Patty Knap calls herself a “born again” Catholic. She planned to be a wife and mother of four or five kids with several girls, but as life played out, she’s a single mom with two young adult boys. She counsels at a crisis pregnancy center, teaches CCD, takes online classes with the Avila Institute, and loves the beach, dalmatians, and America’s national parks. She also saves recipes in a pile until it gets big and then throws them out.
At the front line of today’s increasing culture wars, the Thomas More Society (TMS) continues its relentless defense of faith and freedom after 20 years.
The pro-life, religious liberty law firm named for St. Thomas More was founded in response to the historic 1997 NOW (National Organization for Women) v. Scheidler case.
With a guiding principle of Ora et Labora (“prayer and work”), founder Tom Brejcha never imagined the cases he would be involved with today. Having read A Man for All Seasons (about St. Thomas More) in college, Brejcha began his law career rooted in his Catholic foundation.
NOW brought the 1997 nationwide class-action lawsuit against prominent pro-life leader Joseph Scheidler and others in an attempt to use federal antitrust and racketeering statutes to stop pro-life activism at abortion clinics nationwide. The lawsuit pitted the nation’s entire abortion industry and the radical feminist NOW group against Joe Scheidler and other pro-life leaders throughout the country.
The case was already 10 years underway when Brejcha’s firm at the time could no longer support the enormous time and financial burden of the case. That’s when Brejcha stepped out in faith, giving up his partnership to start a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization named for St. Thomas More — the patron saint of lawyers, statesmen and politicians. Scheidler was instrumental from the start, giving office space, furniture and his mailing list from which donations were solicited to advance the enormously expensive case.
Ultimately prevailing at the U.S. Supreme Court after three decades of relentless battle in the Scheidler case, the victory helped launch numerous pro-life initiatives, from sidewalk counseling to prayer vigils to 40 Days for Life.
TMS then took on new legal battles in cases that have major implications for churches, organizations and families. As social acceptance of things once deemed abhorrent seeps into the very fabric of government at all levels in the name of “progress,” preserving traditional marriage and religious liberty are front and center in the battle.
Brejcha and the team of TMS lawyers are committed to the legal defense for those who defend life and religious freedom in schools, businesses, city halls and courtrooms. Through its pro bono work, the firm has assisted thousands of clients, including renowned pro-life leaders like David Daleiden, David Bereit, 40 Days for Life, Lila Rose and Live Action, the Scheidler family and Pro-Life Action League, Sidewalk Advocates for Life, Created Equal, Pro-Life Action Ministries, Troy Newman and Operation Rescue, former Kansas attorney general Phill Kline and others.
Relentless legal dedication has resulted in significant victories for, and public awareness of, First Amendment rights for those who pray and counsel outside abortion centers, the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, and the free expression of religion in the public square. The battles have also meant relentless fundraising to cover the pro bono costs of legal services, with donations coming in from all over the world.
Among the significant legal battles waged by the TMS are:
- Planned Parenthood’s Deceit in Chicagoland – Coming to Aurora, Illinois, as the blasphemously-named G.O.D. (aka Gemini Office Development, LLC), Planned Parenthood covertly opened its mega-abortion facility in Chicago’s far western suburbs. The battle began with zoning violation lawsuits, defense of pro-life advocates, and libelous media campaigns.
- Iowa’s Fetal-Pain Bill and 72-Hour Waiting Period – Iowa lawmakers opted to provide expectant mothers a three-day period between seeking and obtaining an abortion rather than delivering them on-demand. The legislation also included a statewide 20-week abortion ban and a requirement to offer pregnant women a chance to view their babies’ ultrasound images. The TMS helped draft the original bill, advised legislators and informed the public.
- The Christmas Nativities – Baby Jesus reigns supreme in the public square as the Thomas More Society successfully defended privately funded displays in traditional public forums. What began at Chicago’s Daley Plaza has become a nationwide phenomenon, as countless municipalities, county complexes, and over a dozen state capitols have welcomed manger scenes that proclaim the true meaning of Christmas.
- The IRS Discrimination Scandal – If people didn’t like the Internal Revenue Service before, the TMS uncovered a new reason not to trust America’s tax collection agency. With clients testifying before Congress and volumes of incriminating evidence, the Thomas More Society exposed blatant IRS targeting and persecution of pro-life organizations.
- The Battle for Traditional Marriage – As the push to legalize homosexual unions grew loud, the TMS took legal action to uphold traditional marriage. The attorneys put up a multi-pronged legal fight against same sex marriage in Illinois, filed briefs supporting marriage in California, and represented the National Organization for Marriage in Washington, D.C.
- Sidewalk Counselors, Police Education, and Bubble Zones – Across America, abortion clinics have had pro-life sidewalk counselors arrested, and governmental units have imposed “bubble zones” around abortion facilities. The Thomas More Society has defended these pro-life advocates in court, compelled police to respect and enforce their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly on the public right of way and fought against the “abortion distortion” that gives abortionists protections granted to no other industry.
- Nuns v. Strip Club – The struggle between sisters and strippers made headlines across the U.S. as the Thomas More Society fought the notorious Club Allure for the manifold obscenities that spilled into the gardens of the gentle nuns of the Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo. The situation required numerous legal actions, which eventually brought about the strip club’s closure.
- Obamacare’s HHS Mandate – The discrimination and violations effected by the Affordable Care Act included provisos that required employers to foot the insurance bill for coverage of abortion and abortifacient birth control. The Thomas More Society fought multiple cases on behalf of employers and employees who believed abortion to be a grievous wrong. Triune Health Group, Autocam, and Missouri legislator Paul Wieland were among the Thomas More Society’s clients suing the federal government in cases closely related to the Hobby Lobby victory over Obamacare in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Crucial legal challenges the TMS is currently engaged in include:
- Parental Rights – Parents and students at a suburban high school are outraged when the administration puts into practice Obama’s guidelines urging schools to allow boys who want to be girls to use female bathrooms and locker rooms. A Minnesota mom sues the county, school and social services for providing her minor son with medical sex change procedures without her consent. Men and women seek to prevent the destruction of their embryonic children by ex-partners. The TMSs legal work continually deals with the abuses of modern science, as advancing manipulation of our bodies creates moral violations that push the limits of current law.
- Student Rights – A school that allows a chess club, poetry society or even a homosexual student group has to allow a pro-life club. School administrations across the country are receiving demand letters from the TMS when they tell pro-life students, “No.” On behalf of Students For Life of America, these attorneys are diligently explaining the law to education administrators, and when necessary, taking legal action. The “pro-life generation” of young people is speaking out and the Thomas More Society is protecting their right to do so.
- David Daleiden: Exposing Planned Parenthood – In 2015 undercover journalist David Daleiden began releasing a series of videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s involvement in trafficking aborted baby body parts. A public outcry to defund Planned Parenthood ensued. Immediately, legal persecution of Daleiden commenced as Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation, and their supporters started filing a plethora of civil and criminal lawsuits across the country. As abortion proponents have sought to jail and financially destroy Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress, TMS attorneys continue to defend the young man whom many have lauded.
Just recently, the governor of Illinois signed the radical Reproductive Health Act, pushed through by the Senate in the face of strong opposition. The new RHA in Illinois expands the standard for abortion, legalizing every kind of post viability abortion. “On the house floor the ACLU representative couldn’t even identify a single abortion that would not be allowed,” said Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel of the TMS.
The TMS is preparing to fight further efforts to outlaw parent notification in Illinois. Breen explains, “How do you argue that the decision can be encumbered by a notice to a parent, first? That is a tough argument. We intend to make it.”
Executive vice president and general counsel Andy Bath said, “These legal scenarios are growing more intense. Our nation is extremely polarized, and the ‘live and let live’ approach no longer seems to be accepted. People whose lifestyles used to be viewed as unconventional are demanding acceptance and inclusion by those who find their practices offensive. The struggle is continually one of determining where one’s individual rights end and another’s begin. The lines have become incredibly blurred within our culture. Our mission is to preserve the lines between what is constitutionally guaranteed and the rights that far-flung extremists would like to erode.”
As it heads into its third decade, the Thomas More Society continues to be committed to upholding the rights of committed Catholics and other religious believers. “We’re all over the board now. Let's hope more and more lawyers take up the challenge,” said Brejcha.