Some might call it the luck of the Irish, but we think it was a good ruling based on solid First Amendment rights. We’re speaking, of course, of the resounding victory of the Ancient Order of Hibernians who won back the right to run their New York St. Patrick’s Day parade as they see fit.

While the ruling of U.S. District Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy applies only to this year’s parade, his strongly worded 34-page decision (a major portion of which is reprinted in this newsletter) should be fair warning to New York mayor David Dinkins and the city’s so-called Human Rights Commission that leprechauns are not to be trifled with, particularly in an election year.

After weighing several options, the Catholic League chose to participate in the case through the critical efforts of attorney Andrew J. McCauley, a member of the League’s N.Y. chapter board. (In addition to work on the AOH case, McCauley also authored the League’s amicus brief in the Boston parade case).

Hibernian officials were justifiably pleased with their victory. Their right to exclude the so-called Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO) from the parade was clear and unequivocal.

New York’s Cardinal O’Connor, while obviously pleased with the decision, said simply that “The court has acted justly and in the best interest of society.” He went on to warn Catholics against feeling “triumphant” or indulging in any hatred toward those with whom they disagree.

The Cardinal said that he was considering setting aside a special day of prayer “to ask God’s mercy and forgiveness for all sins of bitterness and hatred and His help in achieving charity and peace in this sadly divided city.”

Most of the city’s media seemed willing to concede that the Hibernians had a clear First Amendment right to control of their parade. The Wall Street Journal, among others, editorialized on the side of the Hibernians. The New York Times managed to concede the matter ungraciously by acknowledging the Hibernian win and then asking them to be big-hearted about the whole thing by letting ILGO march in the parade anyway! That seems tantamount to asking a Jewish parade committee to invite a PLO delegation to march. The logic of it escapes us.

Although most rational columnists conceded a fair win by AOH, there were exceptions. Richard Cohen, a Washington Post columnist, acknowledged that the issue was the free speech rights of the Hibernians but then turned around and labeled the Hibernians and the Church as intolerant!

The political cartoons generated by the issue were generally mild and some were actually funny. And next year we may get to do it all over again…

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