Monday, August 20, 2018

Ongoing Case Update: Zhang v. Chinese Anti-Cult World Alliance, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90107 (E.D.N.Y. May 30, 2018)


This is a continuation of the case previously discussed in this post. Plaintiffs are New York residents who are practitioners of Falun Gong. Defendant organization is a New York non-profit whose mission is to expose Falun Gong as "an evil and dangerous threat to society." In addition to circulating pamphlets denouncing Falun Gong, members of the defendant organization allegedly engaged in harassment and altercation with the plaintiffs. Among other claims, plaintiffs claimed damages pursuant to Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (18 U.S.C. s. 248), which protects access to a place of religious worship. The defendants then challenged the constitutionality of FACEA, arguing the law exceeds the authority given to Congress under the Commerce Clause.

While the court noted that the constitutionality of FACEA was not obvious because it was enacted shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court significantly shifted its Commerce Clause analysis, the court nonetheless found FACEA constitutional as "[p]laces of religious worship can be areas of commerce." The court then certified this question for an interlocutory appeal.


In the early 20th century, it was the Jehovah's Witnesses who led the fight for religious freedom in the United States. In the 21st century, it's Falun Gong and its right to criticize the Chinese government. This opinion is from late May, but there is even greater urgency to this question as we are learning that the Chinese government likely have put more than a million Muslims in concentration camps. What a time we live in.

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