Page 1

Volume VI, Issue 3

JUST ASKING How one young girl’s kind invitation could transform schools across the country

Volume VI, Issue 3


Katie Ayers and her mother, Angela



4 POLITICAL CORRECTNESS OBSCURES GROWING RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION “I just see a real reluctance to pray about publicly, or speak about, what is happening to Christians in these countries.”

8 JUST ASKING “It was very scary … but we knew God had plans, and there was a reason we were going through the things that we were.” – Angela Ayers –

Alliance Defending Freedom

Alliance Defending Freedom 15100 N. 90th Street

Scottsdale, AZ 85260

[Phone] 800-835-5233 [Fax] 480-444-0025


Alliance Defending Freedom would enjoy hearing your comments on the stories and issues discussed in Faith & Justice. Please direct comments/questions to, call 800835-5233, or write: Editor, Faith & Justice, Alliance Defending Freedom, 15100 N. 90th Street, Scottsdale, AZ 85260. © 2013, Alliance Defending Freedom. All rights reserved.

6 SUPREME COURT TO HEAR DEFENSE OF LEGISLATIVE PRAYER “It seems clear [the Founding Fathers] did not see praying before legislating as a conflict of interest.”

14 WHEN JESUS WASN’T WELCOMED BY ST. PAUL “Board members asked the inspector the reason for the ordinance. She said she didn’t have one.”

16 ALLIANCE PROFILE: JEREMIAH G. DYS “We’re asked to be the stewards of this government that God has given to us, entrusted to us.”


Chuck Bolte

Senior Writer

Chris Potts

Design Director/Photography Bruce Ellefson

Contributors Ryan Anderson, Tuan Pham, Chris Potts, Alan Sears

Minutes With Alan

A Turning Point by Alan Sears, President, CEO and General Counsel

If there is one verse that has been running through my

ity of government in the people themselves, and to their written constitutions—not to those who walk through the revolving doors of temporary power. Incredibly, as of one day last June, both those ideals were brusquely dismissed by our nation’s highest court.

Some fundamental beliefs came under unprecedented attack in our country this year. Ideas that go to the deepest heart of why many of us here became attorneys, and answered the call to found this legal ministry. Yes, every year brings big cases, important wins, a few setbacks. We’re used to that. But this year brought something more: yet another turning point in American jurisprudence. And the year’s not over yet.

This month, our attorneys stand before those same Supreme Court justices to argue on behalf of another, equally critical tenet of American life: the right of each person to articulate his own conscience … to speak from the heart … to honor God as he knows Him, even in the public square. As you will read on the following pages, this is, on the surface, a case about the right of legislative bodies to open their meetings in prayer. Beneath that—and far, far beyond that—it’s about a profound threat to the most precious freedom Americans possess.

heart—indeed, through the hearts of many of us who serve at Alliance Defending Freedom—throughout this tumultuous year, it’s Esther 4:14b: “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

In June, the United States Supreme Court issued two

rulings that sent shock waves through the nation’s legal system … and sounded an ominous and no-longerveiled warning to those of us committed to preserving marriage and religious freedom (see story, p. 17). In ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act, five justices took a long step toward rewriting the moral code of America. In refusing to review Proposition 8, they left democracy in California with a lot less leg to stand on. Both decisions cut to the very heart of what you and I have always known and believed about this country: a) that it is deeply grounded on biblical principles of morality and an essentially Christian/natural law view of society, and b) that it invests the real power and author-

“If the foundations are destroyed,” the Psalmist asks

(11:3), “What can the righteous do?” More and more, that looks like the question whose answer will shape the rest of my personal and professional life. And that of my colleagues. And that of each of us who are called to stand for faith and religious freedom in “such a time as this.” John 15:5–Apart from Christ, we can do nothing.

View a special message from Alan. Visit Alliance and click on “Faith & Justice.”

Alliance Defending Freedom



On The Square

Political Correctness Obscures Growing Religious Persecution Why do governments target religious freedom? Often, governments want to shore up their own legitimacy with the majority of their people—or with their ideology. They see cultural pluralism and diversity as a threat, because they want to impose orthodoxy— their orthodoxy—on their nation, and they want complete conformity of thought. In the Muslim world, in particular, you see governments trying to scapegoat Christians, and strengthen their own religious credentials in the process. Political Islam has been a catastrophe for religious freedom. It has legs: it’s on the move, on the rise, and incredibly repressive and violent. That’s our biggest challenge.


Attorney Nina Shea For nearly 30 years, Nina Shea has been one of America’s most respected authorities on religious freedom, and the threats posed to it at home and around the world. For 13 years, she served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and has represented both Republican and Democrat administrations as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations’ main human rights body. The coauthor of Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide, and of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, she is currently director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.



Alliance Defending Freedom

Is there a growing awareness of the problem? There’s more information available—the State Department, the Internet, other nongovernmental groups have increased the reporting on religious persecution, although there are still huge gaps we don’t know about. The main problem now is the lack of political leadership on this issue. If our president or secretary of state started talking about the perils faced by Christians today … in places like Syria—for example, where they have the second largest group of Christians in the Middle East—and when the dust settles, they probably won’t be able to live there anymore. Or in Iraq, where two-thirds of the Christians have been forced out or killed in the last 10 years. If there was political leadership that pointed this out and talked about this, everybody would know. And there would be some policies

Egyptian Muslims wave a copy of the Koran during protests against their government. Photo: Reuters/A. Dalsh

put in place to give [victims of persecution] a safe haven, or to somehow protect them.

Why do you think U.S. officials aren’t speaking out more about these religious persecutions? There’s an indifference—even a hostility, I would say. It’s extreme political correctness. Christians are a disfavored minority; it’s somehow “imperialism” that they’re even there, even though—in places like Iraq—Christians have been there since the beginning of Christianity. They speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus … they pray in that language. They were there before Islam, and they were certainly there before [there were] Americans.

Are government officials the only ones showing indifference? There is a failure in church leadership … a real vacuum in churches of all denominations. This persecution affects Christians of all denominations—it’s not just Catholics or Evangelicals, it’s Orthodox … it’s everyone. I just see a real reluctance to pray about publicly, or speak about, what is happening to Christians in these countries. It’s political correctness. It’s misguided multiculturalism. Pastors don’t want to be seen as criticizing the persecutors, and they’re reluctant to raise the issue for that reason. It’s wrong for these people to be suffering and dying for their faith while Christians in the West, living in freedom, aren’t even aware this is happening … and happening on the scale that it is.

Why is it important for Americans to understand international threats to religious freedom? I think that if Americans did know, one, spiritually, it would challenge them, maybe strengthen their faith, or help them

In Mumbai, India, Christians protest brutal attacks by Hindu extremists. Photo: Reuters/P. Paranjpe

start to understand what their faith means to them. And then, it would also deepen Americans’ understanding of the importance of religious freedom, because this is what happens in societies today—in Saudi Arabia, or Iran, or Pakistan, or Nigeria, or Egypt, or China, or North Korea—countries where there is no religious freedom. People are thrown in prison, or put to death, for blasphemy … for apostasy. They’re not free in the most fundamental way a human being can be free—to believe their ideas.

What can Christians do? First, learn about the situation. Second, pray. Third, it’s really important for Christians to write to their congressional representatives, either focusing on particular situations, or else just saying “speak up” about the persecution of Christians around the world—or in this country. This [needs to] stay on our political leaders’ radar screens, and they only listen to their constituents. So it’s important that people really use their rights of citizenship—like the apostle Paul did. Paul, when imprisoned, invoked his citizenship. We should be invoking our rights of citizenship—not just voting every four years, but writing, sending e-mails, talking to our members of Congress, asking them to raise this issue. The Constitution is not self-enforcing. It needs to be enforced by our officials, but also by our citizens. Often this is extremely expensive and time-consuming. Individuals can’t do it themselves. We need a strong organization of dedicated people taking on this work. And that’s why we need Alliance Defending Freedom … a very serious group of people who are taking on the tough issues, defending our freedoms.

To learn how this ministry is working to preserve religious freedom globally, visit and click on “Faith & Justice.” To see more of what Christians are enduring today in countries all over the world, visit Ms. Shea’s website,

Alliance Defending Freedom



Special Feature

WE the people PRAY Supreme Court To Hear Defense Of Legislative Prayer September 7, 1774

“O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, Who dost from Thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee.”

Reverend Jacob Duché





First Continental Congress

Alliance Defending Freedom

With those words, Reverend Duché, Rector of Christ Church of Phila-

delphia, launched a tradition that—239 years later—is still honored daily by legislative bodies from small-town America to the U.S. Senate: the custom of opening public meetings with prayer. Legislative prayer is something millions of Americans of every religious bent and political stripe take for granted as part of our country’s clearly religious heritage. But for those now determined to remove that heritage from our nation’s public square, these public meeting prayers are the prominent target of a growing number of lawsuits in courts coast to coast. One of those targets: Greece, New York, whose town council has long opened its sessions with prayers led by volunteers from the community. The invitation to lead these prayers is open to anyone, and many volunteers have taken advantage of the opportunity.

It seems clear [the Founding Fathers] did not see praying before legislating as a conflict of interest. Objecting to these volunteer expressions of religious sentiment, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) filed a federal lawsuit against the town in 2008. In its opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that, since Greece has mostly Christian clergy, it may need to import non-Christians from outside the community to lead non-Christian prayers—so that those who believe differently won’t “feel like outsiders.” “The court struck the practice because, to their mind, officials should have bused in people from out of town to pray,” says Senior Counsel David Cortman, Vice President of Litigation for Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Greece. While “the town of Greece does not control who volunteers to deliver an invocation,” he says, the court’s ruling suggests that the town’s council is itself unconstitutionally biased toward the Christian faith—when, in fact, “any decision made about the nature of the prayers is determined by the citizens who volunteer.”

The essential question at the

heart of this case is whether public prayer—which has been practiced since our nation’s founding—remains constitutional, and that is the issue

to be decided when the U.S. Supreme Court hears Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and our allies defend Greece v. Galloway this fall. “The AU will be looking at this as a means to overturn the 1983 Marsh v. Chambers decision,” says Senior Counsel Brett Harvey, referencing a landmark Supreme Court case that cited the “unambiguous and unbroken history of more than 200 years” in upholding legislative prayer and government funding for chaplains. In fact, given that America’s Founders hired a congressional chaplain the same week they passed the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment (prohibiting “any law respecting an establishment of religion”), it seems clear they did not see praying before legislating as a constitutional conflict. Faced with the Chambers precedent, Harvey says, the AU and its allies have shifted their legal efforts to an attack on the way people pray, demanding that government officials censor legislative prayers “to make sure they don’t say things AU and its clients don’t want to hear.” If the AU is successful this fall in persuading the high court that public

prayer should be censored because someone may hear something they may not like, it will be encouraged to challenge such practices as the wording of the Pledge, of oaths of office, and of American currency. Recognizing that danger, more than half of the states, nearly 100 U.S. Congressman, some 35 U.S. Senators, and the Solicitor General (who represents the federal government before the U.S. Supreme Court) have all filed amicus briefs supporting this longstanding practice. “This is an extraordinary—and very broad—expression of legal support,” says Cortman, “and it shows how valued this freedom is to Americans across the political, social, and religious spectrum. It is our hope that the high court will recognize how important this issue is to their fellow Americans, and that their decision will affirm our nation’s strong tradition of religious freedom.” “A few people should not be able to extinguish the traditions of our nation merely because they heard something they didn’t like,” Harvey says. “It’s perfectly constitutional to allow community members to ask for God’s blessing according to their conscience.” All of which makes this a crucial time to pray for the freedom to pray in America.

Learn more about this crucial case and see an inspirational video you can share with your friends. Visit

Opposite page: Top Left Photo—Reuters/J. Lane

Alliance Defending Freedom





Alliance Defending Freedom

sus,” Katie says, “and getting to know Him better every day, and that I will spend eternity with Him.” That’s not just a Sunday school recital to Katie. Invited to sleepovers at friends’ houses, she takes her Bible along and reads to the other girls, if they want her to. Early on in school, she began carrying her Bible to the playground at recess, and there, too, some of her fellow students would come over to see what she was reading and listen to a story from the Good Book.


he party was going to include “ping pong, games, drinks, snacks—all kinds of stuff—and a message about God,” Katie remembers. “I just wanted to bring my friends so they could have fun and so they could learn about God and come to know Him.” Knowing Jesus, and helping others know Him, is never far from Katie’s heart. “We call her our good, abnormal kid,” her dad, Mike, says. “She loves being her own person and doing her own thing, and she is definitely a leader in her own way.” She’s also “very wellgrounded in her faith, and has been, even from a very young age—since she was 4 or 5 years old.” Even that early, Mike says, “you could really see God working through her.” “One time when she was little,” says her mom, Angela, “she asked us about Santa Claus, if Santa was real. We told her, ‘Katie, why don’t you pray about it, and see?’ And she goes upstairs, and prays, and comes back down, and she says, ‘I talked to God, and He let me know that Santa wasn’t real. And the Easter Bunny isn’t, either.’” “To be a Christian, to me, means just getting to have a relationship with Je-



Alliance Defending Freedom

“She witnesses to all of her friends,” her dad says. “She loves God, loves Jesus with all her heart, and she is outspoken about it. She is not ashamed of it.” “She has such a soft soul,” Angela says. “She wants to save the world.”

"And Nathaniel said to him...” o, a few days before the Christmas party, Katie started collecting fliers to give out to her class. “She made sure she had enough for her whole class, because she didn’t want to leave anybody out,” Mike says. “She was excited to be able to have that opportunity to be able to share her faith, to be able to invite her friends and her classmates to something that she was a part of.” During homeroom time, Katie says, “we just sit around and, like, talk. So, I brought out my invitations and started handing them out.” Seeing that, her teacher asked if Katie had obtained the necessary permission from the principal. Katie had no idea she needed permission to hand out invitations—none of the children who’d handed out invites to birthday parties and soccer games had ever said anything about getting an okay

from the principal. Embarrassed, she gave the teacher a flier to run by the front office. That night, at home, her parents saw that something was bothering their daughter, after all of her excitement about the invitations that morning. They listened with surprise to what she told them. “She was pretty devastated,” Mike says. But, “I wanted her to be able to handle it in her own way. You let your children lead the path, but sometimes it is tough to not go rescue them. I wanted her to decide how she wanted to pursue this.” Still, he quietly e-mailed the principal, curious about this previously unheardof policy. She told him the flier had already been sent on to the district superintendent for approval. A week later, with the day of the party now at hand, the superintendent wrote back to say no, Katie wouldn’t be allowed to hand out the invitations. “He stated several different policies that really had nothing to do with what Katie was trying to accomplish,” Mike says, “and that was ultimately to share her faith.” Mike pointed out all the other kinds of invitations being handed out in Katie’s classroom. “If they’re allowed to do all that,” he asked, “why is my daughter not allowed to pass out fliers?” The superintendent didn’t really answer that; he just kept citing the policies. The Ayers had to break the news to Katie. “She cried,” her father remembers. “Here she is, a fifth grader wanting to step out of the box and be obedient to her beliefs and convictions, and when she goes to act on that faith, she’s denied.” Her parents tried to explain that “this is what the Bible talks about, being persecuted for what you believe in,” Mike says. “Because it was truly a persecution against her beliefs and her desire to share with other people.” “It was tough,” he says. “She just could not understand why other students could hand things out when she

“I was kind of unnerved, to be honest,” Angela says. “My first instinct is to be Mother Bear, and I was really scared for my daughter … what she was going to face with her classmates, with her teachers, with the principal. I was just really worried about how it would affect her.”

“As parents, we wanted to be able to help her ... to stand behind her, for her rights, for her religious beliefs.”

couldn’t. We started talking to her, explaining to her what happened, and said, ‘The school has their policies. We do not agree with them.’” Katie would have to find another way. “I just kind of texted my very close friends and told them about the party,” she says. “That way, it wasn’t during school time. But it was short notice, by then, so they didn’t get to come.” As days went by, and the disappointment lingered, Mike says, “It was a family decision to start to reach out and see what else we could do about it, because we all just felt bad. There was something not right about it.”


"... ‘Can anything good ...”

s much as they hurt for Katie, Mike and Angela weren’t going to start any legal action without being sure of her feelings on the matter. “Do you want us to take this to the next level?” they asked. And despite her deeply ingrained desire not to cause trouble, Katie decided that she did. “It wasn’t right that I wasn’t allowed, just because it was a church Christmas party,” she says. “It wasn’t about an invitation—it was about people coming to meet Jesus, and having fun, and getting

to know Him, and changing their lives. My friends had Halloween parties, and [the school] had no questions about it. It wasn’t right.” “As parents, we wanted to be able to help her … to stand behind her, for her rights, for her religious beliefs,” Mike says. “She wanted that opportunity. “We started looking around, trying to figure out—who do we even contact?” he says. “I didn’t want to contact just somebody—I wanted somebody who shared our beliefs, who was able to back us up, not only legally, but also spiritually. We found Alliance Defending Freedom—through Google, of all things—and I contacted them and explained what had happened, and they said ‘Absolutely, Katie’s rights have been violated.” The Ayers’ best option, he suggested, was to sue. “The attorney explained to us what the process would be, if we decided to go through with a lawsuit,” Mike remembers. “He told us to pray about it, think about it, discuss it with Katie, and make sure we wanted to pursue this. So we got off the phone, sat down at dinner, discussed it, prayed about it, and really just felt that the Lord was leading us in that direction … to go into the lawsuit process.” Still, there were doubts.

“Then, through prayer, and all of us talking, getting together, seeing how excited she was about it, we really gained insight and peace for the whole thing.” Best of all, Angela says, was the transformation in Katie, “seeing her faith re-lit on this, [realizing] that we could make a difference.” “I was excited that there was a chance I was going to be able to hand stuff out,” Katie says. “But I was also nervous. We had never [been in] a lawsuit before, so I didn’t know how that would go. But we just trusted in the Lord. We prayed, and I just got a peace about it.” Their decision would ultimately impact not only Katie’s classroom, but schools throughout America.

“...come out of Nazareth?’”


his was a difficult case, but an extremely important one,” says David Cortman, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel, “because younger students are continually influenced, and indoctrinated, by what is taught at school. And they should have the right to be able to not only respond, but to hold and share their personal views. It’s important for children like Katie to be able to take a stand for their values and faith beliefs.” “The way the law has developed, the older you are, the more protection you receive under the First Amendment. But there’s nothing in the Constitution that limits that protection to any certain age. Even younger students are protected by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. “You get pushback,” he says, “from people who would try to claim that students Alliance Defending Freedom



“She loves God, loves Jesus with all her heart, and she is outspoken about it. She is not ashamed of it.”

are not at school to practice their rights protected by the First Amendment, or to engage in free speech—they’re at school to learn. Katie’s own school district made the incredible claim that younger students have few—if any—of those rights while at school … which is remarkable, given the fact that the Supreme Court has said for years that students don’t shed their free speech rights at the schoolhouse gate.” That’s why, Cortman says, “We’ve litigated at least a half dozen of these cases throughout the country over the last several years—because we think it’s important that students’ free speech rights are protected, even at the younger ages. “If you teach a student at a young age that either her faith is illegal or unconstitutional in school, then she’s learning a lesson that she’s going to carry with her for the rest of her life. But if you teach her that it’s not only constitutional, but right for her to be able to share her faith with other students … then she’ll carry that with her for the rest of her life.” Their involvement in a federal lawsuit brought several surprises for the Ayers. One was the decidedly mixed reaction from family and friends—many of whom



Alliance Defending Freedom

were very supportive, some of whom were not. Another was the overwhelming media attention that came with the case. “Our phone started ringing, the local newspapers, the TV station,” Mike says. “We weren’t expecting that. Fox News actually picked up on the story, and it was one of their headline stories. There were comments … many of them very negative. Just very nasty things.” Somehow, none of that intruded on Katie’s school life. “None of my friends made fun of me,” she says. “A couple actually helped me go through it, and supported me. And the teachers didn’t say anything about it, so that was good.” That lack of drama at school became even more important as the family found itself facing a new personal crisis: Angela was increasingly being sidelined by physical pain and other disturbing symptoms. Tests had her doctors concerned that she might be suffering from multiple sclerosis. “It was very scary,” Angela says, “and devastating for all of us. But we knew God had plans, and there was a reason we were going through the things that

we were.” “It was a huge roller coaster during that time,” Mike remembers, “almost to a point that we just wanted to say, ‘You know what? Let’s just forget about this lawsuit and start focusing on what’s going on with the health issues and things like that.’ Because you start to lose sight of what the true calling is. The enemy will try anything to get you away from what God’s called you to do.

“There were times when we would just sit down and pray, all of us, for God to give us the strength to make it through,” he says. “It was a long process, and we had to rely on God, because He brought us here. He put that on my daughter’s heart to pass out the fliers, to share her faith. If He brought us to this point there is a reason, so we just had to keep that stamina, keep that faith, continue to pray and seek Him. It was a growing experience, a bonding experience.”


"Philip said to him,...”

t one of the court hearings during the case, the Ayers came face-to-face with the school district officials and their attorney. Amid the awkward greetings, the opposing counsel reached out to shake Katie’s hand. “So,” he said. “Here’s our little troublemaker.” He didn’t say it kindly, but Katie took the comment in stride. “She responded to that much better than the thoughts that went through my mind,” Cortman says. “With a cute little smile, and a giggle, she said,

‘That’s right, that’s me.’” Katie’s giggle turned out to be the last laugh. A district court found that the policies cited by the Pocono Mountain School District in silencing her speech were unconstitutional. The school district appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court’s ruling “and laid out some fairly important principles,” Cortman says. Among them: 1) elementary students do have rights of free speech, and 2) district officials had no right to silence Katie’s speech simply because they disagreed with it. The Court of Appeals is the second-highest court in the country—and this was only the second Court of Appeals ruling to affirm First Amendment protections of the religious speech of elementary students. “It’s not only a great victory in an important case,” Cortman says, “but it will have a broader reach as time goes on.” The Pocono policies are statewide, he points out, in a state with over 500 school districts, and nearly 2 million students attending. “We’re going to take Katie’s victory, do research on every one of those school districts, and send a legal demand letter to every one that has a similar unconstitutional policy, demanding they change those policies. “After that,” he says, “we will be doing the same thing in the entire 3rd Circuit, which includes several district courts, several surrounding states … and then beyond that to states outside the 3rd Circuit. So the impact of this victory is going to be tremendous.”


"...‘Come and see.’” - John 1:46

t was just one of those things that make you want to do a happy dance, you know?” Mike says, remembering the day they learned they’d won the lawsuit. “It was cool, it was awesome … it was a sigh of relief. ‘We won! You won, Katie—you did this!’ It was just pure excitement for the entire family, and for what God can

See an inspiring video of Katie’s story by visiting AllianceDefendingFreedom. org and clicking on “Faith & Justice.” Learn more of our continuing efforts to secure religious freedom in America’s public schools.

do.” “Working with Alliance Defending Freedom was amazing,” says Angela (whose symptoms have since been diagnosed as fibromyalgia). “They were so wonderful … friendly and down-toearth. We’d never been through anything like that, and they made us feel comfortable, and relaxed, and made Katie feel so good for stepping out and believing that God had a plan for this.” “It was just a whole new experience, and I learned from it,” Katie, now 14, says. “It was scary, sometimes, not knowing what was going to happen, so I just prayed … and God was always there. He just gave me peace and helped me all the way through.” “One person can make a difference,” Cortman says. “Katie, by deciding to take a stand, and being supported by

her family and Alliance Defending Freedom, could influence millions of students.” For Katie, it’s enough to know she influenced one. Soon after the legal win, her church held another event. This time, she handed out fliers to everyone—and nobody said a thing. Some of her classmates came, too … including a girl Katie had been inviting for a long, long time. At the church event, the girl accepted Christ as her Savior. Soon after, her family started coming to church with her. Now, some of them are Christians, too. The “little troublemaker” believes those decisions were more than worth all the trouble of the last few years.

Alliance Defending Freedom



My View


Born in North Vietnam, Tuan Pham moved to South Vietnam in 1955. Two decades later, he was imprisoned by the Communist regime for writing a book decrying their politics and for defending six Catholic priests being removed from their local parishes by Party officials. Released from custody in 1979, he knew his days as a free man were over. So he quietly packed his wife, 10 children, and some 90 other friends and relatives onto a small wooden boat and launched out with them into the South China Sea. Two weeks and not a few miracles later, they landed in Galang, Indonesia, where Pham built a church for more than 5,000 fellow refugees before resettling in the United States in 1980. He and his family arrived in Rochester, Minnesota, eventually settled in St. Paul, Minnesota, opened a grocery and gift shop, and joined a local church. He retired eight years ago, purchased a home on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, and began work on a long-cherished project: a backyard prayer garden. As a young man, Pham did some work as a sculptor, and one of his greatest personal achievements was helping to carve the famed statue of the Christ on Tau Phung Mountain near Vung Tau, Vietnam. At considerable personal expense, he commissioned a 15-foot replica of the statue he had made there in his old hometown, had it brought to the U.S., and erected it in his garden. Not everyone was pleased.



Alliance Defending Freedom

Visit www.AllianceDefending, and click on “Faith & Justice,” to learn more about similar assaults on religious liberty throughout the U.S., and what Alliance Defending Freedom is doing to defend Christians’ constitutional rights.

Above: The statue in Tuan Pham’s prayer garden is a replica of one he helped make in Vietnam before escaping from that country. Opposite page: Alliance Defending Freedom Allied Attorney Bryan Beauman aided Tuan Pham in his legal defense.

I have always wanted to create a prayer garden, as soon as I had a yard big enough to make one properly. It would be my way of giving special thanks to God for saving my family and bringing us safely to the United States. It would be an expression of gratitude for all of His grace and blessings on my family across these many years.

Board members asked the inspector the reason for the ordinance. She said she didn’t have one. Not long after I finished the garden (the statue was the finishing touch), I was surprised by a visit from a zoning inspector for the city of St. Paul. She asked to look at the garden, and told me the city had received an anonymous complaint about the statue of Jesus. Apparently, someone had told her they thought it was too tall, too ugly, and a danger to the neighborhood. A few months later, the inspector sent me a letter saying my statue violated city ordinances, since it was located just 10 feet from the edge of the bluff. City law, she explained, says every “structure” has to be at least 40 feet back. That seemed strange. From my backyard, I could look in every direction and see plenty of other structures as close or closer to the edge of the bluff than mine: stone fences, park benches, even another statue—owned by the city itself. So, I met with the inspector and other city officials. I pointed out the discrepancy between what they were enforcing with me and indulging for themselves. They told me I had no right to compare my property with anyone else’s, though I could ask for a variance. I did just that.

A month later, the Board of Zoning

Appeals held a hearing. Several of my neighbors were kind enough to come out and support me, and I was able to present evidence of all those other structures that paralleled my property,

violated the same city code, and yet were not being questioned or removed. Board members asked the inspector the reason for the 40-foot ordinance. She said she didn’t have one. The board opted to delay its decision, pending further input from a local community group. That group made no recommendation. So, with no rationale from the zoning ordinance, vocal support from many of my neighbors (and no public objections from the rest), and a swath of exceptions all along the bluff to the very law to which I alone was being held accountable … the board voted to deny my variance application. They said I should have asked permission to set up the statue, and it worried them that I’d offered to let other people come into my garden to pray. I appealed that decision to the St. Paul City Council. They gave me 15 minutes to speak, and let me present a petition of support signed by 45 of my neighbors—16 of whom were on hand to cheer for me. No one came to the meeting to express opposition. But the council refused to allow evidence that showed how so many of my neighbors and the city itself were all violating the same ordinance being enforced against me, and denied my appeal by a 5-2 vote.

A few days later, my wife was up early

to get ready for church when, through the window, she saw our statue in flames. By the time firefighters arrived, the sculpture was badly damaged, and whoever set the fire had also broken off pieces of the adjacent sculpture. After that, most of a year went by without another word from the city, until an article about my situation appeared in the local paper, noting that no official action had ever been taken. Within days, I received notice that my statue had to be removed within six months. Still, after all this time, no one has

given me a clear, official reason why my statue—alone of all the structures erected and maintained along the length of that Mississippi River bluff— has to be removed. But I have heard a clear, unofficial one. One of the city council members who voted against me is on public record as saying that, “We don’t want statues of religious or political figures on the bluffs.” I thought that was an interesting statement, coming from a councilman for a city called Saint Paul.

This spring—nearly two years after

those frustrating conversations—the incredible happened. Faced with the threat of a lawsuit, the mayor of St. Paul drew on his executive authority over how and which city codes are enforced, and bypassed the city council to offer my family a deal that would allow us to keep our statue in place. I was so grateful that I had the settlement agreement bronzed! Now anyone pressuring us to take down the sculpture will know in no uncertain terms that our statue (which is now restored and good as new) is protected by the city. I want people to look at our statue and know that Jesus Christ is Lord. And I want them to look at that bronzed document, and remember that this is a country where no matter how small, or poor, or outnumbered a man may be … he can still receive equal treatment Alliance Defending Freedom



Alliance Profile

Upon graduating from the University of West Virginia School of

Law nearly a decade ago, Jeremiah Dys was presented with two options: a “dream job” working with Alliance Defending Freedom, or a challenging new leadership position with the West Virginia Family Policy Council (FPC). Genuinely torn between the two opportunities, he turned to his pastor for advice. “Which would require a greater step of faith?” his pastor asked. So, Dys chose the FPC—only to find himself nearly as involved with Alliance Defending Freedom as if he had gone there. “I work extremely closely with Alliance Defending Freedom,” he says. “I’m co-counsel on a lawsuit right now with them. I work with their media team heavily, and rely on the organization’s attorneys to provide support for our policy work all the time. I have been able to work with the ministry without working for the ministry.”

Though trained as an attorney himself, Dys says lobbying,

fundraising, and administrative work for the FPC often limit the time he has to draw up crucial legal documents that support his team’s policies. He depends on Alliance Defending Freedom staff attorneys to supply expert testimony and crucial briefs, and on the ministry’s media team for help with press releases and editorials. Drawing on these extensive resources “makes [our FPC] look bigger than we are,” he says, “and in the world of politics, where perception is everything, it’s great to have that benefit.”

Jeremiah G. Dys

President and General Counsel The Family Policy Council of West Virginia Visit and click on “Faith & Justice” to learn more about this legal alliance, and the latest case on which Jeremiah Dys serves as co-counsel with attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom.



Alliance Defending Freedom

Meanwhile, like other FPC leaders in other states nationwide, Dys is able to “open the doors” to his state’s legislature that enable Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys to make crucial presentations. This combined effort, he says, “multiplies the Kingdom work we both get to do, and it ultimately works to the tremendous benefit of both of our organizations.” Even amid escalating conflicts over social issues and religious freedom, Dys says he is confident that God is using Christian citizens who honor their duty to stand for truth in a decadent culture. “Christ has not called us to win—He has called us to be faithful,” Dys says. “I want to win, but the victory ultimately belongs to Christ, not to me. He has given us a free country. By our votes, by our involvement in government, we’re asked to be the stewards of this government that God has given to us, entrusted to us, and for which we will someday be held accountable.”

In The News

SUPREME COURT FURTHER BLURS LEGAL DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two rulings

The Supreme Court’s second ruling seriously impaired

First, the high court ruled 5-4 that a section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—which defines marriage, for all federal purposes, as a legal union between one man and one woman—is unconstitutional. The court added that same-sex couples who receive “marriage” licenses from the state are eligible for the same federal benefits as married opposite-sex couples.

The court said that the official proponents of Proposition 8— and Alliance Defending Freedom—do not have the legal standing to defend that law in federal court, even though the state’s governor and attorney general refused to defend it themselves. While the California Supreme Court determined unanimously that the Prop 8 proponents represented the interests of the state in their defense of California’s constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their arguments. The high court then voided a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit opinion striking down the amendment.

with unprecedented implications for marriage and religious freedom in America. Alliance Defending Freedom was involved in the Supreme Court’s considerations on both of these cases.

This ruling applies only to the federal government, not the states. The high court was clear that “[b]y history and tradition the definition and regulation of marriage … has been treated as being within the authority and realm of the separate States.” In states where advocates of samesex marriage continue to file lawsuits demanding marriage licenses, Alliance Defending Freedom will continue to defend marriage. “Americans should be able to continue advancing the truth about marriage between a man and a woman,” says Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Austin R. Nimocks, “and why it matters for children, civil society, and limited government.”

Go to to see a creative and compelling video that reinforces why marriage is so critical to healthy society.

the freedom of Californians to advance the truth about marriage. The court declined to review the validity of Proposition 8, a California constitutional amendment defining marriage as a one-man, one-woman union.

Without an appellate court decision declaring the amendment unconstitutional, Proposition 8 should remain the law of the land in California. But officials continue to undermine that law and implement, without the consent of the governed, same-sex “marriage” throughout California. “The court’s decision does not take away the right of Americans to have a voice in our country’s marriage debate,” says Nimocks, one of several Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys serving as co-counsel on the case. “Marriage will remain timeless, universal, and special, because children need mothers and fathers.”

Alliance Defending Freedom




Ryan T. Anderson

The Future of Marriage So, with the Supreme Court rulings

behind us [see story, p. 17], where does the marriage movement go from here? It’s important to note that the Supreme Court, in deciding two cases, declined to redefine marriage for the entire nation. The court refused to manufacture a constitutional “right” to same-sex “marriage.” Citizens and their elected representatives in all 50 states remain free to define marriage in civil law as the union of one man and one woman. Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent, however, urges a clear-eyed outlook: “I promise you this: The only thing that will ‘confine’ the court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with.”

sue 15 months ago, President Obama insisted that the debate was legitimate and there were reasonable people of goodwill on both sides. He said those who believe marriage is a man-woman union aren’t “mean-spirited” but instead “care about families.” The president added that “a bunch of ‘em are friends of mine ... you know, people who I deeply respect.”

At one point in American life, virtually every child was given the great gift of being raised to adulthood by the man and the woman who gave them life. Today, that number is under 50 percent in some communities. Same-sex “marriage” didn’t cause this sad situation, but it does nothing to help and only will make things worse.

But sadly, we already have seen that many of those who favor redefining marriage are willing to use the coercive force of law to marginalize and penalize those who hold the historic view—even if it means trampling First Amendment protections of religious liberty.

Here are three things to do.

After all, making marriage simply about emotional companionship sends the signal that moms and dads are interchangeable. Redefining marriage undercuts the rational foundations for the norms of marriage: permanence, exclusivity and monogamy.

First and foremost, defenders of

Second, we must insist that govern-

If it is clear that Americans are engaged in this democratic debate, then the court will be less likely to rule in an overreaching way again.

marriage as the union of a man and a woman need to start living out that truth. Long before we had a debate about same-sex anything, far too many heterosexuals bought into a liberal ideology about sexuality that makes a mess of marriage. Cohabitation, no-fault divorce, extra-marital sex, non-marital childbearing, por-


nography and the hook-up culture all contributed to the breakdown of our marriage culture. Husbands and wives must be faithful through thick and thin, till death parts them. Mothers and fathers must take their obligations to their children seriously. The unmarried must prepare for their future marital lives, so they can live out the vows they will make.


Alliance Defending Freedom

ment not discriminate against those who continue to stand for marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Policy should prohibit the government or anyone who receives taxpayers’ money from discriminating in employment, licensing, accreditation or contracting. When he “evolved” on the marriage is-

Finally, we need to redouble our ef-

forts to explain what marriage is, why marriage matters, and what consequences come from redefining marriage. The Left insists that the redefinition of marriage is “inevitable.” The only way to guarantee a political loss, however, is to sit idly by. We must develop and multiply our artistic, pastoral and reasoned defenses of the conjugal view as the truth about marriage, and to make ever plainer our policy reasons for enacting it. Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society at The Heritage Foundation and coauthor, with Sherif Girgis and Robert P. George, of the book What is Mar-

Making marriage simply about emotional companionship sends the signal that moms and dads are interchangeable.

making a gift

that WILL make a difference ‌

We encourage you to leave a gift to Alliance Defending Freedom in your Will and make a difference for the next generation.

Faith & Justice: Just Asking  
Faith & Justice: Just Asking