Sunday, January 23, 2011

Court Rejects Establishment Clause Challenge To Forest Service's Access Plan

Fortune v. Thompson, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5343 (D MT, Jan. 20, 2011), involves a challenge to the U.S. Forest Service's adoption of a plan that limits motorized access on a portion of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. In upholding the plan, a Montana federal district court rejected an Establishment Clause claim by opponents of the plan who argued that the purpose of the plan was to favor Native American religion. The court said:
Even if the Forest Service's consideration and decision were enacted in part to mitigate interference with the Blackfeet's religious practices, this objective alone does not signify a constitutional violation.
The court also rejected the argument that the effect of the plan was to create "a cathedral for the Blackfeet religion."