Another Christian “Equal Access” Lawsuit

Two court reporters for the San Diego County, California Superior Court have sued their employer, alleging that the court violated their state and federal constitutional rights by refusing to let them use an empty courtroom or jury room for their weekly Bible study group meetings.

The complaint (pdf, 14 pages) is available here courtesy of Advocates for Faith and Freedom, one of those Christian right advocacy law firms. The complaint lists Frank Manion of the American Center for Law and Justice as co-counsel. I have no love for the ACLJ, but Manion is a first-class lawyer and the plaintiffs will no doubt get superb representation.

The averments and causes of action asserting in the complaint are standard for cases such as this, but Paragraph 13 stands out in a pretty big way. After describing how the study group met in empty jury rooms over lunch hour from 2000 to April 2006, the drafter says, “The Bible study has not reconvened in any jury or court room since.” That’s one big, honking negative pregnant right there.

Christian Newswire’s all-spin report on the case is available here. The level to which the persecution bar has fallen never ceases to amaze.

Tip of the hat to Professor Howard Friedman, who in 1991 bravely undertook the Herculean task of teaching my idiot neophyte self the ins and outs of constitutional law, for reporting the story.

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Comments

  • jonolan  On October 3, 2007 at 8:25 am

    This issue is more complex than you’re making it out to be – I assume this is because of anti-religion or anti-Christian bias on your part.

    The court disallowed them access to the jury rooms due the plaintiffs not having appropriate key card access to the rooms. The court disallowed them access to unused courtrooms based on maintaining the appearance of separation of church and state and that bible studies did not further the aims of the court. These are ALL valid reasons for disallowing any group access to various court facilities.

    The problem is that the court allows both Weight Watchers and the Boys Scouts [plus other unnamed groups] access to those facilities. This is a case of “equal access”.

  • genghishitler  On October 3, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Thanks for stopping by, jonolan.

    This issue is more complex than you’re making it out to be – I assume this is because of anti-religion or anti-Christian bias on your part.

    If by “anti-religion or anti-Christian bias” you mean that I have little use for crusades, jihads, necromancy, belief in talking donkeys, a 6,000-year-old universe and/or using public money to endorse religion, then you’re quite correct.

    I’m not “making [the case] out to be” anything. If the averments in the complaint prove true — and I think we can agree that accomodationists aren’t above dissembling to advance their cause — this case has a decent chance of success on the merits. The causes of action, with the possible exceptions of the Establishment Clause and state and federal free exercise claims, at least pass the proverbial straight face test.

    My main concern at this point is the plaintiffs’ claim that the study group hasn’t met “in any jury or court room since” April 2006. Maybe it’s just sloppy drafting, but the language suggests that the group could have gotten permission to meet elsewhere in the courthouse but insisted upon a courtroom or jury room. Nowhere does the complaint aver that other groups are allowed to meet in those specific areas. This may or may not be just another manufactured lawsuit. Time will tell.

  • jonolan  On October 3, 2007 at 11:02 am

    I think that if you take that paragraph in context it’s meaning becomes more clear.

    Factual Allegations:
    Initial Use of Courthouse Facilities For A Bible Study
    Paragraph 12:
    …were informed by Court administration the Court policy did not allow Bible studies in courthouse facilities because of a concrn regarding “the separation of church and state.”

    Paragraph 13:
    The Bible study has not reconvened in any jury or court room since.

    I do admit freely that paragraph 13 may be worded too precisely. I can agree with you that the accomodationists aren’t above dissembling to advance their cause. My apologies for slighting your stance.

  • genghishitler  On October 3, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    No apology necessary, jonolan. I was a whole lot less than clear in that original entry. 🙂 Please feel free to stop in anytime.

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