Around the Web

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

  • In Adams v. School Board of St. John’s County, Florida, the Eleventh Circuit held that separating the use of male and female bathrooms in public schools based on students’ biological sex does not violate either the Equal Protection Clause or Title IX. 
  • In Spivack v. City of Philadelphia, a Pennsylvania federal district court held that Philadelphia’s District Attorney Lawrence Krasner did not violate the religious rights of an Orthodox Jewish Assistant District Attorney when he refused to grant her an exemption from the Office’s COVID vaccine mandate. The final mandate offered no religious exemptions and only limited medical exemptions. 
  • In Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart, Inc. v. City of Madison, Wisconsin, a Wisconsin federal district court rejected RLUIPA, free speech, and other challenges by a Catholic high school to the city’s denial of a permit for outdoor lighting at its athletic fields. The surrounding residential neighborhood association objected to the proposal. 
  • In Markel v. Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, a California federal district court held that the “ministerial exception” doctrine bars claims rooted in the California Labor Code brought against a synagogue organization by a mashgiach formerly employed by it. The court found that the Orthodox Union meets the requirements for a religious organization and that the mashgiach, whose responsibilities involve supervising and inspecting the preparation of kosher food, should be categorized as a “minister.” 
  • In In re Moscatelli v. New York City Police Department, a New York trial court annulled an administrative determination that denied a New York City Detective a religious exemption from the city’s COVID vaccine mandate. The court held that the administrative determination was arbitrary and capricious, saying that “the NYPD EEOD’s determination is a prime example of a determination that sets forth only the most perfunctory discussion of reasons for administrative action.” 
  • On December 23, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed New York Senate Bill 7313A which would have required courts, in imposing alcohol or substance abuse treatment on a defendant, to inquire if the defendant has religious objections to the program, and if the defendant does, to identify an alternative nonreligious treatment program for the defendant. 
  • In two recent Chamber Judgments, the European Court of Human Rights reaffirmed its prior holding in a 2021 case that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose adherents are known as Pastafarians, does not qualify as a “religion” or “belief” protected by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In Sager v. Austria, Austria’s Office for Religious Affairs refused to recognize the Church as a religious community. In ALM v. Austria, Austrian authorities refused to issue the petitioner an identity card with a photograph showing him wearing a crown made of pasta. 

A New Work on the Ministerial Exception

Ten years ago, in Hosanna-Tabor, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses prohibit the state from interfering with the decisions of religious organizations with respect to the employment of “ministers.” In two more recent cases, Our Lady of Guadalupe School and Biel, the Court returned to the question of which employees, exactly, qualify as ministers, but did not announce a clear test. The debate about how far the exception extends thus seems certain to continue. A forthcoming book from Routledge, The Church and Employment Law, by John Duddington (Cardiff), considers the question and takes a comparative approach to the subject. The book is the latest in the valuable ICLARS Series on Law and Religion. Here is the description from Routledge:

This book examines the current law on the employment status of ministers of religion and suggests reforms in this area of the law to meet the need for ministers to be given a degree of employment protection. The work considers the constant theme in Christian history that the clergy should not be subject to the ordinary courts and asks whether this is justified with the growth of areas such as employment law. The work questions whether it is possible to arrive at a satisfactory definition of who is a minister of religion and, along with this, who would be the employer of the minister if there was a contract of employment. Taking a comparative perspective, it evaluates the case law on the employment status of Christian and non-Christian clergy and assesses whether this shows any coherent theme or line of development. The work also considers the issue of ministerial employment status against the background of the autonomy of churches and other religious bodies from the State, together with their ecclesiology.  The book will be of interest to academics and researchers working in the areas of law and religion, employment law and religious studies, together with both legal practitioners and human resources practitioners in these areas.

Around the Web

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

  • In Starkey v. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Inc., the Seventh Circuit held that the Co-Director of Guidance at a Catholic high school was a “minister” for purposes of the ministerial exception doctrine. The court also held that the ministerial exception doctrine applies to state tort claims for interference with contractual relationships and intentional interference with employment relationships. 
  • In The School of the Ozarks, Inc. v. Biden, the Eighth Circuit held that a Christian college lacks standing to challenge a memorandum issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The memorandum directs the HUD office that enforces the Fair Housing Act to investigate all discrimination complaints, including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. At issue is the school’s religiously-inspired Code of Conduct, which specifies that biological sex determines a person’s gender and therefore requires single-sex residence halls. 
  • In Rojas v. City of Ocala, Florida, the Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded a district court’s Establishment Clause decision that had relied on the now-repudiated Lemon test. In the case, plaintiffs challenged a prayer vigil that was co-sponsored by the Ocala police department and held in response to a shooting spree that had injured several children. 
  • In Buettner-Hartsoe v. Baltimore Lutheran High School Association, a Maryland federal district court held that a §501(c)(3) tax exemption for a religiously-affiliated high school constitutes federal financial assistance so that the school is subject to Title IX. The court also stated that schools that discriminate on the basis of sex are not entitled to federal tax exemptions. 
  • In Chris v. Kang, an Oregon federal district court dismissed a claim of race and national origin discrimination brought by a plaintiff who was not hired as the Worship Pastor of a Baptist Church. The court held that the ministerial exception doctrine applies to both Title VII and state employment discrimination claims, insulating from judicial review the church’s decisions on who should be its ministers. 
  • A petition for certiorari was filed in Church of Scientology International v. Bixler. In the case, a California state appellate court held that former Church of Scientology members were not bound by their agreement to submit disputes to the church’s Religious Arbitration system when the dispute involves conduct that occurred after plaintiffs left the church. 

Around the Web

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

  • The U.S. Supreme Court denied review in Gordon College v. DeWeese-Boyd, in which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that the ministerial exception does not apply in a suit by a professor at a private Christian college who alleges her promotion was denied because of her public criticism of the school’s policies on LGBTQ students.
  • In U.S. Navy Seals 1-26 v. Biden, the Fifth Circuit refused to grant the Navy a partial stay of an injunction protecting a group of personnel who refuse to comply with the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for religious reasons.
  • In Miller v. Acosta, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court properly found that the defendant was entitled to qualified immunity on an inmate’s free exercise claim.
  • In Poffenbarger v. Kendall, an Ohio federal district court issued a preliminary injunction barring the Air Force from penalizing an Air Force reservist who refuses to comply with COVID-19 vaccine mandates due to religious objections.
  • In Sandoval v. Madison Equal Opportunities Commission, a Wisconsin state appellate court upheld the finding that Capitoland Christian Center Church did not engage in employment discrimination after an employee left her job over a policy barring unmarried employees from cohabitating.
  • Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, a Democrat in Oakland, introduced a piece of legislation that would reduce residential parking requirements for newly built religious institutions to allow for the construction of housing.

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 Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission v. Woods, in which the Washington Supreme Court held that, as applied, the religious and non-profit exemption to the state’s anti-discrimination law may be unconstitutional.
  • A petition for certiorari was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in Gordon College v. DeWeese-Boyd, in which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that the ministerial exception does not apply in a suit by an associate professor at a private Christian liberal arts college who claims her promotion to full professor was denied because of her public opposition to the school’s policies on LGBTQ individuals.
  • U.S Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, in Calvary Chapel of Bangor v. Mills, denied an application by a Maine church for injunctive relief, which sought to prevent Maine’s governor from reinstating COVID-related restrictions on worship services, pending disposition of its petition for certiorari.
  • U.S. Army sergeant, Jacob DiPietro, became one of the first Christian service members to receive an exemption to grow out his hair and beard for religious purposes.
  • A Pennsylvania appellate court, in Kaur v. Singh, upheld an order of protection that excludes plaintiff’s ex-husband from attending the Nazareth Temple on Sundays, finding that the order does not violate his Free Exercise rights.
  • A Scotland court ruled in favor of Kenneth Ferguson, a Christian CEO, who was unjustly fired by The Robertson Trust, the country’s biggest grant-making trust, because of his religious views on marriage.

Around the Web

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

Around the Web

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

Around the Web

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

Around the Web

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

Around the Web

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