Dispatches > The Buzz

In Brief: Legal briefs

The federal court system continues to wrestle with the Ten Commandments.

Issue: "Capitol stampede in Texas," Aug. 9, 2003

The federal court system continues to wrestle with the Ten Commandments. Days before a decision of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to bar an Alabama display, the 3rd Circuit upheld one in Pennsylvania. In Freethought Society vs. Chester County (Pa.), the court said that a "reasonable observer" would not conclude the county was endorsing religion by placing the 80-year-old, 50" x 39" plaque in the county courthouse. Judge Edward Becker (appointed by President Reagan) wrote the decision.... Parents do not have a fundamental right to excuse a child in public school from mandatory classes, says the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. The student was excused from the family life and AIDS education portions of the 7th-grade health-education class, but the father argued the child should be excused from the rest. The court held that, while the Supreme Court has recognized a parent's right to excuse a child from compulsory public-school attendance altogether, he does not have the right "to tell a public school what his or her child will and will not be taught." Judge Robert Sack (appointed by President Clinton) wrote the opinion in Leebaert vs. Harrington.... The First Amendment gained yet another new meaning in the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In Doe vs. Lafayette, the court said that the constitution prevents a city's lifetime ban from city parks of a convicted sex offender who admitted to fantasizing about sexual contact with the children playing in a park he visited. The man told his therapy group about his fantasy and someone reported it to police; the parks department then banned him. But the court held that the ban was based on the man's mere revelation of "immoral thoughts." Judge Ann Williams (appointed by President Clinton) wrote the decision.

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