Monday, November 24, 2014

SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Decision Implemented With Narrow Injunction

Last week, an Oklahoma federal district court implemented the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case, issuing a narrow injunction. In Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, (WD OK, Nov. 19, 2014), the court enjoined the government from enforcing regulations under the Affordable Care Act "which require plaintiffs Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Mardel, Inc. to provide their employees with health coverage for contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and related patient education and counseling to which plaintiffs' object on religious grounds...." The court refused to issue the broader injunction sought by plaintiff that would have enjoined enforcement of the statute, as well as the regulations, saying: "A broader order enjoining any potential application of the statute ... goes beyond what has been actually decided and litigated in this case."

Oklahoma Legislator Will Replace Destroyed 10 Commandments Monument

As previously reported, last month a man, claiming to have been directed to do so by Satan, drove his car into the Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds.  KOCO today reports that Republican state legislator Mike Ritze who paid $10,000 for the monument says that he has ordered an identical new monument to replace the original that is beyond repair. Again the monument will be paid for by private funds. An Establishment Clause challenge to the original monument was rejected by an Oklahoma state trial court (see prior posting), and the case is now on appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Conservative Group Seeks IRS Communications With Freedom From Religion Foundation

As previously reported, in July the Freedom From Religion Foundation reached a settlement agreement with the Internal Revenue Service in a suit challenging the IRS's alleged non-enforcement against churches and religious organizations of the Section 501(c)(3) ban on political activity by non-profits. In announcing the settlement, FFRF said that the IRS has now adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations.

Now the conservative organization, Judicial Watch is attempting to discover more about these new procedures.  It announced today that earlier this month it filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking all records of communications between the IRS and FFRF on the promotion of political issues, legislation and candidates by churches and religious organizations.  It is also seeking all records relating to IRS monitoring of churches and religious organizations that took place to ensure they are not engaging in political activity.  The complaint (full text) in  Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service, (D DC, filed 11/6/2014), says that so far the IRS has failed to comply with Judicial Watch's request for these records.

Commenting on the filing of the lawsuit, Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said:
As expressed by the First Amendment, Americans have the God-given right to both express their religious views and to engage in the political process. It is troubling that the IRS seems set to rely on a group of atheists to point them toward churches that might have criticized politicians.  And it is even more disturbing that the IRS would violate federal law, The Freedom of Information Act, in order to keep secret its monitoring of Americans praying together in church.  To be clear, the very IRS that abused Tea Partiers for Obama’s election now purports to be able to ‘audit’ houses of worship in order to protect politicians from criticism. I am sure the Obama administration is more than happy to use the excuse of a lawsuit by a leftist group to use the IRS to punish churches that oppose Obama’s war on religious freedom

Recent Articles and Books of Interest

From SSRN:
From SSRN (Islamic Law):
From SmartCILP:
  • William A. Galston, Should Public Law Accommodate the Claims of Conscience?, [Abstract], 51 San Diego Law Review 1-18 (2014).
  • Frederick B. Jonassen, "So Help Me?": Religious Expression and Artifacts In the Oath of Office and the Courtroom Oath, [Abstract], 12 Cardozo Public Law, Policy and Ethics Journal 303-373 (2014).
  • Charles J. Russo, Religious Freedom In A Brave New World: How Leaders In Faith-Based Schools Can Follow Their Beliefs In Hiring, [Abstract], 45 University of Toledo Law Review 457-470 (2014).
  • Ronna Greff Schneider, The Crucifix In the Classroom, Religious Symbols, and Public Classroom Walls: An International Perspective On Religion In the Public Sphere (Reviewing The Lautsi Papers: Multidisciplinary Reflections on Religious Symbols in the Public School Classroom, edited by Jeroen Temperman), [Abstract], 36 Human Rights Quarterly 668-682 (2014).
  • Adam Wallwork, Legislating the Free Exercise Clause: Congressional Power and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, 5 Faulkner Law Review 1-28 (2013-2014). 
Recent Books:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Israel's Cabinet Approves Proposed Basic Law Declaring Israel As A Jewish State

The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel's Cabinet today voted 15-6 to approve three proposed versions of the highly controversial "Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People." The Cabinet Ministers' discussion descended into a shouting match. The bills will be presented for a preliminary vote in the Knesset Wednesday, and then will go to committee where the versions will be combined. All of the versions protect "Hatikva" as the national anthem, protect state symbols, use of the Hebrew calendar and the Law of Return, and give freedom of access to holy places and protect them.

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Robbins v. Toole, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160274 (SD GA, Nov. 14, 2014), Georgia magistrate judge allowed an inmate to proceed with his complaint that he was not being given food that meets his religious requirements.

In Malipurathu v. Johnson, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160529 (ND OK, Nov. 13, 2014), an Oklahoma federal district court dismissed complaints by a Sikh inmate that he was not permitted to obtain a halal diet until he listed his religion as Sikh/ Islam.  Plaintiff never requested that the Department of Corrections add the Sikh religion to the list of those entitled to a halal diet. The court also dismissed various complaints about the content of halal meals served to plaintiff.

In Snodgrass v. Robinson, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161517 (WD VA, Nov. 17, 2014), a Virginia federal district court refused to dismiss a Muslim inmate's complaint that he was not permitted to participate in the 2013 Ramadan fast.

In Amos v. Stolzer, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161557 (ED MO, Nov. 18, 2014), a Missouri federal district court permitted a Muslim inmate to proceed against a jail sergeant, but not against other defendants, in his complaint that he was denied halal food, a "hardback" Qur'an, a "prayer rug" and access to religious services with an Imam.  His Establishment Clause claim based on the absence of Muslim clergy on the authorized clergy list was dismissed.

In Pegues v. Billingsley, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161842 (CD IL, Nov. 19, 2014), an Illinois federal district court permitted a "vegetarian Ethiopian Jewish" pre-trial detainee to proceed with his complaint that he has been denied pastoral care from any religious volunteers, and has been denied the opportunity to meet with religious leaders in retaliation for his filing complaints.

Court Enjoins South Carolina's Refusal To Recognize Same-Sex Marriages From Elsewhere

As previously reported, on Nov. 12 in Wilson v. Condon, a South Carolina federal district court struck down South Carolina's ban on issuing licenses for same-sex marriages. Attempts to stay effectiveness of the decision failed. (See prior posting.)  Six days later, in a decision that has been less noticed, a different South Carolina federal district court judge entered a permanent injunction against enforcing South Carolina's ban on recognition of same-sex marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions.  In Bradacs v. Haley, (D SC, Nov. 18, 2014), the court concluded that "South Carolina’s denial of legal recognition to the marriages of same-sex couples who were married in other states or jurisdictions violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses...." However the court refused to hold that the ban violates the Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause. WXLT reported on the decision.

Egyptian Court Acquits First Doctor Charged With Female Genital Mutilation

The Guardian on Thursday reported that the first doctor in Egypt to be brought to trial under a 2008 law on charges of female genital mutilation has been acquitted:
Raslan Fadl, a doctor and Islamic preacher in the village of Agga, northern Egypt, was acquitted of mutilating Sohair al-Bata’a in June 2013. The 12-year-old died during the alleged procedure, but Fadl was also acquitted of her manslaughter.
No reason was given by the judge, with the verdict being simply scrawled in a court ledger, rather than being announced in the Agga courtroom.
Sohair’s father, Mohamed al-Bata’a, was also acquitted of responsibility. Police and health officials testified that the child’s parents had admitted taking their daughter to Fadl’s clinic for the procedure.
Despite his acquittal, the doctor was ordered to pay 5,001 Egyptian pounds (about £450) to Sohair’s mother for her daughter’s manslaughter, after the pair reached an out-of-court settlement.
In rural areas, both Muslims and Christians support FGM, believing it reduces adultery. 91% of married Egyptian women have been subjected to the procedure.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Montana's Same-Sex Marriage Bans Falls; Becomes 34th State To Recognize Marriage Equality

On Wednesday, a Montana federal district court issued a permanent injunction barring Montana from enforcing statutory and constitutional provisions that prevent same-sex marriages or recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.  The opinion in Rolando v. Fox, (D MT, Nov. 19, 2014), granting plaintiffs' motion for summary judgement on their equal protection claim, relies heavily on the 9th Circuit's decision last month striking down same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada. (See prior posting.) The Montana federal court's injunction, made effective immediately, makes Montana the 34th state to permit same-sex marriage.

AP reported today that in the Yellowstone County clerk's office in Billings, one deputy clerk has expressed religious objections, and three others have moral objections, to issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The County Human Relations Director, after consulting with the county attorney, has exempted the four, in part citing Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act barring religious discrimination in employment.  Yellowstone County Clerk Kristie Lee Boelter is unhappy with the exemptions.  There are a total of 20 deputy clerks in the office.

Muslim's Religious Discrimination Claim Against NJ Transit Dismissed

In Allison v. New Jersey Transit Corp., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162175 (D NJ, Nov. 19, 2014), a New Jersey federal district court dismissed a claim by an African American Muslim employee of New Jersey Transit that disciplinary action taken against him amounted to religious discrimination.  Individuals who filed complaints, investigated, prosecuted and adjudicated the disciplinary actions were unaware that plaintiff was a Muslim.

Zoning Denial Did Not Create Substantial Burden Under RLUIPA

In Andon, LLC v. City of Newport News, Virginia, (ED VA, Nov. 20, 2014, a Virginia federal district court dismissed a RLUIPA challenge to the city's refusal to grant a zoning variance to allow use of a leased building as a church.  The court held that while the landowner has standing, even though it did not engage in any religious activity, the denial of a variance does not impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of the congregation that had entered an agreement to lease the building, subject to zoning approval.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Neo-Pagan Group Gets NY Property Tax Exemption

In In the Matter of Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, Inc., v. McCoy. (NY Ct. App., Nov. 18, 2014), New York's highest court, in a brief opinion, affirmed the decision of an appellate court that a neo-Pagan group is entitled to a tax exemption for property in the Town of Catskill that includes a 12-bedroom house, a caretaker's cottage, several outbuildings and an outdoor temple. The Court of Appeals said:
The Appellate Division properly granted the petitions. Petitioner adequately established its entitlement to the RPTL 420-a exemption, as the proof at the trial established that petitioner "exclusively" utilized the property in furtherance of its religious and charitable purposes.
(See prior related posting.) Courthouse News Service reports on the decision.

Supreme Court Developments On Same-Sex Marriage

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court issued an Order (full text) in Wilson v. Condon denying a stay of a South Carolina federal district court's decision striking down South Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage. (See prior posting.) Justices Scalia and Thomas dissented from the denial of the stay. SCOTUSblog reports on developments.

Meanwhile, the state of Louisiana filed a petition for certiorari (full text) in Robicheaux v. George, seeking to bypass the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and obtain Supreme Court review of a Louisiana federal district court decision that upheld Louisiana's ban on same-sex marriage. (See prior posting.) SCOTUSblog reports.

High Schooler Sues After He Is Suspended For Proselytizing

The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports on a federal lawsuit filed this week on behalf of an Everett, Washington high school student who was suspended three times for handing out Christian religious tracts at school and preaching to students using an amplifying device at a school-sponsored extracurricular event. Student Michael Leal claims religious discrimination. The school says that it took action because of the disruptive nature of the Leal's activity. Pacific Justice Institute announced the filing of the lawsuit.

9th Circuit Hears Oral Arguments In Conscience Challenge To Pharmacy Board Rules

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday heard oral arguments in Stormans, Inc. v. Weisman. (Audio of full oral arguments). In the case,  a Washington federal district court held unconstitutional the enforcement of rules of the Washington State Pharmacy Board that require pharmacies and pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception even when doing so violates a pharmacist's religious beliefs. (See prior posting.) The Oregonian reports on yesterday's oral arguments.

6th Circuit Hears Oral Arguments In Child Evangelism Fellowship Case

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday heard oral arguments (audio of full arguments) in Child Evangelism Fellowship v. Cleveland Metropolitan School District. At issue is the claim by Child Evangelism Fellowship that they were denied a fee waiver for use of school space, while a waiver (or in-kind arrangement) was granted to others. The federal district court for the Northern District of Ohio held in its Feb. 24, 2014 denial of a preliminary injunction (full text of decision): "Plaintiff cannot demonstrate that Defendant has a fee-waiver policy, and therefore cannot demonstrate Defendant operates such a policy in a discriminatory manner."

Suit Challenges Fort Lauderdale Restrictions On Feeding Homeless In Parks

Daily Business Review reports on a lawsuit filed Wednesday by Episcopal priest Rev. Mark Sims challenging a Fort Lauderdale, Florida ordinance that took effect on Nov. 1 imposing various requirements on organizations feeding the homeless in public parks. The suit claims the new law violates the federal and state constitutions as well as the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Sims and activist Arnold Abbott have been cited for violating the new law. According to the news report:
The highly publicized ordinance has been championed by Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler and ridiculed by cable television political satirist Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." The most notable alleged violator is 90-year-old homeless activist Arnold Abbott.
The city bars "outdoor food distribution centers" within 500 feet of a residential property or other food distribution center and requires centers to provide restrooms, equipment for the disposal of water and wastewater, written consent of the property owner, food temperature controls and other conditions.
Apparently separately, 90-year old Abbott filed a motion to enforce an injunction issued in 2000 against an earlier Fort Lauderdale ordinance.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

House Holds Hearings On Religious Accommodation In Military

Yesterday, the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Religious Accommodations in the Armed Services. The full texts of the prepared statements of five witnesses, plus statements submitted for the record by a member of Congress and ten advocacy organizations, are available at the Committee's website.

Ten North Carolina Magistrates Leave Over Performing Same-Sex Marriages

Time Warner News reported yesterday that in North Carolina, at least ten magistrates resigned or took early retirement last month because of their opposition to performing same-sex marriages. On Oct. 14, the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts ruled that magistrates must perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples who present a license in the same way they do for opposite-sex couples. (See prior posting.) There are a total of 672 magistrates in the state.

Court Upholds College's Vaccination Requirement Over Free Exercise Challenge

In George v. Kankakee Community College, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160737 (CD IL, Nov. 17, 2014), an Illinois federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161379, Oct. 27, 2014) and dismissed a  paramedic student's claim that his free exercise and privacy rights were infringed when he was precluded from taking a clinical class required for his degree. Nicholas George was not permitted to enroll because he refused on religious grounds to comply with the vaccination requirements that were imposed by the hospital conducting the class.  The court held that the hospital's policy was generally applicable  and neutral. The court also remanded to state court plaintiff's state law claims.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Consent Injunction Issued In Church's RLUIPA "Equal Terms" Challenge

A Kansas federal district court last week issued a consent order (full text) granting a preliminary injunction barring Garden City, Kansas from enforcing its zoning code against a church that has been located in the city's central business district for ten years. The order in Mount Zion Church of God In Christ v. City of  Garden City, Kansas, (D KA, Nov. 14, 2014), comes in a RLUIPA challenge to provisions that fail to include churches as permitted uses in the area zoned as Central Business District.  The complaint (full text) in the case invokes RLUIPA's "equal terms" provision as well as the 14th Amendment.  In September the city told Mount Zion that it must stop using its location as a church after the city received a complaint from a citizen about another nearby church. RLUIPA Defense blog today reports on the case.

Monitor's Report Critical of Actions By Orthodox Jewish Majority On East Ramapo NY School Board

The New York Times reported yesterday that a state-appointed monitor has delivered a report to the New York State Board of Regents sharply critical of the East Ramapo (NY) School District board.  A majority of the East Ramapo Board's members are Orthodox Jews. In the district, Jewish yeshivas enroll around 24,000 students while the public schools enroll 9,000 students, predominately Black and Latino. Public school parents complain that the Board gives increasing financial aid to yeshivas, while cutting public school budgets. The special monitor, Hank Greenberg, essentially agreed, saying:
What I have found is that you have a board deeply influenced and informed by the community from which they’ve come — so concerned about the children of that community that it has blinded them to the needs of the entire community,
His report calls for more state funding, accompanied by a new law that would provide for a fiscal monitor with the power to overrule decisions of the school board and superintendent. East Ramapo school board president Yehuda Weismandel issued a statement (full text) responding to the monitor's report.

Air Force Amends Instruction On Religious Freedom and Accommodation

Last week, the U.S. Air Force announced that Air Force Instruction 1-1 on Air Force Culture has been updated as of Nov. 7 to clarify standards on free exercise of religion and religious accommodation. The amended Instruction (full text) strengthens free exercise and religious accommodation rights of military personnel, and weakens restrictions on proselytizing. The new amendments provide in part:
Every Airman also has the right to individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs, to include conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs, unless those expressions would have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or mission accomplishment.....
[Leaders] must ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief.
Gone from the amended version is previous language providing that leaders "must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates."

The original version of the Instruction allowed religious accommodation requests to be denied on the basis of "military necessity."  The new amendments provide:
If it is necessary to deny free exercise of religion or an accommodation request, the decision must be based on the facts presented, must directly relate to the compelling government interest of military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or mission accomplishment, and must be by the least restrictive means necessary to avoid the cited adverse impact.
The amended Instruction also makes it clear that these guidelines on religious expression apply to communications on social media.

Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers has an analysis of the amendments as well as a chart of the changes in language in the 2014 amendments.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Florida School District Proposing To Ban Distribution of All Religious Material

The Orange County, Florida Public Schools are giving up on their passive distribution policy that originally allowed Bibles to be distributed by World Changers in high schools, but then led to litigation over material critical of the Bible that Freedom From Religion Foundation sought to distribute. That was followed by a request from a New York-based Satanic Temple to distribute its materials under the school district's limited public forum policy. According to yesterday's Christian Post, the Florida school district is now proposing a rule change that will prohibit distribution of materials of a denominational, sectarian, religious, political or partisan nature. Pending requests to distribute material will be put on hold while the rule change is under consideration. Commenting on the proposal, school board chairman Bill Sublette said that the situation has gotten out of hand. "I think we've seen a group or groups take advantage of the open forum we've had," he said.

New Lawsuit Challenges Nebraska's Ban On Same-Sex Marriage

A lawsuit was filed yesterday in federal district court in Nebraska by 7 couples challenging the constitutionality of Art. I, Sec. 29 of Nebraska's state constitution.  The provision prohibits same-sex couples from marrying and bars recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples performed in other jurisdictions. The complaint (full text) in Waters v. Heineman, (D NE, filed 11/17/2014) contends that the provision violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. ACLU announced the filing of the lawsuit. Sioux City Journal has additional background. In 2006, in Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning, the 8th Circuit upheld the Nebraska ban.

Suit Challenges Prayer and Bible Readings At School Board Meetings

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed suit last week against a California school board challenging the practice of prayer and Bible readings at school board meetings.  The complaint (full text) in Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education, (CD CA, filed 11/13/2014), alleges:
The Chino Valley School Board ... begins each meeting with a prayer. Indeed the meetings resemble a church service more than a school board meeting, complete with Bible readings by the Board members, Bible quotations by Board members, and other statements by Board members promoting the Christian religion.
The suit contends that the school board's practices violate both the federal and California constitutions. Friendly Atheist blog reports on the lawsuit.

Pope Francis Confirms Planned September U.S. Visit

The New York Times, Vatican Radio and other media reported yesterday that Pope Francis has confirmed that he will make his first Papal Visit to the United States in September to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. No other stops in the U.S. have been confirmed, but the Vatican's United Nations representative says the trip will also include a visit to New York. The Pope announced his visit while speaking in Rome at a Colloquium on Complementarity of Man and Woman sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  The U.S. trip is hardly a surprise since, as previously reported, last July Philadelphia Archbishop Chaput confirmed it.

Group Launches Annual "Friend or Foe Christmas" Campaign

Liberty Counsel announced yesterday that it is launching its 12th annual "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign." The campaign treats as a "foe" of Christmas businesses or governmental entities that use terms other than "Christmas" in promoting the holiday season.  Liberty Counsel publishes a "Naughty or Nice List" of retailers that either use the term "Christmas" or refused to do so. The group also has placed on its website a legal memo on religious displays and celebrations in schools and governmental offices. A second legal memo focuses on religious expression rights of employees of private businesses.

Church of Brethren Has No Right To Property of Break-Away Congregation

In Church of the Brethren v. Roann Church of the Brethren, Inc., (IN App., Nov. 17, 2014), an Indiana appeals court held that a break-away Church of the Brethren congregation had not placed its property into an irrevocable trust, express or implied, for the benefit of the Denomination.  Applying the neutral-principles-of-law approach, the court reviewed the Denomination's Organization and Polity Manual, the underlying deeds and the congregational constitution to affirm the trial court's holding that the church property remains with the congregation. [Thanks to Michael E. DiRienzo for the lead.]