Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:
- In Greene v. Teslik, the 7th Circuit dismissed a Protestant inmate’s complaint that prison officials violated the Free Exercise clause by denying his access to prayer oil. The court concluded that the officials were protected by qualified immunity. The court remanded the prisoner’s Establishment Clause claim for further development at trial, however.
- In Harmon v. City of Norman, Oklahoma, the 10th Circuit affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of challenges to the city’s disturbing-the-peace ordinance brought by anti-abortion activates who demonstrate outside abortion clinics. The court reasoned, in part, that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the city ordinance.
- In Ravan v. Talton, the 11th Circuit held that a Jewish plaintiff should have been able to move ahead with RLUIPA claims against a food service, and First Amendment Free Exercise claims against two food service workers, for denial of kosher meals on seven different occasions while he was in a county detention center. The court stated that “the number of missed meals is not necessarily determinative because being denied three Kosher meals in a row might be more substantial of a burden on religion [than] being denied three meals in three months.”
- Becket, a non-profit religious freedom law firm, has petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari in Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia v. Belya. The petition comes after the 2nd Circuit denied a bid by the Church to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought by a former priest who claims he lost an appointment to become the bishop of Miami due to false accusations of fraud and forgery by church officials. In a 6-6 ruling, the court declined to reconsider the ruling made by a three-judge panel last September, with dissenting judges arguing that the decision would infringe on church autonomy.
- The West Virginia Legislature passed the Equal Protection for Religion Act. The bill prohibits state action that hinders a person’s exercise of religion, unless there is a compelling governmental interest, and the least restrictive means are used. The bill passed the Senate in accelerated fashion after it voted 30-3 to suspend its rules that normally require three readings before a vote.
- The Department of Labor has rescinded a Trump-era rule that broadly defined the religious exemption in anti-discrimination requirements for government contractors and subcontractors. The DOL criticized the 2020 rule for increasing “confusion and uncertainty” and for raising a “serious risk” of allowing “contractors to discriminate against individuals based on protected classes other than religion.” The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has emphasized that a qualifying religious organization cannot discriminate against employees based on any protected characteristics other than religion.
- At a New York Public Library interfaith breakfast, Mayor Eric Adams delivered remarks in which he argued against a separation of church and state in American society. Adams’ chief adviser, Ingrid Lewis-Martin, declared at the event that the mayor’s administration “does not believe” it must “separate church from state.” Adams stated that many societal issues can be traced to a decline in faith. “When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools,” the mayor said.