...the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury...
U.S. Constitution Amendment VI
By Aron C. Mason
or most of the past two centuries, we Americans have been proud of a judicial system that has worked towards the ideals of fast justice, equal treatment and freedom from discrimination, as embodied in both federal and state constitutions.
Today, however, as our nation seems to grow increasingly more splintered politically, racially and religiously it is becoming apparent that our justice system is still far from such ideals. In fact, expectations of even-handed treatment and justice free from discrimination are being replaced by the grim reality that the nations justice system is infested with prejudice and riddled with inconsistency.
The reminders are there daily for us in the news. Issues of racism and bigotry increasingly obscure issues of guilt and innocencethough often in ways which are cleverly hidden from view, as Freedom exposes.
This loss of public confidence in the justice system is undeniable. That something must be done about it is broadly acknowledged.
But media coverage that has brought about increased public awareness of racism and ethnic bigotry has focused on only one part of the problem. A dictionary defines minority as a racial, religious or political group ... differing from the larger, controlling group in community, nation, etc.
Almost since the beginnings of our country, judicial abuse of new or minority religions has been a tale less toldbut certainly not a lesser expression of injustice. Discrimination and uneven treatment toward religious minorities have reached atrocious levels at different points in American history. Unfortunately, this is a little-known aspect of our historyunfortunate, for it is from historical aberrations that the wise can learn, and from which they can create new precedents that would bring us closer to the ideal.
As you will see in this issue, the courts have sanctioned or even encouraged persecution of Mormons, the Amish, and members of scores of Christian congregations. Members of new religions have been literally chased out of their homes and halfway across the country and shot on sight. And throughout, their cries for protection and justice from the courts fell upon deaf ears.
And perhaps because this history has never been fully examined or acknowledged, it repeats itself, even today. In fact, it is woven into the very fabric of justice. Today, if a potential juror in a civil case brought against a black American is subject to an attempted dismissal on the basis that both the defendant and the juror are of the same race, most would readilyand correctlycondemn this as racism. But in cases brought against minority religious groups or their members, potential jurors are summarily dismissed if they are of the same religious affiliation.
The historical precedent harks back to the days when Catholics were impeached on the witness stand because they practiced confession. The view was that they would lie on the stand because they could absolve themselves by going to confession. This happened in this country, and during this century.
Far more recently, judges have dismissed court reporters from their jobs solely because they were of the same religion as one of the parties to a pending lawsuit. A judge displayed in his chambers a framed copy of a magazine that ridiculed a minority religion. And courts have punished religious organizations severelyto the tune of millions of dollarsfor complaining of such blatant bias and uncovering and exposing judicial misconduct.
Many Americans, because they are not a member of a group so affected, never have stopped to consider the problems religions face in the courts. For whatever reason, religions are not underdogs championed by the media. But millions of Americans are affected, just as millions of Americans have had to face judicial prejudice because they are not white.
In this issue, we give you the results of our investigations and expose judicial discrimination in all formsfrom racial to religious to judges who simply seek to act as social engineersand get to what lies behind them.
Injustice destroys freedom. On one level it allows the persecution of the innocent, the loss of their freedom, the loss of their rights. But on a much broader societal level, injustice imprisons us all, to one degree or another. The system is that much less safe, works that much less effectively and its failure threatens the bonds that hold a society together.
While severely battered, our justice system today is by no means beyond repair. The path to improvement lies in understanding that injustice for one is injustice for all, that race, religion and social status should never become the issue, and in demanding the eradication of injustices where they occur.
In the following pages we explore the causes and effects of judicial injustice, to inform and to warn. We offer solutions. I invite your comments in this regard. I hope you find this issue informative, and that the facts we expose stir you to want to right these wrongs as much as they stirred us.