Monday, October 31, 2011

The Undersigned oppose "Under God"

In order to boost citizen engagement in everyday political activities, the Obama Administration created a section of the White House website called “We the People” which allows citizens to create and sign petitions. Once these petitions reach a certain amount of signatures, the White House will review them and make a decision on them. The Obama Administration recently rejected two of the more salient petitions: one for the removal of “In God We Trust” from our nation’s currency and the other for the removal of “One nation under God” from the pledge of allegiance.

These petitions are of particular interest because what they have inadvertently hit on in their quest for complete governmental secularization is a very good example of the limits of the establishment clause. While the phrases “In God We Trust” and “One nation under God” do not necessarily establish one particular religion, in the petitioners’ eyes it places a premium on religion over non-religion.

I personally disagree with this blogger’s view on the matter. While he clearly sees an issue with the Obama Administration rejecting these petitions, I think that the white house made the correct decision in this case. This particular incidence falls into the category of justifying church and government entwinement based on legacy and history as well as the extent of the entanglement. This rationale has been used before by the Supreme Court to decide on issues such as the town of Pawtucket’s inclusion of a crèche in their state sponsored Christmas display (Lynch v. Donnelly) and the constitutionality of state funded chaplains opening state legislatures with a daily prayer (Marsh v. Chambers). In both of these instances, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the inclusion of the religiously affiliated acts (crèche and chaplain). They maintained that history/tradition as well as the extent of the entanglement were deciding factors. In Marsh v. Chambers, Chief Justice Burger states that “The opening sessions of legislative and other deliberative public bodies with prayer is deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country. From the colonial times through the founding of the Republic and ever since, the practice of legislative prayer has coexisted with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom.” In Lynch v. Donelly Burger again stated that “… it is clear that Government has long recognized – indeed it has subsidized – holidays with religious significance.” However he continues with his lack of entanglement argument (which I personally think holds more water in this case): “Entanglement is a question of kind and degree. In this case, however, there is no reason to disturb the District Court’s findings on the absence administrative entanglement.”

Ultimately, history, tradition and the extent of the entanglement is what this case comes down to. These two phrases have been used to describe the United States government for long enough now that they have become secularized. When I say those phrases I don’t feel that I am appealing to a higher power or some supreme deity, rather I feel like a patriotic American. Moreover, even if people dispute the fact that “One nation under God” is not really historical since it was added in the 1950s; there just is not a case of excessive entanglement. I simply cannot see how an American citizen could legitimately claim damages merely against saying or reading a simple phrase. I could understand if it was occurring on a special occasion, or if the religious entanglement was of some heinous degree, however the fact that these phrases are used so regularly (and have been so for more than 50 years) and that the entanglement in practice is so minor, I cannot sympathize with the undersigned.

Muslim Practices and a Bottling Company

Nathan Henderson, a Muslim, is suing the American Bottling Company because he believes that he was fired due to his religious practices. In September 2007, Henderson was pulled aside by his boss to discuss reports that Henderson had been taking time during the workday to say his five daily prayers. Since these prayers only lasted approximately two minutes his boss said that he did not have a problem with Henderson saying his prayers during the workday. After this meeting Henderson then asked his boss if he could take his lunch break to match up with Jumma prayers, which is a Friday only congregational prayer. Henderson’s request was denied. Henderson then suggested that he could make up the hours he missed by working on Saturdays, however the supervisor told him that working on Saturdays were reserved for employees with the “most seniority”. Henderson was also told by his supervisor that he should have disclosed his religious beliefs during the interview because he would not have been hired. A few days after meeting with his supervisor Henderson was fired for “not meeting the job requirements”.

This case brings up the right to free exercise of religion. Henderson is allowed to freely practice his religion and he is not allowed to be discriminated against based upon his religious beliefs and practices. A company cannot discriminate against their employees based on religion; they must make all reasonable attempts to accommodate the religious beliefs of their employees.

I believe that Henderson has a legitimate case of his right to free exercise of religion being denied and that the company did discriminate against him based on his religious beliefs and practices. Henderson, prior to accepting the job, should have informed his employer that he would be taking five short breaks during the work day to pray. Even though he did not do this, and after some complaints were filed about it, his supervisor did the right thing by saying that Henderson could take those breaks since they were short and did not interfere with his overall productivity. Henderson then requested to change his lunch break time to coincide with a congregational prayer period so that he could attend the prayer session. I feel that the Company was right it not allowing Henderson to change his lunch break time to coincide with the Jumma prayers. If the company allowed this request than they would have to start allowing many other religious based requests to take time off. This specific request impacts the flow of the workday too much so it was right for the company to deny it, even though Henderson offered to make up the time missed on Saturdays. The real problem comes however, with the firing of Henderson. From the article, it does not seem like there was any reason besides Henderson’s religious beliefs for him to be fired. Also, the fact that the supervisor told him that if he would have known prior to hiring Henderson of his religious beliefs that he would not have hired him, showing that the firing of Henderson a couple of days later was purely discrimination based on religious beliefs. Henderson was not refusing to work during the Jumma prayers on Fridays; instead he just put in a request to change his lunch break so that he could attend them. If he would have said that he would not work during that time on Fridays then we get into a situation like the Braunfeld v Brown case. The questions that this case raises are; where do we draw the line for religious accommodation? And what is considered to be a disruptive religious practice to the day of work?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kentucky, Homeland Security, and... God?

The state of Kentucky has been at the center of many legal battles involving religious issues over the years. Recently, Kentucky has made the news with a case involving Kentucky’s Office of Homeland Security and the role that the establishment clause plays in our legal system.

On October 23, 2011, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled in a split decision that the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security has the right to publicly declare a dependence on "Almighty God" as being vital for the security of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Two important cases in Kentucky led this most recent case, both involving religion and the establishment clause. The first was a legislative finding in 2002 that claimed the security of the commonwealth cannot be achieved without reliance upon Almighty God. The second was an act from 2006 that required the executive director of the Office of Homeland Security to publicize a “dependence on Almighty God” in various training and educational materials. The act also allowed a Bible verse to be displayed on a plaque located at the entrance of the department’s emergency operations center. The verse on the plaque reads: "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."

This October the court ruled in a split decision that 1) the Homeland Security director is not required to believe in an "Almighty God" and 2) no one is required to read the plaque at the entrance of the department’s emergency operations center. The decision stressed that the preambles to 44 states reference "a Supreme Being," while three other states have establishment clauses that refer explicitly to God or "speak approvingly of religion."

The ruling added that there has been no Kentucky case that has “prohibited a statutory reference to God of the sort embodied in the statutes in question… That rationale would place this section at odds with the (Kentucky) Constitution’s Preamble.” (The preamble of the Kentucky Constitution thanks “Almighty God” for the welfare of the commonwealth)

This most recent decision made by the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 2011 overturned a 2009 ruling by a state circuit judge who found that legislation requiring the state to recognize the Almighty “created an official government position on God,” that violates both the Kentucky and U.S constitutions’ bans on state-established religion.

The conflict in this Kentucky court case is a testament to the important and often controversial role that religion plays in contemporary legal, political and public issues. The inherent issue in this case involves the establishment clause of the First Amendment, and questions whether publicly acknowledging a dependence on “Almighty God” for homeland security and publicly displaying a Bible verse at a state-run department demonstrates an establishment of religion.

Personally, I do not agree with the ruling in this case. Although it is often tough to discern what does/does not violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment, the references to religion by the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security are blatant violations of this clause in my opinion. Simply saying that the director of the Office of Homeland Security “doesn't need to” believe in an Almighty God and saying that visitors to the agency's emergency operations center "don't need to look" at the Bible verse on the plaque at its entrance are not legitimate excuses against the establishment clause.

The decision made in Stone v. Graham (1980) that we discussed in class helps in assessing this case in Kentucky. In Stone v. Graham, the court held that the posting of the 10 commandments in public school classrooms was “plainly religious in nature,” and thus a direct violation of the establishment clause. In my opinion, by publicly declaring a “dependence on Almighty God” and by displaying a verse from the Bible in a public place, Kentucky’s Department of Homeland Security is violating the establishment clause. No government or state-run organization should publicly impose any faith-based material in any aspect of their operations on the public.

It will be interesting to see how the court's decision will influence the relationship between church and state in the United States, and how cases involving the establishment clause are dealt with in the future.

Additional sources:,2933,460889,00.html

Concerns over Muslim Students’ Rights at Catholic University

There are some concerns of rights of Muslim students at Catholic University. The Washington DC Office of Human Rights is currently investigating. These concerns are over questions of whether or not Catholic violated their human rights by not allowing them to form a Muslim student group and furthermore not offering them a room free of Catholic symbols to perform their meeting and required prayer. The symbols that are currently in the school include: “a wooden crucifix, paintings of Jesus, pictures of priests and theologians” that most Muslim student found inappropriate; some noted that they had to pray in the school’s main chapel.

The office explains that this investigation is not going to be instantaneous. A complaint was filed by John Banzhaf and that is how the investigation began. He is an attorney as well as a professor. He was involved in previous cases against the university regarding same sex residence halls and treatment of Muslim females.

A spokesperson from the university did state that their religion allowed for an open home for all religions. The school explained that they offer rooms and chapels for the students to pray, and that they even offer meats that conform to Halal regulations (Muslim eating rules) allowing the students to “do what they want”.

Although Banzhaf does explain that it is not illegal for the school to not offer rooms for the prayer, this situation does bring up some concerns of the constitutionality of what’s occurring. This could actually be a situation of both establishment and free exercise. But before one can unpack the specifics, it is important to recognize that this article is a bit troubling because of the lack of clear information. Nothing seems to have been confirmed. The school has not issues a public statement about the entire investigation, the Office of Human Rights has not disclosed what is currently happening. So, these rumors could be over-exaggerations.

This could be viewed as concern over establishment, because it is a Catholic university that is “purposing” not allowing their (like a) minority group of Muslim individuals practice what their religion requires. Because of this the university is establishing their religion on all of its students.

But what seems like might be more feasible is these Muslims inability to freely exercise their religious freedom. They are being directly prevented from having an accessible room to pray. They could pray in the middle of the hallway or classroom, but they would likely get charged for disrupting the piece. It is understandable them not being allowed to form this students group, if, and only if, the school has a strict policy against religious and atheist groups being formed through the school. If there are currently Catholic or any other religious/non-religious groups a part of campus, the university not allowing the Muslim students to do the same is not ok.

This is important because it is regarding a minority and because there is precedent. We have been exposed to other cases and investigations over students wanting to form religious group. A great example is the case of West Side Community School vs. Mergens where students want to have a bible study group, yet the school will not let them because they do not want their faculty to be there (which is a rule for student groups) because of the school’s concern over establishment. Students say this is unacceptable because it is against the equal access act. The court ruled with the students on this saying that it was ok because: it was outside of class hours, it was voluntary, the sponsor wasn’t paid, other clubs were allowed to meet, these were mature kids, and because of the Lemen test. If the court follows this precedent, then the Muslim students have to be allowed to meet. Lastly, the implications of how this case is ruled could prove that the country embodies islamaphobia. This is extremely important to how the Supreme Court and the educational system view Muslims let alone religious minorities in general. This case is also important because it involves both the free exercise clause and the establishment clause. It looks how they relate and intertwine. This would be an interesting case to have the Supreme Court rule on; wonder if they would side in favor of the minorities? The precedent for that has been no.

School's Mascot Unholy?

A Georgia Pastor is crying foul after he was repeatedly arrested while protesting outside Warner Robins High School (located in Warner Robins, Ga.). The Pastor, who was protesting the school’s mascot, a Demon, claims his first amendment rights pertaining to free speech and freedom of assembly were violated by his repeated arrest and that he was being singled-out due to the religious tone of his protest.

The issue began in August 2010 when Pastor Donald Crosby, leader of God’s Kingdom Builders Church of Jesus Christ, learned that his son would be attending Warner Robins High School. Pastor Crosby took issue with the school being “Home of the Demons” and felt that the demonic mascot did not send the right message to impressionable adolescents. He and 20+ of his congregation decided to picket outside Warner Robins on the first day of school and voice their displeasure.

Shortly into the protest, however, local police dissolved the crowd and arrested Crosby for picketing without a permit (he was quickly released on bond). Several days later, Crosby obtained a permit from the city and held another protest outside the school. Again, police arrived and arrested Crosby, even though he and his congregation had all of the necessary paperwork this time.

Now, more than a year later, Crosby has decided to take legal action against the city of Warner Robins for his repeated arrest. On Monday, October 24, 2011, Crosby filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court, “claiming false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, battery and harassment.” The city, along with the two arresting officers, were named as defendants in the case.

The city, on the other hand, maintains its innocence in any wrongdoing and claims the arresting officers followed all of the proper procedures. James Elliot, the attorney representing the city of Warner Robins, argues the city “had the right to regulate protests in order to maintain the public order.”

Up until the point when Crosby was arrested for the second time, everything was running relatively smoothly; Crosby tried to stage a protest but was arrested for not having a permit. He then received said permit from the city government in compliance with local ordinances in order to stage a second, lawful protest. The question at hand here is “did Pastor Crosby’s second protest constitute a great enough threat to public order to warrant police action?” There is little evidence to support that idea.

Looking at the evidence in this case, it is apparent that Crosby was rearrested not because his protest was threatening law and order, but because it’s religious argument was unpopular. The school adopted the mascot during WWII to honor the 7th Fighter Squadron, better known as the “Screamin’ Demons,” which at the time was based at nearby Robins Air Force Base. Many townspeople were unhappy with Crosby’s protest, seeing it as unpatriotic and trying to undo close to 70 years of tradition. Because the mascot came from the Screamin’ Demons, many townspeople also maintained that Crosby’s religious argument that the school was promoting something akin to devil worship did not make any sense, as the mascot was not religious in nature.

Regardless of the feasibility of the Pastor’s argument, he should have been allowed to voice it without harassment by local police. Just because an argument is unpopular does not give the government the right to silence it. That’s the whole reason the first amendment exists in the first place; to protect all speech, not just popular speech. Pastor Crosby is unequivocally within reason to file a lawsuit against the city and the arresting officers. His most basic constitutional rights were violated, and he deserves justice.

Muslim Students Face Hardship at Catholic University

John Banzhaf, an attorney and professor at the George Washington University Law School filed a complaint against the Catholic University of America (CUA) for violating the human rights of Muslim students. In a 60-page complaint against the private university, Banzhaf charged that the CUA infringes on Muslim students’ rights by not allowing them to form a Muslim student group and by not providing them rooms without Christian symbols for their daily prayers. This investigation contends that Muslim students must perform their prayers surrounded by symbols of Catholicism – a wooden crucifix, paintings of Jesus, pictures of priests, etc.

This case is important in evaluating the complex relationship between the establishment as well as the free exercise clause and the operation of private organizations, specifically a university. The first issue to examine is whether the Muslim students have a right to charter their own student organization. If the court were to remain consistent with it’s ruling in Westside Community School vs Mergens (1990), then the court would mandate that the CUA should allow the formation of the student organization. Because the school allows other religious groups (not just Catholics) to meet, then it should allow Muslim student unions as well. The university cannot set different standards for different groups of people. The issue would be one of neutrality rather than endorsement; if the university refused to let a Muslim religious group use facilities open to others, then it would demonstrate hostility toward one specific religion. Furthermore, just as in Westside, University students are mature and are far less impressionable than elementary school students, and can therefore decide what student religious organizations they would like to participate in.

The second issue at stake is whether or not the fact that the Muslim students are compelled to perform their prayers surrounded by Catholic symbols violates their free exercise of religion. If I were conducting this investigation, I would explore whether there are even rooms on the CUA campus that are devoid of religious icons. Although this question is not addressed in any article I have read on this controversy, in a 2010 interview with National Public Radio, university president John Garvey acknowledged that they don’t set aside prayer rooms for Muslim students. Instead, the CUA makes chapels and classrooms available so the Muslim students can pray. In terms of this issue, I think it is important to recognize that the CUA is a private, Catholic university. Students who apply to this university are aware of both of these characteristics. Therefore, I think the university has done a fair job in accommodating Muslim prayer by opening up classrooms and chapels to these students. If the University were to designate specific rooms for only Muslim students, I would see that as an endorsement of a particular faith. Thereafter, the CUA would also have to designate specific rooms so that other religious groups could congregate, in order to give all religious organizations equal access. It is also important to recognize that as a Catholic university, the school maintains a right to operate according to Catholic practices- which may include hanging wooden crucifixes or pictures of Jesus. Consequently, if these Muslim students feel uncomfortable with these religious symbols, they should have made a different choice when applying to schools. Therefore, I believe on a basic level that praying in rooms filled with Catholic symbols does not violate their free exercise of religion. Perhaps only opening a limited number of rooms is done as a security measure. Thus, opening up a few rooms, does not place a significant burden on these students.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Private School Vouchers and Establishment

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania State Senate approved a measure to extend taxpayer-dollars to offer vouchers to impoverished students in failing public schools that would theoretically give them the “choice” of attending private schools, both religious and secular. The purpose of the measure, according to Governor Tom Corbett, is to “help improve opportunities for thousands of school children throughout Pennsylvania.” Pennsylvania, however, is not the only state that is considering such options. Ohio and Tennessee are also planning to institute similar programs in the future.

Writing for Americans United, Joseph L. Conn, in his article entitled ‘Educational Choice’ and Hooey: School Vouchers Help Religious Schools, Not Families, expresses concern with the idea of “choice” being a realistic aim of this proposal. He states that the choice truly lies with the private schools, since the bill does not force schools to change their admission qualifications. In fact, the Senate shot down an amendment offered by Senator Daylin Leach that would ban private schools from discriminating based on sexual orientation in admissions. Leach states, “Schools can cherry-pick the best or perhaps the most athletic kids and reject the rest.”

Conn also expresses concern over the fact that the money used for these vouchers will come directly from the public schools left behind. Such an injustice, claims Leach, would leave these public schools with even worse financial burdens than those with which they began. The voucher program passed by the Senate, according to Conn, is a clear and imminent threat to the “wall of separation” that does, or should, exist between church and state.

The issue that incorporates these concerns expressed in Conn’s piece is the one which on which I will focus here. Does the offering of these vouchers for students to attend private schools, some of which are religious, constitute an establishment of religion? Joseph Conn, and Americans United, would seem to be clear in answering this question affirmatively, and, in fact, if the definition of establishment were anything that threatens the “wall of separation” between church and state, then I would be inclined to agree, but it does not.

As Justice Rehnquist contended in his dissenting opinion in the 1985 Supreme Court Case of Wallace v. Jaffree, this clause in the constitution has been grossly broadened and misinterpreted. Establishment means exactly that: establishment, and the constitutions holds that the government is not to establish a federal religion. To say anything more than this, without the enactment of a valid law by the legislature is itself unconstitutional.

Therefore, it is my strong belief that helping impoverished students reach their potential by offering them the opportunity to attend a private school, either religious or otherwise, does in no way constitute establishment. This, of course, depends strongly on the basis of choice and the lack of coercion. In this way, Conn may respond to my argument by stating, as he does in his article, that this is where my reasoning is fundamentally flawed, for no choice exists for the students, but only for religious schools. This is simply not the case, for no student is being forced to attend a religious school. Of course the school has the ability to accept whomever they choose, for this is partly what it means to be private. This does not mean that students should not have the ability to apply to these schools. The article assumes that the schools will only accept the best students or the best athletes, and this may indeed be the case. However, it overlooks the fact that students who were previously unable to afford quality education are now in a better position to achieve their goals.

Epperson v. Arkansas was ruled, at least in part, on the basis of neutrality between religion and non-religion. The vouchers in this program allow students to attend private schools in general (both religious and secular). The bill is therefore neutral in this regard, and in no way attempts to establish one religion or to preference religion over non-religion.

Finally, in Cochran v. United States, the Supreme Court reflected the concept of what would come to be known as the “child-benefit theory.” It was ruled that tax dollars could be used to purchase secular textbooks for students attending private school. Because it helped defray the costs of attending such a school, the court ruled that the state law allowing such appropriation of funds was not unconstitutional. The case in question here is substantively similar in that students are being aided by the government to ensure quality education, a benefit both to the students and to the state. Though religious schools may benefit, this in no way constitutes establishment as the Framers intended, and therefore no such law should be ruled unconstitutional.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Church Worship Services in Bronx Public Schools

According to a September issue of The Wall Street Journal, there are over 60 churches in New York City who use public school for religious purposes on weekends, outside of school hours.

Currently, a church in The Bronx is taking their case to court, after being told they were not allowed to hold their Sunday worship service in a middle school building. The Bronx Household of Faith church used this middle school up to 1994, until the New York City Department for Education developed a policy banning public schools as "religious worship services, or otherwise using a school as a house of worship." This policy was written after the Ney York law that said that a public school may be used for, "social, civic and recreational meetings and entertainments, and other uses pertaining to the welfare of the community," as long as those uses are "non-exclusive and ... open to the general public." The Bronx church took their case to court but the court ruled in favor of the NYC Department of Education.

(Video of Bronx Household of Faith Church)

In 2001, in the case of Good News Club v Milford, the court ruled in favor of the religious group. The Good News Club wanted to use public school space, after school hours, to teach children bible verses, sing songs pray, and teach Bible stories. The court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the school to exclude "a private Christian organization for children."

After the ruling in favor of The Good News Club, the Bronx church went back to court and the court ruled in favor of the church and they were allowed back in the public school. However, last June, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling and the Bronx church asked the Supreme Court to review the case. The Supreme Court will decide whether or not to hear this case in November.

Can the government ban worship services on public school property? By doing this, does it enforce the separation of church and state or does the First Amendment protect religious worship as a freedom of expression?

The majority in the Bronx case states that the ban on religious worship does not discriminate against religion since it is neutral and supports the public school system in avoiding an establishment clause violation. Also, when churches rent out space in public schools, they pay less than renting other places. By allowing churches to use public schools, is that giving religious groups an advantage?

The opposing view sees this ruling as a violation from freedom of speech and does not see a legitimate compelling state interest in the case. Also, by allowing other social groups in the public schools, outside of school hours, the ruling is not neutral but discriminating against religious groups and violates the free exercise clause.

The Bronx Household Church’s pastor, Pastor Bob Hall, sees the church in battle against the secular society trying to silence their efforts. Unless the Supreme Court reverses the Circuit Courts ruling, Pastor Hall says it, “will put us out on the street, literally."

Especially since the New York City law allows for social meetings that are non-exclusive and work for the welfare of the community to use the public schools outside school hours, the Bronx Church should be allowed to use The Bronx Middle School. The worship services are open to the general public and are not turning the public school into a house of worship. Rather, the church community is gathering in a space to worship and pray, just like The Good News Club does with children on the weekends. If the courts ruled in favor of the Good News Club, then they should also rule in favor of The Bronx Household of Faith Church.

Gender Discrimination in Brooklyn Bus Line

Earlier this month, a woman named Melissa Franchy entered a Brooklyn bus and sat down in the front. However, as time passed she noticed she was getting odd stares. After the bus began to reach capacity, men insisted she move to the back of the bus. The men were Orthodox Jews and they explained the confused woman that she was on a privately owned Jewish bus. Their reasoning was solely, “If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?’” Melissa then complied with their demands and went to the back of the bus.

The B110 bus travels in Brooklyn between the towns of Williamsburg and Borough Park. The bus is open to anyone as it has a specific route number and bus signs like any other bus. The bus line is privately owned and operated, as its purpose is to serve the Hasidic residents in these two neighborhoods. It is a Hasidic tradition for men and women to avoid physical contact and in order to preserve this tradition; the bus requires women to sit in the back.

Private Transportation Corporation owns the bus company and it pays the city for the ability to provide this public service. Instead of passengers using Metrocards, they pay their $2.50 fare in dollars or coins. Last year the franchise paid New York City’s Department of Transportation $22,814 to keep the ability to provide its service.

However, there are laws prohibiting the discrimination of gender in public accommodations such as public transportation. Although the bus service is privately owned it still is a public service. This company’s gender discrimination is unconstitutional. A public accommodation is considered, “anyone who provides goods and services to the general public.” In addition, it is seen as illegal for public accommodations to, “set different terms for obtaining those goods or services to different groups.” Although this is a religiously owned private bus company I feel that this company should not be granted an exception to the anti-discrimination law.

Public accommodations can either be governmentally owned or privately owned. Privately owned businesses that offer goods and services to the public are viewed as public accommodations in terms of federal and state anti-discrimination laws. Under federal law, public accommodations are not allowed to discriminate, as they are open to the public. I strongly believe that this type of discrimination is unconstitutional. Even though the bus company is privately owned, it is still considered a public accommodation. Public accommodations do not allow any sort of discrimination regardless of religious purpose. If the religious group feels so strongly about segregating women and men on transportation, they should use different methods such as utilizing a separate transportation that does not go through city money. By the bus being available for pubic use, there cannot be any type of discrimination whatsoever. The bus company does not have the right to not follow the anti discrimination laws if they obtain any sort of public funding or accommodation. If they wish to live with a completely different set of rules than they should provide their own private bus lines. No one in this modern day society is going to want to ride a bus that requires them to sit in the back. If they wish to live like this they can do it in private spaces not public services that are privately owned. This scenario reminds me of 1955 when Rosa Parks was told to give up her seat in order for a white passenger to sit down. This discrimination is unconstitutional as it goes against the 14th amendment and should not be allowed to continue.