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Religious Freedom: We’re All Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than Others

protest speechI took my first foray into the legislative process this January, testifying at a committee hearing of the Colorado House in support of a bill that would have prohibited universities from denying benefits to any religious student group based on “the religious student group’s requirement that its leaders adhere to the group’s sincerely held religious beliefs or standards of conduct.” That’s it. The bill didn’t apply to visitors to the groups, or even regular members.

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Speak Up: Issue Advocacy in Increasingly Politicized Times

Wagenmaker OberlyHow should responsible nonprofits be organized under the Internal Revenue Code  if they wish to educate, inform, and advocate on politically sensitive issues within the public arena? This article is intended to help nonprofit leaders to answer these questions, so that they can be encouraged to speak up on important issues in the public arena without being chilled in their free speech activities or jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.

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An Unusual Perspective in the Clash of Rights—Thomas Berg’s “Progressive Arguments for Religious Organizational Freedom: Reflections on the HHS Mandate”

Thomas Berg has written an interesting article suggesting that progressives should improve their commitment to religious liberty for traditionalists. Progressives understand, forinstance, that the recent HHS contraceptive mandate impinges on religious liberty. But, as they will tell you, they just don’t care when the issue is one that is important to them, such as access to reproductive choice or gay rights.

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Must Education Be Faith Free

one room school houseMust public education be free from all religion? Should parents who want Biblical education pay twice but - once, through taxes for public school, and again for a private school with their values? The Freedom From Religion Foundation staged another attack on a school released-time policy. The FFRF insists that the plan is “granting special treatment to attend select evangelical Christian education courses,” and that violates the Constitution.

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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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School Boards Need Constitutional Speech Policies for Students

Sometimes when school boards worry about endorsing religion, they go too far the other way. This seems to have happened when fourth-grade J.G. was not allowed to hand out his Easter Egg Hunt invitations. A Florida federal court granted a preliminary injunction in favor of his student speech in Gilio v. School Board of Hillsborough County on October 5, 2012. It reasoned that J.G. was likely to win his arguments that the school had violated his constitutional rights.

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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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The Last Straw Better Not Be Religious

Nyaboga v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, a recent unpublished case 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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