Around the Web

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

  • By a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant an injunction pending appeal in Dunn v. Austin. At issue was a suit by an Air Force Reserve officer who was denied a religious exemption from the military’s vaccine mandate.
  • In Gallo v. Washington Nationals Baseball Club, LLC, suit was filed in a D.C. federal district court by a scout for the Washington Nationals baseball team who was denied an accommodation for his religious objections to the baseball club’s COVID vaccine mandate.
  • In Smith v. Li, an inmate on death row brought a RLUIPA suit in a Tennessee federal district court seeking to stop the medical examiner from performing an autopsy after his death because it would violate his religious beliefs. The court enjoined the autopsy and held that the government could not show that conducting an autopsy in this case is necessary to fulfill a compelling government interest.
  • In Ciraci v. J.M. Smucker Co., an Ohio federal district court dismissed a suit by employees of a food manufacturer who claimed that their First Amendment free exercise rights were infringed when their employer denied them religious exemptions and required them to comply with the Presidential Executive Order mandating COVID vaccinations for employees of federal contractors. The court found the company is not a “state actor” when it complies with a federal vaccine mandate.
  • The Arizona legislature has passed HB 2507, a bill primarily aimed at preventing state and local governments from closing religious organizations in future states of emergency.
  • In Ali v. Heathrow Express Operating Company Ltd., the United Kingdom Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld an Employment Tribunal’s dismissal of an Equality Act religious harassment complaint. The complaint was brought by a Muslim employee of the Heathrow Express train service after a paper with a religious phrase in Arabic was placed in a test bag, by another employee, during a suspicious-objects training test.

Tradition and Strict Scrutiny

Over at the Volokh site, I have a post on last week’s decision in Ramirez v. Collier, in which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a death-row inmate who argued that prison officials violated RLUIPA by refusing to allow him to have a clergy present at his execution. RLUIPA requires prison restrictions to meet strict scrutiny: the state must justify restrictions on religion by showing that it has chosen the least restrictive means of satisfying a compelling interest.

Strict scrutiny, which applies in many areas of constitutional law, in practice operates as a balancing test. Critics (including me) have pointed out that the test is inherently indeterminate, depending largely on the intuitions of the particular judges hearing a case. In a separate concurrence in Ramirez, Justice Kavanaugh argues that tradition can help make the test less subjective:

In Ramirez, for example, prison officials had concluded that the marginal benefit of excluding pastors from the execution chamber outweighed the burden on inmates’ RLUIPA rights. Chief Justice Roberts and the majority evidently disagreed. But how were they to know? “It is difficult for a court applying” strict scrutiny, Kavanaugh wrote, “to know where to draw the line—that is, how much additional risk of great harm is too much for a court to order the State to bear.” If the justices’ intuitive judgments are all that make the difference, that hardly seems legitimate.

Here, according to Kavanaugh, is where tradition can help. For centuries in American practice, clergy have been present at executions. And that practice continues today. The presence of clergy, in other words, is a living tradition. “Although the compelling interest and least restrictive means standards are necessarily imprecise,” Kavanaugh wrote, “history and state practice can at least help structure the inquiry and focus the Court’s assessment of the State’s arguments.” Kavanaugh wrote separately to emphasize this aspect of the Court’s reasoning.

Here’s a link to my post.

Around the Web

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

  • The U.S. Supreme Court denied review in Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission v. Woods, a case involving whether religious groups are exempt from state non-discrimination employment laws.
  • In Ramirez v. Collier, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a death row prisoner was likely to succeed on his Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) lawsuit challenging limits on his pastor’s activities in the execution chamber. The Court held that petitioner is entitled to a preliminary injunction barring Texas from proceeding with his execution without permitting his pastor, during the execution, to lay hands on the prisoner and audibly pray with him.
  • In Canaan Christian Church v. Montgomery County Maryland, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Montgomery County did not violate a church’s rights under RLUIPA or the First Amendment when it refused to extend public sewer lines to properties on which the church proposed to construct new buildings.
  • In Catholic Charities West Michigan v. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, a Michigan federal district court approved a settlement agreement after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services conceded it would violate the First Amendment to take any adverse action against Catholic Charities because the ministry prioritizes placing foster and adoptive children in homes with a married mother and father.
  • In United States v. City of Troy, a Michigan federal district court held the city of Troy, Michigan had violated the “equal terms” provisions of RLUIPA and enjoined the city from enforcing its zoning ordinance that imposes stricter standards on places of worship than it does on non-religious uses in the same zoning district.
  • In Kariye v. Mayorkas, suit was filed by three Muslim Americans who claim U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents asked them religiously intrusive questions upon their return from international travel.

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion 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:

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: