Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Why we have to care about judges

A judge in Indianapolis ruled that two wiccan parents cannot raise their nine-year-old son in their faith.

Judge: Parents can't teach pagan beliefs

Wicca—one of the eclectic byproducts of the New Age movement—has become so mainstream that U.S. military chaplains are instructed in its beliefs so they can provide care for Wiccan members of the armed forces. They are not satanists. In any case, here's a judge who is so ignorant of the Constitution that he truly believes he has the authority to dictate a child's religious upbringing to the parents.

He is not the only closet theocrat in the judiciary. That's why judicial nominations are important. One law professor at Indiana University said overturning the ruling should be a "slam-dunk" because it's "blatantly unconstitutional." But who will decide? A federal judge appointed by George Bush?


At 1:23 PM, Anonymous steve said...

Interesting case. While in no way affecting your analysis of the constitutionality of the Indiana ruling, it may be worth recalling that, as a precondition of Utah statehoood, Pres. Hayes required the Mormon church eliminate its approval of polygamy. There is a history, well before the present time, of a majority controling the federal government not being so scrupulous in protecting rights of unpopular, minority religions. This, of course, also applies to treatment of Catholics, as in enforcing school Bible readings from non-Catholic Bibles and Prohibition, which was aimed at, among others, immigrants and Catholics.

At 2:20 PM, Anonymous steve said...

Today's unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Cutter v. Wilkenson, upholding a federal law requiring prisons to make religious services available to prisoners, even non-mainstream religions, supports the view of the unnamed I.U. professor that reversal of the Indiana federal district judge is a "slam dunk" and may undermine the position that Republicans will underut that position. The Court's decision today was made with the approval of Justices Rhenquist, Scalia and Thomas -- the very people so greatly feared by the left.

I stand by my earlier note that there have indeed been examples of overreaching by the majority in matters of imposing an American orthodoxy in religion, but am not sure if the current Rpublican party, taken in toto, or current Justices, qualify for such harsh treatment.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger Andy Lang said...

None of these judges was appointed by Bush. And while all three are very conservative, none emerged from the "Religious Right."

In any case, I'm not suggesting that every Bush nomination to the federal bench, or even most, would automatically uphold a extremist judge's attempt to socially-engineer families so parents couldn't raise their children in an uncoventional religion. But there are indeed theocrats in the coalition that supported Bush, and Bush regularly courts them.

At 4:02 PM, Anonymous steve said...

Well noted. Maybe the most apropos historical analogy is either the Utah statehood situation or Prohibition. Both are rooted in clear, religious-based attempts to enforce an at least extra-Constitutional view of religon that would be similar to the Indiana case.

My only point in referring to the current Supreme Court decsion is to suggest that "conservative" does not necessarily equal "Religious Right", and that the Republican majority is not (yet?) identical to that group.

While we may all take care to avoid appointments of those who advocate religious partisanship to the courts, I'm wary of making that position equal to opposing all Bush nominees.

Good, provacative posting today.

At 7:48 PM, Blogger Andy Lang said...

Steve, yes and yes.

Yes, the attempt to suppress Mormonism and the anti-Catholic campaigns of the 19th century are warnings from our own history of the danger of theocracy.

Yes, conservatism does not ("yet", as you said) equal the Religious Right. Let's hope that never happens.

And, yes, the danger of religious extremism should not broadly brush all Bush nominees to the judiciary. But, if you visit (for example) the People for the American Way website (http://pfaw.org) which obviously opposes the nominations, you'll see that the religious identity or convictions of each candidate is hardly mentioned. Rather, you'll see (and I know you'll find this ironic) that they're criticized for extreme judicial activism.

You've often reminded me that separation of church and state protects Roman Catholics and every other religious community. So I don't think we're really arguing here. And we both agree that if this particularly unconstitutional judgment in Indiana were upheld, it would be a threat to all faiths--to any faith that happened to be unpopular at that moment.

For instance, I have a problem with children taught by extremist fundamentalist parents to be homophobes. But I don't think the courts have the right to take their children away. The RC church is still reeling from the sex abuse scandal: that's no justification for a bigoted judge telling parents they can't raise their kids as Roman Catholics.


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