Sunday, October 8, 2017

Update on Judge Wendell Gfiffen of Little Rock: Judge Griffen Files Suit vs. Arkansas Supreme Court for Violating His Religious Liberty

In May, I told you of a move to impeach Arkansas judge (and my friend) Wendell Griffen after he took part in a public demonstration against the death penalty organized on Good Friday by the church he pastors in Little Rock, New Millennium Baptist church. In response to his involvement in this protest, the Arkansas Supreme Court and Arkansas Attorney General restricted the kinds of cases at which Judge Griffen might preside, claiming that he was too biased to hear some cases, such as ones in which the death penalty might be an appropriate sentence in their view.

Now an update for you: Judge Griffen has now filed suit against the Arkansas Supreme Court. His lawsuit challenges the state Supremes by arguing that their action against him following his participation in a Good Friday protest against the death penalty seeks illicitly to curb his right to free speech and to punish him for exercising that right, and violates his religious freedom.

The large majority of those sitting on the bench of the current Arkansas Supreme Court are religious freedom absolutists, religious freedom maximalists — as long as what we mean by religious freedom is permitting conservative evangelicals to deny rights, goods, and services to LGBTQ people while claiming religious sanction for these actions. As I've noted here in previous postings (click the label "Arkansas" below for a list of them), the Arkansas Supreme Court placed a stay on same-sex marriages after Judge Chris Piazza knocked down the ban on those marriages as unconstitutional, and then refused to issue any ruling at all on this matter until the national Supreme Court's Obergefell decision obviated the need for a state-level ruling.

This and other actions by the members of the Arkansas Supreme Court indicate strong anti-LGBTQ animus on the part of quite a few of the justices sitting on that bench — animus rooted in their own religious convictions and ties to conservative evangelical communities. And so it's . . . strange, to say the least . . . that, while reserving to themselves the right to be moved by religious ideas and  commitments as they try to make the lives of queer Arkansans as miserable as possible, they would seek to deny another justice his similar right to be moved by religious convictions and commitments as he goes about his work as a judge.

At a moment in which Amy Coney Barrett, a right-wing Catholic with ties to a cultic Catholic religious group that subordinates women to men and opposes LGBTQ rights, is hurtling towards confirmation for a federal judge's seat, while Christian conservatives claim that asking her any critical questions about her religious beliefs and convictions represents an attack on the Catholic church, it will prove interesting to see how the Arkansas Supreme Court can defend its "right" to discipline Judge Wendell Griffen for exercising a religious liberty its members defend for themselves and for judges like Barrett — but want to deny to an African-American pastor whose religious convictions lead him to oppose capital punishment.

Ganders, geese, with sauce on top.

The photo of Wendell Griffen is from his blog Justice is a verb

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