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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Supreme Court rulings on police searches, prayer

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | May 9, 2014 2:08 PM

What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, May 12, 2014:

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Two Supreme Court decisions this month have sparked debate.  One came down from the U.S. Supreme Court while the other was made by Pennsylvania's highest court.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling allows police officers to search vehicles without a warrant.  Police would only have to have "probable cause" to search a vehicle.

The American Civil Liberties Union and defense attorneys criticized the decisions and said it would erode Pennsylvanians' rights.

Supporters say the ruling brought Pennsylvania into line with the less stringent federal law for searches.

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Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed

Appearing on Monday's program are Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed, the president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and Sara Rose, a staff attorney for the ACLU.

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling that permits prayer at public meetings, even if the prayers favor one religion over another.  In a 5-4 decision, the Court cited history and tradition and said the practice does not violate the constitutional ban on government establishment of religion.

The ACLU's Rose will address that ruling as well.  So will attorney Barbara Weller representing the National Center for Life and Liberty, that has been arguing a case involving the Carroll County, Maryland Commissioners, who have opened their meetings with Christian prayers for the years.  Carroll County is located just south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

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  • Bob Nunn img 2014-05-12 08:04

    So, what is probably cause...or is that code for if the police officer just wants to search a vehicle they can.

  • Robert D Colgan img 2014-05-12 08:07

    The notion of "probable cause" is the troubling uncertainty....

    we all see the world through filters---police included---and what to them appears 'suspicious' may be nothing more than their prejudices from past interactions.

    Unless there is legitimate evidence generating that probable cause, this latest PA SC ruling is nothing more than legalizing additional control by the government masquerading as "effective policing."

    As far as prayer before public meetings is concerned-----as long as those meetings are "public" they are inherently inclusive of and representative of everyone in the public. Since there are many religions, as well as atheism, this is not fair and should be not legal.
    Private meetings are another story.
    This US SC ruling conflates the two.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-05-12 08:17


    In my opinion, it is chipping away at freedoms. this is just a continuation of it since cars are being stopped for drunk driving stops an innocent person still has to "show their papers"

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-05-12 08:22


    I would urge anyone who is being detained and searched to video tape the encounter. It is perfectly legal in PA and documents the actions of both parties involved.

    • Bob Nunn img 2014-05-12 08:26

      In PA you can't record audio...

  • Bob Nunn img 2014-05-12 08:23

    I was pulled over and the vehicle searched because the police officer wasn't trained to properly identify the difference between a voided inspection stick and a peeling sticker.

    As a law abiding citiizen I didn't enjoy being embarrassed by the storm trooper.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-05-12 08:36


    To answer those who say "if you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about," that same logic would apply to the police coming into your home or searching your body any time they want. The reason they cannot do that is that we have a constitution that protects us against unreasonable searches and a principle of liberty that people should be "secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects." Since we did not have cars when the Constitution was written, the issue is whether cars should fall under the category of "effects" I think it should. I wonder if the founders would have accepted their carriages being searched without a warrant.

  • Bob Nunn img 2014-05-12 08:36

    Isn't slavery part of history, and tradition...doesn't mean that it should be continued.

  • Bob Nunn img 2014-05-12 08:38

    Isn't slavery part of history, and tradition...doesn't mean that it should be continued.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-05-12 08:39

    Blaine from York:
    I WOULD LIKE to know WHAT WORLD to commenter lives in concerning racial profiling. I am white have been with black friends and observed it. Do agree most officers do a good job but there are some ROTTEN apples that spoil the whole barrel. Hopefully we have moved past the era where force covers their own.

  • Bob Nunn img 2014-05-12 08:46

    How many Satinist have been asked to give prayer?

    • Bob Nunn img 2014-05-12 08:57

      Correction: Satanist