Victory for Nelson Madden Black Client

Yesterday a state appellate court in Brooklyn, New York upheld the governance of the Geeta Temple, in New York City, by its current trustees and religious leader, Swami Satyanandji. In a case entitled Temple-Ashram v. Satyanandji, the Second Department upheld a trial court decision that dismissed a lawsuit brought by four former devotees of the temple who claimed to be the “lawfully appointed trustees” of the Temple. The court found that:

. . . the Supreme Court correctly found that … the plaintiffs failed to establish their standing to prosecute this action pursuant to Religious Corporations Law §§ 180, 181, and, 182. While the individual plaintiffs asserted that they had been validly appointed as trustees at an October 2005 meeting held by Swami Continue reading “Victory for Nelson Madden Black Client”

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley, 2016

Trinity Lutheran church applied to the State of Missouri for a state-run grant designed to provide recycled rubber tires to schools for installation as play equipment. The State denied the church’s application, citing a provision in the Missouri state constitution which prohibits state money from aiding any church, sect or denomination of religion either “directly or indirectly.” The Lutheran Church has challenged the State’s decision, arguing that the State’s denial on the basis of religion is a violation of the Free Exercise and Equal Protection clauses of the United States Constitution. The case is currently pending before the United States Supreme Court. Oral arguments are expected to be delivered in the fall of 2016.

New Mexico Association of Nonpublic Schools v. Moses, 2016

This case questions whether applying a Blaine Amendment to exclude religious institutions from a state textbook lending program violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Here, the New Mexico Supreme Court found that a “no aid” provision in the state’s constitution is also a Blaine Amendment, and therefore legally excludes religious and private schools from a secular, neutral textbook lending program. The case is currently pending before the United States Supreme Court and is scheduled for Conference on September 26 2016.

Saint Peter’s Healthcare System, et al v Laurence Kaplan, 2016

The case considers what defines a “church plan” pursuant to ERISA s 3(33)(A). Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), a church plan is defined as a plan established and maintained . . . for its employees (or their beneficiaries) by a church or a convention of churches.” The section also states that a “plan established and maintained” by a church “includes a plan maintained by an organization . . . controlled by or associated with a church or a convention of churches.” In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that the St. Peter’s pension plan was not entitled to religious tax exemption under ERISA as the plan was not established by a church. St Peter’s filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States on July 18, 2016 and responses to the petition are being accepted until September 16 2016.

Brown v Buhman, 2016

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has reversed a decision striking down the cohabitation provision of a Utah polygamy law. The Court ruled on standing, and not on the constitutional merits of the case, including a challenge raised by the Brown family as to violations of the free speech and free exercise of religion clauses. Lead counsel for the Brown family has noted that the family will appeal the decision.