This Week Online: Civil Forfeiture and RFRA’s return 2/20-2/27

February 27, 2015

The ACLU of Michigan is tracking hundreds of legal cases and pieces of legislation that impact your civil liberties at any given moment, covering all concerns from free speech to government abuse. That's why we like to point out a few cases that made the news each week, to keep our members and supporters up to date on threats in your neighborhood.

Emergency cell phone location disclosure proposal facing pushback in Michigan House (MLIVE)
The ACLU of Michigan opposed similar legislation as introduced last session but has worked lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to add additional protections. With previous changes and potential amendments, including the Courser proposal, legislative liaison Shelli Weisberg said the ACLU could support the bill.

Judge OKs atheist's 'reason station' in city hall (Free Press)
If a church can have a prayer station inside city hall, then an atheist can have a reason station there, too. That's what a federal judge concluded today in ordering the city of Warren to allow an atheist man to set up a so-called "reason station" in the atrium at city hall, similar to the one his religious counterparts have.

Saugatuck responds to ACLU lawsuit, denies violating rights of street musicians (Holland Sentinel)
In a response to a federal lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, the city of Saugatuck has denied it violated the First Amendment Rights of two street musicians it asked to stop performing on downtown sidewalks and said it was simply enforcing a city ordinance.

Ferndale police, city staff to undergo diversity and sensitivity training, deny racial profiling (Macomb Daily)
Ferndale police and city department heads will undergo diversity and sensitivity training, but officials continue to deny that police have engaged in racial profiling of motorists. Police Chief Timothy Collins said the city had already planned to do diversity training before the ACLU made its allegation. “Admittedly, the ACLU letter got the issue on the front burner and got us thinking about getting the (diversity) training done,” he said. “The training is a good thing, and we’re happy to do it.”

Religious objection bills reemerge in Lansing (WZZM13)
As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to decide this spring if same-sex marriage should be legal in Michigan and other states across the country, legislation aimed at protecting businesses and agencies from providing services that conflict with their religious beliefs is making its way through the state Capitol. Such a bill could provide protections to the Roseville pediatrician who recently refused to provide medical care for the baby of a lesbian couple, said Shelli Weisberg, legislative liaison for the ACLU of Michigan.

Police seize property and cash in questionable raids (Detroit Free Press)
Thomas Williams was alone that November morning in 2013 when police raided his rural St. Joseph County home, wearing black masks, camouflage and holding guns at their sides. They broke down his front door with a battering ram. The seizure was allowed under Michigan's Civil Asset Forfeiture laws, which allow police to take property from citizens if they suspect a crime was committed, even when there is not enough evidence to charge them. Homeowners like Williams have to prove they did not purchase their property with proceeds from criminal activity and then sue to get the property back.

Same-sex marriage dispute in Michigan could shape national policy (Crain’s Detroit)
A Detroit federal judge's decision to strike down Michigan's 2004 ban on same-sex marriage was widely anticipated when it came last March out of a Hazel Park couple's lawsuit. But the dispute has taken on a few twists in the courts since then, and could shape a new national policy on such marriages.