9th Circuit Displays its Judicial Actvism Again

21 09 2006

Filed under: Church and State, First Amendment, 9th Circuit

The 9th “Circus” is guilty of prohibiting the free excercise of religion.

The decision came from a case involving the Faith Center Church Evangelistic Ministries, a Christian group which won a court order allowing them to hold a “prayer, praise and worship” service in meeting rooms open to other groups at a Contra Costa County library branch. A federal judge said it had a First Amendment right of religion to use the public’s facilities.

But a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling in a 2-1 decision.

“Prohibiting Faith Center’s religious worship services from the Antioch meeting room is a permissible exclusion of a category of speech,” Judge Richard Paez ruled.

The Alliance Defense Fund, which is defending the church group, called the decision “astounding.” The group, he said, would consider appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court or asking the appeals court to reconsider.

“Religious people … whether they’re Jewish, Muslim or Christian or any other faith under the sun, this is not what the First Amendment was intended to do, to authorize censorship of speech in public,” said Gary McCaleb, an ADF attorney.

Appeal, they should. Because it’s obvious that this ruling is a clear violation of the First Amendment. The library’s open access to all religion types does not constitute “establishing a religion.”

Jay Stephenson, “Somehow the attorney’s trying to censor religious expression have read the Constitution backwards.”

ADF Chief Counsel Benjamin Bull, who argued the case and will be appealing it explains what should be common sense.

“In a supreme example of judicial activism, Judge Karlton has essentially rewritten the First Amendment by tossing religious expression out of its protections,” noted Bull, referring to a concurring opinion written by Judge Lawrence Karlton. Karlton wrote, “As the First Amendment notes, 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.”

ADF attorneys represent Faith Center Church Evangelistic Ministries and its leader, Hattie Hopkins. Contra Costa County library officials in Antioch had barred Hopkins and her fellow Christians from continuing to meet in a publicly available room after the first meeting, citing their policy of disallowing any religious services on the premises.

“Once a library opens up a community room to the public, it is unconstitutional then for library officials to discriminate against patrons,” Bull explained. “Do we really want library officials to be the local free speech police, deciding when religious speech somehow becomes too religious? That’s what happened here.”

So, to make this easy on them, the judges throw out religious groups and continue to allow secular groups to meet on the premises. I don’t buy it. How does allowing religious groups and secular groups equal access to a public library constitute the marrying of religion to government?

In fact, by barring all religious groups and continuing to permit secular groups, the judges have essentially doubled their First Amendment violation by establishing the religion of Secular Humanism in the library as the only religion that can meet on the premises.

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