A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Texas

Spaghetti Strainer as Cowboy Hat?

By LASIS Staff

In April, LASIS reported the story of an Ohioan who refused to take a pasta strainer off his head when taking his DMV photo. He was a Pastafarian, and doing so, he said, would have been violated his First Amendment rights as a Pastafarian. No dice.  The headgear had to be removed.

So it surprised us to learn that a DMV permitted a Pastafarian to leave a spaghetti strainer on as headwear for his official photo in  — of all places — Texas, a state not known as a bastion of tolerance.

Then again, nothing that happens in the Lonestar State should surprise us.

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The Right to Not Have an Abortion

By Nicole Rowlands

There’s a stigma that comes with being a teen mom. You may not graduate high school. In less than a year, you may get pregnant again. And eight out of ten teen pregnancy cases do not end up in marriage. But for a 16-year-old teen from Houston, Texas, none of it matters.

She wants her baby. And she will keep it. Despite the odds against her.

According to the teen, her parents tried coercing her to have an abortion. She told the press that after finding out about her pregnancy, her parents took away her phone and her car, pulled her out of school, and made her get two jobs in an effort to make her miserable so that she’d give up and agree to abort her baby.  Her mother allegedly threatened to “slip her an abortion pill.” And her father told her he was going to “look into canceling her health insurance.”

Her parents gave her two choices: one, she could “live in misery” in their home, or two, she could “have the abortion and tell everyone it was a miscarriage.”

The teen sought the court’s help to sue her parents and was represented by lawyers from the Texas Center for Defense of Life. In the end, she and her parents reached an agreement and she was “allowed” to go through with the pregnancy. But, as a minor, if the case had gone forward, would she have won?

The press didn’t analyze the legal issues involved. We will.

(more…)

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In God We Trust…and Hold Office

By Asher Hawkins

A casual aside in Wednesday’s op-ed column by Gail Collins of The New York Times sent us here at LASIS scurrying for our constitutional-law thinking caps.

In the piece, which poked fun at Tuesday night’s feisty Republican debate in Las Vegas, Ms. Collins made the following assertion about Texas governor Rick Perry: “The whole First Amendment thing might be a little complicated for a governor whose State Constitution prohibits anyone who doesn’t believe in God from holding public office. This is not a joke.”

Not a joke? It must be. Surely some form of federal law must prevent a state from including such a blatantly pro-religion requirement in its constitution, right? Just to be safe, we decided to look into what Ms. Collins was possibly referring to.

Lo and behold, her statement is essentially accurate (if somewhat imperfectly worded): Section 4 of Article I of the Texas Constitution forbids excluding anyone “from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.” (Article I of the Texas Constitution comprises the Lone Star State’s Bill of Rights.)

How does such a requirement not violate numerous provisions of the U.S. Constitution? And is Texas the only state whose constitution contains such language, or are there corresponding clauses in other states’ foundational documents? A look at federal case law on so-called religious test oaths helps answer those questions.   (more…)

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