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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.

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.

Part 1: Labor Unions at Christian Colleges? NLRB Thinks So.

Christian CollegeCan you have a union at a religious college? Only if the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) can exercise its jurisdiction over faculty members. NLRB has tried to do this several times. Shortly before Christmas in 2014, the NLRB developed a new test that lets it take jurisdiction over the faculty at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU).

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.)

Religious Diversity: Talking in the Shadow of the Liberty Bell

The national dialogue on religious law issues often generates more heat than light. In public debate, speakers stand on a soapbox shouting and cheer-leading their own side.Voices get shrill and invective flies about the “other side.” Let’s take one common example. Free exercise in the public schools touches two passions—people’s religion and their children. And it triggers protective feelings because of deep fears.

Only One Parsonage Tax Exemption Allowed

A minister may not claim more than one residence under the parsonage allowance exemption, based on the opinion in Comm'r of IRS v. Driscoll, issued February 8, 2012 by the Eleventh Circuit. For some time, debate has raged about this issue, both on statutory and fairness grounds, so this is an important decision.

Conservatives Counseling Gay or Lesbian Clients

Three recent federal circuit court decisions address how conservative Christian therapists may interact with homosexual clients in cases where personal beliefs may conflict with a duty of client care.  Despite different outcomes, there may be common principles. Schools and employers may not require therapists to change their religious convictions, but under the American Counseling Association (ACA) code of ethics, therapists may not impose values on their clients. Referrals can solve the problem, if done tactfully.

Update to "Conservatives Counseling Gay or Lesbian Clients"

A few years back, values-based referrals by counselors were proper under the American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics if done tactfully, so as not to wound the client, and were ethically permissible if the therapist, because of personal beliefs, could not provide what the client was seeking. Since we first reported on this issue, several big changes have altered that premise, most importantly, a major change in the ACA Code of Ethics.

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