Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Fistful of Feathers and the Bill of Rights

The First Amendment to the Constitution starts off by saying, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...".

Fortunately for the Feds, this doesn't seem to apply to the myriad of regulations that can be applied, at will, by the myriads of agencies that we have created.

Take, for instance, the case of Robert Soto, a religious leader of the Lipan Apache. He recently had his eagle feathers returned by the Feds after they were confiscated during a pow wow in 2006. The issue was that he didn't have a permit for these feathers. These feathers have been used by his people for quite some time (both this particular set and ones like it) and the eagles are never killed to collect the feathers.

Luke Goodrich, of the Beckket Fund for Religious Liberty pointed out in the article linked above that: "The government allows hundreds of eagles, if not thousands, to be killed every year for non-religious reasons. Yet it won't allow these Native Americans to possess even a single feather...”.

Although the feathers were returned to Soto in March, they have a stringent set of regulations attached to them. Soto must carry paperwork showing that he is allowed to have them, he cannot pass them on to anyone else, even upon his death.

So, while he is allowed to perform his religious ceremonies as he sees fit, I am not sure how anyone can argue that this is not "prohibiting the free exercise.." of his religion or show any compelling reason the state needs to protect already dead eagles from having their feathers used in religious ceremonies.

If you believe the Federal government is primarily concerned with upholding and protecting the principles and words of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, then consider this situation.