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May 26, 2005

Freedom of Religion? Not in Indiana, Apparently

Steph is correct: I have a few words to say about this:

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.

Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.

Bradford refused to remove the provision after the 9-year-old boy's outraged parents, Thomas E. Jones Jr. and his ex-wife, Tammie U. Bristol, protested last fall.

Here are some words: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Here are some more: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

So, the Constitution in Amendment I prohibits the Congress (and by Supreme Court decision the rest of the Federal government) from prohibiting the free exercise of religion. And in Amendment XIV the Constitution extends those protections (along with other privileges and immunities) such that States cannot abridge them. If you claim that this is not an exercise of religion, but a restriction of speech, then the Constitution (again, Amendment I) still prohibits the regulation of speech. The Supreme Court has found that this is not unlimited: speech can be restricted, so long as the restriction is either content neutral or specifically related to the regulation of business communications (advertising, in particular) under the interstate commerce clause.

In any event, this is clearly unconstitutional. The parents should refuse to obey it, or should leave Indiana for a less tyrannical State. The law enforcement officers should refuse to enforce it (and if they do, the parents should resist that enforcement with armed force). No judge should accept any case on these grounds, except to find summarily in favor of the parents. No jury should convict the parents of any crime they are charged with for violating this order, including any defense of their rights with armed force.

And, yes, the judge should be impeached or recalled.

UPDATE: The Wild Hunt has Jason Pitzl-Waters' own reaction and a comprehensive roundup of other reactions. No, I don't think that this is symptomatic. If it were common, we wouldn't be so outraged, just as we have become numb to income taxes, intrusions on the second amendment, and the Supreme Court's arrogation to itself of the power of final arbitration of the Constitution's meaning.

Posted by jeff at May 26, 2005 8:10 PM

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What can I even begin to say about this? It is flat-out one of the most unambiguosly unconstitutional judicial rulings I have ever heard of. What justification can be made for this ruling? Has this judge ever bothered to read the First Amendment? This judge should immediately removed from the bench! He is an absolute disgrace!

The judiciary is running amok. Any wonder why fights about federal judicial appointments are so rancorous right now?

Posted by: Brian at May 31, 2005 12:54 AM