth Circuit who determined that a court removing the motto from government property would be “ludicrous.”

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

Aug 12, 2019

Supreme Court of the United States sends Aaron and Melissa Klein’s case back to Oregon Courts to ensure the Klein’s had a fair trial and address the $135,000 state sanction that was put on them for discrimination. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


The Supreme Court of the United States recently sent our case involving Aaron and Melissa Klein back to Oregon.  You may be wondering: why didn’t the Justices just decide the issue once and for all? 

It’s a fair question, and only 9 Americans really know the answer, but perhaps part of the reason is that state-sanctioned hostility to religion keeps getting in the way.  By remanding the case for review in consideration of the Masterpiece Cakeshopdecision, it seems the Justices are asking the lower court to ensure, first, that the Kleins had a fair trial.

That could be difficult.  Oregon’s administrator evaluating the charges suggested that the Kleins needed to be “rehabilitated.”  But, only the guilty are in need of rehabilitation. Prejudging the case seems unfair.

But, the Justices seem even more concerned with ensuring state officials respect the religious beliefs of those accused of discrimination.  Issuing a $135,000 penalty for “emotional damages” and imposing a gag order barring any public speech discussing their beliefs on the situation, suggests that the State of Oregon was less than respectful toward Aaron and Melissa’s religious beliefs.

In other words, it seems that the Justices are trying to stop the bleeding, stemming from an unfair process and state-sanctioned contempt for religious beliefs in public.  Once that bleeding stops, perhaps the court can diagnose and treat the actual problem. 

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

Aug 5, 2019

Saying “So help me God” at the end of the oath is a part of our country’s history and tradition. Removing it is taking away the acknowledgement of accountability outside oneself. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives recently decided to remove the phrase, “so help me God” from the end of the oath.

Witnesses appearing before Congress now end the oath that they will bear truthful witness before the body without invoking anything higher than themselves or the politicians they face.  Call it a “Congressional pinky promise.”

Representative Steve Cohen told the New York Times, “I think God belongs in religious institutions: in temple, in church, in cathedral, in mosque — but not in Congress.”

George Washington tagged the phrase “so help me God” to the end of his initial oath of office on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City.  The tradition stuck and eventually became part of federal law in 1966.

In other words, like “In God We Trust”and “God Bless America”and the Pledge of Allegiance’s “under God,”the phrase “so help me God” is part of our history and tradition. 

But, beyond history and tradition, acknowledging accountability outside oneself, or the men and women assembled on the dais of a congressional hearing room, is important in our republican democracy.  In other words, the use of the phrase “so help me God” acknowledges there is something to which each of us are accountable beyond ourselves and beyond government. 

When we proudly reject these limitations upon our authority, we assert ourselves as an authority unto ourselves. 

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

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