Thursday, September 06, 2007


Blinking Furiously

The City of Slidell, Louisiana, has been sued by the ACLU for displaying a portrait of Christ holding an open Bible above the words "To Know Peace, Obey These Laws" in the public area of the City Court building.

Few people thought that this display could possibly survive a Constitutional challenge unless the City endured the expense of taking the case to the Supreme Court, with all the attendant costs and the danger of having to pay the plaintiff's costs if the City lost. Even then, it is far from a slam dunk that such a blatant religious display would be upheld by the more conservative Roberts Court.

Now, two months later, the City is belatedly applying some lipstick to this pig:

A lawyer for the city said expanding the display last Friday to include portraits of 15 "notable lawgivers in history," including Moses, Charlemagne, and Napoleon Bonaparte, should satisfy its critics. A framed copy of the Constitution also was added to the display at Slidell City Court. ...

The expanded display ... is modeled after one at the U.S. Supreme Court, said Michael Johnson, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian civil rights group representing the city.
Predictably, the ACLU was less than impressed:

Vincent Booth, president of the Louisiana ACLU chapter said it was "creative" but "ultimately disingenuous" to add other portraits to the display.

"I don't think it really changes anything," he said.
As Ed Brayton notes, this was the same tactic that the county governments tried with no success in McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky. While that was only a 5-4 decision that came before Justice O'Connor left, my experience is that Federal judges don't much like attempts to manipulate them. And it belies the City's confident claims that the original display was Constitutional.

But so it goes ...

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