Below are news items from the past week involving local government, religion, and land use that have caught our attention.
- The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York has issued a Memorandum and Order on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment in Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York v. Incorporated Village of Old Westbury. A guest post about this decision is forthcoming.**
- The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, in a 145 page decision, has issued its Opinion and Order on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment in Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov, Inc. v. Village of Pomona.**
- Christian News Network reports that the Coral Springs, Florida City Council will no longer permit pre-Council meeting invocations. The decision follows a request by Satanist Chaz Stevens to offer an invocation. Stevens threatened to sue the city if his request was denied. Instead, Coral Springs decided to scrap its invocation policy altogether. Mayor Skip Campbell sums up Coral Springs’ position: “I don’t think our citizens would be in favor of Satanic invocations before City Commission meetings. The cost of fighting that could be astronomical. I don’t see [how] we as a city should be paying lawyer fees for fights on principle. I can find a lot of better things to do with a couple hundred thousand dollars than to give to a lawyer.”
- The City of Hawkins, Texas has decided to remove a “Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins” sign on public property after receiving a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that the sign violates the Establishment Clause. Hawkins Mayor Will Rogers reacted to the letter by stating that “Jesus is not a religion, Jesus is in every religion across the globe.” Hawkins citizens have responded by posting their own smaller versions of the signs on their lawns. World Religion News reports on this story.
- Law of the Land blog reports on a Michigan federal court’s RLUIPA decision in Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor v. Pittsfield Charter Township. The decision considers the Muslim group’s motion to reconsider the Court’s earlier decision dismissing the group’s RLUIPA claims as unripe (prior post here). The Court adhered to its earlier decision.
- The St. Cloud Times reports that the St. Cloud zoning board of appeals has denied a church’s request to allow a homeless person to reside in a tiny house consisting of 132-square feet that sits on wheels and is located on church grounds. A local attorney wrote an editorial noting that the zoning board received into evidence a law review article summarizing RLUIPA and its potential application to this matter.
- Duluth News Tribune reports that a Minnesota woman alleged to have smoked marijuana in violation of her probation for a drug charge is arguing that smoking pot is a part of her sincerely held religious beliefs as a member of Indiana’s First Church of Cannabis. Her lawyer contends that, due to the illegality of marijuana, the woman “cannot adhere to the principal ideologies of her church, namely the positivity cannabis provides to the world.” The lawyer further argues that the state cannot demonstrate a “compelling interest” by banning marijuana and that her client’s use of the drug does not create a danger to the “peace or safety of the public.”
**Robinson & Cole represents parties in this case.