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

  • In Hernandez v. City of Phoenix, the Ninth Circuit held that a Phoenix police officer’s social media posts disparaging Muslims related to a public concern and potentially qualified as protected speech under the First Amendment. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case for further factual development.  
  • In Sabra v. Maricopa County Community College District, the Ninth Circuit held that a Community College professor was entitled to qualified immunity in a suit against him claiming that his online module on Islamic terrorism in a World Politics course violated plaintiffs’ Establishment Clause and Free Exercise rights. Plaintiffs claimed the module’s primary message was disapproval of Islam and that the end-of-module quiz forced a Muslim student to disavow his religion by choosing answers reflecting a radical interpretation of Islam. 
  • The Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in Fellowship of Christian Athletes v. San Jose Unified School District Board of Education. In the case, a California federal district court upheld a high school’s non-discrimination policy for recognized student groups that precluded Fellowship of Christian Athletes from requiring its leaders to agree with and live in accordance with the group’s Christian beliefs. 
  • In Katz v. New York City Housing Preservation & Development, a New York federal district court rejected Free Exercise and Affordable Housing Act claims brought by an Orthodox Jewish family whose applications for an affordable housing unit were denied because their family size exceeded the apartments’ maximum occupancy limit. Plaintiffs claim that their religious beliefs require them to have a large family. 
  • In Doe v. Catholic Relief Services, a Maryland federal district court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiff who was denied spousal health insurance coverage for his same-sex husband. The court rejected a church-autonomy defense and held that the Catholic Relief Services violated Title VII. The court also held that the exemption in Title VII for religious organizations only applies to discrimination by them on the basis of religion and that RFRA does not provide a defense because it applies only to claims against the government. The court went on to find a violation of the federal and state Equal Pay Acts and ordered certification to the state court of a question of coverage by Maryland’s Fair Employment Practice Act. 
  • In In re Kelly, the Delaware Supreme Court accepted the report of its Board of Professional Responsibility and involuntarily transferred a state bar member to disability inactive status. The attorney’s incoherent court filings, many containing religious references, led to the proceedings to move respondent to inactive status. While respondent claimed that the proceedings violated her free exercise rights, the court held that respondent’s submissions led to the proceeding – not her religious or political beliefs, as she contends. 

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

  • In Taylor v. Nelson, the Fifth Circuit held that Texas prison authorities who confiscated a female inmate’s hijab that exceeded the size permitted by prison policies could claim qualified immunity in a suit for damages against them. The court held that Plaintiff failed to identify a clearly established right that officials violated and that reasonable officials would not have understood that enforcing the policy on hijabs was unconstitutional. 
  • The Fifth Circuit recently heard oral arguments in Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra. In the case, a Texas federal district court permanently enjoined enforcing the anti-discrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act and implementing regulations against Christian health care providers and health plans in a manner that would require them to perform or provide insurance coverage for gender-transition procedures or abortions. 
  • A class action Settlement Agreement was recently filed in an Illinois federal district court in Doe 1 v. NorthShore University HealthSystem. The suit was brought on behalf of approximately 523 employees who requested, but were denied, a religious exemption or accommodation from the hospital system’s COVID vaccination mandate. The hospital system will pay $10,330,500 in damages if the court approves the settlement. 
  • In Archdiocese of Milwaukee v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections, a Wisconsin trial court issued a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction requiring the Wisconsin prison system to allow Catholic clergy the opportunity to conduct in-person religious services in state correctional institutions. While the clergy were initially restricted due to COVID-19 concerns, the court concluded that once the prison system allowed some external visitors to enter correctional institutions, it was required to honor the clergy’s statutory privilege to do so ­– and refusal to do so violated Plaintiff’s free exercise rights under the Wisconsin Constitution. 
  • Seven clergy members in Florida have filed lawsuits contending that Florida’s 15-week abortion ban violates their free exercise, free speech, and Establishment Clause rights. 
  • France’s Constitutional Council last month, in Union of Diocesan Associations of France and othersupheld the constitutionality of several provisions of law governing religious institutions in France. The Council upheld the requirement that a religious organization must register with a governmental official in order to enjoy benefits available specifically to a religious association. The Council found that this did not infringe freedom of association and did not hinder the free exercise of religion. 

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

  • In Starkey v. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Inc., the Seventh Circuit held that the Co-Director of Guidance at a Catholic high school was a “minister” for purposes of the ministerial exception doctrine. The court also held that the ministerial exception doctrine applies to state tort claims for interference with contractual relationships and intentional interference with employment relationships. 
  • In The School of the Ozarks, Inc. v. Biden, the Eighth Circuit held that a Christian college lacks standing to challenge a memorandum issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The memorandum directs the HUD office that enforces the Fair Housing Act to investigate all discrimination complaints, including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. At issue is the school’s religiously-inspired Code of Conduct, which specifies that biological sex determines a person’s gender and therefore requires single-sex residence halls. 
  • In Rojas v. City of Ocala, Florida, the Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded a district court’s Establishment Clause decision that had relied on the now-repudiated Lemon test. In the case, plaintiffs challenged a prayer vigil that was co-sponsored by the Ocala police department and held in response to a shooting spree that had injured several children. 
  • In Buettner-Hartsoe v. Baltimore Lutheran High School Association, a Maryland federal district court held that a §501(c)(3) tax exemption for a religiously-affiliated high school constitutes federal financial assistance so that the school is subject to Title IX. The court also stated that schools that discriminate on the basis of sex are not entitled to federal tax exemptions. 
  • In Chris v. Kang, an Oregon federal district court dismissed a claim of race and national origin discrimination brought by a plaintiff who was not hired as the Worship Pastor of a Baptist Church. The court held that the ministerial exception doctrine applies to both Title VII and state employment discrimination claims, insulating from judicial review the church’s decisions on who should be its ministers. 
  • A petition for certiorari was filed in Church of Scientology International v. Bixler. In the case, a California state appellate court held that former Church of Scientology members were not bound by their agreement to submit disputes to the church’s Religious Arbitration system when the dispute involves conduct that occurred after plaintiffs left the church. 

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

  • In United States v. City of Lansing, Michigan, the Justice Department filed a Title VII lawsuit on behalf of a newly-hired Seventh Day Adventist detention officer. The complaint alleges that the city “failed to provide [the officer] with a reasonable accommodation or to show undue hardship and terminated her employment because she could not work from Friday sundown through Saturday sundown due to her religious observance of the Sabbath.” 
  • In Stewart v. City and County of San Francisco, California, a California federal district court issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of a San Francisco Park Code provision requiring a permit for any religious event held in a public park involving 50 or more persons. 
  • A former Southwest flight attendant has been awarded damages after being fired from the airline for publicly posting anti-abortion posts. The federal jury in Texas sided with the former flight attendant, stating that Southwest unlawfully discriminated against her because of her sincerely held religious beliefs. 
  • In In re Texas Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, a Texas state appellate court held that the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine deprives the trial court of jurisdiction over a dispute between the Fort Worth Northwest Seventh-Day Adventist Church and the Conference, its hierarchical parent body. At issue was control over the Church’s funds and property. 
  • More than 100 churches are suing the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church to immediately disaffiliate from the denomination. The lawsuit comes amid a slow-moving schism in the United Methodist Church – largely over the ordination and marriage of its LGBTQ members. 
  • A 76-year-old English grandmother who was fined for praying near an abortion clinic has successfully overturned her financial penalty. The fine was issued during the country’s lockdown in February 2021 after a policeman questioned why she was outdoors. The Merseyside Police have now conceded that Plaintiff should not have been detained since she was firmly within her rights to silently pray while walking outside and that her actions were reasonable and acceptable under COVID-19 regulations. 

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

  • In Tucker v. Gaddis, the Fifth Circuit held that a suit by Texas prison inmates seeking to hold religious gatherings for adherents of Nation of Gods and Earths is not moot. The court stated that any such requests remain subject to “time, space, and safety concerns,” and to date, Texas has never permitted the Nation’s adherents to congregate.
  • In Ateres Bais Yaakov Academy of Rockland v. Town of Clarkstown, a New York federal district court dismissed for lack of standing a suit under RLUIPA and federal civil rights laws brought by an Orthodox Jewish school against a New York town and citizens group. The suit alleged that the defendants, motivated by discrimination against Orthodox Jews, prevented the school from closing the purchase of a building owned by a Baptist Church.
  • In Ferguson v. Owen, a D.C. federal district court dismissed, with leave to amend, a suit for damages against the head of the National Park Service Division of Permits Management for refusing Plaintiff a permit for a 4-month long demonstration at the Lincoln Memorial. Plaintiff, a street musician, wanted to convey a religious/political message; however, the court rejected Plaintiff’s RFRA claim, finding that the denial had not imposed a substantial burden on his religious exercise.
  • In Doster v. Kendall, an Ohio federal district court certified a national class action on behalf of all active duty and active reserve members of the Air Force and Space Force who have submitted a request for a religious accommodation from the military’s COVID vaccine requirement.
  • In Amin v. Subway Restaurants, Inc., a California federal district court refused to dismiss a suit alleging that Subway’s tuna sandwiches contain non-tuna products after DNA analyses indicated the tuna contains other fish species, chicken, pork, and cattle. The case is particularly important for those whose religious beliefs prohibit the consumption of meat or pork products. 

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

  • In CI.G v. Siegfried, the Tenth Circuit reversed a district court’s dismissal of a high school student’s claim that his First Amendment rights were violated when he was expelled for an antisemitic Snapchat post. 
  • In Ervins v. Sun Prairie Area School District, a Wisconsin federal district court rejected a claim that a sixth-grade lesson on ancient Mesopotamia, which called on students to apply the Code of Hammurabi to a hypothetical situation, amounted to a violation of the Establishment Clause. 
  • In Gonzales v. Collier, a Texas federal district issued a temporary injunction barring the execution of death row inmate Ramiro Gonzales unless authorities grant all of his requested religious accommodations. Gonzales requests that his spiritual advisor be allowed in the death chamber so she can pray aloud, hold his hand, and place her other hand on his chest. 
  • In Perlot v. Green, an Idaho federal district court issued a preliminary injunction requiring the University of Idaho to rescind no-contact orders issued to three law students who are members of the Christian Legal Society (“CLS”). The University issued the no-contact orders after the CLS students discussed with a female LGBTQ student the Christian biblical view of marriage and sexuality. 
  • In Rutan-Ram v. Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, a Tennessee state three-judge panel held that a Jewish couple who were denied foster-parent training by a state-funded Christian child placement agency lacked standing to challenge a Tennessee law permitting faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to refuse to provide services that violate their religious convictions. 
  • In State of Wisconsin v. Whitaker, the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected a defendant’s claim that his religious liberty and associational rights were violated when the judge sentencing him made reference to his Amish community. 

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

  • In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a school district violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses when the district disciplined a football coach for visibly praying at midfield following football games. Writing for the majority, Justice Gorsuch found that the coach sought to engage in private, sincerely motivated religious exercise and decided that the district could not bar this activity because of its own Establishment Clause concerns. In reaching this decision, the Court repudiated the Lemon test – which had been relied upon by the lower courts in deciding the case. 
  • In LaCroix v. Town of Fort Myers Beach, Florida, the Eleventh Circuit preliminarily enjoined a town’s ban on all portable signs. The ordinance was challenged by an individual who was cited for carrying a sign on a public sidewalk that conveyed his “religious, political and social message” that Christianity offers hope and salvation. 
  • In Apache Stronghold v. United States, the Ninth Circuit held that a proposed federal government land exchange in Arizona will not substantially burden Apache religious exercise in violation of RFRA. The court also held it will not violate the First Amendment because the Land Exchange Provision is a neutral and generally applicable law. 
  • In Halczenko v. Ascension Health, Inc., the Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction that had been sought by a pediatric critical care specialist. The specialist was fired from his hospital position after he refused, on religious grounds, to comply with the hospital’s COVID vaccine mandate. The court concluded that Plaintiff had shown neither irreparable injury nor inadequate remedies through a Title VII action. 
  • In Mishler v. Mishler, a Texas state appellate court held that there is neither a state nor a federal free exercise issue with a divorce decree, based on the parties’ prior agreement that the husband would deliver certain property to the wife only upon the wife’s acceptance of a “Gett” (a Jewish divorce document that the wife must accept for the divorce to be valid under Jewish religious law). 

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

  • In Carson v. Makin, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Maine’s tuition program, which pays tuition to out-of-district public or private high schools for students whose districts do not operate a high school, but which requires participating schools to be nonsectarian, violates the Free Exercise Clause. 
  • In Arkansas Times LP v. Waldrip, the Eighth Circuit upheld Arkansas’ law requiring public contracts to include a certification from the contractor that it will not boycott Israel. 
  • In In re Marriage of Olsen, a Colorado state appellate court held that the district court erred by considering a wife’s religious belief that pre-embryos are human lives when settling a dispute between a husband and wife over the disposition of their cryogenically frozen pre-embryos after their divorce. 
  • In Catholic Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi v. DeLange, the Mississippi Supreme Court held that the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine prevents Mississippi courts from adjudicating wrongful termination, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims brought by the former finance officer of the diocese. 
  • South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has signed H4776, the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act. The new law provides, in part, that religiously objecting medical practitioners, healthcare institutions, and healthcare payers have the right not to participate in or pay for any health care service which violates the practitioner’s or entity’s conscience. 
  • In Yalçin v. Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights, in a Chamber Judgment, held that Turkey violated Article 9 (freedom of religion and belief) of the European Convention on Human Rights by refusing to make a room available for congregational Muslim Friday prayers at a high-security prison. 
  • France’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, held that the city of Grenoble cannot permit Muslim women to wear the full-length “burkini” bathing suit in its municipal swimming pools. The court stated that doing so would compromise principles of religious neutrality and “the equal treatment of users.” 

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

  • The Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe v. U.S. Department of the Interior. The arguments come after a Nevada federal district court rejected a claim by the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe that the construction of a geothermal facility would violate their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 
  • In Colorado Springs Fellowship Church v. Williams, the Tenth Circuit rejected a church’s challenge to prison rules that barred it from sending DVDs directly to inmates. 
  • In Dorman v. Chaplain’s Office BSO, the Eleventh Circuit upheld the procedures used by the Broward County, Florida jail, which required inmates to register 45 days in advance in order to participate in Passover services and meals. 
  • In Yu Pride Alliance v. Yeshiva University, a New York state trial court held that New York City’s public accommodation law requires Yeshiva University to officially recognize as a student organization an LGBTQ group, YU Pride Alliance. The court rejected the University’s claim that it is exempt from coverage as a religious corporation incorporated under the education law. 
  • In Petro v. Platkin, a New Jersey state appellate court dismissed constitutional challenges to New Jersey’s Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act. The court, among other things, rejected Plaintiffs’ First Amendment Free Exercise Claim, finding that the statute is a neutral law of general applicability. 
  • In Teliatnikov v. Lithuania, the European Court of Human Rights in a Chamber Judgment held that Lithuania violated Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience, and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights when it refused to grant a Jehovah’s Witness deacon alternative service under civilian control. 

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

  • The U.S. Supreme Court denied review in St. Augustine School v. Underly, in which the Seventh Circuit remanded a suit challenging Wisconsin’s refusal to provide bus transportation to students at St. Augustine School.
  • In Al Saud v. Days, the Ninth Circuit rejected claims under RLUIPA and the First Amendment brought by a Muslim inmate who sought to be housed only with other Muslim inmates. Plaintiff contends he is currently unable to pray as required by his religion because inmates he is housed with harass him while he prays. 
  • In Tucker v. Faith Bible Chapel International, the Tenth Circuit held that interlocutory appeals from the denial of a ministerial exception defense are not permitted. In the case, a former high school teacher and chaplain contends that he was fired for opposing alleged racial discrimination by a Christian school. 
  • In In the Matter of United Jewish Community of Blooming Grove, Inc. v. Washingtonville Central School District, a New York state appellate court held that under New York statutory law, school districts are not required to provide bus transportation to private school students on days when private schools are in session, but public schools are closed. 
  • In McKinley v. Grisham, a New Mexico district court allowed plaintiffs to move forward with their Free Exercise challenge to restrictions on in-person gatherings at houses of worship. 
  • The EEOC announced that it has filed suit against Del Frisco’s of Georgia, an Atlanta restaurant, for refusing to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs.