What Happened in Court Today?
As you know from yesterday’s email, we were in the Hamilton County Superior Court to argue the constitutionality of the “RFRA fix” and several city “human rights” ordinances that can punish people of faith for their peaceably held views on marriage and sexual morality.
It is difficult for a non-attorney to explain what happened, but here are my quick observations.
The hearing began with 30 minutes of oral arguments. Our attorney, Jim Bopp, Jr., who has argued more than a dozen times before the US Supreme Court on various free speech cases, did a very good job explaining our concerns. He noted that the RFRA fix added to the original RFRA law one week after it was signed due to historic economic and media pressure, moved RFRA from a law that protected everyone, as a balancing test for religious freedom conflicts, to one that predetermined who would automatically lose or who could not use RFRA as a defense. (That would be people of faith who hold to traditional values and teachings like the plaintiffs – AFA of Indiana and the Indiana Family Institute.) Doing this violated the equal protections clause of the Indiana Constitution and raised several First Amendment problems.
He also noted how various city ordinances allowed for the government to discriminate against people of faith based solely upon our views.
He also explained how the defendant’s arguments largely rested upon a claim that we do not have standing, or a reason for a case, because we have not (yet) been punished by these laws. He noted that those laws have had a chilling effect, limiting things we wanted to do or may do in the future in terms of events or programs in certain cities.
One note of importance is that one reason it took four years for us to have our day in court is because of those arguments on standing which we had to fight to even get to argue the merits of our concerns today. This involved two court hearings at this level and the appellate level. In both those, a trial and a higher review, the courts said we do have standing to proceed.
When it came to the time for the cities and the state to defend the RFRA fix and their city ordinances, each attorney was given 30 minutes. This meant that it was a 30-minute verses a 3-hour debate. That was difficult to endure because there were many things said which were not accurate about IFI, AFA-IN and our case in general.
During their three hours, more than half of their time was spent rearguing standing claims that we should not have a case because we have not been punished by these ordinances. (Bopp noted that one election can change the entire attitude of a government against us, or anyone.)
There were also arguments that several recent major cases in favor of religious freedom that we cited involving, for example, Catholic adoption agencies, wedding photographers, and Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker, were not applicable to our case.
When their time was done, the judge simply ended the hearing saying that he would review the documents and filings and hand down a ruling. I certainly pray that he does look at the legal arguments made in this case affirming religious liberty and free speech, even though it is more than 300 pages.
My guess is that we will have a ruling on this in a month or two.
I want to thank all those who prayed for the hearing today, please continue to pray for the judge in this case and that the founding principles of freedom prevail in his opinion.