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Religious Liberty | Liberal group goes after an attorney defending religious freedom
by Harvest Prude
Posted 7/10/18, 04:34 pm

An Anchorage, Alaska, law firm representing a Christian women’s shelter is defending itself from a suit brought by the same liberal group suing the shelter. The case raises a question: Will lawyers come under fire for defending religious clients accused of discrimination?

The Anchorage Equal Rights Commission (AERC) previously sued the Downtown Hope Center, a women’s only homeless shelter, for not admitting a man who identified as transgender. On Jan. 26, police dropped off Timothy Coyle—who goes by Samantha Coyle—at the center after another shelter banned Coyle from the premises for drunkenness and starting a fight. Admitting individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol is against the Hope Center’s rules, but director Sherrie Laurie paid for a cab to take Coyle to the emergency room to receive treatment for fight wounds.

Coyle came again the next day at 2 p.m., but the center does not allow admittance to the shelter until the evening. Coyle did not return.

On Feb. 1, Coyle filed a discrimination complaint with the AERC, saying, “I am female and transgender, thus I belong to a protected class.”

Kevin G. Clarkson, an attorney in Anchorage, took the Hope Center’s case, arguing first that the shelter denied Coyle services because he was under the influence of alcohol and showed up at the wrong time, not because of his transgender status. Secondly, Clarkson said, the shelter is not subject to the city’s nondiscrimination law that targets public accommodation services. Instead, the Hope Center is a nonprofit religious charity that offers services depending on whether individuals qualify, and Coyle had previously used the lunch and shower facilities there.

“[The Hope Center] does not shelter homeless men in its overnight shelter because this would traumatize and present unreasonable safety risks for the abused and battered women who are admitted for overnight shelter,” Clarkson wrote.

After Clarkson publicly defended the shelter’s religious liberty, the AERC sued his law firm on May 15, claiming his comments violated the city’s nondiscrimination law. On Thursday, First Liberty Institute filed a motion to dismiss the AERC’s complaint, arguing it violated Clarkson’s free speech.

“To go after the lawyer—that sends a message to all the other lawyers, don’t take on these cases or we will come for you, too,” First Liberty’s Hiram Sasser  told the Todd Starnes Show.

Facebook Facebook Evan Low

California Senate considers far-reaching ban on Biblical expression

California state senators on July 2 introduced a bill that would prohibit the teaching of a Biblical view of sexual orientation. Assembly Bill 2943 would amend the state’s list of unlawful business practices to include “advertising, offering for sale, or selling services constituting sexual orientation change efforts.”

The measure could shut down counseling, conferences, and church or parachurch events that involve any kind of monetary transaction and encourage people to hold to a Biblical view of sexuality. It would also ban the selling of books that teach the same.

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a member of WORLD News Group’s board of directors, called the bill “an undeniable infringement of religious liberty,” and Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal organization that defends First Amendment liberties, wrote that “the breadth of this censorship is staggering.”

Evan Low, head of the California General Assembly’s LGBT caucus, wrote the bill with seven other Democrats. In a speech to the assembly, he shared his experience of depression and so-called conversion therapy as a teenager. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” Low said. “There’s nothing that needs to be changed.”

Others, like Jim Domen, a pastor and the founder of Church United who was formerly gay, opposed the bill and testified that therapies the bill would ban have helped them personally. And organizations like are urging state residents to call their state senator and governor and express opposition to the bill.

The California General Assembly passed the bill 50-18 with bipartisan support on April 19. But the California Senate cannot vote on the bill until it returns from summer recess on Aug. 6. If successful there, the bill will go to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. The Democratic governor has previously supported LGBT-sponsored legislation. —Charissa Crotts

YouTube YouTube John McAdams

Free to teach

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered Marquette University to reinstate John McAdams, a conservative professor the school had suspended over a question of academic freedom. The court ruled 4-2 in favor of McAdams on Friday.

McAdams had written an online critique in 2014 of a graduate student instructor of philosophy. He claimed the instructor quashed a classroom discussion on same-sex marriage by saying, “Everybody agrees on this, and there is no need to discuss it.” The post included the instructor’s name and a link to her personal website. She later received threats and angry messages.

The university labeled McAdams’ post cyberbullying and suspended him without pay. McAdams promptly sued, claiming the school violated his academic freedom and that all he did was link to publicly available information.

The court sided with McAdams, saying his blog post qualified as a personal comment protected by the doctrine of academic freedom. The court also ruled that “just because vile commentary followed the blog post does not mean the blog post instigated or invited the vileness.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley criticized the decision, saying it failed to recognize the academic freedom of Marquette: “It dilutes a private educational institution’s autonomy to make its own academic decisions in fulfillment of its unique mission.”

McAdams’ attorney Rick Esenberg disagreed: “The whole purpose of academic freedom is to allow people in the university community to express themselves without fear of sanctions.” —Anna Johansen

Rights affirmed

After six years, Geneva College won a lawsuit against the federal government over Obamacare’s contraceptive and abortifacient mandate. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed the suit in 2012 on behalf of the Christian college in Beaver Falls, Pa.

The policy required organizations to provide abortifacient and contraceptive pills to employees despite religious convictions. The Trump administration stopped defending the policy in court, and in the spring of 2016, the Supreme Court sent Geneva’s and other similar cases back to lower courts for resolution.

On Thursday, a U.S. District Court issued an order permanently preventing the government from enforcing the mandate against Geneva.

“Religious organizations have the freedom to operate peacefully according to their beliefs without the threat of punishment by the government,” ADF senior counsel Gregory Baylor said after the ruling. “Today’s order fully affirms that freedom and provides permanent protection from the mandate.” —Charissa Crotts

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Harvest Prude

Harvest is a political reporter for WORLD's Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate. Harvest resides in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @HarvestPrude.

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    Posted: Fri, 07/13/2018 07:04 pm

    What Evan Low said is not even logical. So if he doesn't need help no one does? Therefore, if I don't need mental therapy, no one should be allowed to get mental therapy. I should try to get a law passed against any therapy that I don't need.

    This is just NUTS!!!

    Posted: Fri, 07/13/2018 07:13 pm

    Why is Obamacare still around? Why do people and companies want to pay enormous amounts of insurance for little to no care? Just because Obamacare says they can have abortion drugs doesn't make it cheap. 

    If you want an abortion, just go to Planned Parenthood?

    Better yet, get a hysterectomy, your insurance is more likely to pay for your operation than for your drugs.