Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Follow Through By the ACLU
As previously noted, the ACLU was threatening to sue Slidell, Louisiana because a portrait of Christ holding an open Bible above the words "To Know Peace, Obey These Laws" was hanging in the City Court building.
The ACLU has now filed the suit. The City Court judge, James Lamz, consulted with a Constitutional law expert before refusing to remove the painting:
Douglas Laycock, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School who has argued before the Supreme Court.I expect that the advice was based on the change in the composition of the Supreme Court and the fact that Justice Kennedy is now the "swing vote" between the conservative and the moderate (not "liberal" in my book) wings of the Court. In the most recent case about religious displays on public property, McCreary County v. ACLU, Justice Kennedy joined in only part of Justice Scalia's dissent, indicating that he would not agree to do away with the Lemon test, particularly it's "purpose prong," altogether but neither would he go along with the most expansive version of Justice O'Connor's "objective observer" test. Just where Kennedy will come down between those two positions is uncertain.
Laycock said he told Lamz that the legal issues in the case aren't clear-cut and could set legal precedent.
"I don't know how far the two sides will want to push things," Laycock added.
On the other hand, the case in Slidell is rather blatant, with none of the "balancing" factors present in McCreary, where the 10 Commandments were joined by framed copies of the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner, the Mayflower Compact, the National Motto, the Preamble to the Kentucky Constitution, and a picture of Lady Justice (the majority in McCreary found these items, only added later, were, in effect, a sham).
Quite aside from that, during this Blog Against Theocracy period, is the good townfolks' defense of this display. For example, Slidell Mayor Ben Morris claims the ACLU is an "American Taliban" out to "destroy our culture and heritage."
Now where have I heard that before? Oh, I know ... the equally good folks of Georgetown, Delaware. When Jewish parents there objected to Christian prayers at the public school graduation of their daughter, a local talk show host accused them of "interfering with our traditions ... interfering with our faith."
Included in those "traditions" was one of the local "faithful" telling the mother at a public school board meeting, after her son read a statement saying "I feel bad when kids in my class call me 'Jew boy,'" that:
If you want people to stop calling him 'Jew boy,' you tell him to give his heart to Jesus.That's part of the "culture" I have no problem trying to destroy.
Update: There is word from Professor Laycock through Professor Peter Irons about his actual advice to Judge Lamz. He told the judge "that with the split decision in the Ten Commandment cases and Roberts and Alito added to the Court and Kennedy all over the map, if they litigated it, it could come out either way, and that's what he chose to run with. It's left me looking a bit like the village idiot."
Don't feel so bad Professor! The reasonably knowledgeable crowd knows the village better than that.
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