PRESS ROOM

Celebrating Easter: Private Citizens Express Faith at Daley Plaza
April 15th, 2014 by

Thomas More Society Sponsors Easter Cross, Sunrise Service and Divine Mercy Project

2011 for 2012 Easter Cross at Daley Plaza

(Chicago, IL – April 15, 2014) – At midnight on Good Friday, April 18, 2014, a nine-day prayer vigil will commence in Daley Plaza to honor the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based national public interest law firm, joins private citizens to sponsor “Jesus in Daley Plaza” for the 8th year. A 19-foot tall cross and a 10-foot tall image of the resurrected Jesus will be displayed as an expression of faith by private citizens in the Daley Plaza public forum. An Interdenominational Easter Sunrise Service featuring prayers and music will be held on Sunday, April 20, at 6:00am. Daley Plaza is located at 50 West Washington, between Clark and Dearborn, in downtown Chicago.

On Thursday evening, April 17, at 7:00pm, the huge cross will be raised, draped in purple linens. On Easter Sunday, as the resurrection of Christ is celebrated, the drapery will be changed to the traditional white to symbolize renewed life. At the same time, “The Divine Mercy” image of the resurrected Christ will also be revealed. The nine-day prayer vigil “Prayer in the Public Square,” coordinated by The Divine Mercy Project and The Christopher Leaders, will run through Monday, April 28.

“Both the Easter Cross and the Divine Mercy Image represent a constitutionally protected expression of faith—the observance of the Resurrection—by private citizens in a public forum,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society. “The Easter displays are privately funded and sponsored, bereft of any government aid or endorsement, and therefore, these displays are clothed and armored with the full protection of the First Amendment of our U.S. Constitution.” The Thomas More Society helps groups and individuals across the country, defending their First Amendment right to express religious beliefs freely and openly in traditional public forums, especially during the holiday seasons of Christmas and Easter.

Participants in the Sunday morning Easter Sunrise service include: Rev. Zaki L. Zaki, Chicago Northwestern District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church, Rev. Shirley Pulgar-Huges, Redeemer of Calvary/El Redentor del Calvario UMC, Dr. Hiram and Dr. Joronda Crawford of Pro-Life Pro-Family Coalition, and Thomas Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel of The Thomas More Society. Music will be led by John Oakley and John and Emily Fitch, and Perry Marshall from the Greater Chicago Church.

The Easter Cross and The Divine Mercy Image displays were designed and built by Karl and Nancy Fritz and Family.

 




Florida Police Warned Not to Violate First Amendment Rights of Peaceful Pro-Life Protesters
April 7th, 2014 by

Thomas More Society tells Pro-Life Advocates to Proceed with Prayer Vigils at Kissimmee Planned Parenthood

Kissimmee FL protest(April 7, 2014 – Kissimmee, FL) – The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public interest law firm, together with Florida attorney Frederick Nelson of Orlando’s American Liberties Institute, have joined forces to demand that the City of Kissimmee, Florida, cease harassing peaceful pro-life protesters by ordering that they either comply with an alleged permit requirement, that is both unwritten and unconstitutional, or else face arrest for picketing and prayer vigils on the public sidewalk in Kissimmee, next to the proposed site of a new Planned Parenthood abortion facility.

 “The First Amendment guarantees the rights of individuals to gather peacefully on the public sidewalk to express their peaceable and profound moral opposition to the grave evil of abortion” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society.  “The police are blatantly violating the First Amendment when they threaten to arrest a small, peaceful gathering of individuals for praying on the public sidewalk because they do not have a permit—a permit which is plainly not required by any city ordinance, for which the police department has no forms or guidelines, and which, even if purportedly required by written ordinance, would constitute an impermissible prior restraint on speech and flout the First Amendment rights of our pro-life clients.”

Upon finding out that Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider, would be moving into a former OB-GYN’s office, local pro-life activists mobilized to begin a peaceful prayer campaign on the public sidewalk in front of the building.  On Friday, March 28, 2014, Karen Perry walked along the public sidewalk, alone, holding a sign opposing the new facility.  She was approached by three police officers who told her that if she did not obtain an event permit she would be placed under arrest.  But that same afternoon, when Karen tried to obtain this alleged permit the police could not figure out what type of permit she should apply for.  In the end Karen was told to write a letter to the police each and every time she or anyone else in her group planned to pray or picket in front of the facility.  She was then told the Police Chief was not in that day and she should come back Monday to see him personally.

The next day, Saturday, March 29, 2014, a group of about 15 adults and 10 children gathered in front of the proposed abortion facility.  Police immediately approached the group and again informed them that if they did not obtain a permit they would be placed under arrest.

“The City of Kissimmee must respect the rights of pro-life individuals to engage in lawful public protest,” said Rick Nelson of the American Liberties Institute, based in Orlando, Florida.  “We hope the city will agree that the policy they have stated is unconstitutional and they will stop demanding our clients obtain a permit or otherwise get police permission prior to exercising their First Amendment rights.”

“We are deeply saddened that Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider, is coming to Kissimmee,” said Karen Perry, a pro-life activist who was threatened with arrest.  “We will be gathering regularly to peacefully pray in front of this clinic to emphasize to the community the tragedy of abortion.”

As the police received Thomas More Society’s letter on Friday, and Saturday morning’s scheduled prayer vigil took place without incident, the Society hopes no further action will be needed.

Read letter from Thomas More Society and American Liberties Institute to Kissimmee Police Department here.




Thomas More Society Hopeful that U.S. Supreme Court Will Uphold Religious Liberty
March 25th, 2014 by

The Justices ought to protect religious freedom for all Americans, including business owners

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 (March 25, 2014 – Washington, DC) Today, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, Corp., whose business owners have brought lawsuits against thegovernment’s HHS Mandate. In January, the Thomas More Society filed an amicus brief urging the Court to uphold the religious liberties of these business owners who wish to run their companies in accord with their sincerely-held religious beliefs.

After today’s oral arguments, Thomas More Society attorneys are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in favor of religious liberty. The rulings in these cases will affect, either for good or for ill, the more than 300 plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits across the country against the HHS Mandate. Five of these lawsuits were filed by Thomas More Society on behalf of American private businesses and their owners as well as on behalf of individuals who object to paying for insurance coverage for contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization, based on their sincerely held religious convictions.

“Americans shouldn’t be forced to check their conscientious religious beliefs at the door when they open and conduct a business,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society. “Freedom of religion has been one of our foundational values and solemn commitments from the very inception of our nation, and we sincerely hope that the Supreme Court will fully protect, rather than diminish, this precious legacy as it is now more vitally needed than ever for the flourishing of our citizens, our families, and the good of our nation.”

Read the Thomas More Society amicus brief, filed along with Liberty, Life, and Law Foundation, and Christian Family Coalition, here.




PHILL KLINE’S CONTINUED PERSECUTION
March 14th, 2014 by

 

Thomas More Society has been pleased and honored to provide major support for former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline’s legal team for over four years. Mr. 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. Kline’s investigation turned up enough evidence against the abortionists that Kansas trial judges found “probable cause” to believe that these abortion providers have violated Kansas criminal laws.

But the investigation also provoked legal challenges by the abortionists — challenges which entangled Kline’s office in repeated, protracted legal proceedings, which snarled and delayed his efforts to prosecute the charges he had brought.  Even though three separate Kansas trial judges found the abortionists’ challenges to be without merit, appeals were taken causing further delays in prosecution.  While Kline never lost either of two major appeals brought by the abortion providers, he drew sharp criticism from Justice Carol Beier, an appointee of former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (now President Obama’s head of the Department of Health & Human Services, who is overseeing implementation of Obamacare) and an outspoken adherent of so-called “Third Wave Feminism,” who wrote majority opinions for the Kansas high Court.  These criticisms also exacerbated media criticism of Kline, and led to his failure to win re-election as Attorney General and, later, as District Attorney for Johnson County (near Kansas City, and site of the criminally targeted Planned Parenthood clinic). The abortion providers’ legal challenges against Phill Kline also led to the clinics’ bringing of legal ethics complaints against him.  Those charges became the subject of a formal ethics complaint, brought by Kansas’ Lawyer Disciplinary Administrator.

Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of Thomas More Society, attended most of the lengthy evidentiary hearings in Phill’s case, held in Topeka before a three-member panel of the state’s Attorney Disciplinary Board.  That hearing lasted over two weeks, and after listening to the testimony and reviewing all of the evidence presented, Brejcha expressed shock and dismay when the discipline panel handed down a gravely flawed 180 pp. report, recommending that Phill’s license to practice law be suspended indefinitely.  In fact, the charges sustained by the panel had been thoroughly reviewed and rejected during earlier court hearings, as well as by the chairman of the Topeka Bar Association Ethics Committee whom the Disciplinary Administrator had asked to review the charges.

In October, 2013, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Kline should lose his law license indefinitely because of the charges brought against him by the abortionists and their political allies.

As of March 10, 2014, Thomas More Society has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, urging them to review and overturn the unjust ruling against Mr. Kline.

A detailed account of Phill Kline’s case is available here.

Read our Petition for Cert to the U.S. Supreme Court and Appendix on behalf of Phill Kline.




Congressional Report on IRS’ Targeting of Conservative Groups Supported by Thomas More Society Evidence
March 13th, 2014 by

Discrimination against non-profit organizations tied to past IRS director Lois Lerner

Seal-of-the-US-House-of-Representatives

(March 13, 2014 – Washington, D.C.) – This week, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a staff report entitled “Lois Lerner’s Involvement in the IRS Targeting of Tax-Exempt Organizations,” verifying information that Thomas More Society began to uncover nearly a year ago.

In both May and August of 2013, the Society presented the House Committee on Ways and Means with two memos totaling over 500 pages of evidence and documentation of six different groups that had experienced viewpoint-biased discrimination by the IRS, dating back to 2009.

“For at least four years, discrimination against pro-life and conservative groups by the IRS was taking place under the direction of Lois Lerner,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society. “It is high time that a detailed investigation be conducted, and it is our hope that it will not only uncover but also help remedy the corruption within the government office of Internal Revenue Service.”

The memos submitted by the Thomas More Society detail the experience of several pro-life organizations that applied for 501(c)(3) charitable recognition and experienced blatant bias on the part of the IRS agents assigned to process their applications. Repeatedly, these pro-life groups were harassed with questions about time spent in prayer at abortion facilities and told that they must educate and advocate on abortion from both sides of the issue. Several Thomas More Society clients – all pro-life organizations – experienced significant delays with their tax exemptions under Lois Lerner’s watch, through “exemption organization specialists” who refused to apply tax-exempt law correctly until legal counsel got involved.

Rather than addressing the real problem of IRS agents’ excessive discretion regarding politically-tinged nonprofit activities, Lerner instead stood behind the new IRS regulations for 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations that cripple democratic values underlying our nation’s foundation – all in the name of supposed “clarity.”  The new proposed regulations clash with these organizations’ constitutionally recognized First Amendment rights and have thus been publically opposed by an overwhelming plethora of both conservative and liberal organizations.

“Such disregard for constitutional rights and fair-handed treatment as shown through Lois Lerner’s conduct, that of the IRS personnel under her supervisory authority, and the new 501(c)(4) regulations all pose a considerable threat to our country’s free speech rights,” said Sally Wagenmaker, counsel for the Thomas More Society and specialist in non-profit issues.. “Given the specter of losing or not getting tax-exempt status as a result of IRS viewpoint discrimination regarding potentially controversial activities, the inevitable logical result is that nonprofit organizations will err on the side on not engaging in them. Speech is chilled, applications are delayed, and – as our country recently learned all too clearly – the IRS is allowed to abuse its discretion.”

“It would behoove the IRS to abandon their new, proposed regulations.  Instead, they should pull back from undue political scrutiny of tax-exempt organizations and leave that job to the Federal Election Commission,” added Brejcha.

Read Staff Report by U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform here.

Read Article “IRS: Take Note” by Attorney Sally Wagenmaker here.