Monday, October 02, 2006

Good result

Although for somewhat narrow reasons. District Judge John Shabaz ruled today in Association of Faith-Based Organizations v. Bablitch that Wisconsin can't exclude faith-based groups from a combined charity appeal to its employees merely because the groups discriminate on the basis of creed or religion in choosing their governing boards or employees. I wrote about the case in my Journal-Sentinel column.

Judge Shabaz decided the case on somewhat narrow grounds, refusing to find that exclusion from the appeal was a direct restriction on the organizations' associational rights that could be justified only by a compelling state interest. Rather, he analyzed it as a restriction on a nonpublic forum which must be both reasonable and viewpoint neutral. Excluding these faith-based groups, he concluded, was not reasonable in light of the what he found was a more general state policy permitted religious discrimination by religious groups. Although the law still requires restrictions on nonpublic forums to be viewpoint neutral (a question that Judge Shabaz did not need to reach here), this all suggests that if Wisconsin adopted a rigorous policy against aid to religious groups that engage in religious discrimination, he might have reached a different result.

Kudos to Waukesha lawyer Michael Dean who served as local counsel in the case.

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