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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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  1. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  2. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  3. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

  4. Well, I agree with you that the people need to wake up and see what our judges and politicians have done to our rights and freedoms. This DNA loophole in the statute of limitations is clearly unconstitutional. Why should dna evidence be treated different than video tape evidence for example. So if you commit a crime and they catch you on tape or if you confess or leave prints behind: they only have five years to bring their case. However, if dna identifies someone they can still bring a case even fifty-years later. where is the common sense and reason. Members of congress are corrupt fools. They should all be kicked out of office and replaced by people who respect the constitution.

  5. If the AG could pick and choose which state statutes he defended from Constitutional challenge, wouldn't that make him more powerful than the Guv and General Assembly? In other words, the AG should have no choice in defending laws. He should defend all of them. If its a bad law, blame the General Assembly who presumably passed it with a majority (not the government lawyer). Also, why has there been no write up on the actual legislators who passed the law defining marriage? For all the fuss Democrats have made, it would be interesting to know if some Democrats voted in favor of it (or if some Republican's voted against it). Have a nice day.

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