Monday, July 15, 2019

Upending Religious Freedom

Religious Freedom has had significant victories over the past few years as Supreme Court cases go.  But those cases (beginning with Hobby Lobby v. Burwell), have protected religious freedom arguments from a conservative Christian perspective. 

Unsuccessful with SCOTUS this term was a religious freedom issue brought by a Muslim prisoner who requested that an imam be present at his execution.  Justice Kagan wrote in dissent "'The clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another."  But that is not what happened here.  In this case, the 11th Circuit had already stayed the execution in order to hear Mr. Ray's religious freedom argument.  But in an unusual measure, SCOTUS removed the case from the 11th Circuit and denied the prisoner's request with, as the dissent says, little briefing and no argument "just so the State can meet its preferred execution date".   

The trend to watch in the upcoming term is whether non-Christian religious rights are protected.    In addition, those cases that have favored religious freedom have ignored the religious freedom rights of those most impacted by the court's decision.  Left unaddressed was whether in protecting the religious rights of the proprietors in Hobby Lobby  a religious tyranny was created that oppressed workers who hold quite different religious beliefs?  

A case involving competing religious beliefs would be welcome in order to clarify whether non-Christians or atheists will have protection from our highest court.

Margaret Drew, Prisons | Permalink


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