Legal Update – June 2022

Current U.S. Supreme Court Cases

Justice Center Fighting for a Christian Person’s Right to Express their Conscience

303 Creative v. Elenis (2022) –  Pray for Prof. Wagner as he represents Christian members of the Colorado Legislature in an amicus brief in support of free speech for Christian people.  In this case the State censured and compelled a Christian web designer’s speech, coercing her, by force of law and punishment, to conform her expression to the government’s preferred message.  

Justice Center Fighting for the Right to Pray

Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, (2022) – Prof. Wagner and our Justice Center represented NFL Hall of Famer (three-time Superbowl) Darrell Green.  We filed a Supreme Court brief in support of a coach who lost his job because he took a knee and prayed after football games. 

Justice Center Fighting for Good Governance

In Re: MCP NO. 165, OSHA, Interim Final Rule: COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing (2022) Professor Wagner and our Justice Center represented religious health care professionals (e.g., surgeons, doctors, nurses, and other health care workers. We filed a Supreme Court brief in support of challenges to illegal government mandates).

Justice Center Fighting to Overturn Roe for Unborn Children in SCOTUS

Dobbs v Jackson Womens Health – Prof. Wagner and our Justice Center filed two briefs in the SCOTUS case.  In the first we represented the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Right to Life (MI); In the second we represented a National Bioethics Center and other pro-life physicians in the Supreme Court of the United States. 

  1. Initial SCOTUS Brief

In our initial brief, we successfully helped to get the Court to certify an issue for review that did not, for the first time, pre-suppose the existence of a constitutional right to abort an unborn child.

  1. Merits SCOTUS Brief

In our later brief on the merits we argue that State governments hold a profound governmental interest in protecting the inherent value of unborn children.  This case holds the best chance ever to gut or overturn Roe.

Other Active Federal Cases

Resurrection School Case.  Our Justice Center filed lawsuit on behalf of a Christian school, parents and children in connection with abuse of power by Michigan’s governor, health director, attorney general and others.  This case takes us into the classroom of a private, religious school and asks who is in the best position to make decisions pertaining to the religious education of the young children seated in its desks: the children’s parents who know and love them and the religious school selected by the family to shepherd and care for them, or a public official in an office in the State Capital who has never met the children or stepped foot in the school.  

  • Praise Report: The States of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee joined our case in support of our cause. Each state has filed amicus briefs in support of our legal arguments.
  • En Banc Oral Argument – our legal team presented legal arguments before the US Court of Appeal (en banc) after winning a vacate of an adverse USCA panel decision.
  • En Banc Decision – Over a strongly worded dissent, Majority of Court declined to rule on the merits, finding that the case was now moot since Michigan had repealed the mask mandate.  We are considering whether to Petition US Supreme Court.

 

Current State Court Cases/ Legal Matters

The Justice Center continues to serve as the first line of protection for unborn children, freedom of religion, expression and other constitutional liberty.  We are the leading organization fighting to preserve good governance under the rule of law.  We engaged the culture through legal representation and other activities at local, state and national forums. Here are some of the matters on which we are on the front lines.

LITERALLY FIGHTING FOR LIFE IN MICHIGAN’S COURTS

 Our Great Lakes Justice Center leads the fight to stop leftists from getting the Michigan Supreme Court to improperly add partial-birth abortion (without parental consent and tax-payer funded) into the Michigan Constitution.   With many on the bench willing to ignore the constitution and state law, we need prayers for a miracle.  

Specifically, our Justice Center represents some State Prosecutors sued by the Governor in a scheme to get the left-leaning state supreme court to say what it does not say.  In another case, a sham case filed by Planned Parenthood against the Attorney General, pro-life ObGyn doctors were heard. (Mich 2022)

Update: Prosecutor Case — Justice Center In Michigan Supreme Court Fighting Governor’s Scheme to Judicially Amend Michigan’s Constitution 

Governor Whitmer v. State Prosecutors Case (2022) – The existing Michigan life law is the strongest law in the country protecting women and the unborn. It was passed by the legislature, signed by the governor, and prohibits a doctor from committing an abortion from the point of conception, except to save the life of the mother.  After Roe versus Wade the Michigan Supreme Court upheld it, and the Michigan Court of Appeals held there is no right to abortion in the Michigan Constitution. That is why the left is going nuts now trying to get the law invalidated and put the right to abort all the way till birth into the constitution…. Because they know that as soon as Roe is overturned, the law is enforceable. The Governor, therefore, has used a procedural mechanism to get her scheme to judicially amend the constitution before a friendly left-leaning state supreme court.  Notwithstanding the overwhelming odds, our Justice Center will never give up the fight for life and the Rule of Law.  We are making STRONG arguments before the Court.  It is our prayer that the Court will follow the Constitution and the Rule of Law, and dismiss the Governor’s improper case.

Update: Planned Parenthood Case — Justice Center Files Special Writ Challenging Trial Judge’s Planned Parenthood Decision that Violates the Rule of Law

Planned Parenthood Case (2022) – A Michigan Court of Claims Trial Judge issued an unfounded and baseless injunction against enforcement of Michigan’s abortion statute in the sham lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood against Attorney General Dana Nessel. “ The Judge’s decision seriously undermines the public’s confidence in, and reliance on, a fair and impartial judiciary,” stated Professor William Wagner, President of the Great Lakes Justice Center.

Despite being the losing trial attorney in the Mahaffey case, where the Court of Appeals ruled there is no constitutional right to an abortion under Michigan’s Constitution, the Judge refused to recuse herself in this case dealing with the same issues she argued and lost in Mahaffey. She then issued this ruling defying stare decisis and the rule of law.

As the Court of Appeals has recently stated, “To be clear, lower courts must follow decisions of higher courts even if they believe the higher court’s decision was wrongly decided or has become obsolete.” The Court further stated, “If a trial judge is unable to follow the law as determined by a higher appellate court, the trial judge is in the wrong line of work. See Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 2; Canon 3(A)(1). . . . (C)ourts are obligated to comply with decisions and opinions from higher courts.” People v. Dixon-Bey (Court of Appeals Docket #: 354866 (2022)).

The Court of Appeals was clear in Mahaffey, there is no right to abortion in the Michigan Constitution. The Judge refused to follow the clear precedent in Mahaffey and erroneously found there is a Michigan constitutional right to abortion which might be infringed if Roe v Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. As the Court further held in Dixon-Bey, “A trial court is not free to disregard rules, orders, and caselaw with which it disagrees or to become a law unto itself.”

The Michigan Court Rules require the trial judge to follow binding precedent of higher courts, including the Mahaffey case she herself lost. The Judge’s defiance of the rule of law is deeply disturbing. She knows she has no authority as a trial court judge to overrule a Court of Appeals decision. This ruling brings disrepute to the Court and is further evidence of an activist judge reaching a desired outcome regardless of the rule of law.

David Kallman, Senior Legal Counsel for Great Lakes Justice Center, stated, “The Judge has violated the clear standards in the Code of Judicial Conduct and has eroded public confidence in the judiciary by her improper decision in this case. She has failed to avoid all appearance of impropriety, and has shown utter disregard for the law.”

JUSTICE CENTER FILES SPECIAL WRIT CHALLENGING TRIAL JUDGE DEFENDING LIFE AND THE RULE OF LAW

Michigan Right to Life and the Michigan Catholic Conference joined forces with Great Lakes Justice Center’s prosecutor clients to file a complaint in the Michigan Court of Appeals for a Writ of Superintending Control over Court of Claims Trial Judge. Right to Life and the Catholic Conference are represented by John J. Bursch. The complaint asks the Court of Appeals to exercise its supervisory control over the Court of Claims and the Judge and vacate the improper injunction issued earlier this week against enforcement of Michigan’s abortion statute. The Judge issued this unlawful injunction attempting to bind all of Michigan’s prosecutors in the sham lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood against Attorney General Dana Nessel alone. None of the prosecutors are parties to that case and have had no opportunity to be heard in the matter.

“The Judge’s decision seriously undermines the public’s confidence in, and reliance on, a fair and impartial judiciary, she has failed to avoid all appearance of impropriety, and she has shown utter disregard for the law,” stated Professor William Wagner, President of the Great Lakes Justice Center. David Kallman, Senior Legal Counsel with the Great Lakes Justice Center stated, “Courts must not facilitate the abuse of using fake lawsuits with no adverse parties to overturn duly enacted legislation with which the Governor or Attorney General personally disagree. This abuse of power must be stopped now. The judiciary must immediately intervene to re-establish the rule of law.” Read the full complaint at www.greatlakesjc.org/.

 

CONTENDING FOR RELIGIOUS CONSCIENCE AT THE MICHIGAN SUPREME COURT

MCRC Cases – Rouche World. (2020, 2021, 2022)

The Great Lakes Justice Center also recently appeared before the Michigan Supreme Court on behalf of Christian business owners facing the full power of the State, simply for exercising their sincerely held religious conscience. 

Michigan’s governor, attorney general and Civil Rights Commission continue to defy the rule of law in the area of religious freedom.  Michigan law properly prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, and religion. During enactment, the Michigan legislature expressly stated the law did not cover sexual orientation.  In the years thereafter, the legislature repeatedly voted not to add special classifications used by authorities to infringe on religious conscience and expression (e.g., sexual orientation; gender identity).  The executive branch nonthless continued, with no legal authorization, to operate as if the legislature amended the law to allow for religious persecution.

     As in previous years the Justice Center in 2020 participated in hearings and legislative oversight of the AG and MCRC in connection with their misuse of power here. The Justice Center currently represents two different Christian family businesses being investigated by the MCRC for exercising their sincerely held religious beliefs by choosing not to participate in a same-sex wedding.

Status: This case is now in the Michigan Supreme Court.  Justice Center lawyers argued the case, supported with significant amicus backing.

Fighting for Religious Expression & Conscience 

Freedom of Religious Expression Case – Stout v Plainwell Schools (2022) – The Justice Center represents a Christian high school student suspended for sharing his Christian views.

Government Mandates Substantially Interfering with the Free Exercise of Religious Conscience.   2020, 2021, 2022 – Our Justice Center assisted thousands of individuals facing government mandates that forced them to choose between following their sincerely held religious beliefs and keeping their jobs or attending school.  In many of these matters we assisted Christian people as they drafted their request for religious accommodation.

  • Praise Report: 100% of those government employees or students who we helped to seek a religious accommodation received one, enabling them to keep their jobs, scholarships, and student status without violating their religious beliefs.

Private Mandates Substantially Interfering with the Free Exercise of Religious Conscience.  2020, 2021, 2022

Our Justice Center assisted thousands of individuals facing government mandates that forced them to choose between following their sincerely held religious beliefs and keeping their jobs.

  • Praise Report: We assisted/ represented hundreds of Christian nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals (all who served on the front lines during the worst of the COVID outbreak) when they were told by Henry Ford Hospitals they would be fired if they did not reject their sincerely held religious beliefs in connection with abortion etc. Henry Ford capitulated and all have kept their positions without being forced to violate their sincerely held religious conscience.

NCAA Division I Christian Athletes Benched for their Religious Beliefs

2021, 2022

Our Justice Center represents Christian athletes at various universities facing government mandates that forced them to choose between following their sincerely held religious beliefs and participating in inter-collegiate athletics. 

  • We continue to represent or assist athletes and artists at various Universities (e.g., NMU, UM, MSU, GVSU, CMU, WMU) For example, CMU deemed Christian members of the dance and cheer team ineligible to travel to their bowl game due to their religious beliefs. Our Justice Center engaged with university counsel resulting in all allowed to travel.
  • See also Federal WMU case victory in the Leaving a Legacy section

 

Leaving a Legacy

Some of Our Recent US Supreme Court Cases:

Fighting for Religious Freedom in Foster Care

Fulton v. Philidelphia, (No. 19-431) (2020) –The Justice Center filed a Supreme Court brief in support of a  challenge to Philadelphia’s exclusion of a Christian organization from a foster care system.  The city excluded this faith-based organization because of its religious tenets. 

Praise report: The Supreme Court held that the government violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment — by refusing to contract with a Christian group for foster care services unless the Christian group agreed to certify same-sex couples as foster parents. 

Fighting for Religious Freedom of Pro-Lifers

Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, et al.  (No. 19-431) (2020) (representing Christian Business Owners Supporting Religious Freedom) The question before the Court was whether the federal government could lawfully accommodate Christian organizations with a religious objection to abortion, from the HHS Mandate requiring businesses to provide health plans that include contraceptive coverage?  In this case we argued to the Court that the Executive Branch could do so, and that it would be unlawful not to do so. 

Praise Report: The Supreme Court held that the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury had authority under the Affordable Care Act to promulgate rules exempting employers with religious or moral objections from providing contraceptive coverage to their employees.

Early Efforts Fighting to Overturn Roe v Wade

June Medical Services v. Gee (No. 18-1323 & 18-1460) (2019) (representing Right to Life) The question before the Court is whether Roe v Wade should be overruled.  In this case we asked the Court to overrule Roe v Wade because the 14th Amendment does not include a liberty interest right to abort an unborn child.  We ask the Court to overturn Roe – the diabolical decision judicially creating the “right” to kill a person’s son or daughter in utero.  In the alternative we asked the Court to uphold a pro-life law requiring abortion providers to hold local hospital privileges.  

Praise Report: While the majority opinion of the Court chose not address the viability of Roe here, we moved some of the Court with our arguments, setting the stage for the Dobbs case (see above)

Fighting for Religious Freedom of Business Owners

R.G. & GR Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC (No.18-107) The question before the Court was whether the Court of Appeals improperly usurped power reserved to the Congress and President when it judicially amended Title VII to add transgender classifications? In this case we presented arguments to the Supreme Court that the US Court of Appeals improperly usurped power reserved to the Congress and President.  Unfortunately, the Court here (over significant dissent and factual proof) said that the word “sex” in Title VII did not mean biological (male and female) but instead included transgender.

Sample Other Federal Cases

NCAA Division I Christian Athletes – WMU case. (2021)

Our Justice Center represented Christian athletes at Western Michigan University facing government mandate that forced them to choose between following their sincerely held religious beliefs and participating in inter-collegiate athletics. 

  • Praise Reports: We first won a Temporary Restraining Order ordering WMU to allow the Christian athletes to continue participating in intercollegiate athletics pending a hearing on a Preliminary Injunction. We then won a Preliminary Injunction ordering the university to allow the Christian athletes to continue participating in intercollegiate athletics during the pendency of the case. 
  • When the university appealed we won a decision in the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upholding the Christian students’ religious liberty. The ruling decisively held that the First Amendment limits the exercise of government power. The US Court of Appeal’s published its ruling which means it is mandatory precedent for all of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Michigan. WMU indicates capitulated and agreed to a Permanent Injunction where the Christian students may fully participate in intercollegiate sports without violating their religious conscience.  Attorney Fees awarded to GLJC by the federal court

Jesus T-shirt case – Wittman v. City of Hart (2020-22)– In this case our Justice Center represented a Christian woman in another election integrity case.  This case involved a First Amendment challenge to the City of Hart’s political speech policy requiring Ms. Wittman to remove a t-shirt saying “Jesus I trust in you” while employed as an election worker.  Here the government election employee was fired because of the message on her t-shirt.

  • Praise Report: Judgment entered against government, recognizing violation of our client’s First Amendment Rights and ordering defendant to pay attorney fees

Beckwith v. Azar

HHS Mandate case. Our Justice Center represented a Christian businessman facing millions of dollars in fines for his exercise of religious conscience.  His unwillingness to participate in abortions of his employees and government mandates collided.

  • Praise Report: Our Justice Center “won” this case in 2020; The Government admitted to violating our client’s freedom of religion. Obtained permanent injunctive relief with consent of DOJ.    Aided client in obtaining injunctive relief through the Christian Employers Alliance.  DOJ agreed to dismissal of case and payment of attorneys’ fees. (2021) Closed.

Williamston School Board Case. Bd enacted politically charged sexuality policies.  These policies substantially infringe on the free exercise of religious conscience and expression. The policies also authorize things like men using the girls’ bathroom and showers and allowing men to identify as girls in scholastic athletic events. In 2020, the Justice Center assisted parents and the community in responding to the abuse of governmental power, including in a federal lawsuit against the school board. The trial Court deferred until more specific harm could be shown.

Recent State Cases and Matters

Baby Karungi Case (2022) The Justice Center represented the mother and unborn human embryo where the issue before the court is whether the unborn child is human worthy of protection.

  • Praise Report: A victory in the State Court of Appeals forced the trial court to address the issue of whether the. unborn human embryo is a human life worthy of protection
  • Update: Trial Court resolved case on basis of property law. Nothing left to appeal.

Pro Life Speech Case – The Justice Center represented pro-life Christian students at Hope College.  The College sought to punish the students for sharing, (in the public square off campus), their sincerely held personal Christian beliefs on the value of human life.   Status: Positive outcome for our client. (2022)

Good Governance/ Election Integrity Cases.  Our Justice Center filed a number of major cases (e.g., Johnson et al v Jocelyn Benson et al & Constantino v Detroit) fighting for the constitutional right to election integrity, fighting all the way to the State Supreme Court.  Our credible evidence of election irregularities was cited and used (and continues to be used) throughout the US in various courts and legislative proceedings.

  • Johnson v. Benson, No. 162286 (MI 2020) GLJC represented African-American voters disenfranchised by voter fraud.
  • Johnson v. Benson– Federal Court action challenging the absentee ballot scheme unilaterally enacted by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and challenging the results of the election.  Status: Case voluntarily dismissed, inundated with motions to intervene (granted by unfriendly Judge Neff) and due to time sensitive nature of litigation, decided to dismiss and file separate case in Michigan Supreme Court.
  • Johnson v. Benson– Original action under MCL 168.878 challenging the decision of the State Board of Canvassers to certify the election given the election and canvass irregularities in Michigan. Status: Case dismissed after Michigan Supreme Court denied to hear the matter (3 v. 4 decision).

Constantino v. Detroit, No. SC: 162245 (MI 2020) GLJC represented voters disenfranchised by voter fraud.  Court confirmed the Constitutional Right to an Audit.

Constantino v. Wayne County Commissioners– Challenge requesting a quo warranto proceeding in Wayne County Circuit Court to investigate fraud and to obtain an audit of the election results pursuant to Michigan Const 1963 art 2, § 4(1)(h).  Status: Case dismissed after Michigan Supreme Court denied to hear the matter (3 v. 4 decision).

  • Praise Report (silver-lining): The lower court confirmed the Constitutional Right to an audit exists. (note: we are not associated with any of the cases where the conduct of the lawyers was found to be lacking) 

Spangler’s Family Restaurant Cases

In this case we worked with Hillsdale College to support and represent local business facing government abuse of power; Our Justice Center represented business before various government agencies

  • Praise Report: We stopped the government from closing illegally closing business, obtaining a positive result for Spanglers — which ultimately resulted in the government ending it prosecution of similarly situated businesses in the State.
  • Spangler’s Family Restaurant v. MDARD– Challenge to MDARD’s summary suspension of restaurant owners’ food license based upon lack of statutory authority to enforce health code epidemic orders and violations of non-delegation clause and the substantive due process clause.  Status- held three day evidentiary hearing, presently on appeal in the Hillsdale Circuit Court.  Food license has been re-issued and is no longer suspended. (2021)
  • Spangler’s Family Restaurant v. MDHHS– Challenge to MDHHS’ citation of 11k in fines issued by MDHHS pursuant to its epidemic orders backed upon violation of the APA, unlawful use of unauthorized government power, non-delegation clause, and substantive due process clause.  Status- Settlement resulting in a positive outcome for our client. (2021)

 

Pastors and Churches Case. When the Governor issued decrees making it a crime for individuals to travel to or attend church worship, we sued in Federal Court.

  • Praise Report: The Governor acquiesced making it legal for individuals to travel to and attend church.

Planet Fitness Case. PF revoked the membership of a woman who complained about the presence of a man she encountered in the woman’s locker room. The Justice Center continues to assist in a lawsuit against this national corporation, battling all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court for the right to go to trial. 

  • Praise Report: After a victory in the Supreme Court we reached a positive settlement.

America’s Barber Case. Michigan barber cut hair in First Amendment protest against unconstitutional executive actions – resulting in criminal charges, summary business license revocation, etc. 

  • Praise Report: The Justice Center continues to assist on the Free Speech aspects of this case, fighting all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court where a preliminary victory there allowed the Barber to remain open. We thereafter reached a positive result, allowing the Barber to remain open.

 

Legislative / Policy Track & Impact

The GLJC Sentinel program:

  • Tracked and informed citizens of state and federal policy initiatives impacting the family, the sanctity of life, and the freedoms of religious conscience and expression. 
  • Drafted proposed regulatory and statutory language for local, state, and national governments on initiatives impacting the family, the sanctity of life, and the freedoms of religious conscience and expression;
  • supported persecuted Christians in local, state, and national public forums;
  • provided expert non-partisan testimony and comments on proposed initiatives impacting the family, the sanctity of life, and the freedoms of religious conscience and expression.

 

Christian Worldview Counsel

Our Justice Center team continues to provide confidential counsel to thousands of Christian churches, pastors, business leaders, academic leaders, etc….

Educating businesses on the law of religious accommodation, how to respond to unlawful government mandates, and how to evaluate risk in the light of such mandates.