Humanist Legal Advocacy: A Progress Report

Ronald A. Lindsay


The Council for Secular Humanism and the Center for Inquiry (CFI) share a long-standing interest in undertaking legal work in support of our mission, which includes not only maintaining the separation of church and state but also the protection and promotion of fundamental rights. For example, when I was in private practice, I had the privilege of submitting an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on behalf of the Council in the case of Washington v. Glucksberg, the Supreme Court case that addressed the constitutionality of laws prohibiting assisted suicide.

Because of their limited resources, the Council and CFI rely heavily on the commitment of volunteer attorneys who generously donate their time and utilize their skills to craft briefs and undertake other legal work to support our positions. This group of attorneys has been organized as the Council’s (later, CFI’s) First Amendment Task Force (FATF). As I’ve stated, I was part of FATF when I was in private practice. Other attorneys and firms that have contributed significant amounts of time include Edward Tabash (chair of FATF), who recently authored an amicus brief in the California litigation over the legality of prohibitions on same-sex marriage; the law firm of Arnold and Porter, which worked with the Council and CFI in submitting an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case of Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation (which addressed the standing of taxpayers to bring suit on establishment clause claims in federal court); and the law firm of Jenner and Block, which recently submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Council and CFI in the Supreme Court case of Pleasant Grove City v. Summum (which will consider a case involving the display of a Ten Commandments monument in a public park).

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