Around the Web

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

  • A petition for certiorari was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission v. Woods, in which the Washington Supreme Court held that, as applied, the religious and non-profit exemption to the state’s anti-discrimination law may be unconstitutional.
  • A petition for certiorari was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in Gordon College v. DeWeese-Boyd, in which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that the ministerial exception does not apply in a suit by an associate professor at a private Christian liberal arts college who claims her promotion to full professor was denied because of her public opposition to the school’s policies on LGBTQ individuals.
  • U.S Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, in Calvary Chapel of Bangor v. Mills, denied an application by a Maine church for injunctive relief, which sought to prevent Maine’s governor from reinstating COVID-related restrictions on worship services, pending disposition of its petition for certiorari.
  • U.S. Army sergeant, Jacob DiPietro, became one of the first Christian service members to receive an exemption to grow out his hair and beard for religious purposes.
  • A Pennsylvania appellate court, in Kaur v. Singh, upheld an order of protection that excludes plaintiff’s ex-husband from attending the Nazareth Temple on Sundays, finding that the order does not violate his Free Exercise rights.
  • A Scotland court ruled in favor of Kenneth Ferguson, a Christian CEO, who was unjustly fired by The Robertson Trust, the country’s biggest grant-making trust, because of his religious views on marriage.

Call for Papers: “Religiously Motivated and Religion-Based Discrimination: Prohibition, Regulation, Exemption”

Bar Ilan University has announced a call for papers that address issues concerning “Religiously Motivated and Religion-Based Discrimination.” Selected papers will be presented at an international conference held in person, conditions permitting, on January 11-12, 2022. In addition, a select number of accepted papers will be published in a special theme-issue of the Journal of Law, Religion and State.

Abstract submissions are due by September 1st, 2021. For more information and to submit an abstract, visit this link.

Around the Web

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

  • The Tenth Circuit, in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, upheld the application of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act to a wedding website design company whose owner refused for religious reasons to create websites that celebrate same-sex marriages.
  • The Ninth Circuit, in Cedar Park Assembly of God of Kirkland v. Kreidler, reversed a Washington federal district court’s dismissal of a challenge to a Washington statute that requires health insurance plans that cover maternity care to cover abortions as well.
  • The Ninth Circuit, in Brach v. Newsom, held that the closure of in-person instruction in private religious schools may have violated parents’ and students’ due process rights.
  • Suit was filed in a Michigan federal district court, in Country Mill Farms v. City of East Lansing, challenging a city policy to ban plaintiff from participating in the city’s farmer’s market due to his religious beliefs surrounding marriage.
  • A Brooklyn federal court ordered Hobby Lobby to forfeit an ancient tablet bearing a portion of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Hobby Lobby acquired in 2014 for the company’s collections at the Museum of the Bible.
  • Three Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia were charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison for “organizing extremist activities.”
  • The Luxembourg-based E.U. Court of Justice held that companies in the European Union can ban employees from wearing headscarves in the workplace if the employer wishes to present a neutral image towards customers or prevent social disputes.

Around the Web

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

  • The Second Circuit granted en banc review of Pastor James Domen v. Vimeo, a case holding that Vimeo’s suspension of a pastor for posting videos of individuals who left the LGBT community to pursue their Christian faith was protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
  • The Ninth Circuit declined to grant en banc review of Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, in which a three-judge panel upheld a Washington state school board’s dismissal of a high school football coach who prayed at the 50-yard line immediately after football games.
    • For our Legal Spirits podcast episode on this case, see here.
  • The Tenth Circuit, in Williams v. Hansen, held that a suit by Native American inmates against prison officials for banning religious services should not have been dismissed on qualified immunity grounds.
  • An Arkansas federal district court, in Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Jegley, issued a preliminary injunction against enforcing Arkansas Act 309 against pre-viability abortions.
  • Suit was filed in Virginia state court challenging the Virginia Values Act. Plaintiffs argue that the act requires churches, religious schools, and Christian ministries to hire employees who do not share their stated beliefs on marriage, sexuality, and gender identity or face fines up to $100,000 for each violation.
  • New Hampshire’s 2021 budget includes the “Fetal Life Protection Act,” which limits abortions in the state to the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, unless the life, health, or well-being of the mother is endangered.

Around the Web

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

  • The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc in Demkovich v. St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, held by a vote of 7-3 that the ministerial exception doctrine protects religious organizations from hostile work environment claims.
  • The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay pending appeal in Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Mack, allowing a Justice of the Peace to continue opening sessions in his courtroom with prayers from volunteer chaplains while the lawsuit proceeds.
  • The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit against a priest who criticized a teenager’s suicide during his funeral service, holding that the priest was protected by the First Amendment.
  • An Indiana federal district court, in Kluge v. Brownsburg Community School Corporation, dismissed a suit by a former teacher who alleged that the school failed to accommodate his religious beliefs and therefore he was forced to resign or comply with a school policy that violated his religious beliefs.
  • Suit was filed in a California state trial court challenging the change of a public school name from San Diego’s Junipero Serra High School to Canyon Hills High School on Establishment Clause grounds.
  • Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the government must extend surrogacy rights to same-sex couples and single men.

Around the Web

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

  • The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Denton v. City of El Paso, ordered a Texas federal district court to grant a preliminary injunction barring El Paso from prohibiting religious proselytizing at the weekly outdoor El Paso Art and Farmers Market.
  • The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Umphress v. Hall, heard oral arguments in which a Texas federal district court dismissed a suit by a Texas judge who was seeking to prevent future action by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct against judges who refuse to officiate same-sex marriages.
  • A New York federal district court declined to dismiss a plaintiff’s Equal Protection and Establishment Clause claims which allege that she was denied admission to CUNY’s social work program because of her religious beliefs.
  • A federal lawsuit was filed by Downtown Hope Center, a faith-based women’s shelter in Alaska, to stop an ordinance from forcing the shelter to admit trans-identifying individuals, alleging that admitting them will hinder the shelter’s ability to communicate its religious beliefs.
  • Suit was filed in a Florida state court by parents of two Catholic school students who seek to have the court declare their financial contributions to the school null and void, alleging that the school breached its promise to provide a Catholic education.
  • The District of Columbia agreed to pay $220,000 as part of a legal settlement with a local Baptist church that sued the city over COVID-19 restrictions on in-person worship services.
  • Each week since May 2nd, Azerbaijani military forces have blocked Armenian Apostolic Church pilgrims’ access to Sunday worship services at Dadivank Monastery. Bishop Abrahamian stated that “[s]ometimes the Azerbaijanis cite the coronavirus, other times they said the road was still blocked because of a landslip.”

Legal Spirits Episode 035: With Gerald Russello of the University Bookman

In this episode, we talk with Gerald Russello of the University Bookman about his decades-long career editing the influential conservative review of books. Gerald talks about his plans for the Bookman, the varieties of American conservatism, his own intellectual journey and embrace of traditionalism, and the future of the American right. It’s a fascinating discussion. Listen in!

Around the Web

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

  • North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper vetoed HB 453, which banned abortions unless the physician previously determined that the procedure was not being sought because of the race or sex of the fetus or because the fetus has Down Syndrome.
  • Members of the clergy and others engaged in religious-oriented work may now qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, after religious-oriented work was specifically excluded for over a decade.
  • Ohio Governor Mike DeWine approved vital conscience protections for doctors, nurses, and other medical providers, ensuring that medical professionals cannot be forced to participate in healthcare services that violate their consciences.
  • Kentucky Right to Life and Louisville nonprofit Sisters for Life filed for a temporary injunction against the city of Louisville Metro Council’s 10-foot “buffer zone” ordinance, which prevents sidewalk counseling within 10 feet of health care facilities.
  • Britain’s Methodist Church announced that it will now allow same-sex couples to get married on its premises. Ministers who oppose the change will not be forced to carry out same-sex marriages.
  • Hilton’s plan to build a new hotel upon the site of a demolished Uyghur mosque has sparked outrage and condemnation from various Muslim groups.

Around the Web

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

  • A petition for certiorari was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in Shurtleff v. City of Boston, in which the First Circuit upheld Boston’s refusal to allow an organization to raise its “Christian flag” on one of the City Hall Plaza flag poles at an event that would feature short speeches by local clergy.
  • Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 525, which prohibits the state from restricting activities of religious organizations during a state of emergency.
  • Suit was filed in a Mississippi federal district court by atheist and secular humanist plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of the Mississippi state seal and standard license plate, which carry the motto, “In God We Trust.”
  • A complaint was filed with the EEOC on behalf of two employees at Stanford University’s Counseling & Psychological Services division charging that a hostile work environment has been created for Jewish employees.
  • President Emmanuel Macron submitted a bill to Parliament, called the Law Reinforcing Respect of the Principles of the Republic, that would empower the government to permanently close houses of worship and dissolve religious organizations, without a court order, if it finds that any of their members are provoking violence or inciting hatred.
  • A British High Court Family Division Judge refused the request by Muslim parents for an order to require their son’s guardians to have their 21-month old son circumcised.

Fulton: A Victory for Religious Freedom?

For interested readers, I have an essay at First Things today on the Supreme Court’s decision last week in the Catholic adoption services case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. I argue that the decision represents a victory for religious freedom–though how much of a victory depends on how the Court interprets the case in the future. Here’s an excerpt:

Fulton is surely a victory for religious freedom. In fact, if the Court means what it says, the case is a major victory. True, the chief justice’s opinion avoids a definitive resolution of the conflict between LGBT rights and religious freedom—which probably explains how the chief captured the votes of the Court’s progressives, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. And true, Smith remains on the books, a result that Justice Alito, joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch, lamented in a separate concurrence. 

But if it is true, as Fulton suggests, that even a theoretical possibility of an exception triggers strict scrutiny, Smith does not pose much of a limitation. Moreover, if the Court is serious about strict scrutiny—that the mere possibility of an exception means that the state lacks a compelling interest in applying its rule to any particular litigant—it is hard to envision a religious claimant ever losing one of these cases in future. 

Nonetheless, it would be wise for religiously affiliated adoption agencies and other potential claimants to wait and see what develops before celebrating. The Court’s religion clause jurisprudence is notoriously unpredictable, and the justices may not stick to Fulton’s reasoning in the future. Moreover, the fact-specific nature of the ruling means that the Court can easily distinguish Fulton in subsequent litigation if it wishes to do so. 

You can read the whole essay here.