Thomas More Society’s Omaha Attorneys Support ENDA Opposition

Thomas More Society attorney Matt Heffron presenting at the Norfolk Nebraska Public Library.

On February 9, 2017, Thomas More Society Attorney Matt Heffron toured Northeast Nebraska, explaining to groups in four cities and towns the legal and moral reasons to oppose Legislative Bill 173. Arranged by Nebraskans for Founder’s Values, the tour also featured Heffron’s presentation via video during the remaining two days of the tour in additional cities and towns in central and southeastern  Nebraska.

LB 173 is this year’s re-iteration of a Employment “Nondiscrimination” Act, or ENDA, which has failed in the last two legislative sessions. The Nebraska Catholic Conference, and the Nebraskans in general, have roundly opposed it because it creates two new protected classes (sexual orientation and gender identity), using vague terms, and threatening coercive lawsuits against any conscientious objectors, not even having an effective religious-organization exemption

For the last three legislative sessions, Thomas More Society attorneys have worked with the Nebraska Catholic Conference, analyzing proposed legislation, writing widely used position papers, testifying before committees of the Legislature, and providing timely legal research on numerous fast-evolving issues.

Thomas More Society Celebrates Namesake

Thomas More Society celebrates the birthday month of its namesake, Sir Thomas More, the patron saint of attorneys, statesmen and politicians by asking Thomas More Society employees how Sir Thomas More inspires them today.

“Thomas More’s strength of conviction and his refusal to concede even under threat of the ultimate penalty of execution, has been a guiding force of fortitude in the practice of law.”

– Donna Kathryn Kelly, Senior Counsel

“The great English saint is a model for our confused time in that he clearly perceived the imperfectability of man, and so knew that efforts to build a heaven on earth are futile—literally Utopia (nowhere).   Imagine the evils avoided over the past century had that been well understood in Germany, Russia, China, and too many other places to name.   Yet his example testifies that each of us can grasp a good life through quiet practice of the traditional Christian virtues.  Thomas More’s courage, fortitude, and charity in the face of tyranny and adversity should console and inspire every Christian who senses that such virtues will be necessary to sustain the Faith in coming years.”  

– Mike Hartnett, Development Coordinator

Read more about Sir Thomas More here.

Planned Parenthood Zoning Battle Continues in Aurora

Thomas More Society Attorneys Appeal Case Against Abortion Giant

Thomas More Society attorneys again appealed the long-running case against Planned Parenthood in Aurora, Illinois. The appeal, filed February 15, 2017, in the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District, challenges Circuit Court Judge Paul Fullerton’s dismissal of a lawsuit over Planned Parenthood’s manipulation of zoning laws to construct an abortion clinic in Aurora, Illinois. The lawsuit, in process since the 2008 filing on behalf of residents who live near the Aurora Planned Parenthood facility and an unincorporated association of Fox Valley Families, charges that the nation’s largest abortion provider misled and lied to Aurora zoning and building officials to get permission to build its mega-abortion clinic.

The appeal filed in this case, Fox Valley Families Against Planned Parenthood et al v. Planned Parenthood of Illinois et al, is the latest action in a case that Thomas More Society Special Counsel Peter Breen says illustrates Planned Parenthood’s “blatant disregard for and manipulation of Illinois law.” He added that the Aurora abortion facility was the product of deception and continues to operate illegally.

In 2006, under a shell company named Gemini Office Development, LLC, Planned Parenthood built a non-profit business at a site explicitly designated to accommodate for-profit corporations. To circumvent Aurora’s zoning laws, Planned Parenthood claimed to be paying property taxes in order to fulfill the “for-profit” zoning requirement. However, at the same time, Planned Parenthood also received $8 million in financing at Illinois taxpayer expense for its “non-profit activities.”

Records obtained from the DuPage County Supervisor of Assessments show that, just after proceedings were completed in the trial court, Planned Parenthood sought to have its property taxes reversed, on the basis that it had been operating the property for charitable purposes from its inception. After the circuit court approved Planned Parenthood’s zoning as a for-profit medical clinic, Planned Parenthood informed DuPage County and the Illinois Department of Revenue that its use was, and always had been, exclusively charitable, and that the organization was therefore entitled to a full property tax exemption.

View copies of the Thomas More Society’s Notice of Appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court Second Judicial District here and the Notice of Filing Notice of Appeal here, both filed on February 15, 2017.

Read Judge Fullerton’s Memorandum Opinion and Order issued January 17, 2017, from the Circuit Court for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, DuPage County, Illinois, here.

Spotted: Thomas More Society at March for Life 2017

Thomas More Society joined pro-life organizations across the country at the annual March for Life Expo in Washington D.C., which allows pro-life supporters to connect with pro-life organizations through in-depth information and giveaways. Thomas More Society proudly greeted over 500 supporters who traveled from across the country to participate in the March for Life weekend events.

The annual March for Life rally kicked off Friday morning with a speech from Vice-President, Mike Pence, echoing, “Life is winning again in America,” and setting the tone for the thousands of people anticipating the annual march. The massive crowd, including employees from Thomas More Society’s Chicago and Omaha offices, adorned with signs and banners, marched along Constitution Ave and concluded with a rally in front of the Supreme Court building.

Thomas More Society and their honorary guests, pro-life activists, Joseph and Ann Scheidler, clients, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, and Defend Life’s Founder and Editor, Jack Ames, joined hundreds of pro-life supports at the annual Rose Dinner Friday evening to celebrate another successful march. Key speakers included Jeanne Mancini, President of March For Life D.C., who spoke of “the true power of one – every person has the power to be a light in this often dark world.”

Hundreds of eager students awaited Thomas More Society and pro-life organizations at the Students for Life event on Saturday. The event was a great way to end the successful weekend. Thomas More Society employees were thrilled to meet their supporters who offered congratulatory messages as well as thank you’s and praises on the hard work that defending life, family, and religious liberty entails.

Thomas More Society, Executive Assistant, Victoria Holmen, at the TMS booth.

Thomas More Society supporters modeling the TMS tote bags

Thomas More Society attorneys marching with client, David Daleiden, by the Supreme Court building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas More Society Gains Ground on Case Defending Sisters Against Illegal Strip Club

Thomas More Society represents the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo and other local residents in their ongoing battles with the owner and operator of Club Allure, a strip club illegally operated across the backyard fence from the Sisters’ campus.  The Sisters’ campus includes their convent, several chapels, a home for aged and infirm nuns, and a school for novices. Based on a challenge brought by VIllage of Stone Park residents represented by the Thomas More Society and Thomas J. Murphy, on November 10, 2016, the Village of Stone Lake revoked the liquor license it had issued to Stone Lake Partners, LLC, the owner and operator of Club Allure.  Subsequently, on January 18, 2017, the Circuit Court for Cook County entered an Order of Possession in favor of the owner of the Club Allure property, Ralph Nicosia, and against the property tenant, Stone Lake Partners, LLC.  The Order of Possession served to evict Club Allure from the premises.    The same Order entered judgment against Stone Lake Partners, LLC and in favor of the property owner in the amount of   $736,784.45.  A copy of the Order of Possession can be found here.  (ADD LINK))  Stone Lake Partners, LLC is still pursuing an appeal of the Village of Stone Park’s decision revoking its liquor license, but Club Allure’s eviction from the premises likely means the Club will remain permanently shuttered. .

Read more information on the Sisters of St. Charles vs. Stone Lake Partners here.

Illinois Pregnancy Resource Centers Sue Governor for First Amendment Violations

State Law Compels Staff to Refer for Abortions Despite Religious Objections

 

Eighteen Illinois women’s health organizations sued Governor Bruce Rauner on February 9, 2017 over Illinois’ new law forcing pro-life doctors and pregnancy resource centers to discuss abortion benefits and refer pregnant women for abortions despite their conscience-based opposition to abortion. The controversial SB 1564, which amended the Health Care Right of Conscience Act effective January 1, 2017, has left Illinois’ over 90 not-for-profit pregnancy resource centers with little choice but to file suit seeking a judicial determination that the law unconstitutionally abridges their free speech and interferes with their religious beliefs. The Thomas More Society filed for injunctive relief on behalf of 18 of the centers, citing violations of multiple rights under the Constitution of the State of Illinois. It filed an action on behalf of two others on February 2, 2017, The Women’s Centers of Greater Chicagoland and Hope Life Center in Sterling, Illinois. Some of the centers have been forced to stop medical services, which include pregnancy tests, sonograms, and STD testing, until the legal issues are resolved.

Thomas Olp, Attorney for the Thomas More Society, observed, “This law targets pro-life pregnancy centers, which do not refer for abortion, and whose pro-life mission is to advise clients of alternatives to abortion. The new law requires these pro-life centers, and only them, to discuss ‘benefits’ of abortion with their clients and to name abortion providers. This is the essence of forced government speech prohibited by the free speech provisions of our federal and state constitutions. The First Amendment equally protects the right to speak and not to speak. The government cannot show a compelling reason for this requirement since information about abortion is readily available from many public and private sources. It is as easy to find the location of an abortion clinic as to find our clients’ pregnancy resource centers. Moreover, the law is content-based and viewpoint-discriminatory, meaning it applies to a certain type of speech, and targets only conscience-based objectors, but leaves all others free from regulation. Its intent really is to directly interfere with pro-life pregnancy centers that have aided many thousands of pregnant women over the years learn that abortion is not the only choice in a problem pregnancy, and that adoption and parenting are not only healthier choices for the mother but avoid the tragedy of abortion, which kills an unborn child. In my view, the law is nefarious and pernicious in its targeting of pro-life physicians and pregnancy resource centers.”

The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, Sangamon County, Illinois – Chancery Division, charges Governor Rauner and his Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, Bryan Schneider, with several constitutional violations resulting from enacting SB 1564. The Plaintiffs advance claims under the free speech, religious liberty, due process, and equal protection clauses of the state constitution.

Those abuses include infringement of the following rights:

  • The Constitution of the State of Illinois’ guarantee that, “All persons may speak, write, and publish freely.” The Plaintiffs’ freedom of speech is abridged when the state compels them to discuss treatment options and disclose abortion providers to which they possess sincerely-held religious objections.
  • The statute is vague and therefore violates constitutional due process because it does not give fair notice to a person of common intelligence as to what it requires. Rather, one must guess as to its meaning.
  • The statute denies plaintiffs equal protection of the laws in that it targets a class of conscience-based objectors but does not regulate health care providers who do not have conscience-based objections.
  • The law interferes with the Illinois Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion. Article I, Section 3 guarantees “the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination.”
  • The Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects Illinoisans’ free exercise of religion. SB 1564 substantially burdens the plaintiffs’ exercise of religion.

Mary Strom, Executive Director of The Women’s Centers, which has three sites in the Chicago area, stated that the organization’s success is directly tied to its Catholic identity, even while it serves women of all faiths. “I credit the success we have had in helping women to the power of prayer,” she shared. “Everything comes from that.”

Hope Life Center in Sterling, Illinois, was founded by Laura Petigoue and her husband, Mark. “It was after I learned about the devastation that abortion brings that we dedicated ourselves to addressing the needs of women experiencing unplanned pregnancies and providing loving, Christ-centered alternatives,” recalled Petigoue, who is greatly saddened by Illinois’ adoption of this law she calls, “monstrously prejudicial.”  Debbie Case, the Executive Director of Hope Life Center, noted, “For over 30 years, Hope Life Center has been the only organization in our community dedicated to providing women with the education and medical services they need to make informed decisions about unwanted pregnancies. Now we have had to suspend all our medical services because this new law mandates us to serve these women in a way that is harmful to them and to their unborn children. We’re seeking relief from this law so we can get back to doing what we do best, taking care of vulnerable women in our community.”

Mr. Olp also observed, “Most of our Plaintiffs have literally spent decades helping women by providing information about alternatives to abortion (parenting and adoption), thereby helping to empower and encourage them to recognize that a choice for life for their unborn child is much preferable to abortion both for them and for their unborn babies. The new law strikes at the Plaintiffs’ faith-based ability to render effective assistance to pregnant women about child bearing and child rearing by requiring them to substitute a secular government-sponsored message totally at odds with their faith position. The government is not permitted constitutionally to do this, in our view.”

The Pregnancy Resource Centers who filed their suit on February 9, 2017 were:

ABIGAIL WOMEN’S CLINIC, Mendota;

CHOICES PREGNANCY AND HEALTH, Charleston;

CORBELLA CLINIC, South Elgin;

FAMILY LIFE CENTER, INC., Effingham;

FIRST STEP WOMEN’S CENTER, Springfield;

FREEPORT PREGNANCY CENTER, Freeport;

HOPE LIFE CENTER, INC., Sterling;

LIGHTHOUSE PREGNANCY CENTER, Vandalia;

NEW LIFE PREGNANCY CENTER, Decatur;

OPTIONS NOW, Godfrey;

PREGNANCY INFORMATION CENTER, Aurora;

PREGNANCY RESOURCES, Moline;

PREGNANCY RESOURCE CENTER, Rushville;

SOUTHSIDE PREGNANCY CENTER, INC., Oak Lawn;

SPOON RIVER PREGNANCY RESOURCE CENTER, Canton;

THE WOMEN’S CENTERS OF GREATER CHICAGOLAND, Chicago;

WATERLEAF WOMEN’S CENTER, Aurora and Bolingbrook;

WE CARE PREGNANCY CENTER, DeKalb.

Link to the February 9, 2017 amended filing here

Read the Verified Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, filed February 2, 2017, in the Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, Sangamon County, Illinois – Chancery Division, in the case, The Women’s Centers of Greater Chicagoland, a not-for-profit Illinois corporation, and Hope Life Center, Inc., a not-for-profit Illinois corporation v. Bruce Rauner, in his official capacity as Governor of State of Illinois, Bryan A. Schneider, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, in his official capacity here

Minnesota Mom Has Day in Court for Usurpation of Parental Rights

Erick Kaardal, Thomas More Society Special Counsel

On January 26, 2017, Thomas More Society attorney argued before the United States District Court, District of Minnesota, on behalf of a mother whose minor son was given transgender services without her knowledge or consent.

Special Counsel Erick Kaardal presented the arguments in Anmarie Calgaro’s lawsuit against St. Louis County and other agencies for usurping her parental rights over her minor son, providing him with transgender services and narcotic drugs. The youth was handled by the defendants as an emancipated minor despite no court action to that effect. According to her suit, Minnesota law provides Calgaro no recourse to challenge the emancipation status, which is a violation of her rights as guaranteed under the United States Constitution.

Kaardal argued that the school district, county, and medical agencies in Minnesota did not provide notice or hearing to Calgaro prior to terminating her parental rights over her minor child. He noted that this would have been required in marital dissolution, paternity, or child protection situations, and asked, “Why is it not required in emancipation?” Kaardal charged these service providers with stepping into a governmental role but not providing parental due process, thereby creating a constitutional concern.

Calgaro’s lawsuit charges St. Louis County, St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Director, Fairview Health Services, Park Nicollet Health Services, St. Louis County School District, Principal of the Cherry School, and her minor son with repeated circumvention of her parental rights.

In June 2015, the boy was advised that he was emancipated, despite no court order or legal action to terminate his mother’s parental rights. He was then provided with medical treatment for a sex change from male to female and also prescribed narcotics. The school district has classified the boy as an adult with exclusive rights to information and decision-making and denied Calgaro access to his educational records or any legal authority to affect his educational decision-making.

Kaardal commented, “Ms. Calgaro is living a parent’s worst nightmare. Her son has, while a minor, been steered through a life-changing, permanent body-altering process by organizations that have no reason to have his best interests in mind.” He explained, “With no parental involvement, this child has become a pawn in someone else’s agenda, influenced by those who have no right to make decisions over his life and well-being. These institutions have no right, legally or morally, to usurp the place of a parent.”

Backgrround information on this case can be found here: Minnesota Mom Sues for Usurpation of Parental Rights

 

Planned Parenthood Baby Parts Broker StemExpress Drops Lawsuit Against Undercover Journalist

Thomas More Society Attorneys Mark Another Win in Defense of David Daleiden

StemExpress, a fetal tissue vendor identified in the Planned Parenthood baby parts scandal, has dropped its lawsuit against undercover journalist David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress. As part of Daleiden’s legal team, Thomas More Society attorneys are encouraged that the California-based tissue broker has relinquished attempts to justify its participation in the human tissue and body parts trade.

“We are pleased that StemExpress has chosen not to waste taxpayer time and money with this lawsuit. It was an attempt to escape public censure and to futilely justify the unjustifiable,” said Thomas More Society Special Counsel Peter Breen. “The findings of Congress’ Select Investigative Panel have demonstrated the validity and integrity of Mr. Daleiden’s undercover research and his publicly released findings. This is the third legal matter in which we’ve seen Mr. Daleiden vindicated.”

StemExpress’ dismissal of their legal complaint came within days of the release of the final report by the U.S. House of Representatives Select Investigative Panel. In the report, the panel refers StemExpress for criminal prosecution for violation of multiple federal and state laws.

The panel’s findings allege that StemExpress:

  • destroyed documents that were the subject of congressional inquiries.
  • profited from the sale of fetal body parts.
  • violated HIPAA (privacy) laws when collecting fetal body parts.

On July 14, 2015, Daleiden, CEO of the Center for Medical Progress, began releasing a series of video exposés. One of the videos captured unguarded conversation at a dinner party that revealed the depth of StemExpress’ involvement with Planned Parenthood’s baby body parts trafficking.

The tissue vendor filed a retaliatory lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles on July 27, 2015. The videos featured frank discussion between Planned Parenthood executives and their business partners, including StemExpress CEO Cate Dyer. One clip, which Breen labels “gruesome, callous, and crude,” shows Dyer laughing as she describes the procedure for shipping the babies’ bodies so as to not alarm the recipients who will see their intact faces.

The Thomas More Society notes that the withdrawal of the lawsuit, StemExpress LLC et al v. The Center for Medical Progress et al., is the latest triumph in the defense of David Daleiden. Other victories in the onslaught of legal attacks that the abortion industry has brought against Daleiden include:

About the Thomas More Society

The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago and Omaha, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. For more information, visit thomasmoresociety.org.

Pro-Life Activists Battle City of Chicago’s ‘Bubble Zone’ Ordinance Protecting Abortion Clinics

Thomas More Society Helps Protect Pro-Life Protesters Rights

On Jan. 4, U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve denied the City of Chicago’s motion to dismiss the federal complaint of the Pro Life Action League, Live Pro-Life Group, and individual plaintiffs Ann Scheidler, Anna Marie Scinto Mesia, David Berquist and Veronica Price.  Judge St. Eve ruled that the plaintiffs could proceed on their as-applied challenge to Chicago’s so-called “Bubble Zone” ordinance.  She decided that the complaint raised a valid claim for a hearing on whether the Chicago Police enforced the ordinance with “deliberate indifference” toward the rights of the plaintiff sidewalk counselors while counseling clients of Chicago abortion clinics outside the clinics.

Thomas More Society’s challenge to the city’s Bubble Zone Ordinance asserts that the plaintiffs are citizens and organizations “who peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights on the public ways near abortion clinics in the City of Chicago by reaching out to women who are approaching the clinics for the purpose of securing abortion in order to share alternatives and inform the women of the dangers inherent in abortion.”

The complaint asserts that Chicago’s Bubble Zone law unconstitutionally constrains the peaceful work of pro-life sidewalk counselors because police have applied it against pro-lifers but not clinic escorts, and that the law has been applied erratically since it was passed in 2009.  Sufficient instances of discriminatory and erratic enforcement have been alleged, said Judge St. Eve in her ruling.

The Bubble Zone law applies within a 50-foot radius of a clinic entrance and prevents pro-life counselors from intentionally coming closer than eight feet from a person approaching the entrance without the person’s permission.

Thomas Olp, Attorney for Thomas More Society said, “Contrary to pro-abortion propaganda, pro-life counselors do not intimidate women approaching abortion clinics, because such engagement is ineffective.  Pro-life counselors do compassionately and calmly approach women one-on-one to offer them information about abortion alternatives.  The Chicago Bubble Zone in Chicago is designed to impede — and does impede — this communication.  For that and other reasons, we believe the law unconstitutionally curtails our clients’ first amendment rights.”

Read the court’s decision here.

Daleiden Legal Team Appeals Redactions in University of Washington Fetal Tissue Documents

Thomas More Society to Fight Far-Reaching Implications of Obfuscation by Public Employees

(December 27, 2016 – Seattle, WA) Thomas More Society attorneys have filed a notice of appeal seeking a reversal of a Preliminary Injunction issued in November by the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, at Seattle. The lower court decision, if allowed to stand, would have a chilling effect on transparency in government – allowing publicly funded organizations to heavily redact materials that, until now, have been considered open public records. The appeal, filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, aims to avert this threat to the public’s right to know how their tax money is being spent.

The case involves a group of University of Washington employees, and abortion clinic personnel corresponding with them who do not want their job titles and work locations disclosed, in connection with fetal tissue research and transfer of aborted body parts at the UW’s Birth Defects Research Laboratory. The university and lab were the recipients of a public records request by David Daleiden, who sent such requests to public entities across the country, as part of his investigation into the illegal trafficking of fetal tissue and organs by Planned Parenthood. The group of public employees and abortion clinic personnel responded by seeking restraining orders and court injunctions to stop the records release.

“The implications of this case are far-reaching,” explained Peter Breen, Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “These records relate to government programs, performed by government employees, on government computers. Public employees and institutions have a responsibility to be accountable and transparent about how taxpayer money is being used. They have no right to scrub their records of key information or to otherwise hide the work they are doing from the very public they are supposed to be serving.”

Breen added, “Our client, David Daleiden, was willing to receive the requested open records with the names removed, despite no legal requirement that he do so, in order to expedite the release of the records. These public employees and abortion clinic personnel responded with legal action, in order to frustrate Mr. Daleiden’s investigation and keep their activities out of the public eye.”

Related Court Documents filed with the United States District Court For The Western District Of Washington at Seattle: Notice of Appeal; Representation Statement

Read the preliminary injunction briefs from the case in which the December 15, 2016 Notice of Appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was filed:

About the Thomas More Society

The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago and Omaha, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. For more information, visit www.thomasmoresociety.org.