Beliefnet
Lynn v. Sekulow

Barry,

 

I’m surprised you are not applauding the first year record of President Obama’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  The White House touts its first year accomplishments and says it has “brought people together across religious lines” and was successful in getting the federal government to partner with faith-based and other nonprofit organizations to “better serve all Americans.”  Isn’t that what you want, Barry?

 

I find it interesting that even with President Obama at the helm, a recent poll indicates that most Americans – 69% – still support government-funding for faith-based initiatives started under the Bush Administration and say they favor allowing churches and other houses of worship, along with other organizations, to apply for government funding to provide social services such as job training or drug treatment counseling.

Barry, instead of dismantling a faith-based system that’s been effective and beneficial, as you suggest, why not expand the work of the office – address some of the tough issues facing America – issues like reducing abortions and strengthening families.

 

I want to take a moment to address an ongoing legal battle underway – one that you are involved in – where we represent Ohio Common Pleas Court Judge James DeWeese who simply wants to display in his courtroom a poster that includes the Ten Commandments as part of an exhibit on legal philosophy.  

 

We’ve just filed our final reply brief in our appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  We’re appealing a ruling from last October that declared the poster unconstitutional and issued an injunction prohibiting its display.

 

For nearly a decade now, the ACLU has been trying to silence Judge DeWeese’s expression of his legal philosophy.  That philosophy, which holds that a society’s legal system must rest on moral absolutes as opposed to moral relativism, and that abandonment of moral absolutes leads to societal breakdown and chaos, is the same philosophy that was held by the founders of this nation. 

 

To say, as the ACLU does in this case, that a judge may not espouse such a view because it is ‘religious’ is to adopt an erroneous and timeworn interpretation of the First Amendment that is not based on the words, the history or the Founders’ understanding of the Constitution.

 

At issue is a poster designed to illustrate Judge DeWeese’s legal philosophy. The poster features two columns of principles or precepts intended to show the contrast between legal philosophies based on moral absolutes and moral relativism. The judge used a version of the Ten Commandments as symbolic of moral absolutes, and a set of statements from sources such as the Humanist Manifesto as symbolic of moral relativism.

 

In a our initial brief filed in December, we argue that the ACLU lacks legal standing in the case, that the lower court erred in determining that the display violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and violates articles of the Ohio Constitution, and contends that the Judge’s display is protected by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

 

The brief contends that Judge DeWeese’s display is constitutional:  “Neither DeWeese’s discussion of the contrast between legal philosophies based on moral absolutes as opposed to moral relativism, nor his use of the Decalogue as a means to illustrate that contrast bespeak a constitutionally problematic religious purpose,” the brief argues.  “Moreover, a reasonable observer of the poster would view the poster as a statement about legal philosophy, morality, and ethics, not theology or religion.”

 

Barry, I now that you are opposed to this display and your organization has filed an amicus brief supporting the ACLU’s position in this case.  In your brief, you attempt to cast Judge DeWeese as part of what you appear to believe is a vast right-wing conspiracy – to coin a phrase – that seeks to “dress religious doctrine in secular clothing.”

 

We address your argument in our reply brief “They (Americans United) want this court to infer an unconstitutional purpose on DeWeese’s part from a review of cases about evolution, Bible classes and schools, as well as other cases in which DeWeese has had not the slightest involvement.  According to the amici, DeWeese was present (in spirit at least) at the Scopes Trial and his poster is just another ploy to spread the dark cloud of religious fundamentalism . . . This sort of guilt by association (even where evidence of such association is non-existent) is no substitute for proper analysis of evidence in accordance with established rules . . . It has no place in a proper analysis of the claims and defenses in this case.”

 

Barry, come on – let’s get real.  

 

Judges not only have the right, but are positively encouraged by the Code of Judicial Conduct, to write, speak, lecture, and teach concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice. 

 

Judge DeWeese’s poster falls well within acceptable boundaries of judicial freedom of speech and should remain on display for all to see.

 

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