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stopdiggin's Journal
stopdiggin's Journal
February 27, 2020

The Supreme Court Nears the Moment of Truth on Religion

good read -- as the Supreme Court inches the judiciary ever closer to an incoherent, and increasingly untenable, policy on "religious freedoms."


NYTimes, Opinion, 2-27-2020, Linda Greenhouse

- snip - A few years ago, two Michigan prison inmates, proclaiming themselves adherents of the “Christian Identity” religion, sought the prison’s official recognition to be allowed to conduct their own worship services, apart from other inmates.

- snip - The two prisoners sued under a federal law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. They lost in Federal District Court. This month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturned that ruling. The court said the district judge, Phillip Green, had misapplied the law by weighing the prison’s interest in safety as part of his analysis of whether the prison was placing an improper burden on the men’s exercise of their chosen religion.

Say what?
If you just did a double-take, so did I when I came upon this opinion. If you wondered whether the members of the three-judge appellate panel were recent Trump appointees who perhaps share his administration’s desire to elevate religious claims above all else, so did I. They were not.

- snip - The startling fact of the matter is that Judges Griffin, Stranch and Donald were applying the law as they found it — as the Supreme Court has handed it to them in a series of decisions instructing judges to accept almost any religious claim, no matter how preposterous, at face value and to put the government to an extremely tough test to justify any infringement on a “sincere” religious belief.

- snip - Rather than looking at the Sixth Circuit prison decision, Fox v. Washington, as an outlier, we need to see it as a harbinger, a frightening one. I don’t know whether this particular case will end up at the Supreme Court. But there are plenty of cases like it, making claims that would have been dismissed out of hand not too many years ago and that now have to be taken seriously by those of us worried about the growing threat that an increasingly weaponized free-exercise clause poses to civil society, along with the statutes meant to extend its reach.

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