Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

  • A petition for certiorari was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in Shurtleff v. City of Boston, in which the First Circuit upheld Boston’s refusal to allow an organization to raise its “Christian flag” on one of the City Hall Plaza flag poles at an event that would feature short speeches by local clergy.
  • Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 525, which prohibits the state from restricting activities of religious organizations during a state of emergency.
  • Suit was filed in a Mississippi federal district court by atheist and secular humanist plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of the Mississippi state seal and standard license plate, which carry the motto, “In God We Trust.”
  • A complaint was filed with the EEOC on behalf of two employees at Stanford University’s Counseling & Psychological Services division charging that a hostile work environment has been created for Jewish employees.
  • President Emmanuel Macron submitted a bill to Parliament, called the Law Reinforcing Respect of the Principles of the Republic, that would empower the government to permanently close houses of worship and dissolve religious organizations, without a court order, if it finds that any of their members are provoking violence or inciting hatred.
  • A British High Court Family Division Judge refused the request by Muslim parents for an order to require their son’s guardians to have their 21-month old son circumcised.

Fulton: A Victory for Religious Freedom?

For interested readers, I have an essay at First Things today on the Supreme Court’s decision last week in the Catholic adoption services case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. I argue that the decision represents a victory for religious freedom–though how much of a victory depends on how the Court interprets the case in the future. Here’s an excerpt:

Fulton is surely a victory for religious freedom. In fact, if the Court means what it says, the case is a major victory. True, the chief justice’s opinion avoids a definitive resolution of the conflict between LGBT rights and religious freedom—which probably explains how the chief captured the votes of the Court’s progressives, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. And true, Smith remains on the books, a result that Justice Alito, joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch, lamented in a separate concurrence. 

But if it is true, as Fulton suggests, that even a theoretical possibility of an exception triggers strict scrutiny, Smith does not pose much of a limitation. Moreover, if the Court is serious about strict scrutiny—that the mere possibility of an exception means that the state lacks a compelling interest in applying its rule to any particular litigant—it is hard to envision a religious claimant ever losing one of these cases in future. 

Nonetheless, it would be wise for religiously affiliated adoption agencies and other potential claimants to wait and see what develops before celebrating. The Court’s religion clause jurisprudence is notoriously unpredictable, and the justices may not stick to Fulton’s reasoning in the future. Moreover, the fact-specific nature of the ruling means that the Court can easily distinguish Fulton in subsequent litigation if it wishes to do so. 

You can read the whole essay here.

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

  • The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled, in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, that Philadelphia has violated the free exercise rights of Catholic Social Services by refusing to contract with Catholic Social Services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents.
  • A Colorado Federal District Court held, in Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, Inc., that a Colorado baker who refused to furnish cake that reflected a transgender woman’s transition because it violated his religious beliefs was a violation of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, and that the law does not infringe the defendant’s free exercise rights.
  • Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis signed bill HB 529, which requires public school students “to reflect and to be able to pray as they see fit” for one or two minutes each day.
  • A divided conference of the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops voted to draft a statement on Holy Communion that may admonish Catholic politicians who support policies that are antithetical to church doctrine.
  • Christians Engaged, a Christian charitable organization, is appealing the Internal Revenue Service’s decision to deny the group nonprofit exemption status, arguing that the organization’s endeavors are too political.
  • Tim Stephens, a Canadian pastor of Fairview Baptist Church, was arrested after holding an outdoor worship service at an undisclosed location, after the local government ordered the church building to be closed due to COVID-19 rules.

Call for Papers: “I Have Called You by Name: Human Dignity in a Secular World”

The de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at Notre Dame has issued a call for papers for its 21st annual Fall Conference, “I Have Called You by Name: Human Dignity in a Secular World.” The conference will be held on November 11–13, 2021, in person at Notre Dame. The de Nicola Center welcomes abstracts that engage the theme of human dignity from a variety of points of departure, including theology, philosophy, political theory, law, history, economics, and the social sciences, as well as the natural sciences, literature, and the arts.

Abstract submissions due by July 30, 2021. For more information and to submit an abstract, visit this link.

Virtual Conference: “Race and Justice in America”

A note to our readers: A web conference, “Race and Justice in America,”will take place on June 23 at 7:00 pm on Zoom or YouTube live-stream. This event is part of the Lumen Christi Institute’s Catholic Criminal Justice Reform Network. Participants include Brandon Vaidyanathan (Catholic University of America), Herschella Conyers (University of Chicago Law School), and Darren Davis (Notre Dame). See the link for additional information on how to register.

Around the Web

  • The Supreme Court granted review in Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Fagazi, in which a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit held plaintiffs could move forward with their claims that an FBI investigation involved anti-Muslim discrimination.
  • The Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments in Spell v. Edwards, in which a Louisiana federal district court dismissed a suit brought by a pastor challenging the state’s COVID-19 limits on worship services. Justice Alito previously rejected an emergency injunction pending appeal.
  • A Virginia county court ruled that Tanner Cross, a teacher who was suspended for speaking out against the school district’s proposed preferred-pronoun policy based on his religious beliefs, had to be reinstated while his case continues.
  • The EEOC announced that JBS Swift & Co. has settled an EEOC lawsuit and agreed to pay $5.5 million to 300 employees, after employees alleged that the company discriminated against Muslim employees and refused to accommodate their prayer obligations.
  • An Ohio school board fired seven high school coaches who allegedly forced a 17-year-old student athlete to eat a pepperoni pizza despite his religious dietary restrictions.
  • Ireland’s High Court will hear a couple’s case against Merrion Fetal Health and Great Glasgow Health Board. The couple claim they were mistakenly told that their unborn child had a fatal fetal abnormality and based on that incorrect information had an abortion.

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

  • Justice Gorsuch, without referring the petition to the entire Court, denied an emergency application for an injunction pending appeal filed by two churches who oppose Colorado’s COVID-19 executive orders.
  • In A.H. v. French, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the exclusion of religious high schools from Vermont’s Town Tuition Program violates the First Amendment.
  • A Michigan federal district court, in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship/USA v. Board of Governors of Wayne State University, denied Wayne State’s motion for reconsideration on an injunction which prohibited the University from revoking the recognized student organization status of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship for requiring that its leadership “exemplify Christ-like character, conduct, and leadership.”
  • An Alabama federal district court, in Case v. Ivey, dismissed plaintiffs’ Free Exercise Clause challenges to Alabama COVID-19 orders for lack of standing and mootness.
  • A Virginia teacher filed a lawsuit against his school district claiming that he was unlawfully suspended for opposing the district’s proposed preferred pronoun policies which violate his sincerely held religious beliefs.
  • A lawsuit was filed in a Texas federal district court seeking injunctive relief from the temporary ban on non-essential medical procedures, including elective abortions, amid the coronavirus crisis.