Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Florida and Texas Churches Successfully Challenge Zoning Denials

This week, churches in Florida and Texas were successful in their RLUIPA challenges to zoning denials.

In Church of Our Savior v. City of Jacksonville, (MD FL, Nov. 25, 2014), a church prevailed on its RLUIPA "as applied" equal terms challenge to Jacksonville, Florida's denial of a conditional use permit. A Florida federal district court found that the city granted a permit to a Montessori school to operate in a residentially zoned area, while denying it to the church, thereby creating less than equal treatment.  The court went on to hold that the city had not shown that its two denials of conditional use permit applications were narrowly tailored to further compelling interests.  The court held that the city's actions did not violate various other provisions of RLUIPA, including RLUIPA's "substantial burden" provisions. [Thanks to Dan Dalton for the lead.]

In Cornerstone Church By the Bay v. Town of Bayview, (SD TX, Nov. 24, 2014), a Texas federal district court a preliminary injunction agreed to by both parties that apparently envisions that the town will grant a special use variance to allow a congregation to operate a church and school on property it owns in an area zoned residential. The injunction prevents the town from enforcing the zoning ordinance or interfering with the church's operation while the church applies for the required permits. Liberty Institute reports on the court's action and provides further background and links to the pleadings.

Arkansas, Mississippi Same-Sex Marriage Bans Invalidated

Yesterday federal district courts in two more states-- Arkansas and Mississippi-- struck down state bans on same-sex marriage.  In each case, the ruling was stayed to permit an appeal.

In Austin v. Crane, (ED AR, Nov. 25, 2014), an Arkansas federal district court held that Arkansas' state constitutional and statutory restrictions on same-sex marriage "deny consenting adult same-sex couples their fundamental right to marry," and impose unconstitutional gender classifications. Issuance of an injunction was stayed to permit a timely appeal to the 8th Circuit. AP reports on developments.

In a separate case, last May an Arkansas state trial court struck down Arkansas' same-sex marriage ban (see prior posting), and that case is currently on appeal.  In yesterday's decision, the federal court rejected arguments that it should therefore abstain.

In Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, (SD MS, Nov. 25, 2014), a Mississippi federal district court held that:
Mississippi’s same-sex marriage ban deprives same-sex couples and their children of equal dignity under the law. Gay and lesbian citizens cannot be subjected to such second-class citizenship. Mississippi’s same-sex marriage ban violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The court issued a preliminary injunction, but stayed it for 14 days to permit an appeal to the 5th Circuit. The Clarion-Ledger reports.

Delays In Sale of Historic Church Support Free Exercise, But Not RLUIPA, Claim

In California-Nevada Annual Conference of the Methodist Church v. City and County of San Francisco, (ND CA, Nov. 24, 2014), a California federal district court resolved two rather interesting issues defining the scope of religious liberty protection. The suit grows out of ten-years of legal delays-- including attempted landmarking-- imposed by San Francisco on the sale of an historic Methodist Church to condominium developers who planned to demolish the church building.The court rejected the Methodist Conference's RLUIPA claims, holding that the sale of the property to commercial developers is not a "religious exercise" under RLUIPA:
The fact that the proceeds from the sale were to be used to fund the Conference’s religious efforts does not transform the sale transaction itself into "religious exercise."
However the court refused to dismiss the Conference's 1st Amendment free exercise claim:
Unlike the Conference’s RLUIPA claim, which specifically hinged on the denial of the demolition permit and resultant inability to recoup profits on the land sale, the Conference’s First Amendment claim is based upon a broader notion of unequal treatment – generally, that the City embroiled the Conference in bureaucratic proceedings, much of which were unnecessary, in an effort to prevent the Conference engaging in religious exercise.

Controversial Former Navy Chaplain Loses Another Round

Former Navy chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, who has been in a long-running battle with the military over regulations requiring chaplains to deliver inclusive prayers at military events other than religious services, lost another round this week.  In Klingenschmitt v. United States, (Ct. Fed. Cl., Nov. 24, 2014), the Court of Federal Claims rejected Klingenschmitt's claims under the Tucker Act and the Military Pay Act.  After recounting for some 19 pages the history leading up to the lawsuit, the court explains:
In this case, Dr. Klingenschmitt alleges that he was wrongfully discharged from the Navy and seeks an award of backpay and allowances and benefits retroactive to his separation date and reinstatement as a chaplain. Incident to that claim, he seeks removal of references to his 2005 and 2006 fitness reports and the CARE board’s recommendation from his record.... He also asks that the Court vacate his court-martial conviction and direct that references to the conviction, including the letter of reprimand issued pursuant to his conviction, be removed from his record.... Dr. Klingenschmitt’s complaint also includes a potpourri of other claims that appear to challenge Navy policies which he claims violate the First Amendment, RFRA, and 10 U.S.C. § 6031(a).... 
In dismissing, the court said in part:
the Court finds unpersuasive Dr. Klingenschmitt’s argument that his First Amendment right to practice his religious beliefs was infringed by Captain Pyle’s Order that he not wear his uniform to the media event held in Lafayette Park in March 2006. Captain Pyle’s Order was based on Navy regulations that prohibit the wearing of a uniform in connection with political activities.... The Order did not limit Dr. Klingenschmitt’s right to engage in any religious practices (including presenting an opening prayer at the event or invoking the name of Jesus in his prayer). It simply prohibited Dr. Klingenschmitt from engaging in this activity while wearing his uniform at what was clearly a political event and not, as Dr. Klingenschmitt seems to suggest, a bona fide religious service.
Therefore, taking this infraction into consideration in deciding whether to recertify Dr. Klingenschmitt as a chaplain did not violate either his First Amendment rights or RFRA.

AALS Newsletter Includes Comprehensive 2014 Bibliography On Law and Religion

The Association of American Law Schools Section on Law and Religion has issued its December 2014 Newsletter. It includes a 27-page bibliography of articles and books on law and religion published in 2014, as well as a list of relevant blogs.

Pope Francis Addresses European Parliament and Council of Europe

Pope Francis yesterday delivered a lengthy address (full text) to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. As reported by Vatican Radio, the Pope spoke of the importance of Christian values to Europe. He said in part:
Today, the promotion of human rights is central to the commitment of the European Union to advance the dignity of the person, both within the Union and in its relations with other countries....
At the same time, however, care must be taken not to fall into certain errors which can arise from a misunderstanding of the concept of human rights and from its misuse.  Today there is a tendency to claim ever broader individual rights; underlying this is a conception of the human person as detached from all social and anthropological contexts....  The equally essential and complementary concept of duty no longer seems to be linked to such a concept of rights. ....
To our dismay we see technical and economic questions dominating political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings. Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that – as is so tragically apparent – whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb.
Later yesterday, the Pope gave a second address to the Council of Europe. (Full text.) As reported by Vatican Radio, his talk addressed many of the challenges facing Europe today.

A day before the Pope's visit, the radical feminist group FEMEN staged a protest in the Strasbourg Cathedral. According to FEMEN's webiste:
Today, the day before Pope's venue, FEMEN sextremists climbed the altar in Strasbourg Cathedral and installed a European flag as a symbol of new union between European political power and Catholic Church with it's Vatican. Symbolically, the protest took place in the only region of France where the state and church are not separated by law, Alsace region. The activist was carring a slogan "Antisecular Europe" on her chest to denounce the betrayer of secular ideas by the EU Parliament that invited the Pope.
Lifesite News reports on the topless demonstration.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Religion Clause Nominated For ABA Journal Blawg 100


I am pleased to announce that Religion Clause has been nominated by the ABA Journal for inclusion in its 8th Annual Blawg 100 rankings.  This is the sixth time in eight years that Religion Clause has made this prestigious list of the top 100 blogs directed at audiences interested in law and lawyers.  This year, Religion Clause was awarded the added honor of becoming part of the Blawg 100  Hall of Fame-- a group of 30 blogs described by the ABA Journal as blogs which have "consistently been outstanding throughout multiple Blawg 100 lists."

Click here to go to ballot
Now that the ABA Journal editors have narrowed the list to 100, the Journal asks you to vote for your favorite in each of its 13 categories. Religion Clause has been nominated in the "Profs" category. You may cast your votes in all categories at this link.  The ABA Journal requires a short registration process as part of the voting in order to prevent ballot box stuffing.  I hope you find Religion Clause a worthwhile enough read to vote for it.  Voting ends on Dec. 19.  Thanks to all who nominated Religion Clause for this honor.

Colorado Supreme Court: FFRF Lacks Standing To Challenge Day of Prayer Proclamations

In a 5-2 decision yesterday, the Colorado Supreme Court held that the Freedom From Religion Foundation and its members lack standing to challenge the Governor's annual Colorado Day of Prayer proclamations. The suit claimed that the proclamations violate Art. II, Sec. 4 of the Colorado Constitution which prohibits the government from giving preference to any religious denomination.  In Hickenlooper v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc., (CO Sup. Ct., Nov. 24, 2014), the majority said in part:
Although we do not question the sincerity of Respondents’ feelings, without more, their circuitous exposure to the honorary proclamations and concomitant belief that the proclamations expressed the Governor’s preference for religion is simply too indirect and incidental an injury to confer individual standing. To hold otherwise would render the injury-in-fact requirement superfluous, as any person who learned of a government action through the media and felt politically marginalized as a result of that secondhand media exposure would have individual standing to sue the government. Because such a result would stretch our already broad conceptualization of individual standing beyond recognition and thrust the judiciary beyond its article III limits, we hold that Respondents have not alleged an injury sufficient to establish individual standing.
Justice Hood, joined by Justice Hobbs, dissented. They would have found standing, but concluded that the proclamations do not violate the state constitution's Preference Clause, saying in part:
If our “tradition assumes that adult citizens, firm in their own beliefs, can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a person of a different faith,” then it must also be assumed that adult citizens can tolerate something far less intrusive: a proclamation urging appreciation of the power of a prayer.

Britain's Law Society Withdraws Practice Note On Drafting Sharia-Compliant Wills

Last March, the Law Society of England and Wales issued a Practice Note to assist British solicitors whose clients ask them to draw up wills that comply with Sharia law. The Law Society's action drew criticism from those who objected that such wills may deny women an equal share of an estate and exclude "illegitimate" children or unbelievers. (See prior posting.) Yesterday the Law Society announced that it has withdrawn the Practice Note, saying in part:
Our practice note was intended to support members to better serve their clients as far as is allowed by the law of England and Wales.  We reviewed the note in the light of criticism. We have withdrawn the note and we are sorry.
The Telegraph reports on reaction to the Law Society's latest action.

DOJ Requires Georgia County To Provide Extensive Training To Prevent Religious Bullying of Sikhs and Others

Last week (Nov. 18), the Justice Department announced an extensive agreement between federal authorities and the DeKalb County, Georgia school district requiring the district to implement polices and procedures to prevent and respond to religious and national origin harassment of students by fellow-students. The Resolution Agreement (full text) supplements a May 2013 agreement (full text) that settled a lawsuit brought by a Sikh student who had been repeatedly harassed and bullied. (2013 Sikh Coalition release.) That agreement required implementation of a safety plan for that student and anti-harassment training.  Last week's settlement (Sikh Coalition release) grew out of the Justice Department's continuing examination of the school district's harassment policies. Among other things, it requires the school district:
to develop and implement annual age and position-appropriate trainings on religious and national origin harassment for all students, staff who interact with students (including administrators, teachers, counselors, and bus drivers), and District-level administrators who interact with students or who are involved in addressing harassment or bullying in the District. The District will implement separate student- and staff-specific trainings....
All trainings must include:
A facilitated discussion of the root causes of religious and national origin harassment and the harms resulting from such conduct, including but not limited to issues related to post-9/11 backlash and the perpetuation of negative stereotypes impacting the Sikh, Muslim, South Asian, and Arab-American communities....

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.