Around the Web

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

  • In Keil v. City of New York, Justice Sotomayor refused to enjoin the dismissal of a suit filed by a group of New York City teachers who did not comply with the City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate due to religious objections. The teachers then invoked Supreme Court Rule 22.4 and requested that their petition be resubmitted to Justice Gorsuch.
  • In Sambrano v. United Airlines, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a Texas federal district court’s decision that held no “irreparable injury” had been suffered by United Airlines employees who were placed on unpaid leave after they refused to comply with the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for religious reasons. 
  • In Bishop of Charleston v. Adams, a South Carolina federal district court rejected free exercise and equal protection challenges to Art. XII, Sec 4. of the South Carolina Constitution, which bars the use of public funds to directly benefit religious educational institutions.
  • In Asher v. Clay County Board of Education, a Kentucky federal district court refused to enjoin a school district from relocating the graves of members of the White Top Band of Native Indians. The court found that the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act does not apply because the land the school purchased was not on federal or tribal lands.
  • In Mays v. Cabell County Board of Education, suit was filed by students at Huntington High School and their parents alleging that a school assembly featuring Nik Walker, a Christian evangelical minister, violated the Establishment Clause.
  • In Air Force Officer v. Austin, a Georgia federal district court invoking RFRA and the First Amendment granted a preliminary injunction to an Air Force officer who sought a religious exemption from the Air Force’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
  • The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, issued a determination letter dismissing a complaint filed by LGBTQ students at Brigham Young University. The letter affirms that the University’s policy that bans same-sex relationships among its students is exempt from the non-discrimination provisions of Title IX.

Around the Web

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

  • In Gasparoff v. Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania, an Arizona federal district court dismissed a pro se complaint that challenged Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs regarding blood transfusions.
  • Suit was filed in a New York federal district court by five Orthodox Jews and one Catholic man challenging New York City’s “Key to NYC” program, which mandates COVID vaccination in a variety of social contexts. Plaintiffs contend that they have religious objections to the COVID vaccine, and some of the Plaintiffs raise unique religious objections not commonly raised in past litigation.
  • A Christian nurse practitioner formerly employed at a CVS Pharmacy in Texas has filed a religious discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint alleges the company illegally discriminated against her on the basis of her religious beliefs about contraception.
  • A new Chinese law, Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information, is set to take effect on March 1, 2022. The law will impose new restrictions on online religious content and will essentially outlaw evangelistic Scripture.
  • The Southern Indian state of Karnataka’s top court has stepped in to hear petitions filed by Muslim students after several government-run educational institutions have banned Muslim female students from wearing hijabs.

Around the Web

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

  • In St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church v. City of Brookings, a church filed suit in an Oregon federal district court challenging a city ordinance that limits the church from offering free meals to the needy more than two days per week.
  • In Buck v. Hertel, Michigan agreed to settle with St. Vincent Catholic Charities in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.  The state agreed to pay attorneys’ fees of $550,000 and not to terminate the contract with the licensed child placement agency because of their religious requirements.
  • In Navy Seal 1 v. Biden, a Florida federal district court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the military from enforcing its COVID-19 vaccination mandate against two service members who were denied religious exemptions.
  • In Divine Grace Yoga Ashram Inc. v. County of Yavapai, an Arizona federal district court rejected a RLUIPA claim that the county’s permit requirement violates the “equal terms” provision of RLUIPA.
  • The EEOC announced that Wellpath, a provider of health services, agreed to settle a religious discrimination claim brought by a nurse who lost her job after requesting a religious accommodation that would allow her to wear a scrub skirt instead of pants to work. Wellpath agreed to pay the nurse $75,000 and provide anti-discrimination training and a notice of rights to employees.
  • The City of Louisville has agreed to pay Officer Matt Schrennger, Kentucky police officer, $75,000 to settle his lawsuit after he was punished for praying in front of an abortion clinic while in uniform, but off-duty.

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.

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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.

Around the Web

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

  • In St. Augustine School v. Underly, the Seventh Circuit sent back to the district court a suit challenging Wisconsin’s refusal to provide bus transportation to students at St. Augustine School, a private religious school. The court concluded that the decision to provide transportation was not justified by neutral and secular considerations.
  • The Eighth Circuit heard oral arguments in Religious Sisters of Mercy v. Becerra. Below, a North Dakota federal district court granted various Catholic-affiliated health care entities with an injunction prohibiting the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws against them in connection with providing coverage for transgender procedures.
  • In Downtown Soup Kitchen v. Municipality of Anchorage, an Alaska federal district court refused to grant injunctive relief to the Hope Center, a faith-based women’s shelter, after a new public accommodation law would require them to provide housing to trans-identifying women. The court concluded that since the city does not consider the Hope Center a public accommodation the center could not demonstrate a credible threat of enforcement.
  • Suit was filed in Virginia state trial court by parents challenging the Albemarle County School Board’s Anti-Racism Policy and the associated curriculum alleging religious discrimination.
  • In Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe v. U.S. Department of the Interior, the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe brought suit alleging that the new Dixie Meadows geothermal energy project will negatively impact the Dixie Meadows hot springs and the surrounding landscape and thus, violate their members’ sincerely held religious beliefs.
  • China has barred the chair, vice-chair, and two commissioners of the U.S. Commission on the International Religious Freedom from entering China.