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A Religious Rights Question

More cases involving the exercise of religious liberties are making it to the courtroom. Law enforcement and security are being tested. In a recent case presented  to the US Supreme Court, failing to hear a case, effectively allows the case to proceed.

The US Supreme Court will allow a Muslim woman to sue California jail deputies. The Court refused to hear an appeal from Orange County over whether or not a lawsuit should be allowed to proceed. As a result of not hearing the case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision stands. That Court had ruled that a lawsuit against the county and its deputies could proceed.

Souhair Khatib, was detained in November 2006, after a Judge had revoked her probation for a misdemeanor welfare-fraud conviction. When she was brought to jail, male deputies ordered her to remove her head scarf while she was held in a jail/holding cell for several hours. Under her Muslim beliefs, it is part of her religious practice not to remove her hijab (scarf) in public. Here, against her religous beliefs, she was forced to do so.

The 9th Circuit’s Appellate ruling had overturned previous dismissals of her lawsuit. The other court rulings had dismissed her case under the legal theory that a holding cell, in a Courthouse, is not covered by federal law that protects the religious practices of prisoners.

Under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, prisoners are allowed to wear religious garments as long as they do not pose security risks. The deputies acted, based on the fact that they did not think that this Federal law applied to them. Plus, there was never an assertion that this lady was a security risk.

One final note. I am always interested in the application of State versus Federal Law. No matter the religious beliefs of a person; cases like this can have a long lasting impact for everyone. I know that this blog is very legal intensive. Sometimes, it really is a legal blog!!!

Now…… pic o’ day! A bit less serious but still pretty “cool”.

Clues of Kagan

     We were huddled around our high school basketball coach. He looked us in the eye and congratulated us on another victory. Then, he grabbed the scorer’s book and began reading the point total. “Crombie had 20 and Saxon had 23; Good job guys.” The rest of us just looked at each other. We didn’t dare shake our heads or say anything but I knew what everyone else was thinking.

     My high school senior year, I worked in the school Printing Department. I can’t say that it was good money.   I was being paid under the guise of “great experience”.  I did learn how to operate a printing press. My job was to basically clean the ink on each of the presses. I’m not sure that anyone even does the old fashioned printing anymore.   

     Anyway, I came up with this “great” idea that I would publish a paper and sell it at school. A couple of my buddies decided they wanted to go in on it. We would all write articles, I would print the paper, and we’d  sell the papers to the other students. We were emerging journalists.

     We called the paper “B-Ball Probe”, because we were going to do stories about the basketball team. I haven’t yet seen any copies pop up on PBS’s “Antique Roadshow” as collectors items; We only lasted 3 publications.

     We reported on the emphasis on scoring,  and how the Coaches put no emphasis on defense, assists or rebounding. This blog isn’t making me look real good, is it? Anyway, I can’t really say that it was “Bernstein and Woodward” reporting,  but apparently it got under the coaches’ collars. (Imagine that?)

     It was great to be a player/reporter because you got the inside story. Unfortunately, there is no freedom of the press when a coach tells you to “knock it off”. I think there might have even been something about a reward of getting to run extra laps everyday,  before practice. I did learn that there is “power in the pen”. I also learned that no one likes criticism; especially from some high school kid. I also learned a new term,  “rabble rouser”.

     Where am I headed with this rabbit trail? Well, I can’t really remember what I wrote back then, but I’m glad I don’t have to be accountable for it today.  That’s why I am always fascinated with the  machinations and process, when a Supreme Court nominee is facing scrutiny by the US Senate. 

     Everyone wants to find anything that has been written by the nominee. They pull out every writing and study it like the FBI studied the Unabomber’s manifesto, looking for clues. Well, maybe that’s not such a good metaphor for law. OK, they study the nominee’s past writings with a fine tooth comb.

     On Friday, 160,000 pages of documents were being readied and about half  were released  from the Clinton Library, which represents  the writings and works during Kagan’s tenure as a Clinton White House lawyer. Now, Senate clerks will begin “combing” over these documents to look for clues that might suggest the thinking and moral compass of nominee Elena Kagan.

     Historically, nominees have repeatedly surprised, when they have become Justices. Some supposed liberals show conservatism and some conservatives become “middle of the roaders”. It may be that the clues are not in past papers. Maybe it would be better served to talk to the everyday people that interact with the nominee and have personal relationships. What influences them today?

     I’m glad that I am not judged by my sophomoric writings of “B-Ball Probe”. Past writings probably show state of mind at the time, or even mood. In fact, maybe they show a leaning toward what an employer was seeking. This nominee’s writings might be  more about President Clinton than about her. Well, I guess it gives something for Senate clerks to work on,  late into the night.  Soon, our airways will be filled with those golden nuggets that were penned back then.

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