A (Real) Military Trial Took Place at Liberty U., With Students as Lawyers February 25, 2020

A (Real) Military Trial Took Place at Liberty U., With Students as Lawyers

Not long ago, a military dog noticed the scent of drugs coming out of the dorm room of a man in the Air Force. When officers investigated, the dog signaled to its handlers that the drugs were on the airman… but nothing was found on his body, or in his belongings, or in the room itself. A military magistrate ordered the man to submit a urine sample, which was then analyzed. It tested positive for cocaine.

But there’s a serious legal issue here: Was the urinalysis done without probable cause? In other words, was it an illegal violation of the airman’s Fourth Amendment rights?

A criminal proceeding commenced and the Air Force was found to have acted lawfully. The airman then appealed the decision to the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals (AFCCA), where his case was heard last Thursday. The big takeaway here is that this is a serious case involving the U.S. military and the Constitution.

And yet the hearing took place at Jerry Falwell, Jr.‘s Liberty University, a private Christian school.

And yet Liberty students were invited to submit (real) amicus briefs for both sides.

And yet some of those same Liberty students were invited to actually argue the case in front of the judges.

“The Air Force Court really wanted to open it up for better participation from the students,” said David Western, Liberty Law’s associate dean for administration and student development. “They get to argue not just in a pretend moot court, but in a real court case. They get to experience the hard work that is necessary to participate in a live hearing.”

Why the hell is a (very real) lawsuit involving the U.S. government being argued by and presented at a private Christian school that promotes Christian fundamentalism?

That’s what the Military Religious Freedom Foundation wants to know. MRFF’s founder Mikey Weinstein sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper demanding an explanation of why the Air Force is violating its own stated rules calling for separation of church and state — or even the perception of preferential treatment toward one religious group.

To hold oral argument in a United States military justice case in a bastion of odious discrimination such as Liberty University sends a message that the Air Force continues its decades long malfeasance by unconstitutionally elevating the Christian faith over all others faith and non-faith traditions.

Mr. Secretary, just for a moment please, imagine yourself as a military courts martial defendant who may happen to be Hindu, Wiccan, atheist, agnostic, Jewish, Muslim or anything but a fundamentalist “Christian” and your Air Force criminal courts martial appeal is ensuing at that citadel of fundamentalist Christian exclusivity, Liberty University Law School. How might that make you feel do you think, sir? While we know Liberty University doesn’t care, it most assuredly seems the U.S. Air Force doesn’t either.

It’s hardly just the “optics” here that stink, sir, it’s the foundational constitutional LAW and DoD regulatory provisions that are being rapaciously violated!

The issue isn’t the competency (or lack thereof) of Liberty law students. There are plenty of ways for them to get “real world” experience through our legal system, the same way other law students do it. The issue here is why a Christian school gets to host a real argument while playing real lawyers for both sides. Far from an educational opportunity, this sort of privilege shouldn’t be granted by our government to any religious law school, much less one that routinely fights to undermine the protections in our Constitution.

(via Chris Rodda. Image via Shutterstock)

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