Supreme Court Gets It Right

Ken AshfordConstitution, Godstuff, Supreme CourtLeave a Comment

As if on cue in the wake of the Koran desecration debate, the Supreme Court—unanimously—talks about religion and prisoners in this recent ruling:

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Tuesday that a new federal law requiring prison officials to meet inmates’ religious needs is a permissible accommodation of religion that does not violate the separation of church and state.

The court rejected arguments by Ohio officials that the law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, violated the Constitution by elevating religion above all other reasons a prisoner might seek special privileges.

The state had said that by requiring prison officials to cater to the demands of adherents of Satanist or white-supremacist religions, the law would result in attracting new followers to these sects, to the detriment of prison security.

The five Ohio inmates who brought the case belong to nonmainstream religions, including one, Asatru, that preaches that the white race needs to use violence and terrorism to prevail over the “mud races."

Now, in my book, you can’t find a religion more screwy than Little Green Footballs Asatru.  But is it protected?  You bet.  The freedom to practice religion, even for prisoners, means nothing if it applies only to majority-approval-stamped doctrines.

UPDATE:  I haven’t read the opinion, but apparently Thomas’ concurrence is ruffling a few feathers.  What he suggests (according to some) is Congress did not have the power to enact the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act under the Spending or Commerce Clauses.  If true, some argue (and I tend to agree), then Congress didn’t have the power to enact Civil Rights Acts, Americans with Disabilities Acts, etc.