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churches

July 27 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 27, 2013

  • Authorities arrest woman they say obtained $480,000 by falsely claiming injury from Boston Marathon bombing [CNN]
  • More on the buddy system by which Louisiana officials pick private-practice pals for contingency contracts [WWL, The Hayride, Melissa Landry/La. Record; earlier on levee district's new megasuit against oil industry]
  • “Why would the President meet with the IRS chief counsel rather than his own counsel at OLC, and without the IRS commissioner present?” [Paul Caron, TaxProf] “The IRS as microcosm”: government lawyers lean left politically [Anderson, Witnesseth]
  • California county lead paint recoupment case finally reaches trial, judge jawbones defendants to settle [Mercury-News, Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine]
  • The insanity of film production local incentives, Georgia edition [Coyote]
  • Questioning NYT’s underexplained “Goldman aluminum warehouse scam” tale [Yglesias, Stoll, Biz Insider]
  • Yes, government in the U.S. does do some things to accommodate Islam, now don’t get bent out of shape about it [Volokh]

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Mark Graber at Concurring Opinions, reviewing James Fleming and Linda McClain, Ordered Liberty, a book which lays out a constitutional analysis consistent with the viewpoint Graber calls “Solid Liberalism”:

Another point where Ordered Liberty threatens but pulls back from challenging core Solid Liberal beliefs occurs during the discussion of Bob Jones v. United States. Ordered Liberty suggests that the Supreme Court in that case correctly ruled that religious organizations can be denied tax exemptions if they teach racism and other abhorrent doctrines. I confess to be troubled by the analysis. I suspect that most Jewish schools at the very least encourage students to date and marry other Jews, that these schools teach the doctrine that Jews are a chosen people, and that a great many other religions engage in similarly illiberal teaching. Given the importance of the welfare state in the lives of most citizens, a point Fleming and McClain make elsewhere in the book, I confess to some discomfort with the constitutional rule they eventually endorse that forbids religious coercion but permits religious groups to be denied state benefits that go to other religious groups with more liberally accepted beliefs. I think based on what the authors suggest elsewhere in the book, a case can be made that Bob Jones ought to be rethought.

In the Harrisburg Patriot-News, Ivey DeJesus trumpets the views of a “leading legal expert,” specifically “one of the country’s leading church and state scholars” who says, contrary to a state lawmaker’s assertions, that there’s no constitutional problem with reopening lapsed statutes of limitations so as to enable child-abuse lawsuits by now-grown-up complainants. Prof. Marci Hamilton is indeed a well-known church-state scholar, and there is indeed precedent for the (perhaps strange) idea that courts will not necessarily strike down retroactive legislation as unconstitutional so long as its impacts are civil rather than criminal. But it’s not until paragraph 18 that DeJesus, after introducing the expert at length by way of her academic affiliations, bothers to add a perhaps equally relevant element of her biography: she has “represented scores of victims in the Philadelphia Archdiocese clergy sex abuse case.” Why bring that up?

Following up on last January’s report: the Disciple Fellowship Christian Church of East St. Louis, Ill. has reportedly settled Cheryl Jones’s suit claiming that ushers were not properly provided to catch falling worshipers during a service in which congregants “received the Spirit”. Jones was injured when others fell on her. We have earlier reported on similar cases from Michigan, Oregon, Tennessee, and Australia. [Christina Stueve Hodges, Madison-St. Clair Record; update ($3K)]

February 14 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 14, 2013

  • “From Chevron to Arlington: The Court and the Administrative State at Sea” [Michael Greve]
  • “Tawana Brawley ordered to pay settlement to man she accused of rape” [ABA Journal] False memories of being assaulted by Tigger, and how that can happen [Lowering the Bar; William Saletan, Slate, debunks a Gawker story, 2010]
  • “Portlandia — The Bed and Breakfast Inspector” [Armisen/Brownstein, IFC]
  • Writer at National Review Online sees Obama’s “pro-marriage” talk as logically entailing big new entitlement program, and applauds that [W. Bradford Wilcox]
  • “What’s Next For The Class Action Plaintiffs’ Bar? Getting Deputized By State Attorneys General” [Kevin Ranlett, Mayer Brown]
  • “Christian School’s Lawsuit May Test Supreme Court’s Religious Freedom Ruling in Hosanna-Tabor Case” [Fed Soc Blog]
  • “The Slippery Slope (Insurance Fears = No More Sledding)” [Free-Range Kids]

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January 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 20, 2013

  • I’m in today’s NYT Book Review reviewing “Foundation,” Peter Ackroyd’s new book on English history up to the Tudors [NYT]
  • Stanford Law School launches religious liberty clinic [Karen Sloan, NLJ] AALS panel on “The Freedom of the Church” [Rick Garnett, Prawfs]
  • Party in breach, nasssty thief, we hates it forever: lawyer parses Hobbit’s Bilbo-dwarves contract [James Daily, Wired]
  • To pay for roads, vehicle-mile fees > gas tax, but either > general sales tax, argues Randal O’Toole [Cato at Liberty]
  • Steven Teles on the high cost of opaque, complex and indirect government action [New America via Reihan Salam]
  • I’ve given a blurb to Mark White’s forthcoming nudging-back book on behavioral economics, “The Manipulation of Choice: Ethics and Libertarian Paternalism” [Amazon]
  • “Internet-Use Disorder: The Newest Disability?” [Jon Hyman]

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Bork and his adversaries

by Walter Olson on December 20, 2012

I’m in today’s New York Post with an op-ed about how, agree or disagree with Bork’s views, you can’t defend many of the tactics used against him in 1987. Earlier here (& welcome Nick Gillespie/Reason, Andrew Sullivan, Stephen Bainbridge, Reihan Salam, Tom Smith, Pejman Yousefzadeh, Jonathan Adler/Volokh, Memeorandum readers).

More: David Frum recalls a very funny Bork law exam. Ramesh Ponnuru defends Bork’s famous “inkblot” comment as reasonable in its context. Much more on that question from Randy Barnett. Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen casts a vote against. At Secular Right, I add another observation or two about Bork’s religious views. Via Andrew Grossman, a clip on the beard issue.

Yet more: Richard Epstein at Ricochet. Meanwhile, some commentators have taken the line that uncivil or not, the actual charges by Kennedy and others against Bork were accurate enough. Mickey Kaus, who is sympathetic to judicial restraint but less so to Bork, links to a 1989 New Republic review in which he shed light on that:

True, paranoia on Bork’s part is amply justified. There is a liberal legal culture, and it was out to get him. … And it got him, in part, by sleazily misrepresenting some of his views. Most famously, a narrow Bork ruling was falsely characterized as favoring “sterilizing workers.” But there were other nasty distortions, not all by fringe interest groups. Senator Edward Kennedy charged that in “Bork’s America… schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution,” when Bork had never opposed teaching evolution. Senator Paul Simon implied Bork might approve the pro-slavery decision in Dred Scott.

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Election roundup

by Walter Olson on November 6, 2012

Voters in four states will decide same-sex marriage ballot questions on Nov. 6. As many readers know, I’ve been writing actively on the Maryland question, and those interested in catching up on that can follow the links here to find, among other things, my recent interview on the subject with the Arab news service Al-Jazeera, my thoughts on Judge Dennis Jacobs’s decision striking down Section 3 of DOMA (the federal Defense of Marriage Act), and my reaction to the other side’s “bad for children” contentions.

The Cato Institute has been doing cutting-edge work on the topic for years from a libertarian perspective; some highlights here.

Yet more: Hans Bader on religious liberty and anti-discrimination law [Examiner, CEI] And my letter to the editor in the suburban Maryland Gazette: “Civil society long ago decoupled marriage law from church doctrines.”

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What the Vice President said at the debate isn’t really right. [Jonathan Adler]

They’re tripping up some unwary homeowners: “1000s of families could be caught by church repair bills as archaic rights revived” [Telegraph, more]

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At Prawfsblawg, Paul Horwitz, Rick Garnett and others have a discussion of claims (typified here and here) that it’s oppressive not to let churches electioneer with tax-deductible funds. Other views: Religion News Service/HuffPo, Bloomberg editorial, Stephen Colbert via TaxProf (to an IRS-defying pastor: “Other people have to use after-tax money for their political speech, but you guys get to use pre-tax money for political speech.”) Or is the better answer to liberate both secular and religious 501(c)(3)s to express election views, with the possible result of enabling political donors generally to take a tax deduction on money spent to promote their preferred candidates and causes?

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Peter Ferguson says the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at Grey County meetings not only violated the national Charter, but caused him “anguish, discrimination, exclusion, rejection and loss of enjoyment of life” to the tune of C$5,000. [National Post]

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What does the pursuit of litigation do to litigants’ characters? What does it do to the character of organizations and whole societies? Does it undermine the humility that some (though not all) of us deem an important virtue in persons and institutions?

This week I’m leading a discussion on that subject at the John Templeton Foundation’s Big Questions Online. It starts with a brief essay in which I note the older view, held by many religions and philosophical schools but now out of favor in much of academia, that litigiousness is a kind of vice, to which people are perhaps peculiarly susceptible if they take to an extreme what is otherwise the virtuous impulse to pursue justice. I cite familiar sources (Abraham Lincoln, Bleak House) as well as those perhaps less familiar (Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaas) that shed light on how pride in one’s own quarrels, even (especially?) those that are rightful, can distort perceptions and harden sympathies.

My observations, however, do no more than scratch the surface of a big subject on which there is much to say. It’s a moderated discussion and your comments are welcome through the week. And please pass on word to others who might be interested.

Ken at Popehat has picked up primary documents in the case of the lawsuit filed by Beaverton Grace Bible Church of Beaverton, Ore. against a “former parishioner and her family members for negative online reviews.” Earlier here.

Among issues in the suit: whether terms like “creepy,” “cult,” “control tactics,” and “spiritual abuse” are defamatory. [Anita Kissee, KATU]

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“…your heart will lift up, unless you are the noise nuisance officer of North Somerset….For the time being, the chimes of Wrington have been silenced,” owing to a noise complaint lodged by a weekending Londoner. [A.N. Wilson, The Independent]

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“[Glenn] Richter has been collecting food from places like the Ohav Zedek synagogue and bringing it to homeless shelters for more than 20 years, but recently his donation, including a ‘cholent‘ or carrot stew, was turned away because the Bloomberg administration wants to monitor the salt, fat and fiber eaten by the homeless. … Richter said that over the years he’s delivered more than two tons of food to the homeless.” The NYC mayor says he’s not planning to reconsider the recently adopted policy. [CBS-NY] Earlier here (Connecticut), here (N.J.: “retail food establishment”), here, etc.

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