Category Archives: law

The cell or the pew? Courts give prostitutes choice of religion or jail

On the face of it, this sounds like a blatant violation of the First Amendment. In Arizona, prostitutes arrested by police in big sting operations are now given the choice of going to jail or participating in a  “rehabilitation program” run by Catholic Charities, which includes 36 hours of classroom instruction in a church. Although […]

Oh, dear God: the Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby

My CNN news alert has just given me the depressing decision: The Supreme Court today sided with Christian-owned companies that don’t want to pay for some types of contraceptives for their employees. The owners of Hobby Lobby, furniture maker Conestoga Wood Specialties and Christian bookseller Mardel argued that the Affordable Care Act violates the First […]

“We are a better people than what these laws represent”: Dover’s Judge Jones rules Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from federal judge John E. Jones III, but you’ll surely remember him as the judge who presided over the Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District et al. case in Pennsylvania in 2005. And, though a George W. Bush appointee, a Lutheran, and a Republican, Jones simply […]

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 […]


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