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  1. BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A state agency has determined that the Montana Women's Prison discriminated against an inmate on the basis of religion. The Billings Gazette reports that the Montana Human Rights Bureau found in February there was "reasonable cause" to believe there was discrimination against Mayson Simmons. Simmons' complaint filed in August says the Department of Corrections and the prison in Billings violated the law by allowing inmates of other religious faiths to use a prison chapel for services while denying access to Jehovah's Witnesses. The bureau says it did not find sufficient evidence to back up Simmons' claims she was denied a Jehovah's Witness bible or that she was discriminated against based on her gender and a disability. Prison officials deny any discrimination occurred. The case will proceed to a formal hearing. https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Montana-agency-finds-religious-discrimination-13776486.php
  2. Raley's will pay clerk who said late shift before Thanksgiving was religious discrimination BY SAM STANTON June 28, 2018 Hit with a federal suit claiming Raley’s engaged in religious discrimination when it fired a clerk four years ago, the supermarket chain has agreed to pay the worker $140,000, revise its policies and provide new training to its supervisors. The agreement comes in the form of a consent decree filed Thursday in federal court in Sacramento between the West Sacramento-based chain and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued Raley’s last September. Raley’s denied the allegations in the suit, but agreed to settle to avoid “the expense, delay, and burden of further litigation,” court documents say. The case stems from the firing of Jennifer Webb, a courtesy clerk at a Raley’s store in Chico who had been scheduled to work a Wednesday night shift the evening before Thanksgiving 2014. Webb is a Jehovah’s Witness and had told Raley’s supervisors before her hiring in May 2014 that she could not work shifts after 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and before 4 p.m. on Sundays because she had to attend religious meetings at those times, court documents say. Raley’s accommodated her scheduling needs until the day before Thanksgiving when she was scheduled to work from 2 p.m. until 11 p.m. Webb told Raley’s supervisors before that day that she could not work as scheduled because of her beliefs, but was told that because of the busy Thanksgiving holiday “it didn’t matter” and that she needed to report as scheduled, according to the EEOC complaint. Webb showed up at 2 p.m., but when she told a supervisor she could not stay past 5 p.m., she was fired, the complaint says. Raley’s disputed Webb’s claims, saying after the suit was filed that she abruptly left work and failed to respond to subsequent efforts by Raley’s to contact her or schedule new work shifts. In a statement issued Thursday, Raley's spokeswoman Chelsea Minor said the company "has always been committed to providing its employees with a first-class work environment and respecting each of their religious practices; Ms. Webb was no exception." "During the short period of time Ms. Webb worked for Raley’s, the company regularly accommodated her need for time off to accommodate her religious beliefs and child care needs. Indeed, in the EEOC’s allegations against Raley’s, they and Ms. Webb readily admitted that Raley’s regularly accommodated her needs. "The EEOC’s and Ms. Webb’s entire claim was based on Ms. Webb’s allegation that Raley’s provided her with a shift on Wednesday, November 26, 2014, that conflicted with her religious observance. On that day, Ms. Webb abruptly left work. When store management attempted to call her to discuss her departure from work, she refused to respond. "Ultimately, the company separated her employment because Ms. Webb did not report to work for subsequent shifts and did not reply to the company’s attempts to contact her." The consent agreement calls for Raley's to pay Webb $25,000 in back pay and $115,000 in compensatory damages. The supermarket chain also agreed to purge its records of any disciplinary action taken against her, change them to reflect she voluntarily resigned and provide her a “neutral letter of reference,” according to the consent decree signed by U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez. Raley’s also agreed to review and revise written policies on providing religious accommodations and to prohibit retaliation against employees seeking such accommodations. "The revised policy also will make clear to supervisors that upon receiving a request for an accommodation of a sincerely held religious belief under the policy, (Raley's) shall consider the request and engage in an interactive process," the consent decree says, adding that the policy will "clarify that an employer has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations." The consent decree will be in effect for three years and includes a requirement that a notice about the agreement be posted in the Chico store on an employee bulletin board or other visible locations. Raley's is a privately held company with 123 stores in Northern California and Nevada and employs about 12,000 people. Source http://amp.sacbee.com/news/business/article214014214.html
  3. Key West to settle religious discrimination suit by former bus driver History of theFantasy Fest
  4. 2 March 2017 MOSCOW (AP) - The leader of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is calling on the head of the Kremlin's human rights council to prevent what the denomination fears is an imminent total ban on the religion. The Jehovah's Witnesses, who claim more than 170,000 faithful in Russia, have come under increasing pressure in recent years, including a ban on distributing literature deemed to violate Russia's anti-extremism laws. In February, investigators conducted an inspection of the religion's headquarters in St. Petersburg, which could be a precursor to a ban. "A ban on its activity in Russia would cause uneasiness throughout the world," the religion's Russian leader, Vasily Kalin, said in a letter to presidential human rights council head Mikhail Fedotov. A copy was made available to The Associated Press on Thursday. MailOnline
  5. The government of Rwanda took a step toward eliminating religious discrimination in schools by issuing an order that mandates respect for the religious beliefs of students. This is welcome news to students whose conscience does not allow them to participate in certain school activities. In Rwanda, most schools are government subsidized but administered by religious organizations. Enrollment is open to the public, so students who attend these schools may belong to various religions. However, some school authorities have rigidly enforced religious or patriotic activities or required payment of church taxes. They have punished students whose religious beliefs do not allow them to comply. A government minister in charge of primary and secondary education characterized the prevailing attitude among some school administrators this way: “Our students are not allowed to worship in a way that contradicts our beliefs.” Government Order Reinforces Freedom of Conscience Government officials stepped in to correct the problem with an executive order containing new regulations intended to eliminate religious discrimination in schools. Article 12 of the government’s Order No. 290/03, published in the Official Gazette on December 14, 2015, states that each school shall respect the freedom of worship of the students and allow them to pray in accordance with their faith if their religion or church is legally accepted and if doing so does not interfere with teaching and learning at the school. Each school shall respect the freedom of worship of the students.—Order No. 290/03, Article 12 The government’s action reinforces the decision of the Intermediate Court of Karongi, which involved Witness students who were expelled from a local school in May 2014. The school authorities there did not honor the students’ refusal to participate in a religious service sponsored by the school. The court exonerated the students of any wrongdoing, and they were able to continue their education. In another case, the headmaster of a school in the Ngororero District refused to give report cards to 30 students who refused to pay church tax (not part of tuition or school fees). When the parents of the students complained to the director in charge of education in the district, the headmaster finally relented and gave reports to all the students at the end of the academic year. Relief for Witness Students Chantal Uwimbabazi, a Witness student, was dismissed from her school in the Ngororero District because she would not attend the school-sponsored Catholic Mass. She endured ridicule from her classmates and others and was unable to continue her education for an entire year. She eventually enrolled in another school farther from her home and with higher school fees, a hardship for her widowed mother of humble means. When Chantal learned about the new regulations, she was relieved. “I think other students in similar circumstances in religious schools will also enjoy their education without any violation of their rights,” said Chantal. The new regulation is in harmony with the Rwanda Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion and the right to an education. Students who are Jehovah’s Witnesses and their parents look forward to seeing incidents of religious discrimination come to an end. They are grateful for the government’s action to protect the religious freedom of schoolchildren. 802016685_E_cnt_01.mp3
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