Why Does the Administration Hate Christianity Update

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Why Does the Administration Hate Christianity Update

In my latest naked boobs post, I linked to an older post on the administration's request for the Supreme Court to hear a case on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), in which an obscure Christian sect based in Brazil won the right to keep drinking its drug-laden ceremonial tea. I wondered why, given the religious right's great enthusiasm for RFRA, Dubya & Co. would be making an issue of an otherwise unremarkable case in an effort to narrow the statute's reach.

Well, the Supreme Court did take the case, which was argued last month. And I was right about the religious organizations' views on the matter. The Court got amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs from such radicals as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Baptist Joint Committee, and the American Jewish Committee.

In the straight-face category of arguments, we have the Bush administration arguing that the Court should not enforce a United States statute as written because otherwise we would be in violation of an international treaty. Tee-hee. International law. What will they think of next?

With a new Chief Justice and the possibility that Judge Alito will replace Justice O'Connor while the case is pending, we could be in for some very interesting judicial bedfellows. RFRA touches on a lot of issues, including the power of Congress to interpret the Constitution differently from the Court and to grant more protection to individuals than the Constitution requires, not to mention the recently controversial topic of international law in the Supreme Court. The separation-of-powers angle is interesting, as the Court's "federalists" have been cutting back on Congress's power, but Justice Ginsberg is also not happy about Congress's having essentially overruled the Court by passing RFRA. Meanwhile, most of the "federalist" Justices tend to be much more friendly toward laws that benefit religious practice. And some of the Justices who were most peeved about Congress's having overruled the Court are also among those who have been most enthusiastic about international law (the government argues that it has a compelling interest in stopping the religious use of this drug because that's the only way to comply with an international narcotics convention to which we're party).

Who knows how it will play out? Should be interesting. Many of the issues I mentioned aren't necessarily presented in this case--ostensibly, it's just about how to interpret and apply RFRA, not whether RFRA is constitutional--but they're lurking in the background, and everyone on the Court is quite aware of that.

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