Thursday, December 25, 2014

State Freedom of Conscience Clause Does Not Cover Environmentalist Who Refuses To Mow Lawn

In Gul v. City of Bloomington, (IN App., Dec. 22, 2014), an Indiana state appellate court rejected constitutional and statutory challenges to a city ordinance that prohibits grass in yards from being over 8 inches tall.  Environmentalist Alexander Gul claimed, among other things, that the citation he received for for refusing to mow his lawn violated his free expression rights and his freedom of conscience protected by the Indiana constitution. The court recounts:
Gul allows his yard to grow naturally and does not apply chemicals, mow, water, or fertilize it. He explains that his decision to maintain a natural yard is a statement of his sincerely held environmental belief that the overuse of chemicals, water, and lawnmowers to maintain a traditional lawn is harmful to the environment.
Bloomington officials disagree and view Gul’s yard as merely overgrown.
Rejecting Gul's under the state constitution's conscience clause, the court said:
... we find that Article 1, Section 3 was intended to apply to religious, rather than non-religious, matters of conscience. But even if it includes non-religious matters of conscience, it protects only the right to hold one’s own opinions, and does not protect the right to act on one’s own opinions in contravention of the law.