Category Archives: law

Ohio executes inmate with drug untested for executions; results are both predictable and unjustifiable

The state of Ohio executed convicted murderer Dennis McGuire yesterday by lethal injection.  Because some the drugs used in the lethal cocktail (usually three) are made overseas, and foreign countries are increasingly unwilling to export drugs used for genuine medical purposes to the U.S., where they can be used to kill people, American states are […]

Snake handlers not charged for violating state law; “religious freedom” cited

One of the peculiarities of American evangelical Christianity is the bizarre practice of “snake handling” by some Southern sects. I’ve posted about this several times (see here, here, and here); the practice, which involves handling venomous snakes (usually rattlesnakes) is based on two Biblical verses: And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my […]

Ohio Supreme court: it’s legal to fire a creationist teacher

If you follow creationism, you’ll be familiar with the case of John Freshwater, a teacher of eighth-grade science students (i.e., 14-year-olds) in Ohio. He was a goddie who taught creationism, kept a Bible on his desk, bedecked the classroom walls with religious pictures, and became notorious for burning the sign of the cross into one […]

Execution of the mentally disabled

This is one issue in which how you conceive of “free will” can have real consequences in people’s lives. Warren Hill, an inmate on Georgia’s death row, has an IQ of 70, which is close to the borderline figure that Georgia considers “mental retardation”. The state can’t execute the mentally retarded. As the CBC News […]

British judge rules that Muslim defendant must remove her face covering during testimony

In a previous report on this site in August, I described how a judge in Hackney, a London suburb, was considering banning a Muslim woman, accused of intimidating a witness, from wearing her burqa in court. The item in contention was the face-covering, or niqab, shown below. The woman wanted to wear her face covering […]

Bicyclists should obey traffic laws

Hey, kids: get off my lawn!!! That’s to prepare you for this curmudgeonly post. In the past two weeks I’ve nearly been hit twice by bicyclists in Hyde Park (the area in Chicago around the university). One, going through a stop sign, almost ran me down at high speed when I was crossing the street—legally, […]

Legal scholar: teaching intelligent design in public universities is both a scientific and First Amendment no-no

Today I want to mention an article in the 2008 William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal (my undergrad alma mater!) about the constitutionality and legality of teaching intelligent design in university science classes (reference and free download below). The author is Frank S. Ravitch, Professor of Law & Walter H. Stowers Chair of Law […]

Alton Lemon, First Amendment pioneer, dies

I’m a bit late on this, but according to the New York Times, Alton Lemon died May 4 at age 84. Here’s a short precis of his life: Alton Toussaint Lemon was born on Oct. 19, 1928, in McDonough, Ga., where his father owned a tailor shop. He received a degree in mathematics from Morehouse […]

Clarence Thomas speaks in court! (Four words.)

The execrable conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas finally said something in a U.S. Supreme Court hearing. He hasn’t spoken during oral arguments (which is how the hearings are conducted) since 2006, and As the New York Times reports: Justice Thomas leaned into his microphone, and in the midst of a great deal of cross […]

Victory for first amendment: judge rules that Santa Monica can ban nativity scenes

A correct legal decision for the wrong reasons! Still, here’s an early holiday present: according to The Los Angeles Times, nativity scenes will not be allowed in a public park in Santa Monica, California: In a closely watched case that has attracted national attention, Judge Audrey B. Collins denied a request from the Santa Monica […]


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