Around the Web

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

  • In Thai Meditation Association of Alabama, Inc. v. City of Mobile, Alabama, the Eleventh Circuit U.S. partly reversed summary judgments entered in favor of the city of Mobile after Mobile denied zoning approval for a Buddhist organization to use a house in a residential district for religious purposes. The court found that neither party was entitled to summary judgment under RLUIPA; the district court correctly dismissed plaintiff’s Free Exercise claim because the zoning approval process is neutral and generally applicable; and the Buddhist organization was entitled to an injunction under the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment to the state constitution.
  • A federal district court in South Carolina rejected two Establishment Clause challenges regarding waivers from federal anti-discrimination requirements that were granted to faith-based child placement agencies in Rogers v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and Madonna v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The plaintiffs in those cases, a same-sex couple and a woman who did not share the foster agency’s evangelical beliefs, applied to be foster parents, but were denied because the child placement agencies worked only with clients who shared their religious beliefs. 
  • in Johnson v. Cody-Kilgore Unified School District, a federal district court in Nebraska entered a consent decree in a case between Native American parents, who practice the Lakota religion, and a school district, after the student’s hair was cut as part of a lice check. The consent decree stated that the school district will not cut any student’s hair for any reason without prior consent from the parent or guardian.
  • In Tosone v. Way, plaintiff, who wishes to run for public office, filed suit in federal district court New Jersey alleging that he is unable as a matter of conscience to sign an oath that all candidates are required to sign. The oath ends with “so help me God,” which plaintiff argues violates the Free Speech, Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses.
  • The Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Scardina after the Colorado Court of Appeals decided that Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, would have to create cakes even though he did not believe with the message portrayed by the cakes. After the United States Supreme Court announced it would hear Phillips’ first case, in 2018, an activist lawyer called Phillips and requested that he make two cakes: one depicting Satan smoking marijuana and another celebrating a gender transition, and after Phillips refused, the lawyer filed the current suit.
  • The EEOC announced that it filed a Title VII suit against the restaurant chain Chipotle, arguing that a manager at a Kansas location harassed a teenage employee for wearing a hijab. The EEOC further alleges that although the teen continuously complained, Chipotle failure to take action, which led to the manager “forcibly removing part of the teen’s hijab.”