The 6th Circuit of the US Supreme Court has become embroiled in a legal dispute over whether to accept a petition to dismiss a criminal trial on a claim of judicial misconduct.
The case involves a lawsuit filed by a man named Andrew Bowers, who was charged with three counts of violating the law by failing to report his wife’s murder to police.
Mr Bowers argues that the law allows him to be convicted and sentenced based on his actions, not his beliefs.
“The court says that I have a duty to report a crime to law enforcement because it is my constitutionally protected right,” Mr Bowers said.
“I believe that that is a fair reading of the law and it is the law.”
The Supreme Court, however, ruled last year that the 6th circuit had to accept the petition.
Mr Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the court should accept Mr Bower’s argument that his constitutional rights were violated by being prosecuted on the basis of his belief that he was acting in the public interest.
“Mr Bower contends that he is entitled to a hearing before the court and that the right to due process is a fundamental right, but it is not clear that the statute gives him that right,” Justice Breyer said.
In its decision in the case, the 6,400-page US Supreme Courts’ Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the state had the power to grant a hearing if there was a compelling reason to do so.
“This Court must recognize that it is for the legislature to decide whether it is appropriate to grant hearings in criminal cases,” the court wrote.
“We have concluded that the legislature has not, and may not, grant such hearings in these cases.”
The 6th Court of Appeal ruled in January that the decision by the US courts to grant the hearing would have the effect of limiting the right of Mr Bairs to a fair trial.
The Supreme Courts decision has led to calls for the courts to be more sensitive to religious liberty.
“We can no longer pretend that the courts are immune from religious considerations,” said the Rev David J. Johnson, of the National Baptist Convention.
“That’s why this case is important, because it’s an important constitutional issue.”
The case is being heard by a five-member panel, including three Republican appointees.