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Archive for the tag “missouri”

Court’s Determination of Church’s Voting Membership Upheld

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

“In Fairfield Pentecostal Church v. Johnson, (LA App., June 3, 2015), a Louisiana state appeals court upheld a trial court’s decision determining a church’s voting membership for purposes of a special vote on whether to dismiss the pastor, saying in part:

The trial court determined at the hearing that none of the members on the original roll had been disfellowshipped; and it allowed another list of members gathered in November 2013 by Reverend Franks, who had kept no roll since his installment in 2010, to be counted toward the membership roll. In order to prevent the solicitation of new members for purposes of litigation, the trial court limited the membership to these two lists. We can think of no more equitable solution.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

SCOTUS Weighs in on Police Shooting

By now almost everyone knows about the police shooting that is the subject of controversy in Ferguson, Missouri. By coincidence, the Supreme Court of the United States has recently weighed in on a different police shooting in the matter of Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861 (2014).

In Tolan, a police officer patrolling a neighborhood decided to look up a particular car’s license plate number in the state’s database to determine whether it was stolen. At the time the car was being driven by Plaintiff. The officer accidentally entered the wrong license plate number when he searched the database by mistyping a single number. The incorrect number happened to be that of an actual stolen car, which the officer therefore mistakenly believed was the car being driven by Plaintiff. As a result, the police officer pursued Plaintiff to his destination.

Plaintiff was going home, where he lived with his parents, to spend time with his cousin who was also in the car. Plaintiff and his cousin were sitting on the porch of his house when the police officer approached them with his gun drawn. Plaintiff complied with the officer’s commands. Not long after, Plaintiff’s mother and father exited the house because of all of the commotion outside and were also commanded to take a specific posture by the police officer at gunpoint. At all times all of the parties denied stealing the car.

During their interaction with the police officer, Plaintiff and his mother claimed that the officer grabbed the mother’s arm and slammed her against the garage door and caused her to fall. The officer denies having done this. Due to the officer’s alleged interaction with his mother, Plaintiff said “[g]et your [f—ing] hands off my mom” and rose from the ground, contrary to the commands given to him by the officer (Plaintiff claims he rose to his knees while the officer claims he got to his feet). Plaintiff’s rising led to the officer, without a verbal warning, shooting Plaintiff in his lung and liver from a distance of about 15 to 20 feet away.

Aside from those mentioned above, there were some facts in dispute between the parties, including whether the garage was dimly lit, the exact volume and tenor of the mother’s words to the officer, whether Plaintiff shouted at and/or threatened the officer, and whether Plaintiff approached the officer when the officer engaged with the mother.

Plaintiff brought suit against the officer for violating his Fourth Amendment rights on the basis that the officer used excessive force when he shot Plaintiff. The District Court ruled against Plaintiff and granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal the Fifth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision. Plaintiff appealed the Fifth Circuit’s decision to the United States Supreme Court.

The legal issue presented for the Court’s review is the appropriate standard for summary judgment. The long established standard for summary judgment is to view all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, in this case the Plaintiff. It is not the judge’s role, when ruling upon a motion for summary judgment, to weigh the evidence available or determine its truth, just to determine whether a reading of the facts presented, viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, could result in a ruling in favor of Plaintiff.

The Court determined that the Fifth Circuit did not appropriately view the facts in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, but, instead, made factual determinations as to lighting, the words stated by the parties, and the actions taken by the parties, among other things, that were not in a light most favorable to Plaintiff. Instead, the Fifth Circuit specifically determined these facts to weigh against Plaintiff. As a result, the Court remanded the motion for summary judgment back to the Fifth Circuit in order for it to render a decision using the appropriate legal standard.

Through this case, the Supreme Court of the United States has reaffirmed the importance of using the required evaluation standard when courts rule on motions, and, perhaps more importantly, is sending the message that it is willing to enforce those standards where appropriate.

Originally published in Upon Further Review on December 16, 2014 and can be found here.

7th Circuit Keeps RLUIPA Suit Against Chicago Alive

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

“In World Outreach Conference v. City of Chicago, (7th Cir., June 1, 2015), the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals breathed new life into a RLUIPA case that has been in litigation for 9 years. The court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the city of Chicago as to claims against the city for damages because of delays in granting licenses to World Outreach so it could operate a former YMCA building for its religious purposes. World Outreach argued it lost some $591,000 that it could have made by housing Hurricane Katrina evacuees in the building. The court’s opinion by Judge Posner included comments about the power of aldermen in Chicago politics.  Judge Cudahy concurred with one of the shortest and most cryptic opinions ever:

Unfortunately; and I think the opinion must be stamped with a large “MAYBE.”

(See prior related posting.) RLUIPA Defense blog reports on the decision”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Connecticut Legislature Makes Religious Exemption From Vaccination Requirements Marginally More Difficult

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

“On Tuesday, the Connecticut General Assembly gave final passage to HB 6949 (full text) and sent it to the governor for his signature.  The bill places additional procedural requirements on parents seeking to exempt their children on religious grounds from vaccination requirements.  As reported by WNPR:

Currently, [parents or guardians] must simply present a statement that the immunization would be contrary to the child’s religious beliefs. But under the bill which cleared the Senate Tuesday, such statements must be submitted annually and officially “acknowledged” by a notary public, attorney, judge, family support magistrate, court clerk, deputy clerk or justice of the peace.

However another bill pending in the legislature would, if enacted, require the notarized statements be submitted only when the child enters kindergarten and when he or she enters 7th grade.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Oregon Tax Court Says Rectory Not Tax-Exempt

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

“In St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church, Astoria v. Clatsop County Assessor, (OR Tax Ct., May 6, 2015), an Oregon Tax Court magistrate held that a residential structure located 1.5 miles from the church used as a church rectory did not qualify for a property tax exemption “because the evidence shows the rectory is not reasonably necessary to carry out the religious aims of the church…”  The court said in part:

Although [the parish priest] does write sermons and homilies at the rectory, those duties do not require close physical proximity to the church…. The other uses of the rectory have no direct connection to the church; they certainly do not require a rectory in close proximity to the church. There was generalized testimony about the availability of guest bedrooms for visiting priests, deacons, and seminarians, but no specific testimony or other evidence that such officials have stayed at the subject property and, if so, how many and how often they were there….

Forbes reports on the decision.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Church Sues Over Zoning Restrictions That Are Forcing It To Move

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

“The San Diego Reader reports on a lawsuit filed May 28 by the San Diego Christian Worship Center against the city challenging zoning restrictions that will force the church to relocate in September.  The city granted the church a 5-year conditional use permit in 2010, and the church made $700,000 of improvements to its site. In 2014 the city changed the zoning in the area to “prime industrial,” which does not allow churches, and the city says it will not renew the conditional use permit. The church lacks the resources to find a new building. Apparently the complaint contends that the new zoning designation, which excludes instructional studios and entertainment venues as well as churches, amounts to a prior restraint on First Amendment expression.  The church also claims– presumably invoking RLUIPA– that the cost of preparing an application every 5 years to renew its conditional use permit imposes a substantial burden on its exercise of religion.  It will cost $50,000 to $100,000 to prepare the application, which must include an environmental impact statement. ”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Supreme Court Rules Against Abercrombie In Title VII Religious Accommodation Case

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

“In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., (Sup. Ct., June 1, 2015), the U.S. Supreme Court today reversed the 10th Circuit’s holding on when employers must offer a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious practices.  The 10th Circuit had held that Abercrombie & Fitch did not violate Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act when it failed to reasonably accommodate Samantha Elauf’s need to wear a headscarf because Elauf had not informed the company that she wore the hijab for religious reasons and would need an accommodation. (See prior posting.)  In an opinion by Justice Scalia, 7 justices held:

Motive and knowledge are separate concepts. An employer who has actual knowledge of the need for an accommodation does not violate Title VII by refusing to hire an applicant if avoiding that accommodation is not his motive. Conversely, an employer who acts with the motive of avoiding accommodation may violate Title VII even if he has no more than an unsubstantiated suspicion that accommodation would be needed.

Thus, the rule for disparate-treatment claims based on a failure to accommodate a religious practice is straightforward: An employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions….

A request for accommodation, or the employer’s certainty that the practice exists, may make it easier to infer motive, but is not a necessary condition of liability.

Justice Alito concurred only in the judgment, urging a different test for liability.  He concluded that Abercrombie is liable only if it had knowledge that Elauf wore her headscarf for religious reasons, but that there was sufficient evidence that Abercrombie had such knowledge that the court should not have granted summary judgment to defendants.

Justice Thomas dissented, arguing that Abercrombie’s actions did not amount to disparate treatment (or intentional discrimination):

Abercrombie refused to create an exception to its neutral Look Policy for Samantha Elauf ’s religious practice of wearing a headscarf…. In doing so, it did not treat religious practices less favorably than similar secular practices, but instead remained neutral with regard to religious practices. To be sure, the effects of Abercrombie’s neutral Look Policy, absent an accommodation, fall more harshly on those who wear headscarves as an aspect of their faith. But that is a classic case of an alleged disparate impact.

Politico reports on the decision.”


District Court Applies Hobby Lobby To Auto Dealership

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

“In Holland v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (D WV, May 29, 2015), a West Virginia federal district court, applying the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, issued a permanent injunction barring federal authorities from enforcing the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage requirement, as in effect June 30, 2014, against a West Virginia auto dealership. The complaint (full text) in the case was brought by Joe Holland Chevrolet, Inc., a closely-held corporation, and its 91% owner who became a born-again Christian in 1996. Joe Holland objects to providing coverage for Plan B and ella, contraceptives that he considers abortifacients. Charleston Daily Mail reports on the decision. Liberty Institute issued a press release on the decision.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Suit Challenges Middle School Field Trip To Christian Sports Complex

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

“The American Humanist Association announced yesterday that it had filed a lawsuit against the Joplin, Missouri public school system challenging a middle-school field trip to a Christian sports complex.  The complaint (full text) in Doe v. Huff, (WD MO, filed 5/27/2015), alleges that the middle school’s policy of scheduling student field trips to Victory Ministry and Sports Complex violates the Establishment Clause.  The suit seeks an injunction and punitive damages.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

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