Friday, August 05, 2005

Putting the question a different way

Rebecca Bood asks the unexpected and intriguing question, "What happens to the First Amendment when the US government recognizes Indian land as holy ground?" Apparently the answer is something along the lines of Cultural sensitivity comes up against the nonendorsement of religion!
In one case, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against an 8-foot cross that had stood since 1934 on a hill in the Mojave National Preserve in California commemorating US soldiers lost in World War I. Yet another panel of judges from that same appellate court ruled that the owner of property in Arizona could not extract sand and gravel for commercial concrete from his land because Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni tribes considered it to be sacred.

Critics say that declarations of hallowed ground by the federal government - just as in cases involving Christmas crèches and other religious displays - go against the First Amendment.
To what degree does/should the historical uniqueness of Native American symbols and sites exclude their handling from standards regarding the equitable treatment of religions?
Among the more well-known sites at least partially protected because of their religious and cultural importance to native Americans are Medicine Wheel and Devil's Tower in Wyoming, Rainbow Bridge in Utah, and Cave Rock on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.
These cases could require the generation of new language for describing judicial rationale -- certainly "sacred to tribe X" is different from "historically significant to the United States because of its traditional position in native culture," and they may not demand the same kinds of protections.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

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