Legal Spirits Episode 040: Raising the Christian Flag at City Hall

Boston City Hall (Brutalist architecture)

In this episode, Center Co-Directors Marc DeGirolami and Mark Movsesian explore another law and religion case recently argued at the Supreme Court, Shurtleff v. City of Boston, concerning whether a municipality can decline a private group’s request to fly a religious flag on a city hall flagpole pursuant to a policy where it flies flags at the request of other private constituencies. The case involves issues of free speech and religious freedom, as well as raising some questions about broader themes or patterns in the religion cases the Supreme Court seems to be taking–particularly as respects the Establishment Clause. Listen in!

Around the Web

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

  • In Johnson v. Baker, the Ninth Circuit held that the Nevada prison system violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) when it banned a Muslim inmate from possessing scented oil in his cell for use during religious prayer.
  • In Demkovich v. St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of a Roman Catholic Church that was sued by a former employee. The court held that churches and religious groups have the right to hire and supervise staff according to their beliefs and without government intrusion.
  • In Young Israel of Tampa, Inc. v. Hillsborough Regional Transit Authority, a Florida federal district court held that free speech rights of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue were violated when the local transit system refused to accept its display ad promoting its “Chanukah on Ice” event.
  • A Tennessee federal district court has set the trial date for Waldrop v. City of Johnson City, Tennessee, a suit on remand from the Sixth Circuit over two street preachers who were removed from a Pride event. The court found a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the officers removed Plaintiffs for a content-neutral or content-based reason.
  • The EEOC has announced that Tampa Bay Delivery Service, an Amazon delivery provider, has settled a religious discrimination suit brought by the EEOC on behalf of a driver who was fired after refusing Sunday shifts in order to attend church services.
  • A former government minister in Finland faces criminal charges under the country’s “war crimes and crimes against humanity” criminal code after tweeting a Bible verse. The former minister has pleaded not guilty to these charges as the trial is set to begin.

Around the Web

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

Legal Spirits Episode 039: Praying on the 50-Yard Line (Again)

In this episode, Center Co-Directors Marc DeGirolami and Mark Movsesian explore the Court’s decision last week to cert grant in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, in which a high school football coach challenges his employer’s decision to discipline him for praying on the field after games. The case, which we discussed in an episode three years ago when the Court denied cert at an earlier stage in the litigation, raises interesting free speech and free exercise issues. Why did the Court take the case now, and what are the arguments on either side? Listen in!

Around the Web

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

  • The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week in Shurtleff v. City of Boston. Below, the First Circuit affirmed the order of a Massachusetts federal district court granting summary judgment in favor of the City as to Plaintiffs’ complaint. Plaintiffs allege that the City violated their constitutional rights by refusing to fly a Christian flag from a flagpole at Boston City Hall.
  • The Supreme Court granted cert in the case of a former Bremerton, Washington football coach who was removed from his job because he refused to stop praying on the field.
    • The case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, was the subject of a prior Legal Spirits podcast episode.
  • In Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church v. Pritzker, the Seventh Circuit affirmed an Illinois federal district court’s denial of an injunction against a now-rescinded COVID order which limited the number of people who could attend religious services. The district court held that the case was moot because Plaintiffs have not been subject to attendance limits for more than nineteen months, and there is no indication that they will be subject to them again.
  • In We the Patriots USA, Inc. v. Connecticut Office of Early Childhood Development, a Connecticut federal district court upheld a Connecticut statute that eliminates the religious exemption from the state requirement for vaccinations for school children. The Court held that mandatory vaccination as a condition to school enrollment does not violate the Free Exercise Clause.
  • Suit was filed in a Georgia federal district court by an Air Force officer who was forced into retirement when she refused, for religious reasons, to take the COVID vaccine. The complaint alleges that the Air Force’s actions violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the First Amendment.
  • In Romano v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a Michigan federal district court denied a preliminary injunction to an employee who was fired because he refused to comply with his employer’s COVID vaccine mandate. Plaintiff’s refusal was based on religious objections; however, the district court concluded that Plaintiff did not meet the “irreparable injury” requirement necessary to support an injunction.
  • The Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia has announced a new policy that will begin to keep track of employees who have refused on religious grounds to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The new record system will store the names and “personal religious information” of all employees who make “religious accommodation requests for religious exception from the federally mandated vaccination requirement.”
  • “Atheist Ireland,” an association of atheists based in Ireland, has called upon the U.N. and the Irish government to raise the issue of religious discrimination in Irish schools. Specifically, Atheist Ireland has requested that Irish schools “must allow children to leave the classroom during religion class.”

Around the Web

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

  • In Mays v. Joseph, the Eleventh Circuit held that a prisoner may recover punitive damages for violation of his free exercise rights. The claim centered around a Georgia Department of Corrections’ grooming policy that barred inmates from growing their hair or goatees longer than three inches.
  • In U.S. Navy SEALs 1-26 v. Biden, a Texas federal district court issued a preliminary injunction barring the U.S. Navy from imposing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate on thirty-five Navy service members. The court concluded that applying the vaccine mandate to plaintiffs violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment’s free exercise clause.
  • In Abraham House of God and Cemetery, Inc. v. City of Horn Lake, a consent decree was entered in a Mississippi federal district court. The suit alleged that the City of Horn Lake denied approval of the site plan for a proposed mosque because of religious animus.
  • Suit was filed in Ohio state trial court by five school districts and students’ parents challenging the Ohio legislature’s recent expansion of the EdChoice voucher program. The complaint alleges that the program violates Article VI, Sec. 2 of the Ohio Constitution, which calls for separation between church and state.
  • A British tribunal has ruled that a Christian nurse who was forced to resign from a hospital over her refusal to stop wearing a cross was wrongfully discriminated against.
  • The European Court of Human Rights has rejected a complaint against a Christian bakery in Northern Ireland that refused to make a cake supporting gay marriage on religious grounds.
    • The case, Lee v. Ashers Baking Co., was the subject of our first Legal Spirits podcast episode.

Around the Web

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

  • In Barakat v. Brown, a Muslim woman filed a religious discrimination suit in a Missouri federal district court alleging an indoor gun range refuses admission to women wearing hijabs.
  • In Iglesia Pentecostal Filadelfia, Inc. v. Rodriguez, a Texas state appellate court affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of an internal church dispute about church leadership roles on ecclesiastical abstention grounds.
  • In Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski,​​ a federal district court ruled that a lawsuit by a Georgia Gwinnett student alleging that college officials stopped him from sharing his Christian faith on campus should move forward on the merits.
  • In K.W. v. Canton City School District, a high school football player filed suit in an Ohio federal district court after he was forced to violate his religious beliefs as punishment for missing a mandatory class.
  • A North Carolina sheriff refused to remove a Bible verse from his office wall after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation claimed that the “blatantly Christian message in a law enforcement division sends a message of exclusion.”
  • The Archdiocese of Baltimore has declared new COVID-19 protocols, including requiring clergy, liturgical ministers, and all attendees age five and older to wear a mask inside of churches in Baltimore County and Howard County.