November 24, 2005

A Thanksgiving Tale

When Eliot Mincberg, legal director of People for the American Way, says that Judge Alito's record demonstrates that he is "very solicitous when it comes to protecting the right of an individual to practice his religion, but not so solicitous of the right of people to be free of government-supported religion," perhaps he has C.H. v. Oliva (2000) in mind. The case involved an elementary school’s Thanksgiving display, for which the school invited its students to make posters depicting the things for which they were thankful. One student wanted to contribute a poster expressing his thanks for Jesus Christ, but the school barred him from doing so. Dissenting in the case, Alito described the schools’ action as “quintessential viewpoint discrimination . . . proscribed by the First Amendment.” Is that what Mincberg has in mind when he implies that Alito is overly solicitous of the right to religious expression? And does Mincberg believe that the poster in question, surrounded by secular posters, would have constituted “government-supported religion?”

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