In Mikell v. Folino, (3d Cir., Feb. 13, 2018), the 3rd Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an inmate’s complaint that he did not receive Ramadan meals.In Corbett v. Annucci, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24291 (SD NY, Feb. 13, 2018), a New York federal district court allowed an inmate to move ahead with claims for injunctive relief alleging that he did not receive Halal meals.In Jones v. Annucci, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24359 (SD NY, Feb. 13, 2018), a New York federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that he was required to change his religious registration from Islam to Shia before he could participate in Shia religious events.In Thomas v. Slusher, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25916 (ND OH, Feb. 16, 2018), an Ohio federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that he was transferred out of the faith-based prison unit.In Woods v. Paramo, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25989 (SD CA, Feb. 15, 2018), a California federal court allowed an inmate to move ahead with his suit challenging delays in providing a kosher diet when he is transferred for extensive periods.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/02/recent-prisoner-free-exercise-cases_18.html

In United States v. Cruz, (SD NY, Feb. 15, 2018), a New York federal magistrate judge rejected a Free Exercise defense to a charge of knowingly attending a cockfight in violation of 7 USC §2156.  The court said in part:Here, Cruz has failed to make a showing that the act of engaging in animal fighting ventures stems from sincerely held beliefs that are religious in nature. Although Cruz continually refers to the “God given” dominion of man over animals, he does not identify any specific religious tenets or practices that are burdened by the statute. Nor does he identify any religion or denomination from which his beliefs derive. Indeed, in “attest[ing] to the importance of the God given rights of the American farmer,” Cruz cites quotations in which the founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin, exalted agriculture…. This suggests that Cruz’s beliefs are philosophical or political in nature.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/02/no-free-exercise-defense-to-charge-of.html

CNN reports that an Ohio trial court judge today gave custody of a 17-year old transgender male to his grandparents after his parents sought to bar the hormonal transition treatment strongly recommended by the youth’s medical team.  Grandparents will now be able to make medical decisions for the teen.  The parents argued that the teen was not old enough to make such a consequential decision.  A county prosecutor contended that the parents objected because of their religious beliefs. Court testimony revealed that the parents, in addition to opposing treatment, refused to call the youth by his chosen name, triggering suicidal feelings in him.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/02/ohio-court-gives-custody-of-transgender.html

The EEOC announced this week that it has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the Owossso, Michigan based Memorial Healthcare.  The company revoked its job offer to Yvonne Bair to work as a medical transcriptionist after she objected on religious grounds to receiving an influenza shot or spray immunization.  Memorial refused her suggested accommodation of allowing her to wear a mask, even though company policy allowed masks as an alternative for those who cannot take a vaccine for other reasons.  MarketWatch reports on the lawsuit.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/02/eeoc-sues-over-accommodation-for.html

The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals en banc today, in opinions spanning 285 pages, affirmed a Maryland federal district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction against the Proclamation setting out the third version of President Trump’s travel ban.  In International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, (4th Cir. en banc, Feb. 15, 2018), the court by a vote of 9-4 held that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim.  Chief Judge Gregory’s majority opinion said in part:[H]ere the Government’s proffered rationale for the Proclamation lies at odds with the statements of the President himself. Plaintiffs here do not just plausibly allege with particularity that the Proclamation’s purpose is driven by anti-Muslim bias, they offer undisputed evidence of such bias: the words of the President. This evidence includes President Trump’s disparaging comments and tweets regarding Muslims; his repeated proposals to ban Muslims from entering the United States; his subsequent explanation that he would effectuate this “Muslim” ban by targeting “territories” instead of Muslims directly; the issuance of EO-1 and EO-2, addressed only to majority-Muslim nations; and finally the issuance of the Proclamation, which not only closely tracks EO-1 and EO-2, but which President Trump and his advisors described as having the same goal as EO-1 and EO-2…..While the majority ultimately concluded that it would not rely on President Trump’s pre-election statements in reaching its conclusion, it nevertheless indicated that it would have been permissible to do so:Perhaps in implicit recognition of the rawness of the religious animus in the President’s pre-election statements, the Government urges us to disregard them. This is a difficult argument to make given that the President and his advisors have repeatedly relied on these pre-election statements to explain the President’s post-election actions related to the travel ban….  [I]n McCreary, the Supreme Court reminded us that “the world is not made brand new every morning.” …. Because “reasonable observers have reasonable memories,” these statements certainly provide relevant context when examining the purpose of the Proclamation.The majority concluded:In sum, the face of the Proclamation, read in the context of President Trump’s official statements, fails to demonstrate a primarily secular purpose. To the objective observer, the Proclamation continues to exhibit a primarily religious anti-Muslim objective. Our constitutional system creates a strong presumption of legitimacy for presidential action and we often defer to the political branches on issues related to immigration and national security. But the disposition in this case is compelled by the highly unusual facts here. Plaintiffs offer undisputed evidence that the President of the United States has openly and often expressed his desire to ban those of Islamic faith from entering the United States. The Proclamation is thus not only a likely Establishment Clause violation, but also strikes at the basic notion that the government may not act based on “religious animosity.”Six of the judges would have also found a likelihood of success on at least some of plaintiffs’ statutory challenges to the Proclamation. Four concurring opinions and two dissenting opinions were also filed. Pursuant to an earlier U.S. Supreme Court order, the court stayed the injunction pending a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court. Richmond Times-Dispatch reports on today’s decision.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/02/4th-circuit-en-banc-says-trumps-third.html

In Pacchiana v. State of Florida, (FL App., Feb. 14, 2018), a Florida appeals court reversed and remanded for a new trial the murder conviction of defendant.  In companion decisions the convictions of Pacchiana’s co-defendants were also reversed: Michael Bilotti v. Florida and in Christin Bilotti v. Florida .In the case, defense counsel raised a Batson challenge to the state’s peremptory strike of an African American member of the jury pool.  The state responded that its race-neutral reason for the challenge was that the juror is a Jehovah’s Witness.  The prosecution urged that members of that religion often believe that only God judges and they cannot judge.  In the court’s primary opinion, Judge Levine wrote:the state did not provide a “legitimate” race-neutral reason….. During voir dire, the potential juror stated that she would follow the law and gave no indication that she would allow her status as a Jehovah’s Witness to affect her decisionmaking at all. In moving to strike her, the state merely relied on the juror’s membership in a religion without any testimony that it would actually affect her service as a juror, speculating that “any” practicing Jehovah’s Witness would refuse to sit in judgment of others.Judge Levine went on to conclude that even if this was a valid religion-based challenge, Batson should be extended to religion-based peremptory challenges, as well as racial ones.  He also concluded that:striking a potential juror from jury service based solely on membership in a religion, no matter what the juror says during voir dire, is an impermissible “religious test” in violation of the United States and Florida Constitutions.Chief Judge Gerber concurred only in part, concluding that religion is a race-neutral response to a Batson challenge. However he agreed with Judge Levine’s other conclusions that made this an impermissible religion-based challenge.  Judge May dissented, concluding that Batson should not be extended to religion-based challenges.  She also concluded that there were sufficient additional reasons given for the challenge to make it race-neutral. However in co-defendant Christin Bilotti’s case, she would remand for resentencing.  The Sun Sentinel reports on the decision.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/02/murder-convictions-reversed-because.html

Trump wants to arm 20% of teachers to address school shootings. But why should teachers be armed combatants? Before I fell into journalism and writing, I taught in classrooms. In college, I studied to be an English teacher, and I was a substitute teacher in New York City. It was a gratifying experience that came just before the most recent wave of horrific school shootings, including Sandy Hook and Parkland.Teachers don’t ask for much. They want to be paid enough money so they don’t have to work a second job at Macy’s to earn a living wage. They want to be respected by their administrators and their students. They want enough resources, like books and school supplies, to actually be able to teach. Continue reading…

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/22/arm-teachers-trump-nra-gun-safety-plan-why-its-wrong

Now shaming, bribing and guilt are off the table, parents must resort to increasingly implausible dinnertime tacticsWhen I was a child, it was received parental wisdom that the way you got a kid to eat was either to threaten them – “no pudding until you clear your plate” – or shame them with the reminder that there were starving people in the world. (Actually, I realise, my mother did neither of these things, but went for the third, discredited approach – emotional blackmail: “One more mouthful, just for me.”)I don’t know if any of this worked, but, along with so many other rules about parenting, in the last 20 years it has been subject to thorough reassessment. Now, if you have a truculent eater, you are advised by paediatricians in the US not to go on about it. You are definitely not supposed to guilt them into eating, or raise the spectre of those less fortunate than them, or do anything at all to suggest that food, in the context of personal consumption, has a moral value and that your child’s relationship with it is indexed to your own emotional response. Continue reading…

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/22/begging-your-kids-eat-shaming-bribing-parents