Friday, July 2, 2010

Misunderstanding of the court’s ruling on the Christian group

A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Hastings College of Law in California by supporting its ban on any group that does not allow all students to be members regardless of their religious or sexual orientation beliefs.

Hastings College of Law requires that any group that would like to be officially recognized by the school and participate in the governing board for students groups must accept any student that would like to join the group. The Christian Legal Society (CLS) requires members to sign an affidavit that states both, in short, they are Christians and they will not be involved in sexual activity outside of “Gods” will – including “unrepentant homosexual” activity. Since some members of the student body at Hastings would not be able to sign the affidavit honestly, they would not be able to join the group with fully active memberships. Therefore, the Hasting College of Law denied full membership status to Christian Legal Society, but did allow them to continue as a campus group without official recognition. CLS sued the school to accept them as members.

A line from the ruling of the Supreme Court goes a long way in explaining the decision in favor of Hastings.

“Hastings requires that [RSOs] allow any student to participate, regardless of [her] status or beliefs. For example, the Hastings Democratic Caucus cannot bar students holding Republican political beliefs.” … The all-comers policy is a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral condition on access to the RSO forum; it therefore does not transgress First Amendment limitations. “

The Hasting College of Law’s policy doesn’t pick a religion or belief system to reject. It doesn’t even say that the group can’t be on campus. It simply states that to receive full status it must allow all students to belong if they would like.

Equality is the most important issue. Policy by any government function, such as Hastings which is part of the California school system, can’t deny any individual or groups equality in its treatment. Hastings’ policy is that all students must be treated equally by all the campus groups. As a side bar, one of the groups that Hastings does recognize is a Muslim lawyers association. That group didn’t not exclude Christians from joining.

This was a good decision by the Supreme Court.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Applying the Fourteenth Amendment to gun rights may be a difficult victory

The US Supreme Court ruled that rights guaranteed by the constitution apply to not only the federal government but also to state and local governments. The court’s 5-4 decision struck down a City of Chicago law that banned hand gun ownership by private citizens in the city for any reason.

This is a setback to liberals’ misunderstood position in favor of gun control as a way to fight gun violence. The court said that the constitution under the 14th Amendment applies to everyone despite where they may live. As is clearly stated in the Fourteenth amendment the United States can’t “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This includes the right of gun ownership [but not necessarily the possession and use] as granted in the Second Amendment.

Conservatives, a long time supporter of gun ownership rights, are calling this a victory. But, this opens a much wider door for many other things that conservatives will find difficult to tolerate. This decision, because it uses the Fourteenth amendment to apply the Constitution to all levels of government, further supports many of the rights we all agree on. The right of free speech, assembly, protection against self incrimination and the protection of property rights are just a few. All of these freedoms can’t be limited by state laws, because the court has ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment’s intent was to assure that all citizens of the Untied States have equal protection.

This decision could, in the long run, be used to support more controversial issues. Gay rights, marriage, Miranda warning and much more. If this support for the Fourteenth Amendment continues, as it should, states will lose a substantive voice in all of them. States will lose the ability to limit an individual’s rights when those rights come from the Constitution as defined in the Ninth Amendment. This further erodes, as it should, the idea of “States Rights” as a basic understanding of the constitution. It may have been before the Fourteenth Amendment, but not after.

Consider this quote from Legal Information Institute, part of the Cornell School of Law. “If the Court sides with Petitioners Otis McDonald, et al. [as it did], it may reverse the Slaughterhouse line of cases and incorporate the Second Amendment—and possibly the entire Bill of Rights—against the States.” It is clear from the decision of the court and from the view of legal scholars that this case is a good decision for gun rights. But it can also be applied to both the many rights we all accept and those that are being passionately being argued in the community today.

To community members in good standing, this decision fully supports the individual’s right to live in a manner that is consistent with their own beliefs without fear of limits from the community. Unless the individual is engaged in activity that will harm someone or has the clear danger of harm, he or she can do what is best for them.

The community still has a heavy agenda to find a way to curtail gun violence and not limit the rights of individuals in good standing. While this decision may not fully help in that search, the support of the rights of any individual is the support of everyone’s rights.

Many of those rights that are preserved by this decision will help solve the community’s most pressing problems.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Keep government open Supreme Court decides

A ruling from the Supreme Court on the keeping the names on a petition open to the public is one that the Responsible Community supported.

The United States Supreme Court supported the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco and will allow the names of petition signers to be released to the public. “Protect Marriage Washington”, which organized a petition drive for a public vote to repeal the state’s “everything-but-marriage” gay rights law, asked the state of Washington to protect the privacy of signers of the petition. Petitions signers were concerned that they would be the target of a backlash from those that oppose the petition.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for 8 of the justices. Judge Roberts found, and the Responsible Community agrees, that it is “vitally important that states be able to ensure that signatures on referendum petitions” are authentic.

Excerpts from the Responsible Community post on May 3, 2010:

“The names should not be kept secret because people must be able to trust a citizen’s initiative. They are started by people that would like to ask the voters of a state if they think something should be changed. If enough people think the same way, the issue gets on the ballot. The people that sign the petition must be real and registered voters along with various other requirements depending on the state. If those names on the petition can’t be challenged how does anyone know they are real people?

“A similar issue to this came up in the last national election. An organization was registering people to vote. It was found, by people making challenges to the names on the list, that some were not eligible. Now the organization that did that, as well as other things, no longer exists. ACORN has closed its doors, partly because of the challenge.

“Responsible communities must operate in the open so that everyone can trust the process. Keeping names on a petition drive private only builds mistrust.”

The supreme court made the correct ruling with an 8-1 decision. This demonstrates a strong and very clear view on this issue. Open government is alive and very healthy in the United States.