Movsesian on Religious Exemptions

For those who are interested, the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU has posted a video of my presentation at the 2022 Religious Freedom Annual Review on the Smith case and the future of religious exemptions. I argue that the Court’s decision last term in Fulton greatly limits Smith and that claimants should have an easier time winning religious exemptions as a result. Thanks again to the kind folks at BYU Law for hosting me!

Next Month in Rome: “Liberalism’s Limits”

Next month in Rome, we’ll celebrate 10 years of cooperation with our colleagues at Universita LUMSA with the latest in our conference series on comparative law and religion: “Liberalism’s Limits: Religious Exemption and Hate Speech.” (Hard to believe we’ve been doing this for 10 years)! The conference description is below and details are here: If you’re in Rome, please stop by and say hello!

Liberal democracies historically have prized autonomy and freedom as fundamental political commitments. In doing so, they also have emphasized the individual’s freedom of religion and freedom of speech as sitting at the core of their political systems. Yet in religious exemption — the right of individuals to receive an accommodation from complying with generally applicable law on the basis of religious scruple — and in what some in these polities call “hate speech” – speech conveying deeply insulting, vilifying, discriminatory views against a target group – liberal regimes face serious challenges to their own core principles. This conference will examine the problems posed by these issues for the continuing viability of liberalism in Western democracies.

Around the Web

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

  • The U.S. Supreme Court denied review in Community Baptist Church v. Polis, a free exercise challenge to COVID restrictions imposed by Colorado. The challenge was brought by two churches and one of their pastors.
  • In Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov, Inc. v. Village of Pomona, New York, the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal, on ripeness grounds, of a suit challenging two zoning laws that prevented plaintiff from building a rabbinical college on its property.
  • In Universal Life Church Monastery Storehouse v. Nabors, the Sixth Circuit allowed a lawsuit to go forward challenging a Tennessee law that prohibits persons who receive online ordination from solemnizing marriages.
  • The Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments in Halczenko v. Ascension Health, Inc., in which a pediatric intensive care doctor is seeking a religious exemption from a hospital’s COVID vaccination requirement . 
  • The Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter (“CAIR-MI”) announced that a settlement has been reached in a suit charging the city of Ferndale’s police department with forcibly removing a Muslim woman’s hijab for a booking photo after her arrest.
  • Virginia Governor Glen Younkin, has signed House Bill 1063, which broadly defines “religion” in the state’s civil rights laws to include actions and expressions, not just personal beliefs.

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:

  • In Keil v. City of New York, Justice Sotomayor refused to enjoin the dismissal of a suit filed by a group of New York City teachers who did not comply with the City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate due to religious objections. The teachers then invoked Supreme Court Rule 22.4 and requested that their petition be resubmitted to Justice Gorsuch.
  • In Sambrano v. United Airlines, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a Texas federal district court’s decision that held no “irreparable injury” had been suffered by United Airlines employees who were placed on unpaid leave after they refused to comply with the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for religious reasons. 
  • In Bishop of Charleston v. Adams, a South Carolina federal district court rejected free exercise and equal protection challenges to Art. XII, Sec 4. of the South Carolina Constitution, which bars the use of public funds to directly benefit religious educational institutions.
  • In Asher v. Clay County Board of Education, a Kentucky federal district court refused to enjoin a school district from relocating the graves of members of the White Top Band of Native Indians. The court found that the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act does not apply because the land the school purchased was not on federal or tribal lands.
  • In Mays v. Cabell County Board of Education, suit was filed by students at Huntington High School and their parents alleging that a school assembly featuring Nik Walker, a Christian evangelical minister, violated the Establishment Clause.
  • In Air Force Officer v. Austin, a Georgia federal district court invoking RFRA and the First Amendment granted a preliminary injunction to an Air Force officer who sought a religious exemption from the Air Force’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
  • The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, issued a determination letter dismissing a complaint filed by LGBTQ students at Brigham Young University. The letter affirms that the University’s policy that bans same-sex relationships among its students is exempt from the non-discrimination provisions of Title IX.

Around the Web

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

  • In St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church v. City of Brookings, a church filed suit in an Oregon federal district court challenging a city ordinance that limits the church from offering free meals to the needy more than two days per week.
  • In Buck v. Hertel, Michigan agreed to settle with St. Vincent Catholic Charities in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.  The state agreed to pay attorneys’ fees of $550,000 and not to terminate the contract with the licensed child placement agency because of their religious requirements.
  • In Navy Seal 1 v. Biden, a Florida federal district court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the military from enforcing its COVID-19 vaccination mandate against two service members who were denied religious exemptions.
  • In Divine Grace Yoga Ashram Inc. v. County of Yavapai, an Arizona federal district court rejected a RLUIPA claim that the county’s permit requirement violates the “equal terms” provision of RLUIPA.
  • The EEOC announced that Wellpath, a provider of health services, agreed to settle a religious discrimination claim brought by a nurse who lost her job after requesting a religious accommodation that would allow her to wear a scrub skirt instead of pants to work. Wellpath agreed to pay the nurse $75,000 and provide anti-discrimination training and a notice of rights to employees.
  • The City of Louisville has agreed to pay Officer Matt Schrennger, Kentucky police officer, $75,000 to settle his lawsuit after he was punished for praying in front of an abortion clinic while in uniform, but off-duty.

Around the Web

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

  • The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Ramirez v. Collier. A Texas death-row inmate sought a stay of execution, arguing that his pastor should be allowed to lay hands on him as he receives a lethal injection. The Fifth Circuit affirmed a refusal to grant the stay of execution.
  • In Resurrection School v. Hertel, the Sixth Circuit granted en banc review to reconsider a challenge by a group of Catholic parents’ to a COVID-19 mask mandate for schools. A panel previously held that the mandate did not violate the children’s free exercise rights.
  • In Byrd v. Haas, the Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of RLUIPA and free exercise claims brought by an inmate who sought to worship with other inmates and obtain items to be used in worship.
  • In Sambrano v. United Airlines, a Texas federal district court refused to issue a preliminary injunction against United Airlines’s practice of placing on unpaid leave employees who receive a religious exemption from the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
  • In Thoms v. Maricopa County Community College District, an Arizona federal district court granted a preliminary injunction to two nursing students who sought religious exemptions from a COVID-19 vaccination requirement.
  • The Department of Labor released a proposal to rescind a Trump Administration rule that broadly defines religious exemptions under the agency’s anti-discrimination requirements for government contractors and subcontractors.

Video of Webinar on Religious Exemptions

The SNF Agora Institute at The Johns Hopkins University has posted a video of the webinar I participated in this week, on religious freedom in the US. The panel was moderated by The Atlantic’s Rachel Donadio; other participants included K. Healon Gaston (Harvard), Daniel Mach (ACLU) and Asma Uddin (Independent). I greatly enjoyed the panel and am grateful to the organizers for inviting me. Video below:

Around the Web

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

  • Justice Breyer denied an injunction in a case challenging the lack of religious exemptions in Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers.
  • In Easter v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, suit was filed in the D.C. federal district court challenging the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s contracting with religiously sponsored agencies that prohibit the placement of unaccompanied minor refugees with individuals on the basis of the individuals’ sexual orientation.
  • In National Capital Presbytery v. Mayorkas, the D.C. federal district court held that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act when it refused to renew a R-1 nonimmigrant religious worker visa.
  • In United States v. Stafford County, the Justice Department filed a Notice of Dismissal after an ordinance that prevented the “All Muslim Association of America” from developing a religious cemetery for Muslims was revoked.
  • Abundant Life Baptist Church, a Missouri megachurch, was awarded a settlement of $146,750 following a dispute with the local government over COVID-19 restrictions.
  • In Gateway Bible Baptist Church v. Province of Manitoba, a Canadian trial court upheld the public health restrictions imposed by the province on gatherings at places of worship and at private homes. 

Around the Web

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

  • In Pasadena Republican Club v. Western Justice Center, the Western Justice Center refused to rent space to a group to host a speech by the president of the National Organization of Marriage. The Republican Club brought a suit claiming both viewpoint discrimination and religious-belief discrimination, but the Ninth Circuit dismissed the suit and the Supreme Court denied review.
  • In Ackerman v. Washington, the Sixth Circuit held that the Michigan Department of Corrections’ universal religious meal plan was inadequate to meet the religious needs of Jewish prisoners.
  • In Zhang Jingrong v. Chinese Anti-Cult World Alliance, the Second Circuit held that under the Freedom to Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994, tables set up on the sidewalk occupied by protesters did not satisfy the “place of religious worship” requirement.
  • In Dr. A v. Hochul, a New York federal district court held that New York must continue to allow health care works to seek exemptions as a lawsuit challenging the mandate proceeds. The court concluded that the lack of a religious exemption conflicts with the anti-discrimination provisions of Title VII and the Free Exercise Clause.
  • A Dallas Criminal District Court Judge recommended that Randy Halprin, a Jewish death row inmate, be granted a new trial because there is evidence that the Judge in his case, Vickers Cunningham, was prejudiced and may have discriminated against him because of his religion. The state’s highest criminal court will now have to decide whether a new trial should be granted.
  • In ASM v. State of Wyoming, the Wyoming Supreme Court rejected a nun’s claim that the state violated her free exercise rights when, after inflicting self-injuries, she was involuntarily hospitalized. The nun asserted she was engaging in the Catholic ritual of mortification.
  • In Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education, an Oregon federal district court issued an order allowing three Christian post-secondary schools to intervene against a lawsuit that seeks to strip all students at private religious colleges of federal financial aid unless their schools renounce their core religious beliefs.