Non-Trucking, but Perhaps the Biggest Religious Liberty Decision Influenced by Local Attorney from Shreveport, LA
The following was shared with me by my friend, Mike Johnson. I wish I could claim any part of this. At least I can share the good news and hard work, and be reminded that when he first started with the ADF he shared space with me at 401 Market Street, Suite 900. I could not be more honored for my friend.
“As I discussed this morning with Tim Brando and have explained in several other interviews over the past 24 hrs, the 5-4 victory for public prayer in Town of Greece v. Galloway, is perhaps the biggest religious liberty decision in decades, and will have far-reaching implications. What I haven’t said publicly is that the Lord told me all of this was going to happen one night at our little kitchen table in late June 2007. Kelly remembers the night very well.
At the time, I was serving as Senior Legal Counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), and had been responding to our organization’s growing number of calls for advice and assistance from city councils and county boards around the country. It seemed public officials everywhere had begun receiving the same basic threat letter from the ACLU and other radical secularist groups that these public bodies must immediately cease opening their meetings with prayer (or at the very least censor the prayers so that the name of JESUS could never be mentioned again).
Of course, this demand ignored more than two centuries of cherished tradition in our country and was a gross and intentional misinterpretation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. But to my alarm, many local and state governmental bodies simply gave in to the threats to avoid the cost of a lawsuit, and tragically stopped opening their meetings with prayer.
After responding and trying to cover so many of these skirmishes in such rapid fashion, I was praying that night in June 2007 about what we needed to do to address these attacks more efficiently. The Lord spoke to my heart and specifically gave me the idea to carefully craft a model prayer policy and a lengthy legal information letter that we could send out to local public bodies in a nationwide initiative, accompanied by a guarantee if any public officials adopted our policy and got sued–we would defend them free of charge. In short, the Lord impressed upon my heart very clearly that it was time to play offense. The Lord told me very specifically that this would be a pivotal battle in our country’s history and that we would ultimately PREVAIL on it at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Lord made this SO clear to me that I jumped up from the table and excitedly explained to Kelly the entire vision and exactly what I felt the Lord showing me would happen. Over the next several days, I sold my ADF colleagues on the plan and crafted the legal information letter and model policy that I was convinced would ultimately pass constitutional muster and save the tradition of uncensored public invocations.
As you might imagine, the project involved intense spiritual warfare. In fact, on July 11, 2007, just two days before we were scheduled to release the initiative and the model policy to more than 22,000 city councils nationwide, some of you will remember that our family van was struck by another vehicle on the highway in a high speed crash. While our children and I sustained relatively minor injuries, Kelly broke her C-2 vertebra and crushed her right hand and came perilously close to losing her life or becoming paralyzed. (That is a whole other testimony–how God miraculously healed and protected her!!)
The policy went out, and I spent the better part of the next three years advising and navigating city councils, county boards, school boards, and state legislatures around the country through the issue; battling the ACLU, Freedom From Religion Foundation, and all of their secularist allies in every skirmish; and litigating the legal challenges as they developed in the federal courts. Countless public bodies adopted our policy nationwide, and some were sued. We won most of those cases (e.g., Doe v. Tangipahoa Parish Sch. Bd.), and lost a couple others (e.g., Joyner v. Forsyth County, N.C. Bd. of Commissioners). In the Forsyth County case at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the ACLU’s lawyer actually rebutted my argument by saying on the record, “The mention of ‘Jesus’ in a public prayer is precisely the kind of evil that the Establishment Clause was designed to prevent!”
As I was leaving ADF to become the dean of the law school in 2010, the Town of Greece case was just heating up. I still participated in the case prep and strategy, and that particular appeal wound up being the case the U.S. Supreme Court chose to review and settle the split that had developed on the issue among the federal appellate courts. There was obviously a LOT at stake, especially because the Town of Greece and so many countless others had carefully followed our advice in trying to preserve the tradition of uncensored opening prayers.
The case was argued at the Supreme Court back in November, and the 5-4 opinion released yesterday, written by Justice Kennedy (just as I told Kelly in June 2007 that it would be), was a SLAM DUNK for our side! The opinion affirms that these public prayers are “deeply embedded in the history and tradition of our country,” and they are “part of our expressive idiom, similar to the Pledge of Allegiance, inaugural prayer, or the recitation of ‘God save the United States and this honorable Court’ at the opening of this Court’s sessions… That a prayer is given in the name of Jesus, Allah, or Jehovah, or that it makes passing references to religious doctrines, does not remove it from that tradition.”
Although the case centers on the specific practice of one town in New York, it effectively affirms the provisions of the policy I drafted back in 2007, and the Court’s decision has ramifications for all the other pending cases around the country on this and, very likely, MANY OTHER critical religious freedom issues that are now at stake.
There is no question that yesterday was a HUGE win for religious liberty, for the Constitution, and for the Kingdom. Praise the Lord! It was also a great encouragement to Kelly and me– to be reminded once again that God is still in control, that His Truth can still be defended, and that His Word and direction are ALWAYS faithful and reliable.
I would be interested in your comments: pro or con!