You don’t have to worship trees to protect them

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In a bizarre decision sure to infuriate believers in the “separation of church and chainsaw,” a federal judge has slapped a $5,000 fine on an attorney who filed a “religious freedom” lawsuit against two environmentalist groups, the DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE reports.

Stephen Young, representing the Associated Contract Loggers, filed a $600,000 suit last year against Minnesota’s Superior Wilderness Action Network (SWAN) and New Mexico’s Forest Guardians — two groups that had been trying to stall the approval of Minnesota logging permits. Young claimed the stall tactics of the activist groups’ amounted to a violation of church and state, since they were inspired by the Deep Ecology premise that nature is sacred and therefore should be preserved.

In February, Judge James Rosenbaum dismissed the case, calling it frivolous, and threatened to impose sanctions against Young unless the lawyer could convince him otherwise. In his ruling Friday, Rosenbaum called the lawsuit “an utter waste of the court’s time.”

“Usually a warning is enough to get the attention of an attorney; this kind of full-fledged sanction is used very sparingly,” said SWAN’s attorney.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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