Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:
- In In re Parks v. Commissioner of Labor, the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court upheld the denial of unemployment compensation to a medical center security guard who was terminated for refusing to comply with a Covid vaccine mandate. The court ruled that the state mandate did not allow for a religious exemption, and the security guard’s religious beliefs did not excuse compliance with a valid, religion-neutral law of general applicability. The court held that when employment is terminated due to noncompliance with such a law, even when the motives for noncompliance are religious in nature, the First Amendment does not prevent the denial of unemployment insurance benefits if the mandate has a “rational public-health basis” and is justified by a compelling government interest.
- New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a new initiative allowing mosques to broadcast the call to prayer on Fridays and during Ramadan without requiring a permit. The initiative comes with new legal guidance from the NYPD, emphasizing that the call to prayer is permitted in the city despite sound restrictions in neighborhoods. Mosques can now broadcast the call to prayer on Fridays from 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM and during the sunset prayers throughout Ramadan, with collaborative efforts between the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau and Muslim faith leaders to ensure compliance with noise regulations.
- In Rutan-Ram v. Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee reversed the decision of a trial court that held a Jewish couple did not have standing to sue the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. The couple sued because they were denied foster training by a state-subsidized child-placement agency because they did not share the agency’s religious beliefs. The court held that there was an injury in fact because the Tennessee statute that protected faith-based agencies from providing services to those that did not share their belief made it more difficult for members of one group to obtain services.
- In Lax v. City University of New York, the New York Kings County Supreme Court allowed five Orthodox Jewish faculty members at Kingsborough Community College to proceed with their religious hostile work environment and retaliation claims against the school. The Jewish faculty members allege that they have been subjected to pervasive discrimination by another faculty group called the Progressive Faculty Caucus (PFC).
- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in a case regarding whether, consistent with the Second Amendment, the government may prohibit firearm possession by a person with a domestic violence restraining order. The brief states that the bishops support measures that control the sale and use of firearms and make them safer.
- Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia all signed an amicus brief supporting certiorari in a case challenging a New York law that bars counseling within a hundred feet of an abortion clinic, including on public sidewalks. The Second Circuit upheld the law based on Hill v. Colorado (2000).
In January, Routledge will release The Collective Dimension of Freedom of Religion: A Case Study on Turkey by Mine Yildirim (Norwegian Helsinki Committee Freedom of Belief Initiative in Turkey). The publisher’s description follows:
The right to freedom of religion or belief, as enshrined in international human rights documents, is unique in its formulation in that it provides protection for the enjoyment of the rights “in community with others”. This book explores the notion of the collective dimension of freedom of religion or belief with a view to advance the protection of this right.
The book considers Turkey which provides a useful test case where both the domestic legislation can be assessed against international standards, while at the same time lessons can be drawn for the improvement of the standard of international review of the protection of the collective dimension of freedom of religion or belief. The book asks two main questions: what is the scope and nature of protection afforded to the collective dimension of freedom of religion or belief in international law, and, secondly, how does the protection of the collective dimension of freedom of religion or belief in Turkey compare and contrast to international standards? In doing so it seeks to identify how the standard of international review of the collective dimension of freedom of religion can be improved.
On November 8, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), jointly with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, will host a conference titled “Freedom of Religion or Belief: Promoting Peaceful Coexistence Through Human Rights” at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Rome. A brief description of the event follows:
IDLO jointly with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will organize a half-day conference on “Freedom of Religion or Belief: Promoting Peaceful Coexistence Through Human Rights” to discuss the role of the rule of law in enabling the right to freedom of religion or belief.
The event will mark the launch of IDLO’s report Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Law: Current Dilemmas and Lessons Learned, a study offering informed reflections on the critical importance of religious tolerance in contributing to respect for other human rights, strengthening good governance and the rule of law, and enabling peaceful coexistence.
IDLO’s report intends to contribute to the public debate by showing that just and equitable rule of law frameworks are an essential requirement for societies to safeguard the right to freedom of religion or belief, and to balance this right fairly with other rights and interests. Strong legal frameworks can also help to reduce the capacity of extremist organizations to draw public support and legitimacy from politicized religious rhetoric.
The conference will take place during the morning of Tuesday 8 November 2016 at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Rome. The event is scheduled to start at 9.30am and will close at 12.30pm.
IDLO’s new report Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Law: Current Dilemmas and Lessons Learned will be distributed to participants during the conference.
Working languages: English and Italian (with simultaneous translation)
Event participation is by invitation only.
More information on the event can be found here.
In June, Brill Publishing will release “The Encyclopedia of Law and Religion” edited by Gerhard Robbers (Minister of Justice for Consumer Protection of Rhineland-Palatinate (Germany)), and W. Cole Durham, Jr. (Brigham Young University). The publisher’s description follows:
In recent years, issues of freedom of religion or belief and state-religion relations have become increasingly important worldwide. While some works have treated such issues regionally, the Encyclopedia of Law and Religion is unique in its breadth, covering all independent nations and jurisdictions as well as the major international organizations, treating the relation between law and religion in its various aspects, including those related to the role of religion in society, the relations between religion and state institutions, freedom of religion, legal aspects of religious traditions, the interaction between law and religion, and other issues at the junction of law, religion, and state.
Offered online and in five print volumes – Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, Oceania, Special Territories, International Organizations and Index – this work is a valuable resource for religious and legal scholars alike.
In May, Routledge will release “Religion as Empowerment: Global Legal Perspectives,” edited by Kyriaki Topidi (University of Lucerne) and Lauren Fielder (University of Texas). The publisher’s description follows:
This volume shows how and why legal empowerment is important for those exercising their religious rights under various jurisdictions, in conditions of legal pluralism. At the same time, it also questions the thesis that as societies become more modern, they also become less religious.
The authors look beyond the rule of law orthodoxy in their consideration of the freedom of religion as a human right and place this discussion in a more plurality-sensitive context. The book sheds more light on the informal and/or customary mechanisms that explain the limited impact of law on individuals and groups, especially in non-Western societies. The focus is on discussing how religion and the exercise of religious rights may or may not empower individuals and social groups and improve access to human rights in general.
This book is important reading for academics and practitioners of law and religion, religious rights, religious diversity and cultural difference, as well as NGOs, policy makers, lawyers and advocates at multicultural jurisdictions. It offers a contemporary take on comparative legal studies, with a distinct focus on religion as an identity marker.
In April, Springer Press will release “Religious Rules, State Law, and Normative Pluralism: A Comparative Overview,” edited by Rossella Bottoni (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore), Rinaldo Cristofori (University of Milan), and Silvio Ferrari (University of Milan). The publisher’s description follows:
This book is devoted to the study of the interplay between religious rules and State law. It explores how State recognition of religious rules can affect the degree of legal diversity that is available to citizens and why such recognition sometime results in more individual and collective freedom and sometime in a threat to equality of citizens before the law. The first part of the book contains a few contributions that place this discussion within the wider debate on legal pluralism. While State law and religious rules are two normative systems among many others, the specific characteristics of the latter are at the heart of tensions that emerge with increasing frequency in many countries. The second part is devoted to the analysis of about twenty national cases that provide an overview of the different tools and strategies that are employed to manage the relationship between State law and religious rules all over the world.