Hoaward Friedman, Religion Clause
Last year, the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals remanded to the federal district court an as applied challenge by Jehovah’s Witnesses to Puerto Rico’s Controlled Access Law, instructing the district court to create remedies for the infringement of religious freedom posed by gated communities to Jehovah’s Witnesses who want to enter neighborhoods to proselytize. (See prior posting.) The appeals court, in its decision, recognized that accommodating Jehovah’s Witnesses creates more problems in cases where, instead of having guards at gates, the gates are unmanned and controlled by resident-operated buzzers. Now, on remand, in Watchtower Bible Tract Society of New York v. Municipality of Santa Isabel, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85593 ( PR, June 18, 2012), a Puerto Rico federal district court has certified to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court the question of whether the Access Control Law permits the use of unmanned control access gates, and if so, whether the use of such gates violates provisions in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s Constitution that protect freedom of religion and freedom of movement.