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Religious-worship burglary enhancement doesn’t violate constitutions

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled against a man who argued the enhancement of his burglary conviction to a Class B felony because he burgled a church violated the federal and state constitutions. In the first impression issue, the judges held the enhancement doesn’t violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment or Article 1, Section 4 of the Indiana Constitution.

Joshua Burke was charged with Class B felony burglary for his role in a break-in at an Indianapolis church. Indiana Code Section 35-43-2-1(1)(B)(ii) enhances burglary from a Class C felony to a Class B felony if the building or structure burgled is used for religious worship.

In Joshua Burke v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1006-CR-660, the judges analyzed whether this enhancement violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment over objections from the state that Burke argued in his motion to dismiss only that the statute violated the state constitution. Burke’s appeal is the first time in Indiana someone has argued that any statutory provision enhancing a crime when a structure used for religious worship is involved violates the Establishment Clause.

The Court of Appeals cited People v. Carter (Carter I), 592 N.E.2d 491, 495 (Ill. App. Ct. 1992), in which the Appeals Court of Illinois held that a provision allowing a trial court to consider as an aggravating factor the fact a crime occurred in or on the grounds of a place of worship immediately before, during, or after worship services, doesn’t violate the Establishment Clause. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in Carter v. Peters (Carter II), 26 F.3d 697 (7th Circ. 1994), which it received after Carter’s habeas petition was denied in lower court. Both courts found the provision’s primary effect was not on people deciding whether to attend worship services, but on people who commit crimes there, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

Judge Vaidik pointed out that comparable Establishment Clause challenges in other jurisdictions have reached the same conclusion.

“Section 35-43-2-1(1)(B)(ii)’s purpose is not to give added protection to structures used for religious worship but to ensure the appropriate sentence for the offender,” she wrote. “It reflects a legislative recognition that: (1) structures used for religious worship have a ‘traditional absence of security measures’ and are thus easy targets of crime, Carter II, 26 F.3d at 699, (2) crimes against structures used for religious worship are ‘more repugnant to the community,’ Carter I, 592 N.E.2d at 497, and (3) it takes more time to reform and rehabilitate those offenders who commit acts society deems more repulsive.”

The appellate court also concluded the statute doesn’t materially burden the right to be free from government preference for a particular religion or religion in general under Article 1, Section 4 of the Indiana Constitution.

“To the extent that the provision may benefit structures used for religious worship in the form of added protection, such benefit is too slight to frustrate Article 1, Section 4’s core constitutional value. That is, such benefit does not amount to an impairment of such magnitude that the right to be free from government preference for a particular religion or religion in general is unconstitutionally burdened,” she wrote.

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  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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