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October 1, 2009

Should religious doctrines influence Eighth Amendment jurisprudence?

Thanks to this post by Orin Kerr, I took a closer look at this amicus brief filed in the SCOTUS  juve LWOP cases on behalf many religious organizations.  As Orin notes, the "substance of the brief is provocative [as] it argues that religion should inform 8th Amendment jurisprudence."  Specifically, consider these passages from the amici brief (with quotes and cites left out):

The importance of a society’s religious organizations’ views on issues of morality, crime, and punishment to that society’s standards of decency is well recognized.  Indeed, for the vast majority of mankind, crime, punishment, and reform are still inextricably bound up with religious views about sin, judgment, and forgiveness.  There are few, if any, institutions that can claim a greater tradition of working with and studying the conscience of the human person and related questions of guilt, blame, and suffering than those of the religious community....

Amici, as members of the religious community, are uniquely positioned to provide invaluable guidance regarding the issue presented in these cases: whether sentencing juveniles to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for non-homicide offenses is contrary to contemporary standards of decency and therefore violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.  Their religious traditions — Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism — have played influential roles in societal discourses about morality and criminal punishment throughout history, and continue to do so today.  An overwhelming majority of Americans continue to rely on the teachings and instructions of these faith traditions on matters of morality and justice.

I am curious to hear reader reactions to the suggestion that religious traditions and teaching might have a special role to play in Eighth Amendment cases.

October 1, 2009 at 06:45 PM | Permalink


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Somehow I think the answer to Doug's question will depend on whether we are looking at religious doctrine as annouced by William Sloane Coffin or by Jerry Falwell.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 1, 2009 7:43:18 PM

Latin, intent (mens rea), excuses for crimes, the adversarial system, the high court bench, the gavel, the robe, sovereign immunity, the word, "element," when applied to malfeasance, self-incrimination (confession), confiscatory fines, plea bargaining, the church looking court architecture, the stentorian tones of the buffoons running the show. All Catholic church. All violations of the Establishment Clause.

These brazen violations justify the arrest, fair trial for an hour, and summary execution of the entire lawyer hierarchy for insurrection against the Constitution.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 1, 2009 8:26:00 PM

More shocking? The Jews in the law. Where are the Jews?

They learned nothing from history. They allow these church tenets into the law, say nothing, do nothing. Why? They are paid off with cush rent seeking jobs.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 1, 2009 8:28:37 PM

Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn -
world serves its own needs, regardless of your own needs. Feed it up a knock, rent seeking, brow speaking
speed, grunt no, strength no. Ladder structure clatter with fear of height,
down height. Wire in a fire, represent the seven games in a government for
hire and a combat site. Left her, wasn't coming in a hurry with the furies
breathing down your neck. Team by team reporters baffled, trump, tethered
crop. Look at that low plane! Fine then. Uh oh, overflow, population,
common group, but it'll do. Save yourself, serve yourself. World serves its
own needs, listen to your heart bleed. Tell me with the rapture and the
reverent in the right - right. You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright
light, feeling pretty psyched.

Posted by: Redundancy Clause | Oct 1, 2009 9:53:55 PM

This also is vital. My goons and I will spank your collective asses in our watering hole if you fail to reproduce these lyrics on demand:
Six o'clock - TV hour. Don't get caught in foreign tower. Slash and burn,
return, listen to yourself churn. Lock him in uniform and book burning,
blood letting. Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate. Light a candle,
light a motive. Step down, step down. Watch a heel crush, crush. Uh oh,
this means no fear - cavalier. Renegade and steer clear! A tournament,
a tournament, a tournament of lies. Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives
and I decline.

Posted by: Redundancy Clause | Oct 1, 2009 9:55:41 PM

These further gems of wisdom just occurred to me, and no one else. Repent, ye sinners!
The other night I tripped a nice continental drift divide. Mount St. Edelite.
Leonard Bernstein. Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs.
Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom! You symbiotic, patriotic,
slam, but neck, right? Right.

Posted by: Redundancy Clause | Oct 1, 2009 9:56:49 PM

If I were not on crack right now, my stinging rebuttal would singe your buttocks, you fresh piece of humanity, you!

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 1, 2009 9:59:28 PM

For me, it depends on what you mean by "special" Doug. I think the role of religion in public life deserves respect. But I'm not interested in it dominating the discourse or even some "first among equals" nonsense. Put another way, I think that religious views should inform the discussion but I do not think they should be decisive.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 1, 2009 10:00:21 PM

Ignore the man behind the curtain! I alone am the laughingstock of this blog!

Posted by: Supremacy Clause | Oct 1, 2009 10:00:55 PM

Vile villain only I blah blah criminal enterprise . . . snore . . . snore . . . blah blah . . . executive j. d. . . . blah blah. . . I have secret knowledge and none of you are smart enough like me to understand . . . blah blah. . . I go to parties with harvard professors . . .blah blah blah . . . my url indicator does not actually link to my blog and I am too proud to fix it . . blah blah blah . . . I know what the issue is and you are not smart enout to understand what it is like me, because only I understand the conflicts of interest inherent in the structure of a self-regulating profession . . . blah blah blah . . . I comment after post becuase I am funded by a right wing PAC who couldn't do any better. . . blah blah blah. . . my personal failings permeate every blog post . . . blah blah blah. . . I think that if I draw the line at murder then I will never have to pay for my failings as a husband, son, and brother in the afterlife . . . blah blah blah . . . please, I promise I am really smart and good, please love me? Please!?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 1, 2009 10:07:15 PM

I am shocking and I contribute to the dialog! Just like annne Coulter! I continually whoop Berman in civilized debate! Why don't you like me?!

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 1, 2009 10:10:49 PM

In any sane world, 3/4 of all law review articles would be about topics I raise in passing. Shame on you, law. Law. Shame on you.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 1, 2009 10:13:30 PM

No personal remark can change the failure of every goal of every law subject. This utter failure comes from the church based, supernatural, Medieval doctrines and methodology. Not only are these unlawful in our secular nation. They just do not work. There is none that is acceptable in a modern practice.

The church is in no position to comment on the death penalty's cruelty. It was not long ago when they were saying, "You blasphemed by eating meat on Friday." Let's plea bargain. Forfeit your estate to the church or meet your fate in the auto-da-fe. The church taught the lawyer the way to run a successful criminal cult enterprise. It has no credibility nor moral authority, by its history.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 1, 2009 10:35:26 PM

WOW SC. That was a seriously potent 'shroom.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 1, 2009 10:49:25 PM

Daniel: There is one upset, tripping lawyer here. A little loving criticism of the lawyer profession and he goes blithering. I would like to see a little more from my good lawyer friends. They can do better than going nya, nya, nya and stealing the name of a fictional character, that is copyrighted.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 1, 2009 11:38:36 PM

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