Kenya's Catholic Bishops Sued After Canceling Lease for Muslim-run Restaurant

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops was sued by a tenant of their Waumini Building in Nairobi. Via RNS.

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops is facing a lawsuit over the cancellation of a rental contract for a restaurant operated by a Somali Muslim.

Al-Yusra Restaurant Ltd. had signed a six-year lease starting in 2013 to operate a restaurant in a section of Waumini House where the bishops’ conference is based. Baakai Maalim, a Somali Muslim, is a director for the company.

A lawyer for the bishops said the lease was signed without written consent and knowledge of the bishops.

Muslims Welcome Shuttering of NYPD Spying Unit

Former NYPD Police Chief Ray Kelly. RNS photo courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Muslim and civil rights groups welcomed the news that the New York City Police Department’s Demographics Unit will disband but said they still fear they may be targets of warrantless surveillance.

Muslim Advocates filed a lawsuit in 2012 to stop the program, and the group was later joined by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“We need to hear from the mayor and NYPD officials that the policy itself has been ended and that the department will no longer apply mass surveillance or other forms of biased and predatory policing to any faith-based community,” said Ryan Mahoney, president of another Muslim civil rights group, the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Gay Teacher Sues Catholic High School Claiming Wrongful Dismissal

Mark Zmuda was fired two month ago from his job as a teacher at Eastside Catholic School. Photo by Catherine O’Donnell

Forced out of his Catholic school job for marrying his same-sex partner, a gay teacher in suburban Seattle has filed a wrongful-dismissal suit against his former school.

Mark Zmuda claims that as vice principal of Eastside Catholic School, his duties were “purely administrative and unrelated to any religious practice or activity.” He filed suit in King County Superior Court against and the school and the Archdiocese of Seattle. The suit follows at least eight similar suits filed across the country.

In a news conference Friday, Zmuda, 38, said that prior to accepting the job, he read anti-discrimination statements in the employee handbook and relied on them when accepting the job in 2012.

In December, the school fired Zmuda, saying he violated terms of his contract, which require adherence to Catholic Church teachings. The church forbids same-sex marriage, and court rulings have upheld religious institutions’ rights to hire and fire according to the tenets of their faith.

Judge Rejects California City’s Religious War Memorial

Photo illustration of planned monument for Lake Elsinore, Calif. Courtesy: The American Humanist Association, public record.

A California federal judge has rejected a proposed religious memorial at a publicly owned baseball stadium as a violation of both federal and state laws.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson of California’s Central District ruled that a granite monument depicting a soldier kneeling in prayer before a cross lacked “a secular purpose” and has “the unconstitutional effect” of endorsing religion over nonreligion.

The decision came nine months after a lawsuit was filed by the American Humanist Association, a national organization of nonbelievers. The memorial was planned for city property in Lake Elsinore, Calif., a community of about 53,000 people in Southern California’s Riverside County.

Fired Tenn. Pharmacist Sues Walgreens Alleging Religious Bias

Prescription bottle, pink pills, pen, and prescription pad on royal blue background. Photo:Sherry Yates Young LPN / Shutterstock

A Tennessee pharmacist and a Baptist church deacon who lost his job after an ongoing dispute over selling Plan B contraception has sued his former bosses, claiming he was fired because of his religious beliefs.

Lawyers for Philip M. Hall of Jamestown, Tenn., filed suit against the Walgreens drugstore chain in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on Tuesday, claiming it discriminated against Hall’s religious beliefs.

Hall was fired in August after working six years for Walgreens. He believes Plan B contraceptives cause abortions and refused to dispense them. Plan B is a form of birth control that can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Many medical experts say it does not cause a miscarriage or abortion and won’t work if the fertilized egg is already implanted.

Religious, Civil Rights Groups Demand Investigation of NYPD Spying

An NYPD car drives through the streets of New York City. Photo via RNS/courtesy Giacomo Barbaro via Flickr

A coalition of 125 religious, civil rights, and community-based organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice Thursday urging a civil rights investigation into a New York City Police Department program that spies on Muslims.

Groups from several faith traditions signed the letter including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the National Council of Jewish Women, the Hindu American Foundation, and the Sikh Coalition. Civil rights groups include the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, South Asian Americans Leading Together, and the National Network for Arab American Communities.

The NYPD program is already the target of two federal lawsuits, one filed in June by the ACLU and the City University of New York Law School’s Center for Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility, and the other filed in June 2012, by several Muslim plaintiffs represented by Muslim Advocates and the law firm Bhalla and Cho.

Federal Court Says Accused Abusive Priest Didn’t Work for the Vatican

A federal judge on Monday dismissed the Vatican from a lawsuit filed by a former Portland teenager who says he was sexually abused by a pedophile priest who was transferred from Ireland to Chicago and then Portland in an alleged church effort to hide his past.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman of Portland said the Vatican didn't employ the Rev. Andrew Ronan, who — according to the lawsuit — molested the teenager in 1965 and 1966. Mosman's ruling means the Vatican can't be held financially liable for the abuse.

"It's clearly a disappointment, but we're definitely not discouraged," said Jeff Anderson, the Minnesota attorney who is representing the victim, listed in the suit as John V. Doe.

Conservative Law Firm Fights Atheists’ Suit Over Cross at 9/11 Museum

Photo: Steel cross at the 9/11 site. Shawn Kashou /

Photo: Steel cross at the 9/11 site. Shawn Kashou /

A lawsuit that was filed by the group American Atheists to keep a revered cross out of the National September 11 Museum is being challenged by a conservative law firm that defends the public display of religious symbols.

The American Center for Law and Justice filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Monday on behalf of the suit’s two defendants, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site.

“The legal arguments of the atheist organization are both offensive and absurd,” the center’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement. He said 190,000 people had signed a petition opposing the lawsuit.

QUIRK: University Sues Student for Finishing Degree Too Quickly

And you thought having to pay your student loans back was bad...
The School of Economics and Management in Essen, Germany, is suing one of its students for completing his degree too quickly (and demanding he pay back more than $3,000 in tuition.)

Marcel Pohl, a student at The School of Economics and Management in Essen, Germany, says he couldn't believe it when he found out the university was suing him for graduating with a master's degree after just three semesters.

"When I got the lawsuit, I thought it couldn't be true," the 22-year-old told Bild. "Performance is supposed to be worth something."

HHS Doesn’t Speak For Me, or Many Women

Image by brandonht / shutterstock.

Pundits and politicians who opine about the so-called war on women ought to take note of the lawsuits filed Monday against the Department of Health and Human Services contraception mandate by 43 religious groups, including several Catholic dioceses and colleges.

The suits object to the requirement that religious institutions provide their employees with insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

In the propaganda surrounding the mandate, HHS seems to suggest that women’s only stake in the matter is “free” contraception. This is a shallow – and frankly demeaning – view of women, who, equally with men, have an important stake in the preservation of religious freedom in the United States.