Haaretz reports that Israeli journalist Tal Schneider is threatening to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Embassy in Israel and the Rabbi of the Western Wall over the separation of women journalists and photographers from male journalists and photographers during Vice President Pence’s recent visit to the Western Wall.  As described by Globes, women reporters, relegated behind men, needed to stand on shaky chairs to see Pence at all. The Rabbi of the Western Wall explained:The photographers were positioned in the lower plaza which is a place of prayer and synagogue, where there is separation of men and women every day and at every type of event. There is nothing new in this and there never was previously any disagreement.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/01/israeli-journalist-threatens-to-sue-us.html

Yesterday the U.S. Senate confirmed Kansas Governor Sam Brownback as Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom. A 49-49 tie vote on the confirmation was broken by Vice President Pence who voted in favor of the nomination. (Senate Vote Summary).  As reported by the Washington Post:The vote highlighted how polarizing a figure Brownback has become during what has been a divisive tenure as governor of Kansas….  Brownback had faced opposition from LGBT groups over a decision he made as Kansas governor to scuttle an executive order that barred discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity….Under Trump, the State Department folded its Office of Religion and Global Affairs into the Office of International Religious Freedom that Brownback will now lead. The restructuring gives him a larger profile.USCIRF issued a press release welcoming the confirmation.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/01/brownback-confirmed-as-religious.html

A former employee of Youngstown State University’s Center for Student Progress filed suit this week claiming that his termination stemmed from discriminatory treatment against him because he is a Muslim.  The complaint (full text) in Jadun v. Youngstown Sate University, (ND OH, filed 1/23/2018) claims that the employee’s dismissal violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as well as Ohio anti-discrimination law (ORC 4112.02). WFMJ News reports on the lawsuit.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/01/suit-claims-university-employee.html

The parent of a New Jersey middle school student filed suit this week against The Chathams school district claiming that the Middle East and North Africa unit of the 7th-grade Geography class violates the Establishment Clause by promoting Islam.  The complaint (full text) in Hilsenrath v. School District of the Chathams, (D NJ, filed 1/23/2018), alleges that an Intro to Islam Video on the Google Classroom assigned to the geography class was a

The Southern Poverty Law Center  which tracks hate groups in the United States lists Liberty Counsel as an anti-LGBT hate group. GuideStar, an organization that provides information about non-profits to members of the public, picked up SLPC’s hate group labels and included them in its descriptions of non-profits. In Liberty Counsel, Inc. v. GuideStar USA, Inc., (ED VA, Jan. 23, 2018), a Virginia federal district court dismissed a suit contending that GuideStar’s republication of the hate group label for Liberty Counsel violated the Lanham Act.  The Lanham Act imposes civil liability on any person who

In Lokhandwala v. KFC Corporation, (ND IL, Jan. 23, 2018), an Illinois federal district court strictly enforced the provisions of a franchise agreement and upheld KFC’s policy of barring a franchisee from advertising that it sells Halal chicken. While KFC allowed the marketing of Halal chicken by plaintiff for 14 years, in 2016 or 2017 it revoked consent based on a 2009 company policy prohibiting franchisees from making religious dietary claims.  The policy was based on concerns about varying religious standards and compliance difficulties.  Courthouse News Service reports on the decision.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/01/kfc-franchisee-loses-right-to-advertise.html

In Business Leaders in Christ v. University of Iowa, (SD IA, Jan. 23, 2018), an Iowa federal district court issued a preliminary injunction requiring the University of Iowa to restore for 90 days the registered student organization status of Business Leaders in Christ.  The University revoked the group’s registration for failure to comply with the University’s Human Rights Policy.  The organization required that executive officers agree to live by Biblical principles. The University found that this would disqualify individuals from leadership positions based on sexual orientation and gender identity.The court concluded that the University’s policy, as written, does not violate plaintiffs’ free expression rights. However, the court found that as applied the policy is not viewpoint neutral and thus violates plaintiff’s rights. Relying particularly on apparent non-enforcement against a Shia Muslim student organization, the court concluded that

As previously reported, in December the mother of a Louisiana high school student filed suit against a local school board alleging extensive Establishment Clause violations.  Yesterday, CNN took an in-depth look at the extent to which religion has pervaded Lakeside Junior/High School, and at the impact on students and parents of the school’s decision, in response to the pending lawsuit, to end recitation of the Lord’s Prayer each morning.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/01/impact-on-ground-of-school-prayer.html

Yesterday, a petition for certiorari (full text) was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in Hoever v. Belleis.  In the case, the 11th Circuit held that denial of an English language Bible and devotional materials to an inmate for 20 days while in disciplinary confinement did not impose a substantial burden on his religious exercise. (See prior posting.)  The petition for review argues that the 11th Circuit created a circuit split by holding that only a burden on a practice mandated by a prisoner’s faith can constitute a substantial burden. It also seeks review on the issue of the availability of compensatory damages in prisoner cases alleging 1st Amendment violations.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/01/supreme-court-review-sought-in-prisoner.html