The recent confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has brought renewed attention to the often blurry line between the courts, government and individual religious liberty. Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion in the 10th Circuit’s Hobby Lobby decision, which established that a closely held corporation may refuse to provide health insurance coverage that offers certain types of birth control. An establishment clause case is one of the first heard by Gorsuch—Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, where a Missouri church and daycare facility was denied participation in a state funding program offering recycled tires for playground resurfacing. A transcript from the April 19 hearing is available here.
So how should we commemorate the newest Justice’s first official week on the bench? A RLUIPA Round-Up, of course!
- As the Baltimore Sun reports, Baltimore County was recently named in two federal lawsuits alleging religious discrimination in application of its zoning laws. In one suit, the Congregation Ariel Russian Community Synagogue, Inc. and Rabbi Velvel Belinsky (“Plaintiffs”) filed suit in the District Court of Maryland against Baltimore County and Baltimore County Board of Appeals (Defendants” or “Baltimore”). The Complaint alleges that Plaintiffs were denied a small synagogue and Rabbi residence on an approximately three-acre parcel, in a zoning district where places of worship are allowed by right. In the second suit, Hunt Valley Baptist Church claims that the County impermissibly denied its application to build a 1,000-seat facility with classrooms, offices, a fellowship hall and gymnasium on a 17-acre farm on a rural road in Hunt Valley. The complaint is available here.
- Earlier this month, a Minnesota Amish community sued the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Fillmore County, claiming that a directive to install wastewater treatment systems violates their religious beliefs, ABC New 4 reports. The community reuses bath and dish washing water in their gardens, and the County, for the last five years, has requested compliance with wastewater standards. Last year, we reported on a similar case brought by an Amish family who challenged a Pennsylvania townships’ mandatory sewer connection ordinance.
- The controversy over a proposed Muslim burial ground in Dudley, Massachusetts appears to have finally drawn to a close, the Boston Globe reports. The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) dropped its Dudley investigation in mid-April after the Town granted final approval for cemetery development. After some last minute hand-wringing, Dudley and the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester (“ISGW”) agreed to a deal that would allow the cemetery to be constructed on six acres of former farmland in a rural part of the Town. Shortly after the DOJ announcement, however, ISGW surprised many by announcing that it decided drop its plans in Dudley and utilize a more economical option by conducting burials in a portion of Hope Cemetery in Worcester, according to the Boston Globe.
- According to the Kansas City Star, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas (“Archdiocese”) has sued Mission Woods, Kansas, a city of only 60 acres, 180 residents, and no full-time staff. The Archdiocese claims that St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Catholic Church (“St. Rose”) was substantially burdened by Mission Woods City Council’s denial of its request to use a residentially zoned home for meeting space, prayer groups and religious education. Rose’s congregation serves between 600 and 800 people, and the home in question holds up to 100 people at a time.