Pacific Justice Institute

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Pacific Justice Institute
Pacific Justice Institute logo September 2012.jpg
FounderBrad W. Dacus
TypeLegal advocacy

The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) is a conservative legal defense organization in California, United States.[1][2]

PJI provides pro bono representation in matters involving the exercise of religion and other civil liberties.[3] It has supported the recitation of "under God" as part of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools,[2][4][5][6] homeschooling,[7][8] and the enforcement of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.[9][self-published source?]

In 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated the Pacific Justice Institute as a homophobic hate group.[10]


PJI is a tax-exempt non-profit organization.[3] It is headquartered in Sacramento and has four other office locations in California, in the cities of Santa Ana, Oakland, Riverside, and San Diego.[11] It was founded in 1997[2][12] by its current president, Brad W. Dacus,[12] a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law.[13]

Notable cases[edit]

  • Newdow v. Congress, 598 F.3d 638 (9th Cir. 2010) cert. denied 131 S. Ct. 1612 (U.S. 2011). AKA: The "In God We Trust Case" – A prominent atheist, Michael Newdow, filed a suit to declare the national motto – In God We Trust – unconstitutional and to have it removed from coins and currency. The case was dismissed by the trial court and the Ninth Circuit affirmed that decision.[14] Pacific Justice Institute intervened as a defendant and defended the against the suit.[14]
  • In re Jonathan L., 165 Cal.App.4th 1074 (2008) – A three justice panel of the California Court of Appeal handed down a ruling on February 28, 2008, that found no constitutional right to homeschool children, and the Court further determined that all home-based instruction is unlawful unless it is performed by a credentialed tutor on a daily basis.[15][16][17] A private school, Sunland Christian School was the focus of the case.[15][16][17] Sunland provides an independent study program that is taught by parents in the home.[15][16][17] The Pacific Justice Institute represented Sunland before the Court of Appeal.[15][17] The Court vacated and reversed its prior decision.[17]
  • Newdow v. Roberts, 603 F.3d 1002 (D.C. Cir. 2010) cert. denied 131 S. Ct. 2441 (U.S. 2010) – Two prominent clergy, Revs. Rick Warren Joseph Lowery, were personally sued by over 200 atheists, humanists and like-minded organizations, for giving the invocation and benediction at the inauguration of President Obama.[18][19] (Chief Justice Roberts was also sued for using the phrase, "so help me God" in administering the presidential oath.)[19] Pacific Justice Institute defended Judge Roberts and the clergy.[20]
  • International Church of the Foursquare Gospel v. City of San Leandro, 634 F.3d 1037 (9th Cir. 2011) cert denied 132 S. Ct. 251 (U.S. 2011) – A church grew from 65 to 1,500 and was unable to accommodate its congregation at its current facility, and thus the church purchased a building in an industrially zoned area due to the overcrowding and extreme traffic congestion that it caused at its current mixed residential and business location.[21] The City refused to allow the church to use the new building, resulting in a $33,000 per month mortgage payment for a facility that the Church could not occupy.[21] This case resulted in significant positive legal precedent on several issues in the Ninth Circuit and will likely shift the balance of power toward religious organizations against local governments in the western states in the area of religious land use.[citation needed]
  • Snatchko v. Galleria Mall – A youth pastor was arrested at the Roseville Galleria Mall in 2007 for striking up a casual conversation with two other shoppers about faith.[22][23][24] Although Snatchko had first obtained the shoppers' permission to broach the subject, a nearby store employee disapproved and called mall security guards, who arrested Snatchko.[22][23][24] Criminal charges were later dropped, but attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute filed suit to challenge the mall's tight restrictions on speech.[22][23][24] The trial court ruled in favor of the mall.[22][23][24] But, in a unanimous opinion, the Court of Appeal reversed finding no legitimate basis for suppression of the youth pastor's speech.[23]
  • Bible Club and R.G., a Minor by and through her Next Friend R.G. v. Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School Dist., 573 F.Supp.2d 1291 (2008) – A federal court issued a preliminary injunction against a school district which refused to allow a high school student to start a Christian club at her school.[25] The District soon settled after the court issued its order.[25]
  • Guaytay v. San Diego County – The Pacific Justice Institute represented a couple in San Juan Capistrano, CA against the city of San Juan Capistrano when city officials fined them $300 for regular Bible study groups that they held at their home because the officials claimed it was a violation of the city's "zoning laws."[26][27][28][29] PJI (Pacific Justice Institute) won the case when the city changed their zoning laws to accommodate the Bible study gatherings.[26][30]
  • Codding v. Placer Co. Clerk – During the period of time in California after the ban on same-sex marriage was found unconstitutional, and before the passage of Proposition 8, the State of California changed the marriage form from Bride and Groom to Party A and Party B. A man and woman applied for a wedding license and, with the approval of the clerk manning the window, wrote back in the words Bride and Groom. After the couple was married, the officiating minister signed and mailed in the marriage certificate. It was rejected by the County Clerk because of the interlineation. A suit was filed in state court which resulted in significant publicity because of its timing before the general election in which Prop. 8 appeared on the ballot. The case was settled with the State of California when officials agreed to change the form to put back in the words Bride and Groom.[31]
  • Jesus Christ Prison Ministry v. CA Dept. of Corrections, 456 F.Supp.2d 1188 (E.D. CA 2006) – Prison authorities restricted inmate access to receiving religious CDs and literature, including declaring the Bible contraband. The plaintiffs won on summary judgment on all causes of action.[32]
  • K.D. v. GUHSD – A high school student shared his faith in private conversations with other students.[33][34] He was warned by a teacher not to do this because of the separation of church and state.[33][34] Further, the student was directed not to take his Bible to school and had it confiscated by the teacher.[33][34] The student was eventually suspended for two days.[33][34] The suspension notice stated: "Student was told to stop preaching at school. Student continued after being warned several times."[33] The teacher further wrote on the suspension form, "Student will not bring Bible to school."[33][34] Suit was brought in federal court, Southern District of California.[33][34] The District settled.
  • Murrieta Red-light case – There was an effort to repeal a law in Murrieta that mandated that all traffic lights be installed with cameras in order to catch the license plates of people who blew red-lights and the effort to repeal the law came in the form of a private petition in order to put it on the ballot for the next election.[35][36][37] However, a lawsuit was levied against the private petition claiming that "residents don't have the authority to change traffic laws, and thus remove the cameras."[35][37] PJI represented the petitioners in court.[37]
  • Armitage v. CSUN – PJI represented an electron microscope technician who said he was fired from a university biology lab in 2013 for holding young Earth creationist beliefs. In 2012, the technician had discovered soft tissue on a dinosaur fossil.[38]

Involvement in other issues[edit]

PJI has also been involved in a number of other specific legal issues and cases where they have written amicus curiae[39] and/or have testified in the houses of both state and federal legislatures.[40][41]

  • PJI supported Proposition 8, a 2008 California ballot initiative that defined marriage as one man and one woman, until the Hollingsworth v. Perry decision in 2013.[42][43][44]
  • PJI unsuccessfully opposed the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate provision.[45]
  • PJI unsuccessfully opposed SB 1172, a 2012 California law which bans conversion therapy for children under 18.[46][47][48]
  • PJI opposes the School Success and Opportunity Act, a 2013 California law which allows transgender public school students to use restrooms and play on sports teams that fit their gender identity.[49] In 2013, Media Matters for America described the Pacific Justice Institute as the "LGBT Misinformer Of The Year", because it had publicised a press release containing false claims against a transgender student, as part of its campaign against the law.[50] In 2014, PJI filed suit over whether a referendum against the law qualifies for the November 2014 ballot.[51]
  • PJI helped a neighborhood group successfully oppose the operating permit for a medical marijuana dispensary, in the only neighborhood remaining in San Francisco that has no local dispensary.[52]


  1. ^ John Philip Habib, 'Eeew, cooties!: Cootie shots, a play about tolerance, has kicked up a ruckus in public schools in Northern California, The Advocate, April 16, 2002 [1]
  2. ^ a b c Ann Southworth, 'Lawyers of the right: professionalizing the conservative coalition', Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2008, p. 30 [2]
  3. ^ a b Pacific Justice Institute Homepage
  4. ^ David Limbaugh, Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christians, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2003, p. 210 [3]
  5. ^ Robert Murray Thomas, God in the classroom: religion and America's public schools, Praeger, 2007, p. 178 [4]
  6. ^ Janet Parshall, Craig Parshall, The Light in the City: Why Christians Must Advance and Not Retreat, Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2000 [5]
  7. ^ Steven Greenhut, Good news on home-schooling, Orange County Register [6] March 28th, 2008
  8. ^ "Teachers Union Attacks Homeschoolers - PJI Responds" (Press release). Pacific Justice Institute. May 30, 2008. Retrieved May 22, 2014.
  9. ^ Dacus, Brad (2008). "Expressing Your Religious Freedom", Freedom: keys to freedom from twenty-one national leaders. Main Street Publications. p. 42 [7][self-published source]
  10. ^ Palma, Bethania (June 10, 2019). "Was 85-Year-Old Widow Forced Out of Apartment for Religious Activities?".
  11. ^ Pacific Justice Institute Contact Page
  12. ^ a b Pacific Justice Institute Bio Page
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b Bob Egelko, 'In God We Trust' suit rejected by Supreme Court, San Francisco Chronicle, [8] March 8, 2011
  15. ^ a b c d Seema Mehta and Mitchel Landsberg, Ruling seen as a threat to many home-schooling families, Los Angeles Times, [9]
  16. ^ a b c Kristin Kloberdanz, Criminalizing Home Schoolers, Times U.S., [10], March 7, 2008
  17. ^ a b c d e The California Second Appellate District Court of Appeals, Jonathan L. et al. v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County, [11] August 8, 2008
  18. ^ Brian Montopoli, Atheists Sue Over Inaugural Prayer, CBS News, [12] December 31, 2008
  19. ^ a b Nikita Stewart, Atheists Sue to Get Prayer, God Out of Obama's Swearing-In, The Washington Post, [13] January 20, 2009
  20. ^ United States Court of Appeals District of Columbia, Newdow v. Roberts, [14] March 12, 2009
  21. ^ a b Bravin, Jess (16 November 2011). "Church Turns to Higher Authority in Zoning Battle". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  22. ^ a b c d Diane Macedo, Man Sues California Mall After Guard Arrests Him for Having Conversation About God, Fox News, [15] February 10, 2010
  23. ^ a b c d e Bob Egelko, Top state court drops mall's free speech challenge, San Francisco Chronicle, [16] October 21, 2010
  24. ^ a b c d Lawrence D. Jones, Calif. Court of Appeal Mulls Mall's Ban on Religious, Political Talk, The Christian Post, [17] February 10, 2010
  25. ^ a b My-Thuan Tran, School must allow Bible club, Los Angeles Times, [18] September 4, 2008
  26. ^ a b CBS Los Angeles, KNX 1070, San Juan Capistrano Adopts Changes to Shield Home Bible Studies,[19] June 21, 2012
  27. ^ Christina NG, California Family Fined for Bible Study in Home, ABC News, [20] Sept. 22, 2011
  28. ^ Fox News, California Couple Fined $300 for Holding Home Bible Studies,[21] Sept. 21, 2011
  29. ^ LA Times, San Juan Capistrano family fined for holding Bible study in home, [22] Sept. 21, 2011
  30. ^ The Capistrano Dispatch, Capistrano Couple Resolves Case Over Bible-Study Citation,[23] Archived 2012-05-02 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ Robin Rohr, 'Bride' and 'Groom' Back in California, National Catholic Register, [24] October 18, 2008
  32. ^ Ashley Mcglone, Corcoran prison inmates win access case to send Bible, Christian Examiner Online, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-12-25. Retrieved 2012-09-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) July 2007
  33. ^ a b c d e f g Nathan Max, Student booted in Bible flap suing school district, U-T San Diego, [25] March 31, 2011
  34. ^ a b c d e f Channel 10 News, Student Suspended For Bringing Bible To School Files Suit, [26] March 30, 2011
  35. ^ a b Kabbany, Jennifer (June 27, 2012). "Murrieta: Commission rejects political complaint". North County Times. Retrieved May 22, 2014.
  36. ^ Kabbany, Jennifer (June 22, 2012). "Murrieta: Council takes neutral stance on lawsuit". North County Times. Retrieved May 22, 2014.
  37. ^ a b c Williams, Michael J. (June 15, 2012). "Murrieta: Legal scrap heats up over measure". North County Times. Retrieved May 22, 2014.
  38. ^ "Lawsuit: CSUN Scientist Fired After Soft Tissue Found On Dinosaur Fossil". CBS Los Angeles. July 24, 2014. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
  39. ^ Karen Strauss et all, v. Mark B. Horton, as State Registrar of Vital Statistics, etc., et al; Robin Tyler et al., v. State California et al.; City and County of San Francisco et al., v. Mark B. Horton, as State Registrar,etc., et al., California Supreme Court,[27]
  40. ^ Report on the Activities of the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives During the One Hundred Tenth Congress, US Government Printing Office, [28] January 3, 2009
  41. ^ Hearing on HR 1592 – "Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007", U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-16. Retrieved 2012-08-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) April 17, 2007
  42. ^ Introduction to 2011 Digest of Legislation, California State Senate, [29] 2011
  43. ^ Valerie Richardson, California's Jerry Brown won't defend Prop 8, The Washington Times,[30] Sept. 3, 2010
  44. ^ Southern California Public Radio 89.3 KCC, Appeals court won't force state officials to defend Prop 8, Associated Press, [31] Sept. 2, 2010
  45. ^ "Federal Judge Strikes Down Health Care Mandate" (Press release). Pacific Justice Institute. Dec 13, 2010. Retrieved May 22, 2014.
  46. ^ Nannette Miranda, Lawmakers debate ban on sexual orientation therapy, ABC Channel 7 News,[32] May 30, 2012
  47. ^ Hannah Dreier, Gay Teen 'Conversion' Therapy May Be Banned In California, The Huffington Post, [33] May 8, 2012
  48. ^ SB 1172 Senate Bill - Bill Analysis, California Senate Rules Committee, [34] May 8, 2012
  49. ^ Egelko, Bob (2014-02-25). "Referendum challenging transgender rights law fails to make ballot". San Francisco Chronicle.
  50. ^ Brinker, Luke (2013-12-29). "LGBT Misinformer Of The Year: The Pacific Justice Institute". Media Matters for America.
  51. ^ "Foes of California transgender rights law revive ballot fight". The Monterey County Herald. Associated Press. March 25, 2014. Retrieved May 22, 2014.
  52. ^ Sari Staver (2017-10-05). "Anti-gay group sinks SF pot club". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved 2017-10-10.