J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Three Attorneys Make A Difference and So Can You! Notes from the Twelfth Annual Orange County Religion & The Law Symposium, March 2016

The Twelfth Annual Orange County Religion & The Law Symposium was held on March 25, 2016 to a packed gathering at the Chapman University Dale E. Fowler Law School in Orange, California. Entitled “Three Attorneys Making A Difference,” attendees first watched a video featuring Deano C. Ware, an attorney from Richmond, Michigan who was thrust into the limelight when asked to defend the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School against a suit brought by a former teacher and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging unlawful dismissal under the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Ultimately, the United States Supreme Court unanimously upheld the right of religious organizations to choose their own ministers and declared that “The church must be free to choose those who will guide it on its way.” The early trial court victory won by local counsel Deano C. Ware was reinstated, and a major victory for religious liberty achieved. While Mr. Ware was unable to speak in person due to being in trial, his video story set the tone for the Symposium’s theme of how attorneys can make a difference in preserving religious freedom even in their personal practices.

Attendees also heard from Brad Dacus, founder of the Pacific Justice Institute and radio host of “The Dacus Report.” Mr. Dacus cited many recent challenges to First Amendment freedoms ranging from laws requiring pregnancy care centers to post signs advising where abortions may be obtained in violation of the freedom of speech rights of the clinic operators who promoted alternatives to abortion, challenges to a school board practice of opening its meetings with prayer, attempts to prohibit city employees from using the term “founding fathers” in connection with a Presidents’ Day celebration, and to a case where a city originally refused to provide a conditional use permit to the Harbor Missionary Church so that it could provide limited care and religious services for homeless men and women in what used to be a bar.  

Attorney Aryeh Kaufman discussed a lawsuit filed against Bait Aaron, Inc., various Jewish congregations and certain Rabbis brought by United Poultry Concerns, Inc. and various individuals over the annual Orthodox Jewish religious practice involving the killing of chickens for the Kapparot Ritual – a customary Jewish atonement ritual practiced by some Jews on the eve of Yom Kippur. Pitting animal cruelty activists against the First Amendment rights of certain Orthodox Jews to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to practice their religion (including the Kapparot Ritual) as they have for over a thousand years, the matter was set for a hearing on Kaufman’s Demurrer to the First Amended Complaint hearing following the Symposium, and is now set for Demurrer on a Second Amended Complaint. Mr. Kaufman discussed the significance of defending religious freedom for all religions even when their individual practices might seem odd to others.  

The Twelfth Annual Orange County Religion & The Law Symposium was sponsored by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society – Orange County Chapter, and co-sponsored by Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law, Christian Legal Society – Los Angeles and Orange County Chapters, the Federalist Society – OC Lawyers Chapter, Orange County Jewish Bar Association, Pepperdine Univ. Herbert & Elinor Nootbaar Institute of Law, Religion & Ethics, Trinity Law School, University of LaVerne College of Law, Western State College of Law and the Whittier Law School. Special thanks to Jeffrey W. Shields for his tremendous efforts in organizing another outstanding Religion & The Law Symposium.

By: Rick Varner, Immediate Past Chair, Orange County, California Chapter

Posted: May 27, 2016