From News Roundup: Making a difference in the courts of law
FPMT cooperates with other religious denominations from time to time tackling religious and human rights issues in the US courts. Since 2001 FPMT has participated in several major cases.
Using a legal process called Amicus Curiae (“friend of the court”), briefs are filed in many court cases by persons or groups who are not necessarily a party to the litigation, but whose interests may well be affected by the court’s decision.
In March this year Mark Chopko of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops thanked participating organizations, including FPMT, for joining an Amicus Curiae brief which cited as unconstitutional the execution of persons for crimes committed before their 18 th birthday. The US Supreme Court decided 5-4 that such executions are unconstitutional under the evolving Eighth Amendment jurisprudence.
Denominations who are invited to take part in an Amicus Curiae brief choose to do so if the topic is relevant to their organization’s beliefs and interests.
For instance, in 2002 FPMT was involved in an Amicus Curiae brief which resulted in a Supreme Court landmark ruling ending the execution of persons with mental retardation. More than thirty states have either banned the death penalty altogether or stopped the execution of those with mental retardation.
FPMT has also been involved in three recent land use cases under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) which protects religious land use from discrimination and undue burden under local zoning laws. For instance, although there is a general community appreciation that it is vital for religious organizations to be able to build and expand, concerns about traffic congestion and loss of tax revenue can make zoning decisions onerous.
The organizations which get involved in the Amicus Curiae briefs are notable in their diversity. They include Buddhists, the Catholic Church, Jewish alliances, Mennonites, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians – people from very different walks of life and beliefs, but who have a common interest in righting wrongs.