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Fact Pattern

Throughout the over-the-top case of Professor Frieda Speak and President Smacksem, several legal issues were persistent in the lawsuit. However, Professor Speak attempted to bring a lawsuit on several issues where President Smacksem has done no wrong. These issues pertain to his Easter display, his prayer breakfast, and several aspects of the bill that he promoted with Senator Tellinemwhatodo. The first issue that Professor Speak had was with the display that President Smacksem erected on the Union lawn.

The display featured a 10 feet tall Easter basket with eggs, a 50 feet tall crucifix of Jesus, a 5 foot pagan earth symbol and a generic sign stating “Salute Life, Celebrate Spring, Go U. S. A. Rock it Mean Green”. While Dr. Speak had an issue with this, according to past cases President Smacksem has done no wrong. Lynch v. Donnelly (1984) contains a similar argument where the reindeer test was established. This test simply states that if enough secular displays are placed alongside a religious scene, such as a crucifix or a nativity scene, then the government is not violating the Establishment Clause.

In this case, the Easter basket and the sign would count as secular displays. Another case that would align properly with this case is County of Allegheny v. ACLU (1989) where two issues were present. The first is a nativity scene on the front steps of the courthouse with a sign in front stating the “Glory to God” that was deemed unconstitutional, while the second is large Menorah outside of the building next to a larger Christmas tree and a sign promoting liberty that was Constitutional.

Both aspects of this case help President Smacksem as the display on the Union mentions nothing about God nor religion and is a representation of the day. The Menorah present in County of Allegheny is comparative to the cross and the sign that President Smacksem approves is making the display secular and Constitutional. The next issue that Dr. Speak had issue with is the optional weekly breakfast that President Smacksem would put on for the faculty. The majority of this action is protected by the Constitution.

One of the larger issues that Dr. Speak had with this is that the breakfast ends with a Judeo-Christian prayer. Yet the Supreme Court Case of Marsh v. Chambers (1983) is approving of prayer at the end of a state meeting, just as Congress has approved this action. This is not seen as a religious act, but an acknowledgment of beliefs. In addition to Marsh, Greece v. Galloway (2014) helps President Smacksem’s case because Greece ruled that it is unconstitutional to force someone to say a prayer of another religion. Because of that, Dr. Speak cannot press charges on the fact that she asked, and denied, that President Smacksem say a Native American prayer.

This does present one of the issues associated with freedom of religion: that you cannot deny someone from practicing something, you cannot favor one religion over another, yet you cannot force someone to acknowledge or say a prayer if they do not want to. If she had an issue with the meeting being held in general, her argument would also fall flat due to the ruling in Board of Education v. Mergens (1990) that ruled that if a school denied a religious program then they would have to deny all programs, and vice versa.

Since there is no indication that President Smacksem is denying other religious meetings from being held than we must assume that he allows such meetings. Since he allows other meetings of religious or non-religious practices then the prayer breakfast is allowed. However, to continue having the prayer breakfast President Smacksem does have to make a few changes to avoid further prosecution.

The first of which is he cannot circulate the names of faculty members who do not attend the breakfast. Similar to the case of Engel v. Vitale (1962) where prayer was not forced to be said, but could be students felt compelled to say the prayer because their teacher and other students were. In a similar manner, by circulating the names of people who did not attend, those faculty members feel compelled to attend for fear of social exile if they do not. Another action that President Smacksem must change is that denial of religious symbols other than crosses. This is not only treating similar things dissimilar, it also creating its basis in something unconstitutional.

In the case Goldman v. Weinberger (1986) the Court ruled that the military could create a dress code that forbid religious apparel due to a needed cohesiveness. The emphasis that the Court placed on military presents an interesting issue, that other services could not create a dress code that forbade religious apparel, such as a yarmulke or a headdress. The final issues that Dr. Speak attempts to bring against President Smacksem and Senator Tellinemwhattodo in regards to their proposed bill. The bill does contain several proposals that can be seen as controversial, yet most of these spark out of the unequal treatment of equal things.

One of the prime issues is the promotion of heterosexual, pro-life activity on public university campuses. The way the Court is acting to discrimination has changed drastically since the 1960’s and this proposal would likely fall in favor of the court if it is heard then, yet several aspects of the bill must be changed if it is to be declared Constitutional. The court would look at these issues of promoting one sexual orientation over another as a legitimate interest standard. The ruling in Romer v. Evans (1996) gives this rational basis test to all cases involving LGBT rights, allowing the government to win more frequently.

If President Smacksem and Senator Tellinemwhattodo can prove that there is a rational relationship between the purpose and the action then they will win this scenario as well. Something else they must change is the equal opportunity for both, such as Section 2 (a-d). For example, in part C, the bill proposing “studented who are engaged in heterosexual behavior that results in pregnancy”, because this is focusing on one group of people it likely would not fly in court, however if they removed the heterosexual aspect of this part then no issue would arise and the outcome would remain similar.

By denying one group the funding, grants, or time off, while providing those to others is a form of discrimination and would be fought against in Court. Given the Courts power to strike down certain aspects of the bill, not all of the bill will be removed as is. Section 2 Part (e-f) would currently pass by the Supreme Court without issue. This part is dealing with providing of information about abortion or birth control at University Health Centers. The Rust v. Sullivan (1991) decision deals with a similar scenario where President Bush presents an executive order where no funding will be sent to Doctors that inform patients about abortion.

According to the Court, this does not remove the option to get an abortion or birth control, it just removes the Doctor from giving information about it, similar to a teacher not being able to give information to students on religion. Now, because part (f) does deny the University Health Centers from disseminating birth control, this portion could run into a bit of trouble because it does limit where one could get their birth control from. However, President Smacksem and Senator Tellinemwhattodo may receive some help from the decision in Webster v. Reproductive Health Service (1989).

That Court ruled that the Due Process clause does not automatically result in government aid being a right. In this current lawsuit, part (f) does not restrict the University Health Center from providing birth control, it is only removing the government aid to provide that birth control, meaning that the state has the authority to remove funding as long as they do not restrict the actual providing. In conclusion, the case regarding Dr. Speak and President Smacksem truly is one where the Court could rule in vastly different manners depending upon the members of the Court and the cases they use to affirm their decision.

Likely, what will occur is a mixed decision, where the Court will rule in favor of President Smacksem on several, if not most, of the issues while striking down a few actions of Smacksem. Above all, this case contains an important decision: the first look at any case does not always represent the truth. On my first read I had already decided the case in favor of Dr. Speak, but upon further evaluations one could find that is not the case. Throughout the more recent history of the Court, they are changing their stance on discrimination, but not to the point where this case wouldn’t fall in favor of President Smacksem.

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