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

  • In Tingley v. Ferguson, the Ninth Circuit denied an en banc rehearing for challenges of free speech, free exercise, and vagueness to Washington State’s ban on conversion therapy on minors. The case was originally heard by a 3-judge panel, which upheld the ban.
  • In Gardner-Alfred v. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Southern District of New York held that two former employees could bring suit against the Bank for violations of Title VII, RFRA, and the Free Exercise Clause. The basis of the claims come from the Bank’s denial of a religious exemption from the Bank’s COVID vaccine mandate.
  • In L.B. ex rel Booth v. Simpson Cty. Sch. Dist., filed in the Southern District of Mississippi, a school district abandoned a policy that prohibited students from wearing masks with political or religious messages. The parties settled, and the school district will now permit the student to wear a mask that reads “Jesus Loves Me.”
  • In Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued a ruling on January 26, 2023, stating that the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act did not infringe on Jack Phillips’ free exercise of religion (Phillips was the claimant in the different Masterpiece Cakeshop case decided by the Supreme Court in 2018). This case arose out of Phillips’ refusal to create a cake that celebrated and symbolized a gender transition because it would contravene his religious beliefs.
  • Indiana Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Members of the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana v. Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, Inc. on January 19, 2023. The oral arguments dealt with a challenge to the state’s pro-life law, which prohibits abortion except in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies, or when the woman’s life is at risk. Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief on behalf of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference defending the law.
  • Alabama Governor Kay Ivey issued Executive Order No. 733 on January 20, 2023, which requires a state executive-branch agency to enforce the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment to the greatest extent practicable. For example, the order requires executive branch agencies to consider possible burdens on religious exercise when adopting administrative rules, and also to allow state employees to express their religious beliefs in the same manner as they would express non-religious views.  

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

  • In Dykes-Bey v. Schroeder, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit brought under the First Amendment and RLUIPA by a Michigan inmate, concluding that the Michigan prison system had not imposed a “substantial burden” on the inmate’s free exercise of religion. 
  • In Sisters for Life, Inc. v. Louisville-Jefferson County, KY Metro Government, the Sixth Circuit held that an ordinance imposing a 10-foot buffer zone around the entrance of any healthcare facility abridges the free speech rights of pro-life groups who wish to hand out leaflets and speak with women entering abortion clinics. 
  • An English teacher filed suit in an Arizona federal district court after he was fired for urging the school’s principal to show acceptance and understanding of a student who identifies as pansexual. The complaint in McDorman v. Valley Christian Schools alleges that McDorman’s firing amounted to religious discrimination and retaliation for opposing discriminatory practices in violation of Title VII and Title IX. 
  • In Kingston v. Kingston, the plaintiff is challenging a trial court’s order in a divorce proceeding that barred him from encouraging his children to adopt the teachings of any religion without the consent of his former wife. In a 3-2 decision, the Court remanded the case to the trial court for it to “craft a more narrowly tailored remedy.” 
  • The EEOC has announced that it filed a Title VII religious discrimination suit against a Williamsburg, Kentucky IGA grocery store. The suit, filed in a Kentucky federal district court, alleges that the grocery refused to hire Spiritualist Rastafarian Matthew Barnett as an assistant manager after he refused to cut his dreadlocks which he wears for religious reasons. The EEOC says that employers must consider reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs. 
  • In Hordyk v. Wansiea Family Services, Inc., the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia held that a non-profit family services agency that contracts with the state to arrange foster care for children placed in the custody of the state violated Section 62 of the Western Australia Equal Opportunity Act 1984 when it rejected a couple who are members of the Free Reformed Church of Australia as foster parents.

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

  • In M.A. v. Rockland County Department of Health, the Second Circuit sent back to the trial court a free exercise challenge to Rockland County, New York’s, Emergency Declaration barring children who were not vaccinated against measles from places of public assembly. Children with medical exceptions were exempt from the ban. In remanding the case, the Second Circuit stated there were factual issues relevant to whether the Emergency Declaration was neutral and generally applicable and held the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants. 
  • In Barbee v. Collier, the Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded for further proceedings an injunction issued by a Texas federal district court that barred the execution of a convicted murderer, Stephen Barbee, until the Texas Department of Criminal Justice publishes a clear policy on inmates’ religious rights in the execution chamber. Barbee wants his spiritual advisor to pray aloud with him and hold his hand. 
  • In Horizon Christian School v. Brown, the Ninth Circuit held that the free exercise and parental rights challenges to Oregon’s previous Covid restrictions on in-person school classes are moot.
  • In Tucker v. Faith Bible Chapel International, the Tenth Circuit denied en banc review of a panel decision that held that interlocutory appeals from the denial of a ministerial exception defense are not permitted. In the case, a former high school teacher and administrator/chaplain contends that he was fired for opposing alleged racial discrimination by a Christian school. 
  • In Eris Evolution, LLC v. Bradley, a New York federal district court rejected an Establishment Clause challenge to a provision in New York’s liquor laws that allows bars to apply for permits to stay open all night on New Year’s, except for when New Year’s falls on a Sunday. The court concluded that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1961 decision in McGowan v. Maryland upholding Sunday closing laws forecloses Plaintiff’s claim. 
  • In Khan v. Station House Officer, a Pakistani appellate court held that Pakistan Criminal Code Sec. 295A, which prohibits deliberate and malicious insulting of religious beliefs, was not violated by the petitioner when he told the public that he could fly and that he saw Allah in his dreams. 
  • The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a report titled Implications of Laws Promoting State-Favored Religions. The report identified seventy-eight countries with official or favored religions, fifty-seven of which maintain laws or policies that lead to religious discrimination or repression, or that have the potential to do so. 

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

  • The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in Singh v. Berger. In the case, 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. 
  • In Hardaway v. Nigrelli, a New York federal district court issued a temporary restraining order barring enforcement of the provision in New York law that prohibits possession of firearms at “any place of worship or religious observation.” The suit was filed by two clergy members who allege that, as leaders of their churches, they want to carry firearms on church premises to keep the peace. The court concluded that the state restriction violates the Second Amendment. 
  • Suit was filed in a Wisconsin federal district court challenging the city of La Crosse’s ordinance prohibiting medical and mental health professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with anyone under eighteen. The complaint in Buchman v. City of Law Crosse alleges that the ban on counseling minors to change their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or behaviors violates Plaintiff’s free speech and free exercise rights. 
  • Suit was filed in a California federal district court by two California State University professors challenging the University’s inclusion of discrimination on the basis of caste in its Interim Antidiscrimination Policy adopted in January. The complaint in Kumar v. Koester alleges that the term “caste,” as used in the Interim Policy, is unconstitutionally vague and the Interim Policy violates the rights of Plaintiffs under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. 
  • In a tentative decision, a California state trial court concluded that a bakery that refuses on religious grounds to furnish custom-designed cakes for same-sex weddings and instead refers customers to another bakery for such items does not violate the Unruh Civil Rights Act. In Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Cathy’s Creations, Inc., the court held that because California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act is a neutral law of general applicability, the state did not violate Defendant’s free exercise rights. 
  • In L.F. v. S.C.R.L., the Court of Justice of the European Communities held that a private company may prohibit employees from wearing all visible signs of political, philosophical, or religious belief in the workplace. This would not constitute direct discrimination on the ground of religion or belief in violation of Council Directive 2000/78 so long as the company’s policy covers any manifestation of religious, philosophical, or spiritual beliefs without distinction.  

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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. 

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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 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:

  • 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:

  • 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:

  • 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.