Legal Feature


2012 Case Summary Report


December 20, 2012

The following is a sampling of Rutherford Institute (TRI) cases which have made their way through the courts this past year.

Victories

Webb v. Carroll County (MD): As a significant development in countering the encroachment of the surveillance state in the schools, school officials in Carroll County, Maryland, agreed to cease implementing a biometric palm scanner lunch program after TRI warned against possible threats to privacy, security and parental rights.

Bain v. South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC): South Carolina’s Dept. of Health amended their religious exemption policy in order to accommodate First Amendment concerns raised by TRI.

Fleck v. Borough of Manasquan (NJ): The Borough of Manasquan agreed to amend its noise ordinance prohibiting sounds that “annoy” or “disturb” after TRI called them to account for violating the free speech rights of Christian preacher Ken Fleck.

Crow-Smith v. Phoenix (AZ): Showing that government can be changed for the better, the Phoenix city council heeded TRI’s warnings to respect residents’ First Amendment rights after a resident was prevented from handing out free bottles of cold water to passersby on a public sidewalk during a “First Friday” festival as a means of exercising her Christian beliefs.

Raub v. City of Chesterfield (VA): TRI secured the release of Marine Brandon Raub, who was arrested with no warning, targeted for doing nothing more than speaking out against the government on his private Facebook page, detained against his will, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys.

Webber v. First Student, Inc. (OR): At TRI’s urging, a federal magistrate has upheld the First Amendment lawsuit of a 29-year-old public school bus driver who was fired for displaying a Confederate flag on his personal vehicle.

WARM v. Waynesboro (VA): In response to TRI’s efforts to safeguard the ability of churches to care for the needy and downtrodden, the Waynesboro City Council voted 4-0 for a zoning code change to allow churches to provide temporary shelters for the homeless.

Princeton v. Stockwell (NJ): TRI secured a First Amendment victory for a Christian street preacher who was charged with disorderly conduct and accused of engaging in “tumultuous” behavior for preaching in public near Princeton University’s historic eating clubs.

Dennis v. Easton High School (MD): In a significant zero tolerance victory, the Maryland State Board of Education agreed to TRI’s request to reverse the suspensions of two Easton High School lacrosse players charged with possession of “deadly weapons,” after tools used to maintain their equipment, namely a penknife and lighter, were found in their lacrosse bags.

Weinstein v. Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches (TX): Affirming the right of chaplains to offer imprecatory prayers, a district court granted TRI’s request to dismiss a frivolous lawsuit brought against a chaplaincy endorsing organization, recognizing that if people are forced to stop offering imprecatory prayers, half the churches, synagogues and mosques in this country will have to be shut down.

Chase v. Ocean City (MD): Responding to TRI’s insistence that street performers and artists have the same right as any other citizen to the freedom of expression, the town of Ocean City, Md., agreed to cease enforcing ordinances limiting expressive activity on the Boardwalk.

Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. E.E.O.C. (DC): In an important victory for religious freedom, the United States Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that churches have a First Amendment right to keep the government out of its employment decisions.

Pre-Litigation Cases

Ramirez v. Glendale (AZ): TRI challenged Arizona officials’ attempts to force a Glendale resident to cease using her home to share free food with the hungry and needy members of her community.

Boyd v. Town of Holly Ridge (NC): TRI intervened on behalf of a street preacher who was handcuffed, detained, and charged with disorderly conduct after calling on police officers to “repent.”

Menorah Ministries v. University of Denver (CO): TRI defended a Messianic Jewish minister who, after 17 years of distributing religious literature on the University of Denver’s campus and participating in its annual diversity festival, was allegedly subjected to an effort to remove him from campus because of the controversial nature of his message.

Taxpayers v. American Community Survey (DC): TRI attorneys worked to challenge the American Community Survey on behalf of a large number of Americans who object to being forced under penalty of law to complete the highly intrusive and expansive questionnaire.

Litigation Cases

True Blue Auctions, LLC v. Foster (PA): TRI sued two police officers who threatened a business owner with arrest for videotaping his own business activities while on a public sidewalk.

Cox v. Sampson County Board of Education (NC): Warning against outrageous conduct by school officials that not only dehumanizes students but also deprives them of the fundamental right of privacy under our Constitution, TRI sued a North Carolina school district on behalf of a 10-year-old boy who was strip-searched by school officials in search of a $20 bill lost by another student.

Hernandez v. Northside Independent Sch. Dist. (TX): TRI came to the defense of a high school sophomore threatened with expulsion from a magnet school program for refusing to participate in an RFID tracking badge system.

Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City School District (OH): Citing the need for academic freedom, TRI defended a science teacher who was terminated for encouraging students to think critically about evolution and for keeping his personal Bible on his desk.

Salman v. Arizona (AZ): Decrying the national trend towards overcriminalization, TRI came to the defense of a Christian man who was jailed for 60 days and fined more than $12,000 for holding Bible studies in his home for friends and family.

Sons of Confederate Veterans v. Lexington (VA): TRI came to the defense of a civil war heritage society that was prohibited from flying the Confederate flag despite the fact that other organizations were allowed to fly their flags.

Burlison v. Springfield Public Schools (MO): TRI challenged a Missouri school over its practice of carrying out random lockdowns and mass searches of the student body.

Aaron Tobey v. Terri Jones (VA): TRI defended the First Amendment rights of a college student who, while engaging in a peaceful protest of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) use of whole-body imaging scanners and enhanced pat downs, was arrested for disorderly conduct after removing his shirt at Richmond International Airport (RIC) and exposing a portion of the Fourth Amendment written on his chest.

Hodge v. Talkin (DC): TRI filed a free speech lawsuit in federal court on behalf of a 45-year-old African-American man who was arrested while standing silently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building wearing a sign voicing his concerns about the government’s disparate treatment of African-Americans and Hispanics.