June 27, 2005

Fussing over symbols.

Here's the SCOTUSblog discussion group dedicated to McCreary, the Ten Commandments case that will be announced very soon. I'll be participating in the discussion over there, along with a bunch of other lawprofs. Amusingly, Marty Lederman, a SCOTUSblog regular, has gotten the discussion going with a quote from me -- the one that says I don't care which side wins. No one else has posted yet, but they've all been invited to react to my "provocative take."

He also asks:
Have liberals and progressives made a significant error -- in terms of their long-term interests -- in expending energy on such "government religious symbolism" cases over the past generation or two, even if such cases have (from their perspective) resulted in improved Establishment Clause doctrine?

Here he quotes Burt Neuborne (a lawprof who'll be participating in the discussion):
"[O]ne final staple of the progressive judicial agenda may not be worth defending at all -- the religious symbolism cases may do nothing but enrage voters who might be [our] natural economic allies."

That's certainly true. There's a corresponding mistake conservatives make, pushing for symbolic things that some of them care about (like the anti-flag-burning amendment), that are off-putting to people who'd otherwise be attracted to the conservative side. Politics would make more sense if both parties stuck to the economics and security issues that actually matter. But ordinary people might tune politics out, so they just can't resist prodding and stimulating us with those symbolic things. Somehow people get so fired up about symbols.


Joan said...

I doubt anyone truly believes that banning flag burning is anything other than ridiculous. The only proper way to dispose of a worn, ripped, or otherwise unserviceable flag is to burn it. I suppose the legislation would take that into account, but still.

I don't think flag-burning falls into quite the same category as these 10 Commandments cases. The first is just ridiculous, clearly a waste of time, since there can be no serious argument that burning a flag should not fall into the category of protected political speech. The second case, this Establishment Clause stuff, really is important, as the secularists are trying to push any mention of religion out of public places -- in essence curtailing the First Amendment rights of people who practice religions, not to mention revising history to make it more palatable to the non-religious.

I've always liked that quote "Freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."

amba said...

Yes, it's strange how people in the Islamic world, and some here in America, can get more worked about "symbol abuse," whether the symbol is a book or a banner, than about the infliction of pain, injury and death on humans.

Loren A. Jacobs said...

I am combining the recent judicial choices: symbolic, religious and flag burning; and the infringments, personal (pot smoking) and property (imminent domain. I think the public effort is to perhaps challenge the Supreme Beings (er...)Court in that the decisions they have made run counter to what the laws of the various states have - had - on their books. Unfortunately, the only way to override the decision of the Court is to pass a Constitutional Amendment.

Kathleen B. said...

"in essence curtailing the First Amendment rights of people who practice religions"

but do you have a First Amendment right to have the government indicate support for your religion? Isn't dislaying religious symbols or forcing children to recite a pledge recognizing God different from someone talking about their religion. I just honestly cannot understand why Christians feel that their religion and their religious choices are threatened if the government stops offering paens to Christianity.