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Piney

Atheists Sue to Stop Animal Blessings.

33 posts in this topic

Totally agree with LG here.

This isn't an issue of 'hurting the animals', it's an issue of secularism.

Keep religious practices out of the government.

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They should outlaw people being able to say "Good boy" to a dog in the shelter.  The dog may identify as a girl dog. 

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A King

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Keep religious practices out of the government.

That's easier to do in a place like France, where the state guarantees its citizens a secular society. Anything remotely like that is expressly forbidden in the United States by the First Amendment, which protects the free exercise of religion in as many words.

That's what makes being a libertarian (what I fancy myself to be) such a four-star lady dog. Rights conflict. Discernment isn't optional. The easy cases are like this one: much ado about nothing.


LG

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I've always wondered about the implications of 'standing'; does it mean that if a community has prayers in their public schools and no one complains about it, there's nothing the law can do?

Well, as you know, there lawfully can be prayers in public schools under a variety of circumstances. Since a huge part of the difference between permitted and forbidden is voluntariness of participation, it's hard to see how, if literally nobody complains, the law would even find out about it.

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Actually that seems to be debatable, or at least dependent on where you live:

Maybe, but your link concerns a proposed temporary measure pending further review in response to a genuine security threat.

Commonly, accredited clergy are welcome at secure corrections facilities. An inmate visit in and of itself is a religious act for Christians (whose God recommends visiting the incarcerated in both tradition and scripture).

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I disagree.

Ok. Nevertheless, unless you're proposing some kind of supernatural mojo that makes the priest's good wishes different from my TV weathercaster's good wishes, what's the difference between a blessing and any other expression of benificence? Note that what either person believes cannot be the basis of denying either of them anything that would be extended by the county to the other.

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given it's predominate connection to religion and prayers

And bless you for thinking so. There, I've wished you well.

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If they refuse the Satanists ...

That's what I'm asking: Would they refuse the Satanists? Have they? If not, then who's to say what would happen?

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Is the evaluation of what constitutes a 'trifle' done with no regard to the heckler's veto, is it more than a trifle based on how many people make a stink about it?

The "trifle" refers to the specific conduct complained of in the suit actually put before the court, according to the article. Anybody can make up a religiously colored non-trifle, and such things surely do exist, but the current thread is about the current case. It's a trifle. The March on Selma wasn't a trifle, no question about it.

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Cool, then I guess the other comments here concerned about legal costs may be misguided.

Your comment was that adjudication, even a prompt dismissal, wasn't free. We agree. Who ends up paying, and what share, is largely up to the judge applying the law that covers such matters. The county doesn't necessarily incur those costs by defending itself, and doesn't necessarily avoid plaintiffs' and courts' costs by not defending itself.

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I'm in good company.

I don't have a problem with it; I proposed a hypothetical myself.

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where is the religious blessing?

Nowhere. The county's involvement was to make the animals available to a visitor on county premises, and to receive in return the public relations benefit of the event as a human interest news story about the county's activities. There are no other issues. If the weathercaster said to each animal, "Bless your little heart," the hypothetical doesn't change.

He or she is entitled to say that, by the way. As is the priest. It's none of the county's business whether a visitor expresses  good wishes for the animals in religious terms or in purely secular terms or in "ambiguous" terms.

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1 hour ago, eight bits said:

it's hard to see how, if literally nobody complains, the law would even find out about it.

It's pretty easy for me to see, what people talk about is not restricted to just complaints (no matter what impression we might get to the contrary by reading comments on the internet), you seem to presume that our entire hypothetical school-led praying community realizes they need to keep talk of the school prayer on the down-low.  The law could find out about it in all kinds of ways that don't involve complaints; Joe Aclu may just hear his granddaughter talk about the prayer the teacher said that day.

1 hour ago, eight bits said:

Maybe, but your link concerns a proposed temporary measure pending further review in response to a genuine security threat.

To be clear, what will apparently be under further review is whether this will be temporary. This is in response to your claim that clergy have a 'protected right' to visit inmates which, if wardens can revoke it permanently, doesn't look very 'protected'.  I'm not that knowledgeable about this, but I didn't see any mention in the article that non-immediate-family members have grounds for contesting this legally, maybe there's some extra-special exception for clergy, I don't know.

1 hour ago, eight bits said:

And bless you for thinking so. There, I've wished you well.

Emphasis on the word 'predominate'.  Okay, so we've established that a blessing can be religious and a blessing can be just secular well wishes.  Which one do you think is:

Image may contain: 1 person, dog

2 hours ago, eight bits said:

That's what I'm asking: Would they refuse the Satanists? Have they? If not, then who's to say what would happen?

The problem is that if Satanists make the request there's an issue either way.  If they refuse the Satanists, it invites a lawsuit for discrimination; if they accept, you invite pretty much the same suit as the atheists here but more likely by Christians, demanding that religious functions be kept separate from public buildings.  

2 hours ago, eight bits said:

The March on Selma wasn't a trifle, no question about it

What I was wondering is to what extent we think this is a trifle legally because there are not very many people complaining about it.  Assuming you accept that the scenario where a few Christians make the identical complaints as the atheists here but in response to the hypothetical Satanists' Damning ceremony is likewise a trifle, would it escape that designation just by virtue of instead having a few hundred Christians upset about it?  The reason for the March on Selma is not a trifle, even in the case where only three people had participated in it.

2 hours ago, eight bits said:

Your comment was that adjudication, even a prompt dismissal, wasn't free. We agree.

Agreed, and you noted that the county could have their legal costs covered.  So to the degree we think the county would be able to defend against this for free the reaction to this is a big 'so what?', where's the harm in the atheists' objections, they're the ones that will be paying for them.  To the degree we think the county will have to pony up legal costs for this, the degree to which I partly put the blame on the shelter for being stupid enough to make an organized event around this.

2 hours ago, eight bits said:

The county's involvement was to make the animals available to a visitor on county premises, and to receive in return the public relations benefit of the event as a human interest news story about the county's activities. There are no other issues. If the weathercaster said to each animal, "Bless your little heart," the hypothetical doesn't change.

I think we're differing on two main things here, concerning the word 'bless' and concerning how this should overall be characterized.  I don't know that you disagree, but what the bishop is doing here seems pretty clearly to be religious, he is giving a religious blessing, just like they do in church.  If we were to add a cartoon dialogue bubble to the friar in the picture above with his hands raised in classic blessing/prayer pose, complete with white dove hovering over him, I don't think we'd expect something so secular sounding as 'bless your little heart'.  They are inviting people to bring their own pets in to be blessed, I don't think that's so a bishop can wish them a hearty 'Cheerio!' while decked out in his vestments and holding a Bible.

Overall I'm not fully getting the weatherman comparison.  The differences between what is going on with this event and your hypothetical, "suppose some local celebrity - a TV weather forecaster, say - wants to see the animals, say hello to them face to face, giving the staff a photo op and the right to distribute his or her likeness gratis in support of their agency's objectives.", is what is relevant.  Given that, I don't get your question, "What is the constitutional basis for excluding a clergy member from doing what others would be allowed to do without objection?".  The answer is obviously nothing, but the clergy is not just doing what the weatherman is doing.  The differences are that taxpayers are paying public employees to organize and manage an event whose announced purpose is a religious 'activity' (I don't know at what point things are considered 'services').  Hell, do it after hours with the employees volunteering their time or something, again acknowledging the pettiness of the complaint the atheists in this case are making, to me that'd be quite an improvement and help disentangle it, I think it's already established that religious groups can have religious functions in school buildings when it's not in session or in other rooms in public buildings that are available.

This isn't, 'Bring your pet to have its picture taken with Katy Perry!', and Katy freely exercising her right to say a full-blown prayer if she wants for each pet; she can do that I'd hope, she's not a member of the clergy and isn't there for the expressed purpose of saying prayers.  Our bishop is there to give religious blessings/prayers, that's the reason he isn't just some other schmo that they wouldn't bother to organize a 'good wishes' event around. 

To try and put a stake in the ground on where you're coming from, our shelter instead decides that they will conduct full-blown masses during normal hours including paying shelter employees to facilitate it.  In the right places, the public relation benefits could be huge.  Still 'no other issues'?

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LG

First things first, Happy Thanksgiving.

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school-led

"School-led" and "in the school" are two different situations. If the former, then the activity is unconstitutional, and the question becomes how to stop it if nobody complains. That's a practical question, and I don't know the answer, because I don't know anytime that clearly happened.

The closest case that comes to mind my was a religious banner in a public high school in Rhode Island (the birthplace of American separation of church and state).

http://www.theblaze.com/news/2013/09/23/remember-the-teen-atheist-who-battled-for-the-removal-of-her-schools-prayer-mural-heres-the-secular-replacement

It was removed after a student's complaint succeeded in court, but it had hung there for decades, from about the time of the first school prayer ruling. It was supposedly believed to be in good faith compliance with the court's earliest articulated requirements when it was installed.

As a matter of law, its display was unconstitutional from day one. Nevertheless, there it was in full public display, until somebody complained. In part, that was because nobody could actually know that it was unconstitutional until the case was decided (How could anybody have known it was unconstitutional when it was first installed, when the ramifications of the school prayer ruling were yet to be litigated?)

If that case is the model, then as a practical matter, I think somebody needed to complain to get a case moving, and even then nobody knew the remedy until the case was worked out. Recall that "school led" prayer had a way of becoming student led exercises, rather than simply ceasing. Conceivably, the banner might have been censored (three bits of duct tape would do the trick, by my count) instead of being removed and replaced with a different message.

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This is in response to your claim that clergy have a 'protected right' to visit inmates

It's not peculiarly my claim, which was materially narrower than your summary of it. Regardless, the case before us doesn't concern a Mississippi clergyman. The point I raised was illustrative, not anything necessary for the resolution of the topic case. Let's move on.

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Which one do you think is

Why does it have to be one or the other? Good secular public relations may have a religious dimension. That's the implication of the little doll being OK if Rudolf's nose provides some of the illumination.

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The problem is that if Satanists make the request there's an issue either way.

OK. If, as and when it happens, then it will be addressed. That there may be a lawsuit is uninformative about what the county is constitutionally allowed to do.

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demanding that religious functions be kept separate from public buildings.

Fine, as long as nobody from the public gets to visit the animals. Oh wait, that's the point of running an animal shelter as opposed to a slaughterhouse. I guess people will be allowed to visit the animals. OK, who then? Doing what?

Roman Catholic priests are only allowed to see the animals if they refrain from using religious language while on county premises, and must observe a dress code tailored to them? Sure, that'll fly. No lawsuits there, eh?

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What I was wondering is to what extent we think this is a trifle legally because there are not very many people complaining about it.  

Not at all. I suspect few complain about it because it is a trifle, rather than the other way around.

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The reason for the March on Selma is not a trifle, even in the case where only three people had participated in it.

I quite agree. As a matter of fact, my mother disobeyed the racial seating restrictions on a southern bus way back when. That was not a trifle, either, and there was only her, alone. (The bus driver conceded the point and nothing further came of it. Smart bus driver.)

On a point arising: it is simply a fact that anybody can file a lawsuit against anybody else. That's the system here, and I would not advocate denying anybody access to the courts who was aggrieved. I do have an opinion about the merits of this case, and I would welcome its dismissal. That doesn't imply I would advocate denying the plaintiffs rights that everybody else enjoys.

On a second point arising: the courts are not the place to decide whether the county conducts its business prudently, only whether the county behaves lawfully. If the citizens of the county would prefer that events like this not take place for any reason, then that's what elections are for.

That also covers your idea of organizing a similar event differently. Sure, probably there are better ways to do it, but that doesn't make the way it was done unconstitutional.

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They are inviting people to bring their own pets in to be blessed, ...

Yes, so? At least up where I live, it's routine for the animal shelter (which operates under a different public-private partnership arrangement than in the current case) to invite local pet owners to participate in its public relations events, often bringing their pets along. By an amazing coincidence, pet owners are among the most active people in supporting the shelter's programs. Go figure.

Edited by eight bits
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Who Started the First Fire?

Humans’ ability to control fire is among the most important technological advances in our evolutionary history. Research on Neanderthal cave sites in France is offering new insights on this old enigma.

 

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03-Fire-Sediment.jpg

 

~

 

And animal human relationships was never the same again ...

~

 

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7 hours ago, eight bits said:

First things first, Happy Thanksgiving.

You too 8!  Hope you have a blessed day.  ;)

7 hours ago, eight bits said:

If that case is the model, then as a practical matter, I think somebody needed to complain to get a case moving,

Agreed, I had just wondered about the 'standing' part.  If a public school district is entirely Christian and no taxpayer in that district complains about the unconstitutional school prayers, can anything be done?  That may not be a great example, since some of my state taxes go to education someone from another district may have standing, dunno.

8 hours ago, eight bits said:

Why does it have to be one or the other?

It doesn't, the point is that it is religious and goes to what I thought you were trying to point out, which is that 'bless' can be secular also, the relevance of which I don't get.  In some narrow circumstances involving the government, there are issues with or prohibitions against religious expression as opposed to other expression.  A teacher who starts each math class with a quick audible run through the rosary involves constitutional issues that a teacher who starts each class with a quick listen of Led Zeppelin III does not.  Which is why I don't understand the point of hypotheticals where all constitutional issues are removed.

8 hours ago, eight bits said:

Roman Catholic priests are only allowed to see the animals if they refrain from using religious language while on county premises, and must observe a dress code tailored to them?

Whoa whoa. To clear this up, I'm largely in agreement with the balance that has been struck by our legal system between free exercise and establishment.  There are some things I don't like, such as efforts to funnel tax money to some religious institutions, and I think that prayers before public meetings are a little icky, but they're pretty minor, overall I think we've got a good compromise.  There is no quick phrase that I'm going to be able to use to sum up the details and nuances of our hypotheticals, so I may just use phrases like "religious functions be kept separate from public buildings" for shorthand; individual people muttering prayers and/or dressing in religious garb in a public place does not a 'religious function' make.  Respecting the Free Exercise Clause is just as important as respecting the Establishment Clause.

8 hours ago, eight bits said:

As a matter of fact, my mother disobeyed the racial seating restrictions on a southern bus way back when. That was not a trifle, either, and there was only her, alone. (The bus driver conceded the point and nothing further came of it. Smart bus driver.)

Wow. It may not be the most appropriate phrase given the overall context but 'how cool'.  Regardless of the specifics I'd be proud of her.

8 hours ago, eight bits said:

That also covers your idea of organizing a similar event differently.

I guess kinda although a mass seems to be different, I forgot to add the word 'daily' I guess.  Maybe we can make it easier, can you imagine any scenario where a county animal shelter could run afoul of the Establishment Clause?  If so, what would be the closest unconstitutional scenario to this one, if we took as a base this blessing event, could it be modified in some way that makes it unacceptable? 

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LG

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If a public school district is entirely Christian and no taxpayer in that district complains about the unconstitutional school prayers, can anything be done?  That may not be a great example, since some of my state taxes go to education someone from another district may have standing, dunno.

The school district is a "creature of the state," and so there might well be some administrative remedy enacted through the department of education or by state-level statute that doesn't even involve the courts. If it did come to litigation, the state executive branch would probably have standing.

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A teacher who starts each math class with a quick audible run through the rosary involves constitutional issues that a teacher who starts each class with a quick listen of Led Zeppelin III does not.

We could probably agree that the standard of care is higher for K-12 schools (the courts recognize age and "captive audience" as aggravating factors) than for animal shelters (except maybe for events pitched towards school-aged children, and even then the kids are a lot freer to come and go as they please than they ever are at school).

Neither teacher in your hypothetical is doing something rationally related to the mission of the school, but only one of them risks infringing on students' rights and is using the setting in an already prohibited way. In my hypotheticals, both the priest and the weathercaster are doing something involving promotion of public awareness of the shelter. There is no captive (human) audience, no special pitch to school-aged participants, no clear existing prohibitions of the specific conduct in that setting, and each visitor exercises their free expression rights in a peaceful and orderly fashion.

I didn't remove all the constitutional issues. It's just that my hypothetical lacks a goring of your ox, the better to focus on the competing protected interests in the situation.

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To clear this up, I'm largely in agreement with the balance that has been struck by our legal system between free exercise and establishment.

OK. The hitch is that striking that balance is an ongoing case-by-case social negotiation. Maybe some of that negotiation could and should take place without litigation? It isn't that the plaintiffs here completely lack any point, it's that they're being d**** about it - um, making way too much of a de minimis slight. Everything sounds better in Latin.

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... can you imagine any scenario where a county animal shelter could run afoul of the Establishment Clause?  If so, what would be the closest unconstitutional scenario to this one, if we took as a base this blessing event, could it be modified in some way that makes it unacceptable?  

Displaying crucifixes on the walls? Or something like that RI case, a banner where the main text wasn't religious (pretty ordinary "good citizenship" and "good student" stuff), but was labeled as a prayer, addressed to a "heavenly father," and ended with "Amen."

So, maybe something like the difference between a plaque on the wall that reads:

Help us to find every animal a loving home.

versus one that reads:

Let us pray.

Almighty God in Heaven, help us to find every animal a loving home.

Amen

And yeah, I'm proud of my Mom :) .

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