Thomas More Society Client, Sidewalk Counselor David Schmidt, Acquitted of Battery!

On July 25, 2017, Thomas More Society Special Counsel Martin Cannon was victorious in a jury trial on charges brought against David Schmidt, a 74 year old blind, peaceful sidewalk counselor who was standing vigil outside the abortion clinic formerly run by late term abortionist George Tiller.  Schmidt was charged with battery after he defended himself when a clinic escort tried to steal his sign.  Schmidt is one of many sidewalk counselors who volunteer their time to the Kansas Coalition for Life. Using signs owned by the Coalition, about 75 volunteers rotate through the hours to provide a constant presence at the notorious abortion facility. Their purpose is to pray for and offer assistance to abortion-minded women entering the clinic who might be inclined to keep their babies if offered support and encouragement.

The charges arose after a clinic security guard approached Mr. Schmidt’s sign, which had been positioned on the ground near Schmidt, and announced his intention to take it. Schmidt physically resisted the guard’s effort and was charged with assault. A judge ruled the guard had no right to interfere with Schmidt’s sign, and that Schmidt had the right to use reasonable physical force in defense of it. The jury found that Schmidt’s use of force was, in fact, reasonable. As a result, David Schmidt was acquitted – another victory for the Thomas More Society – and for life!

Thomas More Society attorney Martin Cannon who defended Schmidt says, “This is a wakeup call to clinic escorts and the entire abortion industry that the Thomas More Society will not stand idly by when sidewalk counselors are mistreated.”

 

 

 

 

Thomas More Society’s Pro-Life Doctors, Pregnancy Centers Protected from Required Abortion Referrals

Federal Court Halts Illinois Abortion Mandate

Thomas OlpOn July, 21, 2017, Thomas More Society has stepped into the fray over recent Illinois conscience legislation by suing Illinois state officials on behalf of over twenty pro-life pregnancy resource centers and pro-life physicians. The litigation is over P.A. 99-690, also known as SB 1564, an Illinois law which forces pregnancy care centers and doctors to promote abortion regardless of their ethical or moral views. Enforcement of that mandate has now been halted by a federal court.  A July 19, 2017 preliminary injunction order by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois declared that P.A. 99-690, “targets the free speech rights of people who have a specific viewpoint.”

The preliminary injunction was issued in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates et al v. Rauner et al and is a general prohibition on enforcement of the law in Illinois.  It thereby provides the same relief for the plaintiffs in the Thomas More Society case, Dr. Ronald L. Schroeder et al v. Rauner et al., and in consolidated state actions the Thomas More Society filed in Sangamon County, IL earlier this year.  These cases are continuing since the preliminary injunction order will be superseded by a permanent order when the case has been finally adjudicated.

Thomas Olp, an attorney for the Thomas More Society, explained that the suspended law is actually an amendment to the existing Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act. According to both cases, it violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution. “Our clients, which include Dr. Ronald L. Schroeder, 1st Way Life Center, and Pregnancy Aid South Suburbs, and around twenty other pregnancy centers in Illinois, provide pro bono medical care, emotional and material resources to women in crisis pregnancy situations. Their efforts are inspired by their religious faith, which precludes them from counseling about the supposed benefits of abortion or referring clients to abortion providers. This now suspended law required them to do just that, and could have exposed them to discrimination, sanctions, and liability if they did not comply. We are pleased that the court saw fit to prohibit enforcement of this unconstitutional law.”

Read the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois preliminary injunction Order issued July 19, 2017 in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates et al v. Rauner et al here.

Read the Dr. Ronald L. Schroeder et al v. Rauner et al. Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief filed by the Thomas More Society in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois on March 16, 2017, here.

 

Another Success in the Nebraska Legislature

Another session of the Nebraska legislature has ended.  And the Thomas More Society attorneys have been very active and successful – particularly behind the scenes – in protecting faith-filled Nebraskans’ rights to live according to their consciences.  

LB 173:   Political Coercion, not Anti-Discrimination Protection.    

For a third year in a row, Thomas More Society-Omaha attorneys have played a key role in defeating a dangerous bill disguised as a nondiscrimination law.  If passed, LB 173 would have enshrined LGBT status as one of very few protected classes. It would have given LGBT people privileged rights to force any employer to defend itself against expensive “discrimination” law suits.  LB 173 also would have threatened many other businesses with lawsuits as well, since it also affected “public accommodations” (virtually any business open to the public).  LB 173 did not even provide a meaningful exemption for religious organizations such as Christian churches or Catholic schools and parishes.

Protected class status is a drastic legal approach, historically reserved only for widespread, institutionalized and demonstrable discrimination … as had been the case with racial discrimination in America when race was added as a protected class in the 1960s. Yet there does not seem to be a single serious report claiming statistically verifiable discrimination against LGBT people. (See Ryan Anderson, “How to Think About SOGI Policies and Religious Freedom,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, 2-13-17, at 6-7.)  In the years the issue has been presented before the Nebraska legislature, not a single report has been presented concerning statistics on discrimination against LGBT people.  There have been extremely few unverified anecdotes or allegations of discrimination.

Since there has been no showing whatsoever of any need to enshrine LGBT as a protected class, LB 173 apparently is intended purely to make a political statement:  an attempt to coerce all Nebraskans to genuflect to a trending LGBT political ideology. Repeated votes have shown this ideology to be morally unacceptable to most Nebraskans.

The Thomas More Society’s Response

Proponents of LB 173 claim the bill has to do with eliminating discrimination. Whether some or many of the proponents believe that, a strong coalition of Nebraskans — including many state Senators — realized early that the bill has little to do with correcting discrimination, but everything to do with coercion.

The Thomas More Society worked closely with the Nebraska Catholic Conference and Nebraskans for Founders’ Values, as well as with the Nebraska Family Alliance.  

For the second legislative session, the Thomas More Society drafted the key legal analysis of the bill, pointing out the significant legal weaknesses inherent in it. The TMS analysis was widely distributed to legislators and citizens. TMS attorney Matt Heffron testified before the Nebraska Senate Judiciary Committee and was interviewed in the press. TMS attorneys also participated on a tour of the Nebraska arranged by Nebraskans for Founders’ Values to present the legal analysis to various citizens’ groups.

A Difficult but Important Legislative Battle

This is a difficult fight for many reasons.  The proponents of this bill are backed by politically powerful, money-fueled interests, many from outside Nebraska. A number of national businesses have caved on this issue in liberal states and now tend to require subordinates elsewhere to toe the company line.  And the proponents of such bills often resort to labeling opponents as haters and bigots if they do not agree with the proponents’ particular political opinions. Even the targeted terms in the bill present a stumbling block for some:  none of us promotes unfair “discrimination.”  Media consistently misreports the bedrock issues involved.

Yet more than 50 % of states have resisted this coercion, despite such an onslaught of abuse.  Primarily liberal and economically underperforming states have caved to this ideology, a group  Nebraska should not emulate. Nebraska surprisingly seems to be a battleground for such issues, despite its large, active Catholic population, which works cohesively with other Christian and conservative groups: perhaps because, if Nebraska can be undermined, any state could.

One reason we are so diligent on bills like is because we know once they are passed, they would be extremely difficult – perhaps nearly impossible – to overturn.  It is one thing to oppose the granting of special preferences for a particular group of people.  But it is entirely another thing to remove them once granted.

Thomas More Society at the National Right to Life Convention

The Thomas More Society attended the annual National Right to Life Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from Thursday, June 29, 2017, through Saturday, July 2, 2017. This three-day event is an essential pro-life educational and training event where national experts on life issues gather to equip the pro-life grassroots with the knowledge and skills needed to advance the pro-life mission. Thomas More Society’s Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel, and Andy Bath, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, heard from influential keynote speakers, including Benjamin Shapiro and Thomas More Society client, David Daleiden. Tom and Andy met  with other clients and pro-life supporters, including Carol Tobias, President of National Right to Life, Tina Whittington, Executive Vice President of Thomas More Society client Students for Life of America, and Albin Rhomberg, Chairman of the Board for Center for Medical Progress.

Andy Bath (left), and Tom Brejcha (right), with Carol Tobias (center), President of National Right to Life.

Andy Bath (left), and Tom Brejcha (right) stand with speaker and client, David Daleiden (center).

Thomas More Society’s Reaction to Federal Judge Holding David Daleiden’s Criminal Defense Attorneys in Civil Contempt of Court

David Daleiden with Thomas More Society attorney Matt Heffon immediately outside the courtroom after Heffron and Paul Jonna defended David Daleiden in the contempt-of-court hearing in San Francisco

On July 11, 2017, the two criminal defense attorneys for undercover citizen journalist and pro-life hero, 28 year old David Daleiden, were found in civil contempt of the federal court in San Francisco, for having published videotapes of the National Abortion Federation annual meetings, held in 2014 and 2015, in violation of a preliminary injunction that had been entered by U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick.  That injunction had been affirmed by a three-Judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, sitting in San Francisco, and it will soon be petitioned for review by the U.S. Supreme Court as an unconstitutional censorship decree and a “prior restraint” on the free speech rights of Daleiden and his company, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP).

Daleiden’s criminal defense lawyers, who have appeared for him in the criminal felony prosecution brought by California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, include the former elected District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Steve Cooley, who served over a decade as head of the largest county prosecutor’s office in the U.S. and narrowly lost a statewide election for California Attorney General, to Becerra’s predecessor, Kamala Harris, as well as Cooley’s former chief assistant in the L.A. prosecutor’s office, Brentford Ferreira.  Ms. Harris is now California’s junior senator serving in Washington, D.C.

Cooley and Ferreira, who were themselves represented by L.A. attorney, Matt Geragos, argued that they had released and published the videos in good faith, believing the publication was needed to mount an effective defense of Daleiden against the 15 felony charges that Becerra filed against Daleiden last March.  Then Becerra charged that Daleiden and a partner had invaded the privacy rights of fourteen alleged anonymous “victims” in violation of the California Eavesdropping Law, which bans non-consensual surreptitious recording of private, confidential conversations which cannot be overheard by third parties.  But the defense lawyers argued that they could not adequately defend the charges as the undercover recordings showed that the defendants had numerous conversations with other persons and therefore they could not determine which conversations were pinpointed in Becerra’s felony charges.  Moreover, they argued that many conversations took place in public areas where numerous passersby may easily have overheard the alleged victims’ conversations.  Federal suppression of the videos’ contents, they argued, would thereby deprive Daleiden of a fair trial and fatally undermine the entire criminal prosecution.  They also argued that federalism concerns barred federal judicial interference with the state criminal process.

Judge Orrick is expected shortly to issue a written opinion, specifying whatever sanctions he may impose on the criminal defense lawyers, for which he said that Daleiden and CMP would be held jointly and severally liable as the criminal defense lawyers were acting as their agents.

Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Society, which has been underwriting Daleiden’s and CMP’s criminal defense, said, “Yet another appeal seems in order here, for as the L.A. Times editorialized, California’s felony criminal prosecution of these pro-life undercover journalists was a gross ‘overreach’ as two massive federal cases were already pending against them in Judge Orrick’s federal court. The pendency of simultaneous federal civil cases proceeding side-by-side with such a major state criminal prosecution of multiple felonies was bound to breed the most serious and grave complications, not to mention the miscarriage of justice.  Must the pro-lifers’ criminal defense lawyers seek prior federal permission before summoning or cross-examining prosecution witnesses, or introducing videos or other documentary evidence into the trial record?  Must the state court Judge, Hon. Christopher Hite, consult with the federal Judge, Hon. William Orrick, before ruling on objections to evidence?  And who is actually directing the criminal case, Attorney General Becerra, or the federal civil plaintiffs, the National Abortion Federation and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, who lobbied him and his predecessor, then Attorney General Kamala Harris, to bring these excessive felony charges?  We will carry on with efforts to see that justice is ultimately achieved in these troubling cases.”

Thomas More Society Files Lawsuit against School on Behalf of Pro-Life Students

Parkland High School and Parkland School District sued for violating students’ First Amendment rights

Thomas More Society has filed a lawsuit against Parkland High School and Parkland School District on behalf of students Elizabeth (Liz) Castro and Grace Schairer. The lawsuit, filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, claims that school administrators have violated Liz and Grace’s free speech rights by denying their application to form a Students for Life club at the school and then conditioning approval on the students giving up certain speech rights.

“Parkland’s initial denial and later attempt to impose extra requirements on Liz and Grace’s club are a far cry from the law’s requirement that schools treat student clubs equally in every respect,” said Jocelyn Floyd, special counsel for Thomas More Society. “We hope that the court will quickly recognize the illegal and unconstitutional way the school has treated Liz and Grace and require Parkland High School to uphold their rights under both the First Amendment and Equal Access Act.”

Liz Castro and Grace Schairer first approached the Parkland administration about starting Trojans for Life in September 2016.  After numerous meetings and submitting a formal club proposal, their club was denied in March for being too political and controversial.  Liz and Grace reached out for assistance to Students for Life of America (SFLA), a national organization that provides support to student pro-life clubs.

SFLA’s attorneys at the Thomas More Society sent a demand letter to the school and the school district, challenging the administrators’ denial of the club as a violation of the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The Society asked for the school to approve the club, giving it full access to the school’s established expressive forum, equal to all other clubs.

In response, the district said it would approve the club—but only if Elizabeth and Grace changed the club’s mission, abandoned certain activities, and gave up their rights to fundraise.  Far from treating Trojans for Life equally, these are demands that no other clubs are required to meet.

“The school is treating us like second-class citizens because we want to create a culture of life and be a positive influence to our peers,” said Grace Schairer, who will be a senior this coming fall at Parkland High School.  “We want to educate our fellow students about abortion and at the same time be a visible resource for our peers facing unplanned pregnancies.  The school has made it clear that it will not allow us to have this type of club, so we decided to file the lawsuit.  We are hoping for a quick resolution so Trojans for Life can hit the ground running at the start of the fall semester, along with all the other clubs at Parkland High School.”

“Holding pro-life views and wanting to create a culture of life on campus is not grounds for the blatant discrimination shown by school administrators,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America.  “It is our hope that Parkland High School swiftly allows the Students for Life at the school the same rights granted to every other group on campus.”

The Thomas More Society’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania with assistance from local co-counsel Christopher G. Sweet of the American Catholic Lawyers Association, Inc., asks for the court to order Parkland School District to approve Trojans for Life with the rights and privileges granted to all other clubs.

Read Thomas More Society’s complaint here.

 

Thomas More Society Continues to Defend The Rights of Sidewalk Counselors

Martin Cannon, Thomas More Society attorney, has been busy defending sidewalk counselors across the country, including defending the rights of sidewalk counselors from New Mexico, Connecticut, Texas, South Dakota, Kansas, Alabama and Maryland:

• Albuquerque, New Mexico: A Planned Parenthood official informed sidewalk counselors that it was “illegal” for sidewalk counselors to reach over the clinic fence for the purpose of handing information to a woman who reached out for the information. Thomas More Society carefully examined the site and advised the sidewalk counselors on how to handle this situation in the future.

• Stamford, Connecticut: Sidewalk counselors were told by local police that each counselor must wear a large badge identifying herself as pro-life before approaching prospective listeners. The counselors were also threatened with arrest if the driver of a vehicle passing the clinic or pulling into the clinic parking lot stopped her vehicle to talk to a counselor. After examining federal precedent and Connecticut law, attorney, Martin Cannon, traveled to Stamford and met with sidewalk counselors. Cannon personally viewed the clinic site in question and held a meeting with the Stamford police chief and his top two deputies to correct the problem. The law enforcement officers agreed with the Thomas More Society.  Thomas More Society’s clients stated Cannon’s visit, “was a great help” as “no further incidents have been reported since you met with local officials.”

• Lewisville, Texas: Sidewalk counselors were advised by police that stepping onto the clinic entrances where they crossed the public sidewalk was forbidden. Thomas More Society examined the site, reviewed local laws, and advised the clients of their clear right of use to the sidewalk.

• Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Similar to the case in Texas, the sidewalk counselors in Sioux Falls were informed by the police that they were not allowed to signal or wave to people driving by to stop their vehicles and were not allowed to approach cars stopped in the ‘public right-of-way’ at the clinic entrance to talk to the sidewalk counselors. After examining federal precedent and   South Dakota law and viewing the clinic site, attorney Martin Cannon, contacted the police captain in charge of the area and advised him of the sidewalk counselors’  right to the use of the public property at the clinic entrances. There have been no further reports of problems at that site.

• Wichita, Kansas: Thomas More Society client, David Schmidt, is an elderly sidewalk counselor who is almost entirely blind. A clinic security guard approached Schmidt’s sign, which had been positioned on the ground near Schmidt, and announced his intention to take the sign. Schmidt physically resisted the guard’s effort and was charged with assault. Thomas More Society has been actively defending Schmidt and will try the case before a Kansas jury beginning July 24, 2017.

Also in Wichita, Kansas, abortionist Julie Burkhart obtained a temporary protection order against pro-life pastor Mark Holick. Burkhart sought to extend the protection order for two years, but when called upon to prove the allegations upon which she based the requested protection order, she abruptly dismissed her request for the protection order. Thomas More Society is representing Pastor Holick to recover his damages and attorney fees from Burkhart in order to send the message that the protection order process cannot be abused without consequence. In addition to Burkhart’s local attorneys, Burkhart has hired a high powered Washington law firm to defend her case. Thomas More Society has previously defeated Burkhart’s attorneys’ efforts to have the case thrown out and will represent Pastor Holick at a jury trial in federal court.

• Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Thomas More Society client, Ellen Herman, has been charged with “solicitation”  approaching a car while standing on the public right-of-way and handing the occupant a pro-life pamphlet. Attorney Martin Cannon traveled to Tuscaloosa to meet with the client and to examine the location. Along with local counsel, Cannon then met with the city attorney to discuss the matter.  The city attorney continues to maintain the prosecution of Herman is legitimate. Thomas More Society will defend Herman in court on July 11, 2017, and plans to argue a motion to dismiss on constitutional grounds at that time.

• Baltimore, Maryland: Sidewalk counselors in the city of Baltimore are being instructed by the police that they must stay ten feet away from the clinic entrance despite the fact that the entrance opens directly onto the public right-of-way.  Baltimore, however, has not adopted a bubble zone ordinance. Thomas More Society is currently communicating with the Baltimore authorities in an effort to address this issue.

Thomas More Society Files Motion for Reconsideration

University of Minnesota Law-Breaking Continues in Fetal Tissue Acquisition

The Thomas More Society thinks that the University of Minnesota may have some explaining to do. Attorneys at the national public interest law firm are hoping to get answers with a motion filed this week in the Fourth Judicial District of Minnesota in Hennepin County. The motion seeks relief from an April 2017 order dismissing a lawsuit brought to put a stop to the University of Minnesota’s alleged illegal purchase of fetal tissue from aborted babies.

According to Erick Kaardal, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, the university’s policy of obtaining fetal tissue from out of state has been circumventing the Minnesota legislature’s intended restrictions. .  The dismissal of the lawsuit allowed the University of Minnesota to continue procuring and using human fetal tissue for research in alleged direct conflict with Minnesota law.

The motion seeks to reopen the district court order dismissing the action because of newly discovered evidence that the University of Minnesota continues to perform research on aborted fetal parts. The university took the position in the court that it was not currently procuring fetal tissue for legally unauthorized research. Nor did counsel for the university deny that taxpayer funds were presently being used for the procurement of fetal tissue for legally unauthorized experimentation, coyly claiming instead that the petitioners who filed the lawsuit had not identified any illegal disbursement of funds.

Kaardal stated, “We believe that even at the time of the hearing on the university’s motion to dismiss, the university knew it was conducting legally unauthorized experimentation on fetal tissue at taxpayers’ expense. The court dismissed the case based on the university attorney’s incomplete representations to the court, not on the facts which we discovered after the court hearing in an email from a university official acknowledging that the legally unauthorized research on aborted fetal remains continues.”

Newly discovered evidence demonstrates that the University of Minnesota was engaged in fetal tissue research during the time it claimed that it was not involved in it. For example, one record of fetal tissue acquisition is dated October 21, 2016, during a period in which the university explicitly denied making any acquisitions.

“We intend to pursue this on behalf of all Minnesotan taxpayers, as well as our clients Brian Gibson, Bridget Busacker, and Pro-Life Action Ministries. The University of Minnesota is funded by taxpayers and should be held legally accountable in its policies and practices,” added Kaardal.

Kaardal also pointed to the U.S. Congress’ “Interim Update to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Chairman and Majority Members of the Select Investigative Panel on The Transfer of Fetal Tissue and Related Matters,” which found that the university had engaged in denial of its actions until exposed, then manipulated policy after the fact in what appeared “to be an effort to avoid criminal liability under law.”

Read the Petitioners’ Notice of Motion and Motion for Relief from Judgement filed July 6, 2017, with the Fourth Judicial District of Minnesota in Hennepin County in Pro-Life Action Ministries Incorporated, Brian Gibson and Bridget Busacker v. the Regents of the University of Minnesota here and the accompanying Petitioners’ Memorandum in Support of Relief from Judgement here.

See supporting evidence in the submitted Declaration of Erick G. Kaardal here.

 

Thomas More Society Luncheon

Thomas More Society attorneys, Ed Morse, Martin Cannon, and Matt Heffron, along with Tom Venzor, Executive Director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, will engage in a panel discussion covering recent developments in the Nebraska and Iowa legislatures affecting pro-life, family, and religious liberty issues.

EVENT DETAILS:
Thursday, June 22
Doors open at 11:30 AM
Lunch served at 12 PM
Panel Discussion ends at 1:00 PM
RSVP to Christine Delgado at 402-616-9085
* Lunch box provided from Wheatfields for $10.00
VENUE DETAILS:
Christ the King Parish Center
654 S 86th St, Omaha, NE 68114

Thomas More Society Provided Key Support to the Victors in Battle Over Religious Rights

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Long Standing ERISA Exemption for Church-Affiliated Hospitals and Other Charities, Thereby Averting Bankruptcies and Mass Closures

On June 5, 2017, the United State Supreme Court ruled unanimously (8-0, Gorsuch, J. not participating) to uphold a long-standing broad reading of the so-called “church exemption” under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, known as ERISA,  as encompassing “church-affiliated” employee benefit plans as well as “church-established” plans. The Thomas More Society played a key role in filing amicus briefs in this trio of cases, on appeal from federal appellate courts in Chicago, San Francisco, and Philadelphia, respectively. The three appeals were consolidated for hearing before the Supreme Court – Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton, Dignity Health v. Rollins and Saint Peter’s Healthcare System v. Kaplan.

This decision protects non-profit religious health institutions and other religiously-affiliated charitable service employers across the nation, against which class action lawyers had filed a host of huge lawsuits, claiming that the non-profits were covered by ERISA and thus liable for millions of dollars in retroactive penalties, even though federal administrative agencies charged with the interpretation and enforcement of this complex federal statute had uniformly assured them over several decades that they were exempt from ERISA’s “array of rules designed to ensure [employee benefit] plan solvency and protect plan participants.”  At issue was whether ERISA’s wording only exempted benefit plans that had been “established and maintained” by a church, rather than by an affiliate of a church, such as an order of nuns.  Given decades of exposure to retroactive penalties, hundreds of Catholic, Lutheran, and other religiously affiliated hospitals, as well as retirement homes, nursing homes, day-care centers, schools and academies, universities, child-protection organizations, and many other types of social service organizations serving immigrants and other lower-income communities were at risk of bankruptcy or closure had this exemption issue been decided in favor of the other side.  Yet, each of the federal appellate courts from which these appeals were taken had ruled against these religiously-affiliated hospitals.

Thomas More Society President and Chief Counsel Tom Brejcha remarked, “This was a very important and especially welcome decision that adhered to a consistent thirty-year interpretation of the exception to ERISA’s many complicated and technical requirements, by which Congress originally intended to recognize the significant social benefits provided by these non-profit entities, inspired by their religious affiliation, including their ample and generous benefits provided for their own employees.  A contrary result, retracting decades of assurances on the part of government agencies that they were exempt from ERISA’s requirements, would have been catastrophic and utterly ruinous to an entire class of social service providers. It would have been a gross injustice of tragic proportions.”

Brejcha added, “This unanimous Supreme Court decision protects the principled independence and fiscal viability of church-affiliated hospitals and other service agencies and has staved off this latest assault on the citadel of religious liberty in our country. What once we took for granted – that our constitutional guarantee of the ‘free exercise of religious faith’ includes not only the right to preach one’s the faith but also the right to practice it outside the four walls of churches – has now been defended with vigor and resolve, and affirmed by the highest court in the land.”

Thomas More Society’s amicus brief in support of the Supreme Court exercising its discretion to hear and decide these cases was authored by Washington DC attorney, Alan E. Untereiner of the law firm of Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber LLP.  That brief won special praise from Lisa Blatt, former deputy Solicitor General of the U.S. who briefed and argued the consolidated appeals for all three religiously-affiliated hospitals, as “just fantastic,” “a compelling read” with “[v]ery nice touches throughout,” and “incredibly well written and such a pleasure to read that it put me in a good mood,” adding:  “Thank you … and the folks at Dignity [Health] are also going to love this brief for attacking the [lower court 9th Circuit decision) so effectively.”  Ms. Blatt closed, “I would lean toward a grant [of Supreme Court review] after reading this.  I hope I have not become delusional but I just don’t see how the Court can pass these cases up.”  Indeed, it was nothing short of a sharp reversal of fortune when these three straight losses in the lower appellate courts turned into a unanimous win before the Supreme Court!

View the June 5, 2017, Supreme Court of the United States decision in Advocate Health Care Network et al. v. Stapleton et al. here.

View the Thomas More Society’s August 2016 amicus brief – the brief that won such effusive praise from Lisa Blatt – supporting religiously affiliated Advocate Health Care Network and Saint Peter’s Healthcare System in the United States Supreme Court here.

The Society also filed two other amicus briefs in San Francisco and later on the merits in the Supreme Court.