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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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

  • The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Haaland v. Brackeen. At issue is the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which attempts to prevent child welfare and adoption agencies from placing Native American children outside their tribe. Issues of religion and religious culture underlie the controversy in the four consolidated cases heard. 
  • An Emergency Application for an Injunction Pending Appellate Review was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in New Yorkers for Religious Liberty v. City of New York. The petition seeks an injunction against enforcing New York City’s Covid vaccine mandate for city workers against those with religious objections to the vaccine. 
  • In Richardson v. Clarke, the Fourth Circuit held that a prison’s former policy requiring inmates to remove head coverings, including religious head coverings, in certain areas of the prison imposed a substantial burden on Plaintiff’s religious exercise. 
  • Suit was filed in a New York federal district court challenging the constitutionality of New York’s ban on carrying firearms in houses of worship. The complaint in His Tabernacle Family Church, Inc. v. Nigrelli alleges that the ban violates the Free Exercise Clause, Establishment Clause, Second Amendment, and the equal protection rights of a church and its pastor. 
  • In Dunbar v. Disney, a California federal district court dismissed an amended complaint filed by actor Rockmond Dunbar in his Title VII disparate-impact religious discrimination claim against Walt Disney Company. His disparate impact claim was initially rejected because Dunbar could not identify other Universal Wisdom Church members who were similarly impacted by a Covid vaccine mandate. 
  • In Loste v. France, the European Court of Human Rights, in a Chamber judgment, held that France’s child welfare service violated Article IX of the European Convention on Human Rights when it failed to assure that a Jehovah’s Witness foster family was respecting the Muslim beliefs of its foster child’s birth family. 

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

  • The U.S. Supreme Court has denied review in Doe v. McKee. The certiorari petition asked the Supreme Court to review a decision made by the Rhode Island Supreme Court, which held that unborn fetuses do not have due process and equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution and do not have standing to challenge Rhode Island’s Reproductive Privacy Act.  
  • In Redlich v. City of St. Louis, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit brought by a Christian pastor and his assistant challenging a city ordinance that required a permit to distribute potentially hazardous food. Plaintiffs had previously been cited for distributing bologna sandwiches to hungry people they encountered in St. Louis.
  • In Marte v. Montefiore Medical Center, a New York federal district court dismissed claims by a former Medical Center employee who sued after the Medical Center denied her a reasonable accommodation when she refused to receive the COVID vaccine. Among other things, the court rejected Plaintiff’s Title VII, free exercise, and equal protection claims. 
  • Suit was filed in a Maryland federal district court alleging that Baltimore’s sign permit ordinance violates Plaintiff’s free speech and free exercise rights. The complaint, in Roswell v. City of Baltimore, seeks a preliminary injunction to prevent the city from requiring Plaintiff to obtain permits in order to use A-frame signs when engaging in religiously-motivated sidewalk anti-abortion counseling near a Planned Parenthood facility. 
  • In Kariye v. Mayorkas, three Muslim plaintiffs sued the Department of Homeland Security alleging that border officers routinely and intentionally single out Muslim-American travelers to demand they answer religious questions. Applying the Supreme Court’s test articulated in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the California federal district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ Establishment Clause challenge. The court also rejected, among other things, plaintiffs’ free exercise, freedom of association, and RFRA challenges.
  • Suit was filed in a Michigan federal district court by a woman who had worked as a physician assistant for seventeen years but was then fired for refusing, on religious grounds, to refer patients for gender-transitioning drugs and procedures and to use pronouns that corresponded to a patient’s gender identity rather than their biological sex. The complaint in Kloosterman v. Metropolitan Hospital brings Free Exercise and Equal Protection claims against Defendant. 
  • In Congregation 3401 Prairie Bais Yeshaya D’Kerestir, Inc. v. City of Miami, a Florida federal district court refused to dismiss claims that city officials’ harassment of a rabbi who hosted daily minyans at his home for guests violated the First Amendment. Private groups worshiping at a person’s home are permitted in residential areas under the city’s zoning code. 

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

  • In DeMarco v. Bynum, the Fifth Circuit upheld the dismissal of a suit brought by an inmate who contended that the confiscation of his religious materials violated his First Amendment rights. In part, the court reasoned that there were alternative ways for DeMarco to exercise his First Amendment rights and that even if Bynum had violated DeMarco’s constitutional rights, the district court correctly found that Bynum was entitled to qualified immunity. 
  • The Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments in Spell v. Edwards. In the case, a Louisiana federal district court dismissed a challenge to a now-expired COVID Order limiting the size of religious gatherings. The district court dismissed the case because the challenged restrictions had already expired, and the defendants had qualified immunity in the claim for damages. 
  • In Hile v. State of Michigan, a Michigan federal district court dismissed free exercise and equal protection challenges to a provision in the Michigan Constitution that prohibits the use of state funds, tax benefits, or vouchers to aid “any private, denominational or other nonpublic, pre-elementary, elementary, or second school” or student attendance at such schools. The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ equal protection challenge. 
  • In Fitzgerald v. Roncalli High School, Inc., an Indiana federal district court invoked the ministerial exception doctrine to dismiss a suit brought by Michelle Fitzgerald, a Catholic high school guidance counselor who was fired after the school and the church that oversaw it learned that she was in a same-sex marriage. 
  • In Dollar v. Goleta Water District, a California federal district court held that the COVID vaccination policy for employees of the Goleta Water District did not discriminate on the basis of religion against employees who obtained a religious exemption. Plaintiffs contend that the District’s policy is discriminatory because it imposes special mask and testing requirements and requires authorization to enter certain buildings for plaintiffs because they have a religious exemption.
  • In State of Texas v. EEOC, a Texas federal district court held that Guidance documents issued by the EEOC and by the Department of Health and Human Services are unlawful. At issue are the HHS and EEOC applications of the Supreme Court’s Bostock decisionBostock held that sex discrimination in Title VII includes discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

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

  • In Keene v. City and County of San Francisco, a California federal district court dismissed a suit by two city employees who objected on religious grounds to the city’s COVID vaccine mandate. The court held that neither Plaintiff has demonstrated that their religious beliefs are sincere or that those beliefs conflict with receiving the vaccine. 
  • Suit was filed in a New Jersey federal district court by seven police officers and firefighters who were denied a religious accommodation to excuse them from a COVID vaccine mandate. The complaint in Aliano v. Township of Maplewood contends that the denial violates Title VII and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. 
  • Suit was filed in an Ohio federal district court by a University Heights, Ohio homeowner who was told by the city that he needed to obtain a special use permit in order to hold Jewish prayer services with ten friends in his home. The complaint in Grand v. City of University Heights, Ohio challenges, among other things, certain provisions of the city ordinances under the United States Constitution, RLUIPA, the Ohio Constitution, and Ohio common law. 
  • Suit was filed in an Indiana federal district court by The Satanic Temple challenging Indiana’s recently enacted law regulating access to abortion with limited exceptions. The complaint in The Satanic Temple v. Holcomb not only alleges that the ban violates Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it outlaws the Satanic Abortion Ritual, but also alleges other constitutional defects. 
  • In Adam Community Center v. City of Troy, a Michigan federal district court refused to dismiss RLUIPA and constitutional claims against the city of Troy, Michigan. Plaintiff alleged wrongful denial of necessary zoning variances so plaintiff could use its property for Muslim religious services and classes. The court previously concluded that the city had violated the equal terms and substantial burden provisions of RLUIPA, and now ordered a hearing on damages for those violations. 
  • In In re Ayad, the Texas Supreme Court held that the trial court should determine the validity and enforceability of an Islamic Pre-Nuptial Agreement before, rather than after, ordering the parties to arbitration by a Fiqh Panel pursuant to the agreement. In a divorce proceeding, the wife challenged the agreement’s enforceability on various grounds, including that the term “Islamic Law” is too indefinite and that the agreement is void as violating public policy. 

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

  • In West v. Radtke, the Seventh Circuit held that a Muslim inmate’s rights under RLUIPA were violated when prison authorities refused to exempt him from strip searches conducted by transgender men. The court rejected the prison’s Title VII and equal protection defenses and remanded the case for further development of the inmate’s Fourth Amendment claims.
  • In Maisonet v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit by a Muslim volunteer chaplain who claimed that his free exercise rights were infringed when he was prevented from being in the execution chamber when two inmates to whom he ministered were executed. 
  • A Christian rescue mission filed suit in a Wyoming federal district court by a challenging interpretations by the EEOC and the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services (“WDWS”) of the employment discrimination provisions of state and federal law. The complaint in Rescue Mission v. EEOC contends that the Rescue Mission’s free exercise and free expression rights were violated when the EEOC and WDWS found probable cause that the Mission engaged in religious discrimination in refusing to hire non-Christians as associates in its Thrift Stores. 
  • Four former employees of a continuing care retirement community filed suit in an Alabama federal district court alleging that they were wrongly fired for refusing the COVID vaccine on religious grounds. The complaint in Hamil v. Acts Retirement-Life Communities, Inc. contends that plaintiffs were subjected to a hostile work environment, harassment, and wrongful termination based on their sincerely held religious beliefs. 
  • Suit was filed in a South Carolina state trial court contending that a state budget appropriation to Christian Learning Centers of Greenville County violates the provision in South Carolina’s constitution that bars the use of public funds “for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.” The complaint in Parker v. McMaster asserts that the appropriation also contravenes the state constitution’s Establishment Clause.
  • The Hindu American Foundation (“HAF”) has sued the California Department of Civil Rights for alleged misrepresentation of Hindu beliefs and practices. HAF’s lawsuit claims that the Department of Civil Rights wrongly asserts that the caste system and caste-based system are integral parts of Hindu teaching and practices, and that in doing so, the California Department of Civil Rights violated the First Amendment rights of Hindus. 

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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.