Current Cases

 

Zhang et. al. v. CACWA

Case Summary and Documents

On March 2, 2015, HRLF filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of a group of individuals in Flushing, New York, who were allegedly targeted for violence and intimidation as a result of their actual or perceived status as Falun Gong believers. The alleged perpetrators are individuals associated with an organization called the Chinese Anti-Cult World Alliance, an anti-Falun Gong organization with alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Plaintiffs filed claims under federal civil rights statutes and a New York hate crimes statute, as well as claims for assault, battery, and other torts. After the Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ federal claims, District Court Judge Sandra Townes adopted Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon’s report and recommendation which recommended that Defendants’ motion be denied in its entirety.

Following discovery proceedings, both parties cross-moved for summary judgment. In a 49-page opinion issued on April 23, 2018, Judge Jack B. Weinstein held that fact issues precluded summary judgment on state claims but granted Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether Falun Gong qualifies as religion under U.S. law. Specifically, the court held that “the history and tradition in American constitutional law and the beliefs of most of the population of the United States mandates a finding that Falun Gong is a religion…” contrary to defendants’ denial that Falun Gong is a religion, a narrative constantly propagated by the Chinese Communist Party in its persecution of Falun Gong.

Defendants subsequently raised a challenge to the constitutionality of Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACEA), on which one of Plaintiffs’ federal claims is based. Under that statute, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants had committed violence and intimidation against them at places of religious worship, namely the spiritual tables Falun Gong believer operate in Flushing to proselytize. Judge Weinstein issued an opinion on May 30, 2018, upholding the constitutionality of FACEA but certifying the question for interlocutory appeal.

Defendant-Appellants submitted their Appellate Brief on December 18, 2018. Plaintiff-Appellees submitted an Answering Brief on March 19, 2019. The Defendant-Appellants replied on April 3, 2019. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments of the issue on Oct 3, 2019.

In October 2021, the Second Circuit issued its decision. The panel rejected Defendants’ argument that FACEA protects only fixed “places of worship” like churches.  Instead, it held that a “place of religious worship” is “anywhere that religious adherents collectively recognize or religious leadership designates as a place primarily to gather for or hold religious worship activities.” While the panel acknowledged that Falun Gong believers pray at the spiritual tables, it concluded that there was insufficient evidence in the record to show that worship or proselytizing is the “primary” purpose of the tables. The panel did not dispute that Falun Gong is a religion.  

Plaintiffs sought rehearing of the decision, pointing to the substantial evidence in the record the panel overlooked showing that the primary purpose of the tables is to proselytize, a protected form of religious worship.  That petition was denied.

On May 6, 2022, Plaintiffs filed a petition for a writ of certiorari.  In their petition, Plaintiffs explain how the Second Circuit’s interpretation of the phrase “place of religious worship” is inconsistent with the plain text of the statute and how the Second Circuit’s interpretation will lead to discrimination against new or minority faiths. Leading religious liberty organizations, an expert on the First Amendment, and a coalition of 24 states filed amicus briefs in support of Plaintiffs’ petition.

For more information, contact the Human Rights Law Foundation at ‪‪(202) 697-3858‬‬.‬‬

Documents

 

District Court

Mar 3 2015 Plaintiffs’ Complaint
Jun 5 2015 Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
Jul 21 2015 Plaintiffs’ Opposition Letter to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
Aug 5 2015 Defendant’s Reply to Plaintiffs’ Opposition Letter
Aug 17 2015 Plaintiffs’ Sur-reply
Jan 28 2016 Magistrate Judge’s Report & Recommendations dismissing Defendant’s MTD
Mar 22 2016 District court’s order adopting Magistrate Judge’s Report & Recommendations
Jan 26 2018 Plaintiffs’ First Motion for Summary Judgment (asking court to recognize Falun Gong as a religion)
Jan 26 2018 Defendant’s Opposition to Plaintiffs’ First Motion for Summary Judgment
Apr 23 2018 District court’s opinion granting partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiff (establishing Falun Gong as a religion)
May 21 2018 Plaintiffs’ memorandum in Support of Constitutionality of FACEA
May 21 2018 Defendants’ supplemental brief on Unconstitutionality of FACEA
May 25 2018 Plaintiffs’ Response to Defendant’s supplemental brief on the Constitutionality of FACEA
May 25 2018 Defendants’ Reply to Plaintiff’s response as to the Constitutionality of FACEA
May 30 2018 District Court opinion denying Defendants’ challenges to the Constitutionality of FACEA and certifying case for interlocutory appeal
 

Appellate Court

Dec 18 2018 Defendant-Appellants’ Opening Brief
Mar 19 2019 Plaintiff-Apellees’ Response Brief
Mar 25 2019 Amicus Brief by Muslim Advocates
Apr 03 2019 Defendants’ Reply Brief
Oct 14 2021 Panel Decision
Nov 18 2021 Petition for Panel Rehearing or Rehearing En Banc
  Supreme Court
May 6 2022 Petition for a Writ of Certiorari
June 6 2022 Brief Amicus Curiae of First Liberty Institute
June 9 2022 Brief Amicus Curiae of Professor John D. Inazu 
June 9 2022 Brief Amici Curiae of West Virginia and 23 Other States
June 9 2022 Brief Amicus Curiae of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
July 11 2022 Brief of Respondents in Opposition
Aug 31 2022 Reply in Support of Petition

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