We’re currently handling over 90 cases, and our caseload grows every day. We’re litigating for pro-lifers and people of faith who face crises of conscience, filing friend-of-the-court briefs in support of other significant court cases, and building a pro-life, pro-family infrastructure by providing organizational and legal support for 31 other non-profits.
Some cases are bigger than others, but all are very important. Here are some of our current and/or recent engagements:
Providing Legal Counsel for Many of our Nation’s Top Pro-Life, Pro-Family, and Religious Leaders and Organizations:
Pro-Life Action League (IL and national) – Joe and Ann Scheidler, pro-life activists and founders of the Pro-Life Action League, were the co-founders of the Thomas More Society with Tom Brejcha. It was the NOW v. Scheidler case against Joe Scheidler that prompted Tom Brejcha to quit his business law practice to take on pro-life legal work full time. Now under the direction of Eric Scheidler, the Pro-Life Action League continues its work saving unborn children through non-violent direct action, such as abortion clinic sidewalk counseling and prayer vigils, Truth Tours, and youth outreach. Thomas More Society provides legal counsel and defense for the League’s activism.
Lila Rose and Live Action – After Lila Rose’s and Live Action’s undercover sting operation videos were broadcast on major media outlets across the nation, Thomas More Society had to fend off several attempts from YouTube to censor the videos, citing “privacy” concerns. Later, Thomas More Society successfully challenged baseless allegations of copyright violation against Live Action’s wholly legitimate use of video excerpts of testimony before a Florida State House Subcommittee. Thomas More Society continues to handle Live Action’s legal needs as they are targeted by abortion forces bent on suppressing their powerful pro-life campaigns, messages, and publications (both print and electronic, including internet and social media messages which are especially influential among young people).
March for Life – We were retained shortly before the late Nellie Gray’s passing two years ago to address the D.C. Hyatt Hotel’s breach of its room rental agreement with the March for Life. We retained special counsel in D.C. who threatened legal action. We ultimately secured free rooms for the March for Life at Hyatt’s downtown hotel, bus transport, and other concessions. We also provided legal counsel in response to permit problems that arose during the March. Royce Hood, our development consultant and associate lawyer, is on the March for Life’s board of directors.
40 Days for Life – We serve as national counsel for organizers of 40 Days for Life prayer vigil campaigns held all over the U.S. We threaten and file lawsuits to secure permits and defend First Amendment rights as necessary, provide legal advice and counsel, and if need be, offer legal defense in business matters. We’re currently working on 40 Days for Life cases in Burlington, VT; Overland, KS; Las Cruces, NM; Wilmington, DE; Pasadena, CA, and others.
- Wilmington, DE – In the first ten days of 40 Days for Life’s 2014 Fall Campaign, peaceful pro-lifers in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Wilmington, DE, received several threats of citation from city officials and police. In response, Thomas More Society attorneys sent a letter to the city of Wilmington to ensure that the pro-lifers’ First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly be respected. The City then conceded that the participants of 40 Days for Life Wilmington were indeed lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights by conducting a peaceful prayer vigil on public property and need not obtain any permits to do so. As the pro-lifers persevered in their prayer and sidewalk counseling in front of the abortion facility, they were able to save five babies from abortion during this Fall vigil.
- Red Oak, IA – During the 40 Days for Life 2014 Spring Campaign, the Red Oak Planned Parenthood facility raised an uproar over the pro-lifers’ standing on the grassy parkway, which Planned Parenthood claimed to be private property. The police told pro-lifers that they had to stand across the street, as there were no sidewalks in front of the abortion facility. The pro-lifers’ prayer vigil and sidewalk counseling efforts were in jeopardy, but Thomas More Society-Omaha attorney Martin Cannon intervened. He investigated and verified with the Red Oak city administrator that there was a public right of way that extended about 10 feet up the lawn from the curb. This public right of way—the legal equivalent of a public sidewalk—constituted a place where people have a First Amendment right to assemble. The police chief then agreed that the pro-lifers could stand right in front of the facility. The 40 Days Campaign was carried on in earnest and continued even beyond its scheduled end date, and the Red Oak Planned Parenthood facility has since closed its doors.
- Las Cruces, NM – The 40 Days for Life Las Cruces coordinator discovered that Whole Woman’s Health abortion facility had opened in Las Cruces, NM in October 2014 before even applying for a business permit. The abortion facility had moved across the border from Texas, where Texas’ pro-life laws caused them “too many restrictions” to keep operating all of their facilities. The abortion facility’s Facebook posts advertised that they were open for business on October 13, but they did not even submit an application for a business permit until October 23. Thomas More Society submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the city of Las Cruces and uncovered clear evidence, including troubling emails between the abortion facility manager and the police department, that the facility had indeed opened illegally in order to stay “under the radar.” We are publicizing the brazenly illegal activities of this clinic and providing resources for the 40 Days for Life coordinator to initiate health and safety inspections of abortion facilities and parental notification of abortion in the state of New Mexico.
- Jacksonville, NC – The City of Jacksonville’s Chief of Police forbade pro-life advocates from praying and picketing outside the front entrance of the Crist Clinic for Women, a local abortion facility. The police instead ordered them to move down the street to an unrelated business. Again, a federal lawsuit had to be filed, and on the day set for the preliminary injunction hearing, Jacksonville representatives agreed to entry of a consent injunction and rewrote their picketing ordinance with the help of Thomas More Society.
- Pasadena, CA – We’ve bolstered the resolve of vigil participants in this southern California city who were worried over threats of arrest for offering pro-life handbills to abortion-bound moms and dads – a pristine exercise of 1st amendment rights! We’ve promised as well as prepared to sue any law enforcer who persists in such illegal threats.
Students for Life of America – We provide legal advice and, when necessary, legal defense for this national organization’s high school division. We’re standing up for students’ First Amendment rights when hostile public school administrators censor their initiatives to start a pro-life club at their school and promote the pro-life message among their peers. We’ve assisted with numerous cases across the country:
- Courtland, VA – Maddie found a faculty advisor and submitted her application for a pro-life club to her principal in September, 2014. But the principal denied the pro-life club because it didn’t “bear a clear relationship to the regular school curriculum.” However, the school has lots of non-curricular clubs, including an equestrian club, an environmental club, and sports clubs. Thomas More Society sent the principal a demand letter expressing that his discrimination against the pro-life club violated the students’ First Amendment rights and the Federal Equal Access Act. Our letter resulted in a media storm, and finally moved the principal to call an emergency meeting with the School Board to approve the club so that Maddie and her fellow club officers – all seniors – could begin their pro-life advocacy immediately. If the principal had not complied, we were prepared to file a federal lawsuit to ensure that the students’ rights were protected.
- Tacoma, WA – Bryce, a freshman, had formed a pro-life club at Wilson High School but faced hostility from his school administrators who wouldn’t let him put up pro-life posters or host events. Thomas More Society wrote a demand letter to the school, resulting in approval for the pro-life club’s events, including a diaper drive and pro-life day of silence.
Additional Students for Life matters, still pending:
- Mead, WA – Ella was falsely told by the teacher advisor for student clubs that she could not start a pro-life club because it “violated the separation of church and state.”
- Cincinnati, OH – Maggie submitted several requests for her pro-life club to be approved, but the principal responded that the school board decided not to allow the club.
- Bentonville, AR – Jessica started a pro-life club, but now her high school won’t let her put up posters or hold events.
- Tuscaloosa, AL – Ke’ontai first had his pro-life club denied. Now, even though it’s been approved, the school is giving him trouble about hosting pro-life speakers.
We’re working to achieve victory for the students in these matters, just as we did for Maddie in Courtland, VA, and for Bryce in Tacoma, WA.
Sidewalk Advocates for Life (TX and national) – We’ve been assisting this new, Texas-based national organization with legal advice as they work to train pro-life sidewalk counselors around the country. We also stand ready to defend against any unlawful challenges these advocates for life are bound to experience from opponents who want to shut down their message.
Suing a Strip Club that Illegally Opened Right Next to a Convent (IL) – We are defending the St. Charles Borromeo (Scalabrinian) nuns in west suburban Chicago after a $3 million dollar strip club was, without notice and in violation of state zoning restrictions, built right across the backyard fence of the Sisters’ convent, which includes their novice school, three chapels, and home for retired nuns. Our repeated cease and desist letters to the strip club owners and the Village of Stone Park were ignored, and thus we’ve had to file a major lawsuit to declare their “permits” to be lawless and void and demanding that the strip club cease operating. Our lawsuit cites numerous horrendous “secondary effects” that the strip club is causing the Sisters and residential community and also our newly developed proof that it qualifies as a “disorderly house,” indeed as a house of prostitution within the meaning of Illinois law.
Our Defense of Illinois Catholic Charities Foster Care Programs (IL) – The State of Illinois forced Catholic Charities out of adoption and foster care services when the Illinois agencies refused to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs and decades-old policy of not licensing couples in civil unions to serve as foster parents. Thomas More Society charged this demand was a gross violation of the religious liberty provision in the Civil Union law, the First Amendment, and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act. However, before the Appellate Court could rule on the merits of our lawsuit, the State of Illinois threatened immediately to transfer all 2,000 children from Catholic Charities to other agencies. Catholic Charities was forced to dismiss the lawsuit as moot and to cease providing adoption and foster care services.
Former Foster Mom Sued Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois, Charging Fraudulent Billing for Foster Care Services (IL) – Bishop Conlon of the Diocese of Joliet and Glenn Van Cura, Director of Catholic Charities, have asked us to take over the defense of a $173 million lawsuit filed against Catholic Charities as well as two other Illinois child welfare organizations. The unfounded allegations accuse the agencies of defrauding the State of Illinois by making false promises to abide by the legally mandated standards for the proper and compassionate handling of foster parents and foster children. We deem this lawsuit as an outrageous effort to secure a financial windfall at the expense of this major institution of the Catholic Church in Illinois (encompassing Chicago’s western and southwestern suburbs), making a mockery of the selfless and devoted efforts of so many Catholic Charities professionals and helpers to put Gospel values into practice in service of our widows and orphans and others in grave need of a helping hand. If filed in times less hostile to organized religion, we believe this case would have been tossed out of court within mere days of its filing. So far, however, the court insists that the case proceed past its initial phase, and thus we were retained to stay the course over what may prove a long haul and to mount a strong defense.
American Life League Pro-Life T-Shirt Week (national) – This national event takes place for one week in the Spring with the intent to increase positive awareness of the personhood of the child in the womb and the tragedy of abortion, particularly across public high school and college campuses. If any students are faced with discriminatory or otherwise illegal hostility or interference from school administrators who want to suppress their message, even when non-disruptive and when other types of issue-advocacy are allowed or even promoted, Thomas More Society is poised and prepared to stand up for the students’ First Amendment rights to express their pro-life views.
Defending Religious Liberty against the HHS Abortion Pill Mandate:
Autocam Corp. v. Sebelius (U.S. Supreme, 6th Cir., U.S. Court of Appeals, Detroit) – Our special counsel, Professor Pat Gillen of Ave Maria Law School, drafted our petition for U.S. Supreme Court review in our lawsuit seeking to protect Autocam and its principal owner, John Kennedy, against the HHS Abortion Pill Mandate for group insurance coverage for contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization. The Justices put our appeal on hold while they considered and then ruled in favor of earlier appeals by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. Our petition for review was then granted, and the rulings against us by the lower courts were vacated. The case was sent back down to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Detroit for reconsideration. In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga appeals, our client was granted an exemption in favor of religious liberty. We won!
Paul Wieland v. U.S. Department of HHS (U.S. Court of Appeals, St. Louis) – Our special counsel, Tim Belz of St. Louis, brought this federal lawsuit against the HHS Abortion Pill Mandate on behalf of Missouri State Rep. Paul Wieland and his wife, who have religious objections to their mandated group insurance plan that provides their daughters with coverage for abortion-causing drugs. The federal trial court threw out the case, and we appealed. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has handed down the Hobby Lobby decision, we are awaiting a decision from the Eighth Circuit court of appeals in St. Louis. We are also considering whether to bring a new case, in the wake of the Hobby Lobby ruling, to counteract a federal trial court’s decision to negate a Missouri law that required insurance companies to offer policies friendly to people of faith.
Hobby Lobby, Inc., and Conestoga Wood Specialties, Inc. (U.S. Supreme Court) – We filed an amicus curiae brief, authored by special counsel Deborah Dewart of North Carolina, for the Thomas More Society as well as for Liberty, Life & Law Foundation and Christian Family Coalition in support of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties. Their appeal against the HHS Abortion Pill Mandate, which our brief supported, led to the landmark opinion handed down in June 2014, in support of religious liberty against the HHS Abortion Pill Mandate.
Defending Family Businesses against Enforcement of the Abortion Pill Mandate (IL, and U.S. District Court) – We filed suit and secured federal injunctions against enforcement of Obamacare’s “HHS Abortion Pill Mandate” to secure rights of conscience in the free exercise of their religious faith for two major private employers in the Chicago metro area.
Taking Cases to the U.S. Supreme, State Supreme, Federal & State Appellate Courts:
NOW (National Organization for Women) v. Scheidler (U.S. Supreme, 7th Cir., U.S. Court of Appeals, Chicago) – This historic, marathon case, which took three trips before the U.S. Supreme Court, was finally (after 28 years!) brought to a close when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit (in Chicago) sharply rejected NOW’s appeal to overturn the lower court’s awarding our clients over $60,o00 in out-of-pocket costs. The three-Judge panel rejected NOW’s claims as baseless, even “preposterous.” This was a nationwide class action under the federal antitrust, extortion, and racketeering (RICO) laws, brought for the benefit of all abortion providers in the U.S. and for all women whose access to abortion the defendants (national pro-life leaders and “up to a million” alleged “co-conspirators”) interfered with. The immense burden of defending this mega-case led to (necessitated!) the founding of Thomas More Society. Mirabile dictu! NOW actually paid up!
Phill Kline vs. Kansas Disciplinary Administrator (KS Supreme Court, U.S. District Court, Topeka) – We filed a petition in the U.S. Supreme Court for review of the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision which upheld multiple ethics charges against former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline. Phill Kline was the first prosecutor to charge Planned Parenthood and late-term abortion provider, George Tiller, with crimes for failure to report child abuse and/or for violation of late-term abortion restrictions. But the abortionists and their political allies, in order to derail the criminal evidence against them, slammed Phill with a boatload of ethics complaints. The Kansas Supreme Court used vague, overbroad rules to convict Phill, and specifically cited his strong pro-life position in their ruling against him. Our petition to the Supreme Court was denied, but we’ll soon be challenging the grave violations of Phill’s rights that fatally flawed these proceedings in federal district court in Kansas.
Berger v. ACLU of North Carolina (Choose Life License Plates) (U.S. Supreme Court) – We’ve long been defending the right to purchase a Choose Life license plate as an expression of free speech. Most recently, we filed an amicus curiae brief, with the assistance of special counsel Steve Crampton and Michael Dean, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve disputes among lower courts over Choose Life license plates. Our brief was filed on behalf of Choose Life America, Choose Life Wisconsin, and Choose Life Illinois. Our clients in Wisconsin and Illinois are also not allowed to purchase Choose Life plates because of legislature inaction or court action that suppresses the plates, which we hold is a violation of free speech rights.
Nichols v. Nichols (NE Supreme Court) – Thomas More Society-Omaha lawyer Martin Cannon filed an amicus curiae brief last May before the Nebraska Supreme Court to defend the constitutionality of Nebraska’s marriage amendment against a same-sex divorce case. Two women had entered into an out-of-state (Iowa) same-sex marriage and then wanted a divorce in Nebraska. The Nebraska Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. However, the case is not yet over, as the ACLU has just filed a new federal lawsuit to declare Nebraska’s marriage law unconstitutional.
MKB Management Corp. v. Burdick (ND Supreme Court) – We filed an amicus curiae brief in the North Dakota Supreme Court, authored by special counsel Paul Linton, on behalf of the Catholic Conference of North Dakota, Bishop Kagan of Bismarck, and Bishop Folda of Fargo. Our brief supported an appeal from a district court ruling which held—erroneously, we say—that the North Dakota State Constitution provided for a state constitutional right to abortion. We won the appeal by a very slim margin, but a petition for “rehearing” has been filed and has yet to be ruled on.
FACES (Fishers Adolescent Catholic Enrichment Society, Inc.) vs. Bridgewater (IN Supreme) – Last January, our special counsel Professor Pat Gillen, of Ave Maria Law School, argued before the Indiana Supreme Court for a group of eleven homeschooling families from Fishers, IN, who had formed a non-profit group to provide social enrichment opportunities for their homeschooled teenagers. The Indiana Civil Rights Committee (“ICRC”) prosecuted this small, Catholic, pro-life homeschool group in an abusive misapplication of the civil rights law. The group was sued after a venue it rented was unable to provide an allergy-safe meal for one member. When the leaders of the group asked the member to bring her own dinner as a compromise, the member took the case to the ICRC. The ICRC took actions against FACES that violated the homeschool families’ First Amendment rights of religious liberty and freedom of association. Thomas More Society brought the case all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court, urging the Court to protect the constitutional rights of these families and of all who wish to form private, religious associations without the government dictating how they be run. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled in favor of our appeal!
Fox Valley Families Against Planned Parenthood vs. Planned Parenthood (IL Appellate Court, Elgin) – Six years ago we investigated and found multiple zoning and fraud violations on the part of Planned Parenthood when it secretly built up the first of its many new “mega-clinics” around the U.S. in Aurora, a growing suburb west of Chicago, IL. Hundreds of citizens protested and Planned Parenthood’s CEO called Aurora “Ground Zero in the nation’s fight against abortion rights.” The Mayor approved the final permit, despite evidence of multiple fatal law violations. We filed a big lawsuit, which one trial Judge after another treated like a hot potato, but which was dismissed last year on the phony ground that the Mayor’s grant of final permits was a “legislative decision” immune from strict judicial review. We appealed. Now the other side has obtained yet another extension of time to answer our appeal brief.
Protecting the Free Speech Rights of Pro-Life Sidewalk Counselors and Other Advocates:
Planned Parenthood v. Brian Westbrook and Rita Sparrow (St. Louis, MO) – The City of St. Louis brought baseless criminal charges against peaceful pro-lifers for exercising their First Amendment rights outside the local Planned Parenthood. The City charged Brian Westbrook, coordinator of 40 Days for Life in St. Louis, with “False Advertising,” because he held a sign advertising free ultrasounds but wasn’t actually providing them himself. Incredibly, the City claimed that, since the ultrasound van was across the street, Westbrook’s sign was “misleading” and “deceptive.” Rita Sparrow, a veteran sidewalk counselor, was charged with “littering” because she had a folding chair holding up her sign—even though she was standing by the chair at all times while sidewalk counseling near the clinic driveway. Thomas More Society retained special counsel in St. Louis who, together with Tom Brejcha, defended the First Amendment rights of these innocent pro-lifers. The Judge threw out both charges, acknowledging that the City was stretching both ordinances far beyond their breaking points.
Planned Parenthood v. Kathy Forck (Columbia, MO) – Kathy Forck, 40 Days for Life coordinator for central Missouri and a veteran sidewalk counselor, approached a Stericycle truck driver who was leaving the Planned Parenthood abortion mill in Columbia, MO, to offer him a water bottle back in July of 2012. Planned Parenthood claimed that Kathy had trespassed onto their property, immediately called the police, and had her arrested. We retained special counsel Daniel Baker of Sedalia, MO, and arranged for an aggressive defense of these spurious charges. At trial in July 2014, the Judge dismissed the charge as baseless, pointing out that the Planned Parenthood videotape showed no trespass! Owing to Kathy’s and others’ steadfast witness at this facility, the Columbia Planned Parenthood has lost its license to provide abortions.
Planned Parenthood v. Peggy McGinty (Sioux City, IA) – On a very cold morning last December, veteran sidewalk counselor Peggy McGinty was ill and couldn’t stand outside Planned Parenthood to offer sidewalk counseling to abortion-bound women. But as she puts it, “I don’t want the babies to die alone.” Peggy drove to Planned Parenthood to see if it was open before she called sidewalk counselors to take her place. There were no “No Trespassing” signs posted. However, as she entered the parking lot to turn around, the Planned Parenthood security guard zoomed out in his car from behind the building, blocking her exit. He called the police and lied to them that she was a repeat offender. Peggy was arrested and charged with criminal trespass. Martin Cannon of Thomas More Society-Omaha prepared to defend Peggy at trial, but the case was dismissed when Planned Parenthood’s witness failed to appear.
Burrell v. Coatney (MI Court of Appeals, Detroit) – Chris Coatney, a veteran sidewalk counselor in Detroit, was saddled with a second year-long “stay away” order from the Detroit abortion provider he has peaceably picketed for several years, arguing against the “genocide” of so many African-American abortions. An earlier stay away order was based on lying testimony, of which we found videotaped proof. A second such order was entered, and we’ve appealed, retaining special counsel Professor Pat Gillen of Ave Maria to file our opening and reply brief. We await advice from the Michigan Court of Appeals if and when there will be an oral argument. The ruling against Coatney was laughably biased. For example, the Judge relied on the facility manager’s testimony that she was “afraid” of Coatney because, when he was attacked physically and knocked down to the ground, he didn’t retaliate when he got back up!
Defending a Sidewalk Counselor in Huntsville, Alabama (AL) – A bogus charge of disorderly conduct was filed by abortion proprietors in Huntsville, AL. The Thomas More Society found and retained a tough criminal defense lawyer, who remains poised to defend this case when the young man charged with the crime recovers from an illness at his home in North Carolina and is able to return to Huntsville for trial.
Keltner v. Dan Miller (WI Court of Appeals, Milwaukee) – We’ve defended a series of similar attempts to secure a “stay away” injunction against Dan Miller, the coordinator of 40 Days for Life in Milwaukee. At the last hearing, the Trial Judge bought clinic escort Keltner’s bogus testimony. The Judge ordered Miller to stay away from the clinic – silencing his baby-saving advocacy for life – whenever Keltner is there. Keltner now comes more often and at increasingly random times, which we believe is his petty revenge against Miller, since Miller must leave whenever Keltner arrives. As a result, we plan to move for a “stay away” order against Keltner as well, to limit his ability to interfere with Miller’s efforts to sidewalk counsel outside the facility. We’re also appealing to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals from Miller’s stay away order. We do not concede such manifest instances of injustice. Meanwhile, Keltner just tried to have Miller held in contempt for violating the stay away order, but it was a set-up, and the try was rejected.
Defending Pro-Lifers in Wyoming (WY) – Partnering again with special counsel Rebecca Messall of Denver, we are suing to protect the First Amendment rights of pro-life protesters in Jackson, WY, who were lawlessly ordered to discontinue their peaceable, lawful protest in Jackson’s Town Square.
Protecting Pro-Life Media (IL) – We successfully defended the Illinois Review, a conservative Internet magazine when they were baselessly sued for libel. We won a dismissal of the case, but the Plaintiffs appealed. We won that appeal before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Defending Pro-Life Blogger in South Russell, Ohio (OH) – An angry physician in South Russell, OH, persuaded the local prosecutor to bring criminal “cyberstalking” charges against a pro-life blogger, “Coupon Ken” Parker. Parker had posted on his blog a video of a pro-life protest against the physician who was preparing to lease out an office in his shopping center to another physician who referred to abortions and prescribed abortion pills. We moved to dismiss the case, submitting First Amendment expert Professor Eugene Volokh’s law review article on the topic in support of our motion. In his article, Volokh argues forcefully that such cyberstalking laws must apply only to speech directed at one person, not to newsy blogs like Parker’s which inform the world. When the elderly Parker took ill after suffering a stroke, the case was dropped on “humanitarian” grounds.
Defending Pro-Life Protesters in Columbus, Ohio (OH) – We’re helping pro-life lawyer Tom Condit of Cincinnati defend a civil case brought against pro-life activists in Columbus, OH. The trial court held that the pro-lifers had trespassed when standing on the grassy area next to the paved portion of an old Ohio road, established back in 1810. The Judge forbade the pro-lifers from picketing there any longer. But despite a wealth of old county records that challenge his order, it does not appear that the Judge will budge, and so we may have to appeal.
Upholding Freedom of Religion:
Promoting & Defending Nativity Scenes Nationally (including IL, FL, GA, RI, TX, WI) – The Thomas More Society and the American Nativity Scene Committee have partnered with local groups throughout America to defend against unconstitutional bans on privately sponsored and funded Christian Christmas displays in traditional and designated public forums. We have helped citizens exercise their religious liberties when public officials attempt to violate their First Amendment rights. In Springfield, we have secured permits to display a Nativity Scene in the Rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol for the last six years. In Arlington Heights, IL, a Park Board featured a display of dancing elves, a spinning bear, a lighted Christmas tree, and Santa with his sleigh. But park authorities refused a privately sponsored Nativity Scene until we intervened and threatened a lawsuit. Each year, Thomas More Society has defended the constitutional rights of private citizens to sponsor religious displays in public forums such as state capitols, parks, and local city halls around the country. So far this year we’ve won permits for new nativity scenes in Atlanta, GA, and Austin, TX. We’ve also been heartened to hear that Chicago’s new Archbishop, Blase Cupich, will attend the opening ceremony for this year’s Nativity Scene on Chicago’s Daley Plaza.
Easter Religious Displays and Ceremony in Chicago (IL) – Each year, we underwrite the display of a 10-foot tall image of Jesus the Divine Mercy and a 14-foot wooden cross on Daley Plaza in Chicago, where we have also arranged over the last six years for an interdenominational Easter Dawn service.
Filing Suit for Approval of Choose Life License Plates in Wisconsin (WI) – We are preparing a new federal lawsuit to challenge Wisconsin’s recent refusal to approve a new Choose Life specialty license plate, despite the fact that Wisconsin has approved plates promoting children’s well-being and women’s health. Americans should be permitted to express their pro-life views on specialty license plates in every state, including Wisconsin.
Securing Freedom of Religion at County Fairs (IL, WI) – The leaders of the Lake County, IL, and Walworth County, WI, Fairs denied display booth permits to a Catholic pro-life group because of their displaying fetal models of unborn babies. By preparing and threatening to file administrative charges of religious bias with Illinois and Wisconsin civil rights agencies, we won reversals from administrators at both Fairs, who agreed to grant the permits for the pro-life booths to be displayed.
Other Cases We Have Been Trying and Defending:
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Inc., et al v. Iowa Board of Medicine (IA) – Matt Heffron and Christine Delgado, along with Martin Cannon, of Thomas More Society-Omaha, submitted valuable and extensive research to Iowa’s Attorney General and his designated Assistant Attorney General to defend against Planned Parenthood’s attack on the Iowa Board of Medicine’s 2013 ban of webcam abortions. Webcam abortions allowed a woman to take abortion-inducing drugs (resulting in a “chemical” abortion) after a mere video consultation from a remote location—in defiance of FDA protocols—without being physically examined by a doctor before or after the procedure. The TMS attorneys provided constitutional research for the Assistant Attorney General and also prepared and filed their own amicus curiae brief to the Court. These efforts significantly contributed to the judge upholding the ban in August 2014. But an appeal has been taken up to the Iowa Supreme Court, which recently reinstated a “stay” or suspension of the trial judge’s order banning the telemed abortion procedure. A deadline for filing of briefs in support of the ban on webcam abortions has been set for late November, 2014. This critical case thus remains a focal point of grave concern for pro-lifers everywhere, as Iowa is just a test case for spreading chemical abortion everywhere!
Defending ACLU Attacks against Illinois Parental Notice Law (IL) – Illinois’ long-delayed Parental Notice of Abortion Act finally went into effect in August 2013, after years of work by Thomas More Society former special counsel Paul Linton and staff attorneys. The parental notice of abortion law was initially passed in Illinois in 1995, but the ACLU repeatedly challenged the law’s constitutionality, freezing the law in the courts so that it could not be enforced. Thomas More Society intervened, however, and its appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court was entertained, along with the Attorney General’s appeal. Against the claims of the ACLU, the Court held that the Illinois constitution does not bar the law’s requirement that a parent or guardian must be notified at least 48 hours before a minor girl has an abortion. With the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act now being enforced, Illinois can no longer be a “fugitive” abortion state—a “dumping ground” for out-of-state minors’ abortions.
Helping to Close the Rockford “House of Horrors” Abortion Mill (IL): We helped force closure of the notorious Rockford, IL, abortion facility, whose owner continually harassed pro-life sidewalk counselors and put horrible and anti-religious displays (such as rubber chickens hanging from nooses, a nun doll in a casket pierced by a pin) in his windows. We filed and followed up on complaints with the Illinois regulators who hadn’t inspected the site for over a decade. We also defended a long series of misdemeanor complaints, none of which ended up in convictions, against sidewalk counselors.
Philip Hall v. Walgreens (TN) – Asked to defend a pharmacist whom Walgreens let go in TN, we have retained and newly partnered with Attorney Larry Crain, of Nashville, TN, who was trial counsel for Operation Rescue alongside Thomas More Society’s Tom Brejcha during the infamous NOW v. Scheidler trial back in 1998. Walgreens fired Mr. Hall rather than try to accommodate his religious objections to preparing abortifacient prescriptions (i.e., the so-called “morning after” pill). We filed a federal lawsuit in Nashville, which is still pending.
Suing the City of Chicago to Get Rid of its Unconstitutional Buffer/Bubble Zone Law (IL) – We’ve retained Michael DePrimo, who brought suit for Ms. McCullen – the plaintiff who won a ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Boston’s buffer zone law – along with Steve Crampton, to help us file another major federal lawsuit to have the city of Chicago’s buffer/bubble zone ordinance, as well as its unlawful assembly ordinance, declared unconstitutional, as applied, in violation of the First Amendment. Police enforcement of this ordinance is unpredictable at best, and an affront to constitutional rights on the public sidewalks around Chicago’s abortion facilities. The ordinance is now an especially ripe target for attack in the wake of the unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of Ms. McCullen to bring down the Boston buffer zone as unconstitutional.
Suing in Defense of the Annual Face the Truth Tour (MD) – Maryland State Police arrested Face the Truth tour participants after complaints over the content of pro-life signs (amounting to an illegal “hecklers’ veto” of free speech). Police then conducted invasive strip searches of female participants within view of arrested males and held those arrested for many hours, detaining some for excessive overnight jailing. Police phone and radio call transcripts obtained by the Thomas More Society revealed hostile comments including that the pro-lifers should be left to “rot in jail.” A successful settlement was reached with almost all the Maryland officials cited in the complaint, to help ensure that pro-lifers’ First Amendment Rights are respected by public officials in the future.
Defending Truth Tours and “Truth Truck” in North Dakota (ND) – We’ve been summoned to defend a pro-life “truth truck” and also a “truth tour” under attack in Williston, ND, where authorities are actually prosecuting pro-lifers for their public advocacy on behalf of the sanctity of human life. Pro-lifer Rob Rudnick was driving his “truth truck” with photos of unborn babies and aborted babies in Williston, ND when he was arrested and had his truck impounded because of the pro-life content. Two other pro-lifers were also threatened with arrest if they did not agree to keep their “truth trucks” out of the city until after the election on November 4th, when North Dakotans voted on a pro-life amendment to their constitution. We’re challenging the city’s actions as blatantly unconstitutional and in violation of the pro-lifers’ free speech rights. Rudnick is scheduled for a criminal jury trial in mid-February, 2015.
Defending the “Notre Dame 88” (IN) – In May 2009, Christians were arrested for peaceably praying on Notre Dame’s campus in protest of the University’s commencement honors bestowed on President Obama. The Thomas More Society retained Tom Dixon, former IN prosecutor, to take lead of the case. We spent nearly two years vigorously defending the pro-life advocates (the “Notre Dame 88”) against trespass charges, eventually negotiating and persuading the prosecutor (and the complaining witness, Notre Dame) to dismiss all charges. The University even acknowledged the defendants’ “deep commitment” to the value of life.
Defending Pro-Life Attorney Tom Dixon against Spurious Discipline Charges (IN) – Tom Dixon, the special counsel whom we retained in Indiana to defend nearly all of the Notre Dame 88, moved to “recuse” the first Judge assigned to hear all their cases on the grounds that
- her husband was a retired Notre Dame professor, who still had economic and other ties to Notre Dame, the complaining witness in all these cases, and
- that she had ruled against pro-life demonstrators in an earlier case in South Bend in a manner that reflected personal bias against the pro-life position.
The Judge initially denied Dixon’s motion, insisting that he had not made enough of a showing that she was biased. But then she stepped down voluntarily, while firing a volley of charges against Dixon for alleged unethical behavior. The Indiana ethics prosecutor convened a hearing, after which he recommended that Dixon be suspended from law practice for several months. We retained as special counsel leading ethics lawyers in Indiana and, with them, we filed briefs challenging this recommendation as legally baseless. The Indiana Supreme Court agreed, ruling in Dixon’s favor, finding that his actions in aggressively defending the interests of our clients were entirely justified and proper.
Suing in Madison, WI, to Allow Showing of “Blood Money” Film (WI) – We filed a federal lawsuit in Madison, WI, against Marathon County Library (WI) officials when they cancelled a planned showing of Blood Money, a pro-life movie about the business of abortion. The library director determined the movie could not be viewed in the library’s “public meeting rooms” because the film’s topic (abortion) would “interfere with the normal use of the library.” On the eve of an emergency injunction hearing in federal court, library officials agreed to allow the showing.
Defending Denver FACE Lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice (CO) – The U.S. Attorney General filed a civil complaint against pro-life advocate Ken Scott, claiming he violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (“FACE”). Ken was charged by Attorney General Eric Holder with “physical obstruction” against patients and staff attempting to enter and exit the Planned Parenthood mega-clinic in Denver. Holder claimed that Ken was “obstructing” other traffic when women chose to slow down or stop their cars to speak with Ken and receive literature from him. If convicted, Ken could have faced a $10,000 fine and even up to a year in a federal penitentiary. Thomas More Society blocked the government’s attempt to get a preliminary injunction. When the Judge warned that the government was likely to lose at trial and that he would consider imposing monetary sanctions on the Government prosecutors in that event, the government dropped the case entirely.
Defending against the Lawsuit Charging Illinois Marriage as Unconstitutional (IL) – Over a period of almost a year, we intervened on behalf of five Illinois County Clerks to defend the Illinois Marriage Law against concerted attacks by the ACLU and Lambda Legal, who charged in separate, consolidated lawsuits—backed by Chicago’s major corporate law firms—that traditional marriage between a man and a woman violated the Illinois Constitution. We filed a motion to dismiss the case, and the Judge granted our motion as to three of the plaintiffs’ five charges. The plaintiffs then filed a massive motion for summary judgment, backed by a stack of purported “expert” affidavits, detailing how same-sex marriage was equivalent to traditional marriage in terms of effect on children, etc. We were gearing up to respond to this massive assault on our traditional institution of marriage when the Illinois General Assembly rather abruptly changed gears and voted to amend the Marriage Law to permit same-sex marriages. Thus the lawsuit became moot, and had to be dismissed.
Defending Christian Activist who Supported a Mother’s Rights (VA, VT) – Christian activist Linda Wall criticized a court order which would have forced a mother to give custody of her nine year old girl to a lesbian activist. To escape the court order, the mother fled with her daughter to Central America, and Ms. Wall was accused of being in conspiracy with the mother. Our motion to dismiss the case against Ms. Wall was denied, and the case remains pending in federal court.
Charging Gross Negligence in the Death of Tonya Reaves (IL) – A bright, young, African-American woman died as a result of a botched abortion at a Chicago Planned Parenthood abortion facility. Her autopsy showed she died of massive bleeding, hours after the procedure, and yet 911 call records revealed that Planned Parenthood did not even call an ambulance to rush Ms. Reaves to the hospital. By the time she was finally taken to the hospital, hours after the botched abortion, it was too late to save her life. We filed an administrative charge with the Illinois professional regulators, and we continue to press for discipline of Planned Parenthood’s severe misconduct.
Defending Pregnancy Resource Center in Baltimore (MD) – The Archdiocese of Baltimore sued the city of Baltimore over an unconstitutional ordinance requiring pregnancy resource centers to list services they do not offer, such as abortion. The city responded by requiring all pregnancy centers in the area to produce a burdensome amount of documents, which would require hundreds of hours and expense to produce. A very small pregnancy center, run for years by pro-life volunteers, asked us for help. We retained the services of Rob Showers, president-elect of the Christian Legal Society, to help them fend off the city’s heavy hand.
Defending Pregnancy Resource Center in Missouri (MO) –With special counsel Daniel Baker of central Missouri, we’re helping a pregnancy resource center fight an unjust, unconstitutional investigation by Missouri authorities that would severely infringe the privacy of the pregnancy center and its clients. If the investigation proceeds, it would undermine the confidentiality of the pregnancy center’s clients and could severely hinder the efforts of its staff to help women choose life and save babies from abortion. We’ve already won the first step in this case, as our motion to suppress the state’s overbroad subpoena has been granted.
Defending Against IRS Harassment of Pro-Life Organizations (IL, IA, FL, MO, VA, TX) – At the request of Peoria, IL-based Congressman Aaron Schock, Thomas More Society drafted two Congressional Memos about IRS harassment of pro-life groups, totaling over 500 pages of analysis and evidence. These memos were presented before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means in June 2013. Thomas More Society uncovered this evidence through defending six pro-life groups whose tax exempt, 501(c)(3) status had been unlawfully denied or delayed by IRS officials, simply because of their pro-life position. One Thomas More Society client, Susan Martinek of Coalition for Life of Iowa, testified before the House Committee on Ways and Means about how the IRS had harassed her organization, demanding, for example, that its directors sign sworn pledges that they would never engage in demonstrations against Planned Parenthood, as a condition of securing their tax exemption (to which they were legally entitled). The Thomas More Society is still securing tax exemptions for new pro-life groups (see below).
Building Pro-Life Infrastructure Across the United States:
Organizing, Protecting, and Securing Pro-Life and Pro-Family Organizations – Thomas More Society has retained an ace non-profit tax lawyer, Sally Wagenmaker, whose law firm, Wagenmaker & Oberly, has functioned as our corporate and non-profit tax law section. They help us provide corporate and tax law services for a host of new pro-life, pro-family, and religious liberty non-profit organizations all over the United States. Giving these groups strong legal standing and infrastructure, we assist them in striking down deep roots to provide them with resilience and to protect against attacks from hostile opponents. The groups that Thomas More Society has supported include:
- Americans for Freedom of Religion (NY): Dedicated to promoting and educating citizens about the importance of religious liberty and the threats to undermine it. AFR’s mission is to inspire and educate Americans of their freedom to obey God both in private worship and in public.
- Catholic Witnesses, Inc. and Catholics Called to Witness (FL): 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations dedicated to upholding and promoting religious liberty, protecting life in all its stages, recognizing and promoting marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and protecting the right of parents to raise and educate their children. Catholic Witnesses also produces powerful, short films to promote the values of life, marriage, and religious liberty. Their 2012 short film Test of Fire generated over 2 million hits on Youtube. They are now preparing to release their newest film Sing a Little Louder, which compares the Jewish Holocaust of World War II with the abortion holocaust of today.
- Central New York Coalition for Life (NY): A grassroots organization dedicated to promoting pro-life efforts through prayer, education, and community collaboration.
- Cherish Life Ministries: An organization that assists and supports churches and communities across the United States in creating ongoing Life Ministries by providing internet marketing technology, pro-life resources and educational materials, and support forums.
- Christian Voices for Life of Fort Bend County (TX): A prayer ministry dedicated to peacefully promoting the sanctity of life by educating the community and encouraging and equipping pastors to share the truth about abortion to their congregations.
- Cleveland Right to Life Educational Fund (OH): One of the largest pro-life organizations in the State of Ohio, the goal of CRLEF is to restore legal protection to innocent human life at all stages. They also promote chastity and stable environments within which to nurture children, and work with those who share a common desire to preserve the sanctity of life.
- Coalition for Life of Iowa (IA): An organization that promotes respect for human life from fertilization until natural death through prayer, education, and raising awareness, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
- Eve’s Hope (FL): A relatively new crisis pregnancy organization in Palmetto Bay, FL, serving the Miami-Dade County area. Its leaders are seeking funding for a new pregnancy resource center, which will provide comprehensive free services including pregnancy tests, ultrasound examinations, educational programs, referrals for medical services, adoption services, legal and financial assistance, and other practical assistance. By opening the doors of its pregnancy resource center, Eve’s Hope’s goal is to serve 500 to 1,000 women each year.
- Gulf Coast Storks (FL): A faith-based Christian organization that promotes the sanctity of life through provision of free pregnancy tests, sonogram exams, peer counseling, and pregnancy center referrals to pregnant women in underserved communities. GCS operates a mobile ultrasound unit for crisis pregnancies in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, and Lee counties on Florida’s west coast.
- Iraqi Christian Relief (international): Juliana Taimoorazy, a Christian immigrant from Iran, heard the cry of her persecuted brethren in Iraq, and formed Iraqi Christian Relief in response. The organization currently helps provide humanitarian resources for 40,000 Christian refugees who have been displaced from their homes by Muslim ISIS extremists.
- Law of Life Summit, Inc. (IL, DC, CA): A national public charity that seeks to collaboratively educate and promote recognition of the intrinsic value of all human life, through fostering public discussion on the moral, spiritual, and philosophical issues related to the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. Gatherings of pro-life groups are held annually in January in both Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, California.
- Life House Ireland (IRELAND): An American public charity dedicated to protecting and preserving the sanctity of life using the Irish pro-life model.
- Live Action Advocates (DC): A 501(c)(4) organization dedicated to pro-life lobbying work in connection with Lila Rose’s and Live Action’s charitable efforts.
- Mahoning Valley Health (OH): A public charity that successfully purchased an Ohio abortion clinic in order to convert it into a memorial park celebrating life.
- National Lawyers Association (CO-National): A Denver-based professional association of lawyers dedicated to promoting Biblical marriage, sanctity of life, and the constitutional rule of law in the United States.
- New Jersey Right to Life Foundation (NJ): A state, non-profit, grassroots organization dedicated to protecting and fostering the most basic value of our society—human life. They promote, uphold, and support reverence and respect for all innocent human life from conception to natural death, without regard to condition, or circumstances of conception, quality, age, race, religion, creed, or color, whether born or pre-born.
- Peter and Paul Ministries: A Catholic ministry dedicated to aiding parishes, dioceses, and other Catholic institutions in their catechetical ministry through retreats, Bible studies, social media, and E-Ministry, so as to further the Kingdom of God on Earth.
- Personhood Education New York, Inc. (NY): A public charity dedicated to education on the civil and human rights of all human beings, in order to promote their protection as full persons under the law. Their mission is also to address New York’s abortion pandemic. For example, in 2012, approximately one abortion for every 2.4 live births occurred in New York, and the ratio rose as high as 4 abortions for every 5 live births in some counties. The abortion statistics skew sharply along racial lines, with non-Hispanic blacks having more induced abortions than live births. Data further suggests that socio-economic disparities contribute greatly to New York’s large number of abortions.
- The Pomegranate Library (NJ): An organization that advances the Gospel of Jesus Christ through collecting, translating, and freely distributing Biblical and other religious materials to missionaries and others dedicated to winning souls for Christ.
- Pray for Life Center (NH): A New Hampshire ministry dedicated to promoting the sanctity of life in the public square through prayer, education, and Christian charity to all.
- Save the 1 (MI): A Detroit-based national organization that seeks to educate everyone of why pre-born children should be protected and accepted by society, without exception and without compromise. In addition, Save the 1 seeks to educate pro-life advocates, leaders, and clergy on how to articulate a proper defense of children conceived in rape or incest, as well as those with special needs.
- Shining Light, NFP (IL): A Chicagoland ministry dedicated to helping women and families overcome barriers to self-sufficiency.
- Southside Pregnancy Center (IL): A Chicagoland crisis pregnancy center that provides Christ-centered crisis pregnancy aid, offering help and hope to people affected by unplanned pregnancies and promoting sexual purity in order to preserve life.
- Tabor Life Institute (IL): A public charity that specializes in compassionately yet forthrightly bringing honesty, clarity, and perspective to the most controversial and delicate issues related to the entire experience of human sexuality.
- Texas Center for Defense of Life (TX): A public charity dedicated to providing legal representation and support in Texas and federal courts to protect and defend the sanctity of life from conception through natural death.
- The Theology of Dance Institute (IL): An organization dedicated to teaching the art of dancing, especially the art of partner dancing, to develop and provide a profound and mystical framework for building relationships and Christian virtues like chastity and modesty. The Institute teaches in the spirit of the Theology of the Body by John Paul II.
- Traditions of Roman Catholic Homes, Inc. (IL, MD): A corporate governance organization that seeks to enrich the homeschool experience of Catholic families in the United States.
- UVAQ Mexican University (IL): A new branch of a famous old Mexican Catholic University, The University Vasco De Quiroga (UVAQ), in connection with the Quiroga Institute of Chicago, currently leasing space for its first international campus in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.
- Wakiso Hope Project (Uganda, Africa): A public charity organized and operated to do charitable works in accordance with Catholic teachings, particularly to reflect Jesus’ concern for the poor, to help those in spiritual and bodily need, and to promote Godly justice. More particularly, its mission is to provide Ugandan children with schools, housing, and other assistance they need to thrive and grow.
Providing Research Support for Pro-Life Initiatives:
We are also called upon to engage in legal research efforts to provide lasting benefits to pro-life advocates. Thus we underwrote the research and writing by former special counsel Paul Linton of successive editions of a comprehensive treatise on state constitutional rights to abortion, entitled Abortion Under State Constitutions.
This year our intern, Christina Cook, drafted a lengthy article describing state laws pertaining to burial of miscarried infants. If no publisher is found for this great work, we will undertake to publish it. Already it proved instrumental in securing passage of a new law in Indiana, Christina’s home state, mandating hospitals to give timely notice to parents of miscarried infants of their right to have their child buried.
We are also now requested to provide legal support and analysis for diagnoses of what has become known as “shaken baby syndrome” in the face of efforts to discredit that diagnosis, by resort to what is disparagingly—and properly—called junk science. Children need protection.
Daily we receive requests for help. We continue to try to expand our ability to provide vital legal support to the pro-family movement, which has proven to be a “growth industry” in which we are engaged!