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No Hostility to Religion Here! We Just Need to Discriminate Against Religious Speech To Insulate Society from the Excesses of the Zealous:

Judge Karlton's concurrence in Faith Center Church (see also the post below) argues — right after concluding that "religious speech is categorically different than secular speech and is subject to analysis under the Establishment and Free Exercise Clause without regard to the jurisprudence of free speech":

Those, like myself, who advocate adherence to the strictures of the Establishment Clause, do so not out of hostility towards religion. Rather, we are motivated by recognition of the passions that deeply-held religious views engender, and the serious threat of marrying those passions to government power.

So far so good, though it's not clear how giving religious groups the same access to free library meeting groups that secular groups have — or giving religious groups equal access to a wide range of evenhandedly distributed benefits, such as nonprofit status, the charitable tax exemption for donations to charitable groups, and more — involves "marrying [religious] passions to government power." The judge goes on:

That threat is not merely historic. One need only look about the world to see that danger in play. The scenario is the same whether it is in Northern Ireland where Catholics and Protestants kill each other in an effort to establish governmental power, in Israel, where Jews and Muslims do the same, in Iraq, where Shi'a and Sunni are engaged in similar slaughter, or in Sudan where Muslims murder Christians. Nor is that the only danger.

Again, it's not clear that evenhanded treatment of all religious groups alongside secular groups in access to government benefits has much to do with conditions that lead Catholics and Protestants to kill each other. Likewise, when the judge goes on to say, "Where government plays a role in the religious life of a pluralist society, there is the danger that government will favor the majority religion and seek to control or prohibit the rites of minority religions. Such favor can only lead to alienation and social unrest," I can't see how a rule of equal treatment for all religious groups alongside secular groups would create such a danger.

But then the judge moves on:

The wall of separation between church and state that Thomas Jefferson thought the First Amendment raised, in no way prejudices the practice of anyone's religion. Instead, it serves the salutary purpose of insulating civil society from the excesses of the zealous. The Good News Club and Lamb's Chapel majorities' disdain of the Jefferson model is premised on the belief that religious values enhance rather than endanger society. The legal issue, however, is different. It asks whether one can distinguish between religious speech in a categorical way, and the answer is yes. Of course there may be close cases. Such cases require the development of a delicate jurisprudence designed to protect the Establishment Clause while insulating religious practice from government intrusion.

So the judge has no hostility towards religion, but "the excesses of the zealous" — apparently just the religiously zealous — are something that must be avoided even by discriminatorily excluding religious groups from the benefits available to comparable secular groups.

The issue is not, contrary to what the judge argues here and earlier in the opinion, "whether one can distinguish between religious speech" (which I take it means "between religious speech and nonreligious speech," especially given the other quotes I give immediately below), nor is it about "the High Court's purported inability to distinguish betwen a sermon and a speech" or "[t]he purported inability of the High Court to adhere to the distinction embodied in the First Amendment" between religious speech and nonreligious speech, nor about the Court majority's supposed "doubt about the ability to distinguish between religious practice and secular speech." While the majority opinion does turn on whether courts can consistently distinguish (without undue side effects) between religious worship and other religious speech, of course the courts could distinction between religious speech (such as sermons) and secular speech.

The question is whether courts ought to draw such a distinction, in a way that strips religious speech of the same Free Speech Clause protection that secular speech has, and thus discriminates against religious speech, in order to somehow "insulat[e] civil society from the excesses of the zealous." It seems to me that if one really wants to avoid "hostility towards religion," equal treatment of religious speech and nonreligious speech — regardless of what one fears from the "zealous" — is the proper approach.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. No Hostility to Religion Here! We Just Need to Discriminate Against Religious Speech To Insulate Society from the Excesses of the Zealous:
  2. Government Must Exclude Religious Speech from Government Property, Writes Federal Judge
Shad:
It's always funny to see a Fundamentalist Atheist work himself into a frenzied lather while gettin' his hate on toward anyone who doesn't share his beliefs.

But yeah, it's the theocons that are threatening everyone's civil rights... ha ha ha.
9.20.2006 5:35pm
LotharoftheHillPeople:
Carter nominee.
9.20.2006 5:43pm
luispedro (mail) (www):
Not to forget that secular speech is dangerous too. Revolutions have been made by communists, the Holocaust by Nazis. Political Speech is as dangerous as religious speech. Shouldn't we exclude that from Freedom of Speech Protection as well?
9.20.2006 6:14pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Aren't religious speech (and actions) specifically protected by the "free exercize thereof" section? It's fairly difficult to exercize a religion if merely talking about it is outlawed.

I'm also trying to think of any case where the "excesses of the zealous" aren't political in nature, and in which case, should be protected under that viewpoint alone.
9.20.2006 6:41pm
plunge (mail):
Do you have any evidence that Karlton is an atheist, or are you zealous that you cannot imagine a fellow believer might not agree with your desires?

Nevertheless, from the short summary of the facts, this seems wrong, and inconsistent with a lot of other rulings. Governments cannot deny religious groups access to publically avaible spaces and services without some plausible secular reason (like, the religion involves setting buildings on fire or something). But then, getting only a short summary of the facts and only being able to infer the testimony and evidence from the decisions and the news reports is one reason that blog commenters aren't the ones handing down rulings. :)
9.20.2006 6:42pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
>So the judge has no hostility towards religion, but "the excesses of the zealous" — apparently just the religiously zealous — are something that must be avoided even by discriminatorily excluding religious groups from the benefits available to comparable secular groups.<

Well, the problem is that there's only one establishment clause, you know, and the fact is that it relates to religion. One of the effects of this is that the government has to treat religion differently from other things.

By your logic, the fact that a government can build a stadium would mean that it also has to build a church. Isn't it discriminatory toward religion, after all, to build all these stadiums without building any churches? Lots of people like having stadiums, but lots of people also like having churches. So what gives?
9.20.2006 6:44pm
josil (mail):
those secularists who are particularly sensitive to religious fundamentalists seem uninterested in the views and acts of those secularists with equally extreme views...like Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, among others. if one wanted to calculate the bodies generated by the "faith" of either side, i'd guess that the religious fundamentalists (whether jihad or inquisition style)have a long way to go before they catch up with the recent record of secular fundamentalism.
9.20.2006 6:51pm
RBG (mail):
Marcus1,

Are you willing to follow the corrolary of that position, which is that the free exercise clause singles out religion and thus grants to religion, qua religion, some privileges and rights that are not granted to other, non-religious, groups, such as anti-religious organizations, or the Masons, or the practicing of other strange, but not religious, beliefs? If so, I'd be happy to make the trade; if not, please explain why the Establishment clause warrants such singular interpretation in your theory of constitutional law.
9.20.2006 6:59pm
stealthlawprof (mail) (www):
I have tended to see the Free Speech Clause as applying evenhandedly to all speech without regard to viewpoint and Religion as a viewpoint. The Free Exercise Clause means that there may (given Employment Division v. Smith, I emphasize "may") be some additional protection for symbolic religious expression or other religious acts. While these are debatable points, there is no support anywhere for the notion that religious speech is lesser protected speech that may be targeted for suppression. This should be another quick reversal of the Notorious Ninth.
9.20.2006 7:05pm
another anonVCfan (mail):
Marcus1,

Your conclusion doesn't flow at all from Eugene's logic. Eugene's logic doesn't require that if the government builds a stadium it must also build a church. It simply states that if the government builds a stadium and makes the benefit of that stadium available to the public, it cannot excluded people for whom attending football games is an act of religious devotion. So too with libraries.
9.20.2006 7:06pm
KingOfMyCastle:
Markus1, your example is poor. A stadium is a multi-purpose facility that can be used for both secular and religious activities. So the Raiders can use a stadium, and the next week Billy Graham can. In many cases a stadium is used as a church.

That's the way it should be. Neither favoring or discriminating based on religion (or lack thereof) when granting access to public facilities.
9.20.2006 7:10pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
I always find it interesting how judges overlook the fact that Jefferson made his "wall of separation between church and state" pitch as part of a continuous effort to undermine his critics amongst the clergy of the northeast that was primarily Federalist. Furthermore, judges overlook the fact that the First Amendment was an afterthough to the U.S. Constitution. The only reason the Bill of Rights was amended to the Constitution was to sell the very notion of the U.S. Constitution to the peoples of the several states. Moreover, prior to the addition of the First Amendment, Madison and Hamilton had already put into place a mechanism specifically designed to prevent the takeover of the federal government by a fanatical religious faction: federalism and its inherent separation of powers between the federal and state governments and between the three branches of the federal government. Thus, even if a religious faction were to take over a single branch, or a state government, at least such a faction had to contend with the other two branches of the federal government or the several states. Finally, I think Madison himself wrote (I forget which Federalist Paper) something to the effect that to suppress democracy in an effort to prevent factionalism was like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Accordingly, Madison and the Founding Fathers (absent Jefferson) weaved federalism into the Constitution.
9.20.2006 7:39pm
Yankev (mail):
Someone needs to tell the judge that the Jews and Arabs are not fighting over religious supremacy in the middle east. The Jews establish a secular state that if anything has been hostile judicially to the Orthodox Jewish religion, and legistlatively to the heterodox Jewish religions. Jewish law is limited primarily to matters of personal status such as marriage and divorce between Jews; equal status to Christian and Muslim law as to their personal status. (One might argue that civil marriage and divorce should be available, but that's for another thread.) One of the most murderous of the Arab terror groups, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is led by the Christian Arab George Habash yemach shmo. Arab opposition to Israel has only recently morphed into an Islamist phase, after previous phases that included pan-Syrianism, Baathist pan-Arabism, and communist-influenced and supported "anti colonialism" (depsite the lack of any "colonial" power.) A battle for religious hegemony this is NOT; it has always been a battle over whether a given ethnic group -- Jews -- would be "permitted" to have a state among the other ethnic states that were carved out of the wreckage of the Ottoman empire after WWI.
9.20.2006 7:57pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
RBG,

Well, that's an interesting question. I would tend to say that yes, religious exercise is protected in ways that other types of behavior might not be. I'm not totally sure how that works out in practice though. Can I place something like driving 80 mph on the highway in contrast? Or gambling? Two things, perhaps, which would not have constitutional protection.

AA and KoMC,

I don't think you're taking EV's logic to its conclusion. My question would be, why doesn't the government have to build a church when it builds a stadium? If I wanted to make that argument, I would say, look -- large groups of people getting together to do secular activities, such as football or baseball, are having their every whim and desire catered to, while my group, just because it wants to worship, is being discriminated against. This might even be despite our greater popularity in parts of the country (say, Utah).

On the other hand, let's say a town in Texas does decide to build a Baptist church purely for the sake of worship. Now some establishment-clause-atheist comes along and tries to shut it down. But you can't do that, says EV, because look! You're providing stadiums for secular activities, and for no better reason.

So what do you say, does the town get to build the church as just a "neutral" policy of helping groups build buildings to get together and have fun? Or does the government building churches still violate the establishment clause? I think that's the ultimate 1st amendment conflict which EV's argument glosses over.
9.20.2006 7:59pm
Yankev (mail):
It's nice to see the judge give religious speech the same degree of protection given to secular political speech by the SCOTUS decision uphlding McCain Feingold. (Oops, is it too close to the elction for me to mention therir names on the blog without committing a crime?)

Are we approaching the day when the only judicially protected speech will be nude dancing and child pornography, on the theory that everything else is too dangerous, corrupting or inflammatory?
9.20.2006 8:00pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
David:

We can argue the extent to which it actually erects a wall between church and state, but the religion clauses of the First Amendment, however they got there, are in the Constitution and have a meaning. Thus, the document, as ratified and amended, does not rely solely on federalism to regulate the church-state balance. Perhaps that was the original vision (although the history of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom seems somewhat relevant to that question), but the advocates of a Bill of Rights won that debate and we have to interpret the words of the First Amendment in determining the scope of governmental power with respect to religion as a result.
9.20.2006 8:08pm
Michael Simpson (mail) (www):
Note something interesting in the last quote EV cites. The judge suggests that the "wall of separation" was posed as a means of "insulating civil society from the excesses of the zealous." There are a number of ways of interpreting the term "civil society" but in contemporary parlance it means the realm of independent associations that stand in some way between individuals and the state - civic groups, neighborhood associations, bowling leagues (in Robert Putnam's examples). Is it the idea here that separation is meant to protect *that* part of society? Or something a bit less?
9.20.2006 8:33pm
plunge (mail):
josil: "those secularists who are particularly sensitive to religious fundamentalists seem uninterested in the views and acts of those secularists with equally extreme views...like Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, among others."

Surprise! When you make stuff up about your opponents, it turns out that the stuff you make up paints them in a bad light!

I believe the ideology of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were, I believe "communism" not "secularism." They were hostile to anything that threatened their power and domination, not just religion. If every activity that isn't religious is caused by "secularism" then car driving must be caused by secularism... which is absurd.

The ideology of fundamentalists of all stripes is bad news, religious or no.
9.20.2006 9:15pm
Bored Lawyer:
Plunge, you missed the point.

The concurring Judge basically says that religious speech is less protected because it tends to be more dangerous, that the wall of separation in his words "serves the salutary purpose of insulating civil society from the excesses of the [religiously-motivated] zealous." But he seems to have a blind spot to the dangers of other forms of "zealous[ness]."

Thought experiment: the local Marxist society seeks to hold a meeting on the grounds of the library, where they will preach argue the greatness of Marxism and the need for world revolution. The library seeks to exclude this meeting as dangerous ideology. What would our concurring judge say to a Consitutional challenge then?
9.20.2006 11:07pm
Revonna LaSchatze:
"is whether courts ought to draw such a distinction."

Yes, the courts ought to. Let religious groups pay for their own meeting room rental. Keep the territorial battles private. Any self-respecting religious organization doesn't want special government benefits or funding for their activities anyway.


Imagine if you had to give all religious groups in town access to the community library for all their little religious doings. (Groups that potentially serve ALL the community are different. Religion by its nature excludes.)

You might run into local non-discrimination policies too. Why would a religion want to open themselves up to that -- would they kick out a Muslim who wants to sit in on the group organizing High Holy Day activities at the town temple?


Remember:
Once you let in the innocuous Christian and the Jewish groups, you'll have to admit the Rastafarians, Nation of Islam, and Bahai groups who request meeting space. Keep religion and government as separate as possible -- for the sake of religion.
9.20.2006 11:14pm
Revonna LaSchatze:
Why would a religion want to open themselves up to that -- would they kick out a Muslim who wants to sit in on the group meeting at the public library to organize the High Holy Day activities at the town temple?
9.20.2006 11:17pm
KingOfMyCastle:
Hi Marcus1, your question about why wouldn't the government have to build a church when they build a stadium is easy. A stadium isn't a 'secular' structure. It's a multi-purpose structure. They are routinely used for sporting events, rock concerts, swap meets, church revivals, etc. The use of the facility is based on a fee/first come-first serve basis. Fair to everyone. Why would it be fair to allow Madonna to use one, but not Billy Graham? They both have a need, they both will pay the fee. Is it somehow offensive to you if there is some sort of religious activity going on there? I bet there are quite a few people that find many secular activities offensive too. But the great thing about free speech in a free country is that we have the right to do things that other people may not approve of. Try holding either a christian revival OR a Madonna concert in Saudi Arabia. :-)
9.20.2006 11:50pm
AppSocRes (mail):
Ninth Circuit: What a surprise! Also no surprise that the judge apparently has no clue about the history of the establishment clause and the long struggle it took to get to the point where the founding fathers were able to prohibit the government from interfering with the free expression of religious beliefs.
9.20.2006 11:59pm
Matt Tievsky (mail):
Marcus1,

I understand what you're getting at, but I agree with the others that you haven't offered an example of invidious discrimination. Equality requires treating likes alike. But, as much as I strain, I cannot see how a stadium and a church are likes.
9.21.2006 1:20am
Lev:

On the other hand, let's say a town in Texas does decide to build a Baptist church purely for the sake of worship. Now some establishment-clause-atheist comes along and tries to shut it down. But you can't do that, says EV, because look! You're providing stadiums for secular activities, and for no better reason.

So what do you say, does the town get to build the church as just a "neutral" policy of helping groups build buildings to get together and have fun? Or does the government building churches still violate the establishment clause? I think that's the ultimate 1st amendment conflict which EV's argument glosses over.


What if it is a stadium + a "worship center" that any denomination may use the rooms or assembly halls of. And, say, the city builds the "worship center" because there are too many churches within the city limits taking taxable property off the property roles.
9.21.2006 2:45am
Lev:
Dunno. It seems to me that what the judges are basing their opinions on is whether the worship service is too noisy, too much joy shoutin' and singin' and hosannahs and "praise the lords" goin' on.

What if the "worship service" is actually the activities that Paez says in his opinion in this case are ok?
9.21.2006 3:30am
PersonFromPorlock:
Purely in a spirit of mischeif, may I point out that it's perfectly consistent with the 'militia' interpretation (still the official one) of the Second Amendment that the "thereof" in the First Amendment phrase "the free exercise thereof" relates to establishments of religion -- state churches -- and not to an individual freedom of religion?

Thus, the Religion Clause prohibits establishment of a federal church or federal interference with state-established churches, but leaves the federal government free to interfere all it wants with non-established churches and individual religious practices.
9.21.2006 8:37am
MMG:
Yet again Ireland is wrongly cited as an instance of religiously motivated conflict.

The conflict in Ireland is not and has never been about religion. Through historical circumstance, a combination of colonial settlement of protestants from Scotland and England whose loyalty to the Crown could be assured and the retention of the Catholic faith by the native population, the political divide became virtually identical to the religious divide to the extent that religion is essentially synomymous with political affiliation (Catholic/Nationalist vs Protestant/Loyalist).

It has always suited Britain to present the conflict to the wider world as a religious conflict amongst the thick ignorant priest ridden Irish. Denial of the political-nationalist nature of the conflict allowed the British to deflect attention from their central role in it and to falsely adopt an "honest broker" image on the global stage.
9.21.2006 8:47am
Revonna LaShatze:
"Thus, the Religion Clause prohibits establishment of a federal church or federal interference with state-established churches, but leaves the federal government free to interfere all it wants with non-established churches and individual religious practices."

That might have merit if we were asking the country to start anew -- disregarding all precedent that came before your fresh outlook.

MMG is correct. It's about land. The Palestinians aren't killing Jews just because they hate the Jewish religion either.
9.21.2006 9:02am
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

Thus, the Religion Clause prohibits establishment of a federal church or federal interference with state-established churches, but leaves the federal government free to interfere all it wants with non-established churches and individual religious practices.


This sentiment would have the Founders rolling over in their graves. One important point that most of us miss because the doctrine has been gutted, is the notion of a federal government with strictly enumerated powers. Many Founders argued we didn't even need a BOR because the government was given no power over things like speech and religion, in the first place. Thus, even w/o an EC or FEC, the Founders rejected the notion that "the federal government [is] free to interfere all it wants with non-established churches and individual religious practices."

See this post.
9.21.2006 9:47am
John Rosenberg (mail) (www):
In our day, at least in our country, I believe race excites more passion than religion. I wonder why the judge and those of like mind are so fearful of the state treating religiious groups and non-religious groups equally and neutrally, but have no fear whatsoever of "marrying [racial] passions to government power" through racial preferences?
9.21.2006 11:00am
Revonna LaShatze:
waa waa

AA is bad.

waa waa

Subsidize my religion


waa waa

equal and neutral, as I personally define it

waa waa
9.21.2006 11:04am
Joshua (www):
It seems to me (at the risk of overstating the obvious) the real problem here is the dual nature of religious speech vis-a-vis religious zealots.

The "wall of separation" concept (however it is to be interpreted) was based on the assumption that religious belief could be distinguished, if not entirely compartmentalized, from political thought. Yet by and large, religious zealots (no matter what religion we're talking about) tend to reject that notion. In their view, in order to be a good [insert religious descriptor here], you have to adapt every aspect of your life to the teachings of [insert religion here], including your political outlook and activities. This mindset effectively makes religion and politics one and the same. Conversely, anyone who criticizes your political outlook is, by definition, criticizing your religion as well.

This becomes a big problem when the law is expected to uphold free (political) speech, free (religious) exercise, and the "wall of separation" all at the same time. For most of us, all three of these things may be perfectly compatible, but for those who don't distinguish between religion and politics it becomes a "pick-any-two" scenario, and if the law favors the wrong two, they're likely to conclude that the law is incompatible with their religion. That's when you start tap-dancing along the border of the territory of jihad, the Troubles, etc.

What we may be seeing from Judge Karlton here is a well-intentioned but clumsy attempt to interpret the law in such a way that circumvents this dilemma.
9.21.2006 12:24pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Jon Rowe:

Thus, even w/o an EC or FEC, the Founders rejected the notion that "the federal government [is] free to interfere all it wants with non-established churches and individual religious practices."

You're absolutely right, but my point was merely to propound a view in which the First Amendment provides no protection to individual freedom of religion. The argument is really a burlesque of the 'militia' interpretation of the Second Amendment, and good fun when sprung on unsuspecting Liberals.
9.21.2006 2:00pm
plunge (mail):
Bored Lawyer "Plunge, you missed the point."

How can I have "missed the point" when I agreed that the ruling was bad, which is what you go on to argue? Apparently, you are too Bored to read the comments of others before responding to them.

As I said, as I understand the countless and pretty clear rulings on this very subject, if you want to kick a group out, it cannot be for their viewpoint alone, but must be for some actual concern related to what that specific group does or causes that can be shown to cause real damage (like, say setting fires). Blanket excluding religious groups because they MIGHT maybe do something "zealous" doesn't meet that standard even if merely having a "zealous" viewpoint mattered, which it doesn't.
9.21.2006 3:04pm
Realist Liberal (mail):
Even as a strong believer in the separation of church and state, I have to disagree with this decision. The majority seems to have changed the argument from "allowing access to all" to somehow arguing that by allowing the group to use the building the government is somehow monetarily supporting the religion. The funny part (coming from someone who lives 20 minutes from Antioch so I've heard A LOT about this case) is that even the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State supported the religious group.
9.21.2006 3:37pm
Seamus (mail):

"anti colonialism" (depsite the lack of any "colonial" power.)



Colonialism doesn't require a colonial power. It can exist simply with colonists. Like, for example, the Greeks in Sicily (Magna Graecia), the Phoenicians in Carthage, the Dutch in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, and the Jews in Palestine.
9.21.2006 4:28pm
Fred the Fourth (mail):
I've long believed that the simplest way to interpret this portion of the 1st is to prohibit the use of the words "religion", "church", etc. in any legislation or regulation. For instance, from the IRS point of view, there are for-profit corporations, and not-for-profit corporations. No need to mention religion. Why should not the instant case of the library meeting room be any different?

This discussion also reminds me strogly of the recent debates about journalist sheld laws. In each case, it gets government involved in defining something that should not be defined by government: Who is a legitimate journalist? What is a religion?
9.21.2006 4:30pm
Deoxy (mail):
Fred the Fourth is on to something, there.

That would pretty well solve the problem, right there.
9.21.2006 7:20pm
Jeff Hall:
> Yes, the courts ought to. Let religious groups pay for their
> own meeting room rental.

Funny, I thought that the public was, in fact, paying for public library meeting rooms.

> Any self-respecting religious organization doesn't
> want special government benefits or funding for their
> activities anyway.

So any self-respecting Negro wouldn't want to drink from the white drinking fountain anyway?
9.22.2006 3:49pm
Revonna LaShatze:
Funny, I thought that the public was, in fact, paying for public library meeting rooms.

And if your religious group is not willing to have every and any member of the tax-paying public sit in on its "meetings" (not worship necessarily), then sorry you can't use the public rooms meant for community activities (those open to all -- NRA, PETA etc. doesn't discriminate.)

The self-respecting part means if your religion discriminates in who it accepts (hey I want to help plan temple activities today at the meeting in the community room), pay for your own rental space. Otherwise, expect to have outsiders sitting in on your meetings. Makes sence to me without trotting out the Negro waterfountain analogy.
9.23.2006 9:20am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Revonna,

Leaving aside the question of whether the principle you espouse is valid as a matter of policy or law, what makes you think it is applicable as a factual matter to this lawsuit?

As far as I can tell from the description of the facts of this case, there was no discrimination; the meetings were open to all. Indeed, if you read the opinion, you'll see that this group was meeting in the library precisely because they wanted all people to come. They felt they could reach out to people who would be loath to come into a church.
9.24.2006 2:55am
Jeff Hall:
> And if your religious group is not willing to have every
> and any member of the tax-paying public sit in on its
> "meetings" (not worship necessarily), then sorry you can't
> use the public rooms meant for community activities (those
> open to all -- NRA, PETA etc. doesn't discriminate.)

Nonsense. If I have a medical procedure done at a public hospital, I would be very annoyed if any member of the tax-paying public were allowed to watch, whether I liked it or not. The public library is certainly free, if it chooses, to allow groups to meet privately when they rent a meeting room.

Furthermore, in the hospital example, if other races or religions were allowed to receive medical care, but I was told that I wouldn't be allowed to have the procedure unless I agreed not to pray beforehand, I would be more than merely annoyed.

Of course, one might argue that this analogy fails because the right to receive medical care is more important than the rights of free speech and free exercise of religion. But one would be hard-pressed to reconcile that with the actual text of the constitution, which guarantees those rights, but doesn't even mention medical care.
9.24.2006 6:44pm