Sunday, August 22, 2010

Religious Schools Can't Have Police Departments?

That's what this ruling says:

It's not every day that First Amendment issues get raised in a drunk-driving case. But last week the Court of Appeals threw out a DWI case involving an arrest by a Davidson College police officer, agreeing with the defense that Davidson is a religious institution and giving police powers to the school is unconstitutional. "We hold that the delegation of police power to Davidson College ... is an unconstitutional delegation of ‘an important discretionary governmental power' to a religious institution in the context of the First Amendment," Judge James A. Wynn Jr. wrote in a unanimous opinion before his departure to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Allen Brotherton, who represented the defendant, said he thinks the opinion should have an impact on the way campus police departments on all church-affiliated schools in the state operate.

I'm not sure why, but I find that a very interesting ruling.

Update, 8/26/10: The North Carolina Supreme Court has stayed the ruling and is considering hearing the case.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if they can contract out to a private non-religious firm (like, maybe, Pinkerton) for police services?

-Mark Roulo

MikeAT said...


I call this an abortion of Constitution law that rivals Roe vs. Wade. The First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This restricts the power of the Federal Government to establish or regulate religion.

In this matter a state has licensed the police department and its officer’s to enforce the law. How the hell that violates any part of the of the Establishment or Free Exercise clauses is beyond me.

Mark, to answer your question Pinkerton is a private detective agency and cannot enforce law like a peace officer. Knowing nothing more than what's in the article, I think they will have to coordinate with the local police or sheriff for assistance.

Anonymous said...

MikeAT all well stated.
But this ruling opens the door for the argument that the entanglement conflict would also remain for government law enforcement officers (local, sheriff, federal etc). The affirmative defense in the DWI case is that no government entity can be entangled with a religious entity. So under that ruling how could any government employee act on those school grounds under any circumstance.

Darren said...

The same way the Senate and the House of Representatives each have a chaplain, and there are chaplains in the military and in most local police departments.