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A Fourteenth Amendment Argument for Challenging a Police Officer’s “Reasonable Mistake of Law”

Camden Civil Rights Project

In Heien v. North Carolina135 S.Ct. 530 (2014), the U.S. Supreme Court has issued forth its new edict asserting the Fourth Amendment is not disturbed if a constitutional deprivation occurs because of a police officer’s reasonable mistake of the law. This creates a scheme where divergent interpretations of the same statute may produce unequal outcomes, which may ultimately prove to be untenable under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Heien stems from a routine traffic stop which escalated into a felony drug arrest after a law enforcement officer discovered cocaine in the defendant’s vehicle. The officer’s pretext for the stop was that he  believed state law prohibited driving a vehicle with a broken brake light. However, the statute in question only requires one working brake light. During the stop, the drugs were discovered after the defendant granted the officer consent to search…

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Eastern Philosophy: The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism

Synopsis: Does our inescapable suffering stem from our own greed and ignorance? Buddha thought so, but he offered a route out to enlightenment.

Stephen Fry explains Buddha’s Four Noble Truths.

From the BBC Radio 4 series about life’s big questions – A History of Ideas.

This project is from the BBC in partnership with The Open University, the animations were created by Cognitive.

The Presumption of Innocence

The presumption of innocence, an ancient tenet of Criminal Law, is actuallymisnomer. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the presumption of the innocence of a criminal defendant is best described as an assumption of innocence that is indulged in the absence of contrary evidence (Taylor v. Kentucky, 436 U.S. 478, 98S. Ct. 1930, 56 L. Ed. 2d 468 [1978]). It is not considered evidence of the defendant’s innocence, and it does not require that a mandatory inference favorable to the defendant be drawn from any facts in evidence.  Continue reading The Presumption of Innocence

Religious Intolerance in America


Despite America’s public commitment to religious freedom, intolerance remains prevalent.

by Contributing Writer

Religious intolerance is a very broad term. It can be as private and individual as a parent forbidding a child to date someone of a particular faith or as public as the historical tar-and-feathering of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon religion. In every case, however, it boils down to the actions or attitudes of individuals or organizations against others over differences in religious belief or practice. The United States has struggled with this since before its early colonial days and — despite the best efforts of our founders to foster a national culture that would provide what James Madison described as “an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion” — religious intolerance continues to be an all-too-common occurrence against which no group is immune. .


Muslims have long been the targets of discrimination in the U.S., but following the tragedies of 9/11, anti-Muslim sentiment and activity have risen sharply. Events such as the controversies surrounding the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” and Florida pastor, Terry Jones, who burned copies of the Quran, are well publicized but they are far from isolated incidents. The American Civil Liberties Union reports what they call “anti-mosque activities” in 31 states between December, 2005, and September, 2012, ranging in severity from simple graffiti and other minor vandalism to arson and bombings. In one case, a Muslim woman was verbally assaulted and pepper-sprayed in front of an Islamic center in Columbus, Ohio.


Despite its dominance among American faiths, Christians have been the victims of religious intolerance throughout our nation’s history and non-Protestant denominations — particularly Catholics and Mormons — have borne the brunt of it. The same conflagration that began with Joseph Smith’s tarring and feathering also saw massacres, the forced removal of Mormons from Missouri and, ultimately, the assassination of Smith and his brother in 1844. To this day, Mormons are regularly accused of condoning polygamy, despite the fact that the denomination, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been one of the most vigorous opponents of the practice since 1890. Catholics, as well, have long been maligned by their fellow Americans. Many states had laws restricting Catholic civil rights, including the right to hold public office, and one of Benedict Arnold’s stated reasons for his betrayal was America’s alliance with Catholic France during the Revolution. Driven by nationalist fears of papal allegiance, riots and other violent incidents against Catholics persisted well into the 19th century.


The persecution of Jews throughout history stands, perhaps, as the epitome of religious intolerance and they’ve suffered it in the United States as they have almost everywhere else. A strong current of anti-Semitism has run through American society since it’s inception and came to a peak in the years leading up to World War II. At that time, according to historian Johnathan D. Sarna, “Jews faced physical attacks, many forms of discrimination, and intense vilification in print, on the airwaves, in movies, and on stage.” This period also saw the birth of Nazism both abroad and in the U.S., and violent, anti-Semitic activity continues to be a problem in the present day. Eighty percent of the 1400 religiously motivated hate crimes reported to the FBI in 1998 were “anti-Jewish” in nature.

Native Americans

Of all the groups that have experienced religious intolerance in what is now the United States, perhaps none have suffered longer than Native Americans. Beginning with some of their first interactions with European settlers, Native Americans were driven off ancestral lands for centuries, denied access to holy sites and forced to attend government-run schools in an effort to “kill the Indian and save the man”; students were typically divorced from all aspects of tribal culture, including religion and language. The final prohibitions against practicing Native American religions were lifted in 1994. Native religious leaders continue to be surveilled by government agencies and tribes still frequently lose access to sacred sites because of urban and industrial development. A 1999 Special Report to the UN Commission on Human Rights noted that such losses were often the result of “an indifference and even hostility on the part of the various officials and other parties involved . . . with regard to the values and beliefs of the original inhabitants of the United States.”

Secular Humanists and other Non-theists

A 2003 study by the University of Minnesota on the acceptance of various racial, religious and other groups in America, found nearly half of Americans (47.6 percent) would disapprove if their child wanted to marry an atheist. In addition, 39.6 percent said atheists “do not at all agree with my vision of American society.” A 2012 report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union found seven states with constitutional prohibitions against atheists holding office. In Arkansas, non-theists are legally disqualified from bearing witness in court, despite the fact that the Supreme Court declared such provisions unconstitutional in 1961. The report found many other examples of discrimination, particularly in the military, including mandatory attendance of religious services and service members not being allowed to list “Humanist” as their religious affiliation. Finally, Secular Humanists were denied representation at the interfaith memorial service on April 18, 2013, following the Boston Marathon bombing, despite the fact that at least two of the victims of the bombing were affiliated with Boston’s secular community.

Oakland community shocked after artist shot dead while painting peace mural


Published time: 2 Oct, 2015 16:08

Edited time: 2 Oct, 2015 16:10

A young artist has been shot dead in a rough part of Oakland. He was working on a community project painting a motivational mural to inspire young people to dream big.

Fellow artists have described the shooting as random, saying Antonio Ramos, 27, had had an argument with a passerby who wasn’t part of the group working on the Mural Project. The argument quickly escalated, and the offender used his gun on Ramos and ran away.

© Oakland Superheroes Mural Project

“How do you do something positive and still get shot for it?” a childhood friend of Ramos told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Many took to Twitter to express their sorrow and a profound feeling of injustice.

Ramos died of multiple gunshot wounds and now the team he worked with is gathering funds to hold a funeral for him.

The Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project, that Ramos was part of, was a collaboration of 60 artists and West Oakland middle-school students. It was organized by community group Attitudinal Healing Connection. It’s a follow up to a 2014 project, when West Oakland Middle School students re-imagined themselves as superheroes that solve problems in their communities.

Attitudinal Healing Connection’s Facebook page is reaching out to the community to get involved and boost security to help the artists feel safer when they resume work on the unfinished mural.–Life.html?soid=1101210031386&aid=7rF4nXUIrEI

One Twitter user wrote that hundreds of people showed up at the Mural to pay their respects.

People are bringing candles, flowers, writing inspirational quotes and messages to Antonio Ramos to thank him for what he was doing for the community with this project.

David Burke, the mural project’s art director says the artists will carry on with their work. “We are going to dedicate the rest of this project to him,” he told CBS San Francisco.

Although everyone close to Ramos is still in shock, those working on the project, plan to resume painting on Monday.

The police have issued a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to the arrest of Ramos’s killer.

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