Case: Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Trump

3:17-cv-00330 | U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin

Filed Date: May 4, 2017

Closed Date: 2017

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On May 4, 2017, a nonprofit created "to educate the public on matters of nontheism" (the Freedom From Religion Foundation, FFRF) filed this lawsuit against the U.S. federal government in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The case was assigned to District Judge James D. Peterson. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, alleged that Donald Trump’s “religious liberty” executive order unfairly allowed religious non-profit organizations to engage in political camp…

On May 4, 2017, a nonprofit created "to educate the public on matters of nontheism" (the Freedom From Religion Foundation, FFRF) filed this lawsuit against the U.S. federal government in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The case was assigned to District Judge James D. Peterson. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, alleged that Donald Trump’s “religious liberty” executive order unfairly allowed religious non-profit organizations to engage in political campaigning and retain their tax-exempt status but did not promise the same for non-religious non-profit organizations. As a non-religious organization with 501(c)3 status, the FFRF argued that Trump violated its equal protection rights and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Because the Johnson Amendment forbids any 501(c)3 organization from participating in political campaigns, the plaintiff argued that Trump was selectively enforcing the Johnson Amendment in violation of the Take Care Clause of the Constitution. The plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief.

On June 29, 2017, a small group of Christian religious leaders sought to intervene as defendants. The FFRF did not oppose the intervention, but the government did, expressing that that it would be more appropriate for the religious leaders to participate by submitting amicus briefs in support of the executive order.

On August 22, the government moved to dismiss the case. It alleged that FFRF had misunderstood the purpose of the executive order, that the executive order did not exempt religious organizations from the restrictions on political activity applicable to all tax-exempt organizations. The government alleged that the executive order merely served as an instruction for the IRS not to unfairly target religious organizations. Although the court had not ruled on their motion to intervene, the religious leaders also filed a motion to dismiss on the same day.

The FFRF did not respond to the motions to dismiss. Eight days later, it declared victory on its website and through a press release because the court documents submitted by the government had stated that the executive order did not stop enforcement of the Johnson Amendment or give special privileges to religious organizations. These official court documents directly conflicted with the statements by President Trump that had motivated the plaintiff's complaint.

On September 19, 2017, the FFRF filed an amended complaint that included allegations against the proposed intervening religious leaders. On November 9, 2017, both the government and the group of religious leaders filed motions to dismiss this amended complaint.

The court never ruled on the religious leaders’ motions to intervene or any of the motions to dismiss. The FFRF voluntarily dismissed the case on December 13, 2017. The case is closed.

Summary Authors

Rebecca Strauss (5/25/2018)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6082701/parties/freedom-from-religion-foundation-inc-v-trump-donald/


Judge(s)

Crocker, Stephen L. (Wisconsin)

Peterson, James Donald (Wisconsin)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Bolton, Richard L. (Wisconsin)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Anderson, Jeffrey M (South Carolina)

Luh, James C. (District of Columbia)

Readler, Chad Andrew (District of Columbia)

Shumate, Brett (District of Columbia)

Other Attorney(s)

Active

Active

Active

Judge(s)

Crocker, Stephen L. (Wisconsin)

Peterson, James Donald (Wisconsin)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Bolton, Richard L. (Wisconsin)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Anderson, Jeffrey M (South Carolina)

Luh, James C. (District of Columbia)

Readler, Chad Andrew (District of Columbia)

Shumate, Brett (District of Columbia)

Other Attorney(s)

Blomberg, Daniel Howard (District of Columbia)

Rassbach, Eric C (District of Columbia)

Verm, Diana Marie (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket [PACER]

Dec. 14, 2017 Docket
1

Complaint

May 4, 2017 Complaint
17

Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction or for Failure to State a Claim

Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Trump

Aug. 22, 2017 Pleading / Motion / Brief
26

Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief

Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Trump

Sept. 19, 2017 Complaint

Resources

Title Description External URL

FFRF prevails: Trump administration admits Johnson Amendment still in force

Freedom From Religion Foundation

President Trump has failed to fulfill his promise to “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment,” according to an admission filed in court by his own lawyers. <br /> <br />The Department … Aug. 30, 2017 https://ffrf.org/...

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6082701/freedom-from-religion-foundation-inc-v-trump-donald/

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link
1

COMPLAINT against All Defendants ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0758-2019068.), filed by All Plaintiffs, (Attachments: # 1 JS-44 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Summons - Donald Trump, # 3 Summons - John Koskinen) (Bolton, Richard) (Entered: 05/04/2017)

1 JS-44 Civil Cover Sheet

View on PACER

2 Summons - Donald Trump

View on PACER

3 Summons - John Koskinen

View on PACER

May 4, 2017 RECAP

Case randomly assigned to District Judge James D. Peterson and Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker. (kwf)

May 5, 2017 PACER

Standard attachments for District Judge James D. Peterson required to be served on all parties with summons or waiver of service: NORTC, Corporate Disclosure Statement. (kwf)

May 5, 2017 PACER
2

Summons Issued as to Donald Trump. (Attachments: # 1 Summons Issued as to John Koskinen) (kwf) (Entered: 05/05/2017)

1 Summons Issued as to John Koskinen

View on PACER

May 5, 2017 PACER

Action Requested: Counsel for plaintiff requested to promptly file proof of service. (kwf)

June 20, 2017 PACER
3

Certificate of Service by Plaintiffs Dan Barker, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., Annie Laurie Gaylor as to 1 Complaint, 2 Summons Issued. (Bolton, Richard) (Entered: 06/26/2017)

June 26, 2017 PACER
4

Notice of Appearance filed by James C. Luh for Defendants John Koskinen, Donald Trump. (Luh, James) (Entered: 06/28/2017)

June 28, 2017 PACER
5

Motion to Intervene by Intervenor Defendants Charles Moodie, Koua Vang, Patrick Malone, Holy Cross Anglican Church. Response due 7/6/2017. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Answer, # 2 Proposed Order) (Verm, Diana) Modified on 6/30/2017: Added the Attorney To Be Noticed designation and regenerated NEFs to counsel. (lak) (Entered: 06/29/2017)

1 Proposed Answer

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2 Proposed Order

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June 29, 2017 PACER
6

Brief in Support of 5 Motion to Intervene by Intervenor Defendants Holy Cross Anglican Church, Patrick Malone, Charles Moodie, Koua Vang. (Verm, Diana) (Entered: 06/29/2017)

June 29, 2017 PACER
7

Declaration of Pastor Charles Moodie filed by Intervenor Defendants Holy Cross Anglican Church, Patrick Malone, Charles Moodie, Koua Vang re: 5 Motion to Intervene. (Verm, Diana) (Entered: 06/29/2017)

June 29, 2017 PACER
8

Declaration of Pastor Koua Vang filed by Intervenor Defendants Holy Cross Anglican Church, Patrick Malone, Charles Moodie, Koua Vang re: 5 Motion to Intervene. (Verm, Diana) (Entered: 06/29/2017)

June 29, 2017 PACER
9

Declaration of Father Patrick Malone filed by Intervenor Defendants Holy Cross Anglican Church, Patrick Malone, Charles Moodie, Koua Vang re: 5 Motion to Intervene. (Verm, Diana) (Entered: 06/29/2017)

June 29, 2017 PACER
10

Corporate Disclosure Statement by Intervenor Defendant Holy Cross Anglican Church. (Verm, Diana) (Entered: 06/29/2017)

June 29, 2017 PACER
11

Notice of Appearance filed by Daniel Howard Blomberg for Intervenor Defendants Holy Cross Anglican Church, Patrick Malone, Charles Moodie, Koua Vang. (Blomberg, Daniel) Modified on 6/30/2017: Added the Attorney To Be Noticed designation and regenerated NEFs to counsel. (lak) (Entered: 06/29/2017)

June 29, 2017 PACER
12

Notice of Appearance filed by Eric Christopher Rassbach for Intervenor Defendants Holy Cross Anglican Church, Patrick Malone, Charles Moodie, Koua Vang. (Rassbach, Eric) Modified on 6/30/2017: Added the Attorney To Be Noticed designation and regenerated NEFs to counsel. (lak) (Entered: 06/29/2017)

June 29, 2017 PACER
13

Motion for Extension of Time to Respond to Motion to Intervene by Defendants John Koskinen, Donald Trump. Motions referred to Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker. Response due 7/7/2017. (Luh, James) (Entered: 06/30/2017)

June 30, 2017 PACER
14

Brief in Opposition by Intervenor Defendants Holy Cross Anglican Church, Patrick Malone, Charles Moodie, Koua Vang re: 13 MOTION for Extension of Time filed by Donald Trump, John Koskinen. (Blomberg, Daniel) (Entered: 07/03/2017)

July 3, 2017 PACER
15

** TEXT ONLY ORDER **Defendants' motion for an extension of time (dkt. 13 ) is GRANTED over the opposition of the proposed intervenors (dkt. 14 ). Brief in Opposition due 8/22/2017. Signed by Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker on 7/5/2017. (kwf) (Entered: 07/05/2017)

July 5, 2017 PACER
16

MOTION TO DISMISS for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction or for Failure to State a Claim by Defendants John Koskinen, Donald Trump. Brief in Opposition due 9/12/2017. Brief in Reply due 9/22/2017. (Luh, James) Modified on 8/22/2017. (lak) (Entered: 08/22/2017)

Aug. 22, 2017 RECAP
17

Brief in Support of 16 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction or for Failure to State a Claim by Defendants John Koskinen, Donald Trump. (Luh, James) Modified on 8/22/2017. (lak) (Entered: 08/22/2017)

Aug. 22, 2017 PACER
18

Brief in Opposition by Defendants John Koskinen, Donald Trump re: 5 Motion to Intervene, filed by Koua Vang, Charles Moodie, Holy Cross Anglican Church, Patrick Malone. (Luh, James) Modified on 8/23/2017. (lak) (Entered: 08/22/2017)

Aug. 22, 2017 PACER
19

MOTION TO DISMISS by Intervenor Defendants Holy Cross Anglican Church, Patrick Malone, Charles Moodie, Koua Vang. Brief in Opposition due 9/12/2017. Brief in Reply due 9/22/2017. (Blomberg, Daniel) (Entered: 08/22/2017)

Aug. 22, 2017 RECAP
20

Brief in Support of 19 Motion to Dismiss by Intervenor Defendants Holy Cross Anglican Church, Patrick Malone, Charles Moodie, Koua Vang. (Blomberg, Daniel) (Entered: 08/22/2017)

Aug. 22, 2017 PACER

Set Telephone Pretrial Conference: Telephone Pretrial Conference set for 10/4/2017 at 01:00 PM before Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker. Counsel for Plaintiff responsible for setting up the call to chambers at (608) 264-5153. [Standing Order Governing Preliminary Pretrial Conference attached] (voc)

Aug. 28, 2017 PACER
21

Brief in Reply by Intervenor Defendants Holy Cross Anglican Church, Patrick Malone, Charles Moodie, Koua Vang in Support of 5 Motion to Intervene. (Blomberg, Daniel) (Entered: 08/31/2017)

Aug. 31, 2017 RECAP
22

Unopposed Motion to Stay Pretrial Conference by Defendants John Koskinen, Donald Trump. (Luh, James) Modified on 9/6/2017. (lak) (Entered: 09/05/2017)

Sept. 5, 2017 RECAP
23

** TEXT ONLY ORDER **ORDER granting 22 Unopposed Motion to Stay Pretrial Conference. Signed by Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker on 9/6/2017. (kwf) (Entered: 09/06/2017)

Sept. 6, 2017 PACER
24

Unopposed Motion for Extension of Time by Plaintiffs Dan Barker, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., Annie Laurie Gaylor. Motions referred to Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker. (Bolton, Richard) (Entered: 09/06/2017)

Sept. 6, 2017 PACER
25

** TEXT ONLY ORDER **ORDER granting 24 Motion for Extension of Time. Brief in Opposition due 9/19/2017. Brief in Reply due 9/29/2017. Signed by Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker on 9/7/2017. (kwf) (Entered: 09/07/2017)

Sept. 7, 2017 PACER
26

AMENDED COMPLAINT for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief against All Defendants, filed by All Plaintiffs. (Bolton, Richard) (Entered: 09/19/2017)

Sept. 19, 2017 PACER
27

** TEXT ONLY ORDER **Plaintiff Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., has filed an amended complaint, Dkt. 26, which appears to address some of the issues in defendants' pending motions to dismiss, Dkt. 16 and Dkt. 19 . Accordingly, the court will DENY defendants' motions to dismiss as moot. Defendants may file new motions directed to the amended complaint. Signed by District Judge James D. Peterson on 9/20/2017. (kwf) (Entered: 09/20/2017)

Sept. 20, 2017 PACER
28

Unopposed Motion for Extension of Time to Respond to Amended Complaint by Defendants John Koskinen, Donald Trump. Motions referred to Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker. (Luh, James) (Entered: 09/21/2017)

Sept. 21, 2017 PACER
29

Notice of Supplemental Authority by Intervenor Defendants Holy Cross Anglican Church, Patrick Malone, Charles Moodie, Koua Vang re: 5 Motion to Intervene. (Blomberg, Daniel) (Entered: 09/26/2017)

Sept. 26, 2017 PACER
30

** TEXT ONLY ORDER **ORDER granting 28 Motion for Extension of Time to Respond to Amended Complaint. Donald Trump and John Koskinen Answer due 11/2/2017. Signed by Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker on 9/27/17. (kwf) (Entered: 09/27/2017)

Sept. 27, 2017 PACER
31

Unopposed Motion for Extension of Time to Respond to Amended Complaint by Defendants John Koskinen, Donald Trump. Motions referred to Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker. (Luh, James) (Entered: 11/01/2017)

Nov. 1, 2017 PACER
32

** TEXT ONLY ORDER **ORDER granting 31 Motion for Extension of Time to Respond to Amended Complaint. Answer due 11/9/2017. Signed by Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker on 11/1/2017. (kwf) (Entered: 11/01/2017)

Nov. 1, 2017 PACER
33

MOTION TO DISMISS for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction or for Failure to State a Claim by Defendants John Koskinen, Donald Trump. Brief in Opposition due 11/30/2017. Brief in Reply due 12/11/2017. (Luh, James) (Entered: 11/09/2017)

Nov. 9, 2017 PACER
34

Brief in Support of 33 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction or for Failure to State a Claim by Defendants John Koskinen, Donald Trump. (Luh, James) (Entered: 11/09/2017)

Nov. 9, 2017 PACER
35

MOTION TO DISMISS Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint by Intervenor Defendants Holy Cross Anglican Church, Patrick Malone, Charles Moodie, Koua Vang. Brief in Opposition due 11/30/2017. Brief in Reply due 12/11/2017. (Blomberg, Daniel) (Entered: 11/09/2017)

Nov. 9, 2017 PACER
36

Brief in Support of 35 Motion to Dismiss, by Intervenor Defendants Holy Cross Anglican Church, Patrick Malone, Charles Moodie, Koua Vang. (Blomberg, Daniel) (Entered: 11/09/2017)

Nov. 9, 2017 PACER
37

Unopposed Motion for Extension of Time by Plaintiffs Dan Barker, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., Annie Laurie Gaylor. Motions referred to Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker. (Bolton, Richard) (Entered: 11/28/2017)

Nov. 28, 2017 PACER
38

** TEXT ONLY ORDER **ORDER granting 37 Motion for Extension of Time by Plaintiffs. Brief in Opposition due 12/11/2017. Brief in Reply due 12/21/2017. Signed by Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker on 11/28/2017. (voc) (Entered: 11/28/2017)

Nov. 28, 2017 PACER
39

Notice of Voluntary Dismissal by Plaintiffs Dan Barker, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., Annie Laurie Gaylor (Bolton, Richard) (Entered: 12/13/2017)

Dec. 13, 2017 RECAP

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1), this case is closed without further order of the court. (kwf)

Dec. 14, 2017 PACER

State / Territory: Wisconsin

Case Type(s):

Speech and Religious Freedom

Key Dates

Filing Date: May 4, 2017

Closing Date: 2017

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit educational charity that works to keep religion and government separate

Plaintiff Type(s):

Non-profit NON-religious organization

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

United States of America, Federal

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201

Constitutional Clause(s):

Equal Protection

Freedom of speech/association

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Mixed

Source of Relief:

None

Issues

General:

Disparate Treatment

Pattern or Practice

Religious programs / policies

Discrimination-area:

Pay / Benefits

Discrimination-basis:

Religion discrimination

Type of Facility:

Government-run

Non-government non-profit