Egypt’s Presidential Election Commission today disqualified the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Khairat al-Shater, from running for President in an election scheduled for next month. Nine other candidates, including Hosni Mubarak’s intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, were also disqualified. The commission did not give reasons for the disqualification, but al-Shater, whose campaign immediately announced that he will appeal the commission’s decision, does have a previous criminal conviction. Earlier this week, CLR Forum discussed al-Shater’s stated desire to restore Sharia in Egypt.
Unlike some, I find much to praise in the recent statement by the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, which Mark noted here. This being a legal blog, however, I want to respond specifically to a claim being advanced on some blogs about the state of constitutional free exercise in this country. It’s one that I’ve encountered many times before, but the response to it needs much more ventilation, as the media in various sorts of fora are just not getting it. The misunderstanding leads commentators, even law professors, to make grossly incomplete, and unintentionally misleading, statements about whether the Free Exercise Clause may be invoked for infringements of religious liberty. I’ll focus some of these comments on the HHS mandate, though I do not think the point is limited to that context. The bottom line, in my view, is that it is very unclear whether the Free Exercise Clause is a viable legal possibility. If I were a betting man in the mandate context, I’d put the odds somewhere around 60-40 for upholding the mandate.