Friday, May 22, 2015

Obama Addresses Synagogue For Jewish American Heritage Month [corrected]

President Obama this morning delivered a 30-minute address (full text) at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C. to mark Jewish Heritage Month. Here is an excerpt from his wide-ranging speech:
Now, I wanted to come here to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month because this congregation, like so many around the country, helps us to tell the American story.  And back in 1876, when President Grant helped dedicate Adas Israel, he became the first sitting President in history to attend a synagogue service.  And at the time, it was an extraordinarily symbolic gesture -- not just for America, but for the world. 
And think about the landscape of Jewish history.  Tomorrow night, the holiday of Shavuot marks the moment that Moses received the Torah at Mount Sinai, the first link in a chain of tradition that stretches back thousands of years, and a foundation stone for our civilization.  Yet for most of those years, Jews were persecuted -- not embraced -- by those in power.  Many of your ancestors came here fleeing that persecution. 
The United States could have been merely another destination in that ongoing diaspora.  But those who came here found that America was more than just a country.  America was an idea.  America stood for something.  As George Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island:  The United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” 
[Correction: Obama spoke to "mark" the event.  The typo in an earlier version of the post regrettably suggested something else.]

New Orleans Mayor Issues Executive Order In Opposition To Jindahl's

Two days after Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindahl issued an executive order designed to prevent governmental entities from denying benefits to persons who act in accordance with their religious beliefs in opposition to same-sex marriage (see prior posting), New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu yesterday issued a counter-Executive Order (full text).  Landrieu's order was designed to address the backlash to Jindahl's action that threatened tourist, convention and special event business in the state.  The heart of Landrieu's order is the purpose clause in Sec. 1:
The purpose of this Executive Order is to confirm for the residents of the City of New Orleans, its businesses and visitors that religious beliefs are protected from unjustified governmental burden, but that there is no tolerance in the City of New Orleans for discrimination on the basis of race, creed, national origin or ancestry, color, religion, gender or sex, sexual orientation, gender identification, marital or domestic partner status, age, physical condition or disability.
The Advocate reports on Landrieu's action and points out that New Orleans "has a history of embracing gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals, not only culturally, through Carnival krewes and the annual Southern Decadence festival, but through its laws."

Zogby Reappoined To USCIRF

Last week, President Obama announced his intention to reappoint Dr. James J. Zogby to another term on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Earlier this week, USCIRF issued a press release in which USCIRF Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett welcomed the reappointment.

Court Refuses To Allow High School Senior To Wear Eagle Feather On Cap At Graduation

In Griffith v. Caney Valley Public Schools, (ND OK, May 20, 2015), an Oklahoma federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendaiton (full text) and refused to grant a preliminary injunction to high school student Hayden Griffith who wanted to wear an eagle feather on her mortar board tassel at her high school graduation last night.  The court rejected Griffith's claim that the school district's ban on cap decorations violates her free speech and free exercise rights and her rights under the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act (ORFA). Discussing the ORFA claim, the court concluded that Griffith had not shown that the policy substantially burdens her free exercise of religion, saying:
[Griffith] testified that wearing the feather shows her respect for God and for the tribal elder who gave the feather to her, but that failing to attach the feather to her cap would not result in any religious detriment to her. Thus, attaching the feather to her graduation cap would be a personal expression of religious significance to Griffith, but it is not a religiously motivated “practice” ... or an activity that is “fundamental” to her religion.... Nor does the policy prohibiting decorations on graduation caps during the ceremony “meaningfully curtail” her ability to express adherence to her faith..... The policy does not prevent Griffith from attaching the feather to her cap at any time other than the graduation ceremony. She may attach it to her cap it up until she enters the graduation ceremony, and she may affix the feather to her cap immediately after the ceremony. The school superintendent also offered to re-pose for the professional photographer with Griffith wearing her feather on her cap after the ceremony. In sum, Griffith may display the feather as she wishes throughout her celebration of her graduation, other than during the graduation ceremony with her fellow classmates.
Tulsa World reported on the decision.

North Carolina Magistrates Sue Over Requirement They Perform Same-Sex Marriages

Yesterday in North Carolina, a magistrate and a former magistrate (who had not been reappointed after 10 years of service) filed suit challenging a memorandum issued by the Administrative Office of the Courts in October requiring all magistrates to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies in the same manner as any other marriage ceremony.  The memorandum was issued to implement federal court rulings striking down the state's same-sex marriage ban.  The complaint (full text) in Smoak v. Smith, (NC Super. Ct., filed 5/21/2015) contends that the failure to make exceptions for magistrates with sincerely held religious beliefs opposed to same-sex marriage violates their conscience, religious liberty, free speech, due process and equal protection rights under the North Carolina Constitution. Liberty Counsel issued a press release on the lawsuit.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

DC Circuit Denies En Banc Review of Priests For Life ACA Contraceptive Mandate Challenge

Yesterday in Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (DC Cir., May 20, 2015), the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition for rehearing en banc. In the case, a 3-judge panel upheld the Obama administration's compromise for religious non-profits that object to furnishing contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (See prior posting.) While the petition for rehearing failed to garner votes of a majority of the Circuit's judges, three separate opinions on behalf of six different judges were filed along with the per curiam denial.

Judge Brown, dissenting from the denial, joined by Judge Henderson argued
The panel conceded Plaintiffs sincerely “believe that the regulatory framework makes them complicit in the provision of contraception,” ... That acknowledgement should end our inquiry into the substance of their beliefs.
Judge Kavanaugh also dissented from the denial of a rehearing, arguing that the government has a still less restrictive alternative available-- a less restrictive notice of an opt out by the non-profit.

Judge Pillard, joined by Judges Rogers and Wilkins defended their 3-judge panel decision:
the dissenters perceive in Hobby Lobby a potentially sweeping, new RFRA prerogative for religious adherents to make substantial-burden claims based on sincere but erroneous assertions about how federal law works....
RFRA protects religious exercise. In no respect do we, nor could we, question Plaintiffs’ sincere beliefs about what their faith permits and forbids of them. But we can and must decide which party is right about how the law works. We concluded that the regulation challenged in this case does not, as a matter of law or fact, give Plaintiffs’ conduct the contraception-facilitating effect of which they complain.
Washington Times reports on the decision.

Some Recent Congressional Actions of Interest

On April 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1314, a bill that would amend the Internal Revenue Code to assure the right to an administrative appeal for non-profit organizations that are denied tax-exempt status by the IRS.  When the bill went to the Senate, it became the vehicle for the high profile trade promotion authority.  The May 12 substitute amendment (full text) that added the trade authority provisions, however, eliminated the text of the House language regarding non-profits.

A large number of amendments have been offered on the Senate floor to the trade authority bill. One of those amendments (No. 1237), approved in the Seante  on May 18 by a 92-0 vote, adds to the numerous trade negotiating objectives in Sec. 102, the following:
to take into account conditions relating to religious freedom of any party to negotiations for a trade agreement with the United States.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Louisiana Governor Issues Executive Order Protecting Traditional Marriage Advocates

After a committee of the Louisiana House of Representatives effectively killed the proposed Marriage and Conscience Act yesterday (New Orleans Times Picayune), Governor Bobby Jindahl issued Executive Order BJ 15-8  (May 19, 2015) designed to accomplish the same thing. Its key provision prohibits government departments, commissions, boards, agencies and local governments from denying various benefits because a person acts in accordance with his religious belief that marriage should be only between one man and one woman.  Specifically government is not to deny or revoke a tax exemption, disallow deduction of a charitable contribution, or exclude a person from receiving any state grant, contract licensure, accreditation or employment on this basis.

7th Circuit Denies Notre Dame Preliminary Injunction In Its Contraceptive Mandate Challenge

Deciding the case on remand from the Supreme Court (see prior posting), the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision in University of Notre Dame v. Burwell, (7th Cir., May 19, 2015), refused to grant a preliminary injunction to Notre Dame University in its challenge to the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate as applied to religious non-profits.  Federal regulations allow religious non-profits to file a form notifying their insurer or plan administrator of their objection to providing contraceptive coverage.  When that is done, the insurer or administrator must provide coverage directly.  Judge Posner's majority opinion says in part:
Notre Dame claims to be complicit in the sin of contraception. It wants to dissolve that complicity by forbidding Aetna and Meritain ... to provide any contraceptive coverage to Notre Dame students or staff.... It regards its contractual relationship with those companies as making the university a conduit between the suppliers of the coverage and the university’s students and employees.... 
Although Notre Dame is the final arbiter of its religious beliefs, it is for the courts to determine whether the law actually forces Notre Dame to act in a way that would violate those beliefs. As far as we can determine from the very limited record, the only “conduit” is between the companies and Notre Dame students and staff; the university has stepped aside. 
Judge Hamilton wrote a concurring opinion focusing on the Supreme Court's favorable discussion of the accommodation for religious non-profits in its Hobby Lobby opinion. Judge Flaum wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that "the law turns Notre Dame into a conduit for the provision of cost-free contraception." Wall Street Journal reports on the decision.

Northern Ireland Court Says Bakery Violated Anti-Discrimination Laws In Refusing Cake Promoting Gay Marriage

As reported by the New York Times,  yesterday in a widely followed case a court in Northern Ireland held that owners of a Belfast bakery chain illegally discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation when they refused on religious grounds to provide a customer with a cake featuring the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie and the inscription "Support gay marriage."  In Lee v. Ashers Baking Co. Ltd, (County Ct. N. Ireland, May 19, 2015), the court said:
Much as I acknowledge fully their religious belief is that gay marriage is sinful, they are in a business supplying services to all, however constituted.  The law requires them to do just that...
The court observed that a different result "would allow a religious belief to dictate what the law is."  The widely followed case grew out of a cake order placed by a gay man who planned to attend a private event marking the end of Northern Ireland anti-homophobia week.

A Graduation Prayer Decision Worth Reading At Length

Constitutional doctrine surrounding the issue of student-led prayer at elementary school graduation is sufficiently well settled that one would expect an opinion on the issue to be rather routine.  Those expectations are upset by the literate opinion handed down Monday by South Carolina federal district court Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks.  American Humanist Association v. South Carolina Department of Education, (D SC, May 18, 2015) involves a challenge to policies of the Greenville County School District.  Initially many schools in the district selected 5th grade students to deliver an opening and closing prayer at graduation ceremonies.  The content of each prayer-- consistently Christian-- was reviewed in advance and approved by school officials.

After suit was filed, the school district admitted the problems with its practices and switched to a neutral policy.  If a student is selected to speak at graduation on the basis of neutral criteria such as class rank or academic merit, the student may decide on the content of the speech, which can be a religious message or prayer or can be a secular inspirational message.  The court issued an injunction against the school district's original policy, but refused to enjoin its more recent neutral approach, saying in part:
To the undersigned there is no more sacred liberty than an individual’s personal view of his or her cosmological origin – divine or chance, intentional or naturally selective. And, cultures have developed various names for the posture we assume in the direction of our creative source, most notably, prayer. But, also meditation and pilgrimage. Namaste. Surfing. Fly fishing. Science. The citizens of this country have the privilege of electing between the innumerable alternatives in religious practice. Our constitution has established but one caveat: “The First Amendment’s Religion Clauses mean that religious beliefs and religious expression are too precious to be either proscribed or prescribed by the State.” ...
The Christian community, in certain parts, feels besieged. This sense has two sources. The first is the view that people of faith cannot practice their religion and its tenets as they wish. The second is a genuine compassion for this country -- that it know a redeeming faith. To certain parts of Western Christianity, the lack of prayer in the public sector is not only a symptom of declining religiosity and moralism but is, in part, the cause itself.
In contrast, those of different faith or no religious faith at all are exhausted of this historical conflation of judeo-christianism and public ceremony persistent even to now and our exceedingly modern and pluralistic times. Those that oppose religious practice in schools are exasperated.
The Court has sympathy for both views, indeed, relates. But, the undersigned’s most overwhelming rhetorical reaction to all of this is how in 2015 is there still any debate or legal nuance to hash over prayers at graduation? One side insists on securing every slight remaining loophole of religious demonstration in school and the other is chasing to the ends of the earth the last pitiful vestiges of these practices that have been essentially neutered of all possible eternal meaning and effect....  It is conceivable, however, that, in this war over the private conscious made public, the better strategy is arms laid down in recognition of the human psychology that we are always made more in our submission than our entitlement....
Moving to examine the school district's modified policy, the court said in part:
[P]recisely because of the historical inclusion of prayer and religious speech at graduations, in this school district and State, it is conceivable that the cultural residue of prior practices might continue to color and confuse the application and invitation of, even now, constitutionally neutral practices. The undersigned is vigilant to identify any kind of wink and nod maneuvering.
But, the plaintiffs now have a serious kind of evidentiary problem. The impropriety of the old practice having been entirely confessed, the majority of the plaintiffs’ legal precedent and factual history are neutralized.....
What is continuously confused by the proponents of prayer in school or public forum is that these affirmative attempts to invite or measure the “voluntary choice” of students to pray, in the very same moment, renders that choice less than wholly voluntary. The very act of raising the issue alters the degree of its voluntariness. It is like the Observer Effect. In the moment we measure it, it is changed. So, when the decisions talk of private speech, in this perilous hybrid of public ceremony conducted by actual individuals and citizens, the expectation, if it means anything, is that the religiosity, if any at all, must spring forth from the imagination solely of the speaker and not as the result of expectations and pressures attributable, or historic, to, state action in the graduation or event itself. Moved in the spirit, so to speak....
This Court sits in one of the great parts of the world, in people and heritage. There are many in our city and county and State who are the inheritance of a meaningful practice of various religion, maybe Christianity most predominately. Their tenets and freedom to live them matter. But, there is a new and growing richness of population, here, in culture and background, that is transforming the complexion of mores and discourse and daily experience, in both public and private ways. The new practice of the defendant is constitutional. But, plaintiffs are affirmed. Not in their full request for legal remedy but in their aspiration for equal liberty. For too long school districts have cleverly resisted, with every manner of contortion, the force of Establishment jurisprudence to justifiably eliminate all state-sponsored rite. At least one has gotten it exactly right.
Concomitant to the effectiveness of the defendant’s new practice is the need that it be effectively communicated. The legacy of the historic inclusion of such prayers at graduation might still be coercively operative on contributing students.... Without affirmative instruction that prayer and religious messaging are no longer required, there is some risk that a student may yet still feel compelled. The defendant school district must, therefore, reasonably publicize the new practice to students participating in any graduations.
The American Humanist Association announced that it would appeal the decision.  Last week in a separate opinion (full text), the district court dismissed on mootness and standing grounds a challenge in the same case to the school district's policy of holding some graduation ceremonies at a religious chapel on a local college campus.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Challenge To Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program Dismissed

A Florida state trial court judge has dismissed a constitutional challenge to the state's Tax Credit Scholarship Program.  In McCall v. Scott, (FL Cir. Ct., May 18, 2015), the court held that plaintiffs lack taxpayer standing because they are not challenging an appropriation. The court held that they also fail to allege a special injury that would give them standing on other grounds, saying:
whether any diminution of public school resources resulting from the Tax Credit Program will actually take place is speculative, as is any claim that any such diminution would result in reduced per-pupil spending or on any adverse impact on the quality of education.
Miami Herald reports on the decision.

9th Circuit En Banc Reverses Injunction Agaianst "Innocence of Muslims" On YouTube

In an en banc opinion in Garcia v. Google, Inc., (9th Cir., May 18, 2015), an 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit dissolved a 3-judge panel's preliminary injunction (see prior posting) that had required Google to take down from YouTube all versions of the controversial video Innocence of Muslims that included the performance of misled actress Cindy Lee Garcia.  The injunction was sought by Garcia after she received death threats because her dubbed-over performance appeared to be criticizing the Prophet Muhammad.  Garcia claimed a copyright interest in the performance. The en banc majority held that the law and facts do not clearly favor her claim to a copyright in her acting performance, saying in part:
As Garcia characterizes it, “the main issue in this case involves the vicious frenzy against Ms. Garcia that the Film caused among certain radical elements of the Muslim community.” We are sympathetic to her plight. Nonetheless, the claim against Google is grounded in copyright law, not privacy, emotional distress, or tort law, and Garcia seeks to impose speech restrictions under copyright laws meant to foster rather than repress free expression. Garcia’s theory can be likened to “copyright cherry picking,” which would enable any contributor from a costume designer down to an extra or best boy to claim copyright in random bits and pieces of a unitary motion picture without satisfying the requirements of the Copyright Act
Judge Watford issued a concurring opinion and Judge Kozinski dissented. Electronic Frontier Foundation has further analysis of the decision.

Texas Judge Disciplined For Religious-Cultural Bias

The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct last week issued a Public Admonition (full text) against Texas state trial court judge Carter Tinsley Schildknecht, finding in part that she:
manifested a religious and/or cultural bias by describing District Attorney Munk as a “New York Jew” and by criticizing a prosecutor’s beard because it made him look like a “Muslim.”
Other charges involved a court session that lasted until 4:00 AM without breaks and an order refusing to allow the District Attorney to enter the court room. Besides the admonition, the judge was ordered to complete an additional four hours of education with a mentor on open courts and eliminating bias. Texas Lawyer reports on the Commission's action.

Irish Referendum On Same-Sex Marriage Will Be Held Friday

In Ireland on Friday voters will cast ballots in a referendum to approve same-sex marriage. (Referendum Commission Voters Guide). Voters will be asked to approve a Constitutional amendment which reads:
Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.
Sunday's Globe and Mail reports that polls show 70% favor the proposal, even though it is strongly opposed by the Catholic Church. 84% of Irish identify ans Catholic, and almost half go to mass every Sunday. According to yesterday's Irish Independent, Irish bishops are warning that passage of the amendment could threaten the Church's ability to teach children about traditional marriage. However Communications Minister Alex White rejected that claim, saying: "There is absolutely no basis whatsoever for any suggestion that the Church ...would be constricted or constrained in any way,... A specific provision in the legislation we're going to bring in if and when the referendum is passed would mean a Catholic priest, for example, will not be required to solemnise for example, the marriage of a same-sex couple."

Meanwhile, each side in the referendum issue is accusing the other of accepting improper campaign donations.  According to Saturday's Guardian, supporters of the referendum accuse opponents of receiving funding from conservative Christian groups in the United States. Ireland’s Standards in Public Office Commission rules bar foreign donations in the campaign.  A website operated by the US-based National Organization for Marriage is campaigning for a "no" vote, but NOM says it has not funneled any money to groups in Ireland.  Some on the "no" side claim that supporters have been funded by Irish-American multimillionaire Chuck Feeney and his Atlantic Philanthropies agency

School Board Sued Over Invocation Policy

The American Humanist Association announced yesterday that it has filed a lawsuit against a Texas school district on behalf of a former student challenging the school board's invocation policy.  The complaint (full text) in American Humanist Association v. Birdville Independent School District, (ND TX, filed 5/18/2015) alleges that the school board and its members violate the Establishment Clause by selecting elementary and middle school students, and occasionally high school students, from District schools to deliver prayers as part of the regular School Board meetings. Often the prayers are Christian and make specific reference to Jesus. The suit seeks an injunction and punitive damages.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Supreme Court Interprets Indigent Prisoner Litigation Statute

The U.S. Supreme Court today in Coleman v. Tollefson, (Sup. Ct., May 18, 2015), gave a literal interpretation to the "three strikes" provision of 28 USC Sec. 1915(g) that restricts the ability of inmates to bring multiple challenges to prison conditions without paying the required filing fees.  The section, which qualifies the right of indigent inmates to file federal lawsuits in forma pauperis, provides:
In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment in a civil action or proceeding under this section if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.
In an opinion by Justice Breyer, the Court held unanimously that a dismissal which is under appeal still counts as one of the "three strikes" to prevent an additional lawsuit from being filed.  The Court left open the question of whether this interpretation also would preclude an appeal of a trial court decision that was itself the third strike. Today's decision upholds the view of the 6th Circuit below, and rejects a contrary interpretation by a number of other Circuits.  The decision will particularly impact inmates seeking religious accommodations from prison systems, since these cases rarely if ever will fall within the "imminent danger of serious physical injury" exception.

New Zealand Think Tank Suggests Limiting Charitable Status of Some Religious Institutions

The New Zealand Initiative, a public policy think tank supported by chief executives of major New Zealand businesses, yesterday issued a new report titled Giving Charities A Helping Hand. Among the Report's recommendations was a review of the Charities Act's definition of charitable purpose, and thus of which organizations qualify for tax exemptions.  The Report went on:
In addition, the review might usefully examine whether religious and cultural institutions should continue to qualify for charitable status simply because they pursue the goal of promoting religion and culture. This is not to say that such institutions should not be considered, but the assessment criteria should be the same for all organisations seeking the status of registered charities.

Minnesota Legislature Passes Bill Providing For Religious Objection To Autopsy

The Minnesota legislature last Saturday gave final passage to SF 1694 (full text) providing a right to object on religious grounds a medical examiner or coroner conducting an autopsy.  The bill provides:
If the representative of the decedent objects to the autopsy on religious grounds, an autopsy must not be performed unless the coroner or medical examiner determines that there is a compelling state interest to perform the autopsy.
However the bill lists 13 specific situations which will be considered to be compelling, and even if one of those is not present the state may counter a religious objection by showing a court in a summary proceeding that the autopsy is necessary and that need outweighs the state's interest in observing the decedent's religious beliefs. If an autopsy is carried out after a religious objection has been made, it must be performed by the least intrusive procedure consistent with the state's compelling interest. As reported by Bring Me The News, the bill now goes to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature.

Recent Articles of Interest

From SSRN:
From SmartCILP:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Atheist Activist Will Use RFRA To Challenge "In God We Trust" On Money

Atheist activist Michael Newdow is looking for individuals who will act as plaintiffs in a new set of challenges to "In God We Trust" on U.S. coins and currency.  For the first time, the suits will rely primarily on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  In a post last Friday on Friendly Atheist, Newdow says suits are being prepared in states in the seven federal circuits that have not already upheld the constitutionality of the national motto on coins and currency. The cases will argue that being forced to carry a message that violates one's religious ideals is substantially burdensome, and that the government has no compelling interest in having the motto on coins and currency. As pointed out by Inquisitr,  this is the latest recent attempt to turn state and federal RFRA's-- which have been strongly supported by conservative Christian groups-- into tools to oppose the conservative Christian agenda.

Russia Increases Fines For Organizations Disseminating "Extremist" Materials

Forum 18 reported Friday that amendments to Russia's Code of Administrative Offenses, Sec. 20.29, that became effective May 6 have sharply increased the fines imposed on "juridical persons" for mass dissemination of extremist materials on the Federal List.  Juridical persons include commercial, publishing, media and registered religious organisations. Fines for legal entities under the section previously were 50,000 to 100,000 roubles. The amendments increase the fines to 100,000 to 1 million roubles. Sanctions for individuals and other sanctions applicable to organizations did not change. This section of the Administrative Code has often been used in connection with materials confiscated from Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses. According to Forum 18: "The Federal List now runs to over 2,500 items, often does not include full bibliographical details, and is irregularly updated, making it difficult for anyone to keep abreast of recent bans..."

D.C. Rabbi Sentenced To Over 6 Years On Voyeurism Charges

A Washington, D.C. Superior Court judge on Friday sentenced Rabbi Barry Freundel to nearly six and one-half years in prison after Freundel plead guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism (see prior posting).  Freundel secretly videotaped 150 women in the changing room of the mikveh (ritual bath) at Washington's Kesher Israel Synagogue.  AP reports that after a 3-hour sentencing hearing at which 16 of his victims testified, Freundel was sentenced to 45 days in prison on each of the 52 counts (a total of 2,340 days). (See prior related posting.)

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Quezada v. Long, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61753 (CD CA, May 11, 2015), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, a complaint by an Orthodox Jewish inmate that he was not allowed to take his religious meals out of the dining hall to his cell, so that he could perform ritual washing of hands and recitation of prayers before eating.

In Strickland v. Godinez, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62179 (SD IL, May 12, 2015), an Illinois federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendation (2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62176, April 20, 2015) and denied a preliminary injunction to an inmate who practices Asatruar who sought protection from retaliation, participation in worship, ownership of various ritual items and setting aside of sacred land where rituals could be performed.

In Porter v. Wegman, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63573 (ED CA, May 15, 2015), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a House of Yahweh inmate's complaint over lack of accommodation of his Passover observance and denial of participation in the Jewish kosher diet program.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Suit Charges Mall With Rejecting Christian Bookstore

In Missoula, Montana this week business owner Michael Burks filed suit against a local mall because it refused to allow him to open a Christian bookstore in retail space he was leasing. The complaint (full text) in Missoula Maulers, Inc. v. Southgate Mall Associates, (MT Dist. Ct., filed 5/11/2015), alleges that Burks became concerned about the profitability of a retail hockey store he was operating in the mall, and proposed replacing it with another of his businesses, a Christian bookstore. The mall refused.  The complaint alleges that the refusal was based on the store's status as a Christian bookstore, or "for some other malicious reason."  Helena Independent Record reports on the lawsuit.