Thursday, January 16, 2020

Religious Group's Distribution of Vegan Food May Be Expressive Conduct

In Krishna Lunch of Southern California, Inc. v. Gordon, (9th Cir., Jan. 13, 2020), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Krishna Lunch had plausibly pleaded that its distribution of sanctified vegan and vegetarian food (prasada) is protected expressive conduct under the 1st Amendment. The court explained:
While distributing prasada, the organization plans on chanting the names of God and other devotional hymns and songs, speaking with interested students and others of the University of California, Los Angeles (“UCLA”) community, distributing religious literature, and displaying signs depicting reincarnation, animal protectionism, and other topics related to its followers’ beliefs. Drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of Krishna Lunch, we can infer that in these circumstances an onlooker would understand the distribution of food “to be communicative.”
However the court dismissed the organization's free exercise claim, finding that UCLA's four-times-per-year policy is neutral and generally applicable, and saying:
Krishna Lunch has not negated every conceivable basis that might support the policy.