Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:
- The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in two cases (Faith Bible Chapel International v. Tucker and Synod of Bishops v. Belya) holding that interlocutory appeals from denials of a ministerial exception defense are not allowed.
- In Donovan v. Vance, the 9th Circuit held that Department of Energy employees who objected to the government’s Covid vaccine mandate on religious grounds could not seek damages because the Executive Orders at issue had been revoked. Plaintiffs had sued federal officials in their official capacity, but the court held further that the United States has not waived sovereign immunity for damages under RFRA.
- In United States v. Grenon, the Southern District of Florida ruled that the government could not preclude defendants from offering evidence of free exercise and RFRA defenses in their trial for manufacturing, marketing and distributing an unlicensed drug. The defendants are members of a church called Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, and they “promoted MMS [the drug] as a miracle cure to various illnesses and ailments,” which, when ingested, becomes chlorine dioxide.
- In McMahon v. World Vision Inc., the Western District of Washington dismissed a Title VII sex discrimination suit as barred by the Church Autonomy Doctrine. A Christian ministry offered a job to the plaintiff, but rescinded the offer when the defendant learned that plaintiff was in a same-sex marriage. The court concluded that the Church Autonomy Doctrine may be invoked when a non-ministerial employee brings a Title VII action.
- In Micah’s Way v. City of Santa Ana, the Central District of California refused to dismiss a suit by a center that aids impoverished and disabled individuals in which it claimed that the city had violated its rights under RLUIPA and the First Amendment by refusing to issue it a Certificate of Occupancy unless it agrees to stop providing food and beverages to its clients. The court held that Micah’s Way plausibly alleged that its food distribution activities are a “religious exercise” and that the city substantially burdened that religious exercise.
- In The Catholic Bookstore, Inc. v. City of Jacksonville, the Middle District of Florida found that a Catholic bookstore has standing to challenge Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance, which provides that it is unlawful to publish, circulate or display any communication indicating that service will be denied, or that patronage is unwelcome from a person, because of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bookstore wants to publicize its policy requiring its staff to address co-workers and customers only by “pronouns and titles that align with the biologically originating sex of the person being referenced . . . .”