Thomas More Law Center

Thomas More Law Center

The Thomas More Law Center is a conservative Christian, not-for-profit law center based in Ann Arbor, Michigan and active throughout the United States. Its stated goals are defending the religious freedom of Christians, [] restoring "time honored values" and protecting the sanctity of human life. Its motto is "The Sword and the Shield for People of Faith." The center characterizes itself as "Christianity's answer to the ACLU". []

The issues the center pursues, mostly through litigation, are generally in line with modern social conservativism: opposing same-sex marriage and other gay-related causes; opposing pornography; supporting pro-life positions and initiatives; supporting the principles of Free Exercise and free speech; and opposing the removal of the Ten Commandments and other religious monuments from municipal and school buildings.

The center says its lawyers maintain "the highest moral and ethical standards of our Christian faith and our legal profession." The center considers its work "ministry" and states it was inspired by what it calls a "cultural war being waged across America" against "Christians and their faith." A policy statement of the center states "The Thomas More Center seeks to transform the national culture by taking cases across the United States consistent with its mission. The Center currently is handling over 120 legal matters in 27 different states." Currently, the Law Center has cases in 41-44 of 50 states, and has a team of around 300 pro bono attorneys.

Though it is active in many controversial social issues and cases, the center is most widely known for its instigation, litigation and loss of the Dover, Pennsylvania intelligent design case, and its strong pro-life litigation.

The Center is named after Thomas More, the 16th century Lord Chancellor whose decision to refuse to accept King Henry VIII's claim to be the supreme head of the Church of England ended his political career and led to his execution as a traitor. More is patron saint of lawyers in the Roman Catholic Church. Attorneys from the center have appeared on numerous local and national television and radio programs including "The O'Reilly Factor", "Hannity and Colmes", MSNBC, EWTN, the Laura Ingraham Show, The Radio Factor w/Bill O'Reilly, American Family Radio, and Dennis Prager.

Establishment and cases

The Center was founded in 1999 by Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza, and Richard Thompson, the former prosecutor known for his role in the prosecution of Jack Kevorkian and who now serves as the center's President and Chief Counsel. Senator Rick Santorum, former Senator and retired Rear Admiral Jeremiah Denton, former Major League Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, Prof. Charles Rice, noted Catholic academic, and Ambassador Alan Keyes are among those who have sat on the center's advisory board. Santorum has played a crucial role in promoting intelligent design through his Santorum Amendment; however, following the Center's defeat in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case (see below), Santorum resigned from its board of governors. [] The center's funding came from Monaghan's Mater Christe Foundation. ["Taking the Gospel to the Rich." "New York Times", 14 February 1999]

In August 2001, the Center filed a lawsuit against the San Diego chapter of Planned Parenthood, in which it sued Planned Parenthood to force it to inform women of a possible link between abortions and breast cancer. Although PP and medical experts denied any such link, a Thomas More Law Center lawyer claimed that a "preponderance of medical evidence" did establish a link. ["Planned Parenthood sued over abortion's risk." "San Diego Union-Tribune", 16 August 2001] The case was later dismissed by the judge, who said there was little likelihood the lawsuit would succeed. ["Suit alleging abortion-cancer link dismissed." San Diego Union-Tribune, 21 March 2002] The Center was ordered to pay $77,835 in legal fees. ["Anti-abortion group must pay legal fees." "San Diego Union-Tribune", 20 June 2002]

In September 2001, the Center publicly offered to provide legal assistance to "American citizens who believe they have been unconstitutionally denied the right to fly the American flag or express their faith in God", claiming that there had been numerous incidents of such denials in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. ["Free Legal Assistance Offered to Those Ordered to Remove American Flags or 'God Bless America' Slogans". Thomas More Law Center press release, 20 September 2001]

In July 2002, the Thomas More Law Center sued the Ann Arbor Public Schools, claiming the district violated a student's constitutional rights by "promoting homosexuality". ["Group sues Ann Arbor schools over diversity program." Associated Press Newswires, 10 July 2002] It eventually won the case, with the judge ruling that the district had violated the student's rights when she wasn't allowed to express her Catholic views in a panel discussion about gays and religion. ["Judge: Ann Arbor schools violated student's rights." Associated Press, 8 December 2003]

In the same month it sued Contra Costa County's Byron Union School District for allegedly violating students' constitutional rights after a seventh-grade class used the workbook "Islam: a Simulation of Islamic History and Culture", in which pupils were encouraged to role-play situations from Islamic history from 610 to 1100 A.D. ["A school lesson on 'jihad'." "San Francisco Chronicle", 8 September 2002] The Center also represented pro-life activists who had produced the controversial Nuremberg Files website displayed the names and locations of various doctors who perform abortions throughout the United States. The case eventually went to the United States Supreme Court, where the pro-life activists lost. The Center sued New York's school district in December 2002 for banning Nativity scenes in public schools. ["Lawsuit Attacks Schools' Ban on Nativity Scenes." "New York Times", 11 December 2002]

In March 2003, the Center intervened in the controversy over the "Ten Commandments monument" erected in the Alabama Supreme Court building by Judge Roy Moore. It filed a brief in support of Moore, claiming that the "First Amendment does not require the existence of an impenetrable wall between church and state." ["Conservative, religious groups file briefs in support of Alabama Ten Commandments monument." Associated Press, 26 March 2003] Later in 2003, it sued the Ann Arbor Public School District in an attempt to stop the district from using public funds to pay for insurance benefits for same-sex partners of district employees. ["Thomas More Law Center Sues to Stop Taxpayer Funding of Same-Sex Benefits in Michigan." TMLC press release, 22 September 2003]

The Thomas More Law Center also intervened in the Terry Schiavo controversy in Florida in October 2003, sending Governor Jeb Bush a legal opinion stating that "Bush could legally intervene to order a criminal investigation into whether Terri Schiavo may have been abused at some point by her husband, Michael Schiavo, who has always denied such charges." ["Conservative attorneys urging Bush to intervene in Schiavo case." Associated Press, 16 October 2003]

In January 2004, the Center sued Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas for displaying a sculpture of a Catholic bishop with a grotesque facial expression wearing a phallus on his head that is shaped like a bishop's miter and entitled "Holier than Thou." ["Anti-Catholic Sculpture Focus of Federal Lawsuit against Washburn University in Kansas." TMLC press release, 7 January 2004] The Center played a central role in devising the controversial total ban on abortion in South Dakota in the same year, working closely with a legislator to draft a bill which the state legislature eventually rejected by only one vote. ["South Dakota House Passes Bill Criminalizing Abortions; Challenge to Roe vs. Wade." TMLC press release, 11 February 2004]

An article in an October 2006 article in the Agape Press said TMLC attorney Edward L. White III said "favoritism toward non-Christian religions in the United State is improper" and that "the courts, the schools, and even the military should stop favoring religions that don't represent the values and traditions of America." [ [ Favoritism Toward Non-Christian Religions in U.S. Improper, Says Attorney] Chad Groening. Agape Press, October 25 2006.] White expanded on this:quotation|"The courts and the schools, in particular, look at [those other religions] as though this is something different [and] it's okay to do things that we would never allow you to do when it comes to Christianity," the attorney says. That attitude, he explains, has a snowball effect.

"The problem with that is that, all of a sudden, it starts running rampant," White continues. "It starts running through the public schools, even all the way to the military of sensitivity training with regard to various things that there's really no need for."

Notable Cases Involving the Thomas More Law Center

Intelligent design

The Thomas More Law Center gained notoriety as the law firm for the defendants in one of the country's first intelligent design cases, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Prior to taking on this particular case, a "New York Times" article revealed that the lawyers of the Thomas More Law Center traveled the country shopping for a school board willing to withstand a lawsuit as a test case for the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, forcing the first test case for intelligent design in the courts.cite news | url= | title=In Intelligent Design Case, a Cause in Search of a Lawsuit |publisher=New York Times | date=2006 | first=Laurie | last=Goodstein | accessdate = 2007-01-04] In a May 2000 visit to Charleston, West Virginia, Robert Muise, one of the lawyers, tried to persuade the school board to buy and use "Of Pandas and People" as a textbook for its science classes. Muise warned the board in Charleston that it would undoubtedly be sued if the district taught intelligent design, but that the Thomas More Law Center would provide legal defense at no cost: "We'll be your shields against such attacks," he told the school board, referencing the Center's motto. Muise told the board they could defend teaching intelligent design as a matter of academic freedom.

In the summer of 2004, the Dover, Pennsylvania school board, after receiving legal advice from the Discovery Institute, accepted the center's offer of advice and possible representation, as they worked to change their science curriculum. On November 19, 2004, the board issued a press release stating that, starting in January 2005, each biology class would be read a statement indicating the alleged uncertainties about some aspects of Darwinian evolution, and directing the students to "Of Pandas and People", of which a large number had been donated to the school by a member of the school board who purchased them using money he had given to his father, Donald Bonsell, and said they were donations solicited from his church.cite news | url= | title=Judge grills Dover official |publisher=York Daily Record | date=2005 | first=Laura | last=Lebo | accessdate = 2008-03-20] A month later, on December 14, 2004, the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit on behalf of eleven Dover parents, claiming that the statement was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The center defended the school district in the trial, which lasted from September 26 through November 4. For a trial documents and other materials, see Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial documents, for a more detailed description of the trial, see Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

The case was decided on December 20, 2005. Judge John E. Jones III delivered a [ 139 page decision] in favor of the plaintiffs, ruling that Intelligent Design is not science but essentially religious in nature, and consequently inappropriate for a biology class. Members of the board that had originally enacted the policy were not re-elected, preventing an appeal.

Other cases

* Terri Schiavo - The center's participation in the Schiavo controversy included, but was not limited to, urging Florida Governor Jeb Bush to intervene to stop the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube and counseling the governor as to the legality of his doing so. []
* Pledge of Allegiance- The law center has filed several amicus briefs in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court on behalf of itself, the Catholic League and others challenging rulings which have held that recitation of the Pledge by public school children violated the Establishment Clause because it contained the phrase "Under God." The law center has also offered free legal services to several schools dened the right to permit students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance
* Alabama Chief Judge Roy Moore - The law center defended Judge Moore with legal briefs when the Judge was ordered to remove the "moral foundation of law" monument (which included the Ten Commandments) he had placed in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building.
* Los Angeles County Seal - The law centers west coast office filed a federal lawsuit against Los Angeles County officials for their decision to remove a small cross from the county seal after they were threatened with lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The law center also provided legal supervision to a ballot initiative to keep the cross on the seal.
* Mount Soledad cross - The center's west coast division attempted to intervene on behalf of the Citizens for the Mt. Soledad National War Memorial, to prevent the city of San Diego from removing a 20ft cross from the existing Mt. Soledad war memoral. The intervention was denied, but the Law Center subsequently appealed to the United States Supreme Court, asking for a stay in destruction of the memorial, which was granted by Justice Anthony Kennedy.
* American Family Association v. Michigan State University - The Thomas More Law Center has sued Michigan State University over their policy of providing health care benefits to same-sex domestic partners employed by the university, potentially in violation of Michigans recently-enacted Defense of Marriage Act. This is the second such lawsuit the TMLC has filed, the first being against Ann Arbor Public Schools (that case was dismissed by the appeals court on a technicality).
* Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists - The Thomas More Law Center defended the American Coalition of Life Activists, twelve activists, and an affiliated organization on the grounds of the First Amendment Right to free speech. The ACLA had created Old West "Wanted" style posters of various abortion doctors, listing their names and addresses online. The posters were described as "a hit list for terrorists" by Gloria Feldt, the then president of the Planned Parenthood. This assertion was furthered by the fact that three of doctors on list were murdered and several wounded, after which the murdered doctors' names on the list were crossed out and the wounded doctors' names set in gray text.


External links

* [ Thomas More Law Center website]
* [ ProCon's Thomas More Law Center Bio]
* [,filter.all/event_detail.asp Science Wars - Should Schools Teach Intelligent Design] An October 2005 public debate hosted by the American Enterprise Institute that included the TMLC.
* [ Thomas More Law Center successfully defends Christian high school club against being forced to admit gay students] [ Additional coverage]
* [ Thomas More Law Center sues Florida town for refusing public Nativity displays]
* [ In Intelligent Design Case, a Cause in Search of a Lawsuit] , "The New York Times", November 4, 2005.
* [ Thomas More Law Center vs ACLU on intelligent design]
* [ Full text of Judge Jones' Kitzmiller v Dover ruling, dated December 20, 2005] (317.8 KB PDF file)
* [ Summary Opinion of Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists]
* [ Creators of Anti-Abortion Web Site Told to Pay Millions]
* [ Court reduces award to harassed abortion clinics]

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