November, 2015

Your Land is Holy to Me

The Constitutional Battle to Access Sacred Sites on Public Lands
  • Paul Baumgardner

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"If Christians believed Jesus was crucified in South Dakota rather than Jerusalem, on land now owned by the government, Christians would be shocked if the government proposed to build a gambling casino on the site. But this extreme hypothetical does not capture the claim of the Native Americans, because Christians do not believe particular geographical locations are sacred in the way that Native Americans do."

"If the First Amendment means anything, it means that the Government cannot take away the very ability of an individual to practice his religion at the only place that it can be practiced under the tenets of their religion."

Resources are oftentimes needed in order to act on our basic freedoms. Some of these resources may not be fungible; only specific resources will do. Although person X may be able to act on the basic freedom Z with interchangeable resources, person Y requires a specific, noninterchangeable resource to manifest the same freedom, freedom Z. In many cases, it is imperative that the state makes every effort to accommodate for person Y so that the exercise of her basic right remains possible. I believe that religious right is one such right. In this article, I am concerned with a particular question of political justice and American constitutional law--namely, how a sincere, religious claim also can entail a powerful property claim.

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