Gig Harbor, WA--This Christmas season Gig Harbor reincorporated a nativity scene display in Skansie Brothers Park after Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) provided legal clarity and offered pro bono support in response to the threats the City received from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
For roughly a decade, the traditional Christmas display, provided by John Skansi and Councilman Jim Franich who together head up the local “Sons of Thunder” group, included a City-approved nativity scene next to a Christmas tree and other secular symbols of the Christmas season in the public park. However, in November 2016 the City received a letter from the FFRF threatening to sue Gig Harbor for the “unconstitutional” nativity scene. The FFRF, a Wisconsin-based atheist organization known for castigating people of faith and filing suits that are routinely thrown out of court, pressured the City Council to censor all religious content from the display.
Green Bay, WI--A Judge in Green Bay, Wisconsin, ruled last Friday that a city’s non-discrimination ordinance cannot be applied to churches or other religious organizations. The City of De Pere’s ordinance labeled religious organizations as “places of public accommodation” subject to non-discrimination policies dictated by the government.
The City’s ordinance, passed just before Thanksgiving of last year, addressed non-discrimination of gender identity and sexual orientation in housing, employment, advertising, and public accommodations—without an exemption for religious organizations. Before the ordinance took effect in March 2018, Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) swiftly took action and filed a complaint.
Salem, OR--The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) has joined in the defense of a Christian construction company’s owner in a case that has generated national attention.
Joel Dahl is the owner and sole officer of Dahled Up Construction, a corporation headquartered in Albany, Oregon. A former prison inmate who turned his life around after embracing Christianity, Dahl operates his company in accordance with Christian principles—his company’s logo, in fact, even has a cross where the second “t” in “construction” would be. Many of the people he employs are former inmates like him whose job prospects are limited due to their criminal histories.
Riverside, CA--After days of intense arbitration, the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) secured a legal victory this past month for a sociology professor fired for his discussions of conservative world-views in his college classroom. PJI represented Professor Eric Thompson and battled in depositions, administrative hearings, and a multi-day arbitration conducted like a trial. The arbitrator, who found many of Moreno Valley College’s claims against the tenured professor were unfounded, ruled in Thompson’s favor.
Thompson, who had taught at Moreno Valley College since 2005 and twice been named “Faculty of the Year,” encouraged discussions in his sociology courses regarding topics like marriage, gender roles, and sexual orientation. He introduced conservative views to his students to challenge them to defend their assumptions and positions. He also circulated the film Understanding Same-Sex Attraction which suggests homosexual feelings may be due to environmental factors rather than genetically pre-determined.
San Rafael, CA--In a case that could benefit churches statewide, the Pacific Justice Institute convinced the Marin County Superior Court to declare a voter-approved local property tax unconstitutional as applied to a local church.
On October 9, PJI attorney Ray Hacke represented Valley Baptist Church of San Rafael in a civil trial against the City of San Rafael. The trial concerned the City’s Paramedic Services Special Tax, which was enacted by a two-thirds vote of the City’s voters in 2010 and empowers the City to annually tax non-residential structures at a rate of up to 14 cents per square foot. At issue were two questions of law: one, whether the Paramedic Tax is a property tax, as opposed to an excise tax; and two, if the Tax is in fact a property tax, whether its status as a voter-approved “special tax” allows the City to skirt the California Constitution’s provision exempting buildings that are used exclusively for religious worship from taxation.
San Antonio, TX--A public evangelist criminally charged for preaching to the crowds of downtown San Antonio received news from the court that his charges were dismissed this week, after Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) filed a trial brief in his defense.
Jeffrey Warner frequently travels to spread the gospel on public sidewalks, carefully aligning himself to local city ordinances before he preaches. During the Easter weekend of 2018, Warner used his sound amplifier to speak in a conversational manner to people passing by in a business district, complying with San Antonio’s decibel level restrictions.
Sacramento, CA--In a surprising move, a California legislator announced that he is dropping his efforts to have certain types of LGBT-related counseling declared “fraudulent” and “deceptive.”
Assembly Member Evan Low released a statement on his website to announce that, after meeting with numerous religious leaders who were concerned about the bill, he will re-work the legislation for a future legislative session. Today is the last day of the year for the Legislature to give final approval to bills and send them to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Riverside, CA--A new lawsuit has been filed in Riverside Superior Court on behalf of a piano teacher who was rejected by a charter school for religious reasons.
Dimitra Solomos has been teaching children piano for more than 25 years in Orange and Riverside Counties. In 2016, when a teacher and families enrolled through Sky Mountain Charter School asked her to become an approved vendor of the school, she completed a background check, got a business license and complied with the other application requirements. Becoming a vendor would allow families to use extracurricular funds to pay for her piano lessons, which some families had been doing out-of-pocket because they felt she was an excellent teacher.