Legal Briefing - Laws aside, letter to God worthwhile

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Dear John, My wife has been fighting cancer for over two years. The battle has taken a toll on me and my family and has challenged my faith. I want to write God a letter to tell him about my anger with his decision to allow this to happen. What would happen to a letter addressed to God?

Sincerely,

Questioning John

•••

I am sorry to hear about the battles, both physical and spiritual, that you and your family have been having. When I first read your letter, I wondered about how this related to a "legal education" column. However, I think I may have come up with something.

I sent an e-mail via the Customer Service section of the US Postal Service website and I asked my letter carrier directly. Not surprisingly, I got two different answers. One person said the letters will go to either a kind-hearted postmaster or into the dead letter file. The other person told me that they would either go to Mail Recovery offices or local churches. I don't know which answer, if any, is correct.

I suppose I need to talk about the legal aspect of this answer. The routing of the mail through the Post Office is mandated by Article I Section 8 of the US Constitution, which requires Congress to establish Post Offices and Postal Roads. However, the First Amendment states in part, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." The First Amendment seems to strip the Post Office of any authority to decide what to do with such a letter because to do so could be construed as saying that Congress knows where to go to find God.

By this logic, the only place where a letter to God can reasonably go is the dead letter file. This would be a declaration that the sender provided insufficient address to make the letter deliverable. Doing this would also free the Post Office of any accusation of wrongdoing through violating the First Amendment Establishment Clause. Ironically, it may also make Nietzsche somewhat correct when he stated, "God is dead."

John, regardless of your beliefs, and regardless of the Post Office policy, send your letter knowing that it will end up where it belongs. Having had the opportunity to read your letter, I believe that God would like you to send him one.

Take care,

John

John Hartzell is a practicing Walla Walla attorney. No attorney-client relationship is established via this column, which is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Any information given is to illustrate basic legal concepts and does not state how any court would decide any matter. Have a question? Ask John at askjohn@wwub.com.

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