Religious Institutions First Amendment

News & Analysis as of

Signs 4 JC Shown the Light by NH District Court

Thou shall have the right to an electronic sign? Apparently not. Just over a year ago, Hillside Baptist Church and Signs for Jesus (together, Plaintiffs or Church) filed a complaint in the District Court for New Hampshire,...more

Religious Institutions Update: February 2017

Timely Topics - A draft executive order of President Donald Trump relating to religious freedom proposes several material changes to federal law. First, it would require the executive branches to recognize a broad scope...more

Denial of Site Plan Application to Construct a Mosque Held to Violate RLUIPA

On December 31, 2016, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp of the District of New Jersey, authored a 57 page opinion granting partial summary judgment to plaintiffs, The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge (“Islamic Society”)...more

Nashville Islamic Center’s Religious Discrimination Claims Dismissed

A federal district court in Tennessee recently dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction a claim by the Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN) lawsuit challenging a Tennessee property tax exemption law on religious freedom...more

DOJ’s RLUIPA Claims Survive Motion to Dismiss

A federal court in Pennsylvania has denied Bensalem Township’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the United States Department of Justice challenging the Township’s denial of a use variance for a mosque. The lawsuit...more

Third Circuit Upholds District Court Decision in Pennsylvania Baptist Church Sign Case

Recently, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals entered an order upholding the district court’s decision in the case of Tearpock-Martini v. Shickshinny Borough, which we reported on last summer. The case involved an...more

Missouri Church Wins Digital Sign Appeal

The Missouri Court of Appeals has ruled that the Kansas City, Missouri, Board of Adjustment abused its discretion in failing to grant a variance to Antioch Community Church (Church) to install digital components into its...more

Not All Faith-Based Communications Are Protected By The Clergy-Penitent Privilege

The clergy-penitent privilege (also known as the clergy privilege, confessional privilege, priest–penitent privilege, clergyman–communicant privilege, and/or ecclesiastical privilege) is a recognized form of privileged...more

Facial RLUIPA Claims Against Mobile, AL Dismissed

Earlier this year, the Thai Meditation Association of Alabama and several individual plaintiffs (“the Center”) filed suit against the City of Mobile, Alabama (“the City”), alleging that the denial of its application to...more

$1.7 Million Settlement with DOJ and CAIR-MI

In 2011, Pittsfield Charter Township denied, allegedly without deliberation, Michigan Islamic Academy’s (“MIA”) application to rezone a 26 acre parcel (the “Property”) to allow the development of a pre-K through grade 12...more

Landmarking designation is alleged to violate RLUIPA

A brewing dispute in Yonkers, NY has led the Islamic Community Center for Mid Westchester (ICCMW) to allege that Yonkers violated ICCMW’s rights under RLUIPA, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States...more

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

Nashville Islamic Center Claims Tax Rules Impose Unfair Burden

The Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN) recently filed a federal complaint and request for declaratory judgment against the State of Tennessee, the Metropolitan Trustee of Nashville, and the Tennessee State Board of...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

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

Ocean, NJ ordered to allow Yeshiva boarding school

In January of this year, Yeshiva Gedola Na’os Yaakov, Inc. (the “Yeshiva”) filed a 79-page complaint in federal court against the Township of Ocean, New Jersey, and the Township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (the “Township)...more

Prevailing RLUIPA Defendant Denied Attorneys’ Fees

This summer, we reported that Genoa Charter Township prevailed in a lawsuit filed by Livingston Christian Schools (LSC), which claimed that the Township violated RLUIPA’s substantial burden provision, the First Amendment to...more

RLUIPA Defense/Rocky Mountain Sign Law Joint Blog Post: Pennsylvania Borough’s Church Directional Signs Did Not Violate the...

Late last month, a federal district court in Pennsylvania ruled that directional signs to a church, which contained images of a cross and bible, did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The...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

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

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

Sikh Temple files suit after Oyster Bay, NY ordered it to stop work and then required SEQRA review

Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Center, Inc. (the “Temple”), on June 29, 2016 in the Eastern District of New York, sued the Town of Oyster Bay, New York, the Town Board, and several Town Officials (together, the “Defendants”) after...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

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

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