Monday, January 12, 2015

Consideration of Church's Location In Redistricting Does Not Violate Establishment Clause

Harris v. City of Texarkana, (WD AR, Jan. 9, 2015), is a challenge to the drawing of ward boundary lines in a city for election purposes after the 2010 census. While most of the opinion was devoted to rejecting plaintiff's Voting Rights Act challenge, plaintiff also raised an unusual Establishment Clause challenge.  In drawing ward lines, one of the members of the City Board of Directors requested that a particular church be kept within his ward. The court said:
In this case, there was no endorsement of any religion.... The alleged consideration of where the church fell within the ward boundaries was not an attempt to make religion relevant to a citizen’s standing within the community, and there is no evidence that the religion practiced by the members was a consideration.... The church was only relevant insofar as it had members who were of voting age who had a relationship with a member of the Board of Directors. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s First Amendment claims fails.