Thursday, April 28, 2016

Michigan City Restores Cross On Sand Dune-- Sort Of...

As previously reported, in a controversial move last year that was unsuccessfully challenged by citizens, the city of Grand Haven, Michigan agreed to remove a 48 foot cross that had been displayed periodically on a city-owned sand dune for 50 years. The city turned the cross into a Coast Guard anchor. However, according to a report in the Washington Free Beacon, this week the Grand Haven City Council (with one of last year's councilmen having lost re-election) has now voted 3-2 to add a yardarm to a flag pole on the sand dune.  When the side arm is extended, the flag pole will look like a cross. That will happen on several holidays each year.

EEOC Sues Hospital Over Arbitrary Deadline For Religious Accommodation Requests

The EEOC announced today that it has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against Mission Hospital based in Asheville, North Carolina.  At issue are requests by 3 employees for religious exemptions from the hospital's requirement that all employees receive the flu vaccine by December each year.  The hospital allows religious exemptions, but requires that the request be made by Sept. 1. The employees here made their requests after the deadline. The requests were denied and the employees were fired.  According to the EEOC:
An arbitrary deadline does not protect an employer from its obligation to provide a religious accommodation. An employer must consider, at the time it receives a request for a religious accommodation, whether the request can be granted without undue burden.

Alabama City Outlaws Restroom Use Conforming To Gender Identity That Differs From Birth Certificate

In the latest chapter in the "bathroom wars," on Tuesday the Oxford, Alabama City Council unanimously passed Ordinance No. 2016-18 (full text) barring anyone from using rest rooms or changing facilities that do not correspond to the gender stated on the person's birth certificate. A violation is punishable by a $500 fine and up to 6 months in jail.  As reported by the Anniston Star, Council's action came in response to last week's announcement by the department store chain Target that their employees and customers are welcome to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity. Target has a store in Oxford.  Prosecutions under the new ordinance will only occur only if a violation is reported by a witness or committed in the presence of a police officer.  After passage of the ordinance, city council president Steven Waits read from a prepared statement, saying in part that the ordinance was enacted "to protect our women and children."

Secretary Kerry Speaks on Impact of Religion on U.S. Foreign Policy

On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a lengthy address (full text) (video) at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy focusing on the impact of religion on U.S. foreign policy. He said in part:
Religion today remains deeply consequential, affecting the values, the actions, the choices, the worldview of people in every walk of life on every continent and, obviously, also here at home. It is a part of what drives some to initiate war, others to pursue peace; some to organize for change, others to cling desperately to old ways, resist modernity; some to reach eagerly across the borders of nation and creed, and others to build higher and higher walls separating one group from the next.
But religion is not only pervasive; it is also complex, especially when viewed from the ground up. Most religions are internally diverse, reflecting multiple schools of thought, regional variations, and complicated histories. And the actions of religious communities, like all communities, are embedded in the political, economic, and cultural environment in which they are carried out. That is why religion as it is actually lived does not always look the way that we expect or have the impact that we anticipate. It is also why our engagement with religious actors has to extend beyond designated leaders to the rank and file.
Now, historically the State Department has tended to downplay the role of religion or pay attention only when religion is deemed a problem, a threat, a challenge. The department has not traditionally had the resources or made the necessary commitment to systematically analyze the importance that religion holds for the success or failure of our foreign policy.... Now that has changed, and the purpose of my remarks tonight is to explain what we now do differently and why those differences matter.
[Thanks to Blog from the Capital for the lead.] 

Armed Forces Court of Appeals Hears Oral Arguments On Court Martial For Refusing To Remove Religious Signs

Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces heard oral arguments in United States v. Sterling. In the case, the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a court martial conviction of a marine corps member for disobeying a lawful order to remove signs containing Biblical verses that she had taped up around her desk.  (See prior posting.)  Stars and Stripes summarizes some of yesterday's argument:
Keller [representing the government] argued the Sterling was not punished for putting up religious signs, but rather for defying orders....
He also argued because Sterling never sought a religious accommodation and only raised the religious protections issue later, there was no argument that her religious freedoms were “substantially burdened” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Clement [representing Lance Cpl. Monifa Sterling] rebutted that because she invoked religious freedom later doesn’t mean that it’s not a fair consideration.

One Suit Against Scientology Proceeds As Leader Threatens Another (Unrelated) Lawsuit

In Los Angeles yesterday, a California state trial court judge refused to dismiss a suit brought against the Church of Scientology International and its Religion Technology Center by former church member Laura Ann DeCrescenzo.  According to MyNews L.A., plaintiff, who began to volunteer for the Church at age 6 or 7 and later became a member of its elite Sea Org, alleges that she was forced to work long hours before she was a teen and was forced to have an abortion at age 17.  The suit also sets out claims of false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, unfair business practices and wage-and-hour violations.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Scientology's leader David Miscavige are threatening to file suit against the publisher of a book coauthored by Miscavige's own father titled Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me. According to the Christian Examiner, the book is scheduled to be released in the United Kingdom next week. A demand letter from Miscavige's lawyers says that the book contains false, malicious, misleading and highly defamatory statements.

Christian Group Sues Challenging University's Speech Permit Policy

A Christian student organization at North Carolina State University this week filed suit against University officials challenging the school's Speech Permit Policy that requires students to obtain prior written permission before distributing leaflets or soliciting passersby. According to the complaint (full text) in Grace Christian Life v. Woodson, (ED NC, filed 4/26/2016), Grace Christian Life's members and staff initiate conversations with students about religion. These conversations take place in and around the Student Union. University officials informed the group that the University's Speech Permit Policy applies to these conversations. Plaintiffs allege that the Policy has not been similarly enforced against other groups, and contends that the policy and its enforcement infringe Christian Life's 1st and 14th Amendment rights. the Raleigh News & Observer, reporting on the case, quotes University officials as claiming that the suit is "frivolous and without merit."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

European Court Says Turkey Violated Rights of Alevi Community

In  İzzettin Doğan and Others v. Turkey, (ECHR, April 26. 2016), the European Court of Human Rights in a Grand Chamber judgment held that Turkey violated Article 9 (freedom of religion) and Article 14 (prohibition on discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights when it refused to recognize and grant support to the Alevis (the country's second largest faith group) as a separate religious community. As described in the court's press release on its decision, the lawsuit by 203 Turkish nationals asked that
the Alevi community be provided with religious services in the form of a public service; that Alevi religious leaders be recognised as such and recruited as civil servants; that the cemevis (the places where Alevis practise their religious ceremony, the cem) be granted the status of places of worship; and that State subsidies be made available to their community. Their requests were refused on the grounds that the Alevi faith is regarded by the authorities as a religious movement within Islam, more akin to the “Sufi orders”.
The court found the Art. 9 violation by a vote of 12-5 and the Art. 14 violation by a vote of 15-1. According to AFP, there have been improvements in the Alevis position since the suit was first filed in 2010, with a Turkish court in August ruling that the government should cover all the expenses of Alevi places of worship. Daily Sabah says that last year Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that Cemevis will be granted legal status. (See prior related posting.)

Indian Court Says Muslim Women Taking Pre-Med Test May Wear Hijabs

In the Indian state of Kerala yesterday, a High Court judge issued an order allowing Muslim women to wear a hijab while taking the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT-2016). However they must present themselves a half hour early for frisking.  NDTV reports that the order came during a hearing on a challenge to the dress code for the test prescribed by the Central Board of Secondary Education.  The court said that the prescribed dress code amounts to a restriction on religious liberty.

Amicus Briefs In Support of Petitioner In Trinity Lutheran Case Are Now Available

Next term, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley challenging Missouri's exclusion under its "no aid" clause of churches from its secular grant program for playground improvements. (See prior posting.) The deadline for amicus briefs in support of petitioner has now passed, and 25 briefs in support of Trinity Lutheran Church have been filed, along with one amicus brief in support of neither side. Links to all of the amicus briefs are available from the SCOTUSblog case page for the case.  Respondent's brief is not due until June 28, with amicus briefs supporting respondent due a week after that.

Controversial Noah's Ark Theme Park Gets Kentucky Tax Incentives

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, on Monday Kentucky's Tourism Development Finance Authority approved by a 7-0 vote the controversial sales tax rebate incentives for Ark Encounter, the Noah's Ark theme park being constructed by Answers In Genesis. While the project had received preliminary approval for tax incentives in 2014, former Governor Steve Beshear’s Tourism Arts and Heritage Cabinet rejected the application after it appeared that the theme park intended to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion and the project became one to promote a literal reading of the Biblical book of Genesis. (See prior posting.) At that point, Ark Encounter sued and won in federal district court. (See prior posting.) Gov. Matt Bevin, elected last November expressed approval of tax incentives, and cleared the way for final action by last week replacing four members of the Finance Authority.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Congressional Committee Holds Hearing On ISIL Genocide

On April 19, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on Confronting the Genocide of Religious Minorities: A Way Forward. The hearing focused on ISIL’s genocide against religious minorities and the options available to the United States and other nations. The prepared statements of four of the witnesses appearing at the hearing, transcripts of opening and closing remarks and a video of the full hearing are available on the Commission's website.

State Department Names This Year's "Countries of Particular Concern"

In a little-noticed action, on April 14 the State Department notified Congress of this year's designation of "countries of particular concern"-- those countries which display the most flagrant violations of religious freedom.  In an April 15 press conference (full text), a State Department spokesman said:
Yesterday, the Department of State notified Congress of the decision to re-designate the following countries as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act, also known as IRF. These countries are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and for the first time Tajikistan as a Country of Particular Concern. In accordance with the IRF Act, presidential actions for Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, and Sudan have been implemented. We have waived application of presidential actions with respect to Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan following determinations that the important national interest of the United States required exercising this waiver authority.
These designations help us shine a spotlight on countries and conditions that require the international community’s attention. Today and every day, as you know, we are committed to working with governments, civil society organizations, and individuals to achieve our shared interest in promoting peace and stability through, in part, the promotion and protection of all human rights including religious freedoms.
In a press release welcoming the action, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said that it would like to see seven additional countries placed on the CPC list: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, and Vietnam. Christian Post highlighted concerns over the omission of Pakistan.

Colorado Supreme Court Denies Review In Case of Baker Who Refused Wedding Cake For Gay Couple

According to yesterday's Denver Post, the Colorado Supreme Court has denied review in the widely watched case of  Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, Inc. In the case, the state court of appeals affirmed a decision of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that a bakery's refusal to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple violates Colorado's public accommodation law, and that the Commission's cease and desist order does not infringe the bakery owner's free exercise or free speech rights. (See prior posting.)

Idaho Governor Vetoes Bill That Would Have Allowed Bible To Be Used For Reference In Public Schools

Earlier this month, Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter vetoed S1342 (full text) which would have explicitly permitted religious texts, including the Bible,
to be used in Idaho public schools for reference purposes to further the study of literature, comparative religion, English and foreign languages, United States and world history, comparative government, law, philosophy, ethics, world geography, archaeology, music, sociology, and other topics of study where an under standing of religious texts, including the Bible, may be useful or relevant.
An amendment had deleted a reference to geology, astronomy and biology courses. (Spokane Spokesman-Review, April 5).

In his April 5 veto message (full text), Otter said that the bill "is in direct contravention to the Idaho Constitution, and it could result in a loss of funding and costly litigation for Idaho public schools." Art. 9, Sec. 6 of the state constitution specifically prohibits "books, papers, tracts or documents of a political, sectarian or denominational character" from being used in any public school, and calls for a cut off of funding for schools that do not comply.  As reported earlier this month by Idaho Education News, Otter issued his veto a week after the legislature adjourned.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Puerto Rico Tax Authorities Will Begin To Audit Churches

Puerto Rico's Secretary of the Treasury Juan Zaragoza says that beginning next month his agency will begin to audit religious organizations as part of a pilot program begun last year to look at non-profits that are wrongfully avoiding taxes.  According to Ateistas de Puerto Rico (April 22), Zaroga said: "The problem is that there are churches that are family businesses where people are making a profit." [Thanks to Scott Mange and Friendly Atheist for the lead.]

Oklahomans Will Vote On Repeal of Blaine Amendment

The Oklahoma legislature last Thursday gave final passage to SJR 72 (full text) (legislative history), referring to the voters of the state a proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate the state's Blaine Amendment.  The amendment would repeal Art. 2, Sec. 5 of the Oklahoma constitution that prohibits public funds or property from being used for sectarian or religious purposes. Legislative passage came in reaction to a state supreme court ruling last year that, in reliance on Art. 2, Sec. 5, ordered removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the statehouse grounds. As reported by The Oklahoman, an ACLU spokesman said that if the ballot measure passes, the ACLU would likely file a federal challenge to the Ten Commandments monument.

Student Sues After Suspension From M.S. Program Over Refusal To Counsel Gay Couples

A suit was filed last week in federal district court in Missouri by a former student in the Masters in Counseling program at Missouri State University alleging that he was removed from the program because of his religious views on counseling same-sex couples on their relationships.  The complaint (full text) in Cash v. Governors of Missouri State University, (WD MO, filed 4/19/2016), alleges in part:
Plaintiff’s experience at MSU has been devastating, crushing, and tormenting, culminating in his termination from the program -- all because he interned with a Christian organization and expressed his religious beliefs on a hypothetical question about counseling a gay couple on relationship issues.
... Plaintiff was targeted and punished for expressing his Christian worldview ... regarding a hypothetical situation.... Since he did not give the “correct” answer required by his counseling instructors, he was considered unsuitable for counseling and terminated from the program.
Thomas More Society announced the filing of the lawsuit. AP reports on the case.

Recent Articles of Interest

From SSRN:
From SmartCILP:

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Greybuffalo v. Wall, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50751 (WD WI, April 15, 2016), a Wisconsin federal district court permitted a Native American inmate to move ahead with his complaint that his requests for devotional services for the Native American Church and for group use of a water drum have been denied.

In Smith v. Courtney, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51065 (ND FL, April 14, 2016), a Florida federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendation (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51068, March 22, 2016) and dismissed a Muslim inmate's complaint that inmates in close management are not allowed to attend religious preaching and prayer with other Muslim inmates.

In Evans v. Muniz, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51804 (ND CA, April 18, 2016), a California federal district court dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies a Muslim inmate's complaint against one of the defendants. At issue was the lack of halal meals.

In Jones v. Johnson, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52553 (D CT, April 20, 2016), a Connecticut federal district court permitted an inmate to move ahead with his complaint that inmates in segregation were denied religious services.

In Cejas v. Myers, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53088 (ED CA, April 19, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a Buddhist inmate's complaint about denial of chapel access for group services.

In Martinez v. Flicker, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53149 (ED CA, April 19, 2106), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed with leave to amend an inmate's vague allegations that his religious rights have been infringed.

In Don v. Kelley, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54124 (ED AR, April 22, 2016), an Arkansas federal magistrate judge dismissed a complaint by an inmate who practiced his religion as a Nazarite over the questioning and harassment he received about his religious beliefs.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hasidic Challengers To Zoning Law Suffer a Defeat on Appeal

LostMessiah blog reports:
A [New York] state appeals court has upheld the Village of Woodbury’s Comprehensive Plan and zoning laws, reversing a 2014 ruling that branded the zoning “exclusionary” for failing to accommodate the high-density housing needs of the Hasidic residents of neighboring Kiryas Joel.
In Matter of Village of Kiryas Joel, N.Y. v Village of Woodbury, N.Y., (NY App. Div., April 10, 2016), the appeals court concluded that the trial court should not have annulled the village's zoning action on environmental review and other procedural grounds. It sent the case back to the trial court, holding that "triable issues of fact exist as to whether the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Amendments amount to unconstitutional exclusionary zoning." (See prior related posting).

New York Court Refuses To Dismiss Suit To Declare Muslim Marriage Valid

In Jackson K v. Parisa G, 2016 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 1487 (NY Sup Ct New York County, April 8, 2016), a New York state trial court refused to dismiss a suit by plaintiff who believed he had validly married defendant in an elaborate Iranian Islamic ceremony in New York, attended by 200 guests, even though the couple did not obtain a New York marriage license.  Alternatively plaintiff sought damages for fraud and conversion of a $25,000 engagement ring. A 20-minute ceremony was performed by Ms. Sholeh Sham, who now says she is not a member of the clergy and had no authority to marry the couple. Plaintiff however claims the marriage was valid under NY Domestic Relations Law Sec. 12 that validates marriages solemnized "in the manner heretofore used and practiced" by a particular religious denomination. The court said in part:
The court need not decide at this point whether it is possible for the court to determine the validity of the purported marriage on neutral principles. The ultimate issue is whether the ceremony meets the requirements set forth in DRL §12. Plaintiff argues that, in Defendant's denomination, no particular religious leader must solemnize a wedding ceremony. Under New York law, an officiant at a religious wedding ceremony need not be limited to a traditional concept of a member of the clergy or a minister ordained by a religious order..... Whether Ms. Shams was qualified to solemnize the marriage is an issue of fact....
The court also allowed plaintiff to move ahead with his claim of fraud, saying:
Here, the complaint includes detailed allegations to the effect that the Defendant accepted Plaintiff's marriage proposal and engagement ring on July 29, 2009...; that the Defendant told him that her family wanted to select the wedding  officiant to be certain that the marriage would be recognized in the Islamic Republic of Iran and valid under Iranian law.... 
... Plaintiff alleges that Defendant convinced him that Ms. Shams was authorized to marry them at the time she officiated at the September 4, 2010 Ceremony, and that they were actually married on September 4, 2010. Only after years of purported marriage did Defendant tell Plaintiff they were not married.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Former Kosher Supervisor At Manischewitz Sues Over Pressure To Compromise Standards

A lawsuit was filed Wednesday in state court in New York by Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz who was a kosher supervisor for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations ("OU") and who certified products of Manischewitz Co.-- a major producer of Passover foods-- for more than 20 years.  As reported by NJ Advance Media and AP, the suit, filed just days before Passover, claims that Horowitz was forced to take a long leave of absence after complaining that he was being pressured by the OU to be more lax in his inspections of certain products.  Horowitz claims that OU cooperated because it was afraid that Manischewitz would move to a different kosher certifying agency.  Manischewitz denies the charges. The lawsuit seeks millions of dollars in damages for emotional distress and damage to reputation.

White House Passover Seder Will Be Late

Passover begins this evening.  President Obama has made it a practice to host a Passover Seder in the White House every year, building on a Seder he attended in Pennsylvania during the 2008 primary season when he was first running for President.  That Seder, in a hotel, was organized by Jewish members of his campaign staff. The Forward reports that this year the President's Seder will be late since he is in Saudi Arabia through this weekend attending a regional cooperation summit.  So the White House Seder will be held next week, still during Passover but not on one of the first two nights when Seders are usually held.

UPDATE: Here is the President's Passover message to the Jewish community, noting that this year will be their last Seder in the White House.

Louisiana Governor Rescinds Earlier Executive Order Protecting Discrimination Against Gay Couples

Last week, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed Executive Order No. JBE 2016-11 (April 13, 2016) (full text) barring state agencies and offices from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, political affiliation, disability or age.  The executive order also requires that all state contracts include a similar provision barring the contractor from discriminating. However, this does not apply to contracts with religious organizations or religious educational institutions.  The order rescinds an executive order issued last year by then-governor Bobby Jindal prohibiting the denial of benefits or government contracts to anyone who acts in accordance with a religious belief that marriage should be only between one man and one woman. (See prior posting.) [Thanks to Blog from the Capital for the lead.]

6th Circuit Dismisses County Clerk's Suit As Moot

In Miller v. Davis, (6th Cir., April 19, 2016), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed as moot the appeal by Rowan County, Kentucky, Clerk Kim Davis seeking a preliminary injunction against a requirement that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of her religious beliefs.  The court said:
On December 22, 2015, the newly-elected Governor of Kentucky issued an executive order revising Kentucky's marriage license form to eliminate the need for the name and signature of the county clerk. Davis's counsel issued a press release stating that the revised form will permit Davis and the other county clerks "to do their jobs without compromising religious values and beliefs."
The Louisville Courier-Journal reports on the decision.

Suit Challenges Cross At Site of Historic Spanish Mission

The Freedom From Religion Foundation this week filed suit in a California federal district court challenging the constitutionality of a 14-foot tall granite Latin cross in Santa Clara's Memorial Cross Park.  The complaint (full text) in Freedom From Religion Foundation v. City of Santa Clara, (ND CA, filed 4/20/2016), says that the cross was donated and placed on city-owned property in 1953 by the Lion's Club to mark the site of the second Spanish Catholic mission established in the city in 1777. The site continues to be maintained by the city. Plaintiff claims that the city's actions violate the Establishment Clause of the federal and state constitutions as well as the "no aid" clause of California's constitution.  FFRF issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit and containing a photo of the disputed marker.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Parties File Supplemental Reply Briefs With Supreme Court In Zubik Case

Yesterday the petitioners and respondents both filed Supplemental Reply Briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell, the case challenging the government's compromise for religious non-profits that object to including contraceptive coverage in their employee health plans.  The briefs make it clear that there is not agreement between the parties on an alternative compromise. The petitioner's brief (full text) says in part:
If petitioners were truly exempt from the mandate, and those companies were to offer their employees the kind of truly separate coverage that petitioners have described—i.e., “a separate policy, with a separate enrollment process, a separate insurance card, and a separate payment source, and offered to individuals through a separate communication”—then petitioners would no longer have a RFRA objection.
The government's brief (full text) counters:
[P]etitioners assert that it is not enough that insurers provide that coverage entirely outside petitioners’ health plans and without their involvement, as the accommodation already requires. Petitioners also insist that the coverage must consist of contraceptive-only insurance policies, not direct payments for contraceptives. And they add that women must take affirmative steps to enroll, and cannot be covered automatically.
RFRA does not give petitioners the right to insist upon those new conditions. The statute simply does not entitle them to dictate the terms of insurers’ separate dealings with women.

School District Will End Bus Scheduling Around Before-School Religion Classes

ACLU of Illinois yesterday announced an agreement with the Teutopolis Illinois School District will end its practice of scheduling buses to take all students to Teutopolis Grade School an hour early so that they can attend before-school Catholic religious classes. The agreement also creates an after-school activity period in which religious classes will be only one choice.

Lay Minister Sues Georgia Health Department For Employment Discrimination

As reported by The Blaze, a doctor and public health expert who was dismissed from his position with the Georgia Department of Public Health within two weeks of his hiring has filed a religious discrimination suit in federal district court in Georgia.  The complaint (full text) in Walsh v. Georgia Department of Public Health, (ND GA, filed 4/20/2016), contends that Eric Walsh's position was terminated because of the content of sermons he had given as a Seventh Day Adventist lay minister. In the sermons, he criticized Catholicism, called homosexuality sinful and characterized evolution as a religion created by Satan. The suit seeks damages, reinstatement and injunctive relief for violations of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1st and 14th Amendments. A statement from a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Public Health said that the withdrawal of a conditional offer to Walsh had nothing to do with his religious views, but instead was triggered by a finding that Walsh failed to disclose outside employment to his prior public health agency employer in California.