Here are highlights for March, a very busy month as usual!
* On March 3 and 24, we briefed a motion to vacate an earlier court order in the contentious and important Mast case, which involves a custody dispute over a baby girl. But this is no run-of-the-mill custody case.
This dispute involves a young Marine assisting an infant child recovered off the battlefield by Army Rangers during a mission to take out a nest of East Turkistan Islamic Party (ETIP), Al Qaeda foreign fighters in Afghanistan in September 2019.
Two of the foreign fighters were the parents of this little girl. The father was killed in the firefight while engaging the Rangers; the mother blew herself up with a suicide pack while holding her months-old baby girl.
Miraculously, the baby survived but was seriously injured. The Marine and his wife, Joshua and Stephanie Mast, were granted custody of this child, and now that custody is being challenged by those who do not want a Muslim child to be raised by Christians.
We are representing the Marine’s brother, who is embroiled in this legal battle because he assisted his brother with obtaining legal custody of the child.
In our motion, we asked the federal district court of the Western District of Virginia to vacate an earlier gag order that only imposed First Amendment restrictions on our client, his brother, and his brother’s wife (the adoptive parents). The order was issued early on in this case ex parte before any of the attorneys for the defendants had even made an appearance. Essentially, the court simply copy-pasted an order prohibiting the Masts from identifying their adopted daughter/niece without first obtaining a non-disclosure agreement. On its face the court order was asymmetrical and lacked any actual factual basis. Indeed, when defendant Joshua Mast simply confirmed that a picture he was shown by CBS News was in fact his adopted daughter, the Big Law Gitmo Bar attorneys representing the Afghan couple seeking to take custody of the little girl and ultimately return her to Taliban control, asked the court to hold Joshua Mast in contempt of court. Believe it or not, the court actually took that request seriously and held an evidentiary hearing. We have now challenged the order as unconstitutional and patently illegal.
You can read more about this intriguing case here.
* On March 6, we filed our opening brief (“First Brief”) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in our ongoing legal battle to permit a Catholic organization to use its 40-acre property for religious assembly, expression, and worship.
This lawsuit was filed against Genoa Charter Township, Michigan on behalf of Catholic Healthcare International, Inc. (“CHI”), and its president.
This most recent appeal involves CHI’s request for a preliminary injunction to permit the display of religious symbols (Stations of the Cross, altar, and a mural wall with the image of Our Lady of Grace) on its 40-acre property and to permit CHI to use the property for “organized gatherings” (i.e., religious assemblies and worship).
The Township prohibited both, prompting the filing of the motion.
The district court denied the request to display the religious symbols, so CHI appealed, but granted the request to allow religious assemblies and worship, so the Township appealed.
The brief was the first of four that will be filed in this cross-appeal. CHI requested expedited review because the momentary loss of First Amendment freedoms constitutes irreparable harm as a matter of law, and that request was granted.
You can read more about this important case here.
* On March 10, and in a scant opinion void of any legal analysis, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed on mootness grounds Plaintiff Navy SEAL 4’s appeal of the district court’s denial of his motion for a preliminary injunction.
AFLC is representing four Navy SEALs in this legal challenge to the military vaccine mandate. The SEALs objected to the vaccine mandate on religious grounds.
In December 2023, the President signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023, which was a huge spending bill. In order to reach a political compromise, the President permitted a provision of the Act that repealed the vaccine mandate (so much for a compelling government interest).
As a result of this repeal, the D.C. Circuit found that the request for a preliminary injunction was now moot.
Without waiting for the D.C. Circuit to issue its mandate remanding the case, the lower court hastily issued a one-page order dismissing the entire case on mootness grounds.
On March 14, we filed a petition for rehearing en banc, asking the full D.C. Circuit to rehear this important case involving religious freedom.
And on March 31, we filed a motion for reconsideration in the lower court as there was no basis to dismiss the entire lawsuit based on the two-page order of the D.C. Circuit, which only addressed the preliminary injunction appeal (without any legal analysis whatsoever) and not the numerous other legal issues presented in the case.
At the end of the day, the government is claiming “no foul, no harm,” despite the fact that the Navy SEALs had been punished for over a year, were denied benefits, including pay, and were treated as law breakers for having violated a “lawful order.”
* On March 20, we filed a petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in our federal civil rights class action lawsuit against President Biden and Twitter, which alleges that Twitter censored speech critical of the administration’s COVID-19 vaccination policy on behalf of the Biden administration in violation of the First Amendment.
After Dr. Colleen Huber posted a “tweet” on her Twitter account from a well-known Israeli newspaper reporting on findings of mortality rates relating to the COVID-19 vaccinations used in Israel, Twitter permanently suspended Dr. Huber, a well-respected and licensed naturopathic medical doctor in Arizona, for purportedly violating Twitter’s COVID-19 Policy.
As the facts set forth in the complaint demonstrate, Twitter was in reality enforcing the Biden administration’s policy to silence anyone critical of COVID-19 vaccinations. Given the recent publication of the Twitter files outlining the White House-Twitter cozy censorship “partnership,” the fact of an illegal conspiracy between the Biden administration and Twitter for Twitter to censor speech critical of the COVID vaccine policies on behalf of the government should surprise no one.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, sitting in Twitter’s backyard, dismissed (not surprisingly) the lawsuit by ignoring the compelling evidence of a conspiracy between the Biden administration and Twitter. Contrary to the lower court’s ruling, our lawsuit sets forth material facts, which the court was required to accept as true at this stage of the litigation, clearly demonstrating the existence of the Biden/Twitter conspiracy to censor speech critical of the new and experimental COVID vaccinations (including the speech of Dr. Colleen Huber).
We appealed the erroneous ruling to the Ninth Circuit. As is typically the case, the appeal was assigned to a three-judge panel. Our panel consisted of two Ninth Circuit judges appointed by President Obama and a district court judge appointed by President Clinton sitting by designation. We should not have to tell you how they decided the case. Treating the case as a mere nuisance, the panel issued a short terse opinion that they designated not to be published in the official reports of federal cases—better to be buried.
We petitioned to have the matter reconsidered by the panel or reheard by the Ninth Circuit “en banc” (i.e., all of the judges of the circuit*) because the panel’s decision not only contradicts Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit precedent, it mishandled a critically important First Amendment case. As we pointed out in our petition:
This case presents a constitutional challenge that asks how far may the government go utilizing private actors to censor speech of which the government disapproves. In contemporary times, this question takes on enormous consequences for liberty in general, political freedom in particular, and free speech most particularly. Large social media platforms and their concentration of economic power are relatively new to the law. Their unique ability to control the social and political messaging of public sentiment through hidden algorithms and even outright censorship has become a battleground for those in different and even adversarial political camps.
*N.B. Because the Ninth Circuit has close to 30 “active” (non-semi-retired judges), an en banc review is heard by 11 of the active judges.
*On March 30, six Red Rose Rescuers who peacefully entered the Northland Family abortion center in Southfield, Michigan on April 23, 2022, were sentenced.
Following a jury trial in February, all of the rescuers were found guilty of trespassing and resisting an officer.
The “resisting” charge was based on the fact that the rescuers engaged in what is often called “passive resistance”—they remained on their knees and would not voluntarily walk out so long as innocent human life was in danger at the abortion center.
Two of the rescuers were found not guilty of the interfering with a business charge.
At sentencing, four rescuers received prison sentences as they would not agree to the judge’s terms of probation. They are currently in the Oakland County Jail. Two rescuers were placed on probation.
We have numerous issues to raise on appeal. Please keep these brave rescuers in your prayers!
Thank you for your prayers and financial support. We couldn’t do what we do without them!