Liberty Legal Institute

Joni Lamb: America is a Christian Nation and if You Don't Like it, 'You Shouldn't Live Here'

Recently, Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute appeared on the Christian television program "Joni" along with David Barton to discuss the report that Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council released entitled "The Survey on Religious Hostility in America."

During the discussion, Shackelford mentioned a legal fight that took place in Texas last year over a high-school valedictorian who wanted to say a prayer during her graduation speech.  The student ultimately won the right to do so, which prompted host Joni Lamb to declare it a victory for free speech, saying "that if you live in America and you understand that we are a Christian society then you can't be offended by things like that or you shouldn't live here": 

$200,000 Later, Liberty Legal Gets Back to Basics

Back in September, we wrote a couple of posts noting that the Liberty Legal Institute, a right-wing Texas law firm, was trying to shut down the "Troopergate" probe involving Sarah Palin in order to protect John McCain's presidential campaign. 

Now, the Anchorage Daily News reports that LLI spent nearly $200,000 on the effort:

New state gift disclosures show it cost Liberty Legal Institute and the two law firms working with it $185,000 to represent six Alaska legislators in an unsuccessful lawsuit to halt their colleagues' "troopergate" investigation into whether Gov. Sarah Palin acted improperly in firing the state's public safety director.

The legislators listed a $25,000 gift of services from the Texas-based Liberty Legal Institute. Liberty is the legal arm of the Free Market Foundation, which is associated with evangelical leader James Dobson's Focus on the Family, and lists its guiding principles as limited government and promotion of Judeo-Christian values.

The lawmakers also disclosed a $120,000 gift of services from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, a national firm that appeared at hearings on behalf of Liberty Legal.

Anchorage attorney Kevin Clarkson represented the six legislators in the case as well, and turned to Liberty Legal for its constitutional expertise. The lawmakers reported a $40,000 gift of services from Clarkson's firm.

That brings the total bill for their lawsuit to $185,000.

The attorneys had hoped to recoup legal fees in a victory. But the suit was dismissed last fall.

The six legislators who filed the suit are Wes Keller, Mike Kelly, Fred Dyson, Tom Wagoner, Carl Gatto and Bob Lynn. All are Republicans.

And speaking of Liberty Legal, Kelly Shackelford, who heads the organization, was just featured on Focus on the Family's CitizenLink website warning its readers that President Obama and the Democrats in Congress are going to destroy their religious freedom by passing the Freedom of Choice Act, repealing DOMA, the Fairness Doctrine, hate crimes legislation and, most ominously, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:

It essentially forces a national homosexual-rights law into businesses across the country. The original bill included "transgendered" individuals — in other words, a man who dresses like a woman, who feels like he’s a woman that day. This would affect everything. It would mean your teacher in your child’s school, if they were a male and felt like a female, they could go into the women’s bathroom.

It’s very extreme, but it is very likely to pass, and it has huge implications on religious liberty. There are a lot of Christian businesses that try to follow their beliefs and morality, and it would be the federal government forcing their view of morality on everybody and it would trump religious freedom.

It’s not just Christian businesses; it would even do it to nonprofit organizations. It would even affect, depending upon the exemption, church schools. So you can see how invidious this could be because it really is a direct attack on religious freedom.

While we understand Shackelford's fear-mongering on these issues - it is LLI's core mission, after all - we have yet to see a convincing explanation of how this mission was furthered by having this right-wing Texas organization drop a couple of hundred thousand dollars defending Republican legislators in Alaska in order to protect Sarah Palin.

Liberty Legal and "Troopergate"

As we noted earlier this week, right-wing Alaskan attorney Kevin Clarkson had waded into the "Troopergate" saga in Sarah Plain's defense and was working in conjunction with the Liberty Legal Institute, a right-wing legal organization based in Texas. 

Why a right-wing organization out of Texas that, by its own admissions, focuses mostly on cases dealing with religious freedoms, student's rights, parental rights, and the definition of family was taking the lead in a case involving an investigation into the dealings of the Alaska Governor was hard to understand.  But now Kelly Shackelford, head of Liberty Legal, is explaining just what they are doing there ... assuring impartiality:

Liberty Legal Institute says it has filed the suit on behalf of Alaska legislators and citizens who want to halt the investigation because those running it have lost the impartiality required under the Alaska constitution. The investigation stems from Palin's July 2008 firing of former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety Walt Monegan for insubordination.

Kelly Shackelford -- chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute -- says the investigation is being led by the Alaska Legislative Council and three Democratic state senators who are outspoken supporters of Barack Obama. "Those people have [made] contributions to Obama. They have public statements pro-Obama and anti-Palin. They have public statements prejudging the case before there's any evidence in," warns Shackelford.

"They have conflicts of interest with those in charge because of past and current relationships. So this is clearly an unconstitutional...political witch hunt which violates the very terms of their constitution."

That would be the same Kelly Shackelford who was recently on James Dobson's radio program crowing about how Palin was the answer to the right-wing movements prayers and explaining his efforts as part of the GOP's platform committee in drafting “the strongest pro-life platform ever in the history of the [Republican] party."

No concerns about impartiality or "conflicts of interest" there.

Right-Wing Legal Group Comes to Palin’s Defense

The AP reports that “five Republican state lawmakers filed suit Tuesday to end the bipartisan investigation into Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's” role in the “Troopergate” scandal and buried near the bottom of the article is this little tidbit of information:

"There is no nonpartisan reason to complete this investigation until after the election," said Anchorage attorney Kevin G. Clarkson. "We just want to take the politics out of it and bring fairness back into it."

Clarkson said he and a nonprofit legal firm in Texas, Liberty Legal Institute, were donating their work on the suit.

If the name of Clarkson sounds familiar, it’s because he showed up in a post from a few weeks ago explaining how, back in 2006, he personally assured Focus on the Family that Palin shared their views – and he’d know since he was providing legal counsel to her on the Alaska Supreme Court’s ruling regarding benefits for partners of state employees:

Clarkson explained that it was a convoluted process that led to the veto. Acting as legal counsel, Clarkson advised Palin to veto the bill that he said, because of confusing legislative machinations and existing court challenges, would've had the opposite effect and locked in benefits for all couples.

Clarkson said he had to explain the whole decision to Focus on the Family to put minds at ease.

Clarkson appears to be something of a free-lance right-wing lawyer, as in the earlier article he was listed as affiliated with the Alliance Defense Fund and is now listed as working with the Liberty Legal Institute, which just so happens to be run by Kelly Shackelford who was an early backer of Mike Huckabee and was recently hobnobbing with Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer and James Dobson on Dobson’s radio program where they cooed over Palin and Shackelford detailed his role in drafting “the strongest pro-life platform ever in the history of the [Republican] party."

Huckabee: A New Kind of Evangelical?

Several articles have appeared in recent months suggesting that Mike Huckabee is some sort of “new breed” of evangelical – one who is not committed only to opposing abortion and gay rights, but also cares about the environment and the poor.  And Huckabee has worked hard to play up the idea that he is nothing like traditional demagoguing Religious Right preachers such as Pat Robertson or the late Jerry Falwell.  

As Huckabee likes to say, while he may be conservative, he’s “just not angry about it” – or, to put it another way, he drinks “a different kind of Jesus juice. To the press, this seems to be enough to qualify Huckabee as a “different kind of evangelical,” and exempts him from having to explain himself when he proclaims that we need to “amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.” 

An example of this sort of coverage appeared on the New York Times over the weekend:

Much of the national leadership of the Christian conservative movement has turned a cold shoulder to the Republican presidential campaign of Mike Huckabee, wary of his populist approach to economic issues and his criticism of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. But that has only fired up Brett and Alex Harris.

The Harris brothers, 19-year-old evangelical authors and speakers who grew up steeped in the conservative Christian movement, are the creators of Huck’s Army, an online network that has connected 12,000 Huckabee campaign volunteers, including several hundred in Michigan, which votes Tuesday, and South Carolina, which votes Saturday.

They say they like Mr. Huckabee for the same reason many of their elders do not: “He reaches outside the normal Republican box,” Brett Harris said in an interview from his home near Portland, Ore.

The brothers fell for Mr. Huckabee last August when they saw him draw applause on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” for explaining that he believed in a Christian obligation to care for prenatal “life” and also education, health care, jobs and other aspects of “life.” “It is a new kind of evangelical conservative position,” Brett Harris said. Alex Harris added, “And we are not going to have to be embarrassed about him.”

The article noted how Huckabee’s rise in the polls has occurred “without the backing of, and even over the opposition of, the movement’s most visible leaders, many of whom have either criticized him or endorsed other candidates.”  While Religious Right powerbrokers like Tony Perkins, James Dobson, and Gary Bauer have credited Huckabee for energizing evangelical voters, all have made clear that they do not support his candidacy and seemingly have no intention of doing so.

But just because the most prominent right-wing activists are reluctant to climb aboard the Huckabee bandwagon doesn’t mean that those already on board are in any way moderates or representative of some sort of new, more moderate evangelical movement.  In fact, most of Huckabee’s backers are even more radical.

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Liberty Legal Institute Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Monday 11/19/2012, 1:27pm
Recently, Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute appeared on the Christian television program "Joni" along with David Barton to discuss the report that Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council released entitled "The Survey on Religious Hostility in America." During the discussion, Shackelford mentioned a legal fight that took place in Texas last year over a high-school valedictorian who wanted to say a prayer during her graduation speech.  The student ultimately won the right to do so, which prompted host Joni Lamb to declare it a victory for free speech... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 02/09/2009, 1:48pm
Back in September, we wrote a couple of posts noting that the Liberty Legal Institute, a right-wing Texas law firm, was trying to shut down the "Troopergate" probe involving Sarah Palin in order to protect John McCain's presidential campaign. Now, the Anchorage Daily News reports that LLI spent nearly $200,000 on the effort:New state gift disclosures show it cost Liberty Legal Institute and the two law firms working with it $185,000 to represent six Alaska legislators in an unsuccessful lawsuit to halt their colleagues' "troopergate" investigation into whether Gov.... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 09/18/2008, 9:47am
As we noted earlier this week, right-wing Alaskan attorney Kevin Clarkson had waded into the "Troopergate" saga in Sarah Plain's defense and was working in conjunction with the Liberty Legal Institute, a right-wing legal organization based in Texas.  Why a right-wing organization out of Texas that, by its own admissions, focuses mostly on cases dealing with religious freedoms, student's rights, parental rights, and the definition of family was taking the lead in a case involving an investigation into the dealings of the Alaska Governor was hard to understand.  But... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 09/16/2008, 3:55pm
The AP reports that “five Republican state lawmakers filed suit Tuesday to end the bipartisan investigation into Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's” role in the “Troopergate” scandal and buried near the bottom of the article is this little tidbit of information: "There is no nonpartisan reason to complete this investigation until after the election," said Anchorage attorney Kevin G. Clarkson. "We just want to take the politics out of it and bring fairness back into it." Clarkson said he and a nonprofit legal firm in Texas, Liberty Legal... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 01/16/2008, 9:22am
Several articles have appeared in recent months suggesting that Mike Huckabee is some sort of “new breed” of evangelical – one who is not committed only to opposing abortion and gay rights, but also cares about the environment and the poor.  And Huckabee has worked hard to play up the idea that he is nothing like traditional demagoguing Religious Right preachers such as Pat Robertson or the late Jerry Falwell.   As Huckabee likes to say, while he may be conservative, he’s “just not angry about it” – or, to put it another... MORE >