The issue seems simple enough on its face.
If a Judge is adding conditions that include reading a Christian-based book, it seems rather indisputable that he is no longer keeping Church and State separate, right?
Sure, a defendant on probation in Judge Clinton's court would probably love to read a book rather than do the manual labor of community service, but as Mark and Paul aptly point out, this could cause a whole host of side ramifications for people -- from the possibility of non-Christians having to do their community service manually because they don't wish to read the book or a non-Christian being forced to hide his true faith in order to get the book report as a probation assignment. Clearly, this is prohibited under the Constitution and with good reason.
These issues were brought to the attention of Judge Clinton, who has agreed to not add those conditions to probation any longer.
Problem solved, right? Apparently not.
Both Mark and Paul, who ironically both have the names of Apostles (and to my knowledge, there was no Murray the Baptist), have expanded on Judge Clinton's misstep by casting doubt on his ability to be a judge at all. Mark points out:
"If the Judge is so unfamiliar with the First Amendment that this seemed okay to him until the judges' counsel told him otherwise, what hope is there in his court for the Fourth, the Fifth, or the Sixth?"And Paul echoes the sentiments with:
"If a judge is going to be so cavalier as to ignore the First Amendment's prohibition of state-sponsored religion, how's he going to treat the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments?"
Okay guys, let's not entirely freak out here. I'm not here to get into a debate about how many wars have been waged in the name of religion or the potential for the End of the World if we still include the words "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, but are we really insinuating that because Judge Clinton let his religious beliefs bleed into a probation condition that he's going to be cool with violating all aspects of the Constitution?
Isn't that kind of akin to saying that each and every one of our shoplifting or DWI clients is inevitably going to turn into a serial killer?
We all believe in something. Even if that is a firm belief in not believing. And whether or not you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or whatever, your personal beliefs or lack-thereof affect every thing you do.
I'm not an outwardly religious person. I have a tattoo of the Cross on my left arm and I've worn a Cross necklace around my neck pretty much since I was 16 years old. They aren't fashion decisions for me . They are just the simple signs of faith that mean something to me. I usually thumb through the Bible every morning looking for some inspiration, and I try to teach my little boy those things that I was taught as a child.
But I don't go to Church, and I usually find myself wanting to smoke a cigarette every time I read something in the newspaper about what is being said or done by certain religious organizations. So, I'm kind of cross-brand version of Christian that nobody can really support, aren't I? I'm not vocal enough for the Far Right, and I'm too entrenched in my beliefs for the Far Left. My first ex-mother-in-law told me she was sure that I worshipped trees.
But the point being is that my beliefs filter into what I do every day. If someone wants to talk to me about religion and their beliefs, I will gladly tell them why I believe. If I think it will help somebody going through a rough time, I'll share moments of inspiration that I've had in my life. And no, I'm not a Judge or any kind of government employee (any longer), but I tend to look at Judge Clinton's actions as something that should have been stopped, but nothing that should condemn him as a person or a Judge.
There are law libraries full of cases based on rulings saying that a Judge screwed up. If every one of those Judges were suddenly deemed unqualified to be a Judge then there literally would be no Judges.
But we come out swinging hard against Judge Clinton because his decision crossed the line between Church and State and the protections of the First Amendment -- therefore, it is inevitable that he will probably violate all the Amendments that follow.
Give me a break. Judge Clinton made a mistake of law that was a reflection on his belief in God.
You wouldn't be persecuting him just because of his choice in religion, would you?
Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin in response to this. I'm already getting in duck and cover mode for what's bound to be coming from Rage.