The other incident occurred in Oregon. While in jail, a 20-year- old suspected of murdering three children asked to see a priest. He told the priest he wished to make a confession and did so. Unknown to the prisoner or priest, the prosecutor taped the whole exchange and has announced that he intends to present the tape to a grand jury. While one can be sympathetic to the prosecutor’s desire to catch a brutal murderer, this is clearly beyond the bounds. It goes right to the heart of whether or not there is anything to the First Amendment guarantee of "free exercise" of religion.
The ACLU is challenging the action. Conservative columnist William Buckley is calling for the impeachment of the prosecutor and for civil disobedience if required. He is appealing to judges, jurors, bailiffs, stenographers, and janitors to refuse to cooperate with any proceedings in any way. I believe Buckley is fully right in doing so.
Yale Law professor, Stephen Carter, in his book, The Culture of Disbelief; How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion, wrote: "But American society should not depend on its courts as the sole or even the most important protectors of religious autonomy. Judicial authority extends to the bounds of, but not beyond, the Constitution. The nation’s need for autonomous religions stands outside of that document; it is a need that flows from the nature (and the dangers) of popular democracy as a form of governance."
©1996 C. David Hess