In Trinity Christian School v. Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, (CT Sup. Ct., Aug. 7, 2018 [official release date]), the Connecticut Supreme Court held that the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not confer complete immunity to religious institutions for employment discrimination suits, and does not operate as a jurisdictional bar to such actions. Thus an interlocutory appeals of an administrative agency’s refusal to dismiss a suit is not permitted.
In the acclaimed director’s new fact-based tale of infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan, he makes salient comparisons with life for people of color in Trump’s AmericaTwenty-nine years ago, Roger Ebert said of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing that “it comes closer to reflecting the current state of race relations in America than any other movie of our time”. Now, with BlacKkKlansman, the 61-year-old film-maker again proves his work to be deserving of such a bold statement.His latest is a historic depiction of race relations yet has its gaze firmly set on present racial problems. It’s based on the real life experiences of Ron Stallworth, Colorado Springs police department’s first black police officer. Stallworth’s undercover operation, which saw him artfully infiltrate a local Ku Klux Klan chapter, earned him the unintended respect and reverence of KKK leader and grand wizard, David Duke. Continue reading…
A suit was filed yesterday in an Ohio federal district court by abortion protesters who claim that Toledo, Ohio police have violated their free speech, free exercise and equal protection rights by enforcing or threatening to enforce various provision of Ohio law against them. The complaint (full text) in Zastrow v. City of Toledo, (ND OH, filed 8/1/2018), contends in part:The City’s pattern of conduct, which includes arresting, citing, prosecuting and threatening to arrest, cite, and prosecute, pro-life demonstrators, including Plaintiffs, for engaging in expressive religious activity on the public fora adjacent to the Capital Care abortion center, has had, and continues to have, a chilling effect on Plaintiffs’ expressive religious activity, thereby causing irreparable harm.Courthouse News Service reports on the lawsuit.
Our existing refugee resettlement system can easily resettle migrants – and it is cheaper and more humane than detentionThe humanitarian crisis on our nation’s southern border is gut-wrenching, shameful, and immoral. The images of children alone in vacant Walmarts, and toddlers being ordered into court alone for deportation proceedings, shock most Americans. So much so that people across the country took to the streets last month to protest this cruel policy. The president’s recent executive order mandating children stay with their parents has only created chaos and confusion for both the families that have been separated and for those still arriving at the border.As a humanitarian worker and lawyer, I lead a team of attorneys supporting legal rights for unaccompanied minors in New York and provide legal services to the largest shelter for “tender age” children in the nation. The children we represent come from all over the world, and our case load has swollen dramatically over the past few months.As desperate as the situation may seem, there’s some good news in all this mess: the crisis is unnecessary. We can solve this problem by processing these families through our country’s under-utilized Refugee Resettlement Program.Because our refugee resettlement system is atrophying due to the lack of refugee families being brought in from camps around the world, it can easily handle the current crisis.That’s because the US has long taken in tens of thousands of refugees each year. The previous administration resettled more than 80,000 per year from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other war-torn countries. Under Presidents Ronald Regan and George H W Bush, the average was closer to 110,000. But this year, we will resettle fewer than 22,000 refugees, the lowest number in 40 years.Now, in some cruel twist of irony, the number of refugees the Refugee Resettlement Program is prepared to accept almost parallels the number of asylum seekers at our borders. And don’t be misled by rhetoric that these are all criminals—before the family separation policy went into effect, 95% of these families were passing “credible fear” interviews establishing that they were seeking asylum for valid reasons.Now the executive order signed by President Trump mandates that, rather than separating parents from their children, families seeking asylum will be detained together. But detaining immigrant families is not only inhumane, it commands an enormous amount of resources. According to the National Immigration Forum, in FY 2018 the government is set to spend about $8 million per day on immigrant detention. This amounts to $208 per detainee per day. Conversely, “alternatives to detention” programs cost between $5 and $6 per person per day and immigrants appear at their final hearings more than 95 percent of the time. The Refugee Resettlement Program is perfectly suited to provide such an alternative.This would mean the end of the zero-tolerance policy of criminally prosecuting migrants. In its place, Refugee Resettlement would use existing programming to help migrants find housing, learn English, enroll children in schools, and respect American values and freedoms. These programs, operated mostly through faith-based non-profits like Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, are located in cities and rural areas, effectively dispersing a large number of refugees to areas that need labor and can support new settlers.Refugee resettlement agencies are well-equipped to provide support to traumatized families. Studies have shown that within a short period of time, refugees are not only able to support themselves but also more than reimburse the money they receive in support during their first few years in the US through taxes and generation of income and jobs.The choice is not, as President Trump declared, between detaining families and quickly deporting them, or paroling them with no accountability. Using the resources and programs we have developed over the past century to help refugees, we can welcome asylum seekers humanely and ensure they are properly vetted. Refugee resettlement services have case managers, teachers, and supportive staff that will be monitoring each family. Those who lose their asylum claim may still be deported. Those who win will already be integrating into their communities.As a nation, we face a critical decision: do we punish migrants at our borders and treat them so miserably that new migrants will no longer view the US as a beacon of freedom and refuge? Or do we embrace families fleeing oppressive and dysfunctional regimes, provide them with support and kindness as they present their claims for asylum, and fight for their right to live legally amongst us?We have long held to the latter path and should embrace it now. Continue reading…
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.
At Netroots Nation conference, leading Democratic presidential hopefuls embrace concept of intersectionalityKamala Harris attacked critics of “identity politics”. Elizabeth Warren insisted that Democrats could be both the “party of the white working class and the party of Black Lives Matter” while calling the American criminal justice system “racist”. And Cory Booker said it was time “to get folk woke”.At the Netroots Nation conference in New Orleans on Friday, leading Democratic presidential hopefuls embraced the concept of intersectionality, viewing any conflict between economic populism and racial and social justice as a false choice. Continue reading…
In Youkhanna v. City of Sterling Heights, (ED MI, Aug. 1, 2018), a Michigan federal district court dismissed a lawsuit challenging a consent decree approved by the Sterling Heights City Council growing out of a dispute over zoning approval for a mosque. (See prior posting.) The consent decree settled two related lawsuits– one by the Islamic Center and one by the Department of Justice– that alleged violations of RLUIPA and of the Islamic Center’s free exercise rights. An overcrowded and contentious City Council meeting preceded approval of the consent decree. Rejecting the challenge to approval of the consent decree the court said in part:The crux of Plaintiffs’ Complaint is that the approval of the Consent Judgment should be invalidated because the Council purportedly failed to abide by the City’s Zoning Code by neglecting to consider the discretionary standards set forth in § 25.02. Plaintiffs’ further assert that the Consent Judgment should be invalidated because the City did not comply with the notice requirements under the MZEA [Michigan Zoning Enabling Act]. Both of Plaintiffs’ arguments are without merit.The court also rejected claims that the Michigan Open Meetings Act had been violated and that defendants’ 1st, 4th and 14th Amendment rights had been infringed. The court said in part:Plaintiffs claim their speech was impermissibly chilled when they and other audience members were limited to a two-minute speaking time, prevented from speaking critically of the Islamic faith, and removed from the meeting for being disruptive. However, … [w]hen the government designates a limited public forum for speech, as is the case of a city council meeting, it may apply restrictions to the time, place, and manner of speech so long as those restrictions “are content neutral, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open ample alternative channels of communication.”The court had previously denied a preliminary injunction in the challenge. Detroit News reports that defendants will appeal yesterday’s ruling.Meanwhile, according to AINA, another mosque controversy is on the horizon in Sterling Heights as a group of Pakistanis are moving ahead with plans to convert a former Lutheran church there into a mosque.
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.
Donald Trump’s daughter and senior adviser said the practice he put in place is ‘a low point’ but that the issue is complicatedIvanka Trump has claimed she is “vehemently against” the separation of parents and children at the US-Mexico border but stopped short of condemning her father’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.Donald Trump’s daughter, speaking at an event hosted by the Axios website in Washington DC, also parted company with the president over his description of the media as “the enemy of the people”. Continue reading…
Photos and infrared imaging indicate vehicles moving in and out of the facility at SanumdongNorth Korea has pressed ahead with construction at the factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US, despite ongoing negotiations over the fate of its nuclear and missile programmes.US spy satellites captured photos and infrared images that indicate vehicles moving in and out of the facility at Sanumdong, but do not show how advanced any missile construction might be, a US official told Reuters. Continue reading…