Victory in spite of ourselves

Via Library of Law and Liberty:

David Cortman showed remarkable poise and command last January when he made his first appearance before the Supreme Court. The case was Reed v. Gilbert, and he represented the cause of a small, fledgling church having no fixed site for its services. His masterful performance was recognized this week: victory, with a box score of 9 to 0. Cortman brought to the aid of this small congregation all of the dedication and resources of the Alliance Defending Freedom.


But the irony is that this victory, so resounding, offered no vindication of religious freedom, for that is not what the justices spent their time and their pages talking about.

The decision instead revealed the unlovely spectacle of the conservatives talking themselves ever deeper into a genuine moral relativism in the regulation of speech, a relativism that can neither explain itself nor find a coherent ground for its defense. It’s enough to make some of us call for a psychiatrist or a priest—seeing Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan suddenly playing the grownups, their concurrences invoking (rightly enough) “common sense.”

The case involved the Good News Community Church, a kind of floating-crap-game kind of church with no building or even regular site for its meetings. Its pastor, Clyde Reed, managed to hold services in elementary schools and other places in the town of Gilbert, Arizona. This shifting locale required the pastor to alert the congregants as to where to go each week. It was necessary to post signs around town, to put them up and take them down quickly. But there the church ran into a series of regulations for signs. What is worse, the regulations were taken seriously, and enforced with stringency, by an officious “sign code compliance manager.”