A Real Attorney Weighs In: How Realistic are the Cases in ‘God’s Not Dead 2’?
by Sheryl Young
God’s Not Dead 2 tells the story of a public school teacher, “Grace Wesley” (played by Melissa Joan Hart), whose Christian faith and career come under attack after she answers a student’s question about Jesus in class. A zealous civil liberties group files suit, looking to make an example of her in its quest to remove God from public discourse.
If the story has a “ripped from the headlines” feel, it’s for good reason: More than twenty-five court cases involving Christians who were sued for expressing their faith in public settings are cited in the film’s credits as an example of the controversies occurring every day on the subject. Most of those cases were handled in court by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
Erik Stanley, Esquire, serves with ADF as senior counsel and director of the Center for Christian Ministries. He oversees all litigation efforts to maintain the autonomy of the church and to ensure its freedoms are protected under the First Amendment. Since joining ADF in 2007, Stanley has focused on religious liberty and constitutional law.
We had the opportunity to speak with Stanley about a major case he defended that inspired a key subplot of the film: Pastors being compelled by subpoena to turn over copies of their sermons to government authorities. That scenario happens in the film to “Reverend Dave” (David A.R. White) – and also happened in real life in Houston.
In 2014, Houston city officials attempted to subpoena sermons and other communications belonging to several area pastors in a lawsuit in which the pastors were not even involved. Stanley sued the city to have the order withdrawn, and won (Woodfil v. Parker case Quash Brief).
RC: In real life, why should people be concerned about cases like the one against the teacher in God’s Not Dead 2?
ES: We can all agree that religious liberty is very much in peril these days. The rights of Christians are under attack on school campuses, in the public square, and anywhere Christians are trying to express their faith.
RC: Can you give an example of a real case ADF has handled with a teacher?
ES: Professor Mike Adams at the University of North Carolina’s Wilmington campus. We won that case.
(See Adams v. Trustees of the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. Adams was an atheist when he began teaching there; he became a Christian several years later, and it was proven that he was denied a promotion to full professor based on discrimination against his Christian worldview.)
RC: What does ADF feel is the biggest current or future area of concern for American Christians over freedom of religious speech, and how can we best protect ourselves without being silenced?
ES: Freedom of conscience is the biggest concern – how Christians can live out their faith. Many of these cases came out of the sexual revolution. For example, a florist desiring to serve only marriages that align with her faith-based beliefs on marriage. She has put her whole livelihood on the line. On college campuses, how will the next generation of students be able to express their faith?…
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