Around the Web

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

  • In López Prater v. Trustees of Hamline University, a federal district court in Minnesota refused to dismiss plaintiff’s claim that her university employer discriminated against her based on religion. Plaintiff, a professor who was disciplined for showing depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in an art class, argues that she would not have been disciplined if she had been a Muslim.
  • Twelve Muslim plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against 29 federal officials in a Massachusetts district court, alleging that the officials violated their federal civil rights by adding them to a terrorist watchlist under vague criteria, Plaintifs claim they were unaware of their inclusion and had no recourse to challenge or comprehend the officials’ decision.
  • In Mirabelli v. Olson, the Southern District of California issued a preliminary injunction to prevent adverse employment action by the Escondido Union School District against two teachers who objected on religious grounds to the district’s policy of maintaining faculty confidentiality when communicating with parents about a student’s change in gender identity. The court found that the district’s policy conflicted with the teachers’ sincere religious beliefs in accurate communication with parents and that the district’s non-disclosure to parents policy was not narrowly tailored and could potentially cause more harm than good.
  • Several Jewish groups have filed a lawsuit against the Santa Ana Unified School District Board of Education, alleging that the district’s ethnic studies curriculum includes antisemitic and anti-Israel content, and that the district violated the “Brown Act” by providing inadequate notice and permitting harassment during school board meetings. At one meeting, attendees reportedly made antisemitic remarks, threatened Jews and Israelis, and displayed hostility toward Jewish participants.
  • In 2022, a Kentucky district court found that Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk, violated the constitutional rights of two same-sex couples by refusing to issue them marriage licenses due to religious reasons, and a jury was tasked with determining damages. Recently, in separate trials, the jury in the case of Yates v. Davis awarded zero damages, while in the second case, Emold v. Davis, the jury granted damages totaling $100,000.
  • In Davis v. Wigen, the 3rd Circuit overturned a district court’s dismissal of a RFRA claim filed by a former federal inmate and his fiancée against a private prison for denying their marriage request. The court ruled that the denials, while not explicitly forcing them to violate their faith, placed a significant burden on their religious beliefs, highlighting that government actions closely related to religious practices can be considered a substantial impediment under RFRA.

Around the Web

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

  • In Palmer v. Liberty University, Inc., a divided 4th Circuit declined to apply the ministerial exception to a former art professor at Liberty University. One judge argued the professor was indeed a religious “messenger” due to her integration of faith into teaching.
  • In The Satanic Temple, Inc. v. Young, a federal district court in Texas dismissed the Satanic Temple’s challenge to a Texas requirement for a sonogram prior to an abortion on lack of standing and on sovereign immunity grounds. The court refused to grant the group leave to replead its claims, given its lawyer’s increasingly “conclusory, reductive, and intemperate” filings.
  • In Willey v. Sweetwater County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees, a federal district court in Wyoming upheld most of a school district’s policy mandating the use of a student’s chosen name or pronoun by school personnel, despite objections from parents.
  • In Gackenheimer v. Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ, Inc., a Connecticut trial court examined a lawsuit brought by a minister who was dismissed from his role at a church’s conference center. The court applied the ministerial exception doctrine to dismiss the minister’s defamation and emotional distress claims, but allowed his contract-related claims to proceed.
  • In State of Ohio v. Sobel, an Ohio appellate court rejected the defendant’s argument that his drug possession sentence was based on his religious use of mushrooms. The court noted, “Sobel failed to establish that he uses psilocybin mushrooms in connection with a sincerely held religious belief,” deeming his beliefs more personal preference than deeply held religious conviction.

Around the Web

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

  • The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in The School of the Ozarks v. Biden, in which the 8th Circuit held a Christian college did not have standing to challenge a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development memorandum directing the HUD to investigate all discrimination complaints, including those based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This decision affected the school’s policy of maintaining single-sex residence halls according to biological sex, which is part of their religiously-inspired Code of Conduct.
  • In Braidwood Management, Inc. v. EEOC, the 5th Circuit held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) necessitates an exemption from the sex discrimination provisions of Title VII for a company operating based on Christian beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity. The court said that forcing the company to hire employees with opposing religious and moral views is not the least restrictive means of promoting its compelling interest.
  • In United States v. Lindor, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals found that the appellant’s use of Vodou rituals, while in accordance with his First Amendment rights, did not shield him from prosecution for murder. The court stated, “[A]ctivities that harm others are not protected by the free exercise clause. To characterize appellant’s chosen techniques to plan, express, and actuate his intent to murder . . . as the free exercise of his religious beliefs would expropriate the free exercise clause of any principled, reasonable meaning.”
  • The Darren Patterson Christian Academy has filed a lawsuit challenging the conditions Colorado has set for pre-schools to participate and receive funding in the state’s universal pre-school program. The school argues that the Colorado Department of Early Childhood’s regulations, which prohibit discrimination based on religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, force it to forgo its religious character and beliefs. The school asserts that these rules compel it to hire employees who do not share its faith and to change internal rules and policies aligned with its religious beliefs, including those related to restroom usage, pronouns, dress codes, and student housing during field trips.
  • In Brandon v. Board of Education of the City of St. Louis, the Eastern District of Missouri declined to dismiss Free Exercise Clause and Equal Protection Clause claims by 41 teachers and staff challenging the school district’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The court reasoned, “[b]ecause Plaintiffs have pleaded the existence of a late-2021 policy apparently lacking the urgency that characterized the regulations and executive orders issued early in the pandemic… [the Court is] to apply the ordinary tiers of scrutiny to the District’s Policy as alleged.”
  • In Foothills Christian Church v. Johnson, the Southern District of California dismissed a free exercise challenge by Christian pre-schools to California’s child care licensing requirement. It held that the Child Day Care Facilities Act does not prevent the schools from offering a program that includes compulsory participation in religious events. While the Act requires that schools make attendance at religious activities voluntary in the discretion of the child’s parents or guardian, it also allows schools to refuse to admit children whose parents or guardians are unwilling to agree that their children will attend religious activities.

More on Markets and Religion

Here at the Forum at elsewhere, my friend Nate Oman (William and Mary Law School) and I have debated the “doux commerce” thesis: the notion that the market, over time, softens disagreements about religion and other deep commitments. It’s a thesis with a proud lineage that goes back to Montesquieu and other Enlightenment figures. Nate is persuaded by the thesis and wrote a very good book about it. I’m less persuaded by the thesis and wrote an article critiquing it. But it’s been a fun and interesting debate.

I was delighted to see that Nate is now the co-editor of a new collection of essays from Routledge that continues the conversation. The book is Democracy, Religion, and Commerce: Private Markets and the Public Regulation of Religion. Nate’s co-editor is Kathleen Flake (University of Virginia). Here’s the description from the Routledge website:

This collection considers the relationship between religion, state, and market. In so doing, it also illustrates that the market is a powerful site for the cultural work of secularizing religious conflict. Though expressed as a simile, with religious freedom functioning like market freedom, “free market religion” has achieved the status of general knowledge about the nature of religion as either good or bad. It legislates good religion as that which operates according to free market principles: it is private, with no formal relationship to government; and personal: a matter of belief and conscience. As naturalized elements of historically contingent and discursively maintained beliefs about religion, these criteria have ethical and regulatory force. Thus, in culture and law, the effect of the metaphor has become instrumental, not merely descriptive. This volume seeks to productively complicate and invite further analysis of this easy conflation of democracy, religion, and the market. It invites scholars from a variety of disciplines to consider more intentionally the extent to which markets are implicated and illuminate the place of religion in public life. The book will be a valuable resource for researchers and academics working in the areas of law and religion, ethics, and economics.

Around the Web

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

Birge, “Marriage and the Law in the Age of Khubilai Khan”

In June, the Harvard University Press will release “Marriage and the Law in the Age of Khubilai Khan: Cases from the Yuan dianzhang,” by Bettine Birge (University of Southern California).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Mongol conquest of China in the thirteenth century and Khubilai Khan’s founding of the Yuan dynasty brought together under one government people of 9780674975514-lgdifferent languages, religions, and social customs. Chinese law evolved rapidly to accommodate these changes, as reflected in the great compendium Yuan dianzhang (Statutes and Precedents of the Yuan Dynasty). The records of legal cases contained in this seminal text, Bettine Birge shows, paint a portrait of medieval Chinese family life—and the conflicts that arose from it—that is unmatched by any other historical source.

Marriage and the Law in the Age of Khubilai Khan reveals the complex, sometimes contradictory inner workings of the Mongol-Yuan legal system, seen through the prism of marriage disputes in chapter eighteen of the Yuan dianzhang, which has never before been translated into another language. The text includes court testimony—recorded in the vivid vernacular of people from all social classes—in lawsuits over adultery, divorce, rape, wife-selling, marriages of runaway slaves, and other conflicts. It brings us closer than any other source to the actual Mongolian speech of Khubilai and the great khans who succeeded him as they struggled to reconcile very different Mongol, Muslim, and Chinese legal traditions and confront the challenges of ruling a diverse polyethnic empire.

FitzGerald, “The Evangelicals”

This month, Simon & Schuster release “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America,” by Frances FitzGerald.  The publisher’s  description follows:

This groundbreaking book from Pulitzer Prize­–winning historian Frances FitzGerald is the first to tell the powerful, dramatic story of the Evangelical movement in America—from the Puritan era to the 2016 presidential election.

the-evangelicals-9781439131336_hrThe evangelical movement began in the revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, known in America as the Great Awakenings. A populist rebellion against the established churches, it became the dominant religious force in the country.

During the nineteenth century white evangelicals split apart dramatically, first North versus South, and then at the end of the century, modernist versus fundamentalist. After World War II, Billy Graham, the revivalist preacher, attracted enormous crowds and tried to gather all Protestants under his big tent, but the civil rights movement and the social revolution of the sixties drove them apart again. By the 1980s Jerry Falwell and other southern televangelists, such as Pat Robertson, had formed the Christian right. Protesting abortion and gay rights, they led the South into the Republican Party, and for thirty-five years they were the sole voice of evangelicals to be heard nationally. Eventually a younger generation of leaders protested the Christian right’s close ties with the Republican Party and proposed a broader agenda of issues, such as climate change, gender equality, and immigration reform.

Evangelicals have in many ways defined the nation. They have shaped our culture and our politics. Frances FitGerald’s narrative of this distinctively American movement is a major work of history, piecing together the centuries-long story for the first time. Evangelicals now constitute twenty-five percent of the American population, but they are no longer monolithic in their politics. They range from Tea Party supporters to social reformers. Still, with the decline of religious faith generally, FitzGerald suggests that evangelical churches must embrace ethnic minorities if they are to survive.

Williams, “Indonesia, Islam, and the International Political Economy”

This month, Routledge releases “Indonesia, Islam, and the International Political Economy: Clash or Cooperation?” by Mark Williams (Vancouver Island University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Republic of Indonesia is a rising great power in the Asia-Pacific, set to become the eighth largest economy in the world in the coming decades. It is the most 9780415788878populous Muslim majority country in the world. The largest Islamic organizations and parties have supported Indonesia’s participation with global markets, but this has not come from an ideological support for capitalism or economic liberalization. Islamic political culture has denounced the injustices caused by global capitalism and its excesses. In fact, support for Indonesia’s engagement with the international political economy is born from political pragmatism, and from Indonesia’s struggles to achieve economic development.

This book examines the role of Islamic identity in Indonesia’s foreign economic relations and in its engagement with the world order. There is no single expression of Islam in Indonesia, the politics espoused by Islamic parties and organizations are far from monolithic. Islamic sentiment has been invoked by the state to justify heinous acts of brutality, as well as by violent, subnational revolutionary groups. However, these expressions of Islam have deviated from the dominant narrative, which is in favour of international cooperation and economic development. Economic exploitation, political alienation, financial volatility, and aggression toward Muslims around the world that has caused some Islamic groups to radicalize. The political culture of Islam in Indonesia is a social force that is helping to foster a peaceful rise for Indonesia. However, a peaceful expression of Islam is not inevitable for the republic, nor can it be assumed that Islamic identity in Indonesia will unwaveringly support the global economic order, regardless of what might occur in global politics.

Eekelaar, “Family Rights and Religion”

In May, Routledge will release “Family Rights and Religion,” by John Eekelaar (Pembroke College, Oxford University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The interaction between individual rights, which are often seen in secular terms, and religion is becoming an important and complex topic not only for academic study logo-rt-cbut for practical policy. This volume collects a range of writings from journals, edited collections and individual books which deal with different aspects of the interaction within the context of family life, and which appear with their original pagination. These studies have been selected because they throw a sharp light on central elements of the role of religion in determining the structure of the rights of family members in relation to one another, both from an historical and contemporary perspective. While many of the writings are focused on US and European systems, selected writings covering other systems illustrate the universal nature of the topic. The studies are accompanied by a reflective commentary from the editor which sets the writings in a broad context of social, constitutional and philosophical thought, with the aim of stimulating critical thought and discussion.

Thomassen, “British Multiculturalism and the Politics of Representation”

In April, Oxford University Press releases “British Multiculturalism and the Politics of Representation,” by Lasse Thomassen (Queen Mary, University of London).  The publisher’s description follows:

Lasse Thomassen argues that the politics of inclusion and identity should be viewed as struggles over how these identities are represented. He centres thislogoargument through careful analysis of cases from the last four decades of British multiculturalism.

Uses a fresh, poststructuralist approach to reconcile the theoretical and practical issues surrounding inclusion and exclusion – a rare example of how poststructuralism can speak to mainstream concerns and theory

Opens up debates and themes including Britishness, race, the ature and role of Islam in British society, homelessness and social justice

Case studies include public debates about the role of religion in British society; Prime MInisters Gordon Brown and David Cameron>’s contrasting versions of Britishness; legal cases about religious symbols and clothing in schools; and the Nick Hornby novel How to Be Good – most of which have never been covered in such detail before

Examines a number of legal cases: ‘The Queen on the application of Sarika Angel Watkins-Singh v. The Governing Body of Aberdare Girls’ High School and Rhondda Cynon Taf Unitary Authority’, High Court, 2008; ‘Playfoot (a minor), R (on the application of) v Millais School’ High Court 2007; ‘X v Y’, High Court, 2007; and ‘Mandla and another v Dowell Lee and another’, House of Lords, 1983