In Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena, (9th Cir., July 30, 2018), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in a lengthy opinion applied the Act of State Doctrine to reject the attempt by plaintiff to recover two oil paintings of Biblical characters taken by the Nazis from her father-in-law in a forced sale. At issue are Renaissance masterworks painted by Cranach the Elder—

In Walker v. Indian River Transport Co., (11th Cir., July 27, 2018), the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of Title VII claims brought by a Jehovah’s Witness truck driver who resigned his job alleging a failure to accommodate his need to regularly attend Sunday church services. The milk route to which Bobby Walker, Jr. was assigned required flexibility that included Sunday availability.  The court concluded that Walker’s employer, Indian River Transport, offered Walker a reasonable accommodation by offering him other local routes, even though they paid less than the milk route.  The court also rejected Walker’s retaliation claim.  Land Line reports on the decision.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/07/11th-circuit-jehovahs-witness-truck.html

In Boyd v. Etchebehere, (9th Cir., July 25, 2018), the 9th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a challenge to a California prison’s Ramadan meal policy.In McCracken v. Godert, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121480 (ED MO, July 20, 2018), a Missouri federal magistrate judge dismissed, unless an appropriate amended complaint is filed, a Native American inmate’s complaint that he is not being allowed to use ceremonial pipes, tobacco, and other ritual items.In Thomas v. Delaney, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122106 (ND NY, July 23, 2018), a New York federal district court dismissed some claims by a Rastafarian inmate of harassment and free exercise infringement, while allowing an amended complaint asserting 1st Amendment, harassment and RLUIPA claims to be filed.In Allen v. Kunkel, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122116 (D CT, July 22, 2018), a Connecticut federal district court dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies a Moorish American inmate’s complaints about barring his obtaining a particular book and refusing to approve his ability to purchase a fez.In Miller v. Lucas, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122640 (MD PA, July 20, 2018), a Pennsylvania federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing an inmate’s complaint that on one occasion he was sent from the chapel back to his cell without being able to participate in religious services.In Cejas v. Brown, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122935 (SD CA, July 20, 2018), a California federal district court allowed a Buddhist inmate to move ahead with his claim that authorities denied weekly Buddhist services and the ability to practice meditation, chanting and prostration indoors. The court however denied joinder of other plaintiffs.In Finefeuiaki v. Maui Community Correctional Center Staff, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124678 (D HI, July 25, 2018), a Hawaii federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that authorities could not locate his Bible, daily bread, and religious handbook during a 5-day perioid.In Mears v. Kauffman, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125038 (MD PA, July 26, 2018), a Pennsylvania federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that after a chaplain accused him of homosexual activity, a correctional officer removed him from services and urged him not to attend services conducted by that chaplain, or not bring the other inmate with whom he allegedly has sexual contact.In Cox v. United States, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124412 (D MN, July 25, 2018), a Minnesota federal district court adopted a magistrate’s report (2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125213, June 28, 2018), and dismissed an inmate’s complaint that a counselor told him to stop praying.In Brown v. Ryles, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125256 (ED AR, July 26, 2018), an Arkansas federal magistrate judge dismissed an inmate’s complaint that he was denied the right to shave in accordance with his religion.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/07/recent-prisoner-free-exercise-cases_29.html

Today’s New York Times Magazine carries a lengthy profile of Baba Ramdev, holy man and billionaire who has increasing political power in India. Here is an excerpt:Ramdev has been a prominent voice on the Hindu right, and his tacit endorsement during the landmark 2014 campaign helped bring Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power…. Although Modi campaigned heavily on promises to reform India’s economy and fight corruption, there were frequent dog whistles to the Hindu nationalist base, some of them coordinated with Ramdev. A month before Modi’s landslide victory, a trust controlled by Ramdev released a video in which senior leaders of Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) … appeared alongside him with a signed document setting out nine pledges. These included the protection of cows — animals held sacred in Hinduism — and a broad call for Hindu nationalist reforms of the government, the courts, cultural institutions and education….But Ramdev is far more than a useful holy man. Even beyond his political patrons, Ramdev is the perfect messenger for a rising middle class that is hungry for religious assertion and fed up with the socialist, rationalist legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first post-independence leader. Ramdev has led vastly popular campaigns against corruption, donning the mantle of swadeshi, or Indian economic nationalism, to cast foreign companies as neocolonial villains. In a sense, Ramdev has changed Hinduism itself. His blend of patriotic fervor, health and religious piety flows seamlessly into the harder versions of Hindu nationalism, which are often openly hostile to India’s 172 million Muslims. Although Ramdev prefers to speak of Indian solidarity, his B.J.P. allies routinely invoke an Islamic threat and rally crowds with vows to build temples on the sites of medieval mosques.In his own way, Ramdev is India’s answer to Donald Trump, and there is much speculation that he may run for prime minister himself.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/07/nyt-profiles-wealthy-hindu-holy-man.html

In Queen v. City of Bowling Green, (WD KY, July 20, 2018), a Kentucky federal district court allowed an atheist firefighter to move ahead with his claim of hostile work environment based on religion. The court, analyzing his claim under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, said in part:Defendants argue that Queen cannot prove the religious harassment he  experienced was unwanted. Rather, Defendants contend that jokes,  pranks, and teasing are all part of the fraternal environment at the Fire Department that Queen enjoyed and participated in.  However, since the Defendants are  moving  for  summary  judgment, the Court must consider the facts in a light favorable to Queen.  According to Queen, none of the harassment he experienced was welcomed.  As he tells it, he was interrogated about his religion by coworkers and forced against his will to participate in Bible studies.  Ultimately, he claims that he was threatened and physically assaulted.  For this reason, there is enough evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that the harassment Queen experienced was unwanted.Friendly Atheist blog has more on the decision.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/07/atheist-firefighter-can-move-ahead-with.html

In Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education, (9th Cir., July 25, 2018), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the district court that a California school board’s prayer policy at board meetings violates the Establishment Clause. The court said in part:The invocations to start the open portions of Board meetings are not within the legislative prayer tradition that allows certain types of prayer to open legislative sessions. This is not the sort of solemnizing and unifying prayer, directed at lawmakers themselves and conducted before an audience of mature adults free from coercive pressures to participate, that the legislative-prayer tradition contemplates…. Instead, these prayers typically take place before groups of schoolchildren whose attendance is not truly voluntary and whose relationship to school district officials, including the Board, is not one of full parity…..Instead of the legislative-prayer analysis, we apply the three-pronged Establishment Clause test articulated in Lemon v. Kurtzman…. The Chino Valley Board’s prayer policy and practice fails the Lemon test and is therefore unconstitutional.Los Angeles Times reports on the decision.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/07/9th-circuit-school-board-invocations.html