The Church in the Courts, 2024

The website “Court Listener” is a publicly available source for looking up cases around the country. By searching for the term “Latter-day” I looked for all cases involving the Church that were filed sometime during 2024. Of course, I am no lawyer (unlike By Common Consent, our bench is quite shallow on the legal side of things), so I uploaded the court PDFs to ChatGPT to explain the role of the Church in the respective case. I did not include one divorce case that was picked up or any case that simply cited a case that the Church was involved in. As seen, most of the Church’s involvement is with amicus briefs, or briefs filed by parties who are not directly involved in the case, but who want to make their perspective on the case known.  

People In Interest of C.M.W.R., 22CA0925 (Colo. Ct. App. 2024)

Colorado Court of Appeals

In the case referenced, the role of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is central to the incident under examination. Here are the key points:

  1. Incident Location: The fire occurred at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Meetinghouse in Fruita, Colorado.
  2. Damage: The fire resulted in more than one million dollars in damage to the church building.
  3. Connection to the Juvenile: The juvenile, identified in the case as C.M.W.R., was arrested in connection with this fire and subsequently charged with criminal mischief, first-degree arson, and second-degree burglary.

The involvement of the LDS Church primarily revolves around being the victim of the arson incident, which led to significant legal proceedings against the juvenile involved.

Young Israel of Tampa, Inc. v. Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, 22-11787 (11th Cir. 2024)

Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

In the Young Israel of Tampa case, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) was mentioned in a discussion about HART’s (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit) advertising policy. Specifically, it was highlighted to illustrate the inconsistent application of the policy. Tyler Rowland, HART’s communication and creative services manager, mentioned that he would allow an advertisement promoting the Book of Mormon because he did not recognize it as religious, thinking it was merely a book advertisement. This example was used to demonstrate the subjectivity and potential inconsistencies in applying HART’s policy, which prohibited advertisements primarily promoting a religious faith or organization.

Sullivan v. Lincoln Cnty. Water Dist., 140 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 4 (Nev. 2024)

Nevada Supreme Court

In the case you uploaded, involving consolidated appeals from a district court order granting petitions for judicial review in a water law matter, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is one of the respondents. The case involves the State Engineer’s authority to redesignate multiple existing hydrographic basins as a single “superbasin” for the purposes of water administration and management. The Church, along with other respondents, owns water rights throughout the new superbasin and petitioned for judicial review, alleging that the State Engineer lacked authority to conjunctively manage surface and groundwater and to jointly administer the multiple basins that form the Lower White River Flow System (LWRFS).

James Huntsman v. Corporation of the President, 21-56056 (9th Cir. 2024)

Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

This case needs no introduction or explanation.

In re H.H…., 2024 UT App 25

Court of Appeals of Utah

The role of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in the case “In re H.H.” is primarily seen through the interactions and involvement of its local leaders with the children involved in the case. Here are the key points:

  1. Support and Guidance: The children, who were practicing members of the LDS Church, sought guidance and support from church leaders. The church has structured youth programs with local lay leaders assigned to provide supervision and guidance. In this case, the church’s youth women’s leader (YW Leader) and the branch president (Branch President) provided counsel to the children without the parents’ knowledge, advising them to contact the leaders if they needed an escape or someone to talk to.
  2. Intervention during Crisis: When the younger daughters, Chloe, Felicity, and Hannah, sought help, the YW Leader brought them to meet with the Branch President at the local church. This meeting was intended to provide a safe space for the children to express their concerns away from their parents.
  3. Parental Confrontation: During one such meeting, the father became aware of the meeting and confronted the children and the church leaders. This confrontation included aggressive behavior from the father, which further highlighted the children’s distress and need for intervention.
  4. Reporting to Authorities: After witnessing the father’s behavior during the confrontation at the church, the Branch President felt compelled to take action. He wrote a detailed letter to the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) describing the situation and urging them to take the matter seriously due to the “terror and anguish” the girls were experiencing

Overall, the LDS Church played a crucial role in providing emotional support to the children and acted as a mediator by reporting the abusive environment to the authorities, thereby initiating further protective measures for the children.

Apache Stronghold v. USA, 21-15295 (9th Cir. 2024)

Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

In the case of Apache Stronghold v. United States, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, Apache Stronghold. The brief was also joined by the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, the Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team of the Religious Freedom Institute, and the Christian Legal Society. This group of amici curiae argued against the actions that would lead to the destruction of Oak Flat, a site sacred to the Western Apaches, emphasizing the importance of protecting religious exercise under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)

Catholic Charities Bureau, Inc. v. State of Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission, 2020AP002007 (Wis. 2024)

Wisconsin Supreme Court

In the case Catholic Charities Bureau, Inc. v. State of Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints filed an amicus curiae brief along with several other religious organizations. They supported Catholic Charities Bureau, arguing for the religious nature of charitable work and the importance of recognizing these activities as primarily religious, which is essential for tax exemption purposes under Wisconsin law.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined with other organizations such as the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, National Association of Evangelicals, American Islamic Congress, and others in this brief.

Hotchalk, Inc. v. Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, S069765 (Or. 2024)

Oregon Supreme Court

In the case Hotchalk, Inc. v. Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints filed an amicus curiae brief along with the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists and the Queens Federation of Churches. The brief was submitted by Gene C. Schaerr and James C. Phillips of Schaerr Jaffe LLP in Washington, D.C. The amici curiae supported the defendants, emphasizing the importance of protecting internal religious communications from disclosure during the discovery process to uphold religious freedom and governance rights under the First Amendment.

Lonnie Billard v. Charlotte Catholic High School, 22-1440 (4th Cir. 2024)

Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints filed an amicus brief in the case Lonnie Billard v. Charlotte Catholic High School. The brief supported the defendants (Charlotte Catholic High School and others) along with other religious organizations. The brief emphasized religious freedom and the rights of religious institutions to make employment decisions based on their religious beliefs without interference from employment discrimination laws like Title VII.

Here is a summary of the involvement:

  • Case: Lonnie Billard v. Charlotte Catholic High School
  • Role: Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court)
  • Position: Supported the defendants’ position, advocating for religious exemptions and protections under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The amicus brief was filed by multiple religious organizations, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, emphasizing the importance of protecting religious institutions’ autonomy in employment decisions that align with their religious beliefs.

 

 

4 comments for “The Church in the Courts, 2024

  1. “HART’s communication and creative services manager, mentioned that he would allow an advertisement promoting the Book of Mormon because he did not recognize it as religious.” That’s a bit of a slap in the face…

    I love that the church is defending Oak Flat and the native Americans though.

  2. The re HH. one is interesting. It’s also exactly what naysayers about the church say never happens. Yet there it is. I can’t imagine being a leader and calling protective services over one of my congregants’ families.

  3. Yeah, it’s sometimes nice to be able to see the non-sensational cases that don’t cause a scandal to put things in perspective.

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