Sep 15, 2011

Plaintiff challenged her termination from a faith-based rehabilitation program, operated by the Boise Rescue Mission ("BRM"), as an unlawful instance of religious discrimination in contravention of the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), which bars housing discrimination against any person on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.  Plaintiff enrolled in the faith-based rehabilitation program at the direction of a state-court judge upon her conviction for drug-related crimes.  Once there, she was forced to attend religious programming and encouraged to convert to Christianity.  She was ultimately terminated from the program (which caused her to be returned to jail) because she demonstrated inadequate interest in adopting the Christian faith.  The federal district court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the ground that the FHA could not be applied to the BRM without burdening its free-exercise rights.  Plaintiff appealed to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 

On October 6, 2010, Americans United filed an amicus brief, arguing that the district court's ruling should be reversed because the FHA is a neutral law of general applicability, from which religious individuals and organizations have no free exercise right to be excused.  Moreover, the brief contends that an exemption in the FHA for noncommercial religious organizations cannot be interpreted to allow the unwanted indoctrination of individuals who reside at the BRM because this would result in a conflict between the exemption and the Establishment Clause.  The Ninth Circuit has scheduled oral argument for March 11, 2011.