Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Alumni in the News II

For those who want to really dust off the old thinking cap on 1st Amendment issues, read OBCL’s Lael Weinberger’s article that he wrote for the University of Detroit Mercy Law Review entitled “Religion Undefined: Competing Frameworks for Understanding 'Religion' in the Establishment Clause.”

Or read the law review that Lael co-wrote with OBCL grad Bob Renaud for the Northern Kentucky Law Review entitled “Spheres of Sovereignty: Church Autonomy Doctrine and the Theological Heritage of the Separation of Church and State.”

Meredith Turney writes for Townhall on the need for expanding Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan for prison privatization beyond the Department of Corrections.

Michael Reitz breaks down justice by justice how the Washington State Supreme Court voted in 2010 at the Washington Supreme Court Blog.

Lastly, Jack Stuart writes on the Christmas Day terrorist attack and the related public policy considerations in an article entitled “Warfront With Jihadistan: Hot Pants, Cold Shoulders, Lukewarm Policy.”

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fighting for Marriage in California, Part II

For a more in-depth look at the fight for marriage in California, I’ve interviewed Matt McReynolds, an OBCL alumnus and attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute.

OBCLAA: Why is the Prop. 8 trial important for California?

McReynolds: The trial is important on a number of levels, including (but certainly not limited to) the future of democracy in California. In essence, the plaintiffs are proposing that, even after decades of civil rights advances, we cannot trust ordinary voters to decide what the basic principles of equality do and do not mean. Instead, we are told, only the privileged few in black robes can be trusted to define equality. The trial is also important in that the plaintiffs are presenting a mountain of evidence that arguably relies heavily on the emotion and sensitivities of the LGBT community to interpret constitutional principles. We’ve come a long way with the “elastic” Constitution, but this seems to be stretching our founding document in an entirely new and untested direction, with highly unpredictable consequences for future interpretation of other constitutional provisions.

OBCLAA: Tell us about your work on Prop. 8 before it passed.

McReynolds: During the Prop. 8 campaign, my firm and I spent a considerable amount of time counseling countless pastors and church leaders throughout California as to their rights to be involved in the campaign. There is a common misperception that churches and other 501(c)(3) organizations cannot take a position in any political campaign. In reality, while non-profits may lose their tax-exempt status for supporting or opposing particular candidates or political parties, they enjoy considerable freedom to speak out about ballot initiatives and legislation. To perhaps state the obvious, the involvement of these churches became crucial in the campaign.

After the campaign was over, and we began to see acts of physical violence, intimidation and vandalism against churches and individuals that had supported Prop. 8, my firm and I advised pastors and churches as to their rights and protections under the FACE acts and similar laws.

OBCLAA: Have you been involved in the Prop. 8 litigation? If so, how?

McReynolds: Yes, I think it’s safe to say that PJI has been involved with every phase of the marriage battles in California for the last decade, from the passage of Prop. 22 to its ultimate overturning, then through the passage of Prop. 8, its eventual upholding by the State Supreme Court, and the current federal litigation. I’ve only been on the scene the last five years, but I wrote letter briefs we filed with the state Supreme Court immediately after Prop. 8 was challenged there, and PJI has filed an amicus brie in the current federal trial.

OBCLAA: Tell us about your job for PJI. What do you do?

McReynolds: Pacific Justice Institute, founded in 1997 by attorney Brad Dacus, is a legal and educational organization that defends the rights of Christians in their workplace, houses of worship, schools and the public square. Since coming to PJI, I’ve been involved with brief-writing for every level of the state and federal judiciary on church-state issues, church land-use claims, employment discrimination cases, a same-sex marriage benefits case (unrelated to Prop. 8), a landmark homeschooling rights case, and so on. PJI did very little litigation when I arrived in 2005, but that now accounts for at least half of our work. I’ve argued a variety of motions in state court, federal court and a state court of appeals. Aside from the litigation, I’ve spent a fair amount of time advising thousands of individuals on a wide variety of religious liberty issues. As part of my job, I’ve also participated in dozens of media interviews and have testified before the state legislature and numerous local governmental bodies.

OBCLAA: Do you believe that your unique education at Oak Brook helped to prepare you for this job? How?

McReynolds: Absolutely. I would especially credit OBCL’s association with Prof. Jordan Lorence, a top-notch role model for aspiring constitutional attorneys, and the school’s emphasis on apprenticeship over ivory-tower academics. Because of the school’s emphasis on spending as much time as possible in a law office, I worked about 30 hours a week for the last two years of law school with the American Center for Law and Justice. That experience was far better preparation for what I’m doing now than anything I could have read in a textbook.

OBCLAA: Have you faced any discrimination because of your atypical education?

McReynolds: I don’t believe so. I’ve had a number of law students from ABA schools work for me over the last few years, and I can tell you that OBCL students and alumni have no reason to feel inferior to them. The school you attended—whether Ivy League or unaccredited—does not determine your destiny. You do. I should add that I’ve been very fortunate to work in an environment that was already favorable to OBCL thanks to great interns like Nicole Pallais and Christopher Schweickert.

OBCLAA: What can Oak Brook alumni do to help fight for truth in California and around the country?

McReynolds: It takes almost nothing to become an affiliate attorney of Pacific Justice Institute. That simply means you send me your contact info and agree only to get infrequent e-mails from us alerting you to pro bono opportunities in your geographic area. There is zero financial or any other firm commitment involved. I would also strongly encourage alumni to become allies with Prof. Lorence’s organization, the Alliance Defense Fund. While they expect more of a pro bono commitment than PJI does, the payoff is very nice—an all-expenses paid trip to somewhere nice (last year it was Hawaii, this coming summer it’s Chicago) for the best CLE hours you’re ever likely to get.

OBCLAA: What about OBCL students? How can they help?

McReynolds: I think students need to understand how important the apprenticeship aspect of OBCL is. My view is that an OBCL degree is woefully incomplete without some serious internship hours. Aside from the internship, though, students really need to network. Join the Christian Legal Society and Federalist Society, and make sacrifices to go to their conferences.

OBCLAA: Do you have any suggestions for how OBCL students can prepare for careers in Constitutional Law?

McReynolds: I believe most OBCL students—and especially anyone who wants to do constitutional law—should push themselves to submit an essay for ADF’s annual scholarship competition, and apply for ADF’s Blackstone Fellowship, which happens in the summer. The former was crucial in getting me started in this area, and I know other OBCL alums have benefited from the latter.


Thanks, Matt, for giving us a glimpse into your work for PJI and for constitutional freedom in California!

-- Emily Younger for the OBCLAA

Monday, January 18, 2010

Fighting for Marriage in California, Part I

At a time when advocates of truth are so sorely needed, it is unsurprising that some of Oak Brook's own are on the front lines of the battle for traditional marriage in the U.S.

One of those "front lines" is California's Prop 8 trial, which began in San Francisco last Monday, January 11.

Prop 8 Background

Passed by California voters in November, 2008, Prop 8 made this simple declaration: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." (Learn more about the Prop 8 campaign here.)

The proposition's passage caused an immediate furor from California's vocal community of opponents to traditional marriage -- furor promptly funneled into federal litigation. In May, 2009, the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, brought by two men and two women challenging the proposition's constitutionality, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. (Click here to read the Alliance Defense Fund fact sheet on the case, and here for a summary of the litigation and a link to ADF's brief on behalf of

Now, just a year after Prop 8 passed into law, Perry has come on for trial in San Francisco. (Here is some local perspective on the trial.) Trial is expected to last more than two weeks.

Voices We Know

Oak Brook students and alumni following the trial coverage will likely recognize some familiar voices. Jordan Lorence, Oak Brook's beloved Constitutional Law professor and Senior Vice President at the Alliance Defense Fund, is serving as ADF's media liaison for the duration of the trial.

Follow Professor Lorence's coverage at the following sites hosted by Alliance Defense Fund:

ADF Alliance Alert - This site links to ADF media releases as well as outside media reports on the trial and interviews with ADF attorneys.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger Resource Page
- ADF's home for Perry-related news releases.

Another voice for the defense of marriage is OBCL's Matthew McReynolds (99B), an attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute. Both McReynolds and Lorence were featured last Friday in a Family News in Focus report on the trial. (Click here for interview audio.)

McReynolds and the California-based PJI have been involved in Prop 8's defense since long before Perry. For more on Matt's work for marriage in California, stay tuned for "Fighting for Marriage in California, Part II" . . .

* * *
If YOU are (or know of) an Oak Brook student or alumnus with reports from the front lines in the fight for truth, send an e-mail to our Media Relations chairman, Mark Bigger. We'd love to feature your story!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Getting your 2010 plans started right...

Happy new year from the OBCL Alumni Association! I hope and pray that you are having a terrific holiday season and looking forward to a blessed 2010.

And as you do your looking forward, here's something to look forward to - the 2010 annual meeting of the Alumni Association. As those of you that have attended know, these meetings are wonderful times of fellowship around our common goal of advancing OBCL and the kingdom of Christ. I hope that you'll block off the weekend on your calendar and make plans to join us!

We will be heading to beautiful Lake Tahoe for the weekend of September 11, 2010. We will be sending out more information, including registration forms, as the time approaches, but I hope you'll circle those that week and plan on being there.

Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions or want to help out with the planning. See you in September!

Happy New Year.