Two recent decisions on invocational prayer before local government Board meetings, filed in March of 2013, came out in opposite directions, but give some insight into the legal principles involved in determining whether Boards can properly sponsor a formal prayer before meetings. In Hudson v. Pittsylvania County, the federal district court for the Western District of Virginia issued an injunction against the prayers being offered. In Atheists of Florida v. City of Lakeland, the Eleventh Circuit found no constitutional violation. Different courts on different days, or consistent underlying principles?
05/20/13 . . . The U.S. Supreme Court will review a case alleging that a New York town council violated separation of church and state by beginning most of its meetings with a Christian prayer. The last Supreme Court case on the topic was 30 years ago, and held that legislative meetings may open with prayer as long as they don't advance a single faith. The town does use other prayers, though most are Christian.
05/16/13 . . . A Washington florist declined to provide the flowers for a same-sex ceremony because it violated her religious beliefs. She did not otherwise refuse to serve homosexuals. The Attorney General filed a lawsuit against her, and she has counter-sued on religious liberties principles.
05/17/13 . . . The florist is alleging religious discrimination by the Attorney General, as the state is asking her to violate her deeply held religious beliefs. The ACLU has sued the florist as well.
This is quite helpful Theresa. I think the biggest issue here, is, wait for it, …communication! Part of me still struggles with wondering if it is possible to investigate a complaint by a party, gather information through an investigation through all parties, and end up by determining that the complaining party is more the problem than anyone else. Read More→
05/06/13 ... The government withdrew from an appeal of the lower court ruling in favor of Tyndale House Publishers, perhaps fearing that its argument that Tyndale was not religious enough for a religious exemption would not be plausible.
05/08/13 ... The Thomas More Law Center filed a new lawsuit on the contraception mandate, on behalf of M&N Plastics, a small business run by four Christian brothers. They have never offered insurance covering contraception, sterilization, or abortifacients, and face massive financial penalties.
05/03/13 ... Yet another lawsuit against the HHS contraceptive coverage mandate was filed by the American Freedom Law Center, on behalf of Johnson Welded Products, also owned by a Catholic family.
05/09/13 ... The cheerleaders won in a recent lawsuit over whether they could put Scripture verses on their banners. The lawsuit turned around whether the banners were speech by the school or by the cheerleaders.
05/09/13 ... The Court concluded that the verses were private religious speech, which the Freedom From Religion Foundation said was misguided.
04/30/13 ... The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, led by Mikey Weinstein, met with Pentagon officials and shared it view that U.S. troops who proselytize are guilty of sedition and treason and should be prosecuted.
05/01/13 ... The Pentagon confirmed that religious proselytization is not permitted and could result in court martial.
05/02/13 ... The Alliance Defending Freedom filed a Freedom of Information Act request for records related to the Pentagon statement that members of the military could be subjected to court martial for "religious proselytization." The Department of Defense began to backtrack on its position.
05/06/13 ... The Southern Baptist Convention issued a thoughtful statement on freedom of religion in the military, that summarizes some recent developments.
05/05/13 ... The Catholic diocese of Columbus recently fired one of its Catholic school teachers, after word of her lesbian relationship became public when she listed it in her mother's obituary. She has filed complaints of discrimination with both the local teachers union and the city, based on an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. The diocese says that it fired her because she violated church moral teachings, not because she is gay.
05/01/13 ... Bishop Campbell stands by the decision because the teacher's relationship violates the church's moral teaching. The city's anti-discrimination ordinance does not have a religious exemption.
In our hypothetical, Tom and Sally reached out and made allegations to the mission leader. It seems fairly obvious this should have triggered an investigation. But we probably want to spend more time thinking about how investigations get started. When should you investigate? A number of situations may call for an investigation. Read More→
Previously, we discussed the magistrate judge’s decision in United States v. Dillard, which held that communications between a lay spiritual counselor and a prisoner were not privileged. Angel Dillard appealed that decision to the district court, which reversed (in Case No. 11-1098-JTM), holding that her communications with Scott Roeder were privileged under the clergy-penitent privilege.