This latest one is meaner, goofier, and even less likely to succeed. Yes, we have religious freedom to proclaim that Christ died for our sins, Christ died for our salvation, but "Christ died for our rights to refuse access to a bike path"? Really?
The immediate suspicion when John Egan and cohorts cloak themselves in the First Amendment is that they're channeling more poutrage from Bishop McDonnell to get what he wants, a suspicion that seems particularly well-founded in this case. He cannot possibly be serious.
Apparently no one in the legal circles of Hampshire or Hampden County knows the meaning of "frivolous" as applied to lawsuits.
Read for yourself.
On the surface this case resembles Mintz (see sidebar) and indeed they are using the same attorney, Mr. Cahillane, and they both reference RLUIPA (r-LOOP-a). Yet, there are very clear differences. In Mintz a half-dozen abutters sued both the town and Diocese. Here, it is the Diocese against the land-owners, the town of Northampton, Schwinns, and arguably, the parishioners, whom we have not heard from. It would be an interesting exercise to poll the members of the parish councils, and find out:
1. how was this lawsuit hatched? was there input from parishioners?
2. what was the discussion like? was there a consensus for filing?
3. how do you feel about the lawsuit at this time?
Finding the answers to these questions might put the claims of the Diocese that the "community of believers" has more rights than the general community of Northampton in the proper context.
And yes, this latest episode does relate to our theme of so-called "church autonomy". Hang on and we will tie up all the loose ends some one of these days!
great reporting by Dave Reid (NorthamptonMedia)
poignant letter to editor from bike advocate
good editorial here (Daily Hampshire Gazette)