Around the Web

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. 

Around the Web

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. 

Religious Communities as Disruptive Competitors

Last fall, Barak Richman and I had a friendly exchange on this blog about whether antitrust law should apply to restrictive practices governing rabbinical hiring.  Our debate raised the question of whether antitrust norms are appropriate for regulating competition within religious organizations.  Two recent judicial decisions, one involving Benedictine monks in Louisiana and the other involving a Hutterite colony in Montana, raise questions about commercial competition between religious and secular organizations.

The Benedictine monks case arose out of  Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed part of the St. Joseph’s Abbey’s pine timberlands.  The abbey traditionally harvested pines to support itself.  In need of an alternative source of income, the monks decided to get into the casket business, hand-making two models of “blessed” pine caskets in their workshop.  Before they had sold a single casket, the monks received a cease and desist order from the Read more