It’s very off-putting to me to not be involved in the production of the Nevada Sagebrush, as I’ve been regularly working on it for my entire academic career here in Reno. So Tuesday’s edition of the Sagebrush surprised me when I saw “Chapel plans may defy Constitution,” stripped across the top of A1.
What surprised me the most about Ben Miller’s article is that the accusation over the chapel’s legality isn’t really backed up by anything other than vague statements by the ACLU’s Allen Lichtenstein. While the First Amendment certainly does prohibit Congress from making, “…no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” it doesn’t require anything regarding states.
That process is known as incorporation, or when the Supreme Court incorporates portions of the Bill of Rights to apply toward states. There’s been a number of Supreme Court cases last century which dealt with the 1st Amendment and religion, including these cases. While I won’t pretend to be an expert on interpreting the Bill of Rights, the Sagebrush should have contacted a legal professor or professional before making an unfounded claim on the front page of the newspaper. I don’t have an issue with the chapel itself, I only have issue with backing up claims.
For more on Constitutional law, Cornell University Law School has a great line-by-line examination of the document. Ben Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.