The Court of Justice of the European Union last week released an Advocate General's opinion on whether under European Union Directive 2000/78 a private employer may bar a Muslim employee from wearing a hijab at work when a customer objects to the head covering. The Advocate General's opinion in Bougnaoui v. Micropole SA, (CJ EU, July 13, 2016), is the first step in the Court's rendering an advisory opinion to France's Court of Cassation on the meaning of the EU employment discrimination directive.  The Advocate General's opinion provides a recommendation to a panel of the Court's judges who will then render a decision. The Advocate General concluded that barring wearing of the hijab under these circumstances amounts to both illegal direct and indirect discrimination. The Advocate General said in part: 73. When the employer concludes a contract of employment with an employee, he does not buy that person’s soul. He does, however, buy […]

In Johnson v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90255 (MD PA, July 11, 2016), Muslim inmates alleged various interferences with their ability to pray 5 times per day.  A Pennsylvania federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a number of the claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and dismissing on the merits a claim that plaintiff is not allowed to pray while in the prison library and while at his adult education classes. In Lane v. Tavares, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91052 (MD PA, July 12, 2016), a Pennsylvania federal magistrate judge recommended that a Muslim inmate be allowed to proceed with his complaint that authorities have failed to accommodate his religious needs.  He often cannot attend Friday Prayers because his heart condition prevents him from climbing the five flights of stairs to reach the chapel. In Giraldes v. Beard, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91205 (ED CA, July 13, 2016), a […]

On Thursday, Congressional Hearings titled Blasphemy Laws and Censorship by States and Non-State Actors: Examining Global Threats to Freedom of Expression  were held by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.  Transcripts of most of the testimony as well as a video of the full hearing are available on the House Committee's website.

It has been a difficult week for respected Modern Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein.  Lookstein is the Rabbi Emeritus of Manhattan's Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, the synagogue attended by Donald Trump's daughter and son-in-law. Lookstein is also the rabbi who sponsored Ivanka Trump's conversion to Judaism.  So this week he was tapped to offer an invocation at the Republican National Convention. However a petition (full text) signed by over 800 Orthodox Jews took Lookstein to task, saying in part: We, the undersigned, are outraged that Rabbi Haskel Lookstein – rabbi emeritus of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and the Ramaz School – has decided to lend his blessing to Donald Trump and speak at the Republican National Convention. Donald Trump openly spouts racist, misogynistic rhetoric; he advocates torture, the expulsion of millions of families, some long settled in America, and insinuates that some citizens of this great country are somehow less than others. So […]

In Knowles v. Pfister, (7th Cir., July 13, 2016), the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in an opinion by Judge Posner reversed the trial court and ordered entry of a preliminary injunction to allow a Wiccan inmate to wear a one-inch pentacle medallion around his neck.  Finding that the inmate's “freedom of religion has been gratuitously infringed by the prison,” the appeals court rejected the Illinois federal district court's reasoning, saying in part: We have trouble seeing the force of these points—(1) what an adequate remedy at law would be (monetary compensation for the loss of a religious entitlement?); (2) how forbidding a religious observance important to a devout practitioner could be thought harmless to him because other observances remained open to him… and (3) how the plaintiff could obtain any relief unless the warden was enjoined from violating RLUIPA.