First Amendment

The New Secular Puritan Covenant

Thanksgiving brings back memories for Americans of the Pilgrims and Puritans, carrying out their “errand into the wilderness” to build a “city on a hill,” surviving that first bleak Massachusetts winter of 1620-21. As a kid, I remember that cutting out Puritan hats from black construction paper and taping them to the school windows was [...]

Taken for a Ride? Islam and Religious Liberty

President Erdogan, who is rapidly turning Turkey into a Caliphate, once said that “Democracy is just the train we board to reach our destination.” Is religious liberty also a train that Islamists ride until they reach their stop? That’s an increasingly urgent question now that mosques are popping up all over the landscape of Europe, [...]

Should Different Religions Be Treated Differently?

When the planning board of Bernards Township, New Jersey, turned down a plan to build a mosque, the local Islamic society turned around and sued the town for discrimination. Now, a federal judge has ruled that a parking requirement imposed by the township on the mosque was discriminatory. Adeel Mangi, the Islamic society’s lawyer, praised [...]

New Book Offers Sophisticated Defense of Religious Liberty

We are living in a moment of peril. It is also a moment of opportunity. Our liberal friends are currently gnashing their teeth, worrying that the end may be near. In their minds, dark forces of tribalism and hatred are descending from all sides to obliterate them. After years of having similar feelings ourselves, it’s [...]

US Civil Rights Commission Targets Religious Liberty

On September 7, 2016, the US Commission on Civil Rights issued a report entitled Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties. The report has not received the attention it deserves. Should the next president appoint and the Senate approve judges and justices that agree with its findings, the report will serve as a playbook [...]

Liberalism: An Established Religion

Governments have often minimized religious conflict by establishing one religion and granting it privileges even where others are tolerated. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution left such power to the states, saying only that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion....” Following the enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment, however, the [...]

Is There a Wall of Separation Between Church and State?

Until 1947, few Americans knew about Thomas Jefferson’s comment, made in a private letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, that the First Amendment’s guarantee against a federally established church made a “wall of separation between church and state.” It was in that year, in the case of Everson v. Board of Education, that the Supreme Court [...]

Latest Critic of Religious Liberty Reveals His Ignorance of Religion

In Why Tolerate Religion? Brian Leiter, author of the Leiter Reports blog and a law professor at the University of Chicago who has an interest in philosophy, asks why Western democracies have sought to promote and protect religion—and religious liberty—in both law and culture. He explores this question because he’s puzzled by it. As he [...]

Obama Repeals First Amendment

No, I’m not exaggerating. The American experiment in religious liberty is officially over. The First Amendment provided institutional structures that allow different religions to peacefully coexist. All groups agree to not try to capture governmental structures for the benefit of their own particular denomination. But the Obama administration has ended that truce.  The administration made [...]

A Setback for the Secularists?

Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court decided a case filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a teacher against a church-operated grade school in Michigan. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, No. 10-553 (January 11, 2012). (The Slip Opinion, the official pre-publication version of the Court’s decision, [...]

The Government as Lawbreaker, Again

Can Congress make legal something that is inherently wrong, and can Congress take a freedom that is a part of our humanity and make its exercise criminal? If there were no First Amendment, would we still have the freedom of speech? The answer, like many in the law, depends on what values underlie the legal [...]

A Free Speech Challenge for Parents

Should a 13-year-old be able to purchase a school-shooting simulator without parents’ knowledge or consent? The Supreme Court says that freedom of speech requires that 13-year-olds have that opportunity. In a 7-2 decision, the court struck down a California law barring the sale of graphically violent video games to people under 18. I have not [...]

Who’s Afraid of a Little Freedom of Speech?

Free speech has always been one of our most cherished rights. It has come under attack repeatedly by those who find it to be an inconvenient and unwanted obstacle to the attainment of their political goals. Sometimes, those in positions of power ignore the First Amendment and issue laws and regulations to silence their opponents. [...]

The Lone Dissenter

Earlier today, the Supreme Court decided 8-1 in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church's right to be egregiously hateful by protesting at military funerals. Offensive as their speech may be, the majority opinion states that they have a right to it: Westboro believes that America is morally flawed; many Americans might feel the same about [...]

Frog-Marching Us into Sodom

Friends told me my predictions of January 1 were a teensy tad cynical: "You keep trying to prove you're the Catholic Mencken. Cut it out -- you're depressing the laity," was a comment that came back to me. More feedback: "Thanks! I'll start the new year by slashing my other wrist." Still more: "Why didn't [...]

More Biebls in the Classroom

Does the First Amendment need protection from itself? A case from Washington State, although just rejected by the Supreme Court, suggests it might: Franz Biebl, a perfectly pleasant Bavarian composer, has been banned there, in Snohomish County. Worse, it was Biebl's most popular work, his setting of "Ave Maria," that was expelled from Henry "Scoop" [...]

Baltimore archdiocese fights ruling against crisis pregnancy centers

You'll recall the law recently passed in Baltimore requiring crisis pregnancy centers to advertise that they don't provide birth control or abortions (thanks to some prodding of the city council by Planned Parenthood). The archdiocese, however, isn't taking the ruling lying down: Archbishop Edwin O'Brien announced yesterday that they are suing the city of Baltimore, [...]

Let’s Be Strict with Strict Construction

Roy Moore, the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, became perhaps the nation's most controversial spokesman for "strict construction" and "original intent" in interpreting the Constitution in his celebrated stand on the display of the Ten Commandments. The judge made two important points: First, that two clauses in a single sentence in the [...]

Should the United Nations Control the Internet?

This past November, the United Nations sponsored a meeting in Rio de Janeiro with about 1,700 participants from some 90 countries to consider the future direction of the Internet. The most serious issue they dealt with was supported by a group of nations that included China, Cuba, and Iran: Leaders from these countries are pressing [...]

The Next Battle for Religious Freedom

This year marks the 60th anniversary of one of the most unfortunate and controversial Supreme Court decisions, Everson v. Board of Education. While the case had a good result, in that the Court ruled that Catholic parents could be reimbursed for their children using public buses to get to parochial school, the case has a [...]

Religion and the First Amendment: How the Supreme Court Has Misinterpreted the Constitution

That God is being removed more and more from the public forum is not simply a matter of chance. It is part of the secularization process going on in our society. While this process has been underway at least since the dawn of the modern era, it is being especially abetted today by a philosophical [...]

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