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

  • By a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant an injunction pending appeal in Dunn v. Austin. At issue was a suit by an Air Force Reserve officer who was denied a religious exemption from the military’s vaccine mandate.
  • In Gallo v. Washington Nationals Baseball Club, LLC, suit was filed in a D.C. federal district court by a scout for the Washington Nationals baseball team who was denied an accommodation for his religious objections to the baseball club’s COVID vaccine mandate.
  • In Smith v. Li, an inmate on death row brought a RLUIPA suit in a Tennessee federal district court seeking to stop the medical examiner from performing an autopsy after his death because it would violate his religious beliefs. The court enjoined the autopsy and held that the government could not show that conducting an autopsy in this case is necessary to fulfill a compelling government interest.
  • In Ciraci v. J.M. Smucker Co., an Ohio federal district court dismissed a suit by employees of a food manufacturer who claimed that their First Amendment free exercise rights were infringed when their employer denied them religious exemptions and required them to comply with the Presidential Executive Order mandating COVID vaccinations for employees of federal contractors. The court found the company is not a “state actor” when it complies with a federal vaccine mandate.
  • The Arizona legislature has passed HB 2507, a bill primarily aimed at preventing state and local governments from closing religious organizations in future states of emergency.
  • In Ali v. Heathrow Express Operating Company Ltd., the United Kingdom Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld an Employment Tribunal’s dismissal of an Equality Act religious harassment complaint. The complaint was brought by a Muslim employee of the Heathrow Express train service after a paper with a religious phrase in Arabic was placed in a test bag, by another employee, during a suspicious-objects training test.

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

  • In Austin v. U.S. Navy Seals 1-26, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 6-3, stayed a Texas district court’s order that barred the Navy from considering the COVID-19 vaccination status of service members who object to the vaccine on religious grounds in making decisions regarding deployment, assignment, and operations. 
  • The Supreme Court denied review in Brysk v. Herskovitz, in which the Sixth Circuit had dismissed a suit brought by synagogue members against anti-Israel picketers who have picketed services at the Beth Israel Synagogue since 2003.
  • In Keister v. Bell, the Eleventh Circuit rejected a challenge brought by a traveling evangelical preacher against the University of Alabama after the University prohibited the preacher from setting up a banner, passing out literature, and preaching on a campus sidewalk because he did not have a permit. The court found the sidewalk was a limited public forum and thus the University could impose reasonable, viewpoint-neutral restrictions.
  • In Wagner v. Saint Joseph’s/Candler Health Systems, Inc., a Georgia federal district court held that a hospital did not violate Title VII after it fired an Orthodox Jewish employee for taking seven days off to observe the Fall Jewish holidays.
  • In Denton v. City of El Paso, a Texas federal magistrate judge concluded that the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights were violated by a city policy that prohibited the plaintiff from proselytizing at the Downtown Art and Farmers Market.
  • A Christian doctor, who lost his job for refusing to use patients’ preferred pronouns, will appear before a tribunal in the United Kingdom this week to challenge a ruling that held that biblical beliefs on gender are “incompatible with human dignity.”
  • In Christian Religious Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the NKR v. Armenia, the European Court of Human Rights held that refusal by Nagorno Karabakh to register Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religious organization amounts to a violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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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 Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission v. Woods, a case involving whether religious groups are exempt from state non-discrimination employment laws.
  • In Ramirez v. Collier, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a death row prisoner was likely to succeed on his Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) lawsuit challenging limits on his pastor’s activities in the execution chamber. The Court held that petitioner is entitled to a preliminary injunction barring Texas from proceeding with his execution without permitting his pastor, during the execution, to lay hands on the prisoner and audibly pray with him.
  • In Canaan Christian Church v. Montgomery County Maryland, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Montgomery County did not violate a church’s rights under RLUIPA or the First Amendment when it refused to extend public sewer lines to properties on which the church proposed to construct new buildings.
  • In Catholic Charities West Michigan v. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, a Michigan federal district court approved a settlement agreement after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services conceded it would violate the First Amendment to take any adverse action against Catholic Charities because the ministry prioritizes placing foster and adoptive children in homes with a married mother and father.
  • In United States v. City of Troy, a Michigan federal district court held the city of Troy, Michigan had violated the “equal terms” provisions of RLUIPA and enjoined the city from enforcing its zoning ordinance that imposes stricter standards on places of worship than it does on non-religious uses in the same zoning district.
  • In Kariye v. Mayorkas, suit was filed by three Muslim Americans who claim U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents asked them religiously intrusive questions upon their return from international travel.

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

  • On Monday, the Biden Administration filed an emergency application with Justice Alito after the 5th Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction which protects Navy service members from facing consequences for their faith-based opposition to COVID-19 vaccines.
  • In Byrne v. Bowser, suit was filed in the D.C. federal district court by a nun who is a surgeon and family physician after she was denied a religious exemption from the District’s vaccine requirement for health care professionals.
  • In Dugan v. Bowser, suit was filed in the D.C. federal district court by parents of Catholic school students alleging that imposing the mask mandate on Catholic schools violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment.
  • In Temple of 1001 Buddhas v. City of Fremont, a California federal district court dismissed a suit by a religious adherent who lives on property owned by the Temple of 1001 Buddhas. The claimant challenged the city’s enforcement of the state’s building, electrical, and plumbing codes as a violation of RLUIPA.
  • In Ferrelli v. State of New York Unified Court System, a New York federal district court upheld the system for determining whether employees are entitled to religious exemptions from the COVID vaccine mandate imposed on all judges and employees of the New York State court system. The court concluded that the exemption process was neutral and generally applicable.
  • Virginia senators block a bill that would have prevented the governor from using an executive order to impose restrictions on the exercise of religion and would have prevented any such rule, regulation, or order from any governmental entity.
  • The EEOC has provided employers with updated guidance regarding religious objections to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Around the Web

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

  • In Gasparoff v. Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania, an Arizona federal district court dismissed a pro se complaint that challenged Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs regarding blood transfusions.
  • Suit was filed in a New York federal district court by five Orthodox Jews and one Catholic man challenging New York City’s “Key to NYC” program, which mandates COVID vaccination in a variety of social contexts. Plaintiffs contend that they have religious objections to the COVID vaccine, and some of the Plaintiffs raise unique religious objections not commonly raised in past litigation.
  • A Christian nurse practitioner formerly employed at a CVS Pharmacy in Texas has filed a religious discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint alleges the company illegally discriminated against her on the basis of her religious beliefs about contraception.
  • A new Chinese law, Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information, is set to take effect on March 1, 2022. The law will impose new restrictions on online religious content and will essentially outlaw evangelistic Scripture.
  • The Southern Indian state of Karnataka’s top court has stepped in to hear petitions filed by Muslim students after several government-run educational institutions have banned Muslim female students from wearing hijabs.

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

  • The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week in Shurtleff v. City of Boston. Below, the First Circuit affirmed the order of a Massachusetts federal district court granting summary judgment in favor of the City as to Plaintiffs’ complaint. Plaintiffs allege that the City violated their constitutional rights by refusing to fly a Christian flag from a flagpole at Boston City Hall.
  • The Supreme Court granted cert in the case of a former Bremerton, Washington football coach who was removed from his job because he refused to stop praying on the field.
    • The case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, was the subject of a prior Legal Spirits podcast episode.
  • In Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church v. Pritzker, the Seventh Circuit affirmed an Illinois federal district court’s denial of an injunction against a now-rescinded COVID order which limited the number of people who could attend religious services. The district court held that the case was moot because Plaintiffs have not been subject to attendance limits for more than nineteen months, and there is no indication that they will be subject to them again.
  • In We the Patriots USA, Inc. v. Connecticut Office of Early Childhood Development, a Connecticut federal district court upheld a Connecticut statute that eliminates the religious exemption from the state requirement for vaccinations for school children. The Court held that mandatory vaccination as a condition to school enrollment does not violate the Free Exercise Clause.
  • Suit was filed in a Georgia federal district court by an Air Force officer who was forced into retirement when she refused, for religious reasons, to take the COVID vaccine. The complaint alleges that the Air Force’s actions violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the First Amendment.
  • In Romano v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a Michigan federal district court denied a preliminary injunction to an employee who was fired because he refused to comply with his employer’s COVID vaccine mandate. Plaintiff’s refusal was based on religious objections; however, the district court concluded that Plaintiff did not meet the “irreparable injury” requirement necessary to support an injunction.
  • The Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia has announced a new policy that will begin to keep track of employees who have refused on religious grounds to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The new record system will store the names and “personal religious information” of all employees who make “religious accommodation requests for religious exception from the federally mandated vaccination requirement.”
  • “Atheist Ireland,” an association of atheists based in Ireland, has called upon the U.N. and the Irish government to raise the issue of religious discrimination in Irish schools. Specifically, Atheist Ireland has requested that Irish schools “must allow children to leave the classroom during religion class.”

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

  • In Mays v. Joseph, the Eleventh Circuit held that a prisoner may recover punitive damages for violation of his free exercise rights. The claim centered around a Georgia Department of Corrections’ grooming policy that barred inmates from growing their hair or goatees longer than three inches.
  • In U.S. Navy SEALs 1-26 v. Biden, a Texas federal district court issued a preliminary injunction barring the U.S. Navy from imposing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate on thirty-five Navy service members. The court concluded that applying the vaccine mandate to plaintiffs violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment’s free exercise clause.
  • In Abraham House of God and Cemetery, Inc. v. City of Horn Lake, a consent decree was entered in a Mississippi federal district court. The suit alleged that the City of Horn Lake denied approval of the site plan for a proposed mosque because of religious animus.
  • Suit was filed in Ohio state trial court by five school districts and students’ parents challenging the Ohio legislature’s recent expansion of the EdChoice voucher program. The complaint alleges that the program violates Article VI, Sec. 2 of the Ohio Constitution, which calls for separation between church and state.
  • A British tribunal has ruled that a Christian nurse who was forced to resign from a hospital over her refusal to stop wearing a cross was wrongfully discriminated against.
  • The European Court of Human Rights has rejected a complaint against a Christian bakery in Northern Ireland that refused to make a cake supporting gay marriage on religious grounds.
    • The case, Lee v. Ashers Baking Co., was the subject of our first Legal Spirits podcast episode.

Around the Web

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

  • North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper vetoed HB 453, which banned abortions unless the physician previously determined that the procedure was not being sought because of the race or sex of the fetus or because the fetus has Down Syndrome.
  • Members of the clergy and others engaged in religious-oriented work may now qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, after religious-oriented work was specifically excluded for over a decade.
  • Ohio Governor Mike DeWine approved vital conscience protections for doctors, nurses, and other medical providers, ensuring that medical professionals cannot be forced to participate in healthcare services that violate their consciences.
  • Kentucky Right to Life and Louisville nonprofit Sisters for Life filed for a temporary injunction against the city of Louisville Metro Council’s 10-foot “buffer zone” ordinance, which prevents sidewalk counseling within 10 feet of health care facilities.
  • Britain’s Methodist Church announced that it will now allow same-sex couples to get married on its premises. Ministers who oppose the change will not be forced to carry out same-sex marriages.
  • Hilton’s plan to build a new hotel upon the site of a demolished Uyghur mosque has sparked outrage and condemnation from various Muslim groups.

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.