Federal courts back Justice Department's position in 2 religious liberty cases

By Marian Johns | Feb 11, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal courts have upheld the U.S. Justice Department's (DOJ) positions on two separate cases involving religious liberty issues, according to the department. 

The federal courts' rulings were in Jesus Christ is the Answer Ministries v. Baltimore County, Maryland and in Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) v. University of Iowa with the courts agreeing with the DOJ's brief and statement of interest pertaining to the lawsuits. 

In Jesus Christ is the Answer Ministries v. Baltimore County, Maryland, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of a small congregation of African immigrants who were denied approval to build a church by the county in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The congregation's lawsuit alleged neighbors against the building of the new church had made "racially and ethnically charged" comments regarding the congregation such as there will be "dancing and hollering" like they are "home back in Africa."

In the BLinC case, the U.S. District Court for the District of Iowa ruled that the University of Iowa violated the BLinC group's First Amendment Rights when it "de-registered" the student group because it limited its leadership to those with the same religious beliefs. The court found the university did not apply the same standard to other campus groups.

“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the religious, associational, and expressive freedoms enshrined in federal law,” principal deputy associate attorney general Jesse Panuccio said in a statement. 

 “We are pleased the courts agreed with the department in these two cases, and we will continue to work to protect the rights of people of all faiths. 

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U.S. Department of Justice U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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