Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Civl Liberties News Roundup

Ten Commandments Monument Wins in Nebraska

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit today ruled in favor of a monument bearing the Ten Commandments in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. The court reversed the decision of a district court judge who ruled the monument unconstitutional, vacating the position of a three-judge panel of the court that earlier upheld the district court's decision.

In this case, ACLU of Nebraska v. City of Plattsmouth, the 8th Circuit panel reversed the earlier decision, relying upon the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Van Orden v. Perry, which concerned a similar monument in Texas.

The opinion states, "The Ten Commandments monument had stood on the Texas State Capitol grounds for forty years without legal challenge. In Justice Breyer's view, 'those 40 years suggest more strongly than can any set of formulaic tests that few individuals...are likely to have understood the monument as amounting, in any significantly detrimental way, to a government effort' to promote, endorse, or favor religion."

Further, "Like the Ten Commandments monument at issue in Van Orden, the Plattsmouth monument makes passive-and permissible-use of the text of the Ten Commandments to acknowledge the role of religion in our Nation's heritage."

The case was defended by Frank Manion of the American Center for Law and Justice, with assistance from Jeff Downing of the Lincoln, Nebraska, law firm Keating, O'Gara, Davis & Nedved. Downing is allied with the Alliance Defense Fund.

Congress Considers "Border Protection Corps Act"

H. R. 3622 is a bill in Congress, which reads:

"To authorize the Governor of a State to organize and call into service a militia of able-bodied and eligible citizens to help prevent individuals from unlawfully crossing an international border and entering the United States anywhere other than a port of entry, to appropriate funds to support this service, and for other purposes."

Supporters believe it will defend the civil rights of all U.S. citizens, while opponents say it will violate the civil rights of illegal immigrants and Latino U.S. citizens in Southern border areas. Read the full text here.

Police Crime Watch Program Criticized by ACLU

In Orange County (FL), the ACLU is protesting a program called "Eyes and Ears," in which a local pest-control company agreed to inform law enforcement of anything unusual their employees see at work.

The ACLU's George Crossley said "This is a misguided attempt by the Orange County Sheriff's Office and the State Attorney's Office to intentionally turn neighbors against neighbors."

Barry Murray, of the Truly Nolen pest control company said "It is nothing more than crime watch, the same [program] that has been in existence from more than 30 years ago."

He added, "Whoever came up with this idea that somehow we're getting special police training for the purpose of spying on people is blatantly false."

The ACLU is looking into whether police have similar programs with other businesses. The "Eyes and Ears" program is not affiliated with the Citizen Awareness Program, established last year by Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary and State Attorney Lawson Lamar to employ utility workers and others against crime and terrorism.

CAIR and ACLU fight for Swearing on Koran

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is being joined by the ACLU in fighting a N.C. judge's decision that taking an oath on the Koran is not allowed by North Carolina state law. At issue is the judge's interpretation of state law, which specifies that witnesses shall place their hands on the "holy scriptures."

It remains to be seen if the Koran will be admitted for this use in the courts. Case law has permitted individuals to swear without a Bible. The ACLU and CAIR believe it is a violation of the establishment clause to bar the Koran, while allowing the Bible.

Hat tips to, and commentary at Crosses aCross America, Gribbit's Word, and STOP the ACLU.

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