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

  • In Fellowship of Christian Athletes v. San Jose Unified School District, the Ninth Circuit vacated its August 2022 decision which had found for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and ordered that the case be reheard en banc. In this case, the school had revoked the status of a Christian student group because the school objected to a policy that allegedly discriminated against LGBTQ students.
  • In Firewalker-Fields v. Lee, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a Muslim inmate’s First Amendment Free Exercise claim. The court wrote that the jail’s policy of not allowing the plaintiff access to Friday Islamic prayers was reasonably related to security and resource allocation.
  • Thirteen Christian and Jewish leaders filed for a permanent injunction in the Missouri Circuit Court in Blackmon v. State of Missouri. The complaint seeks to bar the State of Missouri from enforcing its abortion ban, claiming that the ban violates the Missouri Constitution by failing to protect the free exercise of religion.
  • In Ference v Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg, a federal magistrate judge in the Western District of Pennsylvania recommended denying a motion to dismiss filed by the Catholic Diocese in response to a Title VII sex-discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit was made by a Lutheran sixth-grade teacher in a Catholic school who was fired shortly after being hired when the school discovered that he was in a same-sex marriage.
  • A nurse practitioner filed suit in a Texas federal district court after being fired for refusing to prescribe contraceptives. The complaint in Strader v. CVS Health Corp alleges that CVS’s firing amounted to religious discrimination in violation of Title VII.
  • On January 11, 2023, the US House of Representatives passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. This bill states that any infant born alive after an attempted abortion is a “legal person for all purposes under the laws of the United States.” Doctors would be required to care for those infants as they would any other child who was born alive.
  • Dr. Erika Lopez Prater, an art professor at Hamline University, is suing the University for religious discrimination and defamation after she was fired for showing an image of Muhammad to her Islamic art class.

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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 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 Yeshiva University v. YU Pride Alliance, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor stayed a New York trial court’s injunction that required Yeshiva University to officially recognize as a student organization an LGBTQ group, YU Pride Alliance. For further details, please see last week’s posting here
  • In Chabad Chayil, Inc. v. School Board of Miami-Dade County, Florida, the 11th Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of free exercise, equal protection, and due process claims brought by a Jewish organization that ran an after-school Hebrew program for more than ten years using public school classrooms. In dismissing the claims, the district court held that plaintiff had not shown the elements necessary to assert liability against either the school board or the Inspector General’s office that investigated complaints against Chabad. 
  • In Chabad Lubavitch of the Beaches, Inc. v. Incorporated Village of Atlantic Beach, a New York federal district court granted a preliminary injunction, concluding that an attempt to acquire the property of a Jewish religious group by eminent domain likely violated the group’s First Amendment free exercise rights. Eminent domain proceedings were initiated shortly after Chabad held a Menorah lighting ceremony on the property. 
  • In Chaaban v. City of Detroit, Michigan Department of Corrections, a Michigan federal district court denied a motion in a RLUIPA case for reconsideration of the denial of qualified immunity to corrections officers who forced a Muslim woman to remove her hijab for a booking photograph. 
  • In Braidwood Management Inc. v. Becerra, a Texas federal district court held that the ACA mandate for health insurance coverage of PrEP drugs violates the rights, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, of a for-profit corporation whose owner believes that providing such coverage for his employees would make him complicit in their same-sex conduct and sexual activity outside of marriage. 
  • In Christian Medical & Dental Association v. Bonta, a California federal district court held a provision in the California End of Life Option Act likely unconstitutional. The provision requires doctors (who refuse on conscience, moral or ethical grounds to participate in procedures set out by the act) to document in a patient’s record the date of the patient’s request for an aid-in-dying drug. This notation serves as one of two required requests by a patient before the patient may obtain the drug. The court rejected the argument that this violates the free exercise rights of medical providers who object on religious grounds and dismissed both equal protection and due process challenges. However, the court did conclude that plaintiffs are likely to succeed in their free speech challenges to the requirement. The court issued a preliminary injunction barring state enforcement of the requirement against objecting health care providers. 

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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 CI.G v. Siegfried, the Tenth Circuit reversed a district court’s dismissal of a high school student’s claim that his First Amendment rights were violated when he was expelled for an antisemitic Snapchat post. 
  • In Ervins v. Sun Prairie Area School District, a Wisconsin federal district court rejected a claim that a sixth-grade lesson on ancient Mesopotamia, which called on students to apply the Code of Hammurabi to a hypothetical situation, amounted to a violation of the Establishment Clause. 
  • In Gonzales v. Collier, a Texas federal district issued a temporary injunction barring the execution of death row inmate Ramiro Gonzales unless authorities grant all of his requested religious accommodations. Gonzales requests that his spiritual advisor be allowed in the death chamber so she can pray aloud, hold his hand, and place her other hand on his chest. 
  • In Perlot v. Green, an Idaho federal district court issued a preliminary injunction requiring the University of Idaho to rescind no-contact orders issued to three law students who are members of the Christian Legal Society (“CLS”). The University issued the no-contact orders after the CLS students discussed with a female LGBTQ student the Christian biblical view of marriage and sexuality. 
  • In Rutan-Ram v. Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, a Tennessee state three-judge panel held that a Jewish couple who were denied foster-parent training by a state-funded Christian child placement agency lacked standing to challenge a Tennessee law permitting faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to refuse to provide services that violate their religious convictions. 
  • In State of Wisconsin v. Whitaker, the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected a defendant’s claim that his religious liberty and associational rights were violated when the judge sentencing him made reference to his Amish community. 

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

  • In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a school district violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses when the district disciplined a football coach for visibly praying at midfield following football games. Writing for the majority, Justice Gorsuch found that the coach sought to engage in private, sincerely motivated religious exercise and decided that the district could not bar this activity because of its own Establishment Clause concerns. In reaching this decision, the Court repudiated the Lemon test – which had been relied upon by the lower courts in deciding the case. 
  • In LaCroix v. Town of Fort Myers Beach, Florida, the Eleventh Circuit preliminarily enjoined a town’s ban on all portable signs. The ordinance was challenged by an individual who was cited for carrying a sign on a public sidewalk that conveyed his “religious, political and social message” that Christianity offers hope and salvation. 
  • In Apache Stronghold v. United States, the Ninth Circuit held that a proposed federal government land exchange in Arizona will not substantially burden Apache religious exercise in violation of RFRA. The court also held it will not violate the First Amendment because the Land Exchange Provision is a neutral and generally applicable law. 
  • In Halczenko v. Ascension Health, Inc., the Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction that had been sought by a pediatric critical care specialist. The specialist was fired from his hospital position after he refused, on religious grounds, to comply with the hospital’s COVID vaccine mandate. The court concluded that Plaintiff had shown neither irreparable injury nor inadequate remedies through a Title VII action. 
  • In Mishler v. Mishler, a Texas state appellate court held that there is neither a state nor a federal free exercise issue with a divorce decree, based on the parties’ prior agreement that the husband would deliver certain property to the wife only upon the wife’s acceptance of a “Gett” (a Jewish divorce document that the wife must accept for the divorce to be valid under Jewish religious law). 

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

  • The Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe v. U.S. Department of the Interior. The arguments come after a Nevada federal district court rejected a claim by the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe that the construction of a geothermal facility would violate their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 
  • In Colorado Springs Fellowship Church v. Williams, the Tenth Circuit rejected a church’s challenge to prison rules that barred it from sending DVDs directly to inmates. 
  • In Dorman v. Chaplain’s Office BSO, the Eleventh Circuit upheld the procedures used by the Broward County, Florida jail, which required inmates to register 45 days in advance in order to participate in Passover services and meals. 
  • In Yu Pride Alliance v. Yeshiva University, 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 court rejected the University’s claim that it is exempt from coverage as a religious corporation incorporated under the education law. 
  • In Petro v. Platkin, a New Jersey state appellate court dismissed constitutional challenges to New Jersey’s Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act. The court, among other things, rejected Plaintiffs’ First Amendment Free Exercise Claim, finding that the statute is a neutral law of general applicability. 
  • In Teliatnikov v. Lithuania, the European Court of Human Rights in a Chamber Judgment held that Lithuania violated Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience, and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights when it refused to grant a Jehovah’s Witness deacon alternative service under civilian control. 

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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 St. Augustine School v. Underly, in which the Seventh Circuit remanded a suit challenging Wisconsin’s refusal to provide bus transportation to students at St. Augustine School.
  • In Al Saud v. Days, the Ninth Circuit rejected claims under RLUIPA and the First Amendment brought by a Muslim inmate who sought to be housed only with other Muslim inmates. Plaintiff contends he is currently unable to pray as required by his religion because inmates he is housed with harass him while he prays. 
  • In Tucker v. Faith Bible Chapel International, the Tenth Circuit held that interlocutory appeals from the denial of a ministerial exception defense are not permitted. In the case, a former high school teacher and chaplain contends that he was fired for opposing alleged racial discrimination by a Christian school. 
  • In In the Matter of United Jewish Community of Blooming Grove, Inc. v. Washingtonville Central School District, a New York state appellate court held that under New York statutory law, school districts are not required to provide bus transportation to private school students on days when private schools are in session, but public schools are closed. 
  • In McKinley v. Grisham, a New Mexico district court allowed plaintiffs to move forward with their Free Exercise challenge to restrictions on in-person gatherings at houses of worship. 
  • The EEOC announced that it has filed suit against Del Frisco’s of Georgia, an Atlanta restaurant, for refusing to accommodate an employee’s religious 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.