Making the rounds, on Mental Floss and elsewhere, a story of how an overzealous lawyer for the Quaker Oats company sent a cease/desist letter to the Quaker Oaks (that’s “Oaks”) Christmas Tree Farm in Visalia, California, led by actual members of the Society of Friends and named after the tree under which religious services had been held for a time. The letter provoked this amusing and not un-peaceful response from William Lovett (“Our business is 100% owned and operated by Quakers. I suspect that your firm employs considerably fewer, if any, Quakers.”)
While the Deseret News sets the tale in 2012, it seems to have been in circulation longer than that, as seen in this 2006 posting. But since names in the story, including that of a lawyer for the food company, do check out as names of real persons, my guess is that the story is genuine.
How the courts came to extend First Amendment protection to art, music, movies, and other expression not originally classed as “press” or “speech” [new Mark Tushnet, Alan Chen, and Joseph Blocher book via Ronald Collins]
Newly enacted Tennessee conscience exemption for psychological counselors and therapists avoids some of the dangers of compelled speech [Scott Shackford, Reason]
Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, benchslapped by Judge Richard Posner after sending credit card companies letters urging them to cut off dealings with Backpage.com, now seeks Supreme Court certiorari review [Ronald Collins, earlier here, here, and here]
One problem with that Mississippi law: it gives extra protection to some religious beliefs about sex and marriage but not others [Popehat; my guest appearance on Mike Slater show, San Diego’s KFMB]
Notwithstanding its critics, religious arbitration has a role to play in a liberal legal order — in fact especially there, suggest John Corvino and Katherine Kim. “An important feature of liberal (i.e. free) states is to protect citizens’ moral agency, allowing them to align their actions with their moral convictions. Many citizens base their moral convictions on their religious beliefs. For these citizens, religious arbitration may provide an important opportunity to resolve disputes in accordance with shared values.” [University of Colorado philosophy blog What’s Wrong?, more on recent attacks on arbitration]
Sam Brunson, a Loyola (Chicago) professor specializing in tax law, searched IRS private letter rulings and sums up the results at the Mormon website By Common Consent (via Paul Caron/TaxProf, who assembles other links). For some academics’ views on whether the Bob Jones U. precedent (exemption denied to educational institution on grounds of race discrimination) will or should be pushed further into other areas, see Inside Higher Education and Caroline Corbin, SSRN (sex discrimination).
My case for not applying discrimination law in ways that drive conservative religious agencies out of adoption work. [Cato at Liberty, drawing on my contributions to Scott Shackford’s Reason piece on libertarians and gays, which deserves a read on its own]
In this half-hour Cato podcast, Caleb Brown interviews Roger Pilon and me on yesterday’s decision in Obergefell finding that states are constitutionally obliged to extend marriage to same-sex couples. I touch on some topics of wider interest (no, I don’t think polygamy is next; the Justices write and behave differently when it’s a really big case; the law’s treatment of churches mustn’t depend on whether their theology suits the government’s taste or not). And lots of more specialized points, such as Roberts’ weird demonization of the famed Lochner case in his dissent (“gay marriage and laissez-faire capitalism, peas in a pod!”), what I call Kennedy’s “gin and tonic” method of mixing Due Process with Equal Protection, and a remarkable story by Roger of getting Scalia to admit he doesn’t think the Court was correct when it recognized a constitutional right to send one’s kids to private and religious schools.
The Jason Kuznicki paper I mention — on how legal practicalities undercut the idea of the government “getting out of marriage” in the sense of not attempting to certify who is married and who not — is here.
Why one victim of Washington, D.C.’s peeping-Tom rabbi isn’t suing [Bethany S. Mandel]
After Illinois Supreme Court rules that state constitution forbids lawmakers ever to cut public pensions for any reason, Moody’s slashes Chicago bond rating to junk status [Daniel Fisher; David Skeel, On Labor]
Panel on Capitol Hill tomorrow (Fri., 5/22) on lessons of Baltimore with Cato’s Tim Lynch, Matthew Feeney, Michael Tanner, moderated by Peter Russo [register or watch online] Richard Epstein on Baltimore with a critique of both 1) police unions and 2) Ta-Nehisi Coates’s apologia for violence [Hoover “Defining Ideas”]
In 1983 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Bob Jones University in South Carolina could be denied an otherwise applicable tax exemption because of its then policy of forbidding interracial dating among its students; since then, despite much speculation, there has not been widespread yanking of exemptions from other institutions over widely disfavored or execrated but otherwise not unlawful internal policies. Now an exchange between Justice Samuel Alito and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, at Tuesday’s oral argument in the gay marriage cases, is raising some eyebrows. Verrilli’s comments, if seen as reflecting considered Obama administration policy, might be seen as leaving the door open to wider denial of exemptions. [Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post; Michael Greve, Library of Law and Liberty]
In exchange for relief from a state-mandated stormwater remediation fee, and direct government subsidies to pay for property improvements intended to reduce runoff, some churches in Prince George’s County, Maryland have made an unusual commitment to the authorities. I explain, and raise questions, at Free State Notes. Since when does government get the power to cut churches tax breaks in exchange for their agreement to preach an approved line? (&Bader, CEI)
More from Scott Shackford, Reason: “Oppressive subpoenas like this happen all the time, which is probably why Houston didn’t even realize it was poking at a hornet’s nest. Cities across the country fight back like this against citizens attempting to exert their right to influence municipal policy. … If the targets hadn’t been pastors, would we even had known about the subpoenas?”