Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sixty Groups Decry Judiciary Committee's Inaction On Judicial Nominees

Yesterday a coalition of about 60 groups, including Liberty Counsel, delivered a letter to each member of the Senate Judiciary Committee urging them to make sure "each and every judicial nominee is given a hearing and is reported out of committee for consideration by the full Senate in a timely manner." The letter complains that the lack of progress by the committee "has made it impossible for the Senate to fulfill its constitutional duty of advice and consent in good faith."

The letter points to evidence of the lack of action: "Five appeals court nominees - three of them waiting to fill vacancies declared 'judicial emergencies' - and 14 district court nominees are languishing in the Judiciary Committee. Four additional appeals court nominations have just been announced. Several nominees have been waiting for more than a year for the committee to do its job."

The groups also decry the fact that some "nominees are being subjected to obstruction borne of partisan politics" and cite as a prime example the "ugly campaign of character assassination" against Judge Leslie Southwick, who sat for 12 years on the Mississippi Court of Appeals. Judge Southwick is a well-qualified Iraq War veteran nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The letter states that "broken promises and personal attacks on nominees that have accompanied this inaction - as well as the unfairness of denying qualified nominees a fair up-or-down vote by the full Senate - only add to the public perception that your committee is not living up to its responsibilities." The letter concludes by requesting that Judiciary Committee members accomplish the necessary tasks "by putting statesmanship above politics and special interests."

Our judicial system is far too important to fall victim to partisan politics. The federal court system desperately needs more good judges, but many well-qualified individuals will refuse to serve rather than subject themselves to the whims and endless delays of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In order to administer justice in the courts, we need judges. It is time for the Senate Judiciary Committee to set aside partisan politics and begin serving the public.

A copy of the letter is posted on Liberty Counsel's website at www.LC.org/news.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Liberty Counsel Sues Florida County For Banning Religious Flyers in a Public Park

Liberty Counsel filed a federal lawsuit today against Orange County, Florida for prohibiting a woman from distributing flyers to people in a public park inviting them to an Easter service at her church. Liberty Counsel represents Shirley Snyder in a lawsuit requesting the federal court to enjoin Orange County from violating Snyder's right to freedom of speech and religion so that she can distribute religious literature in the public park.

On April 1, Snyder was at Cypress Grove Park in Orange County inviting people to an Easter service scheduled for the following Sunday at Orlando Baptist Church. She also distributed pocket-size tracts about Jesus Christ. Snyder was told by a county employee who worked in the park that she must stop passing out the literature because it was illegal to do so.

Snyder spoke with the park supervisor, who gave her a copy of the Parks and Recreation Department Rules and Regulations. The supervisor told her not to distribute literature again until she followed the rules and regulations which required permission to distribute literature in public parks. The supervisor told her to submit a copy of the literature along with a written request containing the specific days she wishes to hand out literature and the means of distribution. A committee would review her request and grant or deny permission.

The county's rules violate Snyder's constitutionally protected right to free expression. Of all places, speech in public parks is highly protected, both by history and by the courts.

Synder has traditionally distributed religious literature during the Easter season. In April, 1993, Snyder wanted to distribute literature at the Orlando International Airport on Good Friday, but the airport required a lengthy application process, onerous identification requirements and liability insurance. Liberty Counsel filed suit against the airport and obtained a restraining order against the airport and gained Snyder the right to distribute the literature. The airport changed its policy as a result of the suit.

In America, we do not need permission from a government committee prior to mechanically handing a flyer to a willing recipient in a public park. The government cannot create speech-free zones in public parks. Protecting private religious expressing was the motivating factor behind the First Amendment. The voice of freedom is most at home in public parks.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hate Crimes Amendment Sneaks Into Senate Defense Reauthorization Bill

Washington, DC - The so-called "hate crimes" legislation took a new form yesterday when Senators Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) introduced the controversial amendment to a Defense Reauthorization bill. This move will could push senators to vote on the issue as early as this week.

Introduced as the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Kennedy amendment is one of more than 100 amendments attached to the Defense Reauthorization bill. An ABC 20/20 investigation showed that the Matthew Shepard murder, portrayed by activists as a hate crime because Shepard was homosexual, was in fact a bungled robbery that had nothing to do with Shepard's homosexuality.

Hate crimes laws are actually "thought crimes" laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience and subject individuals to scrutiny of their beliefs rather than focusing on a person's criminal actions. Hate crimes laws will have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior. Evidence of a person's beliefs will be used against any individuals who are even suspected of committing a crime. In a debate on a similar bill that passed the House in May, Rep. Artur Davis, who supported the bill, admitted that under this law a minister could be charged with the crime of incitement if the minister preached that homosexuality is a serious sin and a person in the congregation left church and committed a crime against a homosexual. Liberty Counsel has published a legal memo that explains the dangers of hate crimes legislation.

The White House called this bill "unnecessary" and "constitutionally questionable," pointing out that "State and local criminal laws already provide criminal penalties for the violence addressed by the new Federal crime." President Bush has promised to veto the bill.
Hate Crimes legislation that includes sexual orientation is bad law because it criminalizes speech and does nothing to prevent violent crimes. All crimes are motivated by hate. Hate Crimes laws will not be used to punish the perpetrator, but will be used to silence people of faith, religious groups, clergy, and those who support traditional moral values.