Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:
- In Abiding Place Ministries v. Newsom, a California federal district court allowed a church to move ahead with its Free Exercise, Freedom of Assembly, Establishment Clause, Free Speech and Equal Protection claims against San Diego County for enforcing Covid restrictions against public gatherings. However, the court held that the county’s public health officer had qualified immunity against damage claims because there was “no clear precedent” in 2020 that would have put the officer on notice that such restrictions were “clearly and definitively unconstitutional.”
- An ex-deputy sheriff filed a lawsuit in a Washington federal district court alleging that Chelan County Sheriff’s Office employees pressured him to join the “‘alt-right’ militant” Grace City Church and to attend its twelve-week marriage counseling program. The complaint in Shepard v. Chelan County alleges violation of Title VII, the Washington Law Against Discrimination and the Establishment Clause.
- Three anti-abortion protesters filed suit against the National Archives after its security officers required them to cover their pro-life t-shirts and remove pro-life buttons and hats while they were visiting the museum. The suit, Tamara R. v. National Archives and Records Administration, filed in the D.C. federal district court, was settled and a consent decree was signed which enjoined the National Archives from prohibiting visitors from wearing attire that displays religious or political speech.
- In Grullon v. City of New York, a New York trial court held that the New York Police Department was arbitrary and capricious in its denial of a police officer’s religious objections to the Department’s Covid vaccine. The court determined that the police officer is entitled to employment with a reasonable accommodation of weekly Covid testing.
- In New Brunswick v. His Tabernacle Family Church Inc., a trial court in New Brunswick, Canada refused to hold a church in contempt for a violation of Covid restrictions, stating that it was not unequivocally clear that the church knew it was in violation of a previous consent decree. After signing the consent decree, the church had moved its services to a commercial tent in order to avoid restrictions on gatherings in “public indoor spaces” but once the weather became colder, the church lowered the sides of the tent, which the Province contended created an enclosed space.
- In Volokh v. James, a New York federal district court issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of New York’s Hateful Conduct Law against social media platforms. The court found that the social media platforms were likely to succeed in both their facial and “as applied” free speech challenges because the law both compelled “social media networks to speak about the contours of hate speech” and it chilled “the constitutionally protected speech of social media users”, without articulating a compelling governmental interest.