Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays

I've been resisting posting anything for a while. I've been a bit depressed recently (not too bad, and it's already passed, but thanks for your concern), and that tends to warp my perspective and make me a bit grumpy. You really didn't want to read my vituperative opinion of the county district attorney, who uses his column in the weekly newspaper here (a column entitled, "From the Desk of the D.A.") to violate the Establishment Clause, and by so doing, my constitutional rights. That's just a bummer.

So, instead, here's a pleasantly generic holiday greeting for all of you: whether you celebrate a religious holiday (of any persuasion), a secular holiday (ditto), or nothing at all, please do so with a happy heart, health & wealth, good food and better friends, and the knowledge that life continues to offer joy and surprises. I hope all your gifts, both given & received, are perfect. And you don't have too much to clean up when it's all over.



Postscript -- I have finally spoken to the DA (as Starman calls him) and found him charming. I therefore retract my criticism of him personally, I apologize for the animadversion expressed above, and hope he will forgive me. But I still think his holiday columns are unconstitutional, and will work toward persuading him that it's not worth the risk that I'm right. At least now I know it'll be a pleasant conversation!


  1. Magdalen,

    Someone emailed me a note indicating that the column was referenced in your blog. Obviously, the comment is a little late. It is funny the different views that people have toward the column. The Christmas one has been a popular one -- even to the extent of the Independent re-printing an earlier one in a special holiday edition last year.

    Thanks for not posting a "vituperative opinion" of me on your blog! As to the Establishment Clause, I think we may have discussed this in the past by correspondence. Am I mistaken?

    In any event, it is always nice to know that people read the column, and, since I read the blog, I thought I would drop you a note to let you knot that someone had directed me to this posting -- and I had a chance to look at some of the other stuff as well - it was interesting even if we come from different political viewpoints.


  2. Which is all very well and good, Mr. District Attorney -- I have no doubt I'm in a tiny minority (possibly of one) in believing that it is not a good idea to have a state actor, which you are, expressly referencing Christianity in a column published county-wide. Yours is a bully pulpit, but if you want to be religious, you should not write as the district attorney.

    At the time that you and I corresponded, you responded to me that it was nice that the First Amendment Freedom of Speech protected both of us in disagreeing with each other. Only, the First Amendment applies to me (as a private citizen) differently than it does you, as a state actor. Federal courts have held that state actors cannot reference an expressly religious rationale even in support of a sound position. (I've got a case cite, if you'd like...)

    I get upset about this not because of the religion but because you and I are among a very small number of lawyers in this county. We have all sworn to uphold the laws of the land, starting and ending with the Constitution. I like to think of lawyers as smart enough to care that they do right. I worry that you allow your faith to dictate what's right, when it should be your legal training that reins in your religious self.

    The Establishment Clause was added because Baptists in the greater Boston area were being persecuted by the majority Puritans. (Oh, and there was that business with the creation of Rhode Island on the grounds of religious freedom...) The Founding Fathers, having objected to the tyranny of the English crown, could see that it wouldn't do to have a religious government for fear that it would quell the very freedoms they fought for.

    Okay, so it may seem silly to worry about the Ten Commandments in a courthouse, or a creche outside City Hall. But the basic policy is sound: let's keep government secular when it's being our government. And when you write your column, you're being the government.

    It's odd to debate this in comments on my blog; I was planning to stop by (with my research!) and chat with you about it. Only October's really busy. After the election, perhaps?

  3. Magdalen,

    I did not intend to start a debate. In fact, I don't think I even argued with your position in my post. I simply wanted you to know that I saw it and read it. Criticism of public officials serves an important role and I welcome constructive criticism. It is the only way that we improve as professionals and, even in our private lives, as individuals.

    As you may know, I had the privilege of clerking for a federal judge for 3 years prior to returning home. I also have a B.A. and M.A. in history, primarily focusing on American history. I would like to think that my education and experience has given me a good understanding of the Establishment Clause - but we can always learn more. I would love to sit down and talk to you about this in further detail when our schedules allow. Just drop an email or call after the election when you have more time.

    As I said, my intent was not to debate your position in your blog. You are right - we are both attorneys - and share a special love for the law and the constitution. I look forward to our conversation.