Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

Louisville attorney John David Dyche has a fantastic article as it relates to religious liberty in Kentucky at Louisville’s FOX affiliate.  In the article, Dyche summarizes what was a very important case for religious liberty not only in Kentucky, but also for the United States.

The case dealt specifically with the Commonwealth of Kentucky versus an Amish sect in Kentucky that had been cited for failure to obey Kentucky’s driving laws for slow-moving vehicles. The Amish refused to affix the bright orange reflective label to their vehicle in protest that the bright colors were not in accordance with Amish style and dress.  Nothing less than very divergent interpretations of the First Amendment are at play in this case and are a clear demonstration of how the principles of Federalism tangibly play out.

According to Dyche, "Sometimes Kentucky's Supreme Court finds state constitutional rights to be broader than federal constitutional rights, but other times it finds the scope of those rights to be the same, even when the two constitutions use significantly different language.  For example, the state high court has held that the state Constitution offers no greater protections against searches and seizures, and no greater freedoms of speech and of the press, than does the U. S. Constitution."

With regard to freedom of religion, the Kentucky Constitution provides, in one relevant part, that, "No human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience."  The First Amendment, on the other hand, says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."  Noble wrote that, "It is linguistically impossible for language to be more inclusive than that in the First Amendment," and held that the Kentucky Constitution's grant of religious freedom is no broader than the First Amendment's.

The Amish lost their case at the Kentucky Supreme Court, but the opinions themselves represent paradigmatic schools of thought in how religious liberty, the First Amendment, and Constitutional interpretation play out.  Readers interested in important legal debates should not miss out on Dyche’s re-telling of such an important case in Kentucky, a case that has all religious believers and our First Freedom at stake.