Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:
- The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in The School of the Ozarks v. Biden, in which the 8th Circuit held a Christian college did not have standing to challenge a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development memorandum directing the HUD to investigate all discrimination complaints, including those based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This decision affected the school’s policy of maintaining single-sex residence halls according to biological sex, which is part of their religiously-inspired Code of Conduct.
- In Braidwood Management, Inc. v. EEOC, the 5th Circuit held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) necessitates an exemption from the sex discrimination provisions of Title VII for a company operating based on Christian beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity. The court said that forcing the company to hire employees with opposing religious and moral views is not the least restrictive means of promoting its compelling interest.
- In United States v. Lindor, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals found that the appellant’s use of Vodou rituals, while in accordance with his First Amendment rights, did not shield him from prosecution for murder. The court stated, “[A]ctivities that harm others are not protected by the free exercise clause. To characterize appellant’s chosen techniques to plan, express, and actuate his intent to murder . . . as the free exercise of his religious beliefs would expropriate the free exercise clause of any principled, reasonable meaning.”
- The Darren Patterson Christian Academy has filed a lawsuit challenging the conditions Colorado has set for pre-schools to participate and receive funding in the state’s universal pre-school program. The school argues that the Colorado Department of Early Childhood’s regulations, which prohibit discrimination based on religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, force it to forgo its religious character and beliefs. The school asserts that these rules compel it to hire employees who do not share its faith and to change internal rules and policies aligned with its religious beliefs, including those related to restroom usage, pronouns, dress codes, and student housing during field trips.
- In Brandon v. Board of Education of the City of St. Louis, the Eastern District of Missouri declined to dismiss Free Exercise Clause and Equal Protection Clause claims by 41 teachers and staff challenging the school district’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The court reasoned, “[b]ecause Plaintiffs have pleaded the existence of a late-2021 policy apparently lacking the urgency that characterized the regulations and executive orders issued early in the pandemic… [the Court is] to apply the ordinary tiers of scrutiny to the District’s Policy as alleged.”
- In Foothills Christian Church v. Johnson, the Southern District of California dismissed a free exercise challenge by Christian pre-schools to California’s child care licensing requirement. It held that the Child Day Care Facilities Act does not prevent the schools from offering a program that includes compulsory participation in religious events. While the Act requires that schools make attendance at religious activities voluntary in the discretion of the child’s parents or guardian, it also allows schools to refuse to admit children whose parents or guardians are unwilling to agree that their children will attend religious activities.