Liberty Institute Chair: If Americans Don’t Fight For Religious Liberty, They Will Lose It

By Barbara Hollingsworth | November 13, 2015 | 1:48pm EST
Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford. (Liberty Institute)

( – Hostile attacks on religion freedom are increasing at a dramatic pace, and if Americans don’t stand up and fight for their First Amendment rights, they will lose them, warns attorney and constitutional scholar Kelly Shackelford.

“The good news is that this country was founded on religious freedom, and so the nation’s laws, Constitution, history and heritage supports religious freedom. And the people who are trying to change that are the ones who are having to fight uphill,” Shackelford, who is also president and CEO of the Liberty Institute, told

But “there’s been a dramatic increase in the attacks. There’s many more attacks and hostility than there was in the past,” he said, noting that the non-profit legal organization he heads has been active in about 400 religious liberty cases this year.

Liberty Institute attracts pro bono work from “top-notch attorneys at the big law firms” who jump at the chance to “work on one of these marquee cases that involves religious freedom and might set a precedent for the future of our country.”

Because of its legal muscle and the fact that “the law really still is on the side of religious liberty,” Liberty Institute “wins 90 percent of the time” Shackelford told

The group’s many victories include “a keystone case” earlier this year on behalf of Navy Special Forces Chaplain Wes Modder, who was fired for giving biblically-based answers to questions about homosexuality and sex outside of marriage.

The punishment was an attempt to “elevate the new concepts of sexual liberty above everybody else’s rights and religious freedom,” Shackelford said.

“We were gearing up for the final appeal and were pleasantly surprised and shocked when a two-star admiral reversed everything and restored Chaplain Modder completely to his chaplain’s position. They even asked him where he wanted his next assignment to be. And the captain who did this is now retired.

“Everybody was watching this case because they knew this was about whether we were going to have chaplains [in the military]. Because if a chaplain can’t answer a moral and spiritual question about the Bible with a biblical answer, then we really don’t have chaplains any more.

"There are people who literally do not want religious freedom laws,” Shackelford continued. “So things that are very uncontroversial, like religious freedom restoration acts, which were passed in states across the country, were passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, all of a sudden when they tried to pass one of these in Indiana, it becomes radioactive.

“Well, there’s going to be plenty of people on the other side who have a little better understanding of the long-view consequences of stripping away religious freedom from our country, and they’re going to fight and do everything they can to make sure that this founding principle is not taken away from Americans.”

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