The Liberty Legal Institute — the legal arm of the far-right Free Market Foundation, which itself is the Texas affiliate of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family — spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year using the courts to promote the religious right’s public policy agenda. (You can read more about Liberty Legal and the Free Market Foundation in the back of the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s annual State of the Religious Right reports.) Suing public school districts over alleged discrimination against Christian students has been one primary activity for the institute. The group also defended the Ector County Independent School District in the West Texas city of Odessa against a lawsuit challenging the district’s choice of a Bible class curriculum. The district settled the lawsuit earlier this year, agreeing to drop the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public School’s deeply flawed and blatantly sectarian curriuclum.
Despite its failure in Odessa, Liberty Legal Institute has decided to enter an even bigger arena. Associated Press reports that the institute is helping five Republican lawmakers in Alaska in a lawsuit challenging an investigation of the state’s governor, Sarah Palin. A bipartisan legislative panel voted unanimously this summer to investigate whether Palin improperly pressured law enforcement officials to fire her former brother-in-law, an Alaska trooper. The state’s police commissioner refused to do so, and Palin later fired the commissioner.
Palin originally said she would cooperate with the investigation. In August, however, Republican presidential nominee John McCain named Palin as his running mate. Now Palin, the McCain campaign, other Republicans and Liberty Legal Institute are engaged in a variety of political and legal maneuvers in an effort to shut down the investigation.
No one should be surprised by the institute’s involvement in the Alaska case, of course. The group’s head, Kelly Shackelford, has been a prominent supporter of Republican candidates and causes for years. It’s interesting to see that his organization has tossed aside the cloak of nonpartisanship once and for all.
But we wonder: Did Liberty Legal run out of school districts to sue in Texas?