Around the Web

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

  • In Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Abbott, the Fifth Circuit held the FFRF’s lawsuit challenging the exclusion of one of its displays at the state capitol was moot, as the Texas State Preservation Board had repealed the law allowing private displays. The court stated that “the Foundation’s injury is premised on exclusion from expressing its message in a public forum, and because the public forum no longer exists, the permanent injunctive relief ordered by the district court cannot remain.”
  • In Alive Church of the Nazarene, Inc. v. Prince William County, Virginia, the Fourth Circuit rejected a church’s challenges to zoning restrictions that prevented the church from using its property for religious services. The Fourth Circuit rejected the church’s RLUIPA claims, as well as its Equal Protection, Free Exercise, and Peaceable Assembly challenges to the zoning restrictions.
  • In a Mississippi federal district court case, the parties in L.B. v. Simpson County School District have reached a settlement. As part of the settlement, the Simpson County School District has agreed to change its policy that prohibited a 3rd-grade student from wearing a face mask with the phrase “Jesus Loves Me” on it. Additionally, the school district will pay $45,000 and allow the student to wear her mask. 
  • The US Department of Health and Human Services has proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act that would eliminate the current exemption for employers and schools that have moral, as opposed to religious, objections to covering contraceptive services.
  • The chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities sent a letter to House and Senate sponsors of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act” (H.R.7 and S.62) in support of the legislation. The act would make long-standing prohibitions on federal funding of elective abortion permanent and government-wide, rather than depending on various appropriations.
  • The Australian Law Reform Commission, an independent Australian government agency, has released a Consultation Paper on Religious Educational Institutions and Anti-Discrimination Laws. The Consultation Paper suggested proposals that would “make discrimination against students on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy in schools and other religious educational institutions unlawful” while also allowing “religious schools to maintain their religious character by permitting them to . . . give preference to prospective staff on religious grounds where the teaching, observance, or practice of religion is a part of their role.” 
  • At the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C., Beth Van Schaack, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, spoke regarding the “two contemporary genocides” of Muslims worldwide. Van Shaack voiced her support for the international community’s drafting of a crimes against humanity statute that would enable these crimes to be prosecuted in the International Crimes Court.  

Around the Web

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

  • In Tingley v. Ferguson, the Ninth Circuit denied an en banc rehearing for challenges of free speech, free exercise, and vagueness to Washington State’s ban on conversion therapy on minors. The case was originally heard by a 3-judge panel, which upheld the ban.
  • In Gardner-Alfred v. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Southern District of New York held that two former employees could bring suit against the Bank for violations of Title VII, RFRA, and the Free Exercise Clause. The basis of the claims come from the Bank’s denial of a religious exemption from the Bank’s COVID vaccine mandate.
  • In L.B. ex rel Booth v. Simpson Cty. Sch. Dist., filed in the Southern District of Mississippi, a school district abandoned a policy that prohibited students from wearing masks with political or religious messages. The parties settled, and the school district will now permit the student to wear a mask that reads “Jesus Loves Me.”
  • In Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued a ruling on January 26, 2023, stating that the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act did not infringe on Jack Phillips’ free exercise of religion (Phillips was the claimant in the different Masterpiece Cakeshop case decided by the Supreme Court in 2018). This case arose out of Phillips’ refusal to create a cake that celebrated and symbolized a gender transition because it would contravene his religious beliefs.
  • Indiana Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Members of the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana v. Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, Inc. on January 19, 2023. The oral arguments dealt with a challenge to the state’s pro-life law, which prohibits abortion except in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies, or when the woman’s life is at risk. Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief on behalf of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference defending the law.
  • Alabama Governor Kay Ivey issued Executive Order No. 733 on January 20, 2023, which requires a state executive-branch agency to enforce the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment to the greatest extent practicable. For example, the order requires executive branch agencies to consider possible burdens on religious exercise when adopting administrative rules, and also to allow state employees to express their religious beliefs in the same manner as they would express non-religious views.  

Around the Web

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

  • In Fellowship of Christian Athletes v. San Jose Unified School District, the Ninth Circuit vacated its August 2022 decision which had found for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and ordered that the case be reheard en banc. In this case, the school had revoked the status of a Christian student group because the school objected to a policy that allegedly discriminated against LGBTQ students.
  • In Firewalker-Fields v. Lee, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a Muslim inmate’s First Amendment Free Exercise claim. The court wrote that the jail’s policy of not allowing the plaintiff access to Friday Islamic prayers was reasonably related to security and resource allocation.
  • Thirteen Christian and Jewish leaders filed for a permanent injunction in the Missouri Circuit Court in Blackmon v. State of Missouri. The complaint seeks to bar the State of Missouri from enforcing its abortion ban, claiming that the ban violates the Missouri Constitution by failing to protect the free exercise of religion.
  • In Ference v Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg, a federal magistrate judge in the Western District of Pennsylvania recommended denying a motion to dismiss filed by the Catholic Diocese in response to a Title VII sex-discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit was made by a Lutheran sixth-grade teacher in a Catholic school who was fired shortly after being hired when the school discovered that he was in a same-sex marriage.
  • A nurse practitioner filed suit in a Texas federal district court after being fired for refusing to prescribe contraceptives. The complaint in Strader v. CVS Health Corp alleges that CVS’s firing amounted to religious discrimination in violation of Title VII.
  • On January 11, 2023, the US House of Representatives passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. This bill states that any infant born alive after an attempted abortion is a “legal person for all purposes under the laws of the United States.” Doctors would be required to care for those infants as they would any other child who was born alive.
  • Dr. Erika Lopez Prater, an art professor at Hamline University, is suing the University for religious discrimination and defamation after she was fired for showing an image of Muhammad to her Islamic art class.

Around the Web

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

  • In Groff v. DeJoy, the United States Supreme Court will review a Christian mail carrier’s lawsuit alleging the United States Postal Service did not accommodate his religious objection request to delivering packages on Sundays. The Third Circuit held in October 2022 that Groff’s accommodation would cause undue hardship to USPS. 
  • In Hunter v. U.S. Dept. of Education, an Oregon federal district court dismissed a class-action suit by more than forty students who claimed that the Department of Education failed to protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination at religious schools. The court wrote that exempting religious schools from Title IX to avoid interfering with their convictions is “substantially related to the government’s objective of accommodating religious exercise.”
  • In Hammons v. University of Maryland Medical System Corp., a Maryland federal district held that a hospital’s refusal to perform a procedure to treat the plaintiff’s gender dysphoria was sex discrimination in violation of the Affordable Care Act’s discrimination ban. The University of Maryland-owned hospital was originally a Catholic hospital, and its purchase required the University to abide by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • In Planned Parenthood South Atlantic v. State of South Carolina, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that the state’s Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act violates a woman’s right to privacy protected by the South Carolina Constitution. The opinion stated that “[the] Act, which severely limits—and in many instances completely forecloses—abortion, is an unreasonable restriction upon a woman’s right to privacy and is therefore unconstitutional.”
  • The Hamtramck, Michigan City Council amended the city’s Animal Ordinance to permit animal sacrifices on residential property subject to certain permits and guidelines. Hamtramck has a large Muslim population, and animal sacrifice is a traditional component of Eid al-Adha.
  • Per a French court order, the town of La Flotte, France, must remove a statue of the Virgin Mary that stands at a crossroads in the small municipality. Citing a 1905 French law that forbids all religious monuments in public spaces, the court noted that, while town officials had not intended any expression of religious support, “the Virgin Mary is an important figure in Christian religion,” which gives the statue “an inherently religious character.”

Around the Web

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

  • In Adams v. School Board of St. John’s County, Florida, the Eleventh Circuit held that separating the use of male and female bathrooms in public schools based on students’ biological sex does not violate either the Equal Protection Clause or Title IX. 
  • In Spivack v. City of Philadelphia, a Pennsylvania federal district court held that Philadelphia’s District Attorney Lawrence Krasner did not violate the religious rights of an Orthodox Jewish Assistant District Attorney when he refused to grant her an exemption from the Office’s COVID vaccine mandate. The final mandate offered no religious exemptions and only limited medical exemptions. 
  • In Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart, Inc. v. City of Madison, Wisconsin, a Wisconsin federal district court rejected RLUIPA, free speech, and other challenges by a Catholic high school to the city’s denial of a permit for outdoor lighting at its athletic fields. The surrounding residential neighborhood association objected to the proposal. 
  • In Markel v. Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, a California federal district court held that the “ministerial exception” doctrine bars claims rooted in the California Labor Code brought against a synagogue organization by a mashgiach formerly employed by it. The court found that the Orthodox Union meets the requirements for a religious organization and that the mashgiach, whose responsibilities involve supervising and inspecting the preparation of kosher food, should be categorized as a “minister.” 
  • In In re Moscatelli v. New York City Police Department, a New York trial court annulled an administrative determination that denied a New York City Detective a religious exemption from the city’s COVID vaccine mandate. The court held that the administrative determination was arbitrary and capricious, saying that “the NYPD EEOD’s determination is a prime example of a determination that sets forth only the most perfunctory discussion of reasons for administrative action.” 
  • On December 23, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed New York Senate Bill 7313A which would have required courts, in imposing alcohol or substance abuse treatment on a defendant, to inquire if the defendant has religious objections to the program, and if the defendant does, to identify an alternative nonreligious treatment program for the defendant. 
  • In two recent Chamber Judgments, the European Court of Human Rights reaffirmed its prior holding in a 2021 case that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose adherents are known as Pastafarians, does not qualify as a “religion” or “belief” protected by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In Sager v. Austria, Austria’s Office for Religious Affairs refused to recognize the Church as a religious community. In ALM v. Austria, Austrian authorities refused to issue the petitioner an identity card with a photograph showing him wearing a crown made of pasta. 

Around the Web

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

  • In Dykes-Bey v. Schroeder, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit brought under the First Amendment and RLUIPA by a Michigan inmate, concluding that the Michigan prison system had not imposed a “substantial burden” on the inmate’s free exercise of religion. 
  • In Sisters for Life, Inc. v. Louisville-Jefferson County, KY Metro Government, the Sixth Circuit held that an ordinance imposing a 10-foot buffer zone around the entrance of any healthcare facility abridges the free speech rights of pro-life groups who wish to hand out leaflets and speak with women entering abortion clinics. 
  • An English teacher filed suit in an Arizona federal district court after he was fired for urging the school’s principal to show acceptance and understanding of a student who identifies as pansexual. The complaint in McDorman v. Valley Christian Schools alleges that McDorman’s firing amounted to religious discrimination and retaliation for opposing discriminatory practices in violation of Title VII and Title IX. 
  • In Kingston v. Kingston, the plaintiff is challenging a trial court’s order in a divorce proceeding that barred him from encouraging his children to adopt the teachings of any religion without the consent of his former wife. In a 3-2 decision, the Court remanded the case to the trial court for it to “craft a more narrowly tailored remedy.” 
  • The EEOC has announced that it filed a Title VII religious discrimination suit against a Williamsburg, Kentucky IGA grocery store. The suit, filed in a Kentucky federal district court, alleges that the grocery refused to hire Spiritualist Rastafarian Matthew Barnett as an assistant manager after he refused to cut his dreadlocks which he wears for religious reasons. The EEOC says that employers must consider reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs. 
  • In Hordyk v. Wansiea Family Services, Inc., the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia held that a non-profit family services agency that contracts with the state to arrange foster care for children placed in the custody of the state violated Section 62 of the Western Australia Equal Opportunity Act 1984 when it rejected a couple who are members of the Free Reformed Church of Australia as foster parents.

Around the Web

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

  • In Jones v. Shinn, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court should not have dismissed an inmate’s claim that his rights under RLUIPA were violated when prison authorities denied him access to four texts by Elijah Muhammad. However, the court affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiff’s First Amendment free exercise claim because the defendants showed the exclusion was reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest. 
  • A federal class action lawsuit has been filed in Phillips v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, alleging that the University of Virginia Health System violated free exercise and establishment clause provisions of the federal and state constitutions, as well as equal protection rights, in the manner in which it administered applications from employees for religious exemptions from its COVID vaccine mandate. 
  • In YU Pride Alliance v. Yeshiva University, a New York state appellate court affirmed a trial court’s decision that New York City’s public accommodation law requires Yeshiva University to officially recognize as a student organization an LGBTQ group, YU Pride Alliance.
  • In Beaudoin v. Attorney General of British Columbia, the highest court in the Canadian province of British Columbia upheld 2020 and 2021 COVID orders of BC’s Provincial Health Officer that prohibited in-person worship services. The court concluded that the Gathering and Events Order did not violate §15 of the Charter of Rights of Freedoms, which protects the equality rights of the churches that were plaintiffs in the suit. The court also concluded that Plaintiffs’ religious freedom rights under §2 of the Charter were not infringed. 
  • In Tonchev v. Bulgaria, the European Court of Human Rights, in a Chamber Judgment, held that municipal officials in Bulgaria violated Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights when they circulated materials to schools containing hostile information about Christian evangelical churches. 
  • In Zemmour v. France, the European Court of Human Rights upheld France’s conviction of a journalist for inciting discrimination and religious hatred against the French Muslim community through anti-Muslim remarks he made on a 2016 television talk show. The Court found no violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights protecting freedom of expression. 

Around the Web

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

  • In Clark v. Governor of the State of New Jersey, the Third Circuit held that a challenge by two Christian congregations and their pastors to former Covid limits on in-person worship services is moot. The court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the suit. 
  • In Doster v. Kendall, the Sixth Circuit affirmed a district court’s grant of a class-wide preliminary injunction barring the Air Force from disciplining Air Force personnel who have sought religious exemptions from the military’s Covid vaccine mandate.
  • In Doe v. Rokita, the Seventh Circuit rejected First Amendment challenges to an Indiana statute that requires abortion providers to dispose of fetal remains either by burial or cremation. The suit was brought by two women who raise free exercise claims and by two physicians who oppose the requirement that they inform patients of the law’s provisions. 
  • In Pickup v. Biden, Plaintiffs petitioned the D.C. federal district court to declare two bills pending in Congress unconstitutional and enjoin their passage. Plaintiffs focused primarily on an Establishment Clause challenge; however, the court held that the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause bars Plaintiffs’ claims against the congressional Defendants, that the court lacks jurisdiction to enjoin a President from performing his official duties, and that Plaintiffs lack standing.
  • A former Boston police officer who is a Jehovah’s Witness filed suit in a Massachusetts state trial court after the Boston Police Department denied his request for a religious exemption from the Department’s Covid vaccine mandate. He was placed on administrative leave and subsequently terminated. The complaint in Colon v. City of Boston also alleges that he was ridiculed because of his religious beliefs. 
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has called for lawmakers to prevent the branch of the Orthodox Church loyal to Moscow Patriarchate from operating in Ukraine on the ground that Russia is using the church to provide cover for Russian secret agents. Over the past month, Ukrainian security agencies have engaged in raids of monasteries – resulting in the arrest of at least thirty-three priests. 

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.