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:

  • 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.

Around the Web

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

  • A Maine church filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking an injunction to prevent Maine from enforcing its COVID-19 capacity restrictions on worship services while its petition for certiorari is pending.
  • The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Obataiye-Allah v. Steward, vacated an Oregon federal district court’s holding that prison officials were shielded from damages by qualified immunity in an inmate’s suit alleging that he was denied participation in Ramadan.
  • A Texas federal district court held, in Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Mack, that a Justice of the Peace who started his court sessions with an opening prayer from a volunteer chaplain violated the Establishment Clause because the attendees were impermissibly coerced into participating in religious activities.
  • The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed, in Koster v. Harvest Bible Chapel-Quad Cities, the dismissal of a suit against a church and three pastors by a congregant who alleged breach of fiduciary duty, concluding that the claim could not proceed because it would require consideration of the church’s doctrine and religious practices.
  • The University of Florida concluded that the University’s Student Senate violated the First Amendment when it removed Jack Denton, student president, because he privately shared his belief that the ACLU and other activist organizations advocate for causes that oppose Catholic teachings and his religious beliefs.
  • A Michigan high school initially directed a graduating senior, Elizabeth Turner, to alter her valedictory speech to remove all religious references, but after receiving a demand letter from the First Liberty Institute, officials at Hillsdale High School announced that religious students will be able to state their religious beliefs in graduation speeches.

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

Drakeman, “An Establishment Clause Miracle Story”

Don Drakeman, Distinguished Research Professor at Notre Dame and a member of our Board of Advisors here at the Center for Law and Religion, wrote us recently to pass along this wonderful story about an obscure Christmas carol and our current, perhaps even more obscure, Establishment Clause jurisprudence. We take great pleasure in posting Don’s essay below, and in wishing all our readers a very Merry Christmas, a peaceful holiday season, and a Happy New Year!

* * *

The holidays are a time for inspiring stories, and where better for Law and Religion Forum readers to turn than the Establishment Clause?

            During some family caroling, my daughter Cindy and her husband Richard introduced me to Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria, a breathtakingly beautiful choral work.  This isn’t the famous version by Schubert you hear this time of year.  It’s the one by an obscure 20th century German composer, who spent most of WWII as a POW in Michigan.  The composition is completely different from the Schubert piece, and you’ll only recognize it if you get your music via NPR.

            Herr Biebl’s Ave Maria has become our inspirational story thanks to the 9th Circuit’s 2009 decision in Nurre v. Whitehead.  The seniors in the Jackson High School band were asked to choose what they wanted to play at graduation, and they picked an instrumental version of Biebl’s piece because they thought it would “showcase their talent.”  But the Biebl was nixed by the school administrators on the grounds that “the title and meaning…had religious connotations and would be easily identified as such by attendees.”  The 9th circuit backed them up, saying that the school’s action was an appropriate way to avoid an Establishment Clause problem. 

As far as I can see, the court’s decision required a series of miracles, each involving a degree of faith in the education of America’s youth that, as the KJV might say, “passeth all understanding.”

            The First Miracle:   That anyone was listening.  As a veteran high school band member, I can testify that the one thing the senior class is not doing when the band is playing is paying attention to the music.  The chance that any of them would think, “Wow, what a great piece!  I’ll check the program to see what it’s called” rounds to zero.  But, in this season of miracles, let’s say they did, and learned that it was named Ave Maria.

            The Second Miracle:  That the seniors had any idea what “Ave Maria” means.  I would like to share the judges’ faith that the seniors were well versed in Latin.  Yet, even if they were, Biebl’s effect would more likely be something like this:

            Football Captain:  Are you waving at the band?

Head Cheerleader:  Yes, they are playing that for me.  It’s called, “Hey, Mary.”  Didn’t you pay attention in AP Latin?

            Football Captain:  You have to stop skipping Latin Club meetings.  The Romans didn’t say “Hey,” they said, “Hail.”   This song is in honor of my “Hail Mary” touchdown pass in the championships.

High School football may inspire religious-like devotion, but at least so far, not enough to violate the Establishment Clause.

            The Third Miracle:  That there could possibly be a “primary effect” of advancing religion under the 9th Circuit’s use of the Lemon Test.  In other words, someone had to pay attention to the band, consult the program to learn the title, understand its meaning and religious significance, and then have a sufficiently religious experience that the instrumental rendition of the piece during graduation had a primary effect of advancing religion.  But, if you think about it, we don’t see people falling to their knees in prayer when they hear Josh Groban’s Ave Maria at the mall, and his version actually has words.  Besides, the students most likely to manifest this third miracle involving a traditional Catholic prayer are the Catholic ones, and they were more likely to be graduating from the large Catholic high school just five minutes away.

            Justice Alito called this decision “troubling” in his cert. denial dissent, but I prefer to see it as an inspiring story of faith in our educational system, where classically educated seniors listen to the wind ensemble with rapt attention, and find their religious beliefs profoundly deepened by the simple trigger words, Ave Maria.

            On that inspirational note, if you are seeking to brighten your Christmas season, look no further than Chanticleer’s rendition of Biebl’s Ave Maria on YouTube.  We have it on good authority that it will be a religious experience.

——

Don would like to thank Cindy Drakeman and Richard Wanerman, who not only introduced him to Biebl, but who also appear on this year’s Grammy-nominated recording of the world premier of Kastalsky’s Requiem.  Since the Requiem includes the hymn Rock of Ages, he hopes the Grammys do not get any federal funding because the awards are being given in the 9th Circuit.

Around the Web

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

Around the Web

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

Around the Web

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

Around the Web

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

Around the Web

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