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Posts Tagged ‘law’

Last evening I went to a taping of a panel discussion at Princeton University on the separation of church and state. The show was  Dan Rather’s online program on HDNet.  I wanted to see Dan, of course; I’ve been worried about him since the CBS contretemps but can report that he looked hale and hearty. I was also curious to hear what the panelists, experts in religion and the Constitution, had to say about the current tug-of-war over the place of religion in society.  Honestly, they didn’t have much to say, touching only lightly on matters like court rulings on intelligent design or federal funding of faith-based initiatives. Of course, it’s Princeton and they are legal academics, so it seemed unlikely they would do more than tiptoe carefully around the cultural issues concerning religion and society that are producing such a high level of anxiety nowadays over what is too much or too little. Is it fair to ask students to bow their heads in prayer? Is it really offensive to sing Christmas carols in school? Are Santa Claus displays as problematic as nativity displays in front of the town hall? If 85% of the U.S. residents say they are Christian, is this a Christian nation? And what does that mean, other than the fact that we now have candidates rushing to out-do each other to prove how very Christian they are, as if their faith in their (Christian) God proves their ability to lead or even demonstrates superior moral fiber.

I am comforted by the fact that regardless of what the various scholars believe about the intent of the founding fathers when it came to religion, they all believe those men intended for the government to allow people to practice their religion freely. Further, it seems accepted that the government will actually protect people from persecution and step in when necessary, which is also good to know. As to how to bridge this discomforting divide between those who feel faith is a private matter and those who fear it isn’t nearly public enough, the scholars seemed to believe that was probably outside the purview of the legal system –  thank god.

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Courting Ridicule

My dad was a lawyer of the old school – honest, hard-working, skilled at both legal minutia and courtroom summations. I grew up with a healthy regard for his profession, though in recent years my faith has been sorely tested by the all-too common corporate malfeasance, not to mention those afternoon “real-life” courtroom dramas. This week was an especially bad one for anyone who hoped to improve the peoples’ low opinion of lawyers and their ilk. First comes news of the $54 million lawsuit that administrative law judge Roy Pearson has filed a against a Korean dry cleaners. The details of the suit are beyond ridiculous but it makes me wonder why the hell this case is allowed to chew up court time and space? His chutzpah is rivaled by that of former Supreme Court Justice nominee Robert Bork. The man who made his reputation as a champion of tort reform (or a hater of lawsuits, depending on your view) has himself filed against the Yale Club for a spill he took on the way up to the dais to make a presentation. Again, the lawsuit, to the tune of 1 million, goes far beyond negligence for missing hand rails (and by the way, he managed to mount the steps and deliver the speech). All of this is taking place as the tug-of-war continues between Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and members of Congress, who can’t seem to get a straight answer out of the highest ranking adjudicator in the land. I’m not a lawyer but I’m feeling pretty embarrassed on behalf of the profession right about now. I’m just glad Dad isn’t around to see this.

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