John Doyle GS – 4278w - Civil Rights
The United States Code is the codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States (www.gpoaccess.gov). The United States Code is made by the United States Congress; it is legislation that passes both the Senate and House of Representatives (FindLaw). The section on Public Health and Welfare is covered by Title 42 of the Civil Code of the United States Code. The well being and health of all American citizens is important. Chapter 21 is on Civil Rights and Section 1983 of this Code is about civil action for deprivation of rights (42 U.S.C. § 1983). If anyone deprives another of any right in the Constitution then they are to be held liable to that person (cornell.edu). This includes individual persons and municipalities. The U.S. Constitution was formed so that all should have the right to live without influence or hindrance from another. There have been several cases over the years to question this freedom. Some examples are the issues of black and white segregation, sexual discrimination, and religious questions on the actual separation of church and state. The separation of church and state is particularly significant because of the interference of each with the other. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” and the Free Exercise Clause adds, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (U.S. Constitution).” The case of Locke v. Davey (540 U.S. 712, 124 S.Ct. 1307) is one where this clause is believed to have been violated. Locke v. Davey also violates § 1983 by depriving a person his religious rights. In Locke v. Davey the state of Washington had a scholarship award for college students, the Promise Scholarship. Joshua Davey won the award and wanted to attend Northwest
John Doyle GS – 4278w - Civil Rights College. This was a private, church-affiliated institution that was eligible under the program (ID at 712, 124 S.Ct. 1307). The problem came when Davey tried to major in theology. There was a stipulation of the rules for the award that one could not use it for theology. Davey objected and said the state was discriminating against him based on his expression and freedom of religion. This stipulation was interpreted to be a violation of the free exercise clause and subjected the defendants to a § 1983 claim. The District Court rejected Davey’s claim and ruled the Promise Scholarship was Constitutional. Then the Ninth Circuit had the decision reversed and declared the scholarship stipulations were unconstitutional. One main issue here was how this case was between the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses. If it was decided on either side it would violate the other (ID at 712, 124 S.Ct. 1307). The Promise Scholarship had few restrictions, but one is that the award cannot be used for religious purposes that might affect the State. In Locke v. Davey the actual problem comes with the definition of theology according the Washington State Code (ID at 712, 124 S.Ct. 1307). Theology is defined as the study of the nature of God and religious truth and a rational exploration of this issue. If Davey were to use this degree for exploration of religion and God as a secondary issue then it might be acceptable. But, he wanted to use it to become a minister and that would violate the Constitution. The explanation of this violation of the Constitution was that by Davey becoming a minister then that would mean he would be teaching people in the state about God with money from he got from the state. It also violates the establishment clause because of this use of government money for a public service that was involved with a religious church.
John Doyle GS – 4278w - Civil Rights Chief Justice Rehnquist has delivered the opinion of the Court and decided that this one stipulation of the award was small. If one wanted to get the award it was not too much to ask for them to follow some simple rules. Justice Scalia dissented and raised the issue that religion was being attacked here, because it was only theology that was restricted and no other area of study. Justice Thomas joined Justice Scalia and argued that the definition of theology must be investigated (ID at 712, 124 S.Ct. 1307). These dissents open up an argument for the next time this issue comes up in a court of law. It was only in this particular instance and under these certain happenings that the decision was made. If anything was different in another case then that other case might possibly have the luck of being heard. There have been several other cases to bring these state issues into question. One is Gonzales v. UDV (O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal) (Gonzales v. UDV (546 U.S. 418, 126 S.Ct. 1211). The issue here was that a Religious organization brought a suit saying they should be exempt from the Controlled Substances Act because a controlled substance was used in their religious ceremony. The substance in question is a Hoasca, a tea which contained dimethelytryptamine (DMT), a powerful hallucigenetic. The organization said the government was violating their Free Exercise Clause by prohibiting the use of a religious tool. The ruling was against this religious organization. In the opinion of the Court Justice Roberts said, there is a “uniform interest” for the state to ban all controlled substances. The State’s interest in the safety of all its citizens is more important that the freedom of religion (ID at 418, 126 S.Ct. 1211). Roberts argued that some things are more important than others, more specifically that the restriction of a few for the safety of all others is understandable.
John Doyle GS – 4278w - Civil Rights The case of Daugherty v. Vanguard (16 F. Supp.2d 897) took the issue to the District Court in Michigan. Daugherty and several other families argued that the Vanguard Charter School had too many Christian influences. The specific instance that brought Daugherty v. Vanguard to court was that there was a prayer group that met in the school and used a classroom during the off-hours. It was also well known that this religious group had close ties to the school, including volunteer work and looking after the children throughout the day. The plaintiffs worried about their children being influenced by seeing the group pray. The plaintiffs also claimed it was inappropriate to have a prayer in the morning when the school officials raised the flag. The courts held that there was not enough evidence to justify the plaintiffs claims (ID at 116 F. Supp.2d 897). This case questioned the Establishment Clause by choosing a religious organization as the victor. The plaintiffs’ argument was that they had the right to not be exposed to this religion and were deprived of this right. Another case where these civil rights issues are brought up is Altman v. Bedford (245 F. 3d 49). This case was contrary to Daugherty v. Vanguard in that the Christian influenced party was on the Plaintiffs side and not on the Defendants. Altman and several other families brought a suit against the Bedford Central School District. The case was argued that the school taught religious beliefs and this violated the right to be free from religious influence. This is another instance of § 1983 being used to seek a remedy for a violation of the First Amendment. The Plaintiffs argued that the school taught about Ganesha (a Hindu deity), showed the children “worry dolls” and even how to relieve stress. Earth Day was also attacked as a religious ceremony. There was a nature tape played in class that had Taos Indian and Christian prayers spoken, although
John Doyle GS – 4278w - Civil Rights the teacher said she turned down the volume for them. Magic the Gathering, Yoga exercises, the Buddha, Quetzalcoatl, Poems, the “Dare” program, brain exercises, and meditation exercises were all attacked as being contrary to the Christian views of the Plaintiffs (ID at 245 F. 3d 49). This case was argued at the Second Circuit court of Appeals. Altman v. Bedford was actually dismissed for a lack of jurisdiction. All the plaintiffs had either moved or graduated by the time the case went through the court system. Therefore, there was no one who objected to the use of anything mentioned in the case. The people who believed they were being affected were no longer affected. It was also found that the school had not purposely tried to show another religion. The instances were viewed as being educational and not of a religious manner (ID at 245 F. 3d 49). This case shows for a second time how hard it is for someone to use § 1983. The evidence that a person or group was interfering with another person’s rights is tough to establish. Especially when it relates to the religious influences that is in schools. It can either be a complaint of a Christian influence in school, or a complaint by a Christian family of other religious influence. Either way, the decision stands. Section 1983 is a significant part of the United States Code. Section 1983 specifies that one citizen can hold another citizen or organization liable for their rights being deprived. It sounds very simple, if someone deprives another person of a right then that person should be able to get compensation. However, when § 1983 is used to argue a case involving the First Amendment then § 1983 becomes harder to understand. The fact that Congress cannot make a law respecting any religion and the freedom Americans have in exercising any religion combine for serious questions. The proof that one clause
John Doyle GS – 4278w - Civil Rights is using the other for the deprivation of rights is a serious issue. Section 1983 claims are based on the denial of a right granted by the U.S. Constitution or a federal statute (USLaw.com). The conclusion is that accusations of this are hard to prove.
References Altman v. Bedford, (245 F. 3d 49) Cornell Law, http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/ Daugherty v. Vanguard, (116 F. Supp.2d 897) Find Law, http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/ Gonzales v. UDV, (546 U.S. 418, 126 S.Ct. 1211) GPO Access, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/uscode/ Locke v. Davey, (540 U.S. 712, 124 S.Ct. 1307) U.S. Code, Section 1983 USLaw.com, http://www.uslaw.com/library/article/bshCivilRights1871.html