Friday, May 27, 2016

Indiana church camp sues over neighboring dairy farm

In one of the first lawsuits filed under Indiana’s year-old Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Ind. Code §§ 34-13-9-1 to -11), the Hoosier Environmental Council filed a complaint (download here) on behalf of a children’s church camp in eastern Indiana. The complaint alleges that the Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals substantially burdened the House of Prayer Ministries’ exercise of religion by granting a special exception to local zoning ordinances allowing Milco Dairy to construct and operate a concentrated animal feeding operation, known as a CAFO.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How (and whether) to act without a board meeting

I’m a strong advocate for making all group decisions in live meetings, whether in person or by phone. This is a basic principle of parliamentary law, and it is even more important in the context of a religious organization that invites divine guidance through individual participants in decision-making.  But some groups and some situations simply do not allow for that live meeting. What to do? Act by written consent.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

7th Cir.: Att’y fees to defend frivolous suit are substantial burden; jury must decide zoning denial

The Seventh Circuit affirmed that incurring attorney fees in a frivolous lawsuit brought by a governmental entity can constitute a substantial burden under RLUIPA this week. It also reversed a determination that the City of Chicago had demonstrated the city had not imposed a substantial burden on a religious outreach center's religious activities by denying licenses required to conduct those activities. Judge Richard A. Posner wrote the opinion for the court, and Judge Richard D. Cudahy wrote the following, exceptional concurrence: "Unfortunately, and I think the opinion must be stamped with a large ‘MAYBE.’” Judge Ilana Rovner was the third vote. Another notable aspect of the case is that, like most RLUIPA cases, it has been in litigation a long time—nine years. As Judge Posner wrote, “We can understand the judge’s desire to end a litigation that will soon have lasted as long as the Trojan War, but we do not think that the end is yet in sight.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

7th Cir: Notre Dame must submit form to avoid paying for contraceptives

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of Notre Dame's request for court-ordered exception to the contraception mandate under the Affordable Care Act. The case had returned from the Supreme Court after the high court decided Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius. Find the decision here.

Judge Richard Posner wrote the forty-page majority opinion, with Judge David Hamilton writing a concurrence. Judge Joel Flaum dissented.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Ind. Ct. App.: First Amendment blocks pastor's wage claim against former employer-congregation

The Court of Appeals of Indiana held that a pastor could not sue the church that formerly employed him for wages and vacation pay, concluding that the lawsuit would require the court to inquire into intrachurch matters, which the court reasoned is forbidden by the First Amendment. In Steven Matthies v. The First Presbyterian Church of Greensburg Indiana, Inc., No. 16A01-1409-PL-380 (Ind. Ct. App. Apr. 8, 2015), Pastor Steven Matthies sought to enforce part of a three-year contract that he argued entitled him to salary and vacation pay after his employment ended.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

7th Circuit: Milwaukee Archdiocese’s cemetery trust fund not off limits from sex-abuse victims in bankruptcy court


In the latest opinion interpreting the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Seventh Circuit concluded that the 1993 law does not require the court to exclude a $55 million cemetery trust fund from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s bankruptcy estate. The case, Listecki v. Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, involves the question of whether a 2008 transfer of the money from the archdiocese’s general fund to a newly created trust.