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Do I Have to Work on Sundays?

Some jobs require a person to work on the Sabbath. Does the law require you to work on your Sabbath, or does your employer have to accommodate your religious beliefs and let you go to church (or mosque or synagogue or temple)? As attorneys love to say, that depends. Two recent cases in late 2012 give some idea of how employers’ and employees’ rights are balanced in the context of time off for worship. Both cases are based on Title VII, which prohibits employers from discriminating based on religion (and includes all aspects of religious observance and practice)—unless the employer can demonstrate that it cannot reasonably accommodate the religious observance without undue hardship.

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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Nyaboga v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, a recent unpublished cased from the Minnesota Court of Appeals, discusses whether an employee was fired for legitimate reasons or for religious reasons.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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Released-Time Offers Fresh Choices in Religious Education

Moss v. Spartanburg County School District Seven, a June 2012 Fourth Circuit case, expands possibilities for religious education for public school students. The main educational paradigms in the United States are public school, private school, and home school. Conventional wisdom holds that religious education takes place more effectively in the second two. But released-time is a viable option for religious education within the public school paradigm.

In released-time, a public school student is released from campus for a class period to take religious instruction off-campus. While such programs must meet certain requirements, when they do so, they are consistently held constitutional. Typically, the students do not get credit for classes, and at least one case, Lanner v. Wimmer, was critical of the credit option.

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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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Defending America's Essence: Did Government Violate Muslim Prisoners Rights?

A group of eight Muslim men detained in the aftermath of 9/11 filed claims against a number of government officials in a case called Turkmen v. Ashcroft, including then-Attorney General John Ashcroft from the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Director of the FBI, the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and personnel at the detention center where they were held. Ultimately, the Muslim men were charged with immigration violations, but not terrorism.

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Expression of Religion in Public Schools

Religious Liberty in Public SchoolsThis article discusses the intersection of religious expression and public schools. It focuses on the Equal Access Act, student speech, school personnel speech, access forcommunity viewpoints, and released time.

Confusion is widespread as to what may be taught, expressed, or otherwise introduced onto the premises of the nation’s public schools. “Nowhere has the proper line of demarcation [in the appropriate amount of separation between church and state] been more difficult to define than in our nation’s public schools.”1As the Tenth Circuit has said:

So long as the state engages in the widespread business of molding the belief structure of children, the often recited metaphor of a “wall of separation” between the church and the state is unavoidably illusory.2... Read More →

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