Thursday, August 14, 2008

Potenital County Resident Has Standing To Challenge 10 Commandments Display

In ACLU of Florida Inc. v. Dixie County Florida, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61177 (ND FL, Aug. 8, 2008), a Florida federal district court held that an ACLU member had standing (and thus so did the ACLU) to challenge on Establishment Clause grounds a stone display of the 10 Commandments on the steps of the Dixie County (FL) courthouse. The member, identified only as John Doe, did not live in Dixie County, but was looking to purchase property there on which he and his wife could park their recreational vehicle. They encountered the offending display when they went to the county courthouse to research any encumbrances on property they were considering. Because of the display, Doe decided not to make an offer on the property. Prior reports indicate that the ACLU had been having difficulty finding actual county residents to bring the challenge.


Anonymous said...

-American Athiest

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute--the injury is deciding not to buy property? No, the injury is in the plaintiff being (with delicious, albeit likely unintentional, ambiguity)"[d]eeply disturbed." This is quintessential psychological injury which cannot sustain standing. And it shouldn't be transmuted into standing by a plaintiff creating a "captive audience" of one--himself. Not when its in the public square. Not when the same plaintiff is obliged to endure the F word in the same courthouse. Not when far stronger subjective injury will not sustain a free exercise claim.

The same absurdity slipped through the system in Staley v. Harris County in the 5th Circuit, where the plaintiff lawyer walked by a private Bible-bearing monument for years, seemingly oblivious that the monument was quietly emitting the dread Anti-Establishment Clause Death Rays. She walked within feet of it day after day and didn't even notice the Bible within the monument, which honored a local Christian philanthropist. Then one day she saw a prayer group next to the monument, and presto--injury and standing because she finally took note of the Bible. I never quite figured out what happened next to the poor lady. Perhaps she was immobilized; transfixed; a virtual pillar of salt at that point, and is now a local curiousity or tourist attraction. Or maybe every time she approached the courthouse after that, she hit an invisible wall some 20 feet from the monument and just glided in an arc around it, then ambled on into the courthouse. I do not know.

Offended observer status defies common sense and the Constitution. By this rationale, the plaintiff couldn't bear to enter Independence Hall to view the Declaration. Heck, I detest the Vietnam war memorial in our capital square--its a defeatist, lefty claptrap celebration of defeat. So I look at the other monuments when I walk by. My offense--and I assure you it is virulent and visceral--would not begin to sustain a constitutional claim. But bring on the eggshell psyche, audience-of-one whose eyebyalls are driven, ineluctably, to fasten upon any monument with religious content, and suddenly we have standing to sue. I sigh. I groan. And I look forward to the day where some court finally rejects this ridiculous doctrine.

Anonymous said...

There was never a doubt under the law that when a government entity puts up a particular version of scripture in a monument that offends someone who is required to view it if he is to go about his normal business, he has standing. It shouldn't have taken the court so long to rule on issue that is crystal clear.

Chimera said...

I'm afraid this doesn't make much sense to me. Someone who is not a resident is granted residents' rights simply because he says he would have bought property there if his conditions were being met? But the actual in situ residents don't have a problem with the display?

It would make more sense to me if the owner of the property he didn't buy were to bring the suit, citing the display as having deprived him of a monetary transaction.

tim said...

While skilled fencemakers may appreciate a lengthy argument over standing, the gate is now open and the rooster has entered the yard. Before it crows twice, the Christians who erected the monument will deny its religious intent not three, but countless times.

That the County will lose the case is virtually assured (McCreary). And while Thomas More will take no silver, they'll sure take their client's dignity. Commisioner after commisioner will swear under oath they had no religious intent in placing the monument - lying (wink, wink)through their teeth while denying their religion. And everyone watching will again see Christian Soldiers devolve into jellyfish. Kind of sad.

It would be so much better to put the monument in a churchyard, so Believers could publicly proclaim their faith in their religion and the Constitution. It's only either/or if they choose it so.

Bob said...

Nicely said Tim.

NobleStarr said...

I'll have to do some research to see if this is another Judge Ruegememer / Fraternal Order of Eagles monument -- and the Great Lie that the monument is not religious, just a universal code of ethics which few, if any, know or accept all 10 aphorisms.

While I agree that standing in this case is a big stretch, the reality is that every American ought to have standing by the very nature of their being an American to challenge this Establishment Clause violation. What good is the Constitution if it can't be enforced?