Saturday, January 13, 2007

There are no lost battles (because there are no won battles)

World Magazine Blog comments below on some recent Federal Court Establishment clause cases. The first case, involving the Veterans Administration, was decided, I'm proud to say, here in Madison, Wisconsin, where, I'm sorry to say, the Freedom from Religion Foundation is located. The second case is about the Mt. Soledad Cross - part of a World War II memorial.
Believing that "faith plays an important role in a person's sense of health and wellness," the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) incorporates religion into its patient care when it is deemed important to the patient. Freedom From Religion Foundation challenged the constitutionality of this use of religion in federal court, but a Wisconsin-based federal district court has dismissed the case.

Specifically, the lawsuit challenged VA's practices of: (1) giving patients a "spiritual assessment" which asks such questions as how often they attend church and how important religion is to their lives; (2) its integration of chaplains into patient care; and (3) its employment of alcohol treatment programs that incorporate religion. U.S. District Judge John Shabaz concluded that the use of religion for the purpose of helping to heal the sick legitimately relates to the VA's responsibilities and that because all of the challenged programs are voluntary they do not violate the Constitution. Freedom From says it will appeal the decision.
Source: Federal judge okay's VA's use of religion
The 9th Circuit appeals court yesterday ruled that a U.S. district court must vacate its order for the City of San Diego to remove the cross that is part of a war memorial atop Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, California. (You can read the ruling here.)

On May 3, 2006, Judge Gordon Thompson, Jr., moved to enforce an order he initially made in 1991, telling the city that the cross violated the state constitution's ban on government aid and preference for religion, and to remove it or face a fine of $5,000 per day. In August, Congress passed a bill allowing the federal government to take control of the land. That rendered Judge Thompson's order moot, since the land no longer fell under the authority of the California constitution, triggering the 9th Circuit's decision.

But the battle over the cross isn't over yet. Two lawsuits challenging the land transfer are moving through federal court with a potential trial scheduled for July.
Source: 9th Circuit: Vacate order to remove Soledad cross

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