Reasonable Doubt Exists In Cross Case

When judges instruct juries preparing to decide the fates of defendants in criminal trials, one warning is at the very top of the list: If you have a reasonable doubt of guilt, vote to acquit.

There follows an equally strict injunction: Failure to convict should not be based on a fanciful, frivolous or capricious doubt of guilt. I’ve heard those very words used in court. Tennessee, I believe, uses a uniform set of jury instructions explaining that “reasonable doubt is that doubt engendered by an investigation of all the proof in the case and an inability, after such an investigation, to let the mind rest easily as to the certainty of guilt.”

What a shame the separation-of-church-and-state crowd isn’t required to follow those instructions before harassing people in towns such as Steubenville.

You probably know the story: The Freedom from Religion Foundation Inc., an outfit in Madison, Wis., told the city of Steubenville earlier this summer that unless the community’s official logo is changed, the organization will go to court to force an alteration.

What’s wrong with Steubenville’s attractive logo? Well, it’s a skyline design, with the Franciscan University chapel, complete with cross, one of the buildings shown. The cross has to go, the FFRF says.

This sort of nonsense is not unusual. It’s based on one of the very foundations of our liberty as Americans, the First Amendment “establishment clause.” It states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

What that meant to the nation’s founders was that the government was prohibited from supporting any specific faith and its adherents. But courtesy of Supreme Court rulings down through the years, it has been extended to claim by people such as the FFRF that government should have no connection with religion of any kind. There’s an enormous gulf between the two concepts of what the First Amendment requires.

Here’s the thing: As noted above, the establishment clause was meant to ensure that no single faith receives preference from – or is discriminated against – by government.

So here’s the question: The FFRF insists someone in or near Steubenville complained about the logo. Why? Is that person a non-Christian who in some way was discriminated against by the city of Steubenville?

In other words, is it reasonable to believe the logo demonstrates Steubenville officials’ active bias in favor of Christians?

Or is this one of those cases the judges may be thinking of, in which there is no reasonable doubt of the city’s even-handedness – merely a frivolous concern, not based on evidence?

What, by the way, is the evidence of discrimination? I’ve heard no complaints from non-Christians that Steubenville cops gave them more parking tickets, that they had to stand in longer lines to pay water bills, or even that if they sought permits for parades, they were turned down.

Perhaps I missed all this evidence of an establishment of religion by the city of Steubenville. There’s more than reasonable doubt of such establishment.

In fact, there’s no evidence it exists. Perhaps it’s time judges hearing establishment clause cases listened to themselves when they instruct juries.

Myer can be reached at: