August 09, 2008

Court rules against Native religion

Snowmaking OK on Ariz. Snowbowl, court saysA federal appeals court on Friday allowed an Arizona ski resort to spray reclaimed sewage water across its slopes to make snow despite pleas from Indian tribes who consider the mountain sacred.

The decision by a full panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco clears Arizona Snowbowl to expand their 777-acre resort. Owners want to add snowmaking equipment, a fifth chair lift and plan to cut away 100 acres of surrounding forest for more room.
And:The appeals court overturned a ruling made last year by a three-judge appeals panel that held that using wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The full panel disagreed. It concluded the tribes will still have full use of the mountain for their ceremonies and the snowmaking would not affect that. No plants would be harmed, no ceremonies would be physically affected and no places of worship would be made inaccessible.

"The sole effect of the artificial snow is on the (tribes') subjective spiritual experience," Judge Carlos T. Bea wrote for the majority of the 11-judge panel. "A government action that decreases the spirituality, the fervor, or the satisfaction with which a believer practices his religion is not what Congress has labeled a substantial burden ... on the free exercise of religious freedom."
Court reversal on San Francisco Peaks magnifies collapse of US democracy"The opinion is unfortunate and, in my opinion wrong," stated Howard Shanker, who represents Navajo Nation, Havasupai Tribe, White Mountain Apache Nation, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Flagstaff Activist Network. "The Court places itself in the position of judging the legitimacy of Native American beliefs and practices. It becomes the arbiter of religion which is not the proper role for the courts. The evidence clearly shows that the Peaks are important to 13 of the Tribes in the southwestern United States and that using sewer water to make snow on them constitutes a significant burden on the Tribe's ability to practice their religion."

"In this country Native Americans have no First Amendment rights when it comes to government land use decisions," stated Howard Shanker, who is also running for Congress in Arizona's Congressional District 1. "The federal government likely holds thousands of acres of land that Tribes hold sacred. This case was the last, best chance for the Tribes to be able to provide some legal protection to those lands. In a nation that prides itself on religious liberty, it is unconscionable that Native American beliefs are not respected under the law or the Constitution. We anticipate petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court for review of this matter," said Shanker.

"This ruling sets a negative precedent that impacts the future of Native American religious practice," said Francis Tso of the Save the Peaks Coalition. "We will seek to reverse this appalling decision."

The three dissenting Judges from the en banc Court argued that, "Religious exercise, invariably, and centrally, involves a 'subjective' spiritual experience." The dissenting judges further provided that, "The majority's misunderstanding of the nature of religious beliefs and exercise as merely 'subjective' is an excuse for refusing to accept the Indians' religion as worthy of protection under RFRA." As noted by the dissent, "RFRA was passed to protect the exercise of all religions, including the religions of American Indians. If Indians' land-based exercise of religion is not protected by RFRA in this case, I cannot imagine a case in which it will be. I am truly sorry that the majority has effectively read American Indians out of RFRA."
Comment:  I disagree with this ruling, but the headline calling it anti-democratic is a stretch. If this issue were put to a popular vote, I have little doubt that the skiers and developers would triumph over the Indians and environmentalists.

Rather, the decision shows what happens when voters stupidly elect conservatives such as George W. Bush and John McCain. The elected conservatives then appoint judges who rule for the majority against the minority.

For more on the subject, see "Primitive" Indian Religions.


writerfella said...

Writerfela here --
EuroMan always will win such cases, if only because the courts are his. Such victory never would happen if courts were based on statistical 'people' representations So, Natives get 1% of the monies trusted to the US of A; that decision will stand because EuroMen made it. You, Rob, do not see that your race controls the realities of all other races. But you simply accept those as final because you are one of THEM...
All Best
Russ Bates

dmarks said...

" You, Rob, do not see that your race controls the realities of all other races."

Perhaps, in your current focus on the film critic issue, you have ignored the posts and comments by Rob in which he is very critical of white racism and white privilege, current and historic. Would you like me to provide a few hundred links for you? Maybe a few thousand? That would be tedious, but anyone who has read "Newsrock" knows then and has read them.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
That would be 'tedious' if only because those links have NOTHING to do with this site. What do such links have to do with 'film criticism?' Instead, they have to do with 'opinion' in general, of which 'film criticism' only is an aspect? Sort of like claiming that the D-Day landing was the entire of WWII...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

Says the sycophant who shills for his white buddies in Hollywood. Thanks for filling us in on the world you know so well, apple.

Apparently you're clueless about all my postings on white racism and privilege, Russ. Read them and relieve your profound ignorance on the subject.

The postings are there because they're highly relevant to this website. In case you're too stupid to realize it, racism and stereotyping are central themes of Blue Corn Comics.