At NRB Convention, Top Christian Liberty Experts Assess the Current Legal Landscape

NRB | March 13, 2024 | NRB News

On Wednesday morning, Feb. 21, at NRB 2024, the “Christian Liberty: The Current Legal Landscape” Forum hosted a timely dialogue among leaders of top Christian legal groups. The panel took a close look at the Supreme Court, exploring what is happening, what is coming, and how God is at work in this critical sector of our nation’s life.

NRB General Counsel Michael P. Farris moderated the discussion, beginning with the current state of play in the Supreme Court, particularly on the free exercise of religion and freedom of speech. Panelists explained pending and possible future cases and the specific cases their organizations are litigating.

Brad Dacus, founder and president of Pacific Justice Institute, highlighted an important pending case We the Patriots v. Connecticut, which deals with the Connecticut legislature’s decision to remove the religious exemption from the vaccine mandates that applied to schoolchildren and college students.

Dacus noted, “It looks like there’s a good chance [the Supreme Court] may go back to old case law, which is much more respectful of and providing much greater protection for religious freedom.”

Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman at Liberty Counsel, continued the discussion by noting how the monumental 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith weakened the free exercise clause, causing a shift in focus from free exercise to free speech or expression of religion. The current Supreme Court, he believes, is now very strong regarding free speech and free exercise of religion.

“I think it’s just a matter of time [until] they overrule the Smith decision,” Staver said. “Those kinds of free exercise cases with regards to the collision between LGBTQ issues as it relates to free speech and free exercise of religion is the big area that the Supreme Court will need to address.”

Ryan Bangert, senior vice president for strategic initiatives and special counsel to the president at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), also noted, “The U.S. Supreme Court is going to have to address the intersection of free speech and the ability of believers and people of orthodox faith to speak truth concerning human sexuality.”

Farris asked each of the panelists to comment on whether they have hope or despair about the current legal landscape.

“I have hope because I read the end of the book,” said Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel at First Liberty Institute. “But let’s stay here on planet earth for the moment: we have more freedom today than we have had in my entire lifetime. The last couple of years of the Supreme Court have been phenomenal.”

“We are free,” Staver said. “We need to go out and exercise that freedom. So never, ever give up with God. I am optimistic about the future because I know with God all things are possible. And he has called each one of us to this moment in history for this time to change the culture.”

“We’ve got the best Supreme Court in my lifetime,” Dacus said. “So it’s not the time to be discouraged. It’s the time to be faithful with what God’s given us. He goes with us to the end. Even in the worst-case scenario, there’s no excuse not to be faithful with what God has given us for this day and this hour.”

“You have to expect turbulence,” Bangert said. “This idea that we’re some sort of moral majority is no longer true. We’re an insurgency in this culture, and that’s why we’re encountering so much opposition. That’s why it’s so important for us to boldly speak truth, expecting consequences. And when those consequences come, we’re here as legal professionals to defend your rights. Ultimately, God has the result in his hands.”

The forum was sponsored by National School Chaplain Association (NSCA) and “Uncommon Sense in Current Times” with Peter Demos. The NSCA is a Christian chaplain ministry that provides spiritual care, counseling, and practical community support to Pre-K through 12th grade students, teachers, and their families regardless of socioeconomic status. The show “Uncommon Sense in Current Times” with leader and speaker Peter Demos explores the practical application of Christianity in our everyday lives.

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