52 RI Bar J., No. 4, Pg. 13 (January, 2004). Speaking Out.

Rhode Island Bar Journal

Volume 52.

52 RI Bar J., No. 4, Pg. 13 (January, 2004).

Speaking Out

Speaking OutA forum for Rhode Island Bar Association members to express their personal viewpoints on issues of interest.Since its founding by Roger Williams, through the letter from George Washington to the Touro Synagogue congregation promoting religious toleration, until now, Rhode Island has a rich legacy of defending the principles of religious freedom that are a vital part of American values. An important rampart of that defense is our state's federal court system, whose judges over the years have written landmark opinions in this area.

For example, in the 1980's, the Rhode Island federal district court decided two cases on the subject of separation of church and state. In one case ("middle school graduation prayer"), the Rhode Island federal court set the standard ultimately adopted by the United States Supreme Court. In the other case ("Pawtucket creche"), the Rhode Island federal court's standard was stricter than the Supreme Court's standard. Recently, a Rhode Island federal district court judge issued a precedential ruling permitting a terrorist victim to sue the Palestine Liberation Organization under United States law. Rhode Island's federal judges have indeed carried out their duty to uphold the United States Constitution and laws in a way that does full justice to this state's proud legacy.

Rhode Island's federal judges uphold this tradition every day in the courtroom. As a group, we have made hundreds of appearances before Rhode Island federal judges representing clients of all religions, as well as clients who do not have a religion. At no time in that collective experience has our religion ever been an issue. Any request for the Court's permission to reschedule a hearing because of a conflict with a religious holiday has always been accommodated with the utmost courtesy. Some of us have served as law clerks for those judges, allowing an intimate and direct view of the individual jurist's approach to justice. In every case, these federal judges would make Roger Williams, Abraham and Judah Touro, and George Washington proud. We know the dangers of anti-Semitism, and we can say that we have never seen any anti-Semitism in the Rhode Island federal judiciary.

Lawyers and litigants of all religions are equally welcome...

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