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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.

Washington Rejects Clergy Negligent Supervision/Retention Claims in Church Quarrel

A woman elder, a church employee, vehemently disagreed with her senior pastor’s position on a particular issue. She insisted on pushing her position until the Session finally fired her. Then she sued the church. But the Court agreed with the church that the government has no business telling the church how to manage its leadership.

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.

Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, Policies, and Training for Ministries: Two Effective Approaches

Preventing child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse, should be a top concern for churches and ministries, given the tragic effects on children and the ethical and moral responsibility of an organization that works with children to care for those children. The most important reason to address these issues is that abuse can wreck children’s lives and cause effects going on into adulthood. Children, spouses, and families of victims also suffer. In addition, the impact of the child sexual abuse scandal on Catholic and other churches shows that an organization’s life can be nasty, brutish and short when it is hit by major litigation.

The Court Prevents a Former Minister from Suing his Church for Defamation

Defamation claims against religious organizations are more common than you would think. It’s almost impossible to challenge who a religious organization selects as a minister or how it disciplines that minister. So these claims focus on the idea that what was said about the minister is defamatory—something that is not directly controlled by constitutional law. Here is a recent example of a case that ultimately had an indirect constitutional defense. 

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.

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.

Christian Student Groups at Universities—Identity Versus Diversity

Blog post by Lauren Burson, Telios Law intern summer 2012

In an effort to demonstrate open-mindedness and be welcoming to all, our society sometimes takes tolerance to the extreme, essentially erasing diversity by bulldozing protective measures that would otherwise help to maintain a unique identity.

Destroying Religious Freedom for Everyone

Christians in Rutherford County, Tennessee, have battled for two years against the construction and opening of the Murfreesboro mosque. Not only are the “Christian” actions in Rutherford County unconstitutional, they are short-sighted. If they succeed in changing religious liberty protections for Muslims, they change them for everyone. They are sowing the wind, blithely unaware that when it is time to harvest, all people of faith will reap the whirlwind.

Church Autonomy (Ecclesiastical Abstention) is Still Alive and Well in Texas

When someone brings their church to court in Texas there are two things the court is likely to do. The court may refuse to hear the case because it would require getting into church doctrine or issues that are reserved to the church’s decision-making (“church autonomy” or “ecclesiastical abstention”). Or, the court could hear the case just like any other civil action because the court can decide the case using “neutral principles of law.” These are the principles of law that control the case when doctrine is not critical.

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