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Suit Challenges North Carolina County’s Refusal To Recognize Marriages Performed By Universal Life Clergy

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

Suit was filed this week in a North Carolina federal district court challenging the refusal by the Cleveland County, North Carolina marriage official to issue marriage licenses to couples whose weddings were performed by Universal Life Church (ULC) ministers. ULC ordains anyone “who feels the call” as a minister. Ordination takes place online for free and credentials are sent to applicants by mail. North Carolina Gen. Stat. §51-1 allows “an ordained minister of any religious denomination to officiate at weddings.  The complaint (full text) in Universal Life Church Monastery Storehouse v. Harnage, (WD NC, filed 8/26/2019), alleges violation of the Establishment, Equal Protection and Free exercise clauses, as well as of Art. VI and of the North Carolina constitution, saying in part:

Defendant’s apparent policy of refusing to recognize the validity of marriages performed by ULC Monastery ministers officially prefers certain religions or religious denominations over ULC Monastery by allowing other religious leaders to solemnize marriages but declining to extend that same benefit to ULC Monastery ministers.

Charlotte Observer reports on the lawsuit.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Family Law Tip: Child Support Paid by the Primary Custodian?

I post some tips regarding family to my Linkedin page (see here) from time to time, and I thought I should start sharing them here too. Below is one of my family law tips, and you can read my articles on family law here and other posts on family law here and all are cataloged here.

EEOC Wins Settlement of Suit Brought On Behalf of Seventh Day Adventists

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

EEOC last week announced the settlement of a lawsuit it had filed against an  Ooltewah, Tennessee, senior and assisted living community.  Garden Plaza at Greenbriar Cove required two Seventh Day Adventist employees to work on Saturdays, and asked them to resign when they refused to do so.  In the settlement, Garden Plaza will pay $92,586.50 in damages, and enter a 2-year consent decree requiring it to train employees on Title VII matters.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Gov. Wolf signs Roosevelt Boulevard speed camera bill

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights and I encourage you to read my articles on this here.  The encroachment on our rights has recently crept a little further still as Governor Wolf signed a bill allowing even more cameras on our streets.

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Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill on Friday to allow the installation of speed cameras along the entire length of Roosevelt Boulevard.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday signed a bill that will allow for speed cameras to be installed on Roosevelt Boulevard from 9th Street in Hunting Park to the Bucks County line as part of a five-year pilot program.

Once the cameras are set up, drivers who travel 11 miles over the speed limit or more will be ticketed. There will be a 30-day grace period during which violators will get a written warning.

Mayor Jim Kenney and safety advocates praised the legislation and said it will make the Boulevard safer.

“Our city and our families deserve safer streets,” Kenney said. “With around 100 people being killed in traffic crashes on Philadelphia streets every year, we are committed to continuing to bring to together street design, education, enforcement and policy changes that will manage speeds and, thus, save lives, making Philadelphia streets safe for everyone.”

Although the bill had bipartisan support in Harrisburg, not everyone supports speed cameras. The National Motorists Association has argued that the cameras are a money-making scheme for state and local governments.

As part of the pilot program, signs will be placed near the cameras and at two-mile intervals along the entire length of the Boulevard.

The speed camera program will be operated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

City Council has to pass an ordinance for the pilot program to go into effect, according to the Governor’s Office.

The bill signed by Wolf also calls for speed cameras in work zones around the state.

By Jack Tomczuk and published in the Northeast Times on October 25, 2018 and can be found here.

3rd Circuit Upholds Cross On County Seal

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

In one of the first cases to rely on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June rejecting an Establishment Clause challenge to the 94-year old Bladensburg Cross, the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday rejected a challenge to a Latin cross on the 75-year old official seal of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. In Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. County of Lehigh(3d Cir., Aug. 8, 2019), the 3rd Circuit said in part:

American Legion confirms that Lemon does not apply to “religious references or imagery in public monuments, symbols, mottos, displays, and ceremonies.”… Instead, informed by four considerations, the Court adopted “a strong presumption of constitutionality” for “established, religiously expressive monuments, symbols, and practices.”…

WFMZ News reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Family Law Tip: Settlements or Awards and Divorce

I post some tips regarding family to my Linkedin page (see here) from time to time, and I thought I should start sharing them here too. Below is one of my family law tips, and you can read my articles on family law here and other posts on family law here and all are cataloged here.

Court Refuses To Order Return of WWII Remains To Supposed Next-of-Kin

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

In Patterson v. Defense POW/ MIA Accounting Agency, (WD TX, July 29, 2019), a Texas federal district court refused to order return to plaintiffs of the remains of seven servicemen who were killed or perished as POW’s in the Philippines in World War II.  The court explains:

The parties dispute the extent to which the remains are identified. Plaintiffs argue that they have a property interest in these remains and that Defendants’ retention of these remains impinges on Plaintiffs’ religious practices and Plaintiffs’ interest in securing proper burial.

The court rejected plaintiffs’ due process, 4th Amendment, free exercise and RFRA claims to the remains at issue, saying in part:

They state “the facts alleged in the Amended Complaint show that the Government has placed a substantial burden on the Families’ exercise of religion.”…

The record reveals nothing further about Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs or how Defendants have burdened them. Plaintiffs do not indicate the nature, substance, or contours of their beliefs, or even whether all Plaintiffs share the same religious beliefs. In the complaint, Plaintiffs allege that a “proper burial is essential for many practicing Christians,” but they produce no declarations or other evidence outlining these beliefs. Defendants thus contest whether Plaintiffs’ beliefs are sincerely held.

The Court is inclined to grant summary judgment on the sincerity grounds … given Plaintiffs’ total lack of evidence. Courts have cautioned, however, that “[t]hough the sincerity inquiry is important, it must be handled with a light touch….

In keeping with this tradition … the Court assumes Plaintiffs show sincerely held beliefs and concludes alternatively that Plaintiffs do not show a substantial interference with these beliefs. As Defendants note, Plaintiffs allege only that their beliefs require a “proper burial,” but without any explanation of what makes a “proper burial in accordance with each respective family’s religious beliefs,” the Court cannot assess the alleged interference…. Thus, Plaintiffs do not meet their initial burden for either their RFRA or Free Exercise claims.

You can learn more about this issue here.

11th Circuit: Inmate’s Complaint About Halal-Compliant Food Can Move Ahead

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

In Robbins v. Robertson(11th Cir., July 23, 2019), the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a Muslim inmate’s 1st Amendment claim regarding the adequacy of his religious diet should not be dismissed, saying in part:

Plaintiff also made some non-conclusory allegations that plausibly supported his claim that the Islamic-compliant vegan meals were so nutritionally deficient that he was forced to choose between abandoning his religious precepts (by eating religiously non-compliant food that was nutritionally adequate) or suffering serious health consequences (by eating nutritionally inadequate food that was religiously compliant).

You can learn more about this issue here.

Court Expands Injunction On Prayer At High School Graduations

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

In American Humanist Association v. Greenville County School District, (D SC, July 18, 2019), a South Carolina federal district court expanded its May 2015 order relating to prayer at high school graduation ceremonies in a South Carolina school district. It issued a permanent injunction that includes the following provisions:

(1) The district shall not include a prayer … as part of the official program for a graduation ceremony. The district also shall not include an obviously religious piece of music as part of the official program for a graduation ceremony.

(2) The district and/or school officials shall not encourage, promote, advance, endorse, or participate in causing prayers during any graduation ceremony….

(4) The district and/or school officials shall not provide copies of student remarks from any prior year’s graduation ceremony to any students selected to make remarks during an upcoming graduation ceremony.

(5) … No program or flier may direct the audience or participants to stand for any student’s remarks at a graduation ceremony.

(6) If school officials review, revise, or edit a student’s remarks in any way prior to the graduation ceremony, then school officials shall ensure that the student’s remarks do not include prayer.

(7) If school officials do not review, revise, or edit a student’s remarks …, then a student’s remarks may include prayer, provided that no other persons may be asked to participate or join in the prayer, for example, by being asked to stand or bow one’s head. Moreover, in the event that a student’s remarks contain prayer, no school officials shall join in or otherwise participate in the prayer.

(8) Any program or flier for a graduation ceremony must include the following disclaimer if the ceremony includes a student’s remarks: “The views or opinions expressed by students during this program are their own and do not reflect the policy or position of the school district.”

Greenville News reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

5th Circuit Upholds Direct Supervision Requirement For Muslim Inmate Worship Services

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

In Brown v. Scott, (5th Cir., July 5, 2019), the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision (56 pages long) written by Judge Owen held that a 1977 consent decree allowing Muslim inmates to gather for worship without direct supervision should be vacated. While Muslim inmates had met with only indirect supervision from 1977 to 2012, that arrangement was terminated after a Jehovah’s Witness inmate successfully sued arguing that the more favorable treatment of Muslim inmates violates the Establishment Clause. The termination of the special treatment for Muslim inmates, however, violated the earlier consent decree. This led prison officials to ask that the earlier decree be vacated under provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act that allow lifting of the injunction if it is no longer needed to correct an ongoing violation of rights.

Muslim inmates argued that requiring direct supervision of their services would impose a substantial burden in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The majority held, however, that it is not prison authorities that have imposed a substantial burden, but instead it is caused by a lack of Muslim volunteers from outside who will supervise services. The majority also rejected Free Exercise and Establishment Clause arguments.

The district court had concluded that Texas prison regulations favor Catholic, Jewish, Native American and Protestant inmates over Muslim inmates.  Judge Owen concluded that this does not create an Establishment Clause violation because in the prison context the more lenient Turner v. Safley test should be applied to Establishment Clause claims.

Judge King joined all of Judge Owen’s opinion except for the Establishment Clause section. She held there was an Establishment Clause violation, but that the 1977 consent decree should be vacated nevertheless because it is broader than necessary to remedy the violation.

Judge Dennis in a separate opinion dissented as to the RLUIPA issue, and would not have reached the Establishment Clause or Free Exercise claims

You can learn more about this issue here.

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