In Arcella v. Arcella, (NV Sup. Ct., Dec. 26, 2017), the Nevada Supreme Court held that a trial court was wrong in the manner it resolved a dispute between divorced parents over the middle school their child should attend. the father wanted the child to attend a private Lutheran school, but the mother objected to the child’s receiving a religious education.  The court, relying solely on the mother’s religious objections, decided that the child should attend a public school.  In reversing, the state Supreme Court said in part:When a district court decides a child’s best interest,

The Hankyoreh yesterday reports that South Korea’s Military Manpower Administration is publishing the personal information of religious conscientious objectors on its website. The paper says:Since last year, the Military Service Act has mandated that a registry be kept identifying those who refuse to report for service without a legitimate reason. But critics have pointed out that presenting those who refuse to serve because of their pacifism or religious beliefs as if they were deliberate draft dodgers subjects them to double punishment….When the MMA published the personal information of conscientious objectors on its website in Dec. 2016, 105 individuals filed a lawsuit with the Seoul Administrative Court asking for the publication decision to be reversed and another lawsuit asking for a stay of execution on the publication until the court made its decision in the first case. In May, the … Seoul Administrative Court … ruled that the publication of their personal information should be halted until the final legal decision, citing “concerns that irreparable damages could be incurred.”Despite the stay of execution ordered by the court, the MMA included conscientious objectors among the draft dodgers whose personal information was published once again this year. In response, 252 individuals filed the same lawsuit once again….. On Dec. 19, … the Seoul Administrative Court… once again ruled that the publication of the plaintiffs’ personal information should be halted until the court makes its ruling.


In Steckelberg v. Rice, (8th Cir., Dec. 26, 2017), the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s dismissal of a suit by a Nebraska State Trooper alleging various complaints about his treatment in connection with his application for a promotion and for a transfer and in handling grievances he filed. One of plaintiff’s complaints, focused on during oral argument in the 8th Circuit, was that as part of his required performance improvement plan, he was required to ride along with the State Patrol chaplain, a Catholic priest, for a shift.  The 8th Circuit apparently agreed with the district court’s rejection of the argument that this amounted to government coerced proselytization. The Lincoln Journal Star, reporting on the decision, says that a petition for en banc review is likely to be filed.


Each year in December, I attempt to pick the most important church-state and religious liberty developments of the past year– including developments internationally in the mix.  Usually I select the top ten, but this year I have expanded it to 11. The selection obviously involves a good deal of subjective judgment, and I welcome e-mail comment from those who disagree with my choices.  So here are my Top Eleven picks for the rather chaotic year that is currently coming to an end:1.  President Trump issues and reissues restrictions on immigration and entry of refugees which are challenged in the courts as

Recent Articles of Interest

From SSRN:Effie Fokas, Kokkinakis at the Grassroots Level, (Religion and Human Rights 12 (2017) 210-222).Effie Fokas, The European Court of Human Rights at the Grassroots Level: Who Knows What About Religion at the ECtHR and to What Effects?, (Religion, State and Society, 2017, 45 (3-4)).Martha Albertson Fineman

In Duffin v. Idaho State University, (D ID, Dec. 21, 2017), an Idaho federal district court dismissed on qualified immunity grounds religious discrimination and other constitutional claims by a Mormon college student who alleges that the head tennis coach and his assistant harassed plaintiff about his religion. The court added:Defendants were clearly harassing Duffin about his religion, and trying to test his adherence to his beliefs – especially when they invited him to a night club and sent women to his hotel room to proposition him for sex. Such actions were boorish and entirely inappropriate. In doing so, they likely intended to discourage Duffin from practicing his religion and following the tenets of his faith, by presenting him with opportunities to act contrary to his religious beliefs. But, their actions do not rise to the level of coercion or substantial pressure to modify Duffin’s behavior, which is needed to establish a free exercise of religion claim.The court asserted supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff’s state law claims.  In connection with plaintiff’s negligence claim, the court certified a question of law to the Idaho Supreme Court.  The court dismissed plaintiff’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim and denied summary judgment on his claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress.


President Donald Trump tweeted last night:People are proud to be saying Merry Christmas again. I am proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!![UPDATE:This morning President Trump and the First Lady issued more traditional Christmas greetings via Twitter.]According  to The Hill, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued similar Christmas greetings:

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Howard v. Joyce Meyer Ministries, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 207022 (ED WI, Dec. 18, 2017),  a Wisconsin federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that the prison promoted Christianity through a Library drawing, a gift bag give away, and Christian radio programming, as well as his claim that he was not allowed to possess a Buddha emblem necklace.In Cooper v. Bower, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 207350 (WD KY, Dec. 15, 2017), a Kentucky federal district court held that correctional officers were entitled to qualified immunity as to their rejection of a Qur’an that had been mailed to plaintiff inmate.In Spearman v. Williams, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 208111 (WD MI, Dec. 19, 2017), a Michigan federal district court dismissed on statute of limitations grounds an inmate’s claim that his Nuwaubian religious scrolls were lost when he was moved to a different room.In Sabir v. Williams, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 208640 (D CT, Dec. 19, 2017), a Connecticut federal district court permitted a Musim inmate to move ahead with his complaint about prison policy that prohibited gropu prayer outside of the chapel.In Endicott v. Allen, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 209998 (ED MO, Dec. 21, 2017), a Missouri federal district court allowed a Jewish inmate to move ahead with a number of complaints regarding availability of kosher meals, food items and religious materials. Among his charges he claims that the canteen manipulates the items listed as kosher to catch him buying non-kosher food and obtain his removal from the religious diet list.In Cochran v. Sherman, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 210403 (ED CA, Dec. 21, 2017), a California federal magistrate judge recommended allowing an inmate to proceed against certain defendants who denied his religious request for a publicly recorded legal name change to Gabriel Christian Hunter.In Hearns v. Gonzales, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 210517 (ED CA, Dec. 21, 2017), a California federal magistrate judge recommended allowing a former inmate to move ahead with his complaint regarding a retaliatory cell search, but dismissed with leave to amend his complaint regarding damage to and confiscation of his prayer rug.In Davis v. Hamilton County Jail, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 210697 (ED TN, Dec. 22, 2017),a Tennessee federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that verbal harassment interfered with his ability to practice his religion.In Saif’Ullah v. Albritton, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 211188 (ND CA, Dec. 21, 2017), a California federal district court dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaint regarding reminders about the ban on large group noon and afternoon congregational prayer during open day room.


In October, President Trump issued an Executive Order resuming the admission of refugees to the United States, but with increased vetting. (See prior posting.)  A follow-up Agency Memorandum (Fact Sheet) implemented the Executive Order by suspending indefinitely entry of most

In State of Hawaii v. Trump, (9th Cir., Dec. 22, 2017), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, agreeing with the district court (see prior posting), concluded that President Trump’s third travel ban is inconsistent with the Immigration and Nationality Act, saying in part:The Proclamation, like its predecessor executive orders, relies on the premise that the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), 8 U.S.C. § 1101 et seq., vests the President with broad powers to regulate the entry of aliens. Those powers, however, are not without limit. We conclude that the President’s issuance of the Proclamation once again exceeds the scope of his delegated authority. The Government’s interpretation of 8 U.S.C. § 1182(f) not only upends the carefully crafted immigration scheme Congress has enacted through the INA, but it deviates from the text of the statute, legislative history, and prior executive practice as well. Further, the President did not satisfy the critical prerequisite Congress attached to his suspension authority: before blocking entry, he must first make a legally sufficient finding that the entry of the specified individuals would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” 8 U.S.C. § 1182(f). The Proclamation once again conflicts with the INA’s prohibition on nationality-based discrimination in the issuance of immigrant visas. Lastly, the President is without a separate source of constitutional authority to issue the Proclamation.The court avoided deciding the question of whether the Proclamation violates the Establishment Clause.  The court also limited the district court’s preliminary injunction to foreign nationals who have a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States. Also, as already ordered by the Supreme Court, the 9th Circuit stayed its injunction pending Supreme Court review. Los Angeles Times reports on the decision.