June 01, 2005

Religion OK If You're Not A Wiccan

by Sean Sirrine

Hello, my name is Sean Sirrine and I also am a blawger over at Objective Justice. I am currently a 0L, as I begin my structured legal education in the fall. I will be attending Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland where I plan on working for Doug Beloof in the Crime Victim Litigation Clinic. Now, to the meat and potatoes:

I recently read a story about an opinion from a state court judge that greatly offended me. Here's the crux:

An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."
The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.

What is the definition of "mainstream"? I can't imagine that Buddhism, or even Hinduism, is mainstream in the U.S. Can the courts deny parents the right to teach these beliefs to their children? Our laws provide that our religious beliefs our outside of the realm of state control and yet certain judges still believe that they can enforce some form of Judeo-Christian requirements on the masses. The law doesn't say that you have the protection of the laws if you are a Judeo-Christian practitioner, but recently that is what the courts are saying.

In another story that you may have missed, the 4th District Court of Appeals declared that a Wiccan practitioner couldn't give an opening prayer for a legislative body:

Chesterfield has likewise made plain that it was not affiliated with any one specific faith by opening its doors to a very wide pool of clergy. The Judeo-Christian tradition is, after all, not a single faith but an umbrella covering many faiths. We need not resolve the parties’ dispute as to its precise extent, as Chesterfield County has spread it wide enough in this case to include Islam. For these efforts, the County should not be made the object of constitutional condemnation.

Perversely the court also made this comment against the Wiccan's argument:

In seeking to invalidate the Chesterfield system, Simpson effectively denies the ecumenical potential of legislative invocations, and ignores Marsh’s insight that ministers of any given faith can appeal beyond their own adherents.

So much for respect of all religions, I wonder what the American people would do if in some tiny hamlet Wiccans prevented any Christian prayers in their legislature or their judges refused to allow the parents to teach Christianity because it might confuse their children.

We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition ... In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man's religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.-- George Washington, letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore, January 27, 1793

June 1, 2005 04:11 PM | TrackBack

Eugene Volokh commented on this ruling as well.

Posted by: Tom T. at June 1, 2005 11:24 PM

Eugene Volokh commented on this ruling as well.

Posted by: Josh at June 2, 2005 12:25 PM
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