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Michigan AG Dana Nessel’s Tyrannical Tactics to Suppress Religious Belief in Traditional Marriage

ANN ARBOR, MI—Watching, listening, tracking, and compiling secret dossiers on dissidents until they are finally accused and prosecuted—these are the police-state tactics one might associate with an authoritarian regime in a World War II movie.

Yet, these are the very methods the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) has found are being used by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel acting in concert with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

On February 19, 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a notorious and discredited radical left-wing anti-Christian organization, published its annual Hate Map report which listed 31“hate” groups operating in Michigan in 2018.  Listed in that group as “ANTI-LGBT” was Church Militant, a nonprofit Michigan-based religious media organization which advocates traditional Catholic belief that marriage as instituted by God is for one man and one woman.

Three days later, on February 22, 2019, a disturbing joint news release by Attorney General Nessel and the Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights was issued referencing and linking to SPLC’s Hate Map. The joint release contained Nessel’s promise to establish a hate-crimes unit to fight against hate crimes and hate groups which have been allowed to proliferate in Michigan.

Nessel’s spokeswoman, Kelly Rossman-McKinney, noted that SPLC is a good place to start when investigating hate and bias.

The Director of the Civil Rights Department told a Detroit News reporter that the Department is creating a database which would document hate and bias incidents that don’t rise to the level of a crime or civil infraction.

Additional damning evidence of AG Nessl’s hostility toward traditional marriage was provided by the findings of Chief Judge Robert Jonker of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. In a published 2019 legal opinion, Buck v. Gordon, Judge Jonker found that Nessel attempted to stop St. Vincent Catholic Charities from performing adoption and foster placement services because it professed the Catholic belief on marriage. Judge Jonker said that past statements by Nessel “raise a strong inference of hostility toward a religious viewpoint.”

Jonker concluded that “St. Vincent was targeted based on its religious belief, and it was Defendant Nessel who targeted it.”

Concerned that AG Nessel is continuing to weaponize the Attorney General’s Office to suppress religious beliefs in traditional marriage by threats of investigation and prosecution, the Thomas More Law Center, a national nonprofit public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed a request for records under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Using sham excuses, Nessel refused to supply crucial records that would shed light on her use of her law enforcement powers to target organizations that opposed her personal ideology supporting same-sex marriage.

TMLC filed a lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims on January 9, 2020, against Nessel for her refusal to comply with Michigan’s FOIA.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of TMLC, which represents Church Militant and its Founder and President Michael Voris, commented: “This lawsuit is about the right of the people to know what their public officials are doing. We believe that Attorney General Nessel targeted Church Militant because of its stance on traditional marriage as she had done in the case involving St. Vincent.”

Continued Thompson: “The combination of actions by the Attorney General Nessel, the Department of Civil Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and religion not only of Church Militant, but every religious group in Michigan that stands for traditional marriage.”

Astonishingly, Nessel’s office admitted in its response to Thomas More Law Center’s FOIA request that:

  • It had no policies in place to safeguard the constitutional rights of individuals who committed no crime but are being investigated for espousing traditional marriage.
  • It has no clear definitions of “bias incidents” or “hate crimes” against LGBT persons that are backed up by Michigan statutes or court decisions.
  •  The AG’s Office failed in its FOIA response to provide any clear policies or parameters governing the prosecution of hate crimes. Nor does it have a clear definition of what constitutes a “hate group.”

Without policies to adequately guide the actions of the Hate Crime Unit, it is free to roam about launching secret investigations against any organization based solely on the fact that it supports traditional marriage.

Consequently, it was easy for the Attorney General’s Office to claim that Church Militant was under investigation to avoid turning over records and to escape public scrutiny.

“Nessel has single-handedly turned the Attorney General’s Office into an instrument of thought control by intimidation, using its law enforcement powers to police the speech of Michigan residents.

“One of her primary goals is to suppress the religious definition of marriage that does not conform to her opinions on same-sex marriage,” Thompson said.

Church Militant, headquartered in Ferndale, Michigan, reports on current events around the world from a Catholic perspective. Defending the institution of marriage as between one man and one woman has always been a major theme of its video broadcasts and written reports, which are viewed by millions of people throughout the world via its website and YouTube channel.

Click here to read TMLC’s full complaint.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Thomas More Law Center column is republished with permission. © All rights reserved.

Maryland School Denigrates Christianity, Promotes Islam — Case gone to Supreme Court

A taxpayer funded public school in Maryland instructed its students:

“Most Muslims’ faith is stronger than the average Christian.”

“Islam at heart is a peaceful religion.”

Jihad is a “personal struggle in devotion to Islam, especially involving spiritual discipline.”

“To Muslims, Allah is the same God that is worshiped in Christianity and Judaism.”

“Men are the managers of the affairs of women” and “Righteous women are therefore obedient.”

Imagine the shock when 11th-grader at La Plata High School, Caleigh Wood, revealed this to her parents. More students and more parents need to actively need to get involved as Caleigh Wood did. She bravely stood up for her rights as a Christian. She stated that, as part of an assignment, she “was also required to profess in writing, the Islamic conversion creed, ‘There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.’” For refusing to concede to the sharia and standing “firm in her Christian beliefs”, Wood was punished for it and given a failing grade for non-compliance.

Her case has now gone to the supreme court. “The Thomas More Law Center has submitted a petition asking the high court to take up the case of student Caleigh Wood.” Its president, Richard Thompson warned:

Under the guise of teaching history or social studies, public schools across America are promoting the religion of Islam in ways that would never be tolerated for Christianity or any other religion.

Jihad Watch reported on May 19th that a Washington school district was caught promoting Islam for Ramadan through a CAIR initiative. Now lawyers have sent a cease and desist letter. Islamization happens rapidly if unnoticed and unchallenged. Parents need to be paying attention to what their children are being indoctrinated with and taught in schools.

“U.S. SCHOOL FAILS CHRISTIAN STUDENT FOR REFUSING ISLAMIC PRAYER”, World Net Daily, May 19, 2019:

The declarations could have been made by an imam in a mosque sermon.

“Most Muslims’ faith is stronger than the average Christian.”

“Islam at heart is a peaceful religion.”

Jihad is a “personal struggle in devotion to Islam, especially involving spiritual discipline.”

“To Muslims, Allah is the same God that is worshiped in Christianity and Judaism.”

“Men are the managers of the affairs of women” and “Righteous women are therefore obedient.”

The problem is that those statements were part of the instruction in a public school in Maryland, and one of the students in the classroom now is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to condemn such religious lessons funded by taxpayers.

The Thomas More Law Center has submitted a petition asking the high court to take up the case of student Caleigh Wood.

“As a Christian and 11th-grader at La Plata High School in Maryland, Caleigh Wood was taught that ‘Most Muslims’ faith is stronger than the average Christian.’ She was also required to profess in writing, the Islamic conversion creed, ‘There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.’ Ms. Wood believed that it is a sin to profess by word or in writing, that there is any other god except the Christian God. She stood firm in her Christian beliefs and was punished for it. The school refused her request to opt-out or give her an alternative assignment. She refused to complete her anti-Christian assignment and consequently received a failing grade,” the legal team explained Wednesday.

Lower courts have given a free pass to the school district to teach Islam, and so TMLC filed the request with the Supreme Court to decide “whether any legal basis exists to allow public schools to discriminate against Christianity while at the same time promote Islam.”

“Under the guise of teaching history or social studies, public schools across America are promoting the religion of Islam in ways that would never be tolerated for Christianity or any other religion,” said Richard Thompson, TMLC’s president.

“I’m not aware of any school which has forced a Muslim student to write the Lord’s Prayer or John 3:16: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,’” he said.

“Many public schools have become a hot bed of Islamic propaganda. Teaching Islam in schools has gone far beyond a basic history lesson. Prompted by zealous Islamic activism and emboldened by confusing court decisions, schools are now bending over backwards to promote Islam while at the same time denigrate Christianity. We are asking the Supreme Court to provide the necessary legal guidance to resolve the insidious discrimination against Christians in our public schools,” he said.

Unresolved include whether or not schools can make preferential statements about one religion over another, and whether students may be required to assert religious beliefs with which they disagree.

And how do those concepts align with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”?

The Charles County public schools and officials are defendants.

The filing explains the lower courts, despite the First Amendment’s requirements, “upheld the ability for [the school] to denigrate Petitioner Caleigh Wood’s faith and require her to write out statements and prayers contradictory to her own religious beliefs.”….

EDITORS NOTE: This Jihad Watch column is republished with permission.

LAWSUIT: ‘Neither the Courts nor Government Can Determine What Is a Sin’

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, yesterday, filed a friend of the court brief in the case of Zubik v. Burwell, in support of seven non-profit organizations including the Little Sisters of the Poor who claim they cannot comply with the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate (“HHS Mandate”) because even the so called “accommodations” make them actively complicit in the sin of abortion.  TMLC’s brief asserts that the Court is not the arbiter of sacred Scripture and, therefore, cannot determine whether or not an act constitutes a sin; it can only determine whether the government’s penalties for refusal to complete the sinful act are a substantial burden on religious liberty.

Thomas More Law Center Files Brief in Supreme Court Declaring Neither Court Nor Government Can Determine What Is a Sin

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of TMLC, portrays this case as a potential turning point in American legal history, stating, “The HHS Mandate is a monumental attack on religious liberty.  If this appeal is lost, the government becomes the head of every religious denomination in the country by its assumed authority to determine what is in fact a sin.”

The HHS Mandate requires religious non-profit organizations to participate in a government scheme to provide free contraceptives, including abortion causing drugs and devices (abortifacients), to their employees or face monumental fines that would result in closing the doors of most non-profit organizations that object to the HHS Mandate.

However, the HHS Mandate allows non-profit organizations like the Little Sisters to receive a so-called accommodation from directly providing free contraceptives and abortifacients to their employees.  The accommodation  requires the non-profit organizations to either (1) fill out a form as notice of their objection to contraceptives and abortifacients and provide that form to their insurers, which includes language instructing the insurers to provide free contraceptives and abortifacients to the women in the non-profits’ health plans, or (2) write and send a detailed letter to HHS with all of the information necessary to notify the non-profits’ insurers of their newfound obligation to provide free contraceptives and abortifacients to the women in the non-profits’ health plans.

These notification requirements trigger the non-profits’ insurers to provide free contraceptives and abortifacients to the women in the non-profits’ health plans. This notification requirement makes the non profits complicit in the provision of a service that they find sinful, thereby causing them to sin themselves.

TMLC’s brief argues, supported by a long line of Supreme Court precedent, that neither the government nor the Supreme Court can determine whether an act does or does not violate a person’s religious beliefs.  Rather, the Supreme Court must accept the non-profits’ assertions that the notification requirement is indeed against their religion.  To accept otherwise is to supplant the Church and the Bible with the government, allowing the Supreme Court and the government to interpret tenants of faith.  This slippery slope would subject all religious exercise to the whim of the government’s approval.

 Excerpts from TMLC’s Amicus brief:

  • “This Court has already determined that the fines for noncompliance with the HHS Mandate impose a substantial burden on employers. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751, 2776 (2014). The ultimate question, therefore, is whether compliance is actually against the Petitioners’ religion. This is something that is for Petitioners to determine, not the Court.”
  • “The Court is not the arbiter of sacred scripture and cannot determine whether the notification form and letter are attenuated enough from the provision of contraceptives that they do not substantially burden Petitioners’ religion. Delving into this inquiry requires the Court to interpret Petitioners’ religious beliefs on the morality of the different levels of complicity with sin. Thomas v. Review Bd. of Indian Employment Security Div., 450 U.S. 707, 718 (1981).  Therefore, the Court can only determine whether Petitioners are being compelled to do something that violates their faith—here, filling out the notification form or writing a notification letter to HHS, both of which trigger the dissemination of contraceptives and abortifacients to their employees in connection with their employee health plans.”
  • “While women have a right to obtain contraceptives, see Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 485-486 (1965), this does not mean they have a right to free contraceptives and abortifacients. Moreover, this right certainly does not mean that a person has the right to obtain contraceptives and abortifacients—either directly or indirectly—from their employer at the expense of pillaging the employer’s religious liberty.”

Click here to read TMLC’s entire 19-page brief  

TMLC, representing thirty-six plaintiffs including six religious non-profit organizations, has filed twelve lawsuits challenging the illegal aims of the HHS Mandate.

Lawsuit Challenges Constitutionality of Federal Muslim Refugee Program

We told you about the hunt for a brave governor willing to defend the Constitution here last Thursday.  The hunt continues.

States like Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and others, CAN stop refugee resettlement in their states.

ERin Mersino

In case you haven’t seen the article, Breitbart reported last week, that the Thomas Moore Law Center has been working since June on a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the federal refugee program as it is being implemented in states like Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and others.

Erin Mersino, senior trial lawyer from the public interest firm, the Thomas Moore Law Center will talk about this on the Ralph Bristol radio show, Monday December 7th at 9:05 A.M. EST/ 8:05 CST.

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life. It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America. The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities. It does not charge for its services.

They will represent your state at no charge.

You can listen to the Ralph Bristol show and learn more about how the lawyers at the Thomas Moore Law Center are prepared to stand up to the federal government and defend your states’ rights.

Listen online to the show: http://pro.wwtn-fm.tritonflex.com/page.php?page_id=151 or tune in to WWTN, 99.7 FM.

Meanwhile, according to Michael Patrick Leahy at Breitbart, it looks like Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Haslam is not going to be that brave man.

Is yours a Wilson-Fish alternative state?  Why not see if radio programs in others of these states would do an interview with the Thomas More Law Center (if I can be so bold as to offer them!).  You need to build grassroots pressure on governors of these states (it only takes one) to be the plaintiff in this all important Constitutional test!

Alabama
Alaska
Colorado
Idaho
Kentucky
Louisiana
Massachusetts
Nevada
North Dakota
South Dakota
Tennessee
Vermont

Texas: Judgment Protects Overpasses for America ‘s Right to Display “Secure Our Borders” Signs

The North Dallas Chapter of Overpasses for America and its leader Valerie Villarreal, yesterday, obtained a federal court consent judgment against the City of Dallas, Texas, which declared that the Dallas city ordinance prohibiting demonstrations on city overpasses violated their constitutionally protected First Amendment rights.

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs in August 2014, challenging the enactment of the ordinance which restricted the plaintiffs’ right to demonstrate and display signs calling for the impeachment of President Obama and the end to illegal immigration on city overpasses over designated highways.

U.S. District Judge David Godbey for the Northern District Court of Texas entered the consent judgment, marking the first time that the City of Dallas admitted its ordinance was an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

Erin Mersino, TMLC Senior Trial Counsel handling the case, commented, “It is a good day for free speech. Overpasses for America and Valerie Villarreal may now resume their important demonstrations without fear of being fined or retaliated against by the City.”

In November 2014, just three months after TMLC filed their initial lawsuit against the city, the Dallas City Council voted to repeal the ordinance. During the repeal process, however, the City refused to acknowledge that the ordinance unconstitutionally attacked Free Speech that criticized President Obama and the flood of illegal immigration encouraged by the Obama administration’s complete disregard of federal immigration laws. The judgment entered by the District Court, however, specifically declares that the Dallas ordinance was a violation of Overpasses for America’s First Amendment rights to free speech and free assembly. The judgment also awarded nominal damages as requested by the Plaintiffs in recognition of the City of Dallas’ violation of the Overpasses members’ Free Speech and Freedom of Assembly rights, and provided a settlement amount for attorneys’ fees and costs.

Before the enactment of the City’s ordinance, the North Dallas Chapter of Overpasses for America had held over 75 demonstrations on the pedestrian overpasses in Dallas, without a single traffic incident. Nevertheless, the City Council moved forward with the restrictive ordinance under the guise that it was necessary for public safety.

Overpasses for America is a nonpartisan grassroots movement that calls for accountability among our nation’s leaders. Overpasses for America demonstrators frequently use pedestrian overpasses to spread their messages and to reach a large and diverse audience. Several cities, however, have sought to silence these concerned citizens.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of TMLC, stated: “The concerns of a majority of Americans on crucial public issues have little impact on the Washington political establishment. That’s why it’s so important to defend the free speech rights of grassroots organizations like Overpasses for America, whose members feel it’s their patriotic duty to get their message out and mobilize their fellow citizens.”

TMLC is currently representing two plaintiffs in a case challenging a similar ordinance in the Town of Campbell, Wisconsin—that case is currently pending before the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Thomas More Law Center Continues To Fight Against Common Core

TMLC Logo(1)Continuing its national battle against the federal government’s attempted takeover of public education, the Thomas More Law Center, last week, filed a friend of the court brief in the Missouri Court of Appeals supporting a lower court decision that held the State’s participation and membership in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC”) is illegal and SBAC itself is an “unlawful interstate compact … whose existence and operation violate[s] the Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

The lower court ruling which stopped Missouri from paying over $4 million in membership fees to SBAC, is being appealed by Missouri state officials, including Governor Jay Nixon.

The original lawsuit was filed by D. John Sauer of the St. Louis, Missouri, firm Clark & Sauer, LLC in September 2014 on behalf of concerned Missouri residents and taxpayers.

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, joined with Mr. Sauer in filing a similar lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of SBAC in North Dakota. A North Dakota District Judge will hear arguments next week on whether he should stop North Dakota from participating in SBAC.

The TMLC first became involved in the fight to stop Common Core in response to concerns of parents and teachers over the federal government’s control of curriculum nationwide and the standards themselves. As a result, the TMLC previously developed a Test Refusal and Student Privacy Protection Form and a Common Core Resource Page as a general reference and guide for concerned parents and individuals.

Both SBAC and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (“PARCC”) were created in response to a federal Department of Education grant program designed to create academic assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The assessments leave local schools little choice but to align their curriculum to the standards and assessment, allowing the federal Department of Education to effectively control public education.

SBAC’s state membership agreements, executed by officials in Missouri, North Dakota, and several other states, have raised concerns that state officials are handing over local educational decisions to SBAC, and by extension the federal government which violates federal statutes prohibiting the federal government—and, in particular, the federal Department of Education—from controlling educational policy, including curriculum decisions and educational-assessment programs in elementary and secondary education.

The new wave of testing ushered in by SBAC and PARCC sparked a national opt-out movement as students, teachers and administrators grapple with the heavy burden created by these assessments. The looming threat from the Department of Education of the loss of federal funding helped drive the controversy between parents and school administrators over parental opt-outs and test refusal. As a result of these parental opt outs, students across the country were  formally disciplines and subjected to “sit-and-stare” policies; refused admittance to the classroom; lost honors, class trips, and athletic participation; and were even suspended.

 Click here to read the Law Center’s friend of the Court Brief

Lawsuit Challenges the Constitutionality of Common Core in North Dakota

Responding to the concerns of parents and teachers over the Common Core State Standards and the Federal government’s control of curriculum nationwide, the Thomas More Law Center announced today that it has joined in filing a lawsuit against North Dakota’s governor, state superintendent and other state officials.  The lawsuit claims that North Dakota’s participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC”) and its implementation of Common Core is unconstitutional and violates several federal laws that prohibit federal control of our public schools and their curriculum.

Lawsuit by the Thomas More Law Center Challenges the Constitutionality of Common Core in North Dakota

The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, teamed-up with attorney D. John Sauer of the St Louis, MO firm, Clark & Sauer, to file the lawsuit. This lawsuit follows Sauer’s success in stopping Missouri’s membership in SBAC on similar grounds.  Bismarck, ND Attorney, Arnold Fleck, has agreed to assist in the lawsuit as local counsel.

Plaintiffs in the case, who are all North Dakota residents and state taxpayers, include: Steve Cates, Catherine Cartier, Charles Cartier, and Robert Skarphol, who is also an elected member of the North Dakota House of Representatives.

The Compact Clause of the United States Constitution provides that “[n]o state shall, without the consent of Congress . . . enter into any agreement or compact with another state.” As the Smarter Balanced Consortium is an interstate compact which Congress did not authorize, its existence is a violation of the Constitution. Accordingly, North Dakota’s membership in the Consortium and membership fee payments of over a half million dollars per year, equate to participation in and funding of an illegal entity.

 In addition to violations of the Compact Clause, SBAC also violates laws enacted by Congress.  For nearly fifty years, federal statutes have prohibited the Federal Government—and, in particular, the federal Department of Education—from controlling educational policy, including curriculum decisions and educational-assessment programs in elementary and secondary education.

Although an increasing number of governors and state legislatures have expressed reservations about Common Core, a majority of states still belong to either SBAC or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (“PARCC”), both directed by the Federal Government.

North Dakota’s agreement to participate in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium leaves North Dakota schools little choice but to align their curriculum to meet the imposed national standards and assessments, allowing the federal Department of Education to effectively control public education in North Dakota.

Click here to read the full complaint

Moreover, mounting criticism by parents, teachers, and a growing number of political leaders, has prompted SBAC, PARCC and the federal Department of Education to make it difficult to withdraw from participation in a testing Consortium and statewide testing by threatening increased restrictions and loss of federal funding. The threat of loss of federal funding helped drive a growing controversy between parents and school administrators over parental opt-outs and test refusal.

Across the country, many parents, after often drawn-out battles, still saw their children subjected to “sit-and-stare” policies; suspensions; loss of honors, class trips, and athletic participation; or refused admittance to the classroom as a result of the opt-out. “Sit-and-stare” is a practice of certain school districts forbidding students who opt-out of testing from working on any schoolwork during testing hours and requiring that the students do nothing and possess no materials.  The students must sit in total silence and do nothing while the testing takes place.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented on the federalized control of public education: “States have surrendered their sovereignty over public education in exchange for federal dollars.  Membership in SBAC requires the adoption of Common Core; and as the standards are Common Core and the exams are Common Core, so the local curriculum must also be Common Core.”

The testing associated with Common Core and created by SBAC, and its companion consortium PARCC, remains one of the most contentious issues between parents and educators. The tests have been heavily criticized for issues ranging from their lack of validity and transparency to appropriateness and data collection, as well as the amount of stress they inflict upon students and teachers.

 The new wave of testing ushered in by SBAC and PARCC has sparked a national opt-out movement as students, teachers and administrators grapple with the heavy burden created by these assessments. As schools and teachers are evaluated based on these exams, the exam is increasingly becoming the only curriculum.

As a result, the Thomas More Law Center previously developed a Test Refusal and Student Privacy Protection Form and a Common Core Resource Page as a general reference and guide for concerned parents and individuals.

In a nutshell, SBAC’s existence, purpose, function, activities, governance, and manner of operation violates the Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and federal statutes guaranteeing state and local control of curriculum, programs of instruction, and related matters in public schools.

School Retaliates Against Teacher for anti-Common Core Facebook Post — Federal Lawsuit Filed

Deborah Vailes has been teaching junior high in Louisiana’s Rapides Parish School District for the past twelve years.  She is passionate about helping special needs children become better readers.  Little did she know that an early morning post critical of the Common Core Curriculum on her personal Facebook page would lead to disciplinary action, suppression of her right to free speech, retaliation from school officials, and possible loss of her job.

As a result, the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan has filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on behalf of Deborah Vailes against the Rapides Parish School District and the principal of Pineville Junior High School, Dr. Dana Nolan.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commenting on the reason for the lawsuit, stated: “Public school students have become ‘guinea pigs’ in a vast untested educational experiment dictated by the Federal Government. Our Constitution never envisioned federal control over education.  But sadly, most states have voluntarily abdicated their responsibilities over education for federal dollars. Their decision will prove disastrous, not only for public education, but also for the freedom guaranteed by our Constitution.  Debbie Vailes’ uncompromising love for her students prompted her to speak out.  And her voice should not be silenced by a tyrannical principal.”

Facts

On September 23, 2014, at approximately by 5:58 AM, Debora Vailes re-posted on her personal Facebook page a photograph of a little girl crying because of the shortcomings of Common Core.  Later that day, her school principal, Dr. Dana Nolan, after discovering the post, gave Deborah Vailes her first written reprimand and ordered her to refrain from expressing any opinion about public education on social media and to remove her anti-Common Core post from the social media site – ASAP. (The school district refers to written reprimands as a “documented conferences.”)  Dr. Nolan further informed Deborah that she could not to discuss her opinion in public – on any social media or any public forum.

Two days later, Dr. Nolan held a mandatory faculty meeting of the Pineville Junior high school. She informed the faculty at the meeting that Deborah Vailes was reprimanded due to posting a negative opinion about Common Core on Facebook.  Dr. Nolan warned the faculty not to share their personal opinions or speak-out in any way.  After hearing about the Principal’s gag order, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, issued an executive order that teachers were to be afforded the same constitutional guarantees afforded to all citizens. However, his executive order did not deter the Defendant, Dr. Nolan, from continuing her vendetta against Deborah Vailes.

Before Vailes posted her Facebook criticism of Common Core, she had a stellar personnel record; she had never received a reprimand.  Since her public criticism, she has received three additional written reprimands. School administrators are now constantly visiting her class, when before her criticism of Common Core, such visits were rare.  Dr. Nolan has stripped Debbie Vailes of her responsibilities, and placed her in a job category which, according to Vailes’ colleagues, will be eliminated at the end of the school year resulting in her termination.

TMLC Senior Trial Counsel Erin Mersino and Alexandria, Louisiana attorney, Theodore D. Vicknair are representing Deborah Vailes.   Mersino stated “Accepting employment in the public sector does not mean a total loss of First Amendment freedom.  Public employees may readily comment on matters of public concern, such as the Common Core Curriculum, and do so free from any retaliation from their employer.  What the School District and Principal are doing to Debbie Vailes is blatantly wrong.”

 Click here to read TMLC’s entire Complaint

 Difficulties with Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standards (“Common Core”) are national standards in education promoted and funded by the U.S. Department of Education.  The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers together established Common Core as a set of academic standards to be used in common across all states. These standards replace the existing state standards in the applicable academic areas.

Although Common Core has been adopted by 43 states (including Louisiana), its implementation has caused an uproar from caring parents, grandparents and educators alike. According to an October 2014 Gallup poll, 62% of teachers are frustrated with the Common Core State Standards.

Adding to the frustration is the fact that the Common Core Standards were untested prior to their implementation.  They were implemented without any prior research being conducted on their efficacy, resulting in standards that at best reflect guesswork. Many child development experts have decried even the creation of the standards without input from classroom teachers or early childhood professionals.

Compounding the anger over the standards themselves was the overwhelming emphasis on standardized testing. The Common Core State Standards require so much testing, that teachers can only teach to the test.

Moreover, Common Core’s method for teaching math over-complicates and adds numerous seemingly illogical steps to solving math problems.

Many parents and teachers have also expressed concern over the English Standards set by the Common Core. The reading selections considered to be representative examples of what students should be reading, feature incest, rape and drug use, as well as far left political viewpoints.

Dirty Books and Corporations in the Classroom

Thomas More Law Center Fights Common Core with Resource Page for Parents and Teachers.

From recommended literature that celebrates pedophilia, and math standards that ignore simple arithmetic, to “new” history, and the infiltration of corporations and advertisers in the classroom and student records, the Common Core aligned curricula, tests, and data are filled with horror stories.

In an effort to empower parents and concerned teachers, the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, has launched a Common Core Resource page which combines commentary and analysis from leading experts along with documentation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) worst offenses. These offenses include “grooming” children by presenting graphic descriptions of pedophilia, incest and rape as literature, selling American education to the highest bidder, and turning students into lab rats whose data can be shared with any agency using the right code words.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of TMLC, commented: “Our resource page is only a start. And I invite concerned parents and teachers to check it out and notify Catherine McMillan at cmcmillan@thomasmore.org if we have left out an important resource. It goes without saying, I’m grateful to the parents and teachers who have preceded us in this particular fight for the future of our children and nation.”

Click here to go directly to the resource page.

The resource page also includes the Law Center’s comprehensive Student Privacy Protection Request form to assist parents in opting-out of Common Core aligned curricula, data mining and the release of student’s personal information including test scores, religious and political beliefs, biographic, biometric, and psychometric data, such as fingerprints, DNA and information related to children’s personality and aptitude. The form is available as a general reference and guide for all concerned parents.

In addition, for parents seeking to network with others in their state who are also working to eliminate Common Core and its effects, the resource page contains a listing of Stop Common Core groups by state.

As documented in TMLC’s resource page, since its inception, the CCSS have come under heavy fire, from parents and educators, for a variety of grievances including: political, inappropriate, and incomprehensible assignments; costly ties to big corporations; in-test advertising; the elimination of locally appropriate standards; and the emphasis placed on standardized testing.

Additionally, concerns about the alarming explosion of data mining within the classroom have been raised in connection with Common Core. State databases, often referred to as P-20 systems, are designed to gather information and follow students from their entry into pre-Kindergarten up through entry into the workforce. These databases, through a complicated network of contracts and agreements, can then be shared with the federal government, contractors, researchers and other outside agencies. In some instances, these databases can contain over 400 individual data points per student including health-care histories, income information, religious affiliations, voting status, blood type, likes and dislikes and homework completion.

Common Core: Law Center Develops Opt-Out Form for Parents

Amidst growing concerns from parents and teachers surrounding the Common Core State Standards and the Federal government’s control of classroom curriculum, the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) has prepared a Student Privacy Protection Request form for use by parents who wish to protect their children by opting-out of Common Core aligned curricula, data mining and the release of information concerning their children’s personal beliefs.

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, designed the comprehensive opt-out form for parents concerned about Common Core and who want to protect their children’s privacy from educational data mining. The form allows parents to choose which Common Core State Standards and data driven practices they do not want their children to be a part of, including standardized testing.

Click here to download a copy of the Student Privacy Protection Request form

The form allows parents to opt-out of sharing their child’s information with the federal government, as well as outside agencies and private contractors. Information which parents can opt-out of sharing ranges from test scores and religious and political beliefs, to biographic, biometric, and psychometric data, such as fingerprints, DNA and information related to children’s personality and aptitude.

Richard Thompson, TMLC President and Chief Counsel, commented, “The opt-out form is based on the constitutionally recognized fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children and on federal statutes which were designed to protect student privacy.  Our Founding Fathers recognized the dangers to our freedoms posed by centralized control over public education.  However, today, all but a handful of state governments, enticed by millions of dollars in federal grants, are voluntarily inviting the federal government to take control of our public schools, imposing untested educational standards and obtaining personal information on children and their parents which would make any totalitarian government blush with envy.   We must ever keep in mind, ‘The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will become the philosophy of the government in the next.’ Clearly, Common Core is a threat to individual privacy and liberty, and to our Constitutional Republic.”

Religious and private school educators have also criticized Common Core. In a statement the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of faithful Catholic education said, “This school reform effort is nothing short of a revolution in how education is provided, relying on a technocratic, top-down approach to setting national standards that, despite claims to the contrary, will drive curricula, teaching texts, and the content of standardized tests.  At its heart, the Common Core is a woefully inadequate set of standards in that it limits the understanding of education to a utilitarian ‘readiness for work’ mentality.”

Political Commentators Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin have repeatedly reported on the dangers and horrors of Common Core, with Malkin saying, “It’s about control, control and more control.”

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed under the supervision of the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to ensure that education and educational outcomes were consistent across the United States. The CCSS provides a set of standards they claim are “essential, rigorous, clear and specific, coherent, and internationally benchmarked.”

However, the CCSS have come under heavy fire since the beginning for a variety of grievances including: incomprehensible, political and inappropriate assignments; costly ties to big corporations; in-test advertising; the elimination of locally appropriate standards; and the emphasis placed on standardized testing.

In addition, with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, whose educational value has not been demonstrated, also comes an alarming explosion of data mining within the classroom.  Student data are stored in databases designed to follow students from their entry into schools in pre-Kindergarten up through their entry into the workforce. These databases, through a complicated network of contracts and agreements, can then be shared with the federal government, contractors, researchers and other outside agencies. Testing corporations can then analyze the test data, produce recommendations for how to “remediate” student weaknesses, and then sell that information back to states and school districts.

These state databases, often referred to as P-20 systems, like Common Core are tied to federal funding, through the 2009 Federal Stimulus package and Race to the Top waivers, and in some instances can contain over 400 individual data points per student including health-care histories, income information, religious affiliations, voting status, blood type, likes and dislikes and homework completion. The data is then available to numerous public agencies. Despite federal student privacy protections guaranteed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the administration is paving the way for private entities to buy the data while the U.S. Department of Education is encouraging the shift from aggregate data collection to individual student data collection.

As a result of concerns expressed by a Michigan member of the TMLC regarding Common Core in March 2014, the Law Center began its study of the issues regarding the Common Core Standards.  The Student Privacy Protection Opt-Out Request was designed by the Thomas More Law Center as a result of that study.  It is available as a general reference and guide for all concerned parents.  However, each state has different laws that may impact educational issues differently.  Therefore, if parents are dealing with schools outside of the state of Michigan, it is important that they consult with a licensed attorney in their state for additional review and modifications of the opt-out form to comport with the laws of their respective states.

RELATED VIDEO: How Education Savings Accounts Are Empowering Families:

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

The Common Core: A Poor Choice for States – The Heartland Institute
Common Core Issues – Home School Legal Defense Association
Common Core: What’s Behind the Language – Rachel Alexander
Common Core – The Eagle Forum
10 Facts Every Catholic Should Know About the Common Core – Cardinal Newman Society

Florida Federal Judge Bans Enforcement of HHS Mandate

ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, announced that this past Monday, Federal District Court Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich of the Middle District of Florida granted its Motion for a Preliminary Injunction barring enforcement of the HHS Mandate.  The motion for a Preliminary Injunction was filed by TMLC on behalf of Plaintiffs Thomas R. Beckwith and his family’s company, Beckwith Electric.

The government claimed that once a business owner chooses to enter into the marketplace or incorporate his business, he surrenders his right to exercise his religious beliefs.

However, Judge Kovachevich’s 37-page decision which mentioned Thomas R. Beckwith’s unique family history—Beckwith’s ancestors arrived on the shores of America in 1626 to escape religious persecution from England — ended with a powerful statement on religious freedom:

 “The First Amendment, and its statutory corollary the RFRA, endow upon the citizens of the United States the unalienable right to exercise religion, and that right is not relinquished by efforts to engage in free enterprise under the corporate form. No legislative, executive, or judicial officer shall corrupt the Framers’ initial expression, through their enactment of laws, enforcement of those laws, or more importantly, their interpretation of those laws. And any action that debases, or cheapens, the intrinsic value of the tenet of religious tolerance that is entrenched in the Constitution cannot stand.” (Emphasis added)

Erin Mersino, TMLC’s lead attorney representing Beckwith, commented, “Tom Beckwith was fighting the Federal Government for the freedom to practice his Southern Baptist faith.  The HHS Mandate would have forced him to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in violation of his religious beliefs or face up to $6 million in annual penalties. Kovachevich’s ruling halts enforcement of the HHS mandate until a final decision is reached in this case.”

 Click here to read Judge Kovachevich’s entire opinion.

Judge Kovachevich’s ruling is the first injunction against the HHS Mandate granted in the State of Florida.  It also marks the twenty-second injunction against the HHS Mandate granted by Federal Courts on religious freedom grounds across the country. The Government is expected to appeal the ruling to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Thomas More Law Center was assisted by local counsel Paul Pizzo and Scott Richards of the firm Fowler White Boggs, P.A. located in Tampa, Florida.

The Attorney General of the State of Florida filed a friend of the court brief in support of the Thomas More Law Center, as did several other Christian organizations, including the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

ABOUT THE THOMAS MORE LAW CENTER:

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life.  It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America.  The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities.  It does not charge for its services.  The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization.  You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at www.thomasmore.org.