Sunday, August 27, 2006

Two Fourth Circuit free exercise cases

This Findlaw article contrasts two opinions by the Fourth Circuit on the subject of the free exercise of religion.

It begins:

"Two doctrines involving religious speech have proved to be on a collision course, in two recent decisions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The question for the Fourth Circuit is what "equality" in the free exercise cases really means.

In April of 2005, the Fourth Circuit held, in Simpson v. Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, that local government can intentionally and publicly discriminate against minority religious denominations. But this month, the Fourth Circuit held in Child Evangelism Fellowship v. Montgomery County Public Schools, that a public school's refusal to permit Christian evangelistic literature in its take-home flyer program was potentially viewpoint discrimination, and, therefore, unconstitutional.

In this column, I'll explain why the two decisions cannot be reconciled, and put them in the larger contexts of Supreme Court precedent and the Christian evangelical "equality" movement."

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