November 9, 2023

Thomas More Society Turns 25: A Quarter Century of Defending Life, Family, and Freedom

Thomas More Society Turns 25: A Quarter Century of Defending Life, Family, and Freedom

November 9, 2023
Joe Barnas
November 9, 2023

Thomas More Society Turns 25: A Quarter Century of Defending Life, Family, and Freedom

Thomas More Society celebrates its silver jubilee

Thomas More Society is celebrating its silver jubilee: 25 years of defending life, family, and freedom. In the midst of the landmark NOW v. Scheidler legal battle, Thomas More Society was formally incorporated as a national not-for-profit public interest law firm on November 9, 1998. Since then, our first quarter century has been marked by critical national cases, heroic clients, and a growing roster of staff and special counsel. Today, we are fielding more than 150 cases across the country, from vital courtroom battles to legal assistance and representation at all levels.  

Thomas More Society was founded in 1998 by Tom Brejcha during the 28-year-long NOW v. Scheidler case. The National Organization for Women and the abortion lobby joined forces to file an anti-trust lawsuit against peaceful pro-life advocates, including the late Joseph Scheidler and the Pro-Life Action League. The abortion lobby later amended the lawsuit, turning it into a racketeering and extortion case—weaponizing the RICO statute, designed to combat organized crime. One thing was clear: these novel legal maneuvers were designed to permanently shut down Scheidler’s and the pro-life movement’s growing sidewalk counseling and protest activities.  

NOW v. Scheidler made its way to the United States Supreme Court an unprecedented three times: 1994 (9-0 in favor of NOW), 2003 (8-1 victory in favor of Scheidler), and 2006 (8-0, unanimously vindicating Scheidler).  

Brejcha, then still working at a corporate law firm in Chicago while defending Scheidler, joined as lead counsel for the defense in 1986. Little did he know at the time, this case would come to dominate his professional career and lead to the formation of Thomas More Society. Following the disastrous 1994 Supreme Court loss and mounting appeal costs, Brejcha was asked by his law firm partners to choose between continuing work on the case—or to quit the firm. To keep up the fight, Thomas More Society was born.  

In 2006 and 2003, Thomas More Society dealt decisive blows to the abortion lobby on behalf of the pro-life movement—defending the future of sidewalk counseling and pro-life advocacy. Scheidler, known as the “godfather of the pro-life movement,” passed away in 2021, but the Pro-Life Action League he founded continues to be represented by Thomas More Society.  

To learn the full story of the NOW v. Scheidler case, and the origins of Thomas More Society, watch our documentary, “Fighting for Life: The Story of NOW v. Scheidler.”

“Banding together with fellow citizens to advocate for the sanctity of each and every human life—born and unborn, wanted or allegedly ‘unwanted’—are precious rights of all American citizens,” declared Brejcha. Furthermore, the legal battles fought by Thomas More Society have had major implications for churches, faith-based organizations, and families. “Societal shifts have sharpened the attacks against Christians,” added Brejcha, adding that Thomas More Society is ready to energetically meet the rising challenges to life, family, and freedom.  

In a case that rocked the nation, Thomas More Society attorneys secured a January 2023 victory for pro-life advocate Mark Houck. The FBI’s heavily armed raid at the Houck residence stunned the nation—drawing broad support for the father of seven who was dragged away from his family at gunpoint and falsely accused by the Department of Justice of violating the FACE Act outside of a Planned Parenthood facility.  

“That was a big win for us. It sent an important message: the Department of Justice’s weaponized prosecution of pro-lifers will not be tolerated,” shared Peter Breen, Thomas More Society Executive Vice President & Head of Litigation, who led Houck’s defense. Thomas More Society’s work extends far beyond the headline-making cases, to fighting just as hard for the rights of the ‘little guy’ in cases that do not make front-page news. One recent example is the recent case of a church musician and high school teacher who was targeted by abortion promoters and then falsely accused of battery. “The case was fabricated, our client and his wife were harassed, and he lost his job. Why? Because they were innocent bystanders at a statehouse on a day that pro-abortion protestors wanted to make an example out of someone,” Breen said. "We believe every pro-life advocate deserves the best defense possible."

Over the past 25 years, Thomas More Society has proudly represented clients from all walks of life, including the Pro-Life Action League; Lila Rose & Live Action; David Daleiden & the Center for Medical Progress; Abby Johnson & And Then There Were None; 40 Days for Life; South Bay United Pentecostal Church; Sidewalk Advocates for Life; Cathy Miller & Tastries Bakery; Elizabeth Mirabelli & Lori Ann West; Sr. Deirdre Byrne; the Notre Dame 88; Lauren Handy; Fr. Fidelis Moscinski; Students for Life; Church @ The Rock; National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA); Heartbeat International; and many others.  

In recent years, successful lawsuits brought by Thomas More Society against the governors of California, Illinois, and New York made their way to the United States Supreme Court, successfully culminating in the reopening of houses of worship. Thomas More Society attorneys have also stopped the forced inclusion of Aztec prayers in California’s school curriculum and successfully defended the right of cake designer Cathy Miller to refuse to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony.

In our 25th year, here are some of the most critical legal battles we are leading:

Protecting Families from Gender Ideology in Schools: When Escondido, California, schoolteachers Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West were told they must lie to their students’ parents about children’s “preferred gender identities,” Thomas More Society attorneys filed a lawsuit on Elizabeth and Lori’s behalf. Though the case is still in court, the judge has granted a first-of-its-kind preliminary injunction stating that the school’s new policy creates a “trifecta of harm” damaging to students, parents, and teachers.  

Defending Pro-Life Pregnancy Help Ministries: As California pursues frivolous claims of false advertising against Heartbeat International and providers of Abortion Pill Reversal services, Thomas More Society is mounting solid, science-based defense against this dangerous species of illegal content-based discrimination. When Illinois attempted to target Christian pregnancy help centers with the state’s consumer fraud law, Thomas More Society stepped in to defend NIFLA. The federal judge assigned to the NIFLA and Thomas More Society-filed lawsuit said that the state law is “both stupid and very likely unconstitutional.”

Bursting Bubble Zones: Across America, abortion providers have successfully lobbied for “bubble” and “buffer” zone ordinances around abortion facilities to stifle pro-life speech, resulting in pro-life advocates and sidewalk counselors being fined and arrested. Thomas More Society is defending these pro-life advocates both inside and outside of the courtroom, seeking to protect their First Amendment rights—while also fighting the constitutional fight to eliminate these First Amendment-violating no-speech zones.  

Challenging the FACE Act: The federal Department of Justice and state attorneys general nationwide have increasingly brought politically motivated prosecutions against pro-life advocates nationwide. Mark Houck’s arrest, trial, and acquittal on Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act charges is the best-known example. But we are also representing Red Rose Rescuers in several states, as well as Lauren Handy in her FACE trial (and now other defendants in the Washington, D.C. FACE Act appeal). In addition to defending the rights of brave pro-life advocates, we are challenging the constitutionality of FACE altogether.  

David Daleiden’s Aborted Baby Body Parts Exposé: In July 2015 undercover journalist David Daleiden released a series of videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s involvement in trafficking aborted baby body parts. Since then, abortion proponents have sought to jail and financially destroy Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress. Thomas More Society attorneys continue to defend the undercover journalist, who has been widely lauded as a hero in the pro-life movement. Daleiden’s criminal trial is now scheduled for March 2024.  

As for the future, Tom Brejcha added:

“These legal battles are growing more intense, and our nation is increasingly polarized. After the overturn of Roe v. Wade, there are now 50 battlefields in addition to ongoing federal battles. We have our work cut out for us, but we are ready meet the new challenges on the horizon. Now in our 25th year, Thomas More Society is on the cutting-edge of the legal battle for life, family, and freedom: protecting pregnancy centers against new legal maneuvers that attack their very right to exist, defending Abortion Pill Reversal, and safeguarding families and children from the rising tide of gender ideology. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank everyone who has supported Thomas More Society this past quarter century, all who have said a prayer for our attorneys and clients or lent a helping hand—we would not be able to fight for life, family, and freedom if it were not for you. The best is yet!”