Another Victory for Anti-Religious Bigots

 

A full panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that two Wisconsin high schools violated religious freedom by holding graduation ceremonies in a (gasp!) church.

Never mind that students in the school district had repeatedly voted to use the church (because it had air conditioning, good parking, etc), and never mind that the students held fundraisers to pay for the rental fee. The Court held that the whole arrangement violated “the First Amendment’s core value of protecting members of minority faiths and non-believers from persecution and exclusion by religious majorities,” in the words of concurring judge David Hamilton.

Speaking of Judge Hamilton, he was the district court judge who, in 2005, held that state legislators could not openly pray to “Jesus” without violating the Constitution, but they could pray to “Allah.” Given his judicial philosophy, it’s no wonder that President Obama elevated Hamilton to the Seventh Circuit. Given another 4 years, Obama might get Hamilton on the Supreme Court (see my earlier post on What’s at Stake in this election).

The original meaning of the Establishment Clause was to prevent the federal government from interfering with State laws recognizing (or not) religions, hence the command that Congress shall make no law “respecting” an establishment of religion. In other words, the Establishment Clause is a federalism provision — it gives states and localities the freedom to engage in precisely the sort of cooperative efforts at work in Wisconsin, as long as those efforts do not impinge on anybody’s right to “free exercise” of religion. Clearly, holding a graduation ceremony in a rented church building does not trample on anybody’s free exercise.

The full text of the decision, including good dissents by Judges Posner, Easterbrook, and Ripple, is here.

There are 21 comments.

  1. BrentB67 Inactive

    Adam when I read about this I saw that the plaintiffs were anonymous. Is that possible? How does anyone know if they have standing to bring the case? What happened to facing our accusers, etc.?

    • #1
    • July 24, 2012, at 10:36 AM PDT
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  2. Brian Clendinen Member

    And everyone thinks I am crazy when I say there are quite a few federal judges who should be doing jail time for treason because they are violating their oath of office and establishing a form of lawlessness by destabilizing classic liberalisms concept of rule of law. A few federal supreme court justices are on that list.

    I wonder if any of the judges have ever read Bastiats “The Law”. Be intresting to see just how bad their legal reasoning would be on why Bastiat is wrong.

    • #2
    • July 24, 2012, at 10:44 AM PDT
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  3. ConservativeWanderer Inactive

    Our nation is doomed. That’s all there is to it.

    • #3
    • July 24, 2012, at 10:46 AM PDT
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  4. Albert Arthur Coolidge

    That is pretty nuts, alright. This is why atheists annoy me (I doubt that the lawsuit was brought by, say, Shakers). All they do is complain about how oppressed they are.

    • #4
    • July 24, 2012, at 10:50 AM PDT
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  5. KC Mulville Inactive

    Multiple ironies (i.e., stupidities) here, but I’ll mention the one that most annoys me.

    • The ObamaCare assault on religious liberty claims that the federal government is going to recognize “worship” as the only legitimate religious activity.
    • The ministry that churches do is considered insufficiently religious. The hospitals and universities and orphanages don’t qualify as religious.

    And yet, here we have a case where the building is rented for its size and air conditioning … no religious ministry at all … and yet the Court claims that it’s a religious act, and that others are harmed by its “ministry.” Caring for the sick doesn’t count as religious, but apparently building-rental does. They’re saying that Jesus wanted all of his followers to landlord. 

    How do you square that?

    • #5
    • July 24, 2012, at 10:53 AM PDT
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  6. Israel P. Inactive

    There should be a law whereby judges who are reversed more than a set number of times (absolutely or per year or however), are automatically relieved of their robes.

    • #6
    • July 24, 2012, at 10:54 AM PDT
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  7. Ron Selander Member

    The following is (unfortunately) one of my most quoted Bible verses:

    “But these men revile whatever they do not understand….”

    Jude 10a RSV

    • #7
    • July 24, 2012, at 11:14 AM PDT
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  8. Mel Foil Inactive

    They might get Jesus cooties, and start smiling and hugging people.

    • #8
    • July 24, 2012, at 11:26 AM PDT
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  9. Bradley Ross Member

    From the decision:

    Displaying religious iconography and distributing religious literature in a classroom setting raises constitutional objections because the practice may do more than provide public school students with knowledge of Christian tenets, an obviously permissible aim of a broader curriculum. … The concern is that religious displays in the classroom tend to promote religious beliefs, and students might feel pressure to adopt them.”

    I wonder what would happen if some group of people in the community were to organize a formal religion dedicated to, say, the environmental movement. Would it no longer be permissible to hold graduation ceremonies in a building that had recycling receptacles?

    • #9
    • July 24, 2012, at 11:48 AM PDT
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  10. midnightgolfer Inactive

    I believe that with freedom from State-sponsored religion should come freedom from State-sponsored atheism.

    Maybe it’s just me?

    • #10
    • July 24, 2012, at 11:50 AM PDT
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  11. Profile Photo Member

    A similar thing is happening in our suburban Atlanta county. We hold our graduations in a very large ‘mega church’ whose sanctuary holds 6,000+ people. It’s a wonderful venue with full A/V capabilities for streaming graduation ceremonies so out of town relatives can join with us in the happy occasion.

    Last year, People for Separation of Church and State (or something like that) came in and tried to stop it. The Board of Ed. and the county gov’t voted to hold it nonetheless as the space made the most sense physically and fiscally.

    Even though I’m Jewish, I am very happy that our county has this church and have no problem – nor do both of my kids who walked across the stage/pulpit, by the way – with the venue. We all hope that these DC agitators stay in DC and don’t force what will probably be a very expensive lawsuit.

    This goes beyond nuts and it must finally be stopped. The old saw is still accurate: freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion.

    • #11
    • July 25, 2012, at 1:02 AM PDT
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  12. Adam Freedman Contributor
    Adam Freedman Post author
    BrentB67: Adam when I read about this I saw that the plaintiffs were anonymous. Is that possible? How does anyone know if they have standing to bring the case? What happened to facing our accusers, etc.? · 1 hour ago

    The confrontation clause applies in criminal cases, not civil cases like this one. That said, I’m not sure exactly why plaintiffs were allowed to sue as “John Doe’s” – perhaps because they were minors at the time the action was filed.

    • #12
    • July 25, 2012, at 1:44 AM PDT
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  13. Adam Freedman Contributor
    Adam Freedman Post author
    Dave Carter: Term limits for judges and justices, anyone? Just wondering… · 1 hour ago

    An attractive idea, especially since Republican appointees tend to drift left, er, “evolve,” over time. Alas, the Constitution allows federal judges to stay on the bench for life, subject only to “good Behaviour.” Despite all the examples of judges behaving badly it is impossible to impeach a judge merely for rendering lousy decisions.

    • #13
    • July 25, 2012, at 1:48 AM PDT
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  14. Richard Russell Member

    If a majority voted to have the graduation ceremony in a mosque, presumably everyone would be fine with that too?

    • #14
    • July 25, 2012, at 3:36 AM PDT
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  15. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    The Court held that the whole arrangement violated “the First Amendment’s core value of protecting members of minority faiths and non-believers from persecution and exclusion by religious majorities,” in the words of concurring judge David Hamilton.

    Persecution and exclusion? What, the non-believers forced to attend a graduation ceremony in a church would be flayed as apostates as soon as they entered the building? Or they would feel, y’know, left out, if they didn’t join in with the flayers?

    The catastrophically stupid David Hamilton will do well, I suppose, in the fully enhugened federal Leviathan. There’s nothing quite like limp older dudes saving us from ourselves, from persecution, and exclusion. I’ll give him a call next time I’m excluded or persecuted when I don’t make the cut for high school band tryouts. 

    Perhaps he can hug away my sadness, in a perfectly safe and respectful and non-creepy manner, even if he is wearing a robe? Just what’s under there, actually? Is it persecuting me?

    • #15
    • July 25, 2012, at 3:50 AM PDT
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  16. Guruforhire Member

    Down with the tyranny of convenient parking!

    • #16
    • July 25, 2012, at 4:54 AM PDT
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  17. ConservativeWanderer Inactive
    Richard Russell: If a majority voted to have the graduation ceremony in a mosque, presumably everyone would be fine with that too? · 1 hour ago

    Edited 1 hour ago

    If that was the vote of the majority, sure.

    Or a synagogue, for that matter.

    • #17
    • July 25, 2012, at 5:25 AM PDT
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  18. Bradley Ross Member

    Reading the courts opinion, I was reminded of the “synonym game” where you follow chains to synonyms to turn a word into its opposite. White, snowy, hoary, stale, decayed, rotten, bad, evil, black. 

    It seems that the opinion of the court gets lost in the chain of previous court cases so long that it loses sight of the original law it is trying to interpret.

    • #18
    • July 25, 2012, at 7:45 AM PDT
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  19. Miffed White Male Member
    Richard Russell: If a majority voted to have the graduation ceremony in a mosque, presumably everyone would be fine with that too? ·

    As it happens, I’m an alumnus of one of the high schools involved in this case (Brookfield East, class of 1980). We held our graduation in the school gymnasium – 503 students in the graduating class, in June, no air conditioning, limited tickets for family due to lack of available seating.

    If the alternative has been a spacious, air-conditioned mosque, or temple, or satanist shrine, I’d have said “let’s go” without a moments hesistation. 

    Here’s the thing – if you’re not a believer, then a church is just another building. Who gives a rodents’ behind what the sign outside says or what picture are hanging on the wall?

     

    • #19
    • July 25, 2012, at 8:37 AM PDT
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  20. Miffed White Male Member
    Richard Russell: If a majority voted to have the graduation ceremony in a mosque, presumably everyone would be fine with that too?

    It just occurred to me that this raises an interesting hypothetical. 

    Recently in the same community there’s been some controversy over the building of a large mosque.

    Suppose the local Muslim community got together and in a spirit of outreach offered the use of the mosque building for the graduation ceremonies, free of charge.

    Would a lawsuit by the same plaitiffs to prevent the school district from accepting be seen as a blow for “separation of church and state”, or an ugly display of anti-Islamic bigotry?

    • #20
    • July 25, 2012, at 9:07 AM PDT
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  21. Dave Carter Contributor

    This sort of thing here is precisely why Newt was suggesting remedies to out of control jurists. Term limits for judges and justices, anyone? Just wondering…

    • #21
    • July 25, 2012, at 12:06 PM PDT
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