The U.S. Department of Treasury announced yesterday that its Office of Foreign Assets Control has imposed sanctions on Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and its Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu.  They are leaders of Turkish government organizations responsible for the arrest and detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson. Brunson has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years.  According to the Treasury Department:Pastor Andrew Brunson has reportedly been a victim of unfair and unjust detention by the Government of Turkey.  He was arrested in Izmir, Turkey in October 2016, and with an absence of evidence to support the charges, he was accused of aiding armed terrorist organizations and obtaining confidential government information for political and military espionage. Vox, reporting on the Treasury Department’s action, says that Brunson’s case has become a personal issue for President Trump and Vice President Pence, and is important to many Christian evangelicals.  Turkey, however, apparently sees Brunson’s case as tied to its attempt to get the U.S. to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen to Turkey.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/08/treasury-department-sanctions-turkish.html

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit this week in a West Virginia federal district court to stop the Parkersburg, West Virginia City Council from regularly opening its meetings with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.  The complaint (full text) in Cobranchi v. The City of Parkersburg, (D WV, filed 7/30/2018), seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, contending that the prayer practice violates plaintiffs’ 1st and 14th Amendment rights. FFRF issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/08/suit-challenges-city-council-opening.html

In Archdiocese of Washington v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, (DC Cir., July 31, 2018), the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in 44-pages of opinions, rejected challenges to the WMATA’s guidelines which preclude the sale of advertising space on public buses for issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy ads.  The ban includes ads

In In re: Fortieth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, (PA Sup. Ct., July 27, 2018), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court approved the public release (with certain redactions) of a 900-page grand jury report on allegations of child sexual abuse, failure to report abuse, and other acts endangering children by persons associated with 6 Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses.  The Grand Jury report, which lists over 300 clergy as predators, also covers possible obstruction of justice by Church officials, community leaders, and public officials.  However the court ordered that there be temporary redactions in the report as released to safeguard the reputations of individuals who have filed challenges to the report.  The court also called for oral argument on what due process mechanisms should be available to those individuals challenging the report’s conclusions about them. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:The order by the seven-member high court provided a temporary victory for about two dozen current and former clergy members who have waged a furious legal fight to prevent their names from being publicly disclosed. The high court’s decision will allow them to remain unidentified for weeks, if not months, while the justices weigh their arguments.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/07/pennsylvania-supreme-court-orders.html

In Doe v. Boyertown, (3d Cir., July 26, 2018), the U.S. 3d Circuit Court of Appeals in a revised panel decision refused to enjoin a Pennsylvania school district from allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identities instead of  the sex they were assigned at birth. Te court rejected privacy, Title IX and state tort claims, saying in part:As we have already noted, we do not intend to minimize or ignore testimony suggesting that some of the appellants now avoid using the restrooms and reduce their water intake in order to reduce the number of times they need to use restrooms under the new policy. Nor do we discount the surprise the appellants reported feeling when in an intimate space with a student they understood was of the opposite biological sex. We cannot, however, equate the situation the appellants now face with the very drastic consequences that the transgender students must endure if the school were to ignore the latter’s needs and concerns. Moreover, as we have mentioned, those cisgender students who feel that they must try to limit trips to the restroom to avoid contact with transgender students can use the single-user bathrooms in the school.Yesterday following the issuance of the revised panel decision, the full court denied an en banc rehearing in the case, with 3 judges dissenting from the denial. (Full text of order and dissent.) The dissenters argued:The revised panel opinion rightly acknowledges that a school policy addressing transgender students’ use of bathrooms and locker rooms is a matter of high importance to Boyertown and its students. Given that public importance and the obvious sensitivity of the issues involved, one would have thought that the opinion would address only the facts at issue and then only to the extent necessary. But the panel went beyond what was necessary when it chose to address Boyertown’s tangential argument that the school district would have run afoul of Title IX had it implemented a policy that confined transgender students to use of bathrooms and locker rooms designated for their biological sex….The Morning Call reports on the decisions.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/07/3rd-circuit-refuses-to-enjoin-schools.html