Bench Memos

David Hamilton’s Yes to “Allah” and No to “Jesus”

In Newsweek, Dahlia Lithwick contends that Newt Gingrich “was factually true but hopelessly misleading” when he said that David Hamilton, President Obama’s recently confirmed pick for the Seventh Circuit, had ruled that “saying the words Jesus Christ in a prayer is a sign of inappropriate behavior, but saying Allah would be OK.”  But it’s Lithwick who is doing the misleading, as she omits from her quotations from Hamilton’s order the brief passages that amply warrant the concern of Gingrich and other critics that Hamilton was engaging in an act of politically correct favoritism of Islam over Christianity in the public square. 

Specifically, as I detailed in my initial post on the matter, Hamilton, in responding to a query from the Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives whether “a Muslim imam may offer a prayer addressed to ‘Allah,’” wrote that he saw “little risk that the choice of language would advance a particular religion or disparage others.”  Hamilton’s position that such a prayer would be nonsectarian makes little sense, for the reasons I explained.

Lithwick also asserts that Hamilton’s ruling was “right as a matter of law,” but there is nothing in what she fairly labels the “crazy quilt of Establishment Clause doctrine” that justifies that assertion.