Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Court Rejects Free Exercise Exemption From Law Numbered "666"

A Tennessee appellate court last week rejected a rather unusual free exercise challenge to the state's child support requirements. In Sherrod v. Tennessee Department of Human Services, (TN Ct. App., July 25, 2008), Michael Sherrod, a divorced father, refused to pay child support through the state's Central Child Support Receipting Unit. He argued that he would pay directly to his former wife, or to the court, but that because the central state agency was set up under a federal statute codified at 42 USC Sec. 666, payment through that entity would involve him in transmitting funds to a "Satanic entity" in violation of his religious beliefs. In support of his argument, Sherrod, a Born Again Christian and a Sunday School teacher, cited the Book of Revelation (13:18) where the number 666 is associated with the Mark of the Beast and the end of days. (Background.) The court, however, held that the state's statute is uniformly applicable and facially neutral as to religion. Therefore it is valid so long as it reasonably promotes a legitimate public purpose. The court found that standard to be satisfied.