Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

By Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor

“Those situations in which the Court may require special treatment on account of religion are, in my view, few and far between, and this view is amply supported by the course of constitutional litigation in this area.”

-Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 423 (1963) (Harlan, J., dissenting)

Were Maurice Bessinger still alive, he would undoubtedly be a strong supporter of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Had that law been available in 1964, history might well read differently.

Mr. Bessinger owned a small chain of barbecue restaurants in South Carolina known as “Piggie Park.” As a matter of company policy, African Americans were prohibited from consuming food on the premises of his restaurants and were required to place and pick up orders from the kitchen window.

When a class action was filed against Mr. Bessinger under the public accommodations provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, among his defenses was the claim that the Act violated the First Amendment because “his religious beliefs compel him to oppose any integration of the races whatsoever.” Newman v. Piggy Park Enterprises, Inc., 256 F. Supp. 941 (1966). The court had no sympathy for his defense. “Undoubtedly,” it said, “defendant Bessinger has a constitutional right to espouse religious beliefs of his own choosing, however, he does not have the absolute right to exercise and practice such beliefs in utter disregard of the clear constitutional rights of other citizens. This court refuses to lend credence and support to his position that he has a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of the Negro race in his business establishments upon the ground that to do so would violate his sacred religious beliefs.” 256 F. Supp. at 945.

Mr. Bessinger partially prevailed at the trial court on interstate commerce grounds, but lost on appeal and was assessed attorney’s fees for his trouble, the Fourth Circuit finding that in view of a prior Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the assertion that he was not bound because the law “contravenes the will of God” and constituted interference with “the free exercise of the Defendant’s religion” was legally frivolous. Newman v. Piggy Park Enterprises, Inc., 377 F.2d 433 (4th Cir. 1967), aff’d, 390 U.S. 400 (1968).

Had the Religious Freedom Restoration Act been in effect when Mr. Bessinger was sued, might he have prevailed? Perhaps.

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220px-Economy_Seat220px-Boeing_737-2A1_N25SW_Southwest_SAT_17.10.75_edited-2I have previously authored columns and blog entries criticizing the airline industry for its nosedive in customer services and accommodations. (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). The includes the planned switch to “bench seating” where passengers are expected to start bringing their own cushions. Despite the rising criticism of airlines making record profits while continuing to strip away every comfort, there is a new report that Southwest is now turning its back on passengers. The airline and Airbus are going to stuff another seat into coach class with new A380 superjumbo carriers.

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gavel2A California judge has ruled that the girlfriend of former Clippers owner Donald Sterling must pay back the $2.6 million given to her in gifts from Sterling in a surprising ruling that defines these gifts as community property even though the couple was separated and moving toward divorce. Judge Richard Fruin Jr. awarded Shelly Sterling most of the nearly $3 million she had sought. I have previously discussed how the case highlights the often troubling line of what constitutes prostitution and what constitutes a gifts. [Notably both Sterling and Stiviano deny having a sexual relationship] If Sterling had given V. Stiviano money directly for sex, it would be illegal. Instead, he gave her millions in gifts as part of a relationship. Regardless of where to draw that particular line, Fruin said that the line on community property is drawn to include the house, luxury cars and expensive gifts given to Stiviano as she served as the companion of the octogenarian Sterling.

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240px-tsa_-_logoTwo Transportation Security Administration screeners at Denver International airport have been fired after investigators found that a male TSA employee would select handsome men that he wanted to fondle as part of a secondary patdown. Before you give the TSA much credit however you may want to read on.

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120px-Toe_tagThere is a bizarre and disturbing case out of Bakersfield California where Officer Aaron Stringer has been put on leave after he allegedly admitted that he liked to play with dead bodies and was seeing tickling the feet of a dead man (shot by police) and saying “tickle, tickle.”

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220px-Cheetah_KrugerWe have yet another tough case of how to handle a parent who seems devoid of basic sense, let alone basic instincts. The mother reportedly dangled her two-yera-old boy over a railing at a cheetah pit and then accidentally dropped him. Fortunately, the cheetahs did not attack but the boy’s leg was hurt.

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Domanik-GreenPrisonCellWe have yet another arrest in a school for an act that would have previously resulted in a reprimand and a parent visit with the principal — or at worst a suspension. Florida eighth-grader Domanik Green was accused of breaking into the computer system at the Paul R. Smith Middle School in Holiday, Florida to play a prank on a teacher. He changed the background of the teacher’s computer to show two men kissing. For that, he was charged with a felony for computer hacking. He will be tried as an adult. He is fourteen years old.

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