Sunday, October 07, 2007

More on Courts in Georgia

I posted a couple days ago, complaining about the 10 Commandments Display put up in a courthouse in Georgia with the intent of influencing juries. I disagree with the Church (in that case a Baptist church) making such an overt attempt to violate the First Amendment.

What I did not complain about, though, was people praying in the courthouse to try to influence the outcome. I did not complain about people bringing in crosses, or rosaries, or Stars of David, or other items of religious nature. This is because an individual's choice to practice their religion does not end by merely entering a Government building. And I'm sure the people of Georgia believe the same way, and would lose it if they were prohibited from doing so, or outright banned from the Courthouse.

Well, maybe if it was them, individually, or (perhaps) another Christian. But at least one judge in Georgia apparently believed it was all right to ban someone for allegedly practicing Voodoo in their court. Back in 2003, you see, a Georgie Judge in Macon county barred Catherine Tarver from his court because he believed she was practicing voodoo to influence the outcome of her son's murder trial. Ms. Tarver claimed she didn't even know what voodoo was, but an employee at the courthouse claimed to have seen Ms. Tarver breaking eggs and spreading chicken feathers and "voodoo powder" on the date of her son's pretrial hearing.

Now, I don't particularly believe in voodoo, and it's unclear whether Ms. Tarver believed in it. But what I do believe in is the right to practice one's religion free from government intervention. If the judge had said something to the effect of "we can't have chicken bits (apparently chicken blood and bones had been found in the past) in the courthouse from a sanitary perspective," or "we need to keep this outside," then I don't think there'd be much to worry about. But, by banning the woman on the grounds that she was trying to use her religion to influence the trial, he acted to suppress the First Amendment rights, violating the Lemon Test.

The problem becomes more egregious, because four years later, another court in Georgia, after a law enabling such to occur, places a religious display in the courthouse with the specifically declared intent of influencing trial outcomes. But, it's all right to do so in the name of Christianity, just not anything else.

1 comment:

Bellejar said...

Ahhh the lemon test. How I love our constitution and of course all the case law. I wonder if the voodoo helped her son.