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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.  

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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. 

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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 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. 

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

  • The U.S. Supreme Court denied review in Community Baptist Church v. Polis, a free exercise challenge to COVID restrictions imposed by Colorado. The challenge was brought by two churches and one of their pastors.
  • In Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov, Inc. v. Village of Pomona, New York, the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal, on ripeness grounds, of a suit challenging two zoning laws that prevented plaintiff from building a rabbinical college on its property.
  • In Universal Life Church Monastery Storehouse v. Nabors, the Sixth Circuit allowed a lawsuit to go forward challenging a Tennessee law that prohibits persons who receive online ordination from solemnizing marriages.
  • The Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments in Halczenko v. Ascension Health, Inc., in which a pediatric intensive care doctor is seeking a religious exemption from a hospital’s COVID vaccination requirement . 
  • The Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter (“CAIR-MI”) announced that a settlement has been reached in a suit charging the city of Ferndale’s police department with forcibly removing a Muslim woman’s hijab for a booking photo after her arrest.
  • Virginia Governor Glen Younkin, has signed House Bill 1063, which broadly defines “religion” in the state’s civil rights laws to include actions and expressions, not just personal beliefs.

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

  • In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the City of Boston violated the First Amendment when it rejected an application to fly a Christian flag on one of the flagpoles in front of city hall.
  • In Navy SEAL 1 v. Austin, a D.C. federal district court refused to grant a preliminary injunction to bar discharge or other adverse action against a Navy SEAL who refuses, for religious reasons, to comply with the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
  • In Cobranchi v. City of Parkersburg, a West Virginia federal district court held that Parkersburg’s City Council violated the Establishment Clause by opening its meetings with The Lord’s Prayer.
  • In South Central Conference of Seventh Day Adventists v. Alabama High School Athletic Association, suit was filed in an Alabama federal district court by the Seventh Day Adventist Oakwood Academy after it was forced to forfeit a semifinal game in the state tournament due to observance of the sabbath.
  • In State of Louisiana v. Spell (Parish of East Baton Rouge), the Louisiana Supreme Court quashed bills of information that had been issued against a pastor, charging him with violating the government’s COVID-19 orders during the pandemic.
  • Times of Israel reported last week that the Israel Religious Action Center is suing an ultra-Orthodox Jewish news website because of its policy of digitally blurring the faces of females in news photos it posts. The news site claims it blurred the faces in order to observe religious doctrines regarding modesty.