Thursday, May 31, 2007
The court held further that even if plaintiff had standing, he did not demonstrate any violation of his First Amendment rights: "The Wren Chapel remains open for worship, the cross may be displayed on the altar at the request of the Chapel's users, and nothing forbids the plaintiff from bringing a cross or a Bible of his own into the Chapel for use in exercising his religion."
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Dissenting, Judge Richard Malanjum, the only non-Muslim on the panel, said that it was unreasonable to require Joy to go to a Shariah court because she could face a fine or sentence to a rehabilitation center for apostasy by that court. He wrote: "In my view, this is tantamount to unequal treatment under the law."
Shariah courts in Malaysia have jurisdiction over civil, family, marriage and personal rights of the country's Muslims. A DPA report on the case points out that Islamic courts in each of Malaysia's 14 states have different rules. Only one state has provisions for Muslims to convert. Joy herself is in hiding with her Catholic fiance. So long as her conversion is not recognized, she can marry her fiance only if he converts to Islam. (See prior related posting.)
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
The choir sang The Lord's Prayer earlier this year at a concert to raise funds for Szymanski's funeral and during a winter school concert. School officials, however, say that commencement is different-- there is more of a captive audience. That is what the Supreme Court said in a 1992 decision. Counsel has advised Comstock Park school officials that the song should not be included. (Grand Rapids Press). Disagreeing with that advice, the Alliance Defense Fund sent school officials a letter last week arguing that the performance is permissible, saying that under the circumstances it would not be seen as an endorsement of religion.
- Donald E. Miller & Tetsunao Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement, (Sept. 2007).
- John J. DiIulio., Jr., Godly Republic: A Centrist Blueprint for America's Faith-Based Future (Oct. 2007).
- Kate McCarthy, Interfaith Encounters in America, (March 2007).
- Lynn Schofield Clark, Religion, Media and the Marketplace, (March 2007).
- Angela D. Dillard, Faith in the City- Preaching Radical Social Change in Detroit, (2007).
- David L. Clough & Brian Stiltner, Faith and Force- A Christian Debate about War, (May 2007).
- J. Matthew Wilson (ed.), From Pews to Polling Places- Faith and Politics in the American Religious Mosaic, (Oct. 2007).
- Irene Oh, The Rights of God- Islam, Human Rights, and Comparative Ethics, (Nov. 2007).
Monday, May 28, 2007
Joy's attorney, Benjamin Dawson, says: "Our country is at a crossroad. Are we evolving into an Islamic state or are we going to maintain the secular character of the constitution?" If Joy loses, apparently she could be prosecuted in Islamic courts for apostasy.
Christopher Borgen, Triptych: Sectarian Disputes, International Law, and Transnational Tribunals in Drinan's Can God and Caesar Coexist?, St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-0074.
From SmartCILP (in part):
Karima Bennoune, Secularism and Human Rights: A Contextual Analysis of Headscarves, Religious Expression, and Women's Equality Under International Law, 45 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 367-426 (2007). (Article abstract).
Mark C. Weber, Services for Private School Students Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act: Issues of Statutory Entitlement, Religious Liberty, and Procedural Regularity, 36 Journal of Law & Education 163-210 (2007).
Eric Alan Isaacson, Assaulting America's Mainstream Values: Hans Zeiger's Get Off My Honor: The Assault on the Boy Scouts of America, 5 Pierce Law Review 433 (2007).
Congress, by a joint resolution approved on May 11, 1950, as amended (64 Stat. 158), has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer. The Congress, by Public Law 106-579, has also designated the minute beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time on that day as a time for all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance.However the President's Radio Address on Saturday that focused entirely on Memorial Day was entirely a secular tribute to America's war dead.
As Melissa Rogers has pointed out, a new church-state issue has emerged as Task Force Patriot USA, an evangelical Christian group, for the first time became a sponsor of the annual Memorial Day weekend Salute to the Troops at Stone Mountain Park in Georgia. Originally this year's Salute was billed as an official U.S. Air Force 60th Anniversary event. However, after objections were raised by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Air Force issued a statement saying it is not a sponsor of the event. It said that after becoming aware of the religious nature of scheduled activities, it began taking steps to avoid the appearance of endorsement or preferential treatment of any religious faith. (Washington Post).
The Air Force will still do jet fly-overs of the park this weekend, but will only do two of them instead of the originally scheduled nine, and will not schedule them to coincide with religious events at the Salute. (Atlanta Journal Constitution.) The Army's Silver Wing Parachute Team is no longer participating in the event at all.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
In Harris v. N.C.P. Dept, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37902 (ED NY, May 24, 2007), a New York federal district court held that a prisoner's pro se complaint, liberally construed, may raise a legitimate free exercise claim. Plaintiff claimed he was denied food on one or more occasions because he failed to interrupt his prayers when directed to do so by correctional officers.
In Miller v. Sullivan, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37318 (ED CA, May 8, 2007), a California federal Magistrate Judge dismissed, with leave to amend, a prisoner's free exercise claim because it did not allege the nature of the infringement of his religious activity nor what defendants had done to burden his free exercise.
In Livingston v. Griffin, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36941 (ND NY, May 21, 2007), a Rastafarian prisoner won a partial victory in his claims that his free exercise rights had been violated by prison authorities. The court rejected his claim that his religious beliefs were substantially burdened when authorities attempted to force him to be handcuffed to, and sit for several hours beside, another inmate who he believed to be a homosexual or transsexual. However the court allowed plaintiff to proceed with his claim that he was wrongfully denied alternative religious meals by prison officials.
In El-Tabech v. Clarke, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36719 (D NE, May 18, 2007), a Muslim prisoner filed a claims under the First Amendment and RLUIPA alleging that "his religion requires that he adhere to a Halal diet: eating only permitted kosher food". A Nebraska federal district court refused to grant defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding that genuine issues of material fact exist concerning the allegations of cost and security in affording plaintiff a kosher diet. It similarly allowed plaintiff to proceed with his claims that his religious beliefs require additional showers and adherence to a prayer schedule.
In Dicks v. Binding Together, Inc., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36615 (SD NY, May 18, 2007), a New York federal district court allowed an inmate in a work release program to move ahead with his Free Exercise and state law challenges to the refusal by authorities to grant him a pass to attend Pentecostal church services.
In Stewart v. Canteen Food Services, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36396 (D AZ, May 16, 2007), an Arizona federal district judge refused to grant a motion by defendant to reconsider an earlier decision permitting a prisoner to move ahead with a free exercise claim that he was not consistently served a lacto-vegetarian diet. It also refused to grant plaintiff's motion to re-instate certain of his claims that had been previously dismissed.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Meanwhile, in Omaha, Nebraska, 70 out of 120 Somali meatpacking workers have now returned to work after they quit their jobs because they were not given sufficient time off to pray at sundown. The company has agreed to accommodate workers as much as they can within the terms of the union contract. The Associated Press says that, as summer arrives, later sundowns may create problems, however. The company is concerned that they will need to completely close down production if too many workers are off the assembly line at the same time for prayer.
Reporting on the bill following House passage on Tuesday, the Associated Press quoted two representatives who are critical of the bill using state funds for faith-based programs. [Thanks to Blog from the Capital for the lead.]
Defendants claim that plaintiffs are no longer members of the church, and so are not entitled to inspection. In face of the lawsuit by plaintiffs, the Church had amended its Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's) to provide that anyone who is a party to a lawsuit against the church or its leaders shall be removed from the membership rolls. The SOP's also provided that the pastor could place members on probation. However the court refused to totally dismiss the case and remanded it to the trial court for it to determine whether the SOP's are in fact the bylaws of the church, and, if they are, whether the relevant amendments to them on expulsion of members were properly adopted.
Justice See, dissenting in part, said that the First Amendment precludes civil courts from inquiring into ecclesiastical concerns of the Church. That includes inquiry on whether those acting on behalf of the Church had the authority to terminate plaintiffs' membership.
UPDATE: On Oct. 5 2007, the Alabama Supreme Court denied a petition for rehearing, with Justice Parker writing an opinion concurring specially in the denial. 2007 Ala. LEXIS 208.
The article also reports that Weinstein is formulating a far-reaching litigation strategy for his Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and discusses Weinstein’s confrontational style that has led some organizations that might otherwise be his natural allies to tread cautiously.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Meanwhile, the Texas Senate on Thursday also passed, and sent back to the House for final approval, HB3678, aimed at protecting voluntary student expression of religious viewpoints in public schools. (See prior related posting.) The Associated Press reports:
Under the legislation, religious beliefs expressed in homework, artwork and other assignments would be judged by traditional academic standards. Students couldn't be penalized or rewarded because of the religious content of their work.UPDATE: The Dallas Morning News reported on Sunday that when HB 3678 was passed by the Texas Senate, it took out the non-discrimination provision that had been added by the House, and that the House on Saturday, by a vote of 108-28, approved the Senate version.
The measure had sparked vigorous debate in the House, where the bill was amended to say that the religious expression could not discriminate against someone else’s race, age, sexual preference or religious belief.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Meanwhile yesterday's Houston Chronicle reports that a Christian motivational group, Power Team, finds that some public schools are cancelling its scheduled performances because of the group's evangelical ties. Power Team representatives say they do not mention religion in their public school performances. Their shows emphasize the importance of valuing life and dressing appropriately, as the group preaches against drugs and suicide.
UPDATE: Here is the full opinion in ACLU of North Carolina v. State of North Carolina, (Super. Ct Wake Co NC, May 24, 2007). The court relied extensively on an 1856 North Carolina Supreme Court case as well as language in the state's Rules of Evidence.
Reporting on the hearings, the Gospel Herald says that evangelical leaders were particularly concerned that proposed revisions restrict family reunification by lowering the number of visas for various family members of US citizens and legal residents.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Because of the strong support that Falwell showed for the state of Israel, the Israeli Embassy in Washington will send a representative, though it has had some logistical problems in finding the appropriate person. Tonight begins the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, and it would be impossible to get back to Israel after the funeral in time for the start of the festival. However, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship and Christians and Jews, will travel from Jerusalem to represent Israel. (Rosner's Blog, eMediaWire).
Less welcome at the funeral will be protesters representing the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, known for picketing funerals of American veterans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The small church, led by Rev. Fred Phelps, has a number of attacks against Falwell posted on its website. It considers him too tolerant of diversity-- though says that in much less circumspect language. (Fox News.).
Monday, May 21, 2007
David E. Guinn, Naming the Whirlwind (Chap. 4 of Constantine's Standard: Religion, Violence, Politics, Law, & a Faith to Die For), (May 11, 2007).
David E. Guinn, The Many Faces of Violent Faith (Chap. 5 of Constantine's Standard: Religion, Violence, Politics, Law & a Faith to Die For), (May 11, 2007).
C. Scott Pryor, God's Bridle: John Calvin's Application of Natural Law, Journal of Law and Religion, (Vol. 22, 2006-2007).
Douglas G. Smith, The Constitutionality of Religious Symbolism After Mccreary and Van Orden, (Texas Review of Law & Politics, 2007).
Harry G. Hutchison, Shaming Kindergarteners? Channeling Dred Scott? Freedom of Expression Rights in Public Schools, (Catholic University Law Review, Vol. 56, No. 2, pp. 361-400, Winter 2007).
Sara S. Ruff., Nonreligion, Neutrality, and the Seventh Circuit's Mistake, (2007).
Christopher F. Richardson, Islamic Finance Opportunities in the Oil and Gas Sector: An Introduction to an Emerging Field, 42 Texas International Law Journal 119-153 (2006).
Adrien Katherine Wing & Ozan O. Varol, Is Secularism Possible in a Majority-Muslim Country?: the Turkish Example, 42 Texas International Law Journal (2006).
John F. Scarpa Conference on Law, Politics and Culture. Articles by Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Patrick McKinley Brennan, Richard W. Garnett and Amelia J. Uelmen. 52 Villanova Environmental Law Journal (2007).
Meanwhile, yesterday's Boston Globe reports on another legal fight to oust a clergyman. In Brocton, Massachusetts, a state Superior Court judge has issued a temporary injunction returning control of the First Baptist Church of Whitman to a group of congregants who are attempting to oust Rev. Michael Fernandez. The congregants are led by the former clerk of the church, Jean Porter. That group has voted in its own slate of church officers, restored the church's former bylaws and has voted to terminate Fernandez as pastor. They say that Fernandez never gained certification from the American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts, as required by the church's bylaws. The current situation arose when Fernandez decided to bring his growing former congregation from Holbrook to the church in Whitman whose membership was declining. However, the two congregations essentially continued to function separately, though Fernandez took control of the building, a bank account and the church's website. Now Fernandez says he will move his followers to Hanover instead of fighting the legal battle to stay at the Whitman church.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
A less surprising tribute came from former House speaker Newt Gingrich, appearing Saturday as commencement speaker at Falwell's Liberty University. (Washington Post). Gingrich told reporters: "Anybody on the left who hopes that when people like Reverend Falwell disappear, that the opportunity to convert all of America has gone with him fundamentally misunderstands why institutions like this were created."
[T]he reverend and I had a lot in common. He was from Virginia, and I was from Kentucky. His father had been a bootlegger, and I had been one too in my 20s before I went into the Navy. We steered our conversations away from politics, but religion was within bounds. He wanted to save me and was determined to get me out of "the business."
My mother always told me that no matter how repugnant you find a person, when you meet them face to face you will always find something about them to like. The more I got to know Falwell, the more I began to see that his public portrayals were caricatures of himself. There was a dichotomy between the real Falwell and the one he showed the public.
He was definitely selling brimstone religion and would do anything to add another member to his mailing list. But in the end, I knew what he was selling, and he knew what I was selling, and we found a way to communicate.
UPDATE: Here is a transcript of Gingrich's commencement remarks.
In Van Patten v. Schmidt, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35247 (ED WI, May 14, 2007), a Wisconsin federal district court permitted a prisoner to proceed with his claim that his religious property had been confiscated and that he was prevented from practicing his religion while in jail.
In Piskanin v. Hammer, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35177 (ED PA, April 26, 2007), a Pennsylvania federal district court rejected a prisoner's free exercise claim growing out of authorities' taking from plaintiff his "Miraculous Medal" when he was placed on suicide watch. He was unable to wear his Miraculous Medal necklace for about 30 days.
In Burke v. North Dakota Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35733 (D ND, May 16, 2007), a North Dakota federal district court permitted a Hindu prisoner to proceed with free exercise and equal protection claims. The prisoner complained that he has been denied a "religious study day" similar to one given to Christian inmates, as well as access to ritual items such as camphor, kumkum, incense, and butter lamps. He also protests that the penitentiary chaplain refuses to recruit non-Christian volunteers to work with inmates.
In Metras v. Pollard, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36015 (ED WI, May 16, 2007), a Wisconsin federal district court rejected a prisoner's free exercise claim, finding that the damaging of his rosary during a search of his cell did not restrict the exercise of his religious beliefs. Apparently the prison guard was testing the material in the rosary, and did not destroy it because of its religious nature.
In Hanley v. Merced County Sheriff's Department, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36263 (ED CA, May 3, 2007), a California federal Magistrate Judge ruled that a prisoner's complaint alleging that he was not allowed to wear his cross did not adequately set out the relationship of the restriction to his free exercise of religion. The judge gave the prisoner 30 days to amend his complaint to allege that defendants substantially burdened the practice of a central tenet or belief of his religion by preventing him from engaging in conduct mandated by his faith.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
The Columbus Dispatch reported yesterday that House Clerk Laura Clemens has sent a memo to all House members saying that increasingly ministers are ignoring the guidelines. In particular their prayers are becoming more sectarian. Apparently the memo was sparked by an invocation several days ago in which Rev. Keith Hamblen, pastor of Lima, Ohio's Calvary Bible Church, referred to Jesus several times, spoke favorably of church-sponsored schools and mentioned bills up for debate that day, including a controversial proposal on regulating strip-clubs.
Raymond Vasvari, former legal director for the Ohio ACLU, said the House has a problem. If, in trying to assure that prayer is non-sectarian, it reviews invocations of invited ministers in advance, this is akin to an illegal prior restraint. [Thanks to Alliance Alert for the lead.]
Friday, May 18, 2007
The complaint filed in federal court (full text) alleges that the student's teacher led the entire class out to the Gideons so they could each get a Bible, and that students were pressured by fear of being criticized or ridiculed into accepting a copy. The Associated Press, reporting on the lawsuit, quotes ACLU state director Joe Cook as saying that the teacher's actions disrespected parents rights to choose the religious tradition in which they wish to raise their children.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
The complaint in Moreno v. Ector County Independent School District, (WD TX, filed May 16, 2007) (full text) alleges that the curriculum that was adopted promotes a particular religious interpretation of the Bible-- ignoring or dismissing other viewpoints-- and does not reflect current and reputable Biblical scholarship. It teaches the Bible as literal, historical truth and presents a religious interpretation of American history that does not reflect objective scholarly standards.
The suit was filed on behalf of the parents by the American Civil Liberties Union (press release) and People for the American Way (press release). ACLU lawyer Daniel Mach charged that the course "is about proselytizing one set of religious beliefs to the exclusion of others. Students who don't share those beliefs should not be treated as outsiders by their own schools." Also, he said that the course "requires students to give 'true' or 'false' answers to questions that are a matter of religious faith."
UPDATE: Nashville's News Channel 5 reported on Thursday that Workman's family has reached an agreement with the state medical examiner to permit him to perform an autopsy on Workman, but in a way that is minimally invasive.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The court held that plaintiff had standing to bring the challenge, holding that "spiritual harm resulting from unwelcome direct contact with an allegedly offensive religious (or anti-religious) symbol is a legally cognizable injury and suffices to confer Article III standing." However it rejected Vasquez's claim on the merits. The County removed the cross to avoid a potential Establishment Clause problem. The court held that this is a secular purpose. As to effect, the court said "a 'reasonable observer' familiar with the history and controversy surrounding the use of crosses on municipal seals would not perceive the primary effect of Defendants' action as one of hostility towards religion." Reuters and AP both reported on the decision.