Religion clauses

  • August 29, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Arit John reports for The Wire that six plaintiffs are suing the police forces in Ferguson and St. Louis County for civil rights abuses.

    In The New York Times, Julia Preston writes on a new immigration policy that permits asylum to foreign women who are victims of severe domestic violence.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center reports on its efforts to stop the jailing of those unable to pay probation fees in Alabama.

    Conor Friedersdorf writes in The Atlantic on police harassment in light of a controversial video showing a man arrested while picking up his kids from school.

    In Politico, Maggie Severns explains how a ruling in Los Angeles on Thursday sets up a battle over teacher protections. 

  • August 13, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    The Editorial Board of The New York Times explores the racial history that underlies the Ferguson, Mo. protests and the death of Michael Brown.  Peniel E. Joseph of The Root provides additional perspective in looking at the echoes of the Watts Rebellion in the protests.

    Brian Beutler of the New Republic writes that the claims of Halbig “Truthers” do not stand up to close scrutiny.

    The Washington Post’s Bonnie Berkowitz, Lazaro Gamio, Dan Keating, and Richard Johnson provide a breakdown of those put to death since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

    The Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times argues against religious exemptions to the executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  

    The Equal Justice Initiative reports on a new study that finds “people were more supportive of harsh criminal justice policies the more African Americans they believed were in prison.”

  • June 17, 2014

    Although law and ideology are the main factors that impact a judge’s ruling, Adam Liptak reports on a new influencing interest: having a daughter. Writing for The New York Times, Liptak discusses why personal experience is informing the law.
     
    The Supreme Court denied certiorari in Elmbrook School District v. Doe, where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that it is unconstitutional to hold a graduation ceremony in a church. At Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Leslie C. Griffin examines Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent.
     
    Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld a ban on “straw purchases,” the purchase of a gun by one person for another. Nina Totenberg at NPR explains what the victory means for gun control advocates.
     
    A growing number of today’s inmates are women. Oliver Roeder at the Brennan Center for Justice reports on this growing phenomenon.
     
    The Associated Press notes that Texas has the highest number of judicial vacancies in the country. 
  • May 8, 2014
    Guest Post

    by James C. Nelson, Justice, Montana Supreme Court (Retired)

    I am a non-believer. I became one late in my adult life because I was disgusted with the hypocrisy of religion in general and with the Catholic Church in particular. My decision was grounded in more hours of study and contemplation than I care to estimate. I do not believe in, much less pray to, any god.

    And my point with that opening is that the religion clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protect my fundamental right to be a non-believer; they insure, among other things, that my various federal, state, county and local governments cannot require me – directly or indirectly – to participate in any religious exercise. Read together these religion clauses form the wall of separation between church and state that the framers intended. They keep – or at least they are supposed to keep – religion out of government and government out of religion.

    That is why I cannot not accept the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 5, decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway. In that case the Court held that the town opening its  official board meetings with a Christian prayer offered by members of the clergy does not violate the First Amendment and does not discriminate against minority faiths or coerce participation with non-adherents. 

    The Court’s decision is flat wrong. It respects neither the history underpinning the adoption of the religion clauses, the wall of separation, nor the reality that “We the People” are a pluralistic and diverse society encompassing all degrees of sectarian believers, agnostics and athiests. Nonetheless, that decision is now the law of the land—created from whole cloth and judicially blessed by the right wing Christian majority of our Nation’s highest Court. And, that puts me in a box.

    For many years I have stood during opening prayers in public meetings of federal, state and local government. I did so out of a sense of respect for the beliefs of others and for decorum – notwithstanding my personal dis-belief in the prayer and the god prayed-to. But, while respect can be freely given, it cannot be compelled.  And, thus, The Town of Greece leaves me but one option.

    I will stand no longer for prayer! I will not, as the Supreme Court suggests, leave the room during the invocation. Rather, I will sit during the prayer in the meeting room in which I am constitutionally entitled to assemble. I will not be bullied nor will I be shamed into standing. After all, it is not I who is violating the constitutional separation of church and state. I cannot and will not be compelled to participate in any fashion in government sponsored prayer.

  • May 7, 2014
    Guest Post
    by William P. Marshall, William Rand Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law
     
    There are myriad critiques that one might level at the Town of Greece v. Galloway decision—its lack of concern for messages of exclusion and the protection of minority religious rights being at the top of the list. But lack of predictability is not one of them.
     
    My guess is that not many people were ultimately surprised by the decision. Most everybody expected that the Court was not going to use the case to significantly alter existing Establishment Clause doctrine. Most everybody predicted that the Court’s decision would likely be 5-4 and that Justice Kennedy would cast the deciding vote. And most everybody agreed that because the decision would rest with Justice Kennedy, the Court’s opinion would be indecipherable no matter which way he sided. The oracles were three for three.
     
    Let’s begin with prediction one. That the Court might overturn Marsh v. Chambers, the 1983 decision upholding legislative prayer was never really much of a possibility. The plaintiffs themselves argued only that the Town of Greece’s prayer practice should be modified to be less sectarian and more inclusionary and even Justice Kagan’s dissent did not call for invalidating all legislative prayer.
     
    Nor was it likely from the other side that the Court would overrule precedents limiting government sponsored prayer in more controversial settings such as public classrooms and public school graduation ceremonies. Justice Kennedy, after all, was the author of Lee v. Weisman, the decision that specifically invalidated convocation prayer.