There was a time when those of us who paid attention to the First Amendment religion clauses could find a lot of grist for our mills in judicial battles over public holiday–er, Christmas–displays. That particular front in our so-called culture war has died down a bit, only to be replaced by the war over where to hold high school commencement exercises. I wrote about this issue a couple of times for a site now, sadly, defunct. (You can still read my posts here and here.)
The latter post deals with a Wisconsin case, where the Elmbrook School District, with the able assistance of attorneys from the Becket Fund and, among others, Michael McConnell, has petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. That petition compellingly makes the argument that the en banc Seventh Circuit panel extends the logic of the Supreme Court’s school prayer cases–already in some measure questionable, so far as I’m concerned–far beyond what is appropriate, conflicts withe other appellate decisions, and calls into question any use of church facilities for public purposes (e.g., as a precinct site during elections). Those are reasons enough for the Court to hear the case.
Here’s hoping and (dare I say?) praying that the Supreme Court agrees to hear this case. There is a concerted campaign by organizations like Americans United to force school districts all over the country to refrain from using church sanctuaries, often the most convenient and comfortable venues available, from commencement exercises. Absent a decision from our highest court, the Seventh Circuit decision stands as the freshest “authority” that can be cited, even if it technically doesn’t govern any disputes outside its geographic area.
And perhaps Professor McConnell can persuade some of his erstwhile brothers on the bench to restore a little post-Sandra Day O’Connor sanity to the Supreme Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence. If not now, when?