2011: Our Best Year Yet!

Sacramento, CA – To many, 2011 will be remembered as a dismal trudge through layoffs, fiscal crises and budget cuts. Non-profits like Pacific Justice Institute took a heavy hit as well, cutting many staff to part-time status and literally pinching pennies. So why would PJI consider 2011 one of the best in its 14-year history?

“Great outcomes,” said Brad Dacus, the president of PJI. “In spite of the hardships, our staff continues to go above and beyond, and it’s paying off in a huge way.” Dacus pointed to several legal victories in the past year that he considers some of the firm’s best work.

  • ~ The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in PJI’s favor in a major church land-use case. The U.S. Supreme Court then denied review. This case will directly benefit churches throughout the West Coast, and it can also be cited as favorable precedent by congregations nationwide.

  • ~ The U.S. Supreme Court let stand another good Ninth Circuit decision upholding the constitutionality of our national motto, “In God We Trust.” PJI had taken on the role of co-defendant in the case and won a hard-fought battle with atheist Michael Newdow, who filed the suit.

  • ~ PJI successfully defended Drs. Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery against another suit by Newdow, this one challenging the constitutionality of prayer and the phrase “So help me God” at the presidential inauguration. PJI secured a good decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court denied review.

  • PJI filed suit, then favorably settled a case against a San Diego-area school district that had suspended a student for his faith and ordered him—in writing—not to bring his Bible to school or talk about it.

  • Following a favorable procedural ruling from the Ninth Circuit, PJI was on the verge of entering a suit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation attacking ministers. The FFRF then suddenly dropped its Sacramento suit and retreated to Wisconsin. Apparently PJI’s home turf was not such a great venue for them after all!

  • After winning a terrific decision in the California Court of Appeal on behalf of a youth pastor who was arrested for sharing his faith, PJI attorneys secured a favorable settlement with the shopping mall that ordered the arrest.

  • PJI attorneys won an injunction in Redding against a library that had selectively barred a local Tea Party group from offering free copies of the Constitution and civic-related information in a common area outside the main reading rooms.

  • City officials in San Juan Capistrano, California, abandoned their efforts to shut down a home Bible study and refunded fines paid by the homeowners after PJI took it to court.

Dacus notes that, in addition to the major court victories, PJI resolved many other encroachments on religious freedom through legal demand letters and private negotiations. He added, “PJI has a number of key constitutional and religious liberty cases currently in litigation, so with the generous support of our friends we expect to continue making headlines and making a difference in 2012.”