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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Kevin Underhill's Guest Posts at the Volokh Conspiracy

In case you weren't reading the Volokh Conspiracy last week, Kevin Underhill was guest-posting on the subject of strange and humorous laws. Underhill normally discusses strange laws and interesting legal stories on his blog, Lowering the Bar.

I recommend that you check out Underhill's blog. And for a sample of the subjects Underhill typically discusses, I strongly recommend his posts from last week. I have links to each of them below -- each one accompanied by a quote from the post.

"Pointless Declarations"

[California's] official state animal, the California grizzly bear, has been extinct since 1922. In fact, it had been extinct for over 30 years when the California legislature made it “official.” I don’t know exactly what kind of message that sends, if any.
"Odd Laws Still on the Books"

In short, the [Guano Islands Act] allowed any citizen to claim an island on behalf of the United States, as long as that island was uninhabited and covered in bird poop.

"Laws Addressing Some Human Oddity"

Connecticut has decided that the rules of civilized warfare should extend at least in part to squirrels, rabbits, and other protected fur-bearing animals. And that is fine with me.
"The Government Not Minding its Own Business"

Of greater concern, and drawing more attention, is China’s law requiring permission to reincarnate. State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5 requires any “reincarnating living Buddha” to fill out the appropriate forms for government approval, after which they will go looking for the corresponding “Buddha soul child” and (if approved) “issue a living Buddha permit.” Although the bureau claimed, apparently with a straight face, that this measure was intended to promote religious freedom, it is clearly aimed at controlling Tibetan Buddhism. But as is so often the case with laws that involve government meddling, it is both ridiculous and not fooling anyone.

"Mysterious Laws"

Then there are the Hittite laws on … let’s say, fraternization with the animal kingdom. If a man were caught fraternizing with a cow, sheep, or pig, the penalty was death (for the man). Horses and mules, though, no penalty at all — except that you could never become a priest. But then there was Section 199, which provided the death penalty for any ox that “spring upon a man” for the same purpose. (Does this happen?) The man would not be punished in this scenario, but a sheep would be killed as a substitute. So, bad for oxen and sheep, but pigs caught springing (does that happen?) wereexpressly exempted from any punishment. I guess this might all be explained by religious taboos, which we can’t expect to make too much sense. Still, Section 199 is perplexing.

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