Larry Crain

Larry L. Crain

Owner | Crain Law Group

5214 Maryland Way,
Brentwood, TN 37027, USA

(615) 376-2600 Voice
(615) 345-6009 Facsimile


Graduate of Vanderbilt University, B.S. Degree (1976)

Nashville School of Law – J.D. Degree (1980).


Larry L. Crain is a nationally recognized constitutional lawyer and frequent lecturer, and commentator.  He has litigated, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Crain’s concern for First Amendment issues, particularly the rights of individuals to be free of religious discrimination, led him early in his legal career to serve as General Counsel for the Rutherford Institute and later as Senior Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice where he litigated a broad spectrum of constitutional issues on a national level before the United States Supreme Court, the Third, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, the Supreme Court of North Carolina and the Supreme Court of Tennessee. His litigation experience on issues of constitutional law spans 26 states.

Crain’s victories in the area of constitutional law and civil rights have been the subject of numerous newspaper, magazine and television profiles, ranging from CNN, Inside Edition, Fox News, the New York Times, Washington Post, Good Morning America, ABC News and NBC News as well as several international newspapers. He has been the subject of three profile articles by the Tennessean for his accomplishments in the area of constitutional litigation.

Crain gained international renown for his representation of a Russian child in a celebrated case of child abandonment and neglect in which the adoptive mother in Tennessee returned her son to Russia with a note pinned to his backpack. In Re Justin Hansen, 2014 WL 3058439, at (Tenn. Ct. App. June 7, 2014).

Crain has lectured on constitutional law and religious liberty issues at the University of Strasbourg in France and also served as Adjunct Professor for Law and Religious Studies and Moody Graduate School in Chicago.

In 2012, his concern over the legal issues facing churches and religious ministries led him to found the Church Law Institute, a non-profit legal and educational ministry serving churches across the United States. Today, CLI is providing vital legal services to churches in states all across the United States.

Born in 1955 in Tennessee, Larry L. Crain earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Vanderbilt University in 1976 and a Juris Doctorate degree from the Nashville School of Law in 1980. He is married to Florence Crain and has four children and seven grandchildren.

Representative Legal Experience

United States Supreme Court:

Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook,  479 U.S. 60; 107 S. Ct. 367; 93 L. Ed. 2d 305; 1986 U.S. LEXIS 18; 55 U.S.L.W. 4019 (1986) Overview: Unless prohibition against use of personal days for religious purposes was found, on remand, to be discriminatory, employer met its obligation to accommodate employee by allowing him time off without pay for religious observance. (Amicus Curiae)

Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534; 106 S. Ct. 1326; 89 L. Ed. 2d 501; 1986 U.S. LEXIS 35; 54 U.S.L.W. 4307 (1985)  Overview: Court lacked jurisdiction over a school board member’s appeal who lacked standing to appeal individually from a District Court decision against the school board and district in favor of students who sought to conduct spiritual activities at school. (Amicus Curiae)

Edwards v. Aguillard,  482 U.S. 578; 107 S. Ct. 2573; 96 L. Ed. 2d 510; 1987 U.S. LEXIS 2729; 55 U.S.L.W. 4860 (1986) Overview: Louisiana Creationism Act was facially invalid and violated Establishment Clause because it sought to advance religious viewpoint that rejected evolution in entirety and there was no secular purpose for the Act’s enactment. (Amicus Curiae)

Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577; 112 S. Ct. 2649; 120 L. Ed. 2d 467; 1992 U.S. LEXIS 4364; 60 U.S.L.W. 4723 (1992).  Overview: The inclusion of clerical members who offered prayers as part of official public school graduation ceremonies was inconsistent with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. (Amicus Curiae)

Scheidler v. NOW, Inc., 537 U.S. 393, 154 L. Ed. 2d 991, 123 S. Ct. 1057, 2003 U.S. LEXIS 1738, 16 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 93, 2003 Cal. Daily Op. Service 1626, 2003 D.A.R. 2087, 188 A.L.R. Fed. 741 (2003). Overview: RICO challenge to free speech pro-life protests; held application of RICO to such protests unconstitutional.  Served as lead trial counsel for Operation Rescue.

Rust v. Sullivan,  500 U.S. 173; 111 S. Ct. 1759; 114 L. Ed. 2d 233; 1991 U.S. LEXIS 2908; 59 U.S.L.W. 4451 (1991). Overview: Health department regulations limiting the ability of Title X fund recipients to engage in abortion-related activities were upheld as constitutional, permissible constructions of the underlying legislation.  (Amicus Curiae)

Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. 490; 109 S. Ct. 3040; 106 L. Ed. 2d 410; 1989 U.S. LEXIS 3290; 57 U.S.L.W. 5023 (1989) Overview: A Missouri statute that regulated the performance of abortions was not unconstitutional. The prohibition against state funded abortions and counseling did not put a governmental obstacle in the path of a woman who chose to have an abortion. (Amicus Curiae)

Witters v. Washington Dep’t of Services for Blind, No. 84-1070, SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, 474 U.S. 481; 106 S. Ct. 748; 88 L. Ed. 2d 846; 1986 U.S. LEXIS 49; 54 U.S.L.W. 4135, (1985).  Overview: State statute giving vocational rehabilitation aid for petitioner’s training at Christian school to become pastor, missionary, or youth director did not advance religion in violation of First Amendment’s establishment clause. (Amicus Curiae)

Second Circuit Court of Appeals:

Leblanc-Sternberg v. Fletcher, 91 Civ. 2550 (GLG), Second Circuit 143 F.3d 748 (2nd Cir. 1998); U.S. App. LEXIS 9864, 159 A.L.R. Fed. 747. Overview: Religious use of property to establish house of worship could not be prohibited due to violation of Fair Housing Act.  Lead trial counsel.

Wojnarowicz v. American Family Ass’n, No. 90 Civ. 3457 (WCC),  745 F. Supp. 130; (1990). Overview: Religious publisher did not violate New York Artists’ Authorship Rights Act (Act) claim was not preempted by federal copyright law because the Act endeavored to protect an artist’s reputation, a right not equivalent to any under federal copyright law.

Third Circuit Court of Appeals:

Thompson v. Waynesboro Area School Dist.,  673 F. Supp. 1379 (M.D. Penn. 1987); aff’d en banc, 3rd Cir. (1988). Overview:  Equal Access Act suit against public school district; held establishment clause not violated by distribution of religious literature).  Served as lead trial counsel.

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals:

North Carolina Civil Liberties Union Legal Foundation v. Constangy,  947 F.2d 1145; 1991 U.S. App. LEXIS 25073 (1991)  Overview: Judicial prayer in the courtroom was not legitimated under the Establishment Clause by past history or present practice and, therefore, a judge was properly enjoined from opening court with prayer.

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals:

Guidry v. Broussard, No. 89-4172,  897 F.2d 181 (1990). Overview: Student desire to share religious message during valedictorian address raised establishment clause concern.  Argued case to Third Circuit Court of Appeals.


Chico Feminist Women’s Health Center v. Scully, No. C000584, Court of Appeal of California, Third Appellate District, 208 Cal. App. 3d 230 (1989). Overview: Health center’s motion to amend injunction by seeking additional order enjoining anti-abortion citizens from picketing center to protect clients’ identity was properly denied as clients had no reasonable expectation of anonymity on city streets.  Argued case to California Court of Appeals.


Rivera v. East Otero School Dist., 721 F. Supp. 1189 (D.Colo. 1989). Overview: A school district’s policy that prohibited extracurricular material that proselytized a particular religious or political belief was unconstitutional on its face.  Lead trial counsel.


Curtis v. School Comm.,  SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS, 420 Mass. 749; 652 N.E.2d 580; 1995 Mass. LEXIS 302; 52 A.L.R.5th 877 (1985).  Overview: Condom distribution program was not compulsory and did not violate the students’ and parents of students’ right to familial privacy nor the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.  Argued case to Massachusetts Supreme Court.

North Carolina:

In re Renfer, SUPREME COURT OF NORTH CAROLINA, 345 N.C. 632; 482 S.E.2d 540; 1997 N.C. LEXIS 179 (1997). Overview: The court declined to rule on the recommendation by the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission that the judge be removed because the judge had not had the benefit of counsel at her hearing and had not participated.   Argued case to the North Carolina Supreme Court.


Teen Challenge International v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee, U.S. D.C., Middle District of Tennessee (Case No. 3-07-0668) Jury verdict in favor of Teen Challenge ministries in the amount of $967,000.


Featured in multiple publications, the breadth and depth of Crain Law Groups work has been highlighted over the years.

Joint AD HOC Committee
to Study Emergency Powers

Thursday, September 3, 2020
10:00Am House Hearing Room 1
Cordell Hull Building

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Teaching & Writing

Adjunct Professor, Moody Graduate School, Chicago, Illinois (1987-1995).

Visiting Professor, Northern Virginia College, Manassas, Virginia (1986-1987).

Frequent lecturer on constitutional law and religious liberty.

Lecturer on constitutional law at Strasbourg University, Strasbourg, France.

Authored and co-authored several legal briefs before the United States Supreme Court on constitutional and civil rights issues.

Bar Admissions

Tennessee Bar (1980); Virginia Bar (1985); Washington D.C. Bar (1990); U.S. Supreme Court (1983).

U.S. Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal for the Sixth, Fifth, Third, Second, Fourth and Eleventh Circuits.

U.S. District Courts for the Middle, Eastern and Western Districts of Tennessee (1980), and Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia (1985).

Multi-District Panel on Complex Litigation in Washington, D.C.

Professional History

Senior Partner in Crain|Schuette Attorneys, LLC. (present);

Senior Counsel, American Center For Law & Justice, 1995 to 2012;

National Staff Counsel: The Rutherford Institute, Manassas, Virginia (1985-1994); constitutional and civil rights litigation.

Partner: Butler, Lackey, Holt & Snedeker, Nashville, Tennessee (1983-1985); general civil litigation.

Associate: Barrett, Kniffen, Blackburn & Ray, Nashville, Tennessee (1980-1982) general civil litigation.

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