Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
In Stewart v. Corrections Corporation of America, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52875 (SD IN, July 19, 2007), an Indiana federal court held that no substantial burden had been placed on plaintiff's exercise of religion either by requiring him to fill out a request in order to obtain vegetarian meals for religious reasons or by taking more than one day to grant the request.
In Horton v. Erwin County Jail, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53759 (ED TN, July 23, 2007), a Tennessee federal district court held that a prisoner's conclusory allegation that while in jail he was denied religious exercise is insufficient to state a First Amendment claim.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Any person who, in good faith and based on objectively reasonable suspicion, makes or causes to be made, a voluntary report of covered activity to an authorized official shall be immune from civil liability under federal, state and local law for such report.Debra Saunders in today's San Francisco Chronicle praises Congress for enacting the provision, as does Ericka Andersen at Human Events yesterday. They give special credit to the provision's co-sponsor, New York Rep. Peter King, and to Sens. Joe Leiberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) for getting Conference Committee approval of the so-called "John Doe" protections.
UDPDATE: The John Doe protections in HR 1 were the subject of July 30's Talk of the Nation from NPR. You can listen to the program online.
Philip C. Aka, The Supreme Court and the Challenge of Protecting Minority Religions in the United States, (Reviewing Garrett Epps, To an Unknown God: Religious Freedom on Trial.), 9 The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Minority Issues 343-408 (2007).
William J. Dobosh, Jr., Coercion in the Ranks: the Establishment Clause Implications of Chaplain-Led Prayers at Mandatory Army Events, 2006 Wisconsin Law Review 1493-1562 (2006).
Charles Flores, Marital Jam Sessions on Trial: Ecclesiastical Abstention and Employment Division, Department of Human Resources v. Smith in the Supreme Court of Texas, 9 The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Minority Issues 409-426 (2007).
L. Scott Smith, Religion, Politics, and the Establishment Clause: Does God Belong in American Public Life?, 10 Chapman Law Review 299-358 (2006).
Stephen W. Trask, Evolution, Science, and Ideology: Why the Establishment Clause Requires Neutrality in Science Classes, 10 Chapman Law Review 359-390 (2006).
James L. Werth, Jr., Some Personal Aspects of End-of-Life Decisionmaking, 61 University of Miami Law Review 847-861 (2007).
Leila Hessini, Abortion and Islam, Policies and Practices in the Middle East and North Africa, 15 Reproductive Health Matters, No. 29, pp. 75-84 (May 2007) (SSRN Abstract).
Mark Strasser, Thou Shalt Not?, 6 Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class 439-90 (2006) (SSRN Abstract).
Saturday, July 28, 2007
HearthStone's owner, John Smith, believed in "Mind Body Energy". The court found that "HearthStone used Mind Body Energy (MBE) sessions to 'cleanse [the] negative energy' from its employees in order to enhance their work performance. [It] … paid for its employees to attend an MBE course in California which required participants to read The Tibetan Book of Life, discussing Buddhist and Hindu teachings." Smith also used a technique called "muscle testing" when questioning employees or making business decisions. These were inconsistent with Ollis' religious beliefs.
The court's description of both Smith’s business practices and Ollis’ interaction with a female employee – who was later herself discharged for “doing cart-wheels naked on a golf course”-- suggest that the entire atmosphere of this Nebraska home sales company was somewhat unconventional. [Thanks to Alliance Alert for the lead.]
Friday, July 27, 2007
UPDATE: Here is a copy of the complaint and the motion for a preliminary injunction. The case is Storman's v. Selecky. More on the case is at Constitutionally Correct and in this release from the Alliance Defense Fund which is representing the plaintiffs.
Responding to church-state concerns, Susan Onori, Broward County coordinator for charter schools, said that a monitoring team would check to make sure that the school did not teach the Jewish religion as part of its Hebrew language, history, and culture offerings. Among those expressing concern about the new school were Eric Stillman, President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Broward County, whose Community Relations Committee strongly supports church-state separation. Also raising issues were representatives of two existing Jewish day school, whose enrollments will presumably be threatened by the tuition-free charter school. One of them argued that it is impossible to teach Hebrew and Jewish culture without teaching religion. Supporting the charter school were representatives of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The ACLU intervened in the ADF's lawsuit. In its brief to the 6th Circuit on appeal, the ACLU explained its position as follows: "Intervenors joined this litigation to ensure that the Board complied with its obligations under the Consent Decree by, among other things, conducting mandatory anti-harassment trainings. After careful review of the Board’s 2004-2005 anti-harassment policies, however, Intervenors came to agree with Plaintiffs that the policies were broader than the Constitution permits. Accordingly, Intervenors both joined the Board in moving for summary judgment with respect to the claims seeking a constitutional right to opt out of the anti-harassment trainings, and joined Plaintiffs in moving for summary judgment with respect to the claims involving the anti-harassment policies."
After yesterday's oral arguments, ACLU attorney Sharon McGowan said: "We've always believed that it’s entirely possible for schools to enact policies that keep gay and lesbian students safe while still respecting the First Amendment rights of students who hold anti-gay beliefs." (ACLU Release). Links to all the legal documents in the case are available online.
In a "special concurrence", Judge Moss was unusually critical of the Supreme Court. He wrote:
The Supreme Court cannot continue to speak out of both sides of its mouth if it intends to provide real guidance to federal courts.... [I]t cannot continue to hold expressly that the injury in fact requirement is no different for Establishment Clause cases, while it implicitly assumes standing in cases where the alleged injury, in a non-Establishment Clause case, would not get the plaintiff into the courthouse. This double standard must be corrected because ... it opens the courts' doors to a group of plaintiffs who have no complaint other than they dislike any government reference to God.Dissenters, in two separate opinions, argued that the trial court's pre-trial order makes clear that plaintiffs' attendance at board meetings was not a contested issue and that defendants impliedly admitted those facts. 2theadvocate reports on the decision. The splintered 3-judge panel decision in the case was discussed in a previous posting. [Thanks to Alliance Alert for the lead.]
UPDATE: By Thursday evening (London time), Shambo the bull had been taken away for slaughter by lethal injection. Initially police returned with a warrant, but only posted it instead of confronting 100 demonstrators. Thursday evening, though, 20 police cut a chain securing the temple gates, dragged away some of the demonstrators, led the sacred bull to a trailer and took him away. (AP and Inthenews).
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
UPDATE: The AP reports that on Tuesday Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel ruled Rubin could not rely on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a defense because he is facing only state charges.
The Federal Humane Slaughter Act (7 USC Sec. 1902) defines as one acceptable method of slaughter: "slaughtering in accordance with the ritual requirements of the Jewish faith or any other religious faith that prescribes a method of slaughter whereby the animal suffers loss of consciousness by anemia of the brain caused by the simultaneous and instantaneous severance of the carotid arteries with a sharp instrument and handling in connection with such slaughtering."
UPDATE: The Beatrice Daily Sun on Wednesday reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it inspected the Local Pride plant earlier this month and found no problems. The Orthodox Union-- the primary certifier of kosher slaughterhouses-- also says that it found no problems during recent inspections, and that minor problems in earlier inspections have been remedied.
UPDATE: A July 26 post on Volokh Conspiracy reports on a subsequent statement from Gomaa that appears to somewhat back off of his earlier comments.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
QUESTION: I'm Reverend Reggie Longcrier. I'm the pastor of Exodus Mission and Outreach Church in Hickory, North Carolina. Senator Edwards said his opposition to gay marriage is influenced by his Southern Baptist background. Most Americans agree it was wrong and unconstitutional to use religion to justify slavery, segregation, and denying women the right to vote. So why is it still acceptable to use religion to deny gay American their full and equal rights?...Near the end of the debate, YouTube questioners elicited additional responses on candidates' religious beliefs from Sen. Joseph Biden, John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama (transcript):
EDWARDS: I think Reverend Longcrier asks a very important question, which is whether fundamentally -- whether it's right for any of our faith beliefs to be imposed on the American people when we're president of the United States. I do not believe that's right.
I feel enormous personal conflict about this issue. I want to end discrimination. I want to do some of the things that I just heard Bill Richardson talking about -- standing up for equal rights, substantive rights, civil unions, the thing that Chris Dodd just talked about. But I think that's something everybody on this stage will commit themselves to as president of the United States. But I personally have been on a journey on this issue. I feel enormous conflict about it. As I think a lot of people know... my wife Elizabeth spoke out a few weeks ago, and she actually supports gay marriage. I do not. But this is a very, very difficult issue for me. And I recognize and have enormous respect for people who have a different view of it.
.... I've been asked a personal question which is, I think, what Reverend Longcrier is raising, and that personal question is, do I believe and do I personally support gay marriage? The honest answer to that is I don't. But I think it is absolutely wrong, as president of the United States, for me to have used that faith basis as a basis for denying anybody their rights, and I will not do that when I'm president of the United States.
QUESTION: Hi, I'm Zenne Abraham in Oakland, California. The cathedral behind me is the perfect backdrop for this question. This quarter reads "United States of America." And when I turn it over, you find that it reads "liberty, in God we trust." What do those words mean to you?....
BIDEN: Religion informs my values. My reason dictates outcomes. My religion taught me about abuse of power. That's why I moved to write the Violence Against Women Act. That's why I take the position I take on Darfur. It came about as a consequence of the reasoning that we're able to do it. You know, look, I don't think they're inconsistent. I don't find anything inconsistent about my deep, religious beliefs and my ability to use reason. I think the coin's got it just right. I think I have it in perspective....
QUESTION: ... My name is Stephen Marsh of Thousand Oaks, California, proud citizen of the United States of America that does not believe in God. However, the former President Bush said this statement was an oxymoron. Now, I am worried about the amount of time given to evangelical concerns while secular voters are more or less getting a snubbed.... So my question is this: Am I wrong in fearing a Democratic administration that may be lip service to the extremely religious as much as the current one?....
EDWARDS: As president of the United States, we will embrace and lift up all Americans, whatever their faith beliefs or whether they have no faith beliefs, as Stephen just spoke about. That's what America is.
Now, my faith is enormously important to me personally. It's gotten me through some hard times, as I'm sure that's true of a lot of the candidates who are on this stage. But it is crucial that the American people know that as president it will not be my job -- and I believe it would be wrong -- for me to impose my personal faith beliefs on the American people or to decide any kind of decision, policy decision, that will affect America on the basis of my personal faith beliefs....
OBAMA: I am proud of my Christian faith. And it informs what I do. And I don't think that people of any faith background should be prohibited from debating in the public square. But I am a strong believer in the separation of church and state....
By the way, I support it not just for the state but also for the church, because that maintains our religious independence and that's why we have such a thriving religious life. But what I also think is that we are under obligation in public life to translate our religious values into moral terms that all people can share, including those who are not believers. And that is how our democracy's functioning, will continue to function. That's what the founding fathers intended.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Arab News meanwhile has a slightly different version of developments. It says that the three-person panel is being set up on a temporary basis until courts start functioning again. It will hear the hundreds of criminal complaints that would have gone to existing courts, according to Islam Shahwan, spokesman of Hamas’ Executive Force. Another Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said the new legal panel would not impose Sharia law, but would apply it with the consent of both parties, particularly in dealing with inheritance, marriage and divorce.
In Quillar v. California Department of Corrections, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50894 (ED CA, July 13, 2007), a California federal Magistrate Judge recommended dismissal of Free Exercise and RLUIPA claims by an inmate who was disciplined for wearing a beard for religious reasons, in violation of the prison's grooming regulations. While the allegations were found sufficient to state a claim, the magistrate found that defendants enjoyed qualified immunity from plaintiff's damage claims and that plaintiff's claim for an injunction is moot due to his transfer to a different facility. The magistrate also recommended rejection of plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim.
In Ghashryah v. Frank, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51104 (WD WI), a Wisconsin federal district court permitted an inmate to move forward with his claim that his rights under the First Amendment and RLUIPA were violated when prison officials prohibited him from using his religious name in filing grievances.
In DeRosa v. Jones, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51561 (ED OK, July 16, 2007), an Oklahoma federal district court upheld the denial of a kosher diet to a prisoner who was a member of a Messianic Jewish group, finding that the prison's vegetarian diet, as well as non-pork meals, are available to him.
In Johnson v. Smith, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52186 (MD PA, July 19, 2007), a Pennsylvania federal district court rejected a prisoner's claim that his placement in administrative custody was in retaliation for his exercise of his religious rights since plaintiff made no showing of a causal connection between the two. Authorities discovered that the prisoner had documents indicating an attempt to undercut the prison's contract Imam. He also had documents indicating he may be trying to poison someone by mixing antifreeze with their salad dressing.
In El-Tabech v. Clarke, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52018 (D NE, July 17, 2007), a Nebraska federal district court upheld claims by a Muslim prisoner that he be given access to a kosher diet, and that the prayer schedule be posted so that guards are aware of it. The court rejected the inmate's claim that he be allowed to shower every day, instead of three days per week, while he is in administrative confinement.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
UPDATE: On Monday, the blog Jewcy posted an interesting interview with Noah Feldman about his NYT article.
CanWest News Service describes the underlying controversy in this way: "the most emotive issue by far is whether this country of 70 million, which forms a bridge between the Middle East and Europe, should remain secular and western-oriented, as it has been since Kemal Ataturk founded the republic on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire more than 80 years ago, or draw closer to its Islamist roots. And if Turkey decides to turn towards Islam, will the staunchly secular Turkish military launch another coup?"
UPDATE: Preliminary results available on Sunday night (US time) indicate that the Justice and Development Party (AKP), with some 47% of the popular vote, has won around 340 of the 550 seats in Turkey's Parliament. (Financial Times). The party denies that it poses any threat to secularism in the country.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
The court rejected the Church’s claim that its free exercise rights, as protected by the first Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, had been violated. It held that strict scrutiny was not required for the First Amendment claim, and that, under RLUIPA, the city’s actions had not placed a "substantial burden" on the Church’s free exercise rights. The Church had alternative ways of ministering to the homeless, such as sheltering them inside existing Church buildings or finding other private land to host Tent City.
Friday, July 20, 2007
The Executive Order declares that new Congressional legislation permits the President to "interpret the meaning and application" of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Sec. 6(a)(3) of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 gives the President this authority, along with the authority "to promulgate higher standards and administrative regulations for violations of treaty obligations which are not grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions." In its press release on the signing, the White House said that "the President has insisted on clear legal standards so that CIA officers involved in this essential work are not placed in jeopardy for doing their job..."
Thursday, July 19, 2007
In 2000, eruv proponents lost their attempt to obtain a land use permit, after negative reaction at public hearings held by city council. This time around, the proponents' plan avoided using any utility poles. Instead they obtained easements from Stanford University, the California Department of Transportation and the Santa Clara Valley Water District. That route allowed proponents to merely apply for an encroachment permit in a process that does not require a public hearing. Despite 3rd Circuit precedent upholding an eruv against an Establishment Clause attack, many in Palo Alto claim that the eruv violates required separation of church and state.
One outspoken opponent of the eruv, citing "the sneaky way that these folks do things" told the Forward: "We live in a modern, secular, democratic world, and these wackos are trying to catapult us back into a 2,000-years-ago kind of deal.... The big thing at the time was declaring this area Jewish space — absurd! It’s not Christian space, it’s not communist space, it’s not Republican space, it’s not Nazi space. If they want to have religious space, go to synagogue."
Jewish prisoner, Moshe Milstein, testified that some 600 Jewish books were removed from the Otisville prison library under the new policy, including many standard classical texts. Both the American Jewish Committee (press release) and four Orthodox Jewish groups have sent letters to the Bureau of Prisons saying that the purging of libraries was an over reaction. The new policy follows a 2006 Senate Hearing at which witnesses warned that Muslim prisoners were being radicalized inside U.S. prisons. (2006 AP Report).
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
In an pre-hearing ruling in the case last year (full text), the Human Rights and Citizenship Commission denied Prof. Lund's motion that it order the Concerned Christian Coalition to remove from its website material it had posted regarding Lund's complaint that Lund said contained false and inflammatory material about him and the complaint.