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September 13, 2006

Nebraska Statute Survives Scientologists' Challenge

Howard Bashman reports on Spiering v. Nebraska issued by the federal district court in Nebraska on September 12, 2006, upholding a statute that requires that newborn babies be tested within 48 hours of birth for certain diseases over a challenge by Scientologists that this violated the "silent birth" tenet of their religion. The court held the statute rationally related to a legitimate state purpose, and rejected search and seizure and other challenges.

It's an interesting read, both for the court's analysis of the constitutional issues implicated by the statute, and also for its tone: the judge was quite respectful, of the parties and of counsel. It was not your typical case. One example from the opinion:

In summary, I conclude that Nebraska’s program is rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest. That said, I offer one additional comment. I am acutely aware that Nebraska’s program, unlike the situation in some other states, allows no exemptions for religious reasons. Whether that is a wise policy, I do not know. My job as a federal judge, particularly when applying rational basis scrutiny, does not allow me to second guess the politically accountable branches of Nebraska’s government on this very sensitive and important issue.

My guess is this one's headed up for appeal.

September 13, 2006 | Permalink


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