The October 2011 Term of the United States Supreme Court ended today, and most of the national attention will be on Chief Justice Roberts' opinion upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act--rightly so, since millions of Americans lack adequate healthcare, and Congress should be able to do something about it. But the penultimate decision of the term--the opening act this morning--was also an opinion worth noticing.
Here at the ACLU of Maine, we do more than simply talk about the importance of religious freedom--we go to court to defend everyone's right to practice their beliefs free from government interference. But--and this is important--religious freedom does not mean that religious people have the right to impose your beliefs on anyone else.
It took two years, two Education Committee votes, two Appropriations Committee votes, and thirteen different votes in the Senate and House, but at approximately 3:00 am this morning, the Maine Legislature passed meaningful legislation to address the growing problem of bullying in our schools. The ACLU of Maine worked with a number of wonderful organizations--the Maine Women's Lobby, GLAD, EqualityMaine, GLSEN, the Maine Children's Alliance, the Maine Education Association, and many others to help make this legislation possible.
Today, a federal court in Florida ruled that my home state's program of randomly drug testing state employees violates the Constitution. It was a great victory, after years of hard work by our ACLU colleagues in Florida and the Florida chapter of AFSCME, who were the plaintiffs in the suit.
Last week, I shared the news that the Maine Legislature's Education Committee voted to recommend the rejection of bill that would authorize religious school funding using taxpayer dollars--something Maine has refused to do for over 30 years.
Today, the Maine House agreed, voting 84-59 against the proposal. The Senate will take up the bill next, and we believe that the result will be the same.
At the ACLU of Maine, we were having a hard time remembering how many bills the legislature considered last year that would have given taxpayer dollars to fund private religious schools. Was it 4? Was it 5? In any case, we all remember the results: every one of those bills was voted down by the legislature, with votes in opposition coming from all points on the political spectrum.
There has been a growing interest in the criminalization of protest, in connection with Congress's consideration of HR 347, which amends current law relating to trespassing in federal buildings or areas under Secret Service control. Here is an explanation of the bill by the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office.