ENGL of Religion and 14th Amendment’s Due Process

ENGL 305 – Case BriefNathaniel DrumMcDaniel v. Paty435 US 618 (1978)IssueDoes the Tennessee constitutional provision barring all ministers from serving as state legislators violate the 1st Amendment’s Free Expression of Religion and 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause?Relevant FactsA candidate for delegate to the Tennessee Constitutional Convention sued for declaratory judgement that his opponent, a Baptist minister, was disqualified from serving, due to a Tennessee provision barring religious ministers from serving as Representatives of the stateProcedural HistoryTennessee State Chancery Court ruled that the Tennessee provision disqualifying all ministers of faith from serving as State Representatives violated the First and Fourteenth AmendmentsTennessee Supreme Court reversed the lower court ruling, claiming that the restrictions under Tennessee law did not burden religious belief and upheld the restrictions on “religious action… only in the law making process of government — where religious action is absolutely prohibited by the establishment clause…”HoldingThe Tennessee statute is not directed at religious belief and the prevention of establishing a state religion, but rather, it is directed at regulating the acts and status of clergyThe Tennessee constitutional provision violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as it creates a condition in which the Free Exercise of Religion is given in exchange for the right to seek public officeReasoning Historically the need for separating the powers of the church and the state (religious and civil) has evolved and been hotly contested amongst political thinkers and state populationsEffective, because it demonstrates how the origins of the law conflict with the current understanding of how the individual freedoms and rights are to be interpretedTorcaso v. Watkins application of the Free Exercise Clause does not apply here, because this case deals with the ‘status’ of being a minister of the faith, rather than merely the ‘believing’ the faithEffective in evaluating precedent, however I think the court is mistaken in wholy dismissing the logic applied by the court in Torcaso when determining whether the Free Exercise of Religion has been restrictedThe underlying logic behind provisions held by the Tennessee constitutional provision seek to prevent ministers from using their elected position to promote their own religious beliefs and from restricting the religious practices of others.  While this intent was certainly acceptable and perhaps the norm during the 18th century, it is an unreasonable and unsubstantiated presumption that modern ministers and clergymen would seek to violate the establishment anymore so than any other non-ministerial state representativeEffective in that it appeals to basic logic and common sense by claiming that modern ministers are no more likely to violate the establishment clause than any other representative holding religious beliefsDissenting and Concurring OpinionsJustice Brennan concurred with the Court’s Opinion, stating that to condition the eligibility for office on the dismissal of religious beliefs burdens the exercise of religion in the same method as imposing a fine to those practicing religion.  The Establishment Clause prohibits the use of religion as the determining factor when imposing “duties, penalties, privileges, or benefits”.Justice Stewart concurred, citing the case of Torcaso v. Watkins as dictating the outcome of this case.Justice White concorred on the grounds that rather than violating the free exercise of religion, the Tennessee provision denied those exercising religion equal protection under the Due Process Clause.


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