Using the Equal-Protection Clause in the Service of Religious Freedom

In a case soon to be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, the state of Missouri denied a church preschool a grant to transform discarded rubber tires into a safe surface for its playground—because the state constitution forbids giving public funds to religious institutions. Terry Eastland explains the case’s significance:

The church is making three claims: one under the First Amendment’s establishment clause, a second under its free-exercise clause, and a third under the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal-protection clause. It is the equal-protection argument that is most interesting. . . . [In an amicus brief], the Pacific Legal Foundation . . . argues that, while equal-protection cases “most commonly address discrimination on the basis of race,” the Supreme Court’s equal-protection decisions “reflect the view that differential treatment on the basis of religion is just as intolerable.” . . .

The foundation says that Missouri violated the U.S. Constitution by excluding [the church playground] from its Scrap Tire Program on the basis of religion. Treating people differently on the basis of race is subject to “strict scrutiny,” the Supreme Court’s “most stringent standard of review.” The Pacific Legal Foundation argues that “strict scrutiny is just as appropriate” when classifications based on religion are under review. . . .

By taking seriously unequal treatment on the basis of religion, the Pacific Legal Foundation has offered an understanding of equal protection and what it entails that is worthy of the Court’s attention.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: church and state, Constitution, Religion & Holidays, Religious Freedom, Supreme Court

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security