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Cuccinelli Opinion on Religious Holiday displays

Cuccinelli Opinion on Religious Holiday displays

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COMMONWEALTH
of
VIRGINIA
Office
of
theAttorneyGeneral
Kenneth
T.
CuccinelIi,II
AttorneyGeneral
TheHonorableRobert
G.
MarshallMember,House
of
DelegatesPostOffice
Box
421Manassas,Virginia20108-0421DearDelegateMarshall:August
20,2010
900EastMainStreetRichmond,Virginia23219804-786-2071
FAX
804-786-1991VirginiaRelay
Suvices
800-828-11207-1-1
Iamrespondingtoyourrequestforanofficialadvisoryopinioninaccordancewith§2.2-505
of
the
Code
of
Virginia.
IssuesPresented
YouinquirewhetherLoudounCounty,underthe
u.s.
andVirginiaconstitutionsandourpresentstatutes,iscompelled
to
prohibitholidaydisplays-bothreligiousandnon-religious-
on
publicproperty;and
if
notsocompelled,underwhatconditionsreligiousholidaydisplays,includingthosehonoringthebirth
of
JesusChrist,arepermitted.
Response
Itis
my
opinionthatalocalgovernmentalentityisnevercategoricallycompelledtoprohibitholidaydisplays,includingthoseincorporatingrecognizablyreligioussymbols,becausegovernmentsenjoyconsiderablediscretioninaccommodatingthereligiousexpression
of
theircitizensandemployeesandintheirownrecognition
of
traditionalseasonalholidays.
It
isfurther
my
opinionthatdisplaysdepictingthebirth
of
JesusChristarepermissibleprovidedthegovernmentensuresappropriatecontentandcontext.
Applicable
Lawand
Discussion
TheFirstAmendmenttotheConstitution
of
theUnitedStatesdeclaresthat"Congressshallmakenolawrespectinganestablishment
of
religion.")Article
I,
§
16
of
theConstitution
of
VirginiaprovidesthattheGeneralAssemblyshallnotprescribeanyreligioustestwhatever,
or
conferanypeculiarprivileges
or
advantagesonanysect
or
denomination,orpassanylawrequiringorauthorizinganyreligioussociety,
or
thepeople
of
anydistrict,tolevyonthemselves
or
others,anytaxfortheerection
or
repair
of
anyhouse
of
publicworship,orforthesupport
of
anychurchorministry;
but
it
shallbeleftfreetoeverypersontoselecthisreligiousinstructor,andtomakeforhissupportsuchprivatecontractasheshallplease.
[2]
I
U.S.
CONST.
amend.
I.
2
VA.
CONST.
art.
I
§
16.
 
HonorableRobertG.MarshallAugust
20,2010
Page2TurningfIrst
to
theVirginiaConstitution,theoriginalmeaning
of
thewords"respectinganestablishment
of
religion"isprobablyreflectedinChapterII
of
theOctober1776Acts
of
theGeneralAssembly,whichgivespracticaleffectto§16
of
theVirginiaDeclaration
of
Rights
of
June12,1776.TheOctoberenactmentpartiallydisestablishedthechurch
of
Virginiabystrikingdown"severaloppressiveacts
of
parliamentrespectingreligion.,,3
It
alsofreeddissentersfromtaxationthatsupportedthechurchsothat"equalliberty,aswellreligiousascivil,'.4wouldprevail.That
act
alsoendedstatutorysalariesfortheAnglicanclergy.
S
The
types
of
laws"respectingreligion"referencedwerethosedesignedtomaintainastatechurch,includingprovisionsrequiringchurchattendanceandprescribingmodes
of
worship.6TheVirginiaEstablishmentClauseadoptedbytheConvention
of
1829-30
7
reflectsanunderstandingthatreligiousequalityanddenominationalnondiscriminationlieatthecore
of
establishmentconcerns
and
doctrine,alongwithprohibition
of
religioustestsandtaxationforthesupport
of
religion.JosephStorycontemporaneouslywrote
of
theFederalEstablishmentClause:"Therealobject
of
theamendment
was...to
excludeallrivalryamongChristiansects,and
to
preventanynationalecclesiasticalestablishment,whichshouldgive
to
anhierarchytheexclusivepatronage
of
thenationalgovernment."gThus,viewedfromareasonabletextualistandoriginalunderstandingperspective,itisdoubtfulthattheVirginiaEstablishmentClauselimitsholidaydisplays
on
publicproperty.Instead,theVirginiaEstablishmentClauseisimplicatedonly
by
stateactiondirectlysupportingorpreferringaparticularchurch.Forpurposes
of
theVirginiaConstitution,then,Article
I,
§
16doesnotforbidadisplaymerelybecause
of
itsreligiouscontent.Thisprovision,however,doesforbidreligiousfavoritismtowardaparticularsectordenomination.
9
CurrentFederalEstablishmentClausedoctrine,
on
theotherhand,doesaddressgovernmentaldisplayswithreligiouscontent.Unfortunately,theUnitedStatesSupremeCourt'scontemporaryEstablishmentClausejurisprudenceis"confusingandconfused."lo
In
analyzingEstablishmentClausejurisprudenceas
it
now
existstwoconclusionsarenonethelessclear:(1)governmentalaccommodation
of
religionisconstitutionallypermitted,andinsomecircumstancesisrequired;and(2)holidaydisplayserectedbygovernments
canbe
validlyexhibiteddepending
on
content.39Hening'sStatutesatLarge
164
(1776).
4Id.
SId
at165,166.
6
See
4Hening'sStatutesatLarge204-09(1727).
7
A.E.
DICK
HOWARD,
COMMENTARIES
ONTHE
CONSTITUTION
OF
VIRGINIA,
Vol.
I
at
292
(Univ.
Press
of
Va.,
Charlottesville1974)
8
JOSEPH
STORY,
COMMENTARIESON
THE
CONSTITUTION,
VOL.
III
§
1871
(1833).
9
TheSupreme
Court
of
Virginiahasnotedthatithas"alwaysbeeninformed
by
theUnitedStates
Supreme
CourtEstablishmentClausejurisprudencein
[its]
construction
of
Article
I,
§
16."Virginia
ColI.
Bldg.
Auth.
v.
Lynn,
260
Va.
608,
626,
538
S.E.2d682,
691
(2000).TheCourthasnotheldthattheVirginiaconstitutionalprovision
and
thefederalconstitution'sEstablishmentClause
are
the
same.
Thetext
and
history
of
Article
I,
§
16
do
notsupportacontentionthattheClauseprohibitsdisplays
on
publicpropertymerelybecause
of
theirreligiouscontent.
10
Doe
v.
DuncanvilleIndep.
Sch.
Dist.,994F.2d
160,166
n.7(5th
Cir.
1993).
Compare
Van
Orden
v.
Perry,
545
U.S.677
(2005)(display
of
Ten
Commandments
at
Texas
StateCapitolconstitutional)(4-4votewith
Breyer,J.,
concurring
in
thejudgment),
with
McCrearyCounty
v.
ACLU,545U.S.
844
(2005)(displayofTenCommandments
at
Kentuckycountycourthouseunconstitutional)(5-4).
 
HonorableRobertG.MarshallAugust20,20I0Page3Constitutionalaccommodation
of
religionbeginsinthetext
itself
anditshistoryisdeeplyrooted.Theoathsfound
at
ArticleII,
§
I,cl.8andArticleVI,cl.3permitaffirmationasanalternativetoswearing.Thisoptionisgivento
"known
denominations
of
men,whoareconscientiouslyscrupulous
of
takingoaths(amongwhichisthatpureanddistinguishedsect
of
Christians,commonlycalledFriends,orQuakers)."llNondenominationalSundaychurchserviceswereconductedinthechamber
of
theUnitedStatesHouse
of
Representativesforaconsiderableperiod,andwhilePresident,ThomasJeffersonwasinregularattendance.LikewiseJamesMadison,thesponsor
of
theFirstAmendmentinCongress,attendedwhen
he
succeededtothePresidency.12
The
practice
of
governmentalaccommodation
of
religionalsoisembeddedincaselawandstatutes.ApplyingtheEstablishmentClause
to
theStatesforthefirsttimein
Everson
v.
Board
of
Education,
theCourtrecognizedthattheClause"requiresthestate
tobe
aneutralinitsrelationswithgroups
of
religiousbelieversandnon-believers;
it
doesnotrequirethestate
tobe
theiradversary.,,13Although
Everson
acceptedtheconcept
of
a"wall
of
separationbetweenchurchandstate,"takenfromJefferson'sletter
to
theDanburyBaptistAssociation,t4theCourtexplainedin
Lynch
v.
Donnelly
thatthe"metaphoritselfisnotawhollyaccuratedescription
of
thepracticalaspects
of
therelationshipthatinfactexistsbetweenchurchandstate.,,15Thatissobecause"[i]thasneverbeenthoughteitherpossibleordesirabletoenforcearegime
of
totalseparation
....
,,16
Not
onlydoestheConstitution
not
"requirecompleteseparation
of
churchandstate;itaffirmativelymandatesaccommodation,notmerelytolerance,
of
allreligions,andforbidshostilitytoward
any.,,17
Applyingtheseprinciples,LoudounCountymustaccommodatereligiousitemswithinthepersonalspace
of
employeesundercertaincircumstances.
1S
In
addition,wheretheCountyalreadyhasprovidedapublicforum
or
limitedpublicforum,itwillusuallylacktheright
to
excludeareligiousdisplay
of
reasonabledurationbasedsolelyuponcontent,19Evenwherenosuchforumpreviouslyhasbeencreated,theCountyisfree
to
createanondiscriminatoryforumforrecognition
of
hoIidays,includingChristmas,
if
itmakesclearthattheCountyitselfisnotcommunicatingareligiousmessage.
20
11
STORY,
supra
note
4,
§
1838.
12
JAMES
H.
HUTSON,
THE
FOUNDERS
ON
RELIGION
atxii(PrincetonUniversityPress2005).
13
Everson
v.
Bd.
ofEduc.,330U.S.
1,
18
(1947).
14Id
at
16
(citingReynolds
v.
UnitedStates,
98
U.S.
145,164
(1879».
15
Lynch
v.
Donnelly,
465U.S.
668,
673
(1984).
16
Id
(citing
Corom.
forPub.
Educ.
&
ReligiOUS
Liberty
v.
Nyguist,
413
U.S.
756,
760
(1973».
17Id
(citingZorach
v.
Clauson,
343
U.S.
306,314,
315
(1952);Illinoisex
reI.
McCollum
v.
Bd.
of
Education,
333
U.S.203,
211
(1948».
Seealso
42
U.S.C.
§
2000e-2(a)(1)(2006)(CivilRightsActrequiresemployers
to
reasonablyaccommodatereligion);
42
U.S.C.
§§
2000e-2000e-17(2006)(ministerialexception
to
CivilRights
Act);42
U.S.C.
§
2000cc-l(2006)(ReligiousLandUse
and
InstitutionalizedPersonAct);
50
U.S.C.
Appx.
§
456(J)(conscientiousobjectors).
18
Warnock
v.
Archer,380F.3d
1076,
1082
(8th
Cir.
2004)(display
of
personalBibleandframedscripturalquotationbyschooldistrictsuperintendent
in
hispfficewereconstitutionallyprotected
and
didnotviolateEstablishmentClause).
19
CapitolSquareReview
&
AdvisoryBd.
v.
Pinette,
515
U.S.
753
(1990);Chabad-Lubavitch
of
Georgia
v.
Miller,5
F.3d1383,
1387-92(11th
Cir.
1993)
(enbane).
20
ACLU
v.
Wilkinson,
895
F.2d
1098
(6th
Cir.
1995)(rusticstablewithoutfiguresoncapitolgroundsdidnotviolateEstablishmentClausebecauseprominentlydisplayednoticestatedthatthearea
was
apublic
forum
available
toall
citizensandthatthedisplayneither
was
constructedwithpublic
funds
norconstitutesendorsementsbythestate
of
any
religionorreligiousdoctrine).
Seealso
CapitolSquareReviewand
Adv.
Bd.
v.
Pinette,
515U.S.
753
(1995)(althoughunable
to
agreeonarationale,Courtholdsthatthegovernment
may
notrefuseonEstablishment

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