Non-profit

First Liberty Institute

Website:

firstliberty.org

Location:

Plano, TX

Tax ID:

75-1403169

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2018):

Revenue: $11,410,038
Expenses: $9,964,182
Assets: $7,255,961

Formation:

1973

Type:

Non-profit

President:

Kelly Shackelford

President's Salary:

$250,113[16]

The First Liberty Institute (FLI) is a non-partisan, non-profit legal organization that exclusively defends religious freedoms for Americans of any faith. [1]

The First Liberty Institute is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a coalition of free-market state-level policy organizations. [2] While the FLI is non-partisan, members of its staff have affiliations with the Republican Party.

Activities

The First Liberty Institute (FLI) is a non-partisan, non-profit legal organization that exclusively defends religious liberty for Americans of any faith. [3]

The First Liberty Institute worked in partnership with the Institute for Justice to challenge the exclusion of religious options from Maine’s school choice program. At present, parents cannot use high school tuition payments offered by local school districts at qualified religious schools due to state law. FLI supports its efforts on a 2017 Supreme Court decision that preventing parents from choosing religious options where school choice is available violates the U.S. Constitution’s Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses. [4]

The First Liberty Institute has been representing high school football coach Joe Kennedy since 2015, after the Bremerton School District told him that he must stop praying after games. FLI initially sent a letter to the district explaining that school employees do not lose their private rights to express their religious beliefs when entering school property, and asked that Kennedy be accommodated with 15 seconds of silent prayer after games, once players cleared the field. After this accommodation was denied and Kennedy was terminated, FLI filed suit against the school district. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the school district and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case in 2019. [5]

In 2019, the First Liberty Institute began its representation of Chick-fil-A in San Antonio. The San Antonio City Council voted to ban Chick-fil-A from its airport because of the company’s history of donating to Christian organizations. FLI claimed that this ban was blatant religious discrimination; a violation of the First Amendment, which protects organizations from hostile treatment because of the owner’s religious views; and a violation of the Texas Legislature’s First Amendment Defense Act. FLI submitted an amicus brief on behalf of Chick-fil-A in 2021. [6]

The First Liberty Institute represented the American Legion in response to a 2014 lawsuit filed by the American Humanist Association (AHA). AHA claimed that the Bladensburg WWI Veterans Memorial, commonly known as the “Peace Cross,” violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case in February 2019, and in June 2019, the Court upheld the constitutionality of the Bladensburg memorial. [7]

Funding

The First Liberty Institute is funded by donations from individuals, foundations, and corporations. While the First Liberty Institute does not disclose its donors, tax filings show donations routed through the Schwab Charitable Fund, which contributed between 2016 and 2019; [8] the National Christian Charitable Foundation, which contributed between 2016 and 2017; [9] and the Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, which contributed between 2017 and 2019. [10]

People

Kelly Shackelford is the president and CEO of First Liberty Institute. Shackelford serves on the board of the Supreme Court Historical Society and is an influencer for the Truth and Liberty Coalition. [11] Shackelford formerly worked as the president of the Free Market Foundation. [12]

Jeff Mateer is executive vice president and chief legal officer of First Liberty Institute. Mateer formerly served as the first assistant attorney general of Texas. [13]

Hiram Sasser is executive general counsel for First Liberty Institute and formerly served as chief of staff for the Attorney General of Texas. [14]

Christine Norwood is the program director of First Liberty’s Fellowship Program. Norwood formerly interned for the Heritage Foundation and the Dallas County Republican Party. She is an alumna of the Arete Academy at Alliance Defending Freedom and the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. [15]

References

  1. “About Us.” First Liberty Institute, 2020. Accessed April 5, 2021. https://firstliberty.org/about-us/. ^
  2. “The Network: Texas.” State Policy Network, 2021. Accessed April 2, 2021. https://spn.org/directory/#TX. ^
  3. “About Us.” First Liberty Institute, 2020. Accessed April 5, 2021. https://firstliberty.org/about-us/. ^
  4. “Maine School Choice.” First Liberty Institute, 2020. Accessed April 5, 2021. https://firstliberty.org/cases/maine-school-choice/. ^
  5. “Coach Kennedy Case.” First Liberty Institute, 2020. Accessed April 5, 2021. https://firstliberty.org/cases/coachkennedy/. ^
  6. Tomlinson, Marlee. “First Liberty Files Brief at Texas Supreme Court Supporting Chick-fil-A in Religious Discrimination Case.” First Liberty Institute, February 26, 2021. Accessed April 5, 2021. https://firstliberty.org/news/brief-at-texas-court-chick-fil-a/. ^
  7. “Bladensburg Case.” First Liberty Institute, 2020. Accessed April 5, 2021. https://firstliberty.org/cases/bladensburg/. ^
  8. Schwab Charitable Fund, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2016-2019. Schedule I, Part II. ^
  9. National Christian Charitable Foundation, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2016-2017. Schedule I, Part II. ^
  10. Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2017-2019. Schedule I, Part II. ^
  11. “Kelly Shackelford.” Truth & Liberty Coalition, 2021. Accessed April 4, 2021. https://truthandliberty.net/bio/kelly-shackelford/. ^
  12. “Kelly Shackelford.” LinkedIn, 2021. Accessed April 4, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellyshackelford/. ^
  13. “Jeff Mateer.” LinkedIn, 2021. Accessed April 4, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeff-mateer-72a61487/. ^
  14. “Hiram Sasser.” First Liberty Institute, 2020. Accessed April 4, 2021. https://firstliberty.org/team/hiram-sasser/. ^
  15. “Christine Norwood.” First Liberty Institute, 2020. Accessed April 4, 2021. https://firstliberty.org/team/christine-norwood/. ^
  16. First Liberty Institute, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2017, Part VII, Section A, Line 1a. ^

Coalition Memberships

  1. State Policy Network (SPN)
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 1973

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2018 Jun Form 990 $11,410,038 $9,964,182 $7,255,961 $224,737 N $11,174,801 $202,752 $32,485 $981,750 PDF
    2017 Jun Form 990 $10,099,518 $8,483,098 $5,585,548 $180 N $10,019,006 $67,000 $13,512 $903,062 PDF
    2016 Jun Form 990 $8,392,977 $8,739,237 $4,128,143 $159,196 N $8,133,823 $248,062 $11,092 $564,093 PDF
    2015 Jun Form 990 $8,241,792 $8,062,474 $4,402,441 $87,233 N $8,217,460 $20,440 $3,892 $659,291 PDF
    2014 Jun Form 990 $8,407,540 $6,585,911 $4,222,163 $86,273 N $8,401,463 $0 $6,077 $573,724 PDF
    2013 Jun Form 990 $5,033,074 $5,383,518 $3,060,065 $745,804 N $4,996,489 $29,995 $6,542 $892,052 PDF
    2012 Jun Form 990 $3,631,494 $3,271,749 $2,664,706 $0 N $3,409,981 $215,000 $6,481 $527,395 PDF
    2011 Jun Form 990 $725,516 $1,367,569 $2,304,957 $0 N $717,233 $6,684 $1,599 $290,750 PDF
    2010 Dec Form 990 $2,926,048 $2,712,822 $2,952,649 $5,639 N $2,860,435 $58,000 $6,490 $431,500 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    First Liberty Institute

    2001 W PLANO PKWY STE 1600
    Plano, TX 75075-8608