Free Exercise

News & Analysis as of

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

NLRB Expands Jurisdiction in Church-Operated Schools, Distinguishing Between "Religious" and "Secular" Instruction in Faculty...

In two recent cases, the National Labor Relations Board distinguished between faculty members providing secular instruction and those providing religious instruction, in concluding that only those providing religious...more

Buddhist Meditation Center Sues Mobile, AL

The Thai Meditation Association of Alabama and several individual plaintiffs (the “Center”) have filed suit against the City of Mobile, Alabama, its  Planning Commission, and City Council (“Mobile”) after the Center was...more

Hundreds Erupt in Elation After Sterling Heights Mosque Denial

In the RLUIPA Round-Up post, we noted that the City of Sterling Heights, Michigan, is facing a federal lawsuit following its denial of the American Islamic Community Center’s (Center) zoning application to build a 20,500...more

Transgender Claim Meets Dress Code

The worlds of transgender versus religious rights collided hard recently when an EEOC action on behalf of a discharged transgender worker ran full force into a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) defense, and the EEOC...more

Minister or Not? Gay Bias Case Turns on Employee’s Role

Seyfarth Synopsis: A federal judge has allowed a discrimination lawsuit to proceed against the Archdiocese of Chicago. The plaintiff alleges that his engagement to another man resulted in his termination. The church sought...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

California Federal Court: Is Leasing to a Church Religious Exercise?

The Scinto Foundation (Foundation) supports religious organizations “by having activities which are similar to [religious activities] and/or by giving them money, or donating services ….” The Foundation sued the City of...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

Department of Justice Sues Bensalem Township, PA Over Mosque Denial

On July 21, the United States Department of Justice sued Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania, in federal court alleging violations of each of RLUIPA’s provisions following the Township’s 2014 denial of a variance application...more

Michigan Township Prevails on Federal Religious Discrimination Claims

A federal court in Michigan has ruled that Genoa Charter Township did not violate federal law in denying a church’s application for a special use permit to operate a religious school. Livingston Christian Schools (LSC)...more

Sewer Connection Must Be By The Least Restrictive Means

Barbara L. Yoder and Joseph I. Yoder (“Owners”) own a home in Sugar Grove Township, Pennsylvania (“Township”), which has a mandatory sewer connection ordinance (the “Ordinance”), requiring connection to the Sugar Grove Area...more

Claims to Accommodate Flying Spaghetti Monster-ism Hit the Wall in Nebraska Court

On April 12, 2016, a district court in Nebraska rejected the religious accommodation claims advanced by a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.1 In denying the religious accommodation claims, the court was...more

Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Not a Religion, Says Federal Court

We don’t often report on RLUIPA prisoner cases (recall, that RLUIPA applies in the land use and prison contexts). But a recent federal decision in Nebraska – Cavanaugh v. Bartelt (D. Nebraska 2016), is just too good to pass...more

Alabama Sex Offender Religious Land Use Case To Proceed

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama has ruled that Ricky Martin may proceed with his religious land use and other claims against the Chilton County District Attorney Randall Houston. The Middle...more

Recovery House’s RLUIPA Challenge Fails

The District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has rejected RLUIPA and other claims asserted by a religious group in Affordable Recovery Housing v. City of Blue Island (N.D. Ill. 2016). The case stems from...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

Ninth Circuit Rules in Favor of Soup Kitchen in Dispute with San Buenaventura, CA

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has reversed a district court’s decision that Harbor Missionary Church’s (Church) religious exercise was not substantially burdened by the City of San Buenaventura’s denial of a...more

When is Mixed-Use Religious Exercise?

A Connecticut federal court has issued an important decision in a case involving the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) that could affect how municipalities and courts examine whether certain...more

Is a Parsonage a Primary Use? NJ District Court Ponders the Question

Christian Community Chapel Wesleyan Church, Inc. (the “Chapel”) was founded in 2000 and grew quickly to 125 members. Expecting continued growth, the Chapel purchased a 33,000 square foot building with seats for 600...more

Religious Institutions: September 2015

Respondeat superior (literally, "let the master answer" in Latin) is a doctrine that applies when an employer or principal has the ability and authority to direct and control the pertinent acts of the employee. Put otherwise,...more

Illinois Federal Court Dismisses Some, But Not All, RLUIPA Claims

A federal court in Illinois, in Church of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ v. City of Markham, Illinois (N.D. Ill. 2015), dismissed some of the Church’s religious land use claims while allowing others to proceed. The case is...more

“Opt Out” Accommodation Under Affordable Care Act Validated After Challenge from Religious Objectors

In what continues to be a controversial and developing area of employment law, a federal appellate court recently validated the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) “opt out” provision, finding that requiring nonprofit employers to...more

Location, Location, Location: The Property Underneath the Feet of Speakers Matters When Determining Whether A Public Institution...

Benjamin Bloedorn is an itinerant preacher who travels from college campus to college campus, loudly proclaiming his evangelical message for hours on end to anyone within earshot. In March 2008 he arrived at Georgia Southern...more

Amicus Brief Filed at Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court by Attorney Yale Yechiel N. Robinson

Attorney Yale Yechiel N. Robinson filed an amicus brief with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) on July 22, 2015. The case, Trapp v. Commissioner of Corrections (docket number SJC-11863), concerns prisoner...more

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