We are thankful for all the work God gave us in 2017. Join us in our countdown looking back at some of our work in 2017 and looking forward to 2018 as we prayerfully pursue what God has for us.
10 days to Free a Church to Worship
On October 13, 2017, we filed suit in the District Court of Alabama on behalf of New Life in Jesus Ministry. New Life had been denied zoning approval to worship at its new location even though non-religious assemblies were free to meet there. Within just ten days of filing suit, the court entered a consent order freeing the church to worship, and the City agreed to pay our fees.
9 Pro-Life Plaintiffs
We stand with those who stand for life. In 2017, we helped Hand of Hope Pregnancy Center in Raleigh, North Carolina move into its new building next to an abortion clinic and are continuing to fight for Hand of Hope’s right to use ultrasounds at the new location. We also continued to fight for Sandra Mendoza, a nurse who lost her job because she refused to participate in abortion-related services. In November, attorney Noel Sterett and Sandra were invited to speak on Capitol Hill and to members of Congress about Sandra’s story and in support of a Federal Conscience Protection Act. We were also honored to serve as local counsel in two cases filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Illinois pregnancy care centers and pro-life doctors. In both cases we secured preliminary injunction orders which prohibit the state from forcing pro-life health care facilities and professionals to promote the “benefits” of abortion and refer women to local abortion providers. In 2018, we will also be filing a brief before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of twenty three Illinois pregnancy care centers in a case involving a similar law in California which forces pregnancy care centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry.
8 Months of Waiting
After waiting eight months for a decision from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the court rejected our claim that the Illinois Bible Colleges Association had a right to grant degrees without state oversight of their faculty and curriculum. We started 2018 off by petitioning the United States Supreme Court to hear their case.
7 Municipal Hearings
The Original Bible Church in Markham, Illinois went through seven costly zoning hearings before the city ultimately decided to deny the church a zoning permit. Once we learned of the denial, we moved quickly to file suit and in just over a month obtained an injunction from the federal court allowing the church to move forward. The city also wrote the church a check for $60,000 for all the grief and expense it put the church through.
A church, a school, and six teachers needed to know whether school would be in session in August after the county determined that a Catholic school could not meet in a Baptist church. Summit Academy in Spotsylvania County, Virginia has operated in the church building since 2016, but the county received a complaint about it and intervened. The church and the city are coming to a settlement on the issue.
5 Organizations for Free Speech and Exercise
We filed an amicus brief on behalf of five Christian business organizations in the landmark free speech and religious exercise case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which is before the United States Supreme Court. With similar concern for their own free exercise and free speech rights, C12 Group, Christian Employers Alliance, Pinnacle Forum, CEO Forum Inc., and Center for Faith and Work at LeTourneau University joined in an amicus brief on behalf of their members who are all business owners and executives. Like the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Jack Phillips, these executives understand that their businesses are more than just a way to make money but they are a calling from God.
Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction. In February, a federal court ruled that pastors are not subject to Illinois’ Youth Mental Health Protection Act (YMHPA) that went into effect January 1, 2016. The YMHPA prevents counselors from counseling against same-sex attraction even if the young man or woman seeks such counseling. This case dismissal was truly a victory as it forced the court to articulate that pastors are not in commerce and can continue counseling those who experience unwanted same-sex attraction and see homosexual behavior as sin. Illinois pastors can now feel less risk in telling counselees that Jesus can help them with unwanted same-sex attraction.
3 Ex-Latin King Gang Members
The Latin King gang motto is “once a king always a king.” The message of the Gospel, however, is that we are a new creation in Messiah Jesus. Since September 2010 we have defended a number of ex-Latin King Gang members who were sued by the City of Elgin after they had left the gang to follow Jesus. The city’s suit sought to prohibit them from speaking with known gang members even though the purpose of their communications was to lead them out of the gang to Jesus. The men we represent were actively engaged in organizing anti-gang marches and speaking at local schools about the perils of the gang lifestyle. Earlier this year their case went to trial and these men were able to testify on the witness stand about their new life in Jesus and two of them testified about how they were beaten out of the gang after coming to faith in Jesus. After seven long years of litigation and a lengthy trial, the court ruled against the city and found that these men were not members of the gang, clearing their names and freeing them to continue their ministry.
The Illinois Village of Antioch and Saint Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church settled a two year dispute concerning the church’s resale ministry. The ministry is run by volunteers and provides donated items to the public at little or no cost. The Village sought to close the ministry arguing that the building it operated in did not contain handicap accessible bathrooms and drinking fountains and because it was not properly zoned. The compromise between the church and the Village allows the church to continue to share the love of Christ and be a light to its community. After the suit was settled, Father Timothy Squier said, “The most important thing for Saint Ignatius is that we serve people who are in need. Our attorney’s work makes it clear that a church’s ministry is vital to the larger community life of a village.
1 New Chair of the Chicago Bar Association
Attorney Sorin Leahu is the new Chair of the Civil Rights and Constitutional Law Committee with the Chicago Bar Association. We commend Sorin for his leadership as he prayerfully serves in this important role with the CBA. Congratulations, Sorin!
Posted on Fri, January 12, 2018 by Stephanie Grossoehme