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Court: Church program at school should end

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A church-owned religious education program held on school grounds in Huntington County should be terminated because it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, a federal magistrate has ruled.

In a 31-page order issued Tuesday, U.S. District Magistrate Roger Cosbey in the Northern District of Indiana's Fort Wayne division recommended granting a preliminary injunction in H.S. v. Huntington County Community School Corp., 1:08-CV-271.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the suit in November on behalf of a third-grader's mom, who challenged the district's voluntary religious release-time education program known as "By the Book." Run by Associated Churches of Huntington County, the program uses modular trailers that are parked on elementary school property but plugged into city utilities. The suit alleged that program violated the U.S. Constitution by allowing religious instruction on school property, even if students weren't required to participate. Court records note that about 97 percent of third- and fourth-graders take part with parental consent.

Magistrate Cosbey held a hearing in mid-January to consider whether the program should be temporarily shut down in its current incarnation. School officials moved to dismiss the suit, but Magistrate Cosbey has denied that request and found the plaintiff would likely succeed on the merits in the case.

In his ruling, the magistrate wrote the question in this case boils down to whether religious instruction to elementary students on public school property during the school day, in a church-owned mobile classroom, violates the Establishment Clause.

Along with a string of caselaw, Magistrate Cosbey cited the "overarching principle" articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in People of State of Ill. ex rel. McCollum v. Bd. Of Educ. Of Sch. Dist. No. 71, Champaign County, Ill., 333 U.S. 203 (1948), which stated "the use of tax-supported property for religious instruction" and the "utilization of the tax-established and tax-supported public school system to aid religious groups to spread their faith" makes the program unconstitutional.

Magistrate Cosbey wrote that the school district faces minimal harm if the preliminary injunction is granted, while the plaintiff faced irreparable harm with continued violation of her First Amendment rights. Any inconvenience caused to Associated Churches of Huntington County by the preliminary injunction does not outweigh any harm caused by the constitutional violation, he wrote.

The school system has 10 days to file written objections to the magistrate's recommendation, and if that happens the plaintiff would then have an additional 10 days to respond to that. Senior Judge James Moody in the Hammond division will make the final ruling on the case.

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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