When does a government restriction burden congregants’ religious liberty too much, therefore becoming illegal and unenforceable under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)? On October 9, 2020, a D.C. federal trial court granted injunctive relief to a church against the D.C. Mayor, in Capitol Hill Baptist Church v. Bowser (Case No. 20-cv-02710). According to this important ruling, government restrictions on in-person gatherings should fail if unevenly enforced against houses of worship acting responsibly and in accordance with their sincerely held doctrinal beliefs.
Our country has long grappled with whether and to what extent any government benefits or other favor may be accorded to private schools, especially religious grade schools. This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court issued another landmark decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, validating a state school tax credit program that benefits religious and non-religious schools alike by striking down the Montana State Constitution’s prohibition on any state aid to a school controlled by a “church, sect, or denomination.”
The Supreme Court of the United States has significantly broadened the scope of legal protections for religious employers against employment-related claims. The Court’s July 8, 2020 decision in Our Lady of Guadalupe Sch. Morrissey-Berru St. James Sch. v. Biel, clarifies and broadens the so-called “ministerial exception,” which forbids or excepts courts from intervening in employment-related disputes involving workers engaged in religious activities. This important legal protection promotes First Amendment religious freedom rights by avoiding secular courts’ interference with employment decisions that may involve religious aspects.