Monday, January 05, 2009

First Amendment Under Attack in the Courtroom

Righting First Amendment Wrongs

Saturday I wrote an update on the John Freshwater case, which discusses a violation of a teacher’s first amendment rights. Today we look at the contested first amendment right of a judge to express his conviction in his courtroom.

The following are two letters that appeared on the op ed page of a local newspaper. One letter to the editor was written by an Ohio citizen. The letter was published in print and online on December 20, 2008 in the Mansfield (Ohio) News Journal. The letter is in response to a letter previously written a week prior by an attorney. Both letters appear below.

The ACLU seeks to expunge God and Christianity from every crack and crevice of society including: schools, courts, business, libraries, and the public square. So insidious, so odious is this vile organization that it should be classified as a terrorist group in the same way as Al Qaeda or Hamas are.

While the Islamic terrorists seek to destroy physical assets, the so-called civil rights organizations destroy American traditional values, Christian virtues, morality, and other fundamental principles. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and their comrades, such as Americans for the Separation of Church and State, or People for the American Way, despite their innocuous, respectful sounding names, are the exact opposite of what they seem to be.

Mr. Falls captures the honorable truths in his words, while Counselor Davis expresses devious lies with his.

Letter: Freedom of doesn’t mean freedom from

Bernard R. Davis, proud card-carrying member of the ACLU attempted to explain, in convoluted legal language, in a recent News Journal public letter, his reasons for filing the complaint against Judge James DeWeese’s posting of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom.

What attorney Davis, and members of his ACLU ilk, fail to comprehend – in non-legal terms – are two fundamental tenets of the foundation of the American republic.

First, constitutionally provided freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion. Freedom to publicly profess and practice religious beliefs was the primary reason for the establishment of this nation.

Second, separation of church and state, as determined by the founding fathers, was defined as prohibition of government endorsement or sanction of any particular church or denomination (as the Anglican Church was in Britain). Any7 other interpretation of the term amounts to distortion or subversion of its intent for a singular, self-serving purpose.

Davis, the ACLU, and those of the “freedom from religion” persuasion need to be reminded of these historical factors as they attempt to remove all religious references from public life.

Fredrick J. Falls
Mansfield, Ohio


Letter: Courtroom belongs to the people

I am a proud member of the ACLU for many years and was the complainant who was responsible for removing the Ten Commandments from Judge James DeWeese's courtroom. I recently read his Dec. 3 letter to the editor of and felt it deserved a response.

Judge DeWeese cites the case of Minnesota v. White to support his position. That case involved whether candidates for judicial election could state their views on disputed legal and political issues. We do not have that situation. Here we have an elected sitting judge using the courtroom to espouse his religious viewpoint.

Individually, Judge DeWeese, as does every citizen, should and does have full First Amendment rights. As such he is entitled to express and practice his political and religious viewpoints at home, his church and in the public square, subject of course to constraints placed on him by the Code of Judicial Conduct.

What he has failed to recognize is that he is an elected official of one of the branches of government. The courtroom he temporarily occupies is in a government building owned by the people. He is not the owner.

When he places his poster on the walls of that courtroom it is not Judge DeWeese exercising his First Amendment rights; it is government action and speech. It is not about attempting to conduct a civics lesson to the public. It is the use of government facilities and his office to promote his views of his Judeo-Christian beliefs on the public who appear in the people's court. The poster is simply his endorsement of the Ten Commandments. Any question that this is true is erased by the final statement on his poster: "I join the Founders in personally acknowledging the importance of Almighty God's fixed moral standards for restoring the moral fabric of this nation."

If this were not enough, the poster advises the reader that if they want an explanatory pamphlet to ask the receptionist. This pamphlet consists of six pages that try to persuade the reader to the judge's religious viewpoint.

I have no problem with Judge DeWeese believing and espousing individually whatever he likes. What is inappropriate and wrong is that he uses the people's courtroom and his government position to promote his own personal religious agenda.

Bernard R. Davis, attorney
Mansfield, Ohio


After reading the attorney's letter I get the distinct impression that individual rights do not matter, only the collective good (i.e., the 'peoples' court). It smells like socialism or Marxism to me. I think that is the underlying movement, which is moving to destroy the America as we know it.


  1. Anonymous8:11 AM

    We can not call the United States of America a Christian nation. That phrase itself is exactly what our founding Fathers DID NOT want. Any form of government needs to remain neutral. Everyone who is fighting for this will eventually eat their words, when a follower of another Faith wants to display things in a public courtroom, the tide will change. Suddenly you will be saying it isn't allowed!

  2. Anon. 8:11 AM -

    Is Saudi Arabia a Muslim nation? Is India primarily a Hindu nation? Is Thailand a Buddhist nation?

    America has been since its founding, a Christian nation. Repeating the antithesis of that statement will not make it any different. The left is found of repeating a falsehood over and over again with the idea eventually people will believe it. The left attempts, with some success, on many fronts to remove our great Christian heritage from our history books, our historical sites, our government and courts, etc.

    The vast majority of our founding fathers where believers in Jesus
    Christ. Our countries laws and government structure are based on Judeo-Christian principles.

    When it comes to American virtue, values and principles we cannot be neutral.

    Someday America will regret accepting the destruction of our very foundation!

  3. Anonymous10:10 PM

    "Is Saudi Arabia a Muslim nation? Is India primarily a Hindu nation? Is Thailand a Buddhist nation?"
    YES! Exactly. Those countries are NOT neutral they have a National religion. No religious freedoms. That is what our founding fathers didn't want here.

    "The vast majority of our founding fathers where believers in Jesus
    YES! Exactly again! You say "VAST MAJORITY" which means "Not all". They respected that not everyone agreed with each other and felt our nation should allow individuals to believe in what they wanted. Hence religious freedom. Part of this is NOT establishing a national religion.
    Part of not establishing a national religion is keeping the goings on in Church seperate from the goings on in the Government.

    "When it comes to American virtue, values and principles we cannot be neutral."
    Exactly! You say values, virtue and principles. This is not religious, this is virtueous. Everyone should try and be a good person and have good morals, it has nothing to do with religion. It is my right as an American to raise my children in the religion I choose. Not the religion a teacher, school board, or principal chooses.

  4. In order for the government to be truly neutral, you also can't have the teaching of evolution, sex education, or other things which go against the Bible. If you eliminate everything that is offensive to someone from the public schools, you will have a useless waste of time for everybody. Why not just get rid of the public schools altogether?

  5. Matt -

    Thanks for your comment.

    I definitely would go along with doing away with the schools - those government indocrination centers. We would save money AND we would have more well educated students.

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  7. Anonymous9:45 AM

    Evolutoin DOES NOT go against the Bible. You change the words around to assume that. You only read the parts of the Bible you want to read. You ignore other inportant information in it.