Garrick v. Moody Bible Institute

A historic beacon of faith and hope 

Moody was founded in 1886 by prominent evangelist Dwight L. Moody, at the behest of Emma Dryer – a teacher who was instrumental in helping launch the school. Originally named the Chicago Evangelization Society, the purpose of the school was to train men and women from all walks of life to bring the Christian faith to all people. Today, Moody offers undergraduate, seminary, and missionary aviation training to equip students to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to be Biblically grounded, and to engage the world through Gospel-centered teaching and living. Moody offers various degrees to develop the next generation of Christian leaders, including Biblical Studies, Biblical Languages, Biblical Preaching, Pastoral Studies, Theology, Worship Music, Children and Family Ministry, Ministry Leadership, and Communications. Moody offers full-time residential undergraduate students at Moody’s Chicago campus a full tuition grant to help minimize the cost of an undergraduate education, allowing graduates to serve wherever they are called.  

Moody graduates have served the most vulnerable members of society in the U.S. and around the world—all while sharing their faith. For example, Moody missionary aviators fly patients to hospitals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and medical supplies to remote parts of Papua, Indonesia. A Moody Theological Seminary graduate operates a women’s shelter in Chicago to care for and minister to victims of sexual exploitation. Moody graduates feed the poor in Cambodia and care for refugees from Central and South America. Graduates have also recently traveled to war-torn Ukraine to bring hope and comfort to families driven from their homes and their country. And a statue honoring Moody alumnae Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, an educator and civil rights activist, was recently erected in the U.S. Capitol’s Statutory Hall. 

In addition to its faith-centered in-person and online education, Moody educates and equips through its media ministries, Moody Radio and Moody Publishers. Moody relies on all aspects of its ministry to share the Gospel message around the world. Moody’s Communications Department and other faculty are foundational in equipping students with the knowledge and expertise to communicate faith and hope to the world.  

A threat to Moody’s 137-year-old ministry 

Every member of the Moody faculty plays a role in the formation of Moody’s students in foundational Biblical truths. Moody ensures that its ministry remains steadfast by asking all faculty to adhere to its religious beliefs. One of these beliefs is that men and women have unique, complementary roles in the local church. Moody believes that all people have equal dignity and value as lovingly created by God, and that Christian women and men can serve as leaders in faith and ministry. Consistent with its interpretation of Scripture, Moody also believes that the specific biblical church office of pastor (or “elder”) is reserved for men who meet the Bible’s stringent spiritual qualifications.

Despite knowing about and agreeing to adhere to these religious beliefs, a Moody faculty member began advocating against them. After her own admission that she did not share Moody’s beliefs and her inability to sincerely sign Moody’s annual doctrinal statement affirmation, the professor’s teaching contract was not renewed. In response, she is asking the government and the courts to take her side in a religious dispute and punish Moody for acting in accordance with its religious beliefs.  

Protecting a religious college’s religious mission 

Faith-based ministries like Moody are free to decide matters of faith and doctrine—including the qualifications for those who hold senior church offices, without judges or juries getting to second-guess those decisions. The law protects the ability of churches and religious organizations to live, teach, and govern in accordance with the teachings of their faith. This is especially important within the context of a religious school like Moody, which is charged with forming the next generations of pastors, leaders, and ministers. 

Further, several religions—including Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Protestants, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims—make specific distinctions between men and women in their doctrines of religious leadership and worship. The law protects against government intrusion and entanglement in such sensitive religious beliefs at the heart of so many houses of worship. 

On March 18, 2024, a divided panel of the Seventh Circuit ruled 2-1 against Moody.

Importance to Religious Liberty:  

Religious communities — The ability of individuals to gather freely together to worship and teach their religion is a cornerstone of religious liberty. U.S. law has always protected the rights of religious ministries, schools, and churches to be able to make their own rules and live out their own values free from government interference. 

Demkovich v. St. Andrew the Apostle Parish

Walking with the Church

St. Andrew the Apostle Parish has been serving a Polish immigrant neighborhood in the city of Chicago for over 120 years. As part of the Archdiocese of Chicago, St. Andrew Parish is dedicated to ministering to all Catholics, including LGBTQ Catholics seeking to walk with the Church.

For over 25 years, the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach (AGLO) has been a community of accompaniment that seeks to meet LGBTQ people where they are. During the AIDS epidemic, AGLO worked closely with the Catholic Charities HIV/AIDS ministries and generously contributed its time, money, and prayer to help the afflicted and offer them hope in the face of a terrible disease. Today, AGLO offers weekly Mass and Sacraments, retreats and days of reflection, and prayer and discussion groups to help LGBTQ Catholics find a place of pastoral outreach in the Church.

Violating Church Teachings

Sandor Demkovich was hired by St. Andrew Parish in 2012. During his time with St. Andrew, Mr. Demkovich served as music director, choir director and organist. These positions are important roles within the religious life of the parish. As music director, Mr. Demkovich shared the Catholic faith with members of the parish through music—he helped select scripturally appropriate music for Masses and other important sacraments, played the organ during services, and helped lead the congregation in singing hymns.

As a minister of the faith and a representative of the parish, Mr. Demkovich was responsible for upholding the teachings of the faith in word and action. But in 2014, after working at the parish for two years, the parish was required to end Mr. Demkovich’s participation in its ministry because he entered into a same-sex marriage in violation of his agreement to bear witness to and promote the Church’s 2,000-year-old teachings, including those on marriage.

Ignoring the ministerial exception

In December 2016, Mr. Demkovich sued St. Andrew Parish and the Archdiocese of Chicago, claiming that he had been discriminated against because of his sexual orientation and subjected to a hostile work environment.

The district court allowed some of Mr. Demkovich’s claims against the Archdiocese to proceed, even though Mr. Demkovich admitted that the religious importance of his position at the parish made him a minister. In August 2020, a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit also ruled against the Archdiocese. The ruling conflicted with previous Seventh Circuit decisions, rulings of other federal circuits, and the Supreme Court’s just-issued decision in Our Lady of Guadalupe v. Morrissey-Berru, in which the Supreme Court affirmed the right of churches to select and supervise their leaders and ministers free from government interference. 

The Archdiocese of Chicago, represented by Becket, asked the entire 11-judge Seventh Circuit to reconsider the panel’s decision.  The court agreed, with one judge recused, and heard arguments on February 9, 2021.  

On July 9, 2021, the Seventh Circuit ruled 7-3 to reverse its previous decision and declare that the “ministerial exception” protects the entire ministerial relationship and not just the beginning or end.  

Plaintiff chose not to seek Supreme Court review, ending the case in favor of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish.

The Archdiocese of Chicago is also represented by its general counsel, Jim Geoly, who presented oral argument before the panel and the en banc court, and by Alex Marks at Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella, P.C. 

Importance to Religious Liberty:

Sterlinski v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago

A diverse Catholic community, singing since 1893

St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Parish was founded over a century ago in Chicago by Polish families who desired a church community to call home. Today the modest church is dedicated to conveying its Catholic message to a diverse congregation by celebrating Mass in three different languages—English, Spanish, and Polish. One way it does that is through music.

In 1992, the church hired Stanislaw Sterlinski as its musical director. His responsibilities included performing music and leading the choir and congregation in singing during Mass and other liturgical celebrations such as weddings and funerals. The Catholic Church has always placed great importance in the role of music in religious worship, as whoever stands before the congregation in song expresses the Catholic message—both visually and audibly. Nor is that at all unusual: from Catholic Gregorian chant, to the Psalms of David sung in the synagogue, to the Vedic hymns sung by priests at Hindu weddings, music has held religious significance for millennia.

After the church ended Mr. Sterlinski’s employment, he sued the church in federal district court in Illinois. Although Mr. Sterlinski agrees that the government cannot dictate who a church selects to represent its faith, he argues that the church was wrong to say he did anything “religiously meaningful” because he viewed himself as only “robotically play[ing] notes.”

Churches—not the courts—gets to choose ministers

In a previous Becket case, EEOC v. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously protected the right of a Lutheran school to select its religion teacher, free from government interference. The 2012 ruling set an important precedent confirming the First Amendment’s “ministerial exception,” which ensures that the church—not the state—gets to choose its leaders.

But Mr. Sterlinski’s lawsuit demands courts to become entangled in church affairs by second-guessing the church’s sincere determination that helping lead worship is religiously significant. In July 2018, the federal district court followed Supreme Court precedent and protected the church. The case was then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The Seventh Circuit’s second chance at bolstering Supreme Court precedent

Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a similar case in the Seventh Circuit, which in 2018 protected a Jewish day school’s right to select its Hebrew teacher without government interference. Becket also previously won unanimous victories in the Second and Third Circuit courts protecting the right of a Catholic school to choose its principal and of a Baptist church to choose its pastor, respectively. Becket is currently defending a Catholic school’s right to choose its religion teacher in a similar case before the Ninth Circuit.

On February 21, 2019, Becket and the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Seventh Circuit, arguing that St. Stanislaus Church has the undisputed right to choose who its ministers are, free from governmental second-guessing. On August 8, 2019 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agreed with Becket, unanimously ruling in favor of St. Stanislaus Church. The Court also expressly rejected a bad recent Ninth Circuit decision, Biel v. St. James School, agreeing with Becket’s arguments about that case.

Importance to religious liberty:

  • Freedom of religious groups from state intrusion on religious affairs: Religious groups should be fully empowered to select the ministers who lead their congregations. The Supreme Court unanimously acknowledged that right in its 2012 Hosanna-Tabor decision concerning the “ministerial exception” and all courts should follow that precedent. Both church and state benefit when the state is not evaluating the internal decisions of a religious ministry.

Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees

In 2015, Mark Janus, a government employee at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Service, sued his union—the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Janus argued that mandatory union fees forced him to subsidize the union in taking negotiating positions against the government with which he disagreed. After losing in the district court in September 2016 and again at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in March 2017, Janus appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In December 2017, Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief emphasizing that government workers must be allowed to opt out of mandatory fees to protect their freedom of speech and religious freedom. On June 27, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled for Janus when it clarified that mandatory fees are a form of government coercion that violate workers’ rights.

Pay no attention to the government behind the curtain

Pay no attention to the government behind the curtain! At least that’s what supporters of mandatory union fees for government workers wanted in Janus v. AFSCME. Unions can be protective forces for government workers—but not when they use the force of the government to exact mandatory fees from government employees, to support speech with which the employees disagree.

In 2015, Mark Janus, a government employee at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Service, sued the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in federal court, claiming that mandatory union fees force him to subsidize the union in taking positions against the government with which he disagrees. Janus asked the district court to protect his First Amendment rights and make public sector unions earn the trust of government employees, rather than using government power to force them to support union speech with mandatory fees. In September 2016, the district court ruled against Janus. On appeal in March 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals again ruled against Janus. Janus appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear his case.

Becket argues that mandatory fees threaten religious liberty

In December 2017, Becket filed an amicus brief in support of Janus, arguing that the government is engaging in “coercion laundering” when it gives unions power to force government employees to support speech they don’t like, even though the government could not force them directly. The government shouldn’t be excused from forcing employees to speak against their will by using unions to hide the coercion.

Our brief showed that this issue has far reaching consequences, especially for religious liberty. For instance, the government uses private accrediting agencies as gatekeepers for federal funding like Pell Grants. Accreditors should not be allowed to use their funding authority to suppress religious speech any more than the government itself could. There are many other situations where the government relies on private entities to provide government benefits or to perform government services. When acting on the government’s behalf, these organizations should be required to respect constitutional rights the same way the government is. Just like “money laundering” (passing illegitimate funds through a legitimate business) cannot remove the taint of criminally obtained funds, “coercion laundering” (allowing a private party to force someone to do something the government could not force them to) cannot remove the taint of unconstitutional coercion.

U.S. Supreme Court: Mandatory union fees are form of government coercion

On February 26, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Janus’ case. On June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Janus in a 5-4 decision, striking down mandatory union fees for government workers. The ruling clarified that mandatory fees are a form of government coercion that violates workers’ rights.

This ruling has significant impact for religious colleges and universities, suggesting that private accrediting agencies that are delegated government authority cannot use that authority to infringe on the schools’ religious speech and practices. Janus was represented by Liberty Justice Center and National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Janus was represented by Winston & Strawn, Liberty Justice Center, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Importance to religious liberty

  • Individual freedom: When acting on the government’s behalf, private entities should be required to respect constitutional rights the same way the government is. Government workers must be allowed to opt out of mandatory fees to protect their freedom of speech and religious freedom.
  • Free speech: The government engages in “coercion laundering” when it gives unions power to force government employees to support speech they don’t like, even though the government could not force them directly. The government shouldn’t be excused from forcing employees to speak against their will just because it is using unions to hide the coercion.
  • Education: The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME has significant impact for religious colleges and universities, suggesting that private accrediting agencies that are delegated government authority cannot use that authority to infringe on the schools’ religious speech and practices.

Wheaton College v. Azar

A college with a mission of faith

Wheaton College’s mission expresses its commitment to do all things “For Christ and His Kingdom.” Founded in 1860 by the prominent abolitionist Jonathan Blanchard, Wheaton’s history is marked by the stories of students and alumni whose faith drives them to affect the church and society for good.

An unconstitutional federal mandate 

In 2010, the federal government issued a mandate, regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), that forced Wheaton College to include services like the week-after pill in its insurance plans, which violated its deeply held beliefs. Despite Wheaton’s expressed religious objections, the government refused to grant the College a religious exemption. In July 2012, Wheaton College sued the government to protect its right to operate according to its religious mission without the threat of government fines.

Wheaton College’s first lawsuit was delayed for over a year by the government’s promise of a religious accommodation—but the government still insisted that Wheaton College was not a “religious employer” and was ineligible for an exemption. In the meantime, though, Wheaton’s lawsuit forced the federal government to rewrite its one-year “safe harbor” condition to include Wheaton, giving the College another year to comply with the mandate or face crippling fines. As a result of the change, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed Wheaton College’s lawsuit as premature. In September 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit granted a motion for expedited appeal, which later handed an intermediate victory to the religious colleges by ordering HHS to act quickly to fix the existing HHS mandate.

The government’s proposed “accommodation” turned out not to be much of a fix, and it still required Wheaton to choose between its belief in the sanctity of life or millions of dollars in government fines. So in December 2013, Becket refiled its lawsuit on behalf of Wheaton. In June 2014, the district court denied Wheaton’s request for relief. Wheaton appealed. In July 2014, while the case was on appeal, Wheaton received last minute protection from the Supreme Court against IRS fines. In July 2015, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied Wheaton College relief from the mandate. Finally, in May 2016, the Supreme Court decided the related case Zubik v. Burwell. The Supreme Court’s decision ordered the government to explore alternatives that would protect religious freedom. On October 6, 2017, the government issued a new rule with broader religious exemption, admitting that the mandate was illegal as applied to religious objectors, including Wheaton College.

A five-year fight ends in resounding victory

On February 22, 2018, Wheaton’s five-year legal battle finally came to an end when the district court ruled in Wheaton College’s favor, protecting the College from any current or future application of the mandate.

Importance to religious liberty:

  • Individual freedom: Government cannot force religious individuals or groups to violate their deeply held beliefs to further a government goal when there are other ways for the government to accomplish that goal.
  • Religious communities: Faith-based organizations, including schools, have the right to operate according to their religious mission free of government interference.
  • HHS mandate: For years, the federal government has refused or delayed relief from the HHS mandate to religious organizations. The 2018 victory for Wheaton is a critical step in securing robust religious liberty protections from the mandate for all religious non-profits. 

Society of American Bosnians & Herzegovinians v. City of Des Plaines

The Society of American Bosnians and Herzegovinians is a small Muslim community in a Chicago suburb with approximately 160 members that observes a Sufi approach to Islam. For years, the Society attempted to rent facilities for its worship services, but hoped to one day build a mosque in the City of Des Plaines, Illinois, which already has 42 houses of worship.

In 2013, after searching for two years, the Society found a property in a manufacturing district that had stood vacant for many years. The City’s Comprehensive Zoning Plan proposed that the district be rezoned to allow houses of worship, since other religious groups seeking property in the district had similar applications granted.

Studies showed that re-zoning would have minimal impact on parking and traffic, so the City Plan Commission unanimously recommended granting the Society’s application. However, after a public hearing, the Des Plaines City Council denied the re-zoning application, claiming that a mosque would create traffic and parking problems. Unlike its requirements for other religious organizations, the City demanded that the Society provide four times the number of parking spots required by law, which would have forced the Society to reduce its worship space by half. Because the Society was delayed in moving forward with its plans, its contract for the property was terminated.

The Society represented by Anthony J. Peraica & Associates, sued the City for violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), a federal law that protects religious organizations from discrimination in land-use regulation. Becket, joined by Charles Wentworth of the Illinois law firm Lofgren & Wentworth, filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the Society’s right to build a house of worship.

In addition to this case, Becket has supported or is currently supporting a mosque in New Jersey and has also previously invoked RLUIPA in defending a Christian agricultural community in Hawaii, a Sikh temple and a Jewish synagogue in California, a Buddhist temple in Connecticut, and churches in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton

Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton
St. Peter’s Healthcare v. Kaplan
Dignity Health v. Rollins
Overall v. Ascension Health

Status: On June 5, 2017, U.S. Supreme Court voted unanimously 8-0 protecting religious hospitals.

Faith-based hospitals draw inspiration from their religious heritage. Driven by their faith to provide compassionate care, these hospitals treat people of all faiths and backgrounds, and their wellness services go beyond just providing medical care. For example, Saint Peter’s Family Health Center also serves juvenile victims of abuse, economically disadvantaged families and mentally disabled or violence-prone youth. And Catholic Health Initiatives provides millions annually to benefit programs and services for the poor, such as free clinics.

These faith-driven hospitals also provide generous benefits to their employees, including pensions through the hospitals’ comprehensive church pension plans. Yet their beliefs and the charitable work they do are being threatened for no reason: a group of plaintiffs’ lawyers are targeting these hospitals for a payoff, dragging them to court and demanding that they pay their attorney fees. Their argument? That hospital ministries are not religious enough to have a tax-exempt church pension plan under The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). However, it is not the job of lawyers to decide that hospitals can’t be part of a church, and the IRS has rightly viewed these ministries as part of a larger church for over 30 years.

The legal campaign against faith-based hospitals began in 2013. In 2015, the case Overall v. Ascension Health was settled. In 2016 three other cases were appealed to the Supreme Court, while almost a hundred more are waiting in lower courts across the country. On August 15, 2016, Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the Supreme Court supporting the hospitals and their right to freely exercise their religious-based mission to provide compassionate and excellent healthcare according to their faith.

The Supreme Court heard oral argument in March 2017. On June 5, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court voted unanimously 8-0 to protect religious hospitals founded and run by nuns, allowing them to continue providing generous benefits for their employees as well as free health services to their inner-city communities.

Morr-Fitz v. Blagojevich

Americans who work in the healthcare field often do so out of concern for their fellow citizens – their careers allow them to make a living and make a difference in the lives of those who need their help. Unfortunately, healthcare workers are increasingly being told by the government that they have to make a choice—abandon their religious beliefs or abandon their careers. Under the First Amendment, that is a choice no American should have to make.

Consider the policy Illinois imposed in 2005 to force pharmacists to sell emergency contraceptives, including “morning after” and “week after” pills. For Luke Vander Bleek and Glenn Kosirog, this requirement was troublesome because their religious beliefs prohibited them from selling these products.

The aim of the rule was clear from the outset. Governor Rod Blagojevich announced that its purpose was to stop religion from “stand[ing] in the way” of dispensing drugs, and to force pharmacies to “fill prescriptions without making moral judgments.” Governor Blagojevich announced that pharmacists with religious beliefs about these drugs should “find another profession.” VanderBleek and Kosirog had each spent more than twenty-five years building pharmacy careers. Being told to “find another profession” at mid-life because they had the wrong religious beliefs was an unwelcome mandate.

At trial, Illinois was totally unable to support its new rule. The state had no evidence of any person who had been unable to get the drugs in question. In fact, evidence showed that there were many neighboring pharmacies willing to sell the products, which were also available over the internet. Worse, the government admitted that pharmacies could avoid this rule for “common sense business” reasons, but not for religious reasons. Refusing to sell the drugs because you want to make more money was allowed; refusing to sell because of religion was not.

The pharmacists were represented in this fight for nearly seven years by Becket attorney Mark Rienzi. Ultimately the Circuit Court ruled the law was invalid for violating two state laws designed to protect religious liberty, as well as unconstitutional for violating the Free Exercise of Religion clause in the First Amendment.

In December 2012, Illinois declined to appeal, delivering a final victory for the pharmacists.

Even for those who disagree with the religious persuasion of the pharmacists, it is important to protect minority rights and honor America’s tradition of diverse opinions by upholding their right to Free Exercise.

*Becket handled the case on appeal, along with attorneys from ACLJ and WilmerHale, LLP.

Tong v. Chicago Park District

Chicago bureaucrats would have smothered religious speech in a display of privately funded messages in a neighborhood park if Becket had not secured an important victory for free religious speech.

A park fundraiser overseen by the Chicago Park District invited the community to purchase bricks engraved with an inscription chosen by the donor to be included in a neighborhood park walkway.  Becket’s clients wanted to engrave the message “Jesus is the cornerstone” on their brick, but the proposed message was rejected because of its religious content.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois agreed with Becket that rejecting the proposed engraving violated the First Amendment.


Calvary Chapel O’Hare v. Village of Franklin Park

Calvary Chapel O’Hare was founded in 1996 in a former real estate office. By 2000, the church had doubled in size to 200 members, and its 2500 square foot facility was no longer adequate for its congregation.

So in 2002, Calvary Chapel signed a contract with a bowling alley that suited the church’s needs. The following month, however, city officials informed Pastor Jeff Deane that the church was in a zone that did not allow churches, even with a conditional permit. Though many other assembly and institutional uses were allowed in that zone, the church could not use its building as a place of worship.

Represented by Becket and local attorney Timothy P. Dwyer, Calvary Chapel O’Hare sued the Village of Franklin Park, charging violations of the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

In July 2002, in a great victory for the church, the Village changed its Zoning Code to allow churches to apply for conditional uses in commercial zones, ensuring that all forms of assembly, religious and non-religious, were treated equally. In January 2003, Franklin Park approved the permit, the church formally purchased the property. Today Calvary Chapel O’Hare continues to worship freely in its bowling alley.

Anonymous Iranian Christian Family

In a number of Middle Eastern countries, conversion to a religion (other than the prevailing strain of Islam) is a crime punishable by death. In countries with such laws, Christians and other religious minority groups are forced to practice their faiths in secret or risk unthinkably severe reprisal.

Tragically, those who manage to escape such authoritarian regimes and reach America aren’t guaranteed safety, thanks to an immigration bureaucracy that frequently overlooks the needs of asylum petitioners.

One such case, dealing with the flight of a Christian family from Iran, was argued and won by Becket. Having fled to the United States in 1999, the family sought the right to remain in America. In 2000, their petition was denied, followed by a second denial in 2003.

In hearings before the relevant immigration authority, Becket demonstrated that the family would be unable to openly practice their Christian faith in Iran and would likely be subject to religiously-motivated persecution. In keeping with U.S. laws and the requirements of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the Iranian family was allowed to remain in the United States, where they may freely practice their religion in peace.

Thanks to the work of Becket lawyers, these immigrants have now been liberated from the looming threat of deportation and execution in Iran. However, we must keep their identities a secret because of the risk of reprisals.

C.L.U.B. v. City of Chicago

Many Chicago churches are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Or rather, between a zoning official and a small space.

Chicago zoning law allows churches in residential areas, but churches and other houses of worship are allowed in business and commercial zones only if they are granted a special use permit, requiring that they go through a complicated and prohibitively costly process. Yet such permits are often denied because of the opposition of the local alderman or other political factors. And many churches argue that it is “almost impossible to find a parcel of vacant land large enough to build a church in a residential zone” in the city today.

So in 2000, C.L.U.B. (Civil Liberties for Urban Believers), an association of 40 churches in the Chicago area, sued the City of Chicago, arguing that the city’s zoning laws violate the U.S. Constitution, the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) because they burdened churches wishing to occupy property in the city. They argued churches had a harder time getting approved than “clubs and lodges,” “meeting halls,” and “recreation buildings and community centers” – none of which need “special use permits.”

Mauck & Baker represented C.L.U.B. In June 2002 Becket filed an amicus brief in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Calvary Chapel O’Hare, supporting C.L.U.B. The U.S. Justice Department intervened in the case as well, and also defended RLUIPA, which the lower court had rejected as unconstitutional.

In August 2003, in a 2-1 decision, the Seventh Circuit panel agreed with district court, finding no “substantial burden” placed on churches. Apostle Theodore Wilkinson, Chairman of C.L.U.B., released this statement in response:

“The forty (40) churches in C.L.U.B. and certainly people of all faiths throughout Chicago are outraged by the majority opinion which neuters the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act passed unanimously by Congress in 2000. Also alarming is the Court’s conclusion that Chicago’s religious assemblies have no free speech protection from zoning laws. The majority opinion would apparently extend free speech protection to religious assemblies only if they allowed live nude dancing. The freedoms of speech, religion and assembly of all Chicagoans have all been trumped by aldermanic discretion.”