Archives: First Amendment

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Signs 4 JC Shown the Light by NH District Court

hillside-signThou shall have the right to an electronic sign?  Apparently not.  Just over a year ago, Hillside Baptist Church and Signs for Jesus (together, Plaintiffs or Church) filed a complaint in the District Court for New Hampshire, seeking a declaration that the Town of Pembroke’s (the Town) sign ordinance is unconstitutional both facially and as … Continue Reading

Nashville Islamic Center’s Religious Discrimination Claims Dismissed

A federal district court in Tennessee recently dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction a claim by the Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN) lawsuit challenging a Tennessee property tax exemption law on religious freedom grounds. Please see our previous blog post about the case here. Background Since 1995, ICN has operated a religious school, the … Continue Reading

Bare Amish Horses? It Depends.

Two Amish men have sued Auburn, Kentucky (population approx. 1,300) in a Kentucky state court over an ordinance requiring that horses wear equine diapers.  The ordinance, passed in 2014, is intended to keep town streets clear of horse manure, and is the result of neighbor complaints.  The ordinance requires “[a] properly fitted collection device shall … Continue Reading

Third Circuit Upholds District Court Decision in Pennsylvania Baptist Church Sign Case

Last week, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals entered an order upholding the district court’s decision in the case of Tearpock-Martini v. Shickshinny Borough, which we reported on last summer.  The case involved an Establishment Clause challenge by a citizen to a Pennsylvania borough’s decision to install a sign in the right-of-way stating “Bible Baptist Church Welcomes … Continue Reading

Missouri Church Wins Digital Sign Appeal

The Missouri Court of Appeals has ruled that the Kansas City, Missouri, Board of Adjustment abused its discretion in failing to grant a variance to Antioch Community Church (Church) to install digital components into its monument sign.  The Church argued that absent the variance it had practical difficulty in communicating its message.  In the alternative, … Continue Reading

Rocky Mountain Sign Law Blog: Installation of Ten Commandments On City Hall Lawn is Government Speech, Violates First Amendment

Original Photography by George Bannister (Licensed)Guest Post by Brian Connolly, Otten Johnson, PC Earlier this month, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Bloomfield, New Mexico’s installation of a Ten Commandments monument on the lawn in front of city hall violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In 2007, upon request of one of its members, the Bloomfield … Continue Reading

Landmarking designation is alleged to violate RLUIPA

Guest Post by Tavo T. True-Alcala A brewing dispute in Yonkers, NY has led the Islamic Community Center for Mid Westchester (ICCMW) to allege that Yonkers violated ICCMW’s rights under RLUIPA, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.  The controversy began in the summer of 2015 when ICCMW submitted an application to undertake … Continue Reading

Nashville Islamic Center Claims Tax Rules Impose Unfair Burden

NashvilleGuest Post by Tavo T. True-Alcala The Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN) recently filed a federal complaint and request for declaratory judgment against the State of Tennessee, the Metropolitan Trustee of Nashville, and the Tennessee State Board of Equalization after it was denied a request for retroactive property tax relief. Since 1995, ICN has operated a religious … Continue Reading

RLUIPA Case of the Year? Minnesota Municipality Uses RLUIPA’s Safe Harbor Provision to Avoid Liability

In an important decision for municipalities across the country, a federal court in Minnesota has recently ruled that actions taken under RLUIPA’s “safe harbor” provision absolved a local government of possible RLUIPA violations.  This is especially noteworthy because few courts have considered the safe harbor provision.  According to the court, the City of St. Michael’s … Continue Reading

Buddhist Meditation Center Sues Mobile, AL

meditationThe Thai Meditation Association of Alabama and several individual plaintiffs (the “Center”) have filed suit against the City of Mobile, Alabama, its  Planning Commission, and City Council (“Mobile”) after the Planning Commission denied the Center’s application to construct and operate a meditation center intended to accommodate Buddhist practices on a 6.7-acre parcel (the “Property”).  The complaint, … Continue Reading

Massachusetts Church Alleges Solar Panel Denial Violates Religious Freedom

A Massachusetts Superior Court is soon to consider the interplay of three important planning principles – historic preservation, sustainable development, and freedom of religion.  A Unitarian Universalist church is suing the Historic District Commission of the Town of Bedford (Commission) over the Commission’s denial of the church’s request to install solar panels on a building … Continue Reading

Department of Justice Sues Bensalem Township, PA Over Mosque Denial

On July 21, the United States Department of Justice sued Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania, in federal court alleging violations of each of RLUIPA’s provisions following the Township’s 2014 denial of a variance application submitted by the Bensalem Masjid, Inc. (Masjid) to build a mosque.  While it is always noteworthy when the DOJ sues a municipality over … Continue Reading

Michigan Township Prevails on Federal Religious Discrimination Claims

A federal court in Michigan has ruled that Genoa Charter Township did not violate federal law in denying a church’s application for a special use permit to operate a religious school.  Livingston Christian Schools (LSC) sought to use property owned by another church, Brighton Church of the Nazarene (Nazarene Church), for its religious school.  LSC … Continue Reading

Sewer Connection Must Be By The Least Restrictive Means

outhouseBarbara L. Yoder and Joseph I. Yoder (“Owners”) own a home in Sugar Grove Township, Pennsylvania (“Township”), which has a mandatory sewer connection ordinance (the “Ordinance”), requiring connection to the Sugar Grove Area Sewer Authority’s (“Authority”) infrastructure.  According to the Ordinance, any property that abuts a sewer system constructed by the Authority must connect to … Continue Reading

Indiana Church Files Religious Discrimination Suit Over Nearby Dairy Farm Approval

For the past 30 years, Harvest Christian Camp has provided a summer camp for thousands of Christian children on a 36 acre site in Henry County, Indiana, in accordance with its religious beliefs to “help[] children and teens to develop a strong life-long relationship with the Lord [through] praise and worship, Bible classes, devotions and … Continue Reading

New Sign Law Blog

Our friends at the Otten Johnson law firm in Denver, Colorado have launched a sign law blog –Rocky Mountain Sign Law Blog – that should be of interest to our readers.  In addition to covering the latest issues in sign regulation, the blog also tracks all types of First Amendment issues.  Check out their latest … Continue Reading

Alabama Sex Offender Religious Land Use Case To Proceed

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama has ruled that Ricky Martin may proceed with his religious land use and other claims against the Chilton County District Attorney Randall Houston.  The Middle District of Alabama case Martin v. Houston involves Pastor Ricky Martin’s Triumph Church in Clanton, Alabama.  Martin began a transitional … Continue Reading

Chabad Files RLUIPA Suit Against Toms River, New Jersey

chabadRabbi Moshe Gourarie and the Chabad Jewish Center of Toms River Inc. (the “Center”) have sued the Township of Toms River, New Jersey, and the Township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (“ZBA”) in the Federal District Court of New Jersey.  The Center’s complaint is available here. Rabbi Gourarie has run the Center from his home and … Continue Reading

Recovery House’s RLUIPA Challenge Fails

The District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has rejected RLUIPA and other claims asserted by a religious group in Affordable Recovery Housing v. City of Blue Island (N.D. Ill. 2016).  The case stems from Affordable Recovery Housing’s (ARH) attempt to open a faith-based recovery home for adult men recovering from drug and alcohol … Continue Reading

New Jersey District Court Remands RLUIPA and Equal Protection Defense to State Court

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Morris County Preservation Trust Fund Review Board, and Joseph A. Kovalcik, Jr. (“Defendants”) in New Jersey Superior Court claiming that the use of taxpayer money to fund the restoration of churches violates the New Jersey Constitution and the New Jersey Civil … Continue Reading

All Hell Breaks Loose in Phoenix Satanic Prayer Showdown

In our post last month Satanists Score Victory in Phoenix, we reported on the controversy involving the Satanic Temple’s request to open Phoenix City Council’s meeting with prayer.  Long story short, the City opted to end a 65-year prayer policy and replace it with a moment of silence following the Satanic Temple’s request.  World Religion … Continue Reading

Connecticut Soup Kitchen to Remain Open Following Settlement

The City of Norwich, Connecticut has agreed to end a three-year legal battle to settle three separate federal lawsuits allowing St. Vincent de Paul Place, Norwich, Inc., a ministry of The Polish Roman Catholic Congregation (Church), to operate a soup kitchen and food pantry at the site of a former parochial school.  The settlement will … Continue Reading

Satanists Score Victory in Phoenix

The Phoenix City Council has voted to abolish a 65-year practice of opening meetings with religious prayer.  Now, the meetings will begin with a moment of silence.  The vote was prompted by a request from the Satanic Temple of Tucson to lead the February 17 meeting with its own prayer.  The City Council decided that … Continue Reading
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