Religious Liberty Clinic students wrote and filed two amicus briefs last quarter, representing a diverse group of religious believers. Read on for the background and details of both cases.
Matthew Higgins ’15 and Greg Schweizer ’15 drafted an amicus brief in a New Jersey appellate court on behalf of the two leading Quaker organizations in the nation – the Philadelphia and New York Yearly Meetings of the Religious Society of Friends – and in support of a home-based Orthodox Jewish synagogue facing a zoning challenge. The synagogue had appealed a trial-court decision that dismissed, without discussion, the synagogue’s argument that its alternative form of worship was covered by federal protections for religious land use. Matt and Greg placed the synagogue’s challenge in the context of the landmark Quaker struggle for religious freedom in our country, emphasizing that relevant legal protections are “all the more important where, as here, the religious practice involved is uncommon, unpopular, or misunderstood.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Lawrence ’15 and Shae McPhee ’15 drafted and filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of The Sikh Coalition and in support of Native American inmates in their petition for certiorari in Knight v. Thompson, No. 130955. The case-in-chief involves a religious liberty challenge by inmates in Alabama who had their hair forcibly cut in violation of their religious beliefs and contrary to the practice of most other states. Writing for The Sikh Coalition, Andrew and Shae stressed that Supreme Court review was needed, because the 11th Circuit fostered a circuit split by refusing to require the Alabama prison to consider the permissive hair-length practices of other states and that such a refusal harms Sikhs in particular – a minority, and perhaps unfamiliar religion in which maintaining unshorn hair is a central practice. Indeed, as Andrew and Shae noted, Sikhs have gone to death over the violation of their right to this belief and practice.