Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Rastafarian Minister's Trespass Arrest did Not Violate His Free Exercise Rights

In Brown v. Jordan, (WD AR, Feb. 14, 2019), a Rastafarian minister sued over his arrest that grew out of his picketing for passage of a medical marijuana issue on the 2016 Arkansas ballot. The court rejected his claim that his arrest violated his free exercise rights, saying in part:
In this case, Plaintiff was advocating for the passage of the Medical Marijuana Act. While the Act's passage would, in his view, pave the way for his church to lawfully use marijuana in its ceremonies, his advocacy did not itself involve his exercise of a religious belief. Furthermore, the officers who arrested him appeared at the Flash Market in response to a claim that Plaintiff was trespassing, as he had remained on the Flash Market property after having been asked to leave and was bothering the customers. No action the officers took on October 16, 2016 inhibited Plaintiff from practicing or exercising his religious beliefs. Therefore, no free exercise claim is stated, and this claim is dismissed.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Timmons v. Polley, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14533 (D NV, Jan. 29, 2019), a Nevada federal district court allowed a Muslim inmate to move ahead with complaints regarding inadequate Halal food during Ramadan, and refusal of permission to attend Jumah services and receive certain religious material.

In McKinney v. County of Imperial, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14927 (CD CA, Jan. 30, 2019), a California federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendation (2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14927, Jan. 3, 2019) and dismissed, with leave to amend, a Jewish inmate's claim for damages for denial of kosher meals.

In Sassi v. Dutchess County, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15387 (ND NY, Jan. 23, 2019), a New York federal district court allowed a Catholic inmate to move ahead with his complaint that he was denied a Bible for several days, but dismissed his complaint regarding inability to attend Bible study groups.

In Hardy v. Agee, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15093 (WD MI, Jan. 31, 2019), a Michigan federal district court, in a case on remand from the 6th Circuit, adopted a magistrate's recommendation (2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 220438, Dec. 11, 2018) and dismissed a Muslim inmate's complaint that he was not allowed for a period of time to attend religious services, and was not allowed to attend Taleem (study sessions) while on room restriction for refusing a work assignment.

In Dykes v. Benson, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15990 (WD MI, Feb. 1, 2019), a Michigan federal district court allowed an inmate to move ahead with his complaint that he could not access his Koran for the first two weeks in segregation.

Recent Articles of Interest

From SSRN:
From SmartCILP and elsewhere:

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Former Cardinal McCarrick Defrocked By Vatican Over Sex Abuse

In the Vatican yesterday, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement (full text) announcing that former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been "dismiss[ed] from the clerical state," i.e. defrocked.  McCarrick had already resigned from the College of Cardinals over allegations of past sexual misconduct. In laicizing McCarrick, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty of "solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power." Vatican News reported on the action against McCarrick.  An analysis of the news Crux says in part:
The four dioceses in the U.S. in which McCarrick served over the course of his long career - New York; Metuchen, New Jersey; Newark; and Washington, D.C., are all conducting separate investigations, a result of the fact that a request by the leadership of the U.S. bishops’ conference for a Vatican-sponsored apostolic investigation was turned down by Francis.

Suit Challenges Religious Requirements Permitted In South Carolina Faith-Based Foster-Care Agencies

A lawsuit was filed Friday by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on behalf of a Catholic woman challenging actions by the federal government and the state of South Carolina that permit foster-care placement agencies to use religious criteria for approval of foster care families.  The complaint (full text) in Maddonna v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (D SC, filed 2/15/2019) challenges the waiver from the religious discrimination ban in federally funded foster-care programs that the Department of Health and Human Services granted to the state of South Carolina last month. (See prior posting.) It also challenges a March 13, 2018 executive order by the Governor of South Carolina (Executive Order 2018-12) permitting licensed faith-based foster-care child-placement agencies to limit recruitment and training of foster parents to those who share the same faith as the agency. Plaintiff in the case, Aimee Maddonna, was refused participation in a foster care volunteer program by Miracle Hill Ministries because Miracle Hill required participants to be born-again Christians who belong to a Protestant church. The suit alleges Establishment Clause, equal protection and due process violations. AP reports on the lawsuit.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Death Qualification of Jurors Does Not Violate RFRA

In United States v. Ofomata, (ED LA, Feb. 11, 2019), a Louisiana federal district court rejected a number of challenges to the federal death penalty, including the argument that the death-qualification process violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment by necessarily excluding jurors based on their religion. The court said in part:
Even assuming that Ofomata was able to show that the death-qualification process constitutes a substantial burden, his RFRA claim fails because “[t]he question [of] whether a juror is able to follow the law and apply the facts in an impartial way . . . is a compelling government interest.”

2nd Circuit Denies En Banc Review In RFRA Damages Case

In Tanvir v. Tanzin, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals by a vote of 7-3 denied en banc review of a panel decision that held RFRA plaintiffs could recover money damages against federal officials sued in their individual capacities. (See prior posting.) Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are three Muslim men who claim that federal officials placed or kept them on the no-fly list because they refused for religious reasons to act as FBI informants.  In denying en banc review, Chief Judge Katzmann and Judge Pooler filed an opinion explaining their reasons for doing so.  Judge Jacobs, joined by Judges Cabranes and Sullivan filed an opinion dissenting from the denial of review.

Court Refuses To Enjoin Florida Cities' Conversion Therapy Bans

In Otto v. City of Boca Raton, Florida, (SD FL, Feb. 13, 2019), a Florida federal district court refused to grant a preliminary injunction to prevent the cities of Boca Raton and Palm Beach, Florida from enforcing their ordinances that prohibit the use by medical professionals of sexual orientation change therapy on minors.  In a 60-page opinion, the court held that plaintiffs are unlikely to succeed on their free speech, prior restraint, vagueness or ultra vires claims.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

New Jersey Dioceses Release Names of Accused Priests

North Jersey Record reports that the five Catholic dioceses in New Jersey yesterday posted the names of 188 priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children over past decades.79 of the priests listed are still living. In a letter to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Newark, Cardinal James Tobin announced that a new Independent Victim Compensation Program has been established.

British Court Upholds Conviction For Holocaust Denial On YouTube

In Chabloz v. Regina, (Crown Ct., Feb. 13, 2019), s British Crown Court upheld the conviction of a Holocaust denier on three counts of sending a grossly offensive message by means of an electronic communication.  The decision upholds a Magistrates' Court conviction of Alsion Chabloz for three songs posted on Your Tube.The court held that Holocaust denial per se is not outlawed.  Rather, each instance of Holocaust denial must be examined to determine if it is grossly offensive.  The court describes each song as
a collection of anti-Semitic tropes or motifs, with a particular emphasis on Holocaust denial.  Furthermore, two of the songs are in whole or part set to the tunes of well-known Hebrew songs, which the prosecution says is no accident, bu rather a deliberate attempt to increase the insulting effect of each.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism reports that this is the first conviction in the UK for Holocaust denial on social media.

Satanic Temple Adherent Loses Challenge To Missouri Abortion Restrictions

In Doe v. Parson, (MO Sup, Ct., Feb. 13, 2019), the Missouri Supreme Court rejected a challenge by a member of the Satanic Temple to the state's informed consent abortion law. Rejecting both an Establishment Clause and a religious freedom challenge, the court said in part:
Ms. Doe alleges by offering her a booklet containing what she refers to as legislative findings constituting the “Missouri tenet,” Missouri is violating her religious beliefs by forcing her to read the contrary religious belief contained in the booklet. But the informed consent law does not purport to make any sort of legislative findings. It simply requires the noted statements be included in a booklet offered to a woman seeking an abortion. § 188.027....
This Court need not determine whether requiring Ms. Doe to have an ultrasound, to listen to the fetal heartbeat, or to read the booklet offered by Planned Parenthood would have constituted a restriction on her religious freedom, for the statute imposes no such requirements. Nothing in the informed consent law requires a woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound, much less to pay for the ultrasound or to listen to the fetal heartbeat. The informed consent law solely requires an abortion provider or another qualified professional to present a woman seeking an abortion with the opportunity to have or to view an ultrasound and, if she chooses to have one, an opportunity to listen to the heartbeat. Ms. Doe and any other woman is free to decline both opportunities.
Two justices also joined in concurring opinion. St. Louis Public Radio reports on the decision.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Cert Filed In Puerto Rico Catholic School Pension Case

A petition for certiorari (full text) was filed last month in Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Juan Puerto Rico v. Feliciano (filed 1/14/2019). At issue is whether Puerto Rico courts can get to the assets of numerous related Catholic entities in Puerto Rico to satisfy pension obligations to Catholic school employees,The petition describes the question presented as:
Whether the First Amendment empowers courts to override the chosen legal structure of a religious organization and declare all of its constituent parts a single legal entity subject to joint and several liability. 
The petition contains a translation of the opinion below rendered by the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Curriculum On Muslim World Does Not Violate 1st Amendment

In Wood v, Arnold, (4th Cir., Feb. 11, 2019), the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a high school student's Establishment Clause and free speech challenges to portions of classroom unit on The Muslim World.  One challenge was to the teacher's Power Point slide that included the statement that most Muslims' faith is stronger than that of the average Christian.  The other challenge was to the requirement on a work sheet for the student to fill in two words of the shahada.  The court said in part:
The use of both the comparative faith statement and the shahada assignment in Wood’s world history class involved no more than having the class read, discuss, and think about Islam. The comparative faith statement appeared on a slide under the heading “Peaceful Islam v. Radical Fundamental Islam.” The slide itself did not advocate any belief system but instead focused on the development of Islamic fundamentalism as a political force. And the shahada assignment appeared on the student worksheet under the heading “Beliefs and Practices: The Five Pillars.” Thus, the assignment asked the students to identify the tenets of Islam, but did not suggest that a student should adopt those beliefs as her own. 
Rejecting the student's compelled speech argument, the court said in part:
[T]he shahada assignment required Wood to write only two words of the shahada as an academic exercise to demonstrate her understanding of the world history curriculum. On these facts, we conclude that Wood’s First Amendment right against compelled speech was not violated.
[Thanks to Will Esser via Religionlaw for the lead.]