Tanco v. Haslam

In 2006, Tennessee amended its state constitution to limit the legal definition of marriage to that between a man and a woman, and also prohibited the recognition of marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in other states. Proponents of the amendment grounded their support in biblical terms. Representative Bill Dunn, one of the amendment’s most prominent supporters, went so far as to write a newspaper article justifying the amendment using quotations from Scripture. 
 
In October 2013, three same-sex couples sued to invalidate Tennessee’s marriage ban.

Bishop v. Smith

In November 2004, Oklahoma amended its state constitution to limit the state’s recognition of marriage to heterosexual marriage and making it a crime to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. The amendment was supported with religious arguments and appeals to scripture. In response, two lesbian couples sued to invalidate the amendment.

After nearly a decade of litigation, the federal trial court held that Oklahoma’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. The state appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Read more

Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education

In 2008, the Mount Vernon City School District began an investigation into eighth-grade science teacher John Freshwater, after the parents of one of Freshwater’s students complained that Freshwater had used a Tesla coil to brand a cross on the student’s arm.  Over the course of the investigation, the school district found evidence that Freshwater kept a Bible on his desk and a copy of the Ten Commandments on the classroom bulletin board, proselytized to students, and taught creationism and intelligent design in place of the standard science curriculum.

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources Solid Waste Management Program awards competitive grants to qualifying organizations to purchase recycled tire rubber, which is used to resurface playgrounds. In order to comply with the No-Aid Clause of the Missouri Constitution, the program does not award grants to organizations owned or operated by “a church, sect, or denomination of religions.”
 
Trinity Lutheran Child Center—a religious pre-school operated by Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia—applied to participate in the grant program in early 2012.

Michigan Catholic Conference v. Burwell

As part of the Affordable Care Act’s implementing regulations, group health plans are required to include coverage for various forms of preventative care, including all FDA-approved methods of contraception. Houses of worship are exempt from these requirements, and the Department of Health and Human Services later created a broader accommodation for certain nonprofit organizations. In particular, religious non-profit organizations may opt out of providing contraceptive coverage by certifying their religious objection; upon receipt of this certification, the organization’s insurance company—or in the case of self-insured plans, its third-party administrator—steps in to provide the coverage.

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Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell

As part of the Affordable Care Act’s implementing regulations, group health plans are required to include coverage for various forms of preventative care, including all FDA-approved methods of contraception. Houses of worship are exempt from these requirements, and the Department of Health and Human Services later created a broader accommodation for certain nonprofit organizations. In particular, religious non-profit organizations may opt out of providing contraceptive coverage by certifying their religious objection; upon receiving this certification, the organization’s insurance company—or in the case of self-insured plans, its third-party administrator—steps in to provide the coverage.

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Sanchez v. Austin

In October of 2011, protestors associated with Occupy Austin installed themselves in the plaza outside of Austin’s City Hall. In an effort to scuttle the protest, law enforcement officers began issuing criminal trespass notices—citations that bar the recipient from a public space for a period of time—for reasons such as skateboarding and “improper” language. The protestors later successfully sued the city for violating their First Amendment right to free speech. Read more

Farina v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections

Anthony Farina was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1992 robbery of a fast-food restaurant that left one employee dead. During the sentencing phase of his trial, Farina called a minister to testify about his reformed character and embrace of Christianity in prison. On cross-examination, the prosecutor grilled the minister about Christian theology, including the Book of Romans, which addresses “submission to authority.” In his closing argument, the prosecutor added that those who “rebel against the authority…will bring judgment on themselves.” Read more

Sevcik v. Sandoval / Jackson v. Abercrombie

In 1998, Hawaii amended its state constitution to allow the state legislature to ban same-sex marriage. Four years later, Nevada adopted a similar constitutional amendment, forbidding any government official in the state from recognizing same-sex marriage. Both amendments were challenged under the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause by same-sex couples, in lawsuits filed in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The trial court in each case rejected the challenge, and the couples appealed. Their cases were consolidated before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Read more

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