A failure that should be fixed

Autopsy reports are not public documents in South Carolina, so there’s really no way to review the work in determining cause and manner of death. Really, all that is for a jury to decide, should one be empaneled. All we really want is for people not to fall into a black hole of justice.

THE WAY WE SEE IT: Jail Deaths & Prayer In Schools


Deaths in custody should always be publicly reported, and in a timely manner.

We do not have the where-with-all to make that happen, but it certainly should be a state law, mandated to everyone. Facebook would be OK. The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office has a Facebook page; it could post a brief statement about a person dying in custody there.

They certainly have no shortage of the sheriff posting guilty-until-proven-innocent statements about suspects. So, there’s no reason why, with no mea culpa language, that they could not post a person dies in custody statement with the obligatory, “The matter is under investigation” statement.

And all law enforcement offices should be required to make similar statements to the public should they have a person-dies-in-custody situation. Law enforcement agencies assume a certain about of responsibility when they take someone into custody, so a required statement would offer some transparency, at the very least.

The latest death in custody situation in Laurens County happened Feb. 1. By Feb. 25, they still did not have autopsy result; we are presuming it was delayed pending toxicology. This, in our opinion, is not “in a timely manner,” and, in our view, the reporting should be mandated by law in a timely manner, like the same day. The state could even write a template for announcements - person who died, name, age and address, arrested when, died when, under investigation. Once the autopsy is completed (again, in a timely manner) cause of death and manner of death should be reported, and handed off to a state agency for review. If someone dies in state custody, it should be announced and investigated by a federal agency. Solicitor’s Offices should announce if charges are filed.

Autopsy reports are not public documents in South Carolina, so there’s really no way to review the work in determining cause and manner of death. Really, all that is for a jury to decide, should one be empaneled. All we really want is for people not to fall into a black hole of justice.


We have violated the Establishment 

Clause -- or have we?


District 56 does not have enough money to do this, but wouldn’t it be great if we could make Freedom From Religion prove that our community school district and local YMCA have violated “separate of church and state”?

From a respected law journal this is the principle.

Establishment Clause

The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion.

Although some government action implicating religion is permissible, and indeed unavoidable, it is not clear just how much the Establishment Clause tolerates. In the past, the Supreme Court has permitted religious invocations to open legislative session, public funds to be used for private religious school bussing and textbooks, and university funds to be used to print and publish student religious groups’ publications. Conversely, the Court has ruled against some overtly religious displays at courthouses, state funding supplementing teacher salaries at religious schools, and some overly religious holiday decorations on public land.

One point of contention regarding the Establishment Clause is how to frame government actions that implicate religion. Framing questions often arise in the context of permanent religious monuments on public land. Although it is reasonably clear that cities cannot install new religious monuments, there is fierce debate over whether existing monuments should be removed. When the Supreme Court recently considered this issue in Van Orden v. Perry, 545 U.S. 677 (2005), and McCreary County v. ACLU, 545 U.S. 844 (2005), it did not articulate a clear general standard for deciding these types of cases. The Court revisited this issue in Salazar v. Buono (08-472), a case which considered the constitutionality of a large white Christian cross erected by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on federal land in the Mojave Desert. While five justices concluded that a federal judge erred in barring a congressionally ordered land transfer which would place the memorial on private land, there was no majority reasoning as to why. Three Justices held that the goal of avoiding governmental endorsement of religion does not require the destruction of religious symbols in the private realm, while Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas concluded that the plaintiff lacked standing to bring this complaint. - Cornell Law School

So, reading this, how did having a once-per-year, 5-days breakfast and program in a public school violate anything? No permanent religious symbols were established - no one was compelled to attend. No one was event enticed (extra credit for grades, etc.) to attend. Yet, hundreds of middle and high school students did attend, along with adults.

They heard inspirational words, shed a few tears and had more than a few laughs. 

Their thoughts were provoked - sounds like what “school” ought to be.


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