Giving Credit Where it is Due

David Orentlicher, a law professor (Indiana), poses the following hypothetical over at The Faculty Lounge with respect to President Obama’s recent statement that business owners do not achieve their successes on their own.  I am far less interested in the President’s original statement, its context, and so on, than in the religious analogy offered by Professor Orentlicher (this is CLR Forum, after all):

[C]onsider how the critics would respond to a somewhat different phrasing that probably has been expressed by other elected officials and perhaps Obama as well.

Suppose a candidate said that entrepreneurs don’t achieve their successes on their own but benefit from the good grace of God. Would business owners be offended by the suggestion that their achievements are the result of more than their own inventiveness, resourcefulness and hard work? I’ve always appreciated the fact that a Sabbath day of rest reminds us that the world goes on even when we are not working, that we are not responsible for all the good that comes to us.

To be sure, there are two parts to the critique of Obama. On one hand, it is said, he doesn’t give sufficient credit to creators of companies. On the other hand, he gives too much credit to government. My alternative phrasing gives credit to God rather than government, and many business owners may feel that they get more help from God than they do from government. Indeed, they may see government as more of a hindrance than a helper. But it’s worth remembering that God can put us through tribulations too, as America’s farmers are finding this year.

I find the hypothetical fascinating not so much on the substance, but for what it says about the world view that would see an equivalence between the two scenarios.  Many people might not see an equivalence between giving credit for their successes to God, on the one hand, and to the government, on the other, because they believe that God is God, while the government is not God.  To believe this, one need not be inherently suspicious of government, or believe that government is a force for evil, or any such nonsense.  One might merely think that, notwithstanding one’s own disagreements with it, the government is as a general matter composed of well-meaning people who try to do their best by their lights but who, like the rest of us (and unlike God), can and often do get things wrong.    Read more

Eleventh Circuit: No Free Exercise Right to Cling to Your Guns and Religion

It can’t possibly top Mark’s Pussy Riot post, but here’s an unusual case out of the Eleventh Circuit.  In 2010, the state of Georgia passed a statute prohibiting the carrying of weapons or “long guns” in certain public venues.  One of these eight designated locations in this Carry Law was a “place of worship.”  Two individual plaintiffs claim that they “regularly attend religious services, possess a weapons carry license, and ‘would like to carry a handgun’ while in a place of worship.”  The complaint alleges violations of the Free Exercise Clause and the Second Amendment.

The Eleventh Circuit tossed the case.  “The Supreme Court has reiterated time and time again that personal preferences and secular beliefs do not warrant the protection of the Free Exercise Clause,” it said.  The Court held that it had searched the complaint for any allegation that the Carry Law violated a sincerely held religious belief of the plaintiffs, but to no avail.  “That Plaintiffs ‘would like’ to carry a firearm in order to be able to act in ‘self-defense’ is a personal preference, motivated by a secular purpose . . . . [T]here is no First Amendment protection for personal preferences; nor is there protection for secular beliefs.”

The Second Amendment claim was also dismissed.  The case is, Inc. v. Georgia, 2012 WL 2947817 (11th Cir. July 20, 2012).