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Liberty Counsel is a non-profit public interest law firm and ministry that provides free legal assistance in defense of "Christian religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, and the traditional family." Liberty Counsel is headed by attorney Mathew D. Staver, who founded the legal ministry with his wife, Anita, in 1989 and currently serves as its chairman. Anita L. Staver, his wife, serves as president of Liberty Counsel. A close partnership exists between Liberty University, which was founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and Liberty Counsel; Staver serves as Liberty University's law school dean. In 2004, Liberty Counsel became affiliated with Liberty University/Falwell Ministries and Liberty Counsel opened an office at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Liberty Counsel describes its practice as a First Amendment practice, focused on religious liberties, freedom of speech, church/state issues in public schools and in the public square. Liberty Counsel has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Goals and positions
Liberty Counsel is devoted to influencing policy and providing courts with the legal rationale to develop precedent favorable to its mission. Although Liberty Counsel has said in the past that its central goal is to educate both its membership and public officials about its view on the role of religion in public life, it now states that its primary goal is to influence policy.
Liberty Counsel supports barring people from the military on the basis of homosexual activity. Liberty Counsel opposes efforts to prohibit employment discrimination against gay workers. The organization further opposes 'the addition of "sexual orientation", "gender identity" or similar provisions' to hate crimes legislation. In 2005 the Southern Poverty Law Center listed the Liberty Counsel as one of twelve groups comprising an "anti-gay crusade" and in April 2014 added the Liberty Counsel to its list of active anti-gay hate groups. Liberty Counsel also devotes its time to fighting against same-sex marriage, civil unions, and adoption by homosexuals.
Liberty Counsel also provides information, research, and expertise to affect legislation and public policy at the local, state, and national level. In particular, Liberty Counsel operates the Liberty Center for Law and Policy, which monitors and drafts proposed legislation.
- Lawrence v. Texas submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of a Texas statute that criminalized homosexual sodomy.
- Madsen v. Women's Health Center (1994) In a partial victory for Liberty Counsel, the United States Supreme Court defined the limits of injunctive relief available to abortion clinics against pickets and demonstrators. The Court established the Madsen Test, which provides that injunctive relief can be granted when it is shown that the defendant has violated or imminently will violate some provision of law, there is a discernible danger of recurrent violations, and a following speech restrictive injunction may not burden speech more than necessary to serve a significant government interest.
- Wigg v. Sioux Falls School District 49-6 (2004) - the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled as Liberty Counsel argued that after school Bible study classes on campus after school hours does not violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, since it constitutes private free-speech.
- In November 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Liberty's Counsel's appeal, previously dismissed in the District Court and the First Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the Catholic Action Council of Massachusetts and others who sought to block implementation of the court decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that held the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples unconstitutional.
- McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky (2005) defending a Ten Commandments public monument. Liberty Counsel lost this case that challenged the legal test regarding religious displays used by the courts since the 1970s. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia delivered a dissent that challenged prevailing Supreme Court jurisprudence regarding the Establishment Clause of the constitution.
- In a challenge to New York's June 2011 Marriage Equality Act, Liberty Counsel asked the state's highest court to hear its appeal and invalidate the law. That court declined to hear the appeal on October 23, 2012.
In 2000, Liberty Counsel threatened legal action against a public library for awarding a "Hogwarts' Certificate of Accomplishment" to young students who read J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in its entirety. Staver said that "witchcraft is a religion, and the certificate of witchcraft endorsed a particular religion in violation of the First Amendment establishment clause."
In December 2005, Liberty Counsel issued a press release accusing an elementary school in Dodgeville, Wisconsin of changing the lyrics of Christmas songs to make them more "secular" and said it would sue the school district "if the district does not immediately remedy the situation." The school was putting on the play "The Little Tree's Christmas Gift," written by Dwight Elrich, a former church choir director. The Dodgeville school district attempted to seek a retraction and apology from Liberty Counsel, as well as reimbursement of $20,000 spent in personnel, security, and attorney fees to fight the accusation. Liberty Counsel's Staver refused, asserting, "There is nothing to apologize for or retract."
- Judicial Tyranny - The Faith & Freedom Series - ISBN 0-9662079-1-2
- Eternal Vigilance - Knowing and Protecting Your Religious Freedom - ISBN 0-8054-4000-3
- Same-Sex Marriage - Putting Every Household at Risk - ISBN 0-8054-3196-9
- "Falwell Saw Law School as Tool to Alter Society". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2007-05-21.
- Poverty Law Center "18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda".
- Hacker, Hans J. The Culture of Conservative Christian Litigation. 2005. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 139, 144.
- http://lc.org/index.cfm?pid=14096 "First case ever to declare a Vermont civil union is not equivalent to marriage, and a state and federal Defense of Marriage Act permits a state to ban same sex unions."
- Liberty Counsel, Take Back America, 2007
- "State Rep. Matt Krause, District 93 (R-Fort Worth)". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
- Dale Carpenter, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas (NY: W.W. Norton, 2012), 204-5
- 512 U.S. 753 (1994).
- Mathew D. Staver, Injunctive Relief and the Madsen Test, 14 St. Louis U. Pub. L. Rev. 465, 478 (1995).
- 382 F.3d 807 (8th Cir. 2004).
- "Federal Appeals Court Rules That Public School Teacher May Participate In A Christian After-School Good News Club For Elementary Students". Liberty Counsel. Retrieved 2006-12-07.
- Kirkpatrick, David D.; Zezima, Katie (November 30, 2004). "Supreme Court Turns Down A Same-Sex Marriage Case". New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2013.
- 545 U.S. 844 (2005).
- "Liberty Counsel Files Brief With The United States Supreme Court In Kentucky Ten Commandments Case.". Liberty Counsel. Retrieved December 7, 2006.
- Snow, Justin (6 August 2012). "Anti-Gay Group Challenges Marriage Equality In New York". Metro Weekly. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
- Lovett, Ken (October 23, 2012). "Court of Appeals refuses to hear gay marriage appeal". Metro Weekly. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- "Jacksonville Library Drops Harry Potter Certificates". American Library Assoc. Retrieved October 22, 2008.
- School Changes "Silent Night" to "Cold in the Night" and Secularizes the Lyrics, Liberty Counsel, Dec. 7, 2005.
- "Have a Holly, Jolly Holiday", The Washington Post, Dec. 20, 2005.
- "Haven't heard last on 'Silent Night'; Wis. school board is seeking redress from Christian legal group," Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 14, 2006.