Legal Spirits Episode 045: 303 Creative at SCOTUS Next Week

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear argument in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, an important case that pits free speech rights against anti-discrimination laws. A Christian web designer has challenged Colorado’s public accommodations law, arguing that the law will require her to design sites for same-sex weddings and convey messages with which she disagrees. In this episode, Marc and Mark explore several of the issues in the case, from concerns about ripeness and standing to matters of substance: free speech and compelled speech, same-sex marriage, antidiscrimination law, what distinguishes “messages” from “messengers,” and others. Listen in!

Around the Web

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

  • In Holston United Methodist Home for Children, Inc. v. Becerra, a Tennessee federal district court held that a religiously affiliated children’s home that places children for foster care or adoption lacks standing to challenge a 2016 anti-discrimination rule promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • In American College of Pediatricians v. Becerra, a Tennessee federal district court dismissed for lack of standing a challenge to a rule promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services that barred discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the furnishing of health care. The court also concluded that the plaintiffs lack standing to challenge an HHS rule requiring grant recipients to recognize same-sex marriages. 
  • In Kim v. Board of Education of Howard County, a Maryland federal district court rejected both equal protection and free exercise challenges to the manner in which the student members of the eight-member Howard County School Board are selected. 
  • Suit was filed in an Ohio federal district court challenging a school district’s rule change that allows transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity. In Doe No. 1 v. Bethel Local School District Board of Education, Plaintiffs, who identify as Muslims and Christians, claim, among other things, that the new rules violate their free exercise and equal protection rights, their parental rights, and Title IX. 
  • Suit has been filed by the former head football coach for Washington State University, who was fired after refusing on religious grounds to comply with the state’s Covid vaccine mandate for state employees. The Athletic Department refused to grant him a religious accommodation, questioning the sincerity of his religious objections as well as the University’s ability to accommodate his objections. The complaint in Rolovich v. Washington State University alleges that the coach’s firing amounts to religious discrimination in violation of state and federal law and infringement of the plaintiff’s free exercise and due process rights. 
  • In In re Covid Related Restrictions on Religious Services, the Delaware Court of Chancery held that a challenge by religious leaders to now-lifted Covid-related restrictions on religious services should be brought in Superior Court, not in Delaware’s Chancery Court, which is limited to providing equitable relief. 

Around the Web

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

  • In M.A. v. Rockland County Department of Health, the Second Circuit sent back to the trial court a free exercise challenge to Rockland County, New York’s, Emergency Declaration barring children who were not vaccinated against measles from places of public assembly. Children with medical exceptions were exempt from the ban. In remanding the case, the Second Circuit stated there were factual issues relevant to whether the Emergency Declaration was neutral and generally applicable and held the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants. 
  • In Barbee v. Collier, the Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded for further proceedings an injunction issued by a Texas federal district court that barred the execution of a convicted murderer, Stephen Barbee, until the Texas Department of Criminal Justice publishes a clear policy on inmates’ religious rights in the execution chamber. Barbee wants his spiritual advisor to pray aloud with him and hold his hand. 
  • In Horizon Christian School v. Brown, the Ninth Circuit held that the free exercise and parental rights challenges to Oregon’s previous Covid restrictions on in-person school classes are moot.
  • In Tucker v. Faith Bible Chapel International, the Tenth Circuit denied en banc review of a panel decision that held that interlocutory appeals from the denial of a ministerial exception defense are not permitted. In the case, a former high school teacher and administrator/chaplain contends that he was fired for opposing alleged racial discrimination by a Christian school. 
  • In Eris Evolution, LLC v. Bradley, a New York federal district court rejected an Establishment Clause challenge to a provision in New York’s liquor laws that allows bars to apply for permits to stay open all night on New Year’s, except for when New Year’s falls on a Sunday. The court concluded that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1961 decision in McGowan v. Maryland upholding Sunday closing laws forecloses Plaintiff’s claim. 
  • In Khan v. Station House Officer, a Pakistani appellate court held that Pakistan Criminal Code Sec. 295A, which prohibits deliberate and malicious insulting of religious beliefs, was not violated by the petitioner when he told the public that he could fly and that he saw Allah in his dreams. 
  • The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a report titled Implications of Laws Promoting State-Favored Religions. The report identified seventy-eight countries with official or favored religions, fifty-seven of which maintain laws or policies that lead to religious discrimination or repression, or that have the potential to do so. 

Around the Web

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

  • The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Haaland v. Brackeen. At issue is the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which attempts to prevent child welfare and adoption agencies from placing Native American children outside their tribe. Issues of religion and religious culture underlie the controversy in the four consolidated cases heard. 
  • An Emergency Application for an Injunction Pending Appellate Review was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in New Yorkers for Religious Liberty v. City of New York. The petition seeks an injunction against enforcing New York City’s Covid vaccine mandate for city workers against those with religious objections to the vaccine. 
  • In Richardson v. Clarke, the Fourth Circuit held that a prison’s former policy requiring inmates to remove head coverings, including religious head coverings, in certain areas of the prison imposed a substantial burden on Plaintiff’s religious exercise. 
  • Suit was filed in a New York federal district court challenging the constitutionality of New York’s ban on carrying firearms in houses of worship. The complaint in His Tabernacle Family Church, Inc. v. Nigrelli alleges that the ban violates the Free Exercise Clause, Establishment Clause, Second Amendment, and the equal protection rights of a church and its pastor. 
  • In Dunbar v. Disney, a California federal district court dismissed an amended complaint filed by actor Rockmond Dunbar in his Title VII disparate-impact religious discrimination claim against Walt Disney Company. His disparate impact claim was initially rejected because Dunbar could not identify other Universal Wisdom Church members who were similarly impacted by a Covid vaccine mandate. 
  • In Loste v. France, the European Court of Human Rights, in a Chamber judgment, held that France’s child welfare service violated Article IX of the European Convention on Human Rights when it failed to assure that a Jehovah’s Witness foster family was respecting the Muslim beliefs of its foster child’s birth family. 

Around the Web

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

  • The U.S. Supreme Court has denied review in Resurrection School v. Hertel. In the case, an en banc panel of the Sixth Circuit held by a vote of 13-1-3 that a free exercise challenge to Michigan’s COVID mask mandate for school children is moot.
  • In United States v. Dickey, the Seventh Circuit upheld a trial court’s refusal to give jury instructions sought by a criminal defendant who was the leader of her own church, Deliverance Tabernacle Ministry, and who was convicted of wire fraud and forced labor. The court held that Dickey’s proposed jury instructions failed because they were not an accurate statement of the law and would have excused her criminal conduct based on her religious assertions. 
  • In Tatel v. Mt. Lebanon School District, a Pennsylvania federal district court allowed parents of first graders to move ahead with their due process, equal protection, and free exercise claims against a teacher who taught their students about transgender topics over parental objections. The court also allowed plaintiffs to move forward against school administrators, the school board, and the school district. 
  • In JLF v. Tennessee State Board of Education, Plaintiff asked a Tennessee federal district court to reconsider its prior holding that the display of the national motto “In God We Trust” in a public charter school did not violate the Establishment Clause. Plaintiff argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, which rejected the Lemon test and adopted the Historical Practice test for Establishment Clause cases, constitutes an intervening change in controlling law. However, the court denied Plaintiff’s motion to reconsider as Kennedy did not affect the court’s previous ruling, and the court did not rely on the Lemon test to reject Plaintiff’s Establishment Clause claim.
  • In Chambers of Commerce of the USA v. Bartolemo, various business organizations filed suit in a Connecticut federal district court challenging on free speech grounds a Connecticut statute that protects employees from being made into captive audiences. The statute imposes liability on employers that discipline employees who refuse to attend employer-sponsored meetings or listen to employer communications whose primary purpose is to express the employer’s views on religious or political matters. 
  • In Billy Graham Evangelistic Association v. Scottish Event Campus Limited, a trial court in Scotland concluded that a large arena in Scotland whose majority owner is the city of Glasgow violated the Equality Act when it canceled an appearance by evangelist Franklin Graham because of concern that he might make homophobic and Islamophobic comments during his appearance. The court awarded Graham’s organization damages equivalent to $112,000 USD.  

Around the Web

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

  • A petition for certiorari has been filed with the U.S Supreme Court in Arkansas Times, LP v. Waldrip (see prior posting). In the case, the Eighth Circuit sitting en banc upheld, against a free speech challenge, Arkansas’ law requiring public contracts to include a certification from the contractor that it will not boycott Israel. 
  • In Weiss v. Perez, a California federal district court allowed a tenured professor to move ahead against most of the defendants she named in a lawsuit, which alleged that the University had retaliated against her because of her opposition to repatriation of Native American remains. Professor Weiss has argued that the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and the California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act violate the Establishment Clause by favoring religion over science. Due to this belief, Weiss claims San Jose State University has interfered with her research and limited her professional activities. 
  • In In re A.C. (Minor Child), an Indiana state appeals court upheld a trial court’s order removing from the home a sixteen-year-old transgender child who suffered from an eating disorder and emotional abuse due to their parent’s unwillingness to accept the child’s transgender identity. The parents allege that they could not affirm their child’s transgender identity or use the child’s preferred pronouns because of their religious beliefs. The court rejected the parents’ Free Exercise claims.
  • The EEOC announced that it has filed a Title VII and ADA suit against Global Medical Response, Inc. and American Medical Response, Inc., which operate one of the largest medical transport companies in the country. The suit alleges that the companies refused to accommodate employees in EMT and paramedic positions who wish to wear facial hair for religious reasons. 
  • The EEOC has reached a settlement in a religious discrimination suit it had filed against a Conway, Arkansas Kroger store for failing to accommodate two employees who refused to wear the company’s apron. The employees insisted that the symbol on the apron promotes the LGBT community, which the employees’ religious beliefs preclude them from affirming. Under the settlement, Kroger will pay each employee $20,000 in back pay plus $52,000 each in additional damages. 

Around the Web

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

  • The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in Singh v. Berger. In the case, the D.C. federal district court refused to grant a preliminary injunction to three Sikh Marine recruits who wanted to prevent enforcement of the Marine’s uniform and grooming policies during recruit training while their case continues to be litigated. 
  • In Hardaway v. Nigrelli, a New York federal district court issued a temporary restraining order barring enforcement of the provision in New York law that prohibits possession of firearms at “any place of worship or religious observation.” The suit was filed by two clergy members who allege that, as leaders of their churches, they want to carry firearms on church premises to keep the peace. The court concluded that the state restriction violates the Second Amendment. 
  • Suit was filed in a Wisconsin federal district court challenging the city of La Crosse’s ordinance prohibiting medical and mental health professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with anyone under eighteen. The complaint in Buchman v. City of Law Crosse alleges that the ban on counseling minors to change their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or behaviors violates Plaintiff’s free speech and free exercise rights. 
  • Suit was filed in a California federal district court by two California State University professors challenging the University’s inclusion of discrimination on the basis of caste in its Interim Antidiscrimination Policy adopted in January. The complaint in Kumar v. Koester alleges that the term “caste,” as used in the Interim Policy, is unconstitutionally vague and the Interim Policy violates the rights of Plaintiffs under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. 
  • In a tentative decision, a California state trial court concluded that a bakery that refuses on religious grounds to furnish custom-designed cakes for same-sex weddings and instead refers customers to another bakery for such items does not violate the Unruh Civil Rights Act. In Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Cathy’s Creations, Inc., the court held that because California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act is a neutral law of general applicability, the state did not violate Defendant’s free exercise rights. 
  • In L.F. v. S.C.R.L., the Court of Justice of the European Communities held that a private company may prohibit employees from wearing all visible signs of political, philosophical, or religious belief in the workplace. This would not constitute direct discrimination on the ground of religion or belief in violation of Council Directive 2000/78 so long as the company’s policy covers any manifestation of religious, philosophical, or spiritual beliefs without distinction.  

Around the Web

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

  • The U.S. Supreme Court has denied review in Doe v. McKee. The certiorari petition asked the Supreme Court to review a decision made by the Rhode Island Supreme Court, which held that unborn fetuses do not have due process and equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution and do not have standing to challenge Rhode Island’s Reproductive Privacy Act.  
  • In Redlich v. City of St. Louis, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit brought by a Christian pastor and his assistant challenging a city ordinance that required a permit to distribute potentially hazardous food. Plaintiffs had previously been cited for distributing bologna sandwiches to hungry people they encountered in St. Louis.
  • In Marte v. Montefiore Medical Center, a New York federal district court dismissed claims by a former Medical Center employee who sued after the Medical Center denied her a reasonable accommodation when she refused to receive the COVID vaccine. Among other things, the court rejected Plaintiff’s Title VII, free exercise, and equal protection claims. 
  • Suit was filed in a Maryland federal district court alleging that Baltimore’s sign permit ordinance violates Plaintiff’s free speech and free exercise rights. The complaint, in Roswell v. City of Baltimore, seeks a preliminary injunction to prevent the city from requiring Plaintiff to obtain permits in order to use A-frame signs when engaging in religiously-motivated sidewalk anti-abortion counseling near a Planned Parenthood facility. 
  • In Kariye v. Mayorkas, three Muslim plaintiffs sued the Department of Homeland Security alleging that border officers routinely and intentionally single out Muslim-American travelers to demand they answer religious questions. Applying the Supreme Court’s test articulated in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the California federal district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ Establishment Clause challenge. The court also rejected, among other things, plaintiffs’ free exercise, freedom of association, and RFRA challenges.
  • Suit was filed in a Michigan federal district court by a woman who had worked as a physician assistant for seventeen years but was then fired for refusing, on religious grounds, to refer patients for gender-transitioning drugs and procedures and to use pronouns that corresponded to a patient’s gender identity rather than their biological sex. The complaint in Kloosterman v. Metropolitan Hospital brings Free Exercise and Equal Protection claims against Defendant. 
  • In Congregation 3401 Prairie Bais Yeshaya D’Kerestir, Inc. v. City of Miami, a Florida federal district court refused to dismiss claims that city officials’ harassment of a rabbi who hosted daily minyans at his home for guests violated the First Amendment. Private groups worshiping at a person’s home are permitted in residential areas under the city’s zoning code. 

Around the Web

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

  • In DeMarco v. Bynum, the Fifth Circuit upheld the dismissal of a suit brought by an inmate who contended that the confiscation of his religious materials violated his First Amendment rights. In part, the court reasoned that there were alternative ways for DeMarco to exercise his First Amendment rights and that even if Bynum had violated DeMarco’s constitutional rights, the district court correctly found that Bynum was entitled to qualified immunity. 
  • The Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments in Spell v. Edwards. In the case, a Louisiana federal district court dismissed a challenge to a now-expired COVID Order limiting the size of religious gatherings. The district court dismissed the case because the challenged restrictions had already expired, and the defendants had qualified immunity in the claim for damages. 
  • In Hile v. State of Michigan, a Michigan federal district court dismissed free exercise and equal protection challenges to a provision in the Michigan Constitution that prohibits the use of state funds, tax benefits, or vouchers to aid “any private, denominational or other nonpublic, pre-elementary, elementary, or second school” or student attendance at such schools. The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ equal protection challenge. 
  • In Fitzgerald v. Roncalli High School, Inc., an Indiana federal district court invoked the ministerial exception doctrine to dismiss a suit brought by Michelle Fitzgerald, a Catholic high school guidance counselor who was fired after the school and the church that oversaw it learned that she was in a same-sex marriage. 
  • In Dollar v. Goleta Water District, a California federal district court held that the COVID vaccination policy for employees of the Goleta Water District did not discriminate on the basis of religion against employees who obtained a religious exemption. Plaintiffs contend that the District’s policy is discriminatory because it imposes special mask and testing requirements and requires authorization to enter certain buildings for plaintiffs because they have a religious exemption.
  • In State of Texas v. EEOC, a Texas federal district court held that Guidance documents issued by the EEOC and by the Department of Health and Human Services are unlawful. At issue are the HHS and EEOC applications of the Supreme Court’s Bostock decisionBostock held that sex discrimination in Title VII includes discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Fall 2022 Reading Society Meeting: A Conversation with Tara Isabella Burton

Almost 30% of Americans today tell pollsters they have no religious affiliation. Yet the large majority of these “Nones” claim to be believers: they reject institutional religion, not faith. Drawing on her book, Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World, author Tara Isabella Burton will share her insights about the Nones: what they believe, why their numbers have grown, and the impact they will have on American life.

Date: Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Time: 6:30 p.m. (Pizza will be served)

Location: St. John’s University School of Law