There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than our team can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. A prison beard ban case currently before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) could have far-reaching implications for religious freedom in our prisons. An anaylsis at SCOTUSblog of Holt v. Hobbs notes that SCOTUS have already ruled that corporations have the ability to avoid complying with some government mandates that they believe infringe on their religious beliefs, but what about prisoners? Quote: “Having ruled that a corporation can rely on the devoutly Christian beliefs of its owners to avoid complying with the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control mandate, will at least five Justices be equally receptive to an inmate’s desire to comply with his Muslim religion by growing a half-inch beard?
As a sort of coda to the case of Jose Merced, a Santeria practitioner who took the city of Euless, Texas to court over the matter of animal sacrifice, and won, we learn that the city has been ordered to pay Merced’s hefty legal bills. “North Texas taxpayers could be on the hook for a $400,000 legal bill, all because their city lost its fight, against animal sacrifice in religious ceremonies. The bill could go higher. In July, the court ruled in Merced’s favor and ruled the City of Euless must pay his appellate attorneys’ fees. One of his attorneys, Eric Rassbach, estimates the total legal bill at around $400,000. “Quite frankly, they should be upset with their elected officials who signed off on this lawsuit,” Rassbach said.”
Just a few quick items to enrich your day. We start off with a Wall Street Journal editorial from Eric Rassbach at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on why he decided to defend Jose Merced’s right to sacrifice goats in his home. “It is a small victory for religious freedom in this country, not just for Mr. Merced, but for everyone who believes the human conscience is a precious gift to be protected. Of course, Christians, Jews, Muslims, or others may want to convince Mr. Merced that his beliefs are in error, and the same religious liberty will protect their right to try to persuade him. That’s the point: Persuasion, not state coercion, is the way all of us should engage our fellow citizens as they seek to obey the “still small voice” of conscience.
On Friday, a federal appeals court decided that Euless, Texas law enforcement officials violated the religious rights of Jose Merced, a practitioner of Santeria, when they prevented him from sacrificing a goat. “A federal appeals court reversed a lower court’s ruling on Friday that barred a Santeria priest from sacrificing goats in his Texas home, saying a city’s decision to prohibit the ritual violated the man’s religious rights … “It’s a great day for religious freedom in Texas,” said Eric Rassbach, Merced’s lawyer, in response to the three-judge panel’s ruling. Merced said by practicing his faith in the privacy of his own home, he didn’t harm anyone. “Now Santeros can practice their religion at home without being afraid of being fined, arrested or taken to court,” Merced said.”
After spotlighting three news items yesterday, I find that I have another three to share with you today. First up, we have a profile of the Denver Catholic Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. Chaput is receipient of this year’s Canterbury Medal, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s highest honor. But while Chaput thinks that the United States is “a nation that only really makes sense in a religion-friendly context”, it is clear from his acceptance speech that he doesn’t mean friendly towards all religions. The archbishop said “the bedrock” of our common moral heritage was the First Commandment, “I am the Lord your God; you will not have foreign gods before me.” “All of our Western beliefs about the sanctity of life, human dignity and human rights ultimately depend on a Creator who guarantees them. In other words, we have infinite value because God made us. No human being or political authority can revoke that infinite value. Only God is God.” Any other pretention to answering human suffering and hope is “finally an impostor and a road away from God’s light.” Archbishop Chaput said this view of the value of human life was in direct contrast to a contemporary American spirit in which science can “comfortably” coexist alongside “superstition or barbarism.” As the Western moral consensus weakened alongside the progress of science, people did not become more ethically mature.