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Archive for the category “Reblog: Religion Clause”

Suit Seeks To Bring Marijuana Under American Indian Religious Freedom Act

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

Courthouse News Service reported this week that Oklevueha Native American Church leaders James “Flaming Eagle” Mooney and Joy Graves filed suit in an Oregon federal district court on January 15 against the federal government and the U.S. Postal Service.  The suit claims that federal authorities illegally seized 5 ounces of sacramental marijuana mailed to a church member in Ohio last December. Plaintiffs claim that their use of marijuana is protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.  National leaders of the Native American Church do not recognize the Oklevueha branch, nor do they agree with its claims that marijuana (as opposed to peyote) has sacramental use.  In 2013, a Hawaii federal district court rejected a claim under RFRA by Mooney. (See prior posting.) That decision is on appeal.

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African-American Church Files RLUIPA Suit Over Denial of Special Use Permit

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“A Johnston, Rhode Island predominately African-American congregation has filed a lawsuit against the town and its zoning official who denied the church a special use permit to allow it to use the church building it purchased last year for religious assembly. The complaint (full text) in King’s Tabernacle v. Town of Johnston, Rhode Island, (D RI, filed 1/25/2016) contends that even though the building has been used for worship by other congregations since 1891, city officials required King’s Tabernacle to apply for a special use permit, and then denied the application. The town’s zoning official, who subsequently was recorded making racist remarks about the church, told the church it would now have to pay property taxes. The suit contends that the denial of the special use permit violated RLUIPA and the church’s free exercise rights. Johnston Patch reports on the filing of the lawsuit.”

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Court Says Ark Encounter Cannot Be Excluded From Kentucky Tax Incentives

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Ark Encounter, LLC v. Parkinson, (ED KY, Jan. 26, 2016), a Kentucky federal district court, in a 71-page opinion, held that Kentucky improperly excluded a Noah’s Ark complex from participating in tax incentives provided by the state’s Tourism Development Act. The court summarized the facts and its holding as follows:

Rising on what was once farmland near the community of Williamstown, Kentucky, is what purports to be an exact replica of the ark that figures prominently in the Old Testament story of a great flood that covered the earth. The modern-day Noah that is constructing the replica hopes that its almost $100 million investment will produce a successful tourist attraction.  At first, the Kentucky Tourism Cabinet, with the same hope, approved tax incentives for the project. But then, representatives of the Commonwealth, concerned that the project was going to “advance religion,” reversed course; the reason: providing the tax incentives would be contrary to the First Amendment protection from the state establishment of religion.

So, in essence, the question presented here is this: if a tourist attraction, even one that as described here “advances religion,” meets the neutral criteria for tax incentives offered by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, can the Commonwealth still deny the incentive for Establishment Clause reasons? This opinion is long but the answer to that question is short — no.

At the heart of the court’s lengthy opinion was the following:

The Commonwealth has forced  [Ark Encounter] to choose between expressing its religious views on its own property at the theme park and receiving the tax rebate under the KTDA. Although Defendants are correct that “the mere non-funding of private secular and religious . . . programs does not burden a person’s religion or the free exercise thereof,” …, in this case the Commonwealth is funding the private secular programs while discriminating against the religious one because of its religiosity, which is a violation of the Free Exercise Clause.

AP reports on the decision. [Thanks to Tom Rutledge for the lead.]

UPDATE: Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s office said on Jan. 27 that it will not appeal the court’s decision. (Cincinnati Enquirer).

You can learn more about this issue here.

Ministerial Exception Applies To Hospital Chaplain’s Discrimination Lawsuit

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Penn v. New York Methodist Hospital, (SD NY, Jan. 20, 2016), a New York federal district court invoked the ministerial exception doctrine to dismiss a discrimination suit brought by an African-American Methodist pastor employed as a part-time chaplain by a Methodist hospital.  Plaintiff claimed that he was not promoted to a vacant full-time position because of his race and religion. The court held that the hospital is a “religious institution” for purposes of the ministerial exception doctrine even though it had severed its formal ties with the United Methodist Church:

Severing a formal affiliation with the Church does not necessarily imply that the Hospital does not maintain any church-based relationship or have any religious characteristics.

It went on to find:

insofar as Plaintiff is a Methodist and was responsible—at least in part—for preaching the Christian faith, the relationship between Plaintiff and NYMH (specifically, the pastoral care department) was that of a religious employee and a religious institution. This case does not present the Court, nor will the Court venture out to decide, whether this holding would apply to a religious institution’s employment of a minister, pastor, or chaplain of a different faith.”

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Challenge To School Religious Activities Dismissed On Standing Grounds

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In American Humanist Association, Inc. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, (D CO, Jan. 20, 2016), a Colorado federal district court dismissed for lack of standing a lawsuit by parents of children in the Douglas County School District, and by the American Humanist Association. The suit challenged as violations of the Establishment Clause and the Equal Access Act various religious activities in the school system, including participation in Operation Christmas Child collections for needy children, a trip by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to Guatemala and faculty participation in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  Some plaintiffs did not show any injury in fact, while others did not show that their injury was traceable to the challenged conduct. The court also found no standing for plaintiffs as municipal taxpayers.”

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Texas Bar Committee Backs Off Refusal To Certify Christian Ethics CLE Course

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“As reported by Catholic Education Daily, the State Bar of Texas Minimum Continuing Legal Education Committee last week backed off of its controversial refusal last November (see prior posting) to certify a religious-themed continuing legal education program for “Legal Ethics/ Professional Responsibility” credit.  Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had charged the Committee with religious discrimination after it refused to approve a St. Mary’s law school professor’s CLE program on “Christian Ethical Perspectives: Faith and Law Today” for ethics credit.  In its January 12 letter (full text) to the professor, Bill Piatt, the Committee said in part:

It has become clear that the November 4 letter conveyed an unintended and incorrect impression regarding the MCLE Committee’s position regarding the provision of credit for courses containing moral or religious content.  We take responsibility for and regret the miscommunication.”

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Ejected Muslim and Sikh Airline Passengers Sue

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“The New York Daily News reported yesterday that a federal lawsuit has been filed against American Airlines and two affiliated regional carriers by  four friends– 3 Muslims and a Sikh– who were ejected from a Toronto to New York flight last December because they made the stewardesses and the captain uneasy.  The flyers’ appearance and the fact that two of them upgraded to business class just before boarding aroused suspicions in the crew.  Two of the ejected passengers were Bangladeshi Muslims, one an Arab Muslim and one a Sikh from India.  The lawsuit seeks $9 million in damages, claiming plaintiffs were discriminated against for looking too Muslim.”

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Supreme Court Grants Review In Missouri Blaine Amendment Case

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

The U.S. Supreme Court today granted certiorari in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley, (Docket No. 15-577, cert. granted 1/15/2016) (Order List).  In the case, the the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, rejected arguments that Missouri’s Blaine Amendments violate the U.S. Constitution’s 1st and 14th Amendments. At issue was the denial by Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources of a grant application by Trinity Church for a Playground Scrap Tire Surface Material Grant that would have allowed it to resurface a playground at its day care and preschool facility on church premises. (See prior posting.) The petition for certiorari (full text) framed the Question Presented as follows:

Whether the exclusion of churches from an otherwise neutral and secular aid program violates the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses when the state has no valid Establishment Clause concern.

SCOTUSblog’s case page has links to all the briefs.

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Colorado Appeals Court Interprets Religious Purpose Property Tax Exemption

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Grand County Board of Commissioners v. Colorado Property Tax Administrator, (CO App., Jan. 14, 2016), a Colorado appeals court held that in applying the state’s tax exemption for property used in furtherance of religious purposes, the critical question is not whether the property is being used for inherently religious activities. Instead it it whether the use of the property furthers the landowner’s religious mission an purpose.

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Church Sues Over Denial of Use Permit

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“According to Saturday’s Fort Worth Star Telegram, earlier this month the 75-member Now Faith Deliverance Temple filed a state court lawsuit against the Pantego, Texas Town Council after the Council denied the church a special use permit.  The permit would have allowed the congregation to continue to operate in the building to which it relocated 6 months earlier.  Apparently the Town had received complaints from neighbors about noise levels at the church.  The non-denominational African-American church charges that the Town Council has a history of denying permits to religious groups whose members are racial or religious minorities. Last November, a mosque faced a similar refusal.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

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