Sacramento, CA – Pacific Justice Institute filed an amicus brief this week with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of California’s Proposition 8. The Supreme Court will hear arguments March 26 and 27 on the constitutionality of Prop. 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act. These two decisions are expected to mark a major turning point in not only the debate over same-sex "marriage," but also the ability of citizens to determine controversial issues through the initiative and legislative processes.
Visalia, CA – Attorneys with the Pacific Justice Institute have filed suit against the Visalia Mall for violations of free speech and public accommodations laws.
The Complaint filed late last week in Tulare County Superior Court alleges that Mall management and security officers threatened to arrest John Vadnais, an elder at a local church, for sharing his faith with other mall visitors. Until last January, Vadnais went to the Mall often to shop and eat. He also struck up conversations with other shoppers and discussed his Christian faith. Mall staff harassed and eventually summoned local police to intimidate Vadnais. Vadnais sought clarity from Mall management over several months in 2012 and was eventually told that talking to strangers at the Mall was off-limits if the subject was religion.
Sacramento, CA – Officials in Sacramento are backpedaling from initial threats to shut down a small outreach to the homeless in Discovery Park. A public hearing this week is expected to spark a lively debate on the issue.
For more than two years, half a dozen parishioners from Real Life Church in Natomas have trekked down to Discovery Park every Wednesday to share their lunch and words of encouragement with the homeless who frequent the park. Late last year, park rangers started telling the group that they would need expensive “special event” permits in order to continue feeding the homeless. Such permits are only granted four times a year, which would eliminate the weekly potlucks. County officials also told the group’s leader, Tatiana Capizzano, that their food, usually prepared at home, would need to undergo inspection.
Cheltenham, PA – Police in a Pennsylvania township began monitoring a property purchased by a church while local officials threatened $500 per day fines, claiming that use of the land was illegal. The First Korean Church of New York was denied permission to use a property which it purchased in a sheriff’s sale in the Township of Cheltenham for use as a seminary and to hold small church services. The property was previously used as a seminary campus by another organization. The land, zoned for residential use, is more than 30 acres and has a 110 room mansion and another 44 room hall. Now in disrepair, these structures were built more than 100 years ago for an industrialist during what is known as the “Gilded Age.”
Placerville, CA – The Placerville City Council will hear an appeal, Tuesday, from a small church regarding the denial of their conditional use permit (CUP) by the City's Planning Commission. Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) sent a letter Friday informing the City of the potential legal violations the commission committed—including violation of the Federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), as well as the Federal and State Constitution.
In a December 4th decision, the Planning Commission denied the CUP of Mercy Way Rescue, a small church which ministers to the homeless in the mountain community. In a 2-2 vote—which is an automatic denial—the Planning Commission went against its own Planning Department's staff report recommendation to approve the CUP, and placed the church in jeopardy of immediate shutdown.