Category Archive: Civil Rights

  1. Harassment Charges for Church Discipline Dismissed

    On April 20, 2015, the court dismissed all harassment charges arising from Harvest Bible Chapel of King of Prussia counseling members as part of church discipline.

    “Pastor Townsend and his leaders were not afraid to stand up for what is right and to stand strongly upon their right to practice their religion as God has called them to do,” said Defense Attorney Jeff Conrad of Clymer Conrad PC.

    “[We] give all of the praise and glory to God for this victory in stopping the unconstitutional prosecution of the Church.”

    Harvest Bible Chapel leaders had attempted to council two members of the church to persuade the couple to stop gossiping within the church. In response the couple contacted Detective Jerome Staquet of Upper Merion Township Police Department. On February 25, 2015, Satquet filed harassment charges against Pastor Matt Townsend, Assistant Pastor Scott Allison, and Elders Timothy Cole, Howard Sizemore, and Bevan Greiner of Harvest Bible Chapel.

    At the April 20, 2015, trial before Magisterial District Judge James P. Gallagher of Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, Conrad said, “Judge Gallagher quickly saw … the unconstitutional nature of the charges and dismissed all counts against both pastors and all of the elders.”

    Photo credit.

  2. Adult World Folds, Free Speech Prevails

    After three and a half years of litigation, Adult World acknowledged that The King’s Men have a right to picket on public property.

    Counsel for Adult World proposed a settlement offer minutes before jury selection in the Philadelphia federal courthouse on Monday, January 12, 2015.

    “The settlement is a victory for us,” said Jeff Conrad, counsel for The King’s Men. “This is exactly what we would get if we won the day.”

    The settlement included dismissal of the action, which was originally filed in September of 2011, and acknowledgement that The King’s Men could continue to express their ideas.

    “It’s encouraging that as a result of the outcome of this case, our First Amendment freedoms continue to be respected,” said Randall Wenger, chief counsel for the Independence Law Center.

    “We’re grateful to God that these good Christian men and the organization they serve can continue to be a light to those who are caught in the trap of pornography.”

    The King’s Men, seven men who had participated in its activities, and one woman who was incorrectly named in the lawsuit were represented by Jeff Conrad and Emily Bell of Clymer Musser & Conrad and Randall Wenger of Independence Law Center.

    The King’s Men is a Catholic men’s group whose goal is to serve their families and communities by leading, protecting, and providing. The King’s Men seeks to eradicate pornography because they believe it degrades women and harms families.

    Read more here.

  3. DC Gun Ban Struck Down

    Washington D. C.’s gun ban violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution, said US District Court Judge Frederick J. Scullin in an Opinion published July 26, 2014.

    “There is no longer any basis on which this court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny,” said Judge Scullin.

    Read more here.

    Photo credit Richard Loyal French.

  4. Constitution Party Wins Ballot Access Appeal

    On July 9, 2014, the Third Circuit Court ruled that the Constitution Party and other minor political parties had standing to challenge the constitutionality of the PA election code.

    The Constitution Party of PA, the Green Party of PA, the Libertarian Party of PA, and their respective representatives, including James N. Clymer of Clymer Musser & Conrad, P.C., filed a Complaint in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania asserting that the Pennsylvania election code violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

    The Plaintiffs specifically challenged title 25 sections 2911(b), 2872.2(a), and 2937 of Pennsylvania statute. The first two sections require minor parties to provide nomination papers with a certain number of signatures in order to be on the ballot.

    Section 2937 allows private actors to object to and challenge the nomination papers. It further allows the Pennsylvania court, as it deems “just,” to assess litigation costs against the nominee should the challenge be sustained.

    The District Court dismissed the Complaint stating that the Plaintiffs did not have standing.

    The Third Circuit disagreed, “We conclude that they do have standing to pursue their Constitutional claims, and we will therefore reverse.”

    After concluding that the Plaintiffs have standing, the Third Circuit remanded the case to continue litigation in the District Court.

    Read the full opinion here.

    Photo credit League of Women Voters.

  5. SCOTUS: Religious Liberty Win for Conestoga Wood Specialties

    Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court protected Conestoga Wood Specialties’ religious freedom to not provide contraceptives in employee insurance policies.

    The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) does not permit “the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to demand that … corporations provide health-insurance coverage for methods of contraception that violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the companies’ owners,” said Justice Samuel Alito.

    Conestoga Wood Specialties is an East Earl, Pennsylvania cabinet company owned entirely by Mennonites who religiously object to contraceptives.

    “When the decision came there was applause. There were ‘Thank you, Lords’ in the room, and eventually the whole group of us stopped and prayed,” said Conestoga Wood Attorney Randy Wenger, of Pennsylvania Family Institute and formerly of Clymer Musser & Conrad, P.C.

    “The announcement provides what we had hoped,” Wenger said. “There are limits on government power. There’s limits on the government’s ability to ask people to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. The practical take-away from this is you don’t have to cede your religious liberties in order to run a business.”

    Clymer Musser & Conrad, P.C. Attorney Emily Bell also served Conestoga Wood as amicus counsel for Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, and Polycarp Research Institute in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Some claimed that the Affordable Care Act does not impose a significant burden on Conestoga Wood’s religious liberty.

    But the Court strongly held otherwise: “The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients. If the owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions, and if they do not comply, they will pay a very heavy price—as much as $1.3 million per day, or about $475 million per year, in the case of one of the companies. If these consequences do not amount to a substantial burden, it is hard to see what would.”

    The Court explained that the HHS mandate does not promote its interest in the least restrictive manner, “HHS has not shown that it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion by the objecting parties in these cases.”

    The Court concluded its opinion saying, “Our responsibility is to enforce RFRA as written, and under the standard that RFRA prescribes, the HHS contraceptive mandate is unlawful.”

    To read the entire Opinion here, or the Lancaster Online article here.

    Photo credit

  6. Supreme Court Unanimously Strikes Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone

    Thursday, June 26, 2014, the US Supreme Court unanimously struck down the Massachusetts law that required a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics.

    The law prevented anyone from demonstrating within thirty-five feet of an abortion clinic, but “the Commonwealth may not do that consistent with the First Amendment,” said Chief Justice John Roberts in McCullen v. Coakley.

    “The buffer zones impose serious burdens on petitioners’ speech.”

    Massachusetts argued that it was protecting public safety by enacting the buffer law, but the unanimous Court found, “The Commonwealth has pursued those interests by the extreme step of closing a substantial portion of a traditional public forum to all speakers.”

    Justice Roberts recognized that pro-life activists have a significant interest in occupying the public fora directly in front of abortion clinics.

    “Because petitioners in Boston cannot readily identify patients before they enter the zone, they often cannot approach them in time to place literature near their hands—the most effective means of getting the patients to accept it.”

    Yet the Massachusetts law prescribed this very action. “The zones carve out a significant portion of the adjacent public sidewalks, pushing petitioners well back from the clinics’ entrances and driveways,” said Justice Roberts.

    When discussing whether Massachusetts’s law was content neutral, Justice Roberts said, “If, for example, the speech outside Massachusetts abortion clinics caused offense or made listeners uncomfortable, such offense or discomfort would not give the Commonwealth a content-neutral justification to restrict the speech.”

    Justice Roberts concluded his Opinion saying that citizens have a right to make use of public fora for discussion.

    “Petitioners wish to converse with their fellow citizens about an important subject on the public streets and sidewalks — sites that have hosted discussions about the issues of the day throughout history.”

    Read the entire Opinion here.

    Photo credit Steve Rohdes.