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Good News in the Schoolhouse

 On August 29, 2012, the Eighth Circuit decided in favor of Child Evangelism Fellowship in Child Evangelism Fellowship v. Minneapolis Special Sch. Dist. No. 1.  It reversed the denial of CEF’s preliminary injunction where it had tried to stop a school district in Minnesota from limiting school facility access for a Good News Club.

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Here is the Steeple--But Whose Steeple?

Here is the church
And here is the steeple.
But does it belong
To the group or the people?

Church property disputes are painful and usually contentious. Usually, though not always, they begin when a congregation wants to leave the denomination, often over doctrinal fidelity. Because it is a dispute over church property, deep constitutional issues apply that may trump regular property law.

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The Last Straw Better Not Be Religious

Nyaboga v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, a recent unpublished cased from the Minnesota Court of Appeals, discusses whether an employee was fired for legitimate reasons or for religious reasons. Nyaboga was fired, then she sued over whether she was entitled to unemployment benefits. She had worked as a nurse, and asked not to be scheduled for Saturday shifts when she got more serious about her religious beliefs as a Seventh-Day Adventist. Her employer required her to find people to replace her on that shift (which the Court hinted might have been a separate problem, but was not discussed in the opinion). By the time Nyaboga lost her job, she had been tardy 58 times and warned repeatedly. She was warned that she would lose her job if she were absent one more time or tardy two more times.

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Reprise of the Hosanna-Tabor Facts and Principles

Although it doesn’t have much independent value as a precedent, a recent case is an eerie factual copycat of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, an employment law case that applied the constitutional ministerial exception doctrine. Herzog v. St. Peter Lutheran, an August 2012 memorandum opinion out of the federal Northern District of Illinois, faithfully applies the Hosanna-Tabor principles to a similar set of facts.

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Witnessing in Public--Muniz v. City of San Antonio

One area of religious liberty that has been challenged a few times recently is the right to share one's faith and hand out religious literature on a public sidewalk. The Muniz lawsuit is only in the initial stages, but will revolve around the religious liberties principles.

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Third Circuit Supports Church Autonomy

The doctrine of church autonomy, which defines broad areas where civil courts cannot interfere with church decisions, plays an important part in First Amendment free exercise rights. On June 28, 2012, the Third Circuit issued a precedential opinion, Askew v. The Trustees of the General Assembly of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc., supporting this doctrine. 

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Election Year Q & A: Political Activity Do’s and Don’ts

Are nonprofits allowed to participate in political activities? What about religious and other nonprofit leaders who feel compelled to speak up about economic and moral issues raised in election campaigns?

Since the mid-1950s, religious, educational, and charitable organizations have been prohibited from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” Nonprofits are allowed to engage in a very limited amount of legislative lobbying, and their workers may express their own personal views. The election prohibition, however, is absolute. So how can responsible nonprofits act appropriately in compliance with applicable rules? The following questions and answers address these and related questions regarding prohibited political campaign activity.

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Bronx Household of Faith--Ten Years of Squabbling Over the First Amendment

In a one-sentence simplistic summary, the Bronx Household of Faith (Church) wants to rent space in the public schools for Sunday meetings, and the New York City Board ofEducation (Board) wants to keep it—and other churches—out.  This dispute has produced over an inch-thick sheaf of judicial opinions over the last ten years, learnedly discussing the intricacies of the clauses of the First Amendment.  New arguments and injunctions (or directives from the court) keep popping up like dandelions, and Judge Preska recently granted yet another preliminary injunction that prevents the Board, for now, from enforcing its policy to keep the Church out.  This post tries to explain how we got “here,” and where “here” is.

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RLUIPA Prison Case Had No Merit

The Third Circuit issued an opinion on February 9, 2012, deciding a prisoner RLUIPA (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act) case that contained an issue of first impression. The importance of this case for future reference will likely be the holding that RLUIPA does not permit government employees to be sued as individuals, but only in their governmental capacity. (The act protects both religious land use, such as for churches in zoning issues, and religious expression in institutions such as prisons.)

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