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Archive for the category “Reblog: Religion Clause”

EEOC Sues Over Firing of Muslim Employee

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

The EEOC announced this week that it has filed a Title VII religious discrimination lawsuit against KASCO, a St. Louis-based company that manufactures and sells butcher supplies and meat processing equipment. The press release explains:

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Latifa Sidiqi had worked for KASCO since 2008, most recently as a buyer. After she began more seriously practicing her religion in 2012, a supervisor and others began making derogatory comments about her fasting during Ramadan, wearing a hijab, and her native country, Afghanistan. The agency charged that Sidiqi was fired during Ramadan 2013 because of her religion and national origin, and because she complained about her supervisor’s treatment.

You can learn more about this issue here.

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No-Fault Divorce Does Not Violate Hindu Husband’s Free Exercise Rights

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

In Bhandaru v. Vukkum, (KY App., Aug. 19, 2016), a Kentucky appeals court rejected an argument that the state’s no-fault divorce law violates the free exercise rights of a Hindu husband.  The husband argued that his Hindu religion only permits divorce if some grounds for divorce are stated. The court concluded however that the divorce law is a law of general applicability and the state has a rational basis for it.  It thus survives a 1st Amendment challenge and the free exercise provisions of the Kentucky constitution offer no greater protection than those in the 1st Amendment.  The court also rejected the argument that under notions of comity it should have applied the Indian Hindu Marriage Act.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Suit Challenges Latin Cross In County Seal and Flag

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

A suit was filed in federal district court this week seeking to enjoin Lehigh County, Pennsylvania from continuing to display the current county seal and county flag that includes a Latin cross (partly hidden by a depiction of the county courthouse) as a prominent part of the design.  The complaint (full text) in Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. County of Lehigh, (ED PA, filed 8/16/2016) contends that the cross amounts to an endorsement of Christianity, while the county Board of Commissioners says the cross was made part of the design to honor the original settlers of Lehigh County who were Christian. FFRF issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Ministerial Exception Doctrine Bars ADA Claim By Adventist Music Teacher

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

In Curl v. Beltsville Adventist School, (D MD, Aug. 15, 2016), a Maryland federal district court held that the ministerial exception doctrine applies to prevent a music teacher at a Seventh Day Adventist school from pursuing federal claims under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.  The teacher sued when her contract was terminated because she was unable to return fully to work a number of months after being seriously injured in a fall at work. In finding that plaintiff ‘s position was ministerial in nature, the court said in part:

Although a portion of Plaintiff’s responsibilities were secular in nature, Plaintiff acknowledges that she is personally a Seventh-day Adventist whose role at the School included teaching religious music and leading prayer services…. [S]he agreed to abide by the Education Code, which “requires that schools employ only those who live in complete harmony with the beliefs and practices of the Church” and therefore required that all School teachers be “baptized Adventists committed to the Church’s program of ministry.”… [A] portion of her salary was paid by tithe funds, which are intended to be used for ministry…. Moreover, Plaintiffs performance was evaluated in part based on her spiritual leadership.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Trenton Curfew Arrangement With Churches Is Questioned

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

AP reports today on the church-state questions that are being raised by the juvenile curfew enforcement policies of the Trenton, New Jersey police department. Last month Trenton police began enforcing a midnight to 6 a.m. curfew for juveniles under 18.  If police pick up a violator, they first call the juvenile’s parents.  However if the parents do not answer, or refuse to pick up their child, police under arrangements with a number of faith-based groups drop the juvenile off at a local church. Police say that the churches may not discuss religion with the drop offs, and they are usually held in a community room rather than in the sanctuary.  The juvenile is given the option of instead being dropped off at a police building. The ACLU says that police should provide a number of non-religious drop-off alternatives, though the group has broader objections to the curfew as well.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Ethics Complaints Are Newest Tool In Wars Over Same-Sex Marriage

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

Legal ethics complaints appear to have become the most recent weapon in the culture wars.  After the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a series of complaints with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission against Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore (see prior posting), an ally of Moore’s has turned the tables.  On July 28, Alabama attorney Trent Garmon and his wife Holly filed a complaint against Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, over Cohen’s comments attacking Moore for Moore’s actions opposing same-sex marriage.  As reported by AL.com, the complaint alleges that Cohen’s statements violated Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 8.2 that provides;

A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge,

Cohen’s comments included a statement that Alabama “elected [Moore] to be a judge, not a pastor;” Cohen called Moore a demagogue and the “Ayatollah of Alabama,” and said he is unfit for office.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Native American Cannot Claim Religious LiIberty Defense In Prosecution for Unlawful Hunting

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

In State of Washington v. McMeans, (WA App., Aug. 9, 2016), a Washington state appeals court upheld a trial court’s refusal to give the jury an instruction on a free exercise defense asserted by a Yakima Tribe designated hunter in a prosecution of him for unlawful hunting.  Defendant Ricky Watlamet killed 4 elk to provide meat for the funeral of a tribal elder.  The elk harvesting took place outside of elk hunting season on land of co-defendant who sought help to get rid of elk damaging her property.  Under an 1855 treaty, the Yakima tribe is allowed to hunt on “open and unclaimed lands,” but not private property.  The court said in part:

The defense presented substantial evidence that Mr. Watlamet had sincere religious beliefs and that he used the elk meat for religious purposes. However, he did not provide any evidence that the McMeans property was the only available location to obtain the elk meat. In fact, the record shows that Mr. Watlamet could lawfully hunt elk on State land, Federal land, tribal land, or any open and unclaimed land. The record also indicates that at the time in question there were numerous elk on the reservation as well as elk on state land adjacent to the McMeans property. Mr. Watlamet could have hunted these elk without running afoul of any regulation. He presented no evidence that either these particular elk or this particular place were necessary, preferable, or even convenient, nor has he presented any evidence that hunting the lawfully available elk was in any way burdensome.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Armed Forces Court of Appeals Interprets RFRA In Military Context

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

In United States v. Sterling, (US Armed Forces Ct. App., Aug. 10, 2016), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces held that a Marine Lance Corporal failed to establish a prima facie case under RFRA in defending against charges growing out of her work space posting of unauthorized signs containing Biblical quotations.  Appellant, in the wake of other personnel issues, posted 3 signs reading “[n]o weapon formed against me shall prosper.”  The signs did not indicate that these were Bible verses. She refused orders to remove them and was court martialed.  The majority held in part:

while the posting of signs was claimed to be religiously motivated at least in part and thus falls within RFRA’s expansive definition of “religious exercise,” Appellant has nonetheless failed to identify the sincerely held religious belief that made placing the signs important to her exercise of religion or how the removal of the signs substantially burdened her exercise of religion in some other way. We decline Appellant’s invitation to conclude that any interference at all with a religiously motivated action constitutes a substantial burden, particularly where the claimant did not bother to either inform the government that the action was religious or seek an available accommodation.

The court spelled out its understanding of what must be shown to establish that the government imposed a substantial burden on appellant’s religious exercise:

[W]hile we will not assess the importance of a religious practice to a practitioner’s exercise of religion or impose any type of centrality test, a claimant must at least demonstrate “an honest belief that the practice is important to [her] free exercise of religion” in order to show that a government action substantially burdens her religious exercise…. A substantial burden is not measured only by the secular costs that government action imposes; the claimant must also establish that she believes there are religious costs as well, and this should be clear from the record….

In contrast, courts have found that a government practice that offends religious sensibilities but does not force the claimant to act contrary to her beliefs does not constitute a substantial burden…. We reject the argument that every interference with a religiously motivated act constitutes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion.

Contrary to Appellant’s assertions before this Court, the trial evidence does not even begin to establish how the orders to take down the signs interfered with any precept of her religion let alone forced her to choose between a practice or principle important to her faith and disciplinary action.

Judge Ohlson dissented, saying in part:

Unfortunately, instead of remanding this case so that it can be properly adjudicated by the court below, the majority instead has chosen to impose a stringent, judicially made legal standard in this and future religious liberty cases that is not supported by the provisions of RFRA. Contrary to the majority’s holding, the plain language of the statute does not empower judges to curtail various manifestations of sincere religious belief simply by arbitrarily deciding that a certain act was not “important” to the believer’s exercise of religion.  Neither does the statute empower judges to require a believer to ask of the government, “Mother, may I?” before engaging in sincere religious conduct. And further, nowhere in the statute are service members required to inform the government of the religious nature of their conduct at the time they engage in it.

You can learn more about this issue here.

RFRA Does Not Impact Bankruptcy Code’s Denial of Discharge

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

The Bankruptcy Code, Sec. 727(a)(2)(A) provides that a bankruptcy court should deny a discharge if the debtor has within one year of filing for bankruptcy transferred property with the intent to hinder, defraud or delay a creditor.  In In re Crabtree2016 Bankr. LEXIS 2922 (MN Bkr., Aug. 8, 2016), a Minnesota federal bankruptcy judge held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not prevent applying this provision to a family’s donation of a box of 500 silver coins, valued at $12,000.00, to their church, Firestarters Worship Center.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Football Coach Sues Seeking Right To Pray At 50-Yard Line

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

Yesterday Bremerton, Washington, High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy who was placed on paid leave for insisting on praying at mid-field at the end of games (see prior posting) filed suit against the Bremerton school district alleging free exercise, free speech and Title VII violations.  The complaint (full text) in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, (WD WA, filed 8/9/2016), contends that Kennedy is compelled by his sincerely held Christian religious beliefs to engage in brief private religious expression at the conclusion of school football games. He offers a prayer of thanksgiving as part of a covenant he made with God.  The complaint argues that the school district’s directive which bans any “demonstrative religious activity” that is “readily observable” to students or members of the public is unconstitutional. The suit seeks declaratory relief as well as an order reinstating Kennedy and granting him a religious accommodation that allows him to pray at the 50-yard line at the conclusion of games.  Seattle Times reports on the lawsuit.  First Liberty has also created a website with details of the case.

You can learn more about this issue here.

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