A look at the Native American Church’s Lawsuit against the TSA
Sandor Iron Rope, the former president of the Native American Church of North America, was disappointed with the Transportation Security Administration personnel at San Antonio International Airport for mishandling and disrespecting items that have religious significance. Sandor Rope had with him a wooden box and inside was an eagle feather, gourd rattle, feather fan and bone whistle. According to the religious beliefs of the Native American Church, these items have spiritual energy and they are commonly used in different rituals and ceremonies. None of these items posed any threat to the safety of the airport, the flyers or the staffs. Yet, the items were handled without care and without any sensitivity to their religious significance.
Sandor Rope chose to file a lawsuit against the Transportation Security Administration for not doing enough to be sensitive towards all religions and cultures. The lawsuit was eventually settled in January 2018 with neither party agreeing to any wrongdoing but both parties willing to coordinate and work together to create a training program that can help the personnel working in transportation security to be familiar with different religions and particularly the items that are significant for Native Americans. Sandor Rope stated that the TSA did have many policies that attended to the diverse needs but there was a lack of training and not every personnel was aware of those regulations.
The TSA in fact has various norms pertaining to various types of items for different religions. For instance, Sikhs are not allowed to carry their kirpans in flight. The kirpans, which are a special knife, are not exactly weapons in Sikhism but an extension of the attire and being of the faithful. It is purposed to be used to protect the weak. Sikhs check in their kirpans in the baggage as they cannot have it on them in the cabin. Likewise, there is already a rule in place that exempts followers of the Native American Church of North America from carrying peyote.
There are over quarter of a million members of the Native American Church, across its various chapters in the country. The members often use the hallucinogenic peyote as a religious and ceremonial sacrament. Peyote is a cactus native to southern Texas where it grows on its own. Americans are prohibited from carrying or possessing peyote. It is classified in the same category of banned or controlled substances as cocaine and heroin. However, the Native Americans or members of the Native American Church can carry this substance, even on flights.
The lawsuit has been settled amicably and there is a joint effort to help train the security personnel. TSA employees in almost a dozen different airports will get this additional training, pegged as a job aid. They would be familiarized with different items that must be treated with care and respect. They would also get to watch a webinar and will be provided some hand-holding to ensure no believer in the Native American Church and its religious practices is mistreated or dealt with in any insensible and unprofessional manner.
The Catholic Church’s Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
You may not have heard about the wrongful termination lawsuit that the Catholic Church recently dealt with. Nonetheless, this is a case that is well worth studying in greater detail. There is the matter of the settlement, which came out to something along the lines of four million dollars. This was paid out to former high school football coach Christopher Cerbone.
While the above figure is certainly worth studying in greater detail, it is not the only element to this story that you will want to keep in mind. For example, you will certainly want to be aware of what Cerbone alleged in his original complaint.
The Unfortunate Firing of Christopher Cerbone
In the lawsuit, Christopher Cerbone claimed he was fired unfairly from his job as coach of the football team at St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School, which is located in Vallejo. Cerbone claimed in his lawsuit that he was fired after reporting to his superiors that older players on the football team were sexually hazing the younger players. Cerbone felt like a scapegoat, in the wake of his firing. As a coach for the St. Patrick-St. Vincent team, Cerbone served in that capacity for one full season.
He claimed to have discovered the sexual hazing just prior to Christmas break. He then immediately reported his findings to the school principal. An investigation was then launched by the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento. The initial incident was reported in the winter of 2012. The results of the investigation were returned in January of 2013. In their findings, Cerbone was fired from his position. In addition to this, five players were also expelled. Amongst the specific acts that lead to their expulsion, the players were alleged to have exposed their genitals to younger players. Inappropriate contact between older and younger players was another factor that led to expulsion.
All of these grim details proved to contribute to Cerbone’s eventual lawsuit against the Catholic Church. As time would eventually reveal, the results of Cerbone’s lawsuit proved to be very interesting. Those results certainly set a compelling precedent that could potentially be exploited by others in the future.
The Lawsuit and Beyond
One element to the lawsuit that proved interesting was the fact that Cerbone was able to secure a new job at another school. After being fired, Cerbone was able to find a job as an assistant principal at a school in King City. Even better, the job came with a salary that was estimated to be a full thirty thousand dollars higher than what he had been making at St. Patrick-St. Vincent.
Even so, Cerbone argued that the behavior of the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento still prevented him from being able to work in his ideal profession. Cerbone claimed in his lawsuit that two things contributed to the damage he perceived to his professional reputation. In the first place, Cerbone argued that the mere act of firing him harmed him. In the second place, Cerbone further explained that the diocese news release regarding the firing caused even more harm to his reputation. Indeed, the news release that came out from the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento listed Cerbone as being “ultimately responsible” for the hazing that occurred.
Beleaguered by the troubling particulars of Cerbone’s firing, the diocese offered a settlement. This is where the figure of four million dollars comes into the picture. That amount of money is significant, to be sure. At the same time, one doesn’t want to forget that a jury also awarded Cerbone damages in the amount of nine hundred thousand dollars. It isn’t hard to understand why the diocese was so eager to extend this settlement. At the time in which the four million dollar offer was made, a jury for Sacramento County superior court was mulling over a specific amount of money in regards to punitive damages. Some legal experts believe the church should have held out, as the amount of money that would have been awarded through punitive damages could have easily been a much lower figure than what the Catholic Church ultimately offered.
Nonetheless, it is important to keep in mind that this is only one opinion. At the end of the day, nothing can change the fact that Cerbone must feel vindicated. His reputation has been restored.
Even though a separation between the church (meaning all religions) and the state (meaning all government bodies, federal as well as local) is a fundamental building block of America, it appears nowhere in the United States Constitution.
Sure, the First Amendment of the Constitution states that there “shall be no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, but this delineation between church and state that is so consistently referenced is not actually framed itself within the Constitution, but instead woven into the very fabric of the American legislative process itself.
Understanding the American separation of church and state
Though there are a variety of different interpretations regarding the separation between church and state, including some that have been adopted by other nations based upon the policy established by the US government, at the end of the day the overwhelming majority of people agree that this “clause” is rather simple and straightforward.
Though the country’s policy may be informed by the religious beliefs of particular members of the legislative body, and acknowledging that it would be absolutely patently impossible to keep all religions and the impact that they have morally, ethically, and spiritually out of the US governing body complete, there must be a clear separation between the laws of the nation and the “rules” of the church – any church – and that no American is be forced to comply with laws that would in any way whatsoever inhibit or restrict the practicing of his particular form of religion.
There is definitely some nuance in this definition, and certainly some subjectivity to it all, but it’s one of those circumstances where “you know it when you see it”.
Why was the separation put into place to begin with?
Thomas Jefferson himself, the third president of the United States and one of the architects of the Constitution as well as some of its amendments, was a major proponent of the separation between church and state.
He believed that the matter of religion laid only between a man and his particular God, and that there was no business for any religion to insert itself for inject itself into the governing of a country built upon the back of religious tolerance and religious acceptance.
He believed that there should be no law respecting a particular establishment of religion or the prohibition of free exercise of any other religion – and that’s been the “law of the land” ever since.
How well does this separation work in practice?
The separation between church and state is rather difficult to “police” in practice, if only because most of the attacks against it is clearly outlined and described policy is more subtle, more nuanced, and are usually woven in a fabric of moral objectivity as opposed to religious beliefs.
For example, rather than attack a specific religion and go after any of their core beliefs, legislators who were trying to circumvent this separation try to find ways to go after beliefs tangentially, trying to protect tenants of the belief itself that would make it impossible to practice certain aspects of it were outlawed.
These kinds of attacks were quite common in nearly days of the American government, and though they have certainly died off in recent times, they still remain a constant threat to the First Amendment.
Could it be argued that laws in regards to drugs and alcohol are policy morality, and thus void because of the separation of church and state?
Some today argue that the laws in regards to drugs and alcohol are much closer to policing morality – the world of religion – as opposed to policing the populace, though again (as we have mentioned above) the attacks made against these behaviors are made tangentially.
A priest recently arrested in San Diego, California is an interesting example. A leader at the Our Lady of Refuge (living in the building next door) tried to move his car when he jammed down the accelerator and crashed into a building.
He was arrested on a DUI charge, he claimed that he had only consumed a bit of alcohol based off of a mass that he had given – further blurring the lines between the separation of church and state. However, that would not be a legal defense.
It will certainly be interesting to see how everything shakes out in this case and all future ones. But one must make sure to guard against the criminalization of one set of morals as opposed to others.
As of today, Christianity is considered to be the largest worldwide religion, with more than 2 billion followers worldwide.
This is pretty amazing considering the fact that this religion is still quite young (in the grand scheme of things), and the fact that it splintered off from Judaism right around 2000 years ago.
If you are looking for a little bit more inside information in regards to Christianity, how it may pertain to your life, and which denomination you may be most interested in learning more about, you’re going to want to pay close attention to this very quick – and very brief – overlook of Christianity in general.
There’s just no way that we are going to be able to cover all of the individual nuances of each of the more than 34,000 different denominations of Christianity, but we are going to try and cover as many bases as possible.
The foundations of Christianity
The majority of people – Christian as well as non-Christian – have at least heard some of the foundations of Christianity at some point in time.
Christians (all Christians) believe that Jesus Christ himself is the son of God, and was sent down by God himself to teach and lead the people of Earth as a fulfillment of the prophecies made in the Old Testament.
Though he was betrayed by one of his disciples (Judas) and left to die on the cross, days later he was resurrected and rose back into heaven – defeating Satan and paying the price for all the sins all over the world (past, present, and future).
According to information in the Gospels, Jesus was conceived and born to the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, where he was raised by Mary as well as Joseph. All of this information is contained within the Bible itself, and while all different denominations of Christianity use the Bible, each of them has their own interpretation of the messages contained within.
Some of the major denominations of Christianity
As mentioned above, there are more than 34,000 different denominations of Christianity, each of which have their own specific set of beliefs, each of which have their own specific set of the teachings, and each of which have their own different interpretation of the words contained within the Bible.
Many of these beliefs cross over into other denominations of Christianity, and for the most part these different denominations get along well with one another. There are some exceptions (as there always are).
Here are just a couple of the largest denominations of Christianity today.
The Catholic Church
With more than 1.2 billion people all over the world, the Catholic Church is easily the largest denomination of Christianity. It has an especially devout following throughout South America and Latin America, though it’s also well represented in North America as well as most of Europe.
There are a little bit more than 800 million Protestants in the world today, with many of them located in America, South Africa, and parts of South America. This particular denomination also has a number of sub denominations, including Historical Protestantism, Baptist churches, Lutheranism, and a host of others as well.
The Eastern orthodoxy
There are about 200,000,000 to 300,000,000 people (mostly in Russia and Eastern Europe) that follow Eastern orthodoxy teachings as far as Christianity is concerned, making it one of the largest subsets and denominations of Christianity and certainly one of the most influential.
The Oriental orthodoxy
Close to 86 million people in India, and Asia, and in Africa follow a Christianity subset and denomination known as the Oriental orthodoxy, with the largest concentration of these individuals clustering in Africa.
Resources you can use to find out more about Christianity
If you’re interested in learning more about Christianity, or a specific denomination that is of interest to you, you’ll want to seek out a local church group and speak with the church leaders there.
They’ll be able to answer all of your questions, will be to point you towards influential resources, and will be able to help you better understand that specific subset of Christianity as well as Christianity in general.
The overwhelming majority of these individuals are going to be happy to share this information with you freely and as often as possible, so do not hesitate to take advantage of these powerful community resources!