Advocates recently submitted a public records request to the Riverside County Department of Education regarding its sexual health education opt-out policies. Not surprisingly, the documents given by Riverside County officials to train teachers were prepared by the ACLU and took a strong stance against parental rights.
Tyler & Bursch, LLP July 25, 2018 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Desare Ferraro at 951-600-2733
Ninth Circuit Forbids School Board Invocations and Censors Private Citizens
Chino, CA —Today, the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled that the Chino Valley Unified School District board policy that allows invocations before the start of school board meetings is a violation of the Establishment Clause. The Fifth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals came to a different conclusion in 2017 in American Humanist Association v. McCarty.
The Ninth Circuit further affirms the District Court’s injunction that enjoins the CVUSD school board members “from conducting, permitting or otherwise endorsing school sponsored prayer in Board meetings.”
“This requires the Board to censor or otherwise remove individuals who attempt to say a prayer, or anything that might resemble a prayer, during the public comment period,” said Robert Tyler of Tyler & Burch, LLP and legal counsel for CVUSD. “Such an overbroad injunction is a clear violation of the right of private citizens to address their local representatives in public meetings and is dangerous to the First Amendment.” Footnote 20 of the Ninth Circuit’s opinion makes this point more clear.
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld ceremonial prayer at city council meetings in Town of Greece v Galloway. In that decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy noted the historical significance of such invocations. “Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government…,” Kennedy wrote.
The CVUSD school board will be meeting in the coming weeks to determine its next course of action.
A copy of the Ninth Circuit’s Opinion can be found here.
The Riverside County law firm of Tyler & Bursch, LLP, represents CVUSD, with the support of Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a nonprofit legal organization.
Email email@example.com to receive press releases. Also, join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our progress in this case and others. To learn more about Advocates for Faith & Freedom, visit www.faith-freedom.com or Tyler & Bursch, LLP, visit www.tylerbursch.com
Advocates for Faith & Freedom is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts. The firm, in association with Tyler & Bursch LLP, has represented clients across the country on matters governing land use and religious liberty in the public square.
That’s how President Trump described Judge Brett Kavanaugh when he proudly announced his nomination for the United States Supreme Court.
Within minutes, realizing this big win for constitutional conservatives, Democrats ran to their stages and microphones, sounding the alarm to their pro-abortion base that this will be the fight of their lifetimes and they
vowed to oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything they have.
Abortion activists like Naral Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue, viciously bellowed her opposition to this well-known and respected jurist saying Judge Kavanaugh would use the court “as a tool to eradicate women’s right” to make the most fundamental decisions about their bodies.
In his remarks during his nomination of Judge Kavanaugh, President Trump noted, “What matters is not a judge’s political views but whether they can set aside those views to do what the law and the Constitution require. I am pleased to say that I have found, without doubt, such a person.”
At a time when so many judges either do not understand or do not respect the limit of the court, Judge Kavanaugh’s acceptance speech brought hope to all Americans who respect our Constitution. He said, “A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law,” Kavanaugh said. “A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.”
Advocates for Faith & Freedom's current Religious Land Use case, Calvary Chapel Bible Fellowship v. County of Riverside, is a clear case of government overreach and the outcome will rely on Constitutional jurisprudence. In California's 9th Circuit, the country's most overturned court in the nation, that might be unlikely. With Judge Kavanaugh confirmed, it will be a comfort to know that the U.S. Supreme Court's majority will seek to rule in accordance with the Constitution, not their personal ideology.
We encourage every Christian to call your two U.S. Senators and ask for a swift confirmation for Judge Kavanaugh.
Riverside County, CA (June 26, 2018) Today, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of NIFLA and against the Reproductive FACT Act, the California law that would force faith-based pregnancy centers to advertise for abortion. Back in October 2017 in our case against this law, Scharpen Foundation v. Javier Becerra, a Riverside County Superior Court judge granted an injunction against the State, ruling it infringed upon free speech and therefore was a violation of the California Constitution.
After hearing about today’s concurring Supreme Court ruling, Robert Tyler, General Counsel for Tyler & Bursch’ LLP, commented, “After our victory in state court, and now this victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, our state case should be concluded and the judgment we received in our favor will no longer be subject to appeal by the State Attorney General. The California Legislature, Governor Brown and General Javier Bacerra should recognize this decision as a severe rebuke to their disregard for the Constitution.”
Nada Higuera, the Tyler & Bursch attorney who successfully argued the Scharpen case in Riverside County had this to say about the ruling, "The Supreme Court hit a home run and affirmed the principle that no American should be forced to speak a message that they disagree with. But this is not just a victory for free speech. It is also victory for the countless pregnancy resource centers and the women they serve. It is a victory for life!"
Both Robert Tyler and Nada Higuera will be available for comment and interviews today. Please call or text Desaré Ferraro at 714-348-0808 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Tyler & Bursch, LLP and Advocates for Faith &Freedom: Tyler & Bursch’s attorneys have been serving businesses and individuals throughout Southern California for almost 20 years in federal and state trial courts, courts of appeal and arbitration. Tyler & Bursch provides legal and financial support to their non-profit law firm, Advocates for Faith & Freedom in defense of constitutional and religious liberty.
As a national defender in the fight for religious freedoms and parental rights, Advocates for Faith & Freedom has increasingly seen pastors back away from teaching biblical worldviews from the pulpit, primarily because of their perception that their congregants don’t want to hear it. This has resulted in a growing disconnect between Christian conservatives and their pastors.
Interestingly enough, a new survey titled “What God’s People Want to Know,” commissioned by WallBuilders and the American Culture & Faith Institute shows conservative Christians actually want to hear more about political issue-related teaching from the pulpit. The fascinating survey asked moderate and conservative Christians about the types of issue-related teaching they wanted to hear from their pastors during the 2014 and 2016 elections.
Contrary to the notion of many pastors that religion has no place in the public square, the findings demonstrate that Christians who hold politically conservative views believe that churches should be more involved in the political process—the opposite message we hear from progressives and the media.
Two out of three respondents said they want more information from their church about what the Bible teaches in relation to current social and political issues. At least 80% of the respondents indicated their greatest need for information related to the following six issues of “high importance”: Abortion (91%); Religious persecution/liberty (86%); Poverty (85%); Cultural restoration (83%); Sexual identity (82%); and Israel (80%).
Sadly, the survey also found that one out of every five conservative pastors did not even encourage their congregants to vote in November 2014. It is also alarming that one-quarter of conservative pastors did not teach their congregants biblical principles
about important social and political issues during the six months preceding the election.
The results also underscored just how tone deaf the media and political candidates are when it comes to the issues most important to conservative Christians. Topics frequently pushed by the media, such as healthcare, foreign policy, immigration reform, jobs/unemployment, taxes, gun rights, military spending, and campaign finance reform, did not make the list of issues that mattered.
What does all this mean and why is it important? The survey reinforces what we have already seen in our legal defense ministry: There is a correlation between the declining spiritual and social health of America and the lack of engagement of our pastors. In the words of the survey summary, “The nation has been demonstrably worse off ever since pastors chose to disconnect faith from politics and governance. America urgently needs cultural direction from those whom God has placed in positions of spiritual leadership. One way of providing such leadership is by shaping the thinking of Christians by teaching them foundational biblical principles related to pressing social and political issues of the day.” To that, we say Amen!
So, what can congregants do to encourage their pastors to preach on what the Bible says about social and cultural matters? Try telling your pastor the following:
You’re interested in learning what the Bible teaches on the topics and would consider them appropriate subjects for the pastor to teach from the pulpit.
You have appreciated the times when the pastor has addressed current issues from a biblical perspective, and you hope to experience more of that kind of teaching on a broader range of issues.
You believe learning about what the Bible says in relation to current issues of importance – beyond abortion and same-sex marriage—would be a significant contribution to the body of Christ.
I believe that pastors have more than an opportunity to teach on these matters; they have a responsibility and calling to do so. While pushback from some congregants is likely, especially those who are more theologically moderate, addressing these issues may serve as an impetus to developing a more biblically centered worldview among many people in the congregation.
We at Advocates for Faith & Freedom are holding free seminars for pastors, administrators, and other non-profit ministries to equip them in leading the Church to positively impact social and political issues. (Check our website at http://www.faith-freedom.com/events for upcoming details).
If you would like more information on what your pastor or church can legally do in terms of speaking about political issues from the pulpit, we have numerous resources available on our website, including the handout “Pastors & Politics: What is Legal and Illegal” and a 10-page booklet, “The First Amendment in Crisis: The Intersection of Church and State.” You can access this information at http://www.faith-freedom.com/learn/church-and-state/.
Thank you for your financial support! We have much to accomplish to change and shape the moral culture of our communities, but we can only move forward with your help. Please continue to hold our attorneys up in prayer as they continue protecting our cherished religious freedom.
Twenty-nine-year-old Nada Higuera stood in the courtroom last April, her growing belly an accessory to her case briefs and plea binders. As an attorney with Advocates for Faith & Freedom—a California-based non-profit law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty—Higuera was once again in Riverside County Superior Court Justice Gloria Trask’s courtroom to challenge the Reproductive FACT Act, or AB-775 (see “Free Speech vs. Forced Speech,” page 12). The statute, hailed by NARAL Pro-Choice America as “historic,” and “set[ting] a precedent for the nation,” forces pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) statewide to advertise taxpayer-funded abortion and birth-control programs in their waiting rooms, signage and communications.
Signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2015, the FACT Act was immediately decried by the pro-life community. Every Golden State PRC would have no choice if AB-775 became law but to tell clients not only that free or low-cost abortions might be available, but exactly where and how to obtain them. In other words: They would be forced to violate their own missions and moral convictions while providing free advertising for the opposition.
Higuera took the case because it was, in her words, “blatantly unconstitutional.” PRCs, she says, should have the same freedom of speech—or, in this case, non-speech—as everyone else.
Yet Higuera had a much deeper connection to the case she was arguing—one that had slammed into her as a teenager, but had since remained mostly out of sight and out of mind.
But now, a growing daughter tucked safely within her, Higuera’s spirit played host to the ever-present question: Should she tell them?
Higuera was raised in northern California, the eighth daughter born within a thirteen-year span to devout Muslim parents who had emigrated from Palestine. While her childhood was fairly “Americanized, and felt very much like a normal American’s,” as Higuera tells Citizen, it also included her mother wearing headscarves, her father praying to Mecca five times a day and attending mosque services. Everyone in her family spoke Arabic.
In 1992, Higuera’s parents took a fellow Middle Eastern immigrant under their wing, a man about her father’s age. He became like a trusted uncle—but quickly zeroed in on the youngest daughter, often getting Higuera alone starting around the age of 6.
“He would offer to help my parents with errands and then take me to work after hours. He would come up with all kinds of reasons,” Higuera says. “If I said no, my parents thought that was rude and questioned why I was not being obedient.”
His behavior soon turned sexual.
“My personality is a peacemaker, and I didn’t want to stir up trouble,” says Higuera, now 30. “I didn’t tell my parents anything. I never had the courage to say, ‘Here’s what’s happening.’ ”
Even if Higuera had spoken up, she wouldn’t have known what to say. Her family was so shuttered about discussing sex that one sister had no idea what would happen on her wedding night. And as a child in elementary school, Higuera knew even less.
The years passed, and the abuse continued, unseen and unchecked. In the meantime, five of Higuera’s sisters entered arranged marriages—four of them before graduating from high school, with one becoming a bride at 14.
Though her siblings would eventually provide Higuera with 23 much-loved nephews and nieces, she saw how each sister with an arranged marriage grew deeply unhappy. And as her “uncle” kept sexually abusing her, Higuera followed suit: silently surviving.
That is, until she was 16, and took a pregnancy test. It was positive.
The girl who didn’t even realize that her abuser’s actions could create a child had no idea how to tell her family. So Higuera wrote a note to her sister, who then informed their parents.
“Anyone who got pregnant out of marriage was unclean,” Higuera explains. “It devastated my parents. [They] said, ‘We’re going to get this taken care of—your sister’s going to take you to get an abortion.’
“And within a few days, that’s what happened.”
There was no discussion at home before or after the procedure. Nor did anyone at the abortion facility discuss fetal development with Higuera or tell her what her options were.
“I remember [them] telling me I might bleed a little,” Higuera says.
The high school sophomore returned home, “kind of checked out” mentally, as Higuera says, to survive. After a stern upbraiding from a brother-in-law, Higuera’s abuser fled the country, unpunished.
Higuera couldn’t see how that was right. She was a good daughter who loved her family, innocent and sincere. Why had this happened?
It wasn’t until more than a decade later, when AB-775 required her to professionally revisit the world of unplanned pregnancy and abortion, that she would truly see how “our God of justice,” as she says, was “patiently healing and redeeming” her all along.
In 2005, Higuera bucked the family tradition of arranged marriage and went to college. As a student at Chico State University, she was unsure of her desired career but positive of one thing: She was pro-choice. A woman should have access to abortion, she thought, especially in cases like her own.
Today, she’ll tell you she was “repressing everything” back then with the gusto of a “typical female student at a liberal college.” It was more coping mechanism than true belief, since she received virtually no trauma counseling after her years of abuse.
“God knew I wasn’t ready [to deal with it],” Higuera says. “He’s been so patient through this whole process.”
A major part of that process was hearing the Gospel for the first time at 18 from a high school friend. The message and prayer resonated with Higuera, but as she joined the college scene, she pushed thoughts of Christ away.
“I thought it was crazy that you could be forgiven for all your sins [that would happen] tomorrow,” she says. “That struck me as so unjust.”
Even so, Higuera “knew there was a lot of power in the Gospel still.” The story of the Cross stayed with her, and after hearing it again at a friend’s church when she was 20, the former Muslim became a Christ-follower.
Her parents’ reaction was swift. Higuera was brainwashed, they said; Jesus was just a man and it’s blasphemy to say otherwise. What’s more, they insisted, if she maintained her Christianity, they had no choice but to cut all ties with her.
Higuera was initially devastated. Wasn’t professing faith in Jesus supposed to solve problems? That night, while reading her new Bible, she found 1 Peter 4:14: “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (NIV). And then Matthew 10:34: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (NIV).
Instantly and ironically, reading that brought Higuera complete peace. And to her great shock, two weeks later her mother called and “acted like nothing had happened,” Higuera says. Indeed, her father gladly walked her down the aisle when Higuera married her Jesus-loving husband Grant four years ago, and since then, along with Higuera’s mother, “has been really pleased and surprised with Christians in general.”
Higuera had a rock-solid faith, a degree in criminal justice, a wonderful husband and a warm relationship with her parents, sisters and their children.
But what about the rest of her life? What was she supposed to do with her past abuse and abortion trauma?
Headed to Court
At a friend’s suggestion, a somewhat ambivalent Higuera took the admissions test for law school. To her surprise, she passed, and in 2010 found herself a student at the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento.
“I ended up loving and being good at it,” Higuera says. “I still didn’t know why God would bring me through law school. I thought surely I wasn’t the typical lawyer.”
After passing the bar in 2014, Higuera heard about Robert Tyler, a partner at Tyler & Bursch, LLP in Murrieta, Calif., and the founder of Advocates for Faith & Freedom. She gave him a call, intrigued by the idea of becoming a faith-based attorney. Tyler hired her, not knowing her back story.
When the FACT Act passed in 2015, the pro-life plaintiffs assembled a legal team from the American Center for Law and Justice and Advocates for Faith & Freedom. As Higuera studied the merits of the case, she knew she wanted to take it—pro bono—but not necessarily because of its pro-life implications; instead, the constitutionality questions drew her.
Tyler tells Citizen he wasn’t surprised when Higuera stepped up.
“These types of cases attract some of the best lawyers because of the impact they have on society,” he says. “It requires a significant personal sacrifice of time and money to take [them on] … These cases separate great lawyers from the rest of the pack, and Nada has risen to the challenge.”
Higuera dove in, immersing herself in reading pro-life literature and interviewing the staff and clients of PRCs like the Scharpen Foundation. As she prepared her case, Higuera did not initially see how “God was using these [activities] to help me heal” from her past trauma. Since her conversion, she recognized the sanctity of life; wasn’t that enough?
“It was God slowly giving these little things, just working on my heart, knowing I was repressing [my abuse],” Higuera says. “Even though I knew my client provided post-abortion counseling and I needed it, I would never say, ‘Please help me, please counsel me.’ But working with people in the pro-life community—doing it from a legal perspective—allowed me to absorb everything.”
In early 2017, Higuera became pregnant with her daughter Nyla and continued working. She often felt Nyla move during legal proceedings, filling her with awe—even preborn, her daughter was advocating for life! As the pregnancy progressed, people often remarked on the uniqueness of a pregnant lawyer in court on behalf of preborn children and their parents.
“It fascinated them,” Higuera says. But how much more fascinated would they be, she wondered, if they knew everything?
To Glorify God
In her eighth month of pregnancy, after much prayer, Higuera decided to tell her boss and coworkers what had happened to her as a kid.
“I don’t necessarily want to publish my story all over the world,” she says. “But if it glorifies God, then I do.” And that story certainly gave the Lord all credit; no one she told had heard of an abuse survivor and abortive mother not only learning “the truth about abortion and the evil that it is” but also defending preborn children through California’s notoriously liberal legal system.
When Higuera thanked her boss for the opportunity to work the case—and heal—he returned the gratitude. “I was so thankful to her for sharing her testimony and putting in so many hours to defend life and liberty,” Tyler says. “I immediately told Nada that I was so impressed with how she has overcome so many obstacles to become such a wonderful person of faith.”
Finally speaking her story out loud made it clear that God had been quietly involved all along.
“Here I am, a pregnant woman going through these different stages, yet I can still just walk in [during any trimester] and get an abortion,” Higuera says. “So knowing the impact of what I did, being able to grieve that death and loss of a baby was just so real to me being pregnant. It was all part of the healing and redemption process.”
Indeed. And when Judge Trask ruled in favor of the Scharpen Foundation on Oct. 30—agreeing that pro-life clinics being forced to refer clients to abortion facilities is wrong—Higuera knew it was a true team effort, not only between herself and co-counsel, but also God and Nyla, who was born in September.
“Looking back at all the guilt and shame, and now God put me in courtrooms advocating for pro-life clinics—it’s so far from where I was,” Higuera says. “He did it so gently, so patiently. It was so personal to use this case to help me, to really understand His grace and love for me. It’s just amazing.”
For now, Higuera is busy not only with ensuring laws like the FACT Act stay unwritten and unpassed, but also settling into new motherhood.
Her hopes for Nyla, meanwhile, are fairly standard: To grow up knowing Christ, fulfilled, within a supportive community.
But Higuera does have another small dream for her second child.
“How beautiful would it be if she becomes a lawyer and can say, ‘Even when I was in the womb, I was in the courtroom, fighting for life?’”
Just like her mama.
Originally published in the January 2017 issue of Citizen magazine.
At Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court hearing about free speech, life, and religious liberty, the question was whether a law passed in California could force pro-life clinics and crisis pregnancy centers to advertise for the state’s free abortion program… in up to 13 languages, no less!
Although a lawsuit to stop the statute was struck down by the Ninth Circuit, you may recall back in October 2017, Tyler & Bursch’s pro bono attorneys, with funding from Advocates for Faith & Freedom, prevailed against this law on Free Speech grounds in Riverside County Superior Court in Scharpen Foundation v. Kamala Harris.
Still, California’s Attorney General persisted on defending this discriminatory law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where non-profit legal defense law firms from across the country took the lead. Advocates for Faith & Freedom’s research and amicus brief played a significant role in its opposition and was mentioned by three Justices at Tuesday’s hearing.
According to the Daily Signal, Justice Anthony Kennedy asked whether an unlicensed center ran a billboard that read “Choose Life,” would it have to include the disclosure in the same font and in multiple languages? Wouldn’t that be an undue burden?”
A Courthouse News Service article quoted both Justice Alito and Justice Gorsuch. “If you have a law that’s neutral on its face, but… when you apply all the exemptions, what you’re left with is a very strange pattern, and, gee, it turns out that just about the only clinics that are covered by this [law] are pro-life clinics,” Alito said. “Do you think it’s possible to infer intentional discrimination in that situation?”
While Justice Neil Gorsuch commented that the California law required pregnancy centers to “do the state’s job” at a significant cost to what Advocates for Faith & Freedom’sresearch set out to prove, are mostly nonprofit, pro-life facilities. “Well, but if you’re trying to educate a class of persons about their rights, it’s pretty unusual to force a private speaker to do that for you under the First Amendment,” Gorsuch said.
Commenting right after leaving the Supreme Court hearing with our client, Scott Scharpen, Tyler & Bursch attorney, Robert Tyler was optimistic, saying, “Based on the arguments, it certainly appears that victory is awaiting!”
Unlike Planned Parenthood, non-profit crisis pregnancy centers exist to support women who face difficult or unplanned pregnancies and receive no money or support from the government. It was apparent the Justices recognized the state’s majority pro-abortion lawmakers targeted these groups.
It was only through your prayers and financial support that Advocates was able to contribute the research and provide the pro bono legal services that we feel certain made a big difference in this case!
Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw His unfailing love from me. ~ Psalm 66:20 (NLT)
But, several years ago, an uncomfortable rumor began circulating over social media that a portion of Girl Scout cookie sale proceeds was donated to Planned Parenthood. Girl Scouts of America denies this rumor and says that no proceeds from cookie sales have ever been donated to Planned Parenthood.
Their official statement is, “Girl Scouts does not take a position on abortion or birth control. We believe these are matters that are best discussed within the family.” We’re good with that statement.
It was also rumored that Girl Scouts of America promotes and supports organizations with less than Christian social values, so raising money for them goes against our principles. Although local Girl Scout troops will tell you that one hundred percent of the net revenue raised through their cookie sales stays with them. The individual troops set goals on how to spend their proceeds.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it." ~ Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)