A minister in Detroit filed a lawsuit against the governor and attorney general of Michigan stating that the state's law, which punishes clergymen for conducting wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples and polygamous marriages, is a violation of his religious freedom.
Rev. Neil Patrick Carrick, a former pastor at United Church of Christ, filed the lawsuit on Monday, seeking to terminate a Michigan law that fines certain clergyman found guilty of conducting an "invalid" wedding ceremony in his or her own place of worship.
The state explicitly defines same-sex marriages as "invalid" and also defines those who enter into polygamous marriages as felons. Under Michigan law: "If a person authorized to solemnize marriages knowingly joins any persons in the marriage contrary to the provisions of this chapter, he or she shall forfeit for each offense a sum not exceeding $500.00." more >>
Americans United for Separation of Church and State argued that an Oklahoma bill that would protect school districts with Bible courses from legal action attempts to place a "loophole" in the law that would let public schools teach that the Bible is true.
Americans United expressed its opposition to Senate Bill 48 due to their concern that it would allow for Bible courses that advocate Christianity. Writing for the Americans United blog "Wall of Separation" on Wednesday, Sarah Jones argued that SB 48 was also unnecessary given current law.
Numerous residents in a small town in North Carolina gathered on Sunday to peacefully protest the city's decision to remove a memorial, featuring a soldier kneeling before a cross and christian flag, from its central park after council members voted that it could no longer afford a $2 million court battle to preserve it.
After the King city council voted 3-2 last week to remove the "praying soldier" statue and Christian flag from its central park, the town completely succombed to the legal pressure of a years-long lawsuit filed by a former U.S. Army veteran, who was offended by the memorial's religious implications.
With the town having already spent $50,000 in legal fees to help preserve the monument from the lawsuit, three city council members, who all voted in favor of the motion to remove the monument, didn't want to waste anymore of its taxpayers' dollars on the court battle, which has been estimated to cost the city about $2 million if it wanted to fight the case until the very end. more >>
On January 12th, I attended Supreme Court oral arguments in a case—Reed v. Town of Gilbert—which will determine how easily the government can restrict signs giving directions to church services. Specifically, the Court is set to decide whether, under free speech protections of the First Amendment, a local government's mere assertion that its sign code (despite on its face discriminating based on content) lacks a discriminatory motive renders the sign code content-neutral and justifies the code's differential treatment of signs pointing the way to a church's meeting location.
In this case, the Town of Gilbert had divided signs up based on whether they were ideological, political, or directional—and imposed different restrictions on each category of sign. Good News Community Church in Gilbert, Arizona, and its pastor, Clyde Reed, sued, claiming that signs pointing the way to their Sunday morning service (which contained religious speech and directions, and thus resulted in them being placed in the directional sign category) were treated less fairly and that this unfair treatment violated the First Amendment.
At oral arguments, both sides received their fair share of questions, but the justices were noticeably more skeptical of the town's argument—especially its claim that it could severely restrict a sign containing ideological content announcing an event if the sign also included directions to that event, while at the same time easing restrictions on a sign containing the same exact ideological content and yet lacking directions. more >>
The issue of whether political speech is more important than religious speech was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in oral arguments Monday in a case involving a small church that is suing an Arizona town over a sign display code they believe violates their rights.
Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court appeared to favor Good News Community Church and its pastor Clyde Reed over the town of Gilbert's restrictions on religious roadside signs. more >>
A Texas district court judge has rejected the Mayor of Houston's motion to forgo a jury trial in the "Houston pastors" lawsuit, which seeks to force the city to allow voters decide whether or not to overturn a transgender rights ordinance, which allows self-identified transgenders to use bathrooms designated for the opposite sex.
The lawsuit looks to require Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the city to act on a petition, started by conservative Houston-area pastors and activists, calling for a voter referendum to allow the people of Houston to decide whether the ordinance, which passed last May, should stay or go.
Although the city's secretary Anna Russell verified that the petition had exceeded the amount of signatures needed to force the referendum, Parker refused to put the initiative on the ballot during last November's election. more >>