Tag Archives: First Amendment

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Expands the Breadth of the “Ministerial Exception” to the First Amendment

In prior cases, the Court had held that the First Amendment’s Religious Clauses prevented the courts from adjudicating employment discrimination claims between a church and certain employees, which was dubbed the “ministerial exception.” In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, two elementary school teachers at Roman Catholic churches brought employment discrimination claims against their churches. In both cases, the ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Upholds Birth Control Exclusion for Religious Organizations Under ACA

While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required employers to provide coverage for contraceptives, the Government issued rules exempting religious employers from that mandate. After subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court on claims that the rules violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the Government issued new rules expanding the exemption ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Government Collections Robocalls Violate the First Amendment

The 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act originally barred practically all robocalls to cell phones, but in 2015 Congress carved out an exception to allow robocalls solely for the purpose of collecting a debt owed to the Government. Certain political groups filed suit arguing that that exception violated the First Amendment, and thus the entire robocall ban should be invalidated. The ... Read More

SCOTUS: States Cannot Exclude Religious Schools From Tuition Programs

Montana created a program that granted tax credits to organizations that awarded scholarships for private school tuition. Because Montana’s Constitution expressly prohibits “appropriation or payment” to sectarian schools—a “no-aid clause”—the State issued a rule prohibiting the scholarships from being used toward religious schools. Three mothers who wanted to use the scholarships to send their children to a Christian private school ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Declines to Extend First Amendment Protections to Foreign Corporate Affiliates

The United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act was enacted in 2003 as a foreign aid program focused on global health. Congress dedicated billions of dollars in funding to the Act, but required that organizations could only receive funds if they had a “policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.” In Agency for Int’l Development v. Alliance for ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Declines to Suspend COVID-19 Restrictions on Church Worship in California

The Governor of California issued an executive order to limit the spread of COVID-19, which in part limited attendance at places of worship to 25% of building capacity or 100 people, whichever is less. Several churches challenged that order, and asked the courts to enter an injunction staying its effect during the course of the litigation due to its First ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Curtails Ninth Circuit’s Digression from Issues Presented By the Parties

Evelyn Sineneng-Smith was convicted of violating 8 U.S.C. sec. 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) for “encouraging or inducing an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such . . . is or will be in violation of the law,” and of sec. 1324(a)(1)(B)(i) for doing so “for the purpose of commercial ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Strikes Down Law Against Immoral or Scandalous Trademarks

The Lanham Act prohibits registration of any trademark that contains “immoral[] or scandalous matter.” In Iancu v. Brunetti, an applicant sought to trademark FUCT (pronounced F-U-C-T), but was denied by the Patent and Trademark Office. The applicant appealed, arguing that the Act’s restriction violated the First Amendment. The Federal Circuit struck down the restriction as unconstitutional. The Court, ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Permits The Bladensburg Peace Cross To Remain Standing

The Bladensburg Peace Cross was erected in 1925 on public land as a tribute to the lives of 49 soldiers from the local area who died in World War I. Certain atheistic groups filed suit in federal court, arguing that the cross violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The district court dismissed the case under the tests set forth in ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Private Nonprofit Corporation Operating Public Access Channels Not A State Actor Subject To First Amendment

New York City designated Manhattan Neighborhood Network, a privately owned nonprofit corporation, to operate its public access channels on the cable system in Manhattan. Two filmmakers produced a film attacking the Network to be run on the public access channels. The Network aired the film, but then suspended the filmmakers from the Network’s services and facilities. The filmmakers sued, alleging ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Probable Cause To Arrest Defeats A First Amendment Retaliatory Arrest Claim

In Nieves v. Bartlett, during a winter sports festival, an intoxicated Russell Bartlett confronted Sergeant Nieves who was talking to other attendees, and told the officer to leave. Nieves backed off, but later Bartlett physically interfered with another officer’s questioning of an attendee, and Nieves initiated arrest. Bartlett was slow to comply and was handcuffed on the ground. Bartlett ... Read More

First Amendment Forbids Mandatory Union Fees From Public Sector Unions

Illinois permits public employees to unionize, and Mark Janus was a state employee whose unit was represented by a public-sector union that engaged in collective bargaining on behalf of its members. The union required that Janus pay a union fee, but he objected since he opposed many of the collective bargaining positions the union took. In the previous case of ... Read More

Court Strikes Down Abortion Notices Under First Amendment

A number of pro-life crisis pregnancy centers mounted a First Amendment challenge to a California law that required licensed medical providers to provide a notice to its patients of the availability of free or low-cost services, including abortions, and required each unlicensed pro-life medical provider to notify patients that it was not licensed. The centers requested a preliminary injunction, which ... Read More

Court Permits First Amendment Retaliation Claim Against Municipality Despite Probable Cause To Arrest

Fane Lozman was something of a political gadfly to the City of Riviera Beach’s city council, and had filed a lawsuit against it. During a closed meeting, one of the council members suggested that the council “intimidate” Mr. Lozman, which the council supported. At a subsequent public meeting, when Lozman sought to discuss the recent arrest of a former county ... Read More

Minnesota Law Banning Political Insignias In A Polling Place Struck Down Under The First Amendment

Under Minnesota law, a “political badge, political button, or other political insignia may not be worn at or about the polling place” where voters head to vote in elections. Election judges working the polls have authority to determine whether a particular item violates the prohibition, and those who refuse to remove offending items go through an administrative process that may ... Read More

Court Sides With Baker Who Refused To Bake Custom Cake For Gay Wedding

When Jack Phillips refused, on religious grounds, to make a custom wedding cake for a gay couple, the couple filed a charge with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission alleging the refusal violated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act. Phillips maintained he had a First Amendment right to refuse to bake the cake, but the Commission found him in violation of the Act and ... Read More