Bob's blog – A skeptical lawyer

God’s Not Dead 2, Ripped from the headlines?

Posted on January 3, 2019

I am still afraid that, if I use artwork advertising God’s Not Dead 2, then Pure Flix (a wealthy corporation) will sue me (a lone blogger) in order to take everything I have. The irony of this situation seems to be completely lost on Pure Flix.

The credits for God’s Not Dead 2 begin with a statement that the movie “was inspired by the following legal cases where Americans were condemned for their faith.” A list of twenty-four cases follows, but the letters are difficult to read even on a large screen television. The film’s press materials claim:

GOD’S NOT DEAD 2 is not just a new movie. It’s a look at the very real threats to religious liberty that occur daily in the public square. In fact, the film cites in its closing credits 25 cases with themes similar to what’s depicted onscreen.

Although the credits named only twenty-four cases, the promotional materials then purport to list twenty-five cases from the credits, but they are not the same cases. The movie website also claims to identify the twenty-five cases in the credits, but provides yet another list in a post entitled, “Real Life Imitates Reel Life.”

I asked Pure Flix, the producer of God’s Not Dead 2, for the list of cases in the credits, and they responded that the only list they have is the one on their website. Although this seems like an evasive answer, I doubt that Pure Flix is trying to conceal anything. Instead, I imagine the three inconsistent lists indicate nothing more than a lack of attention to detail.

Through much time and trouble deciphering the illegible credits, I have reconstructed the original list of cases. Although some overlap exists among the three different lists, they are mostly different cases – a total of sixty cases.

None of the sixty cases involved a teacher being sued for mentioning Jesus in a high school history class or any similar situation. In four cases, college professors claimed to have been the victims of religious discrimination, but these disputes involved allegedly homophobic comments and other controversial issues (see my comments below regarding each case).

Almost all of the cases have one thing in common. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian organization providing free legal representation, represented Christians in each case. This is yet another way God’s Not Dead 2 portrays Christian persecution that does not exist in real life.

The film’s depiction of the poor high school teacher’s David-and-Goliath struggle against the slick ACLU lawyers has no connection to reality. In the film, Grace is the defendant/victim who stands to “lose everything” if the ACLU prevails in its legal assault. In real life, teachers who claim to have suffered religious discrimination have aggressively attacked the alleged wrongdoers. For example, Santa Fe Community College fired June Sheldon after she allegedly made homophobic comments in class. Sheldon sued seven trustees and four other employees in their individual and representative capacities.[1]  Sheldon was represented by:

If a teacher were fired or suspended for accurately answering a student’s question about some aspect of religious history, then these organizations would gladly sue anyone and everyone involved. However, the evangelical persecution complex requires that Grace be the courageous victim/defendant standing alone against the world. A plaintiff with an eloquence  of lawyers would not be as sympathetic.

Judging from descriptions in the Alliance Defending Freedom website, most of the sixty cases involve petty bureaucrats discriminating against Christians. Such intolerance, including prohibiting a child from handing out invitations for a church Easter egg hunt, certainly happens, and I applaud the Alliance for standing up against this nonsense. Other cases involve Christians discriminating against same-sex couples or opposing abortion.

The following is the list of twenty-four cases in the movie credits. I summarized the descriptions from the Alliance Defending Freedom website, and they Alliance probably presents a one-sided description of these cases. Nonetheless, even if we accept as true the Alliance’s biased descriptions, none of the cases supports the claim that Christians are subject to the kind of persecution depicted in God’s Not Dead 2.

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Cases from press materials.

The following is the list of cases from press materials. I have omitted cases that are also on the previous list. Except my comments to first four cases, the descriptions are from the Pure Flix promotional materials.

  • Dr. Mike Adams was denied a promotion at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington after becoming a Christian and conservative writer. He was successfully defended by Alliance Defending Freedom, and the university was ordered to promote him.

My comments. Dr. Adams made racist, homophobic statements. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his First Amendment rights. A movie about Dr. Adams might be more interesting than God’s Not Dead 2 because it would involve real issues, not the fake issue of persecuting a high school teacher who accurately answered a student’s question.

  • The University of Illinois fired Dr. Kenneth Howell after one of his students was “offended” by his description of Catholic teachings on sexual behavior. He was successfully defended by Alliance Defending Freedom and reinstated.

My comments. The controversy regarding Dr. Howell centered on an email containing some rather antiquated ideas about homosexuality.

  • Professor June Sheldon at San Jose City College was fired for answering a question about heredity and homosexual behavior from the class textbook, and a student claimed to be “offended.” She was defended by Alliance Defending Freedom and reinstated.

My comments. Prof. Sheldon and the college disagree strongly about what she actually said in class, and I don’t know who is telling the truth. As discussed above, Prof. Sheldon delivered a strong counterpunch.

  • Librarian Scott Savage at Ohio State University-Mansfield suggested four conservative books for the freshmen reading list and three professors filed complaints about him. Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit, and the university dropped the charges.

My comments. Savage later resigned, and then sued the university for “constructive termination.” A federal judge threw out his case

  • Jonathan Lopez expressed his Christian belief that marriage is between one man and one woman in a speech class. His professor at Los Angeles Community College interrupted him, calling him a “fascist.” Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit for Jonathan and won in district court.
  • Orit Sklar and Ruth Malhotra, two students at Georgia Institute of Technology, were told to stop holding conservative and religious events on campus. Alliance Defending Freedom represented them, settled the case and the school changed its policies.
  • Emily Brooker, a student at Missouri State University, was assigned to write a letter to the state legislature in favor of adoption by same-sex couples. She refused based on her religious beliefs, and was charged with an ethics violation. Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit, and the university settled the case.
  • B.H., an elementary school student with cerebral palsy at Superior Street Elementary School, wanted to dance to a Christian song at the school talent show. But school officials said that the song was too religious. Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit, and the school district reversed their position.
  • A.Q., a student at Lindenhurst High School, wanted to start a Christian student club. But school officials denied his request because the club was religious. After Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit, the school recognized the club.
  • J.A., a student at Dixon High School in Missouri put up posters promoting the Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity. But school officials removed the posters. Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit, and the school district settled the case to allow religious and pro-life materials.
  • Make Up Your Own Mind, a pro-life student club at the University of North Carolina, applied for a religious exemption so as to select members based upon their agreement with its religious beliefs. The school denied the request, stating the club was “not religious.” After Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit, the university recognized the club and broadened its exemption policy.
  • University of Michigan officials denied funding to student organization Young Americans for Liberty saying it was “religious,” although it provided funding to other groups engaged in similar speech. Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit, and the university revised its funding policies.
  • A.Z., a sixth grade student, was prohibited by Nova Classical Academy from handing out pro-life flyers with her friends that said, “Save the baby humans. Stop abortion.” After Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit, the school revised its literature distribution policy.
  • A.P., a senior at Tomah High School, drew a picture for his art class that depicted a road, cross, and the words “John 3:16 – a sign of love.” His art teacher gave him a zero when he refused to remove the biblical reference. Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit, and the school district removed the ban on religious expression.
  • The San Diego Fire Department ordered four firefighters to participate in a Gay Pride Parade against their will. An Alliance Defending Freedom attorney successfully sued the city on the firefighters’ behalf and obtained a victory in the California Court of Appeal.
  • J.A. ( a different J.A. than the one listed above), a first grade student, made Valentine’s Day cards for his classmates that read “God Loves You,” quoting John 3:16. The principal refused to allow J.A. to distribute them. Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit, and won. J.A.’s student religious expression was protected.
  • C.H., a freshman at Bridgeton High School, wanted to participate in the Pro-Life Day by wearing an arm band. The assistant principal denied her request. C.H. was successfully defended by Alliance Defending Freedom and the district court ruled in her favor.

Cases from Pure Flix website.

The following is the list of cases from the Pure Flix website. Even if we accept the one-sided descriptions on the Pure Flix website, none of these cases involve persecution of a high school teacher as depicted in God’s Not Dead 2. The Friendly Atheist gives a brief critique of each case. Again, I have omitted redundant cases.

  • State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers. The State of Washington and a same-sex couple sued a florist to force her to create floral arrangements celebrating a same-sex wedding ceremony.
  • Hands On Originals v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission. A human rights commission in Kentucky sued a t-shirt print shop owner to force him to make t-shirts with text promoting a gay pride festival.
  • Elane Photography v. Willock. A New Mexico Human Rights Commission sued a wedding photographer to force her to use her photographic talents to tell the story of a same-sex commitment ceremony.
  • Cochran v. City of Atlanta. The Fire Chief of Atlanta sued the city after it fired him for expressing his religious beliefs about marriage in a book he wrote on his own time.
  • Hobby Lobby & Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell. Two businesses sued the federal government after it attempted to force them to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their health insurance plans.
  • Bernstein v. Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. A homosexual couple sued a non-profit group associated with a Methodist denomination to force it to open its pavilion for a civil union ceremony.
  • Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig. A same-sex couple and the Colorado civil rights commission sued a cake artist to force him to create a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony.
  • Baker v. Wildflower Inn. A Vermont human rights commission and two women sued a family-owned bed and breakfast to force it to host a reception honoring a same-sex wedding.
  • Ward v. Polite. A counseling graduate student sued Eastern Michigan University after the University expelled her for referring a client to another counselor when that client asked to receive counseling about a same-sex relationship.
  • Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. v. Burwell. A Christian publisher sued the federal government after it attempted to force it to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in its health insurance plan.
  • Fellowship of Catholic University Students v. Burwell. A non-profit Catholic organization sued the federal government when it attempted to force it to use its health insurance plan to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.
  • Cryer v. Klein. A same-sex couple sued a cake artist and her business to force them to create a wedding cake promoting and endorsing a same-sex wedding ceremony.
  • Cenzon-DeCarlo v. The Mount Sinai Hospital. A nurse asked the federal government to investigate a hospital after that hospital forced her to assist in an abortion in violation of her religious beliefs.
  • Hellwege v. Tampa Family Health Centers. A nurse applicant sued a federally funded health center in Tampa after the center refused to consider her for employment because she was a member of a pro-life medical association and had a faith-based objection to prescribing some abortion-inducing drugs.
  • Morr-Fitz, Inc. v. Blagojevich. Pharmacy owners sued the Illinois state government when it required all pharmacies to stock and dispense abortion-inducing drugs.
  • Planned Parenthood Arizona, Inc. v. American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists: Planned Parenthood of Arizona sued to invalidate some Arizona laws protecting the right of hospitals, pharmacies, and health professionals to decline providing abortions when doing so would violate their religious beliefs.
  • Dobson v. Burwell. Dr. James Dobson and his Christian non-profit organization sued the federal government after it attempted to force them to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their health insurance plan.
  • Gusich v. California Department of Managed Health Care: The California Department of Managed Health Care attempted to force a non-profit religious university to provide elective abortions through the university’s health insurance plan.
  • Lockyer v. Gonzales. The California Attorney General sued to invalidate a federal law protecting doctors and other medical professionals from being discriminated against by their employers for refusing to provide abortions.
  • Foothill Church v. California Department of Managed Health Care: Numerous California churches sued the California Department of Managed Health Care to protect their religious beliefs after the Department required all employers, including churches, to pay for elective abortions in their health insurance plans.
  • Danquah v. University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Twelve nurses sued the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey after the university forced the nurses to assist in providing abortions.
  • Howe v. Burwell. A pro-life Vermont man sued the federal government after he lost his private health plan due to Obamacare, and was then forced to obtain health insurance that required him to pay a fee to cover elective abortions.
  • Stormans v. Wiesman. The Washington State Pharmacy Board required a family owned pharmacy to stock and dispense abortion-inducing drugs even though doing so would violate the pharmacy owners’ religious beliefs. The pharmacy owners sued to protect their religious beliefs.
  • Grace Schools v. Burwell. Grace College and Seminary in Indiana and Biola University in California sued the federal government when it attempted to force these institutions to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception.
  • Connecticut v. United States. Connecticut, Illinois, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Oregon sued to invalidate a federal law protecting doctors and other medical professionals from being discriminated against by their employers for refusing to provide abortions.
  • National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association v. Leavitt. A pro-abortion group sued to invalidate a federal law protecting doctors and other medical professionals from being discriminated against by their employers for refusing to provide abortions.
  • Healy v. United States Coast Guard. The United States Coast Guard informed an officer that he must be injected with a vaccine derived from an aborted child, even though it conflicts with his Catholic beliefs. The officer then sued.
  • Ave Maria School of Law v. Burwell. A Catholic law school sued the federal government when it forced the school to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception.
  • Brooker v. Franks. A Missouri State University student sued university officials after they required her to write and sign a letter to the Missouri Legislature in support of homosexual adoption as part of a class assignment and then punished the student for declining to write the letter.
  • Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley. A counseling student sued Augusta State University officials after they told her that her Christian beliefs are unethical and incompatible with the prevailing views of the counseling profession and that she must change her beliefs in order to graduate.
  • Planned Parenthood Federation of America v. Leavitt. A pro-abortion group sued to invalidate a federal law protecting doctors and other medical professionals from being discriminated against by their employers for refusing to provide abortions.
  • Southern Nazarene University v. Burwell. Four Christian universities in Oklahoma sued the federal government when it forced the universities to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception.

 


[1] Northern District of California, 08-03438


-rgmiller