Court
Cases

Court Cases

Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue

At Issue

Should parents of students in private, religious schools receive financial benefits through a state funding program even though Montana’s state constitution protects against government funding of religion?  

BJC

BJC argues no — the unique treatment of religion keeps government from controlling the beliefs and practices that religious schools teach. BJC supports laws that prohibit government funding of and interference in religion.  

Read more

The American Legion v. American Humanist Association

At Issue

Is a free-standing cross maintained by the government in the median of a busy intersection an unconstitutional establishment of religion?

BJC

Argued yes, the cross is the pre-eminent symbol of Christianity. We should never rely on the government to advance our faith, and we should protect the religious liberty of all Americans by insisting that our government shows no favoritism for the majority religion. The Supreme Court issued a splintered decision in June 2019, ruling that this free-standing cross can remain, relying on its history.

Read more

Trump v. Hawaii

At Issue

Is the White House’s attempt to limit immigration from certain majority-Muslim countries constitutional?

BJC

Argued no, the government cannot enact laws designed to harm a religious group. Despite BJC’s advocacy and court briefs, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the travel ban as within the president’s immigration powers in June 2018.

Read more

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

At Issue

Does a commercial baker have the right to refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in a state that includes sexual orientation as a protected category in its civil rights laws?

BJC

Argued no, the baker’s religious beliefs do not provide a blanket exemption to state laws that protect against discrimination in a place of business. The Supreme Court sidestepped the central question in its June 4, 2018, ruling against the state of Colorado, saying the commission had not enforced the law properly.

Read more

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc.  v. Comer

At Issue

Can states avoid funding religion by excluding churches from grant programs that pay for property improvements?

BJC

Argued yes, defending the state’s policy against government funding of houses of worship. On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the church with a narrowly crafted decision that said this case was simply about a public benefit to promote safety through playground improvements.

Read more

Zubik v. Burwell

At Issue

Must the government give absolute deference to the claims of religious nonprofits seeking to avoid the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate?

BJC

Argued no,  explaining how the far-reaching arguments made by the nonprofits can endanger religious liberty. In an unexpected move, the Supreme Court issued a short, unsigned opinion on May 16, 2016, that sent the cases back to the lower courts without ruling on the issue.

Read more

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.

At Issue

Can an employer deny a qualified applicant a job because she wears a religious headscarf?

BJC

Argued no, defending a person’s right to wear a hijab while at work. On June 15, 2015, the Supreme Court agreed.

Read more

Holt v. Hobbs

At Issue

Can a Muslim inmate grow a one-half-inch beard in accordance with his faith despite prison policies prohibiting beards?

BJC

Argued yes, a federal law called “RLUIPA” protects his right to have a religiously mandated beard while incarcerated, especially considering the prison allows one-quarter-inch beards for inmates with a diagnosed dermatological medical condition. A unanimous Supreme Court agreed on January 20, 2015.

Read more

Town of Greece v. Galloway

At Issue

Can local, municipal meetings begin with official prayers?

BJC

Argued no, official prayers at local government meetings violate government neutrality toward religion and demean religious liberty, and they are different than the practice of chaplain-led prayers in Congress. On May 5, 2014, a divided Supreme Court ruled that official prayers opening local municipal meetings may be constitutional.

Read more

Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC

At Issue

Does the “ministerial exception” apply to ordained teachers at a church-run school?

BJC

Argued yes, and filed a brief to defend a First Amendment doctrine called the “ministerial exception,” which bars most lawsuits between ministerial personnel and their religious employers. In a unanimous decision on January 11, 2012, the Supreme Court agreed.

Read more