Original photography by brandi (Licensed)
Original photography by brandi (Licensed)

After a brief summer hiatus, RLUIPA Defense is back with another edition of the Round-Up.  What better way to kick things off than with news about the Satanic Temple of Detroit, which recently unveiled “The Satanic Temple Baphomet monument” at an approximately 700-person party in Detroit, Time reports. According to the Satanic Temple’s website: “The Satanic Temple Baphomet monument is already the most controversial and politically charged contemporary work of art in the world. Weighing one ton and towering at nearly nine feet tall, the bronze statue is not only an unparalleled artistic triumph, but stands as a testament to plurality and the power of collective action. The event will serve as a call-to-arms from which we’ll kick off our largest fight to date in the name of individual rights to free exercise against self-serving theocrats.”

As we previously reported here, there is speculation that the Satanists want to place the statue on public grounds. According to Wikipedia, “Since 1856, the name Baphomet has been associated with a ‘Sabbatic Goat’ image drawn by Eliphas Levi which contains binary elements representing the ‘sum total of the universe’ (e.g. male and female, good and evil, etc.).”

Here are some other stories we have been following:

  • The Herald reports that the Rock Hill South Carolina Zoning Board of Appeals denied the Islamic Center of South Carolina’s variance application to construct a cemetery after neighbors cited concern for depreciating property values, traffic, and the general desire not to live next to a cemetery. The ZBA denied the application even after its own lawyer advised it that doing so could violate federal law (e.g. RLUIPA).
  • DeLand, New Jersey opened the City Commission’s meeting with a secular invocation by reading a quote from Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator.” The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports on this story and includes a video recording of the invocation.
  • New Haven Register reports on parking issues that have arisen with respect to churches in Hamden, Connecticut, and is threatening the existence of one church, Iglesia Jehova Mi Roca Church, that moved from New Haven to Hamden two years ago after it was found to be in violation of New Haven’s parking regulations (it had only 9 of the required 28 spaces). In a 2012 approval, the church  noted that it had 55 members for worship services, but has since then seen that number rise to 180.  Hamden officials have suggested that the church may need to move to a larger space, but the church is only 18 months into its five-year lease of a converted warehouse.
  • The Garden City Telegram reports that Garden City Commission of Kansas has approved zoning changes for churches to permit churches to locate in any zoning district. The zoning changes come after the January 2015 settlement of a RLUIPA lawsuit brought by Mount Zion Church of God in Christ against the City.  We first reported about the lawsuit here.
  • A North Carolina man was recently jailed for refusing to remove five strands of waist-long voodoo beads while in Judge Talmage Baggett’s courtroom, The Telegraph reports.
  • A Rankin, Mississippi school district was recently fined $7,500, the Christian Science Monitor reports, after a student assembly was opened with Christian prayer. The court found that the district violated a 2013 court-approved settlement issued in an earlier action against the district that ordered it to stop “proselytizing Christianity.”
  • Legal Newline reports on the Little Sisters of the Poor’s attempt to appeal the Tenth Circuit’s decision requiring the Sisters to apply for an exemption from the federal contraception coverage mandate in accordance with their religious beliefs. The Sisters’ petition for certiorari is available here.
  • A funeral home owner in Irondequoit, New York is upset by the town’s decision that a church building associated with the funeral home is a business use and not a religious use, WHEC Rochester reports.
  • Religion Clause reports that the federal prison system has agreed to recognize Humanism as a religious belief. According to Wikipedia, “Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism).”
  • In Storman’s, Inc. v. Wiesman, (9th Cir., July 23, 2015), the 9th Circuit upheld a state mandate requiring pharmacies to fill all prescriptions, including those for emergency contraceptives, despite the religious beliefs of the pharmacy (recall that the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are “people” and can “exercise” religious beliefs, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.). The Olympian reports on this story.
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Photo of Evan Seeman Evan Seeman

Evan J. Seeman is a lawyer in Robinson+Cole’s Hartford office and focuses his practice on land use, real estate, environmental, and regulatory matters, representing local governments, developers and advocacy groups. He has spoken and written about RLUIPA, and was a lead author of…

Evan J. Seeman is a lawyer in Robinson+Cole’s Hartford office and focuses his practice on land use, real estate, environmental, and regulatory matters, representing local governments, developers and advocacy groups. He has spoken and written about RLUIPA, and was a lead author of an amicus curiae brief at the petition stage before the United States Supreme Court in a RLUIPA case entitled City of San Leandro v. International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

Evan serves as the Secretary/Treasurer of the APA’s Planning & Law Division. He also serves as the Chair of the Planning & Zoning Section of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section, and is the former Co-Chair of its Municipal Law Section. He has been named to the Connecticut Super Lawyers® list as a Rising Star in the area of Land Use Law for 2013 and 2014. He received his B.A. in political science and Russian studies (with honors) from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he was selected as the President’s Fellow in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature. Evan received his Juris Doctor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, where he served on the Connecticut Law Review. While in law school, he interned with the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General in the environmental department, and served as a judicial intern for the judges of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court. Following law school, Evan clerked for the Honorable F. Herbert Gruendel of the Connecticut Appellate Court.