In just our second year as a civil liberties organization, Protect The 1st enjoyed great success in advancing and protecting the principles and spirit of the First Amendment in Congress, the courts, and the media.
The Press Act
In 2022, Protect The 1st supported a bill, introduced by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, to bring the federal government up to the same standard as 49 states by protecting journalists’ notes and sources in court proceedings.
Persistent advocacy of the Press Act by Protect The 1st Senior Policy Advisors Rick Boucher and Bob Goodlatte, both former House Members from Virginia, was instrumental in securing passage of the bill in the House and advancing it with bipartisan support in the Senate. “The PRESS Act passed unanimously because courts continue to hold journalists in contempt and even jail them for refusing to reveal their confidential sources,” said Rick Boucher. “The House made a strong statement today that this is not acceptable.”
The free exercise of religion is one of the principal guarantees of the First Amendment. Thus, every religious group has a stake in the ability of the people of the Apache Stronghold to continue observing their ancestral religion at their sacred site in Oak Flat, a large parcel of land in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. As a result of a midnight deal in Congress, that land is slated to be transferred to a foreign mining consortium to mine copper. That operation would transform the Apache’s sacred land into a crater as long as the Washington Mall and as deep as two Washington Monuments.
“Imagine doing that to any other community or religious group — to pulverize St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, or the Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island — and not only destroy an irreplaceable site of worship but leave behind an ugly and enormous gash in the earth,” Rick Boucher wrote in an Earth Day op-ed in The Hill.
In this and many other ways, Protect The 1st strongly advocated on behalf of the Apache, including advocacy on Capitol Hill and in amicus briefs in the courts.
For most of the year, Oak Flat seemed like a lost cause. The Apache lost their case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, only to have a rare decision by that same court to revisit its ruling later in the year. While the court ponders the religious liberty implications of the destruction of land sacred to these Americans’ religion, Protect The 1st will take the opportunity to press Congress to pass the Save Oak Flat Act.
Religious liberty scored a touchdown when the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 opinion, upheld the rights of a coach to pray after games. In its opinion, the majority adopted a view that is almost a verbatim quote from the amicus brief Protect The 1st filed in the case of the “praying coach.”
Protect The 1st in the Courts
Protect The 1st filed a brief in FEC v. Cruz, a case asking the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate limits on the amount candidates for federal office can recover from their personal donation to their campaigns. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts cited Protect The 1st’s brief on removing limits on the right of candidates to personally support their campaigns and their political speech.
Protect The 1st petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to determine if local authorities can regulate speech on public sidewalks, testing the scope of the public forum doctrine in Keister v. Bell. This petition was selected as Petition of the Week by the respected SCOTUSBlog. Our petition also drew the support of multiple First Amendment organizations.
Protect The 1st filed multiple briefs asking the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify the rights of public-sector employees to opt-out of being forced to pay for political speech through compelled membership in unions. Protect The 1st ended the year with a filing, Kurk v. LRCEA, that challenges such compulsion and violation of workers’ First Amendment rights.
In 2022, Empirical SCOTUS ranked Protect The 1st sixth in the nation in filing amicus briefs. Only five organizations, which included the U.S. government and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, filed more briefs.
Much of the logic and actual language offered by Protect The 1st appeared not only in FEC v. Cruz, but in four important religious liberty cases Ramirez v. Collier, Carson v. Makin, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, and Shurtleff v. Boston. In each case, Protect The 1st anticipated the Supreme Court majority’s reaction against sudden and dramatic curtailments of the freedom of speech and religion.
In all these ways – from the court of public opinion, to the U.S. Supreme Court, to Capitol Hill – Protect The 1st is building on our early successes to support the guarantees of free speech, a free press, and the free exercise of religion.