Monday, November 07, 2016

Some Issues of Religion In Tomorrow's Down-Ballot Contests

Religion has not dominated very many down-ballot contests in tomorrow's election.  However for those interested in religious liberty and church-state issues, there are several contests to watch. [Thanks to Don Byrd at Blog From the Capital for keeping an eye on these down ballot issues.]
  1. Oklahoma State Question 790 asks voters to repeal provisions in Oklahoma's state constitution (Art. 2, Sec. 5) that prohibits the use of public funds or property for the direct or indirect benefit of any religion or religious institution.  This section of the state constitution was the basis for the Oklahoma Supreme Court to order removal of a Ten Commandments monument.
  2. Missouri Constitutional Amendment 3 would increase the tax on cigarettes to create an Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund that will make grants to both public and private entities.  Part of the amendment excludes grant funds distributed from the Trust Fund from the restrictions of Missouri Constitution Art. IX, Sec. 8 which prohibits use of public funds to support any religious creed, sectarian purpose or religious educational institution. The proposed Amendment also bars use of trust funds for any abortion services not necessary to save the life of the mother.
  3. The conservative Christian religious beliefs of one of the candidates for Justice of the Montana Supreme Court-- attorney and law professor Kristen Juras-- has become a campaign issue. (See prior posting.)
  4. In a contest for state legislature in Ohio, Casey Weinstein who is running in House District 37 (Summit County), has been challenged over a lawsuit filed on his behalf when he was an Air Force Academy cadet. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, an ad sent out by state Republican Party focuses on a lawsuit in which Weinstein was one of the plaintiffs objecting to alleged Christian proselytizing at the Air Force Academy. Weinstein's father Mikey Weinstein is head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation that filed the suit.
  5. The result of the state Attorney General contest in Missouri may impact a major free exercise case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court-- Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley. At issue is the denial-- because of Missouri's Blaine Amendment-- of a state Playground Scrap Tire Surface Material Grant that would have allowed a church to resurface a playground at its day care and preschool facility. The state, represented by the current Democratic state Attorney General Chris Koster (who is now a candidate for governor), is defending the denial. However Republican Attorney General candidate Josh Hawley sides with the church and filed an amicus brief in support of of it on behalf of a Pentecostal Christian denomination. (US Law Week, Nov. 2, reports).