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

  • A petition for certiorari was filed with the Supreme Court in Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. At issue is a finding by the state Bureau of Labor and Industries that Sweetcakes bakery violated the state’s public accommodation law when it refused on religious grounds to design and create a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding. 
  • In Yeshiva University v. YU Pride Alliance, the Supreme Court vacated the stay issued on September 9 by Justice Sotomayor of a New York state trial court’s injunction that required Yeshiva University to officially recognize as a student organization an LGBTQ group, YU Pride Alliance. In a 5-4 vote, the Court directed the University to first seek expedited review and interim relief from New York trial courts. 
  • In Doster v. Kendall, the Sixth Circuit refused to grant an emergency stay of a class-wide injunction issued by an Ohio federal district court in a suit by Air Force and Space Force members who object, on religious grounds, to receiving the COVID vaccine. The district court enjoined the military from taking enforcement measures, while litigation is pending, against service members who have submitted confirmed requests for a religious accommodation from the military’s vaccine mandate. 
  • In Bush v. Fantasia, a Massachusetts federal district court dismissed claims that a COVID mask mandate imposed by a town Board of Health and a public library violated plaintiffs’ free exercise rights. Plaintiffs claimed they “have sincerely held religious beliefs that proscribe [their] wearing face masks and/or submitting to coerced medical devices/products such as face masks.” 
  • The New York Board of Regents approved the Final Substantial Equivalency Regulation, which implements NY Education Law §3204(2), requiring instruction in nonpublic schools to be at least “substantially equivalent” to that in public schools in the same city or district. The Regulation provides multiple pathways for private and religious schools to demonstrate compliance. 
  • Faith leaders–including rabbis, Christian ministers, Buddhists, and Quakers–are challenging newly enacted abortion bans, arguing that the restrictions infringe on their religious beliefs. Plaintiffs contend that the bans are preventing them from exercising their own religious views about when abortions are permissible and have made clergy afraid to counsel their parishioners on abortion for fear of legal penalties.  

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

  • In Yeshiva University v. YU Pride Alliance, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor stayed a New York trial court’s injunction that required Yeshiva University to officially recognize as a student organization an LGBTQ group, YU Pride Alliance. For further details, please see last week’s posting here
  • In Chabad Chayil, Inc. v. School Board of Miami-Dade County, Florida, the 11th Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of free exercise, equal protection, and due process claims brought by a Jewish organization that ran an after-school Hebrew program for more than ten years using public school classrooms. In dismissing the claims, the district court held that plaintiff had not shown the elements necessary to assert liability against either the school board or the Inspector General’s office that investigated complaints against Chabad. 
  • In Chabad Lubavitch of the Beaches, Inc. v. Incorporated Village of Atlantic Beach, a New York federal district court granted a preliminary injunction, concluding that an attempt to acquire the property of a Jewish religious group by eminent domain likely violated the group’s First Amendment free exercise rights. Eminent domain proceedings were initiated shortly after Chabad held a Menorah lighting ceremony on the property. 
  • In Chaaban v. City of Detroit, Michigan Department of Corrections, a Michigan federal district court denied a motion in a RLUIPA case for reconsideration of the denial of qualified immunity to corrections officers who forced a Muslim woman to remove her hijab for a booking photograph. 
  • In Braidwood Management Inc. v. Becerra, a Texas federal district court held that the ACA mandate for health insurance coverage of PrEP drugs violates the rights, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, of a for-profit corporation whose owner believes that providing such coverage for his employees would make him complicit in their same-sex conduct and sexual activity outside of marriage. 
  • In Christian Medical & Dental Association v. Bonta, a California federal district court held a provision in the California End of Life Option Act likely unconstitutional. The provision requires doctors (who refuse on conscience, moral or ethical grounds to participate in procedures set out by the act) to document in a patient’s record the date of the patient’s request for an aid-in-dying drug. This notation serves as one of two required requests by a patient before the patient may obtain the drug. The court rejected the argument that this violates the free exercise rights of medical providers who object on religious grounds and dismissed both equal protection and due process challenges. However, the court did conclude that plaintiffs are likely to succeed in their free speech challenges to the requirement. The court issued a preliminary injunction barring state enforcement of the requirement against objecting health care providers. 

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

  • In Franciscan Alliance, Inc. v. Becerra, the Fifth Circuit, invoking RFRA, upheld a Texas federal district court’s issuance of a permanent injunction barring the government from interpreting or enforcing provisions of the Affordable Care Act to require religious organizations, in violation of their religious beliefs, to perform or provide insurance coverage for gender-reassignment surgeries or abortions. At issue is the interpretation of the ACA’s ban on discrimination on the basis of sex. 
  • In Fellowship of Christian Athletes v. San Jose Unified School District Board of Education, the Ninth Circuit ordered the reinstatement of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as an official student club at San Jose high schools. The majority said in part: “This case pits two competing values that we cherish as a nation: the principle of non-discrimination on the one hand, and the First Amendment’s protection of free exercise of religion and free speech on the other hand.” 
  • In Colonel Financial Management Officer v. Austin, a Florida federal district court certified as a class all Marines who have sincere religious objections to COVID vaccination and whose requests for a religious accommodation have been denied on appeal. The court found “a systematic failure by the Marine Corps to satisfy RFRA” and issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the vaccine mandate against class members. 
  • In Chelsey Nelson Photography, LLC v. Louisville/Jefferson County, a Kentucky federal district court held that Louisville’s public accommodation ordinance violates the free speech rights of a Christian wedding photographer who has moral and religious objections to same-sex marriages. The court also held that the ordinance violates the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 
  • An emergency Application for a Stay Pending Appellate Review was filed in Yeshiva University v. YU Pride Alliance. In the case, 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 petition contends that Yeshiva University will likely succeed in its contention that forcing it to recognize the group violates the University’s free exercise rights and the principles of church autonomy. The filing asks that, alternatively, it be treated as a petition for certiorari. 
  • Suit was filed in a Virginia state court by a Catholic nurse practitioner who was fired by a CVS Minute Clinic after she insisted that, for religious reasons, she would not provide or facilitate the use of hormonal contraceptives, Plan B and Ella, which she considers abortifacients. The clinic had accommodated her religious beliefs for three years, but then changed its policy and refused to do so. The complaint in Casey v. MinuteClinic Diagnostic of Virginia, LLC, challenges her firing as a violation of Va. Code § 18.2-75.

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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 Groff v. DeJoy. In the case, the Third Circuit held that accommodating a Sunday sabbath observer by allowing him not to report for work on Sunday would cause an “undue hardship” to the U.S. Postal Service. Therefore, the court held that failure to grant the requested accommodation did not violate Title VII. 
  • In In the Interest of C.C., the Georgia Supreme Court gave guidance to a juvenile court on how to determine whether parents’ objections to vaccinating their children are based on a sincerely held religious belief. The court said in part: “Ultimately, the juvenile court must determine whether the Chandlers’ religious objection to the vaccination of their children is ‘truly held.’ The court should ‘sh[y] away from attempting to gauge how central a sincerely held belief is to the believer’s religion.’ And it must bear in mind that ‘a belief can be both secular and religious. The categories are not mutually exclusive.’ “
  • In Toor v. Berger, 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. Plaintiffs argue that denying accommodation of their religious practices violates RFRA, the Free Exercise Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause. The court held that even if plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on the merits and irreparable injury, the balance of equities and the overall public interest favors the military at this preliminary stage of proceedings. 
  • In Bey v. Sirius-El, a New York federal district court dismissed a suit seeking damages, injunctive relief, and criminal prosecution of defendants for barring plaintiff from attending the Brooklyn Moorish Science Temple in person. Plaintiff was barred because of the potential for a conflict between her and a “competing love interest” who has also been attending services. The court dismissed plaintiff’s free exercise claims because she did not allege that any state action was involved. 
  • In Chabad of Prospect, Inc. v. Louisville Metro Board of Zoning Adjustment, a Kentucky federal district court dismissed a suit brought against zoning officials by a synagogue that was denied a conditional use permit to use a home it purchased for religious services. When the property was put up for sale, zoning rules allowed its use for religious purposes. However, before plaintiff purchased the property, the city removed that provision and required a conditional use permit. The court held that plaintiff’s § 1983 claim alleging First Amendment violations was barred by the statute of limitations. Additionally, the court held that plaintiff failed to state a claim under RLUIPA. 
  • In Miller v. Austin, a Wyoming federal district court dismissed on standing and ripeness grounds a suit by two Air Force sergeants who face discharge because of their refusal on religious grounds to receive the COVID vaccine. 

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

  • In Fox v. City of Austin, a Christian minister who has been a volunteer fire department chaplain filed suit in a Texas federal district court alleging that his free speech and free exercise rights were violated when the fire department terminated him as chaplain because of his social media posts. 
  • In Lowe v. Mills, a Maine federal district court rejected challenges by seven healthcare workers to Maine’s COVID vaccination requirement for healthcare workers. While medical exemptions to the requirement are available, no such exemption applies to religion. The court rejected the plaintiffs’ Title VII religious discrimination and free exercise claims. 
  • In People v. Calvary Chapel, San Jose, a California state appellate court annulled contempt orders imposed by a trial court and reversed the trial court’s imposition of monetary sanctions, which resulted from a church’s refusal to comply with state COVID public health orders. 
  • The Department of Agriculture issued a Guidance clarifying that a Title IX exemption is available for religious educational institutions if there is a conflict between Title IX and a school’s governing religious tenets. 
  • As part of a settlement with the national organization, American Atheists, Arkansas state Senator Jason Rapert will have to unblock his atheist constituents from his social media account. Senator Rapert is also required to pay more than $16,000 to American Atheists for costs related to the lawsuit. 
  • The Law Reform Commission of Western Australia sent to Parliament its Final Report on its Review of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984. The Report makes 163 recommendations for changes in Western Australia’s anti-discrimination laws. In connection with the Act’s ban on discrimination based on religious conviction, the Report’s Recommendation 51 provides updates on how “religious conviction” should be defined in the Act. 

Around the Web

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.