Supreme Court case tackles religious liberty


At issue in the Dumont v Lyon case is whether people can be forced to act contrary to their beliefs.

This case, Dumont v. Lyon, is simply another fault line between fundamentally different ways of looking at the Constitution. One side is arguing for religious freedom; the other is arguing for a principle of individual autonomy that can trump those rights.

In their motion to dismiss the case, which is still pending before the U.S. district court, the intervening defendants make three basic points. The first offers a historical perspective. As the defendants argue, the practice of having private religious adoption agencies help place students children is long-standing and, in many instances, precedes state involvement.

Many religious agencies were actually founded to make sure children were placed with families of the same faith. And these organizations often received government funding and legal protection to do so. The formal bureaucratic process in place now is in some respects a latecomer.

The second point made by St. Vincent is a legal argument. Partly because of this established history, the Supreme Court has never prohibited the “government from partnering with private religious organizations to serve the needy.”