News & Analysis as of

Watching SCOTUS – ERISA Church-Plan Exemption Revisited

Seyfarth Synopsis: Currently before the Supreme Court are two petitions regarding the thorny legal question of which organizations can qualify for ERISA’s Church-plan exemption. If the Supreme Court grants certiorari and...more

RLUIPA Case of the Year? Minnesota Municipality Uses RLUIPA’s Safe Harbor Provision to Avoid Liability

In an important decision for municipalities across the country, a federal court in Minnesota has recently ruled that actions taken under RLUIPA’s “safe harbor” provision absolved a local government of possible RLUIPA...more

Religious Institutions Update: August 2016

When was the last time your organization reviewed your insurance policies? Not all policies are equal. Many religious organizations are underinsured. Most should have general liability, property, professional liability,...more

Massachusetts Church Alleges Solar Panel Denial Violates Religious Freedom

A Massachusetts Superior Court is soon to consider the interplay of three important planning principles – historic preservation, sustainable development, and freedom of religion. A Unitarian Universalist church is suing the...more

Property Tax and Valuation Topics: Summer 2016

Interim “Watch Tower” Revaluation After High Sale Upheld - The last citywide revaluation conducted by Milford was as of October 1, 2011. On that date, the residential property at 19 Beach Avenue was valued by the...more

Sixth Circuit Holds Coverage Unavailable for Perpetrator of Sexual Misconduct

In its recent decision in Clifford v. Church Mutual Ins. Co., 2016 Fed. Appx. 0373N (6th Cir. July 5, 2016), the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, applying Ohio law, had occasion to consider the coverage...more

Ninth Circuit Rejects Hawaii Cannabis Ministry’s RFRA Challenge

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently upheld the convictions of two ministers of the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry who admitted using and distributing large quantities of cannabis in accordance with their...more

Graças a Deus - Considerações a respeito de imigração para Igrejas Evangélicas brasileiras após a Sentença no Caso Alencar

Panorama - Eu fui um estudante de espanhol e português esforçado na Academia Militar dos Estados Unidos há trinta anos. Não obstante, sempre preferi português a espanhol. O Departamento de Língua Portuguesa em West Point...more

Church and New Jersey Township Nearing Settlement of Religious Lawsuit

We previously reported about the federal lawsuit filed by Christian Community Chapel against the Township of Hillsborough, New Jersey, in which the Township denied the Chapel’s variance requests to use a 14.3 acre property as...more

Two Adverse Decisions against Church Plans Reached at Appellate Court Level

In Depth - Since 2013, there have been more than 10 lawsuits filed against various health care systems across the country that maintain and operate defined benefit pension church plans. These suits allege that the...more

Courts Strike Down Church Plan Exemptions for Church-Affiliated Organizations

Until recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Labor (DOL), and federal courts seemed to agree that a retirement plan established and maintained by a church-affiliated organization generally qualified...more

New Jersey District Court Remands RLUIPA and Equal Protection Defense to State Court

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Morris County Preservation Trust Fund Review Board, and Joseph A. Kovalcik, Jr. (“Defendants”) in New Jersey Superior Court claiming...more

West Virginia Church Prevails Against Development Authority

Late last year, Summit Church of Elkins, West Virginia, sued the Randolph County Development Authority (“RCDA”) in the Northern District of West Virginia for preventing the Church from purchasing a local movie theater for...more

All Hell Breaks Loose in Phoenix Satanic Prayer Showdown

In our post last month Satanists Score Victory in Phoenix, we reported on the controversy involving the Satanic Temple’s request to open Phoenix City Council’s meeting with prayer....more

Connecticut Soup Kitchen to Remain Open Following Settlement

The City of Norwich, Connecticut has agreed to end a three-year legal battle to settle three separate federal lawsuits allowing St. Vincent de Paul Place, Norwich, Inc., a ministry of The Polish Roman Catholic Congregation...more

Congregation unlikely to succeed on RLUIPA claims

The Northern District of Illinois recently had an opportunity to apply the Seventh Circuit’s “accepted zoning criteria” RLUIPA Equal Terms test to a plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction in Truth Foundation...more

Religious Institutions Update: March 2016

Timely Topics - The death of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia will have an uncertain effect on religious institutions. Justice Scalia delivered the majority opinion in Employment Div. v. Smith, 494 U.S...more

Star Wars Church Opens in Spokane, Washington

Two brothers have opened a new kind of church in Spokane, Washington known as the Jedi Alliance. The Church gets its name from the storied Star Wars franchise. According to the brothers, Tim and Tyler Arnold, “[t]he Jedi...more

Courts Continue To Expand ERISA Church Plan Exemption

Most employers know that there is a federal law – the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA – that governs employer-sponsored employee benefit plans. There are a few notable exceptions that could apply to...more

Thoughts on Church Plan Status After Kaplan v. Saint Peter’s Healthcare System

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit now is the first federal appellate court to decide whether a defined benefit plan sponsored by church-affiliated organization is a church plan under ERISA. The Court held that a...more

When the Tent’s A-Rockin’… Rock Below 60 Decibels

Vintage Church of Metairie, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana was never a source of neighborhood angst—that is, until the tent came. After merging with another local church in 2010, Vintage’s membership steadily rose. By 2015, the...more

Texas Court Rules Religious Institutions not Exempt From all Employment-Related Claims

The United States and Texas Constitutions each provide for the free exercise of religion and the separation of church and state. These constitutional prescriptions frequently bar the application of civil laws, including...more

Magistrate Judge Recommends Issuance of Preliminary Injunction to Hope Rising Church

Plaintiff Hope Rising Community Church is one step closer to obtaining a preliminary injunction against Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, as U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert C. Mitchell issued a Report and Recommendation to allow the...more

Update: Nomadic Church and Delanco Township Consent Order

On November 3, we reported that My Father’s House Ministry, Inc. (Church) sued Delanco Township, New Jersey after denial of the Church’s application for a use variance . (See our November 3 post). Based on the parties...more

Nomadic Church Sues New Jersey Township Over Denial of Use Variance

A predominantly African American Church of about 25 members known as My Father’s House Ministry, Inc. (Church) is suing Delanco Township, New Jersey over allegations that the Township violated both the Religious Land Use &...more

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