Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Secularism in Action — In the Supreme Court

Friday, September 30th, 2011

On October 5, the most important religious liberty case in decades will be argued before the United States Supreme Court.  It is yet another instance of the influence of secularism in America, and it may result in a substantial reduction in religious liberty.  At stake here is the ability of churches to operate without interference and control by the government, or whether churches will be treated as if they were mere secular organizations.

The case is entitled Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School vs. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  To understand why it is so important, I have to take a step back and explain a bit of constitutional law on religious freedom.

The phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the United States Constitution, but the basic concept is embodied in two clauses of the First Amendment, as interpreted by the Supreme Court.  In a nutshell, the Free Exercise Clause guarantees that the government cannot intervene in the internal affairs of religous organizations, and the Establishment Clause prohibits the government from any “excessive entanglement” in religious matters.

These principles are essential to the guarantee of religious liberty — they protect churches from becoming mere creations of the state, subject to interference by the government.  So, for example, under current law it would clearly violate both the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause if the government were to interfere in a church’s selection of clergy, over how doctrine is taught, or how a church resolves internal ecclesiastical disputes.  The First Amendment thus requires that religious organizations enjoy a considerable amount of freedom — a zone of privacy, if you will.

These basic principles have a direct impact on the ability of religous organizations to select their key staff members.  The courts have long understood that religious organizations must have considerable autonomy in the selection of clergy and other staff members who have religious missions.  They have also recognized that this autonomy occasionally conflicts with the provisions of anti-discrimination laws.

To address this tension, the courts long ago recognized what is called “the ministerial exception” to the anti-discrimination laws.  This exception permits churches to select their spiritual leaders — even if that decision would have violated anti-dicrimination statutes had it been done by a business.  So, for example, the Catholic Church’s cannot  be sued for sex discrimintion based on her all-male clergy.  The courts also recognize that this should not be limited to formally-ordained clergy, since many lay staff members play crucial roles in the religious mission of churches — just think of the central role of parochial school teachers, directors of religious education, pastoral associates in parishes, etc. in spiritual life of the Church.  Of course, not all employees of a religious organization are “ministers” .  For instance, one could not justify classifying a school janitor as a “minister”, since his job is clearly not spiritual in nature.

This brings us to the case before the Supreme Court.  The facts of the case are fairly straight-forward.  It involves a dispute between the Hosanna-Tabor School and one of their former teachers.  The teacher alleged that she was fired in retaliation for threatening to file a disability claim, in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws.  The school responded that she was a ministerial employee, whose job entailed a specifically religous mission for which she was commissioned by the church, and that as a result, the school’s decision to terminate her was an internal matter and was not subject to the anti-discrimination laws.

The Supreme Court will be wrestling with those facts, and also with larger questions — whether to recognize the ministerial exception, determining what part of the Constitution it rests upon, and giving guidance on how it is to be defined.  The biggest challenge is how to do all this without infringing upon the religious liberty of churches, and without getting the government entangled in internal religious matters.

Virtually every major religious organization — including the U.S. Bishops — has filed a brief in support of the Lutheran school, arguing for a broad definition for the ministerial exception rooted in the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

The Administration, however, has filed a brief that advocates for the virtual elimination of the ministerial exception.  In the Administration’s view, the exception — if it exists at all — is so narrow that it would only apply to clergy and disputes about doctrine.  Moreover, the brief denies that the exception is rooted in the Establishment or Free Exercise clauses, but is instead supported only by a much weaker constitutional principle that is subject to being overridden by any neutral, generally-applicable law.

In short, the Administration is advancing a position that would treat religious organizations as if they were merely secular groups, subject to virtually any government oversight and control — no different from banks, oil companies, or airlines.   If the Administration’s position prevails, churches will be subject to endless litigation and regulation, aimed at influencing and changing their internal doctrines and practices. This is a radical and dangerous argument.

Religious liberty is one of the founding principles of our Republic.  It is the reason that many of our ancestors came here, and the reason that many immigrants still long for our shores.  We must all pray for wisdom on the Supreme Court — and await with trepidation the decision in this momentous case.

Contempt for the Law

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

We already knew that they had no regard for the natural or divine law.  Now we have even more evidence that they have contempt for human law too.

New York City’s government is spending a great deal of time and energy (and taxpayer money) to hold same-sex “weddings” on Sunday, the same day that the new law takes effect.  To allow “weddings” to take place that day, a number of New York State Supreme Court justices have agreed to come to work and grant waivers from the ordinary 24-hour waiting period that our state law requires between the issuance of a marriage license and the solemnization of the marriage.

On what grounds will they grant those waivers?

Therein lies the story of the utter contempt with which our public officials hold the law.

The Speaker of the New York City Council, who takes an oath of office to uphold the laws of our state, was reported to have said this about the waivers:

The only reason a judge would deny a waiver…  would be if one of the grooms or brides was intoxicated.

Actually not.

According to Domestic Relations Law Section 13-b, the following circumstances must exist in order to grant a valid waiver of the 24-hour period (I’ve inserted numbering to make better sense of the long run-on sentence in the law):

It shall appear from an examination of the license and any other proofs submitted by the parties that one of the parties is (a) in danger of imminent death, or (b) by reason of other emergency public interest will be promoted thereby, or (c) that such delay will work irreparable injury or great hardship upon the contracting parties, or one of them.

It is absurd to suggest that any of these criteria are present in the carnival-like atmosphere surrounding the “wedding lottery” being conducted to determine who will be allowed to get “married” on Sunday.  One can only wonder what “proofs” — if any — are being submitted.  Remember, petitions for judicial relief are usually made under oath.  Will any judge deny a petition, for an insufficient factual basis?

It would be nice if some intrepid District Attorney were to warn people not to make any false statements in these petitions, which would be a crime under state law.  The perfect candidate would be the Nassau Count District Attorney, who recently threatened county clerks with criminal charges if they refused to sign same-sex marriage licenses (a threat that itself shows ignorance or contempt of a state law that requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs of their employees). It would also be nice if the board that oversees judicial conduct were to examine the orders granted by these eager weekend justices, to see if they were faithful to their own oath of office to uphold the law — especially since Domestic Relations Law Section 13-b makes it a crime to solemnize a marriage without complying with its requirements.

I’m not holding my breath for any of this to happen. I realize that the law will be ignored, that waivers will be granted on an absurdly pro-forma basis, and that nobody will ever do anything about it. I also understand that this instance of running rough-shod over the law bodes very ill for the coming persecution of religious people and organizations who dissent from the new brand of “marriage”.

Our public officials hold the law in contempt. Is it any wonder why many people feel the same way about them?

A Major Victory for Life and for Free Speech

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

I have blogged a number of times about Intro 371, the New York City bill that targeted pregnancy centers for unfair and discriminatory regulations, with an aim towards silencing them and putting them out of business.

Pro-lifers from our city, and leaders of national pro-life groups all lobbied very hard to prevent the passage of that bill.  At a public hearing, and in repeated communications with the Council, we warned them that the bill was unconstitutional.  But they didn’t care.  Even when two courts in Maryland struck down similar bills as being unconstitutional, they were undeterred.  Spurred on by the abortion industry and the anti-life ideologues of NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Council heedlessly went forward with the bill, and the mayor imprudently signed it into law.

A lawsuit was filed by several pregnancy centers, challenging the law.  And today, just days before the law was to go into effect, the court issued its ruling — a preliminary injunction, barring the implementation of the law.

The case isn’t over — it still has to be fully litigated.  But in the meantime, this iniquitous law will not go into effect.  This is a great victory for the pro-life cause, and for free speech.

The court accepted all the same constitutional arguments that the pro-lifers presented at the public hearing last fall.  It found that the law was an infringement upon the free speech rights of the centers and their staffs, and that it was also so vague that it created a grave risk of being arbitrarily enforced.

Most importantly, the court utterly rejected the City’s arguments that the speech of the pregnancy centers could be regulated as if it was “commercial speech”, a category of speech that can be subjected to fairly broad regulation by the government.  Instead, the court held that the speech of the centers was to be given the highest degree of protection under the Constitution, and that laws infringing upon their speech could only be valid if they pass muster under the extremely stringent “strict scrutiny” standard — which few laws can survive.

In fact, the court rebuked the City for its position, saying:

Defendant’s second argument — that Plaintiffs engage in commercial speech because they are provided an audience to whom they can espouse their beliefs — is particularly offense to free speech principles… that proposition would permit the Government to inject its own message into virtually all speech designed to advocate a message to more than a single individual and thereby eviscerate the First Amendment’s protections.

Even better, the court called out the New York Civil Liberties Union for their failure to defend the free speech rights of the centers. The court said,

Given the New York Civil Liberties Union’s (“NYCLU’s) usual concern for First Amendment rights, its amicus brief supporting Defendants’ expansive view of the commercial speech doctrine is puzzling.

True, one might expect the NYCLU to be unyielding in the defense of anyone’s First Amendment rights.  But they are in the grips of such an uncompromising pro-abortion ideology that they cannot conceive that the speech of pro-lifers deserves protection.  This is not the first time that their hypocrisy has been put on display, but it may be one of the first times a court took the trouble to note it.

Pro-lifers espouse a counter-cultural message that is sternly disapproved by the elites who deign to govern and advise us (e.g, the editorial board of the New York Times).  Legislatures and courts across the nation have expressed this disapproval by restricting the rights of pro-lifers to speak to women outside of abortion clinics, to give prayerful witness outside those clinics, and to offer alternatives to abortion.  It is a constant battle to defend our rights against these forces.

For once at least — and in New York City of all places! — a court got it right, and has recognized that pro-lifers have the same constitutional rights as any other citizen.

Congratulations to those who fought this bill before the Council, to the fine attorneys at the Alliance Defense Fund and the American Center for Law and Justice who pursued the lawsuit so ably, and to the pregnancy centers that kept up the fight.

I have a friend who likes to recall the story of Gideon from the Book of Judges.  Hopelessly outnumbered by a mighty foe, he trusted the Lord and was victorious.   Yes, indeed, all praise and glory to Him who never fails to comes to the aid of his people in need.

A Glimpse Into the Future

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

As the push for same-sex “marriage” builds in New York, recent news events have allowed us to see into the future, to get an idea of what the world will be like if the definition of marriage is changed.

First, a little background.  In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by virtually unanimous majorities, and the bill was signed into law by President Clinton.  It defines marriage, for the purposes of federal law, as the union of one man and one woman, and it provides that states will not be required to recognize any other kind of “marriage”, just because other states have changed their definition.

DOMA has been challenged several times in the courts.  Three separate federal courts have upheld it as a proper and reasonable exercise of Congressional authority.  One court has found that it is unconstitutional and lacks a rational foundation.  (That decision, by the way, contains the single most absurd statement ever made by a federal judge — that the difference between same-sex couples and different-sex couples was a “distinction without meaning.”  Some things are so silly that only a federal judge could believe them).  Several state supreme courts — including New York’s — have also upheld the same definition of marriage as is contained in DOMA, holding that the definition has a “rational basis” and is not discriminatory.

That wasn’t good enough for the President, who announced earlier this year that the Justice Department would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA.  This,  even though the Justice Department has long held that they have a duty to defend statutes with which they disagree, if there is a reasonable argument to support it.  Apparently, the decisions of multiple federal and state courts are not reasonable enough for this ideologically blinded Administration.

Faced with this dereliction of duty, the leadership of the House of Representatives engaged the services of Paul Clement, a former Solicitor General and a very accomplished Supreme Court advocate, to represent the people of the United States in defending DOMA.

What happened next provides us a clear glimpse into where we are going on this issue.  “Gay rights” groups, seeking to force all opposition to same-sex “marriage” out of the mainstream, began a campaign of intimidation aimed at forcing Mr. Clement’s law firm to withdraw from the case out of fear of negative press, restriction of access to top law schools for recruiting, and loss of clients. Instead of fulfilling their professional responsibilities to their client, the firm buckled — and didn’t even have the guts to admit why they were doing it.  In response, Mr. Clement resigned from the firm and will carry on his defense of DOMA with a new firm.

Interestingly, Mr. Clement’s old firm has given pro bono representation to suspected terrorists incarcerated in Guantanamo, but can’t get up the nerve to defend a duly-enacted statute defending the definition of marriage that has always been understood by our society, and that has been repeatedly upheld against constitutional challenge.

This is a glimpse into the future.  We will be seeing more and more of this kind of “soft persecution” of those who oppose same-sex “marriage” — we will be marginalized, stigmatized, and frozen out of public life and even professional work.  It will be a test of moral courage to see how people respond.

Why “Make Abortion Rare”?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

On March 8, Catholics from around the state traveled to Albany for the annual “Catholics at the Capitol” day, sponsored by the State Bishops’ Conference.  The purpose of the day is to offer Catholics an opportunity to stand together on the broad range of issues of concern to us — protecting life, strengthening our schools, caring for the poor and sick — and to speak to our state legislators.

One of the issue papers distributed by the Conference was entitled “Making Abortion Rare”.  This document explained our Church’s opposition to the radical Reproductive Health Act, a bill that would lead to an increase in abortion, by placing it beyond any reasonable regulation.  A second issue was our opposition to the Governor’s elimination of all funding for the Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation.  That foundation supports local initiatives and organizations that offer alternatives to abortions, and have helped thousands of women have their babies.

These positions are a practical response to the challenge issued by Archbishop Dolan at his press conference in January about the appalling abortion rate in New York City: “I invite all to come together to make abortion rare, a goal even those who work to expand the abortion license tell us they share.”

Some of our pro-life supporters have expressed discomfort with saying that we wish to “make abortion rare”.  They are worried that this might imply that we are conceding the legality of abortion, and that we have given up our ultimate goal of defending every human life.

This concern is understandable, because people rightly can’t be satisfied with anything short of full protection for the unborn.  I understand this concern, but I believe it is unfounded.

Our ultimate goals in this struggle have never changed.  Nobody has any doubt about the position of the Catholic Church on abortion.  We are absolutely, unalterably, irrevocably opposed to legal abortion, and will never accept the legitimacy of laws that permit it.  We hold steadfastly to building a culture of life in which every life is valued in our society and its laws.

But while we pursue those ultimate goals, we have to take into account the political and cultural situation in which we find ourselves.  Then, relying on the virtue of prudence, we have to mitigate the harm that is being done by legalized abortion, and try to achieve realistically attainable results to advance the culture of life.

This approach was outlined in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, The Gospel of Life:

The Church well knows that it is difficult to mount an effective legal defense of life in pluralistic democracies, because of the presence of strong cultural currents with differing outlooks. At the same time, certain that moral truth cannot fail to make its presence deeply felt in every conscience, the Church encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the re- establishment of a just order in the defense and promotion of the value of life. (90)

The challenge to “make abortion rare” is just such an initiative.  It takes into account the political and cultural fact that a complete abrogation of abortion laws is not attainable in our current cultural and legal climate.  It is directed not to people who are already committed to the cause of life.  Instead, it is an appeal to those who consider themselves “pro-choice”, but are uncomfortable with abortion and may be open to work with us on practical measures to reduce it.

In other words, it is an effort to change hearts, to rebuild the foundation for a true culture of life.  As hearts change, laws will follow.

Our vision and our goals will always remain the same.   As the United States Bishops said in their statement, Living the Gospel of Life:

The Gospel of Life must be proclaimed, and human life defended, in all places and all times. The arena for moral responsibility includes not only the halls of government, but the voting booth as well. Laws that permit abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are profoundly unjust, and we should work peacefully and tirelessly to oppose and change them. Because they are unjust they cannot bind citizens in conscience, be supported, acquiesced in, or recognized as valid. Our nation cannot countenance the continued existence in our society of such fundamental violations of human rights. (33)

Not a Joke — A Tragedy

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Earlier this week, there was a televised debate for the candidates for New York’s governorship. Most of the news coverage of the debate centered on the various eccentricities of the minor party candidates.  This was par for the course for a media that scrupulously avoids real issues, and prefers to present politics as a puppet show to entertainment and anesthetize us.

What struck me hard, though, was that one of the minor party candidates, was a woman who used to be a “madam” (i.e., a female pimp), who advocated, among other things, legalizing prostitution.  Now, in some ways it’s a perfect testimony to the debased state of New York politics that an unrepentant pimp can be treated as a semi-serious candidate for governor.  And it would be easy to dismiss her as a joke.

But to me, this is not a joke, and it’s not funny at all.  It’s a disgrace.  There is a movement in the United States and elsewhere to decriminalize prostitution, and a Canadian judge just struck down that entire nation’s anti-prostitution laws.  It seems that the “sex industry” has become a new darling for the politics of sexual “liberation”.

What all this fails to take into account are the horrors of the life of prostitution and human sexual slavery.  A recent article by a psychologist who has worked with prostitutes for fifteen years makes this clear.  (Warning: this article is only for the strong of heart, and there’s some explicit language).

Some of the salient facts:

  • In one study from Holland, where prostitution is legal, 60% of women prostitutes were physically assaulted, 70% were threatened with physical assault, 40% experienced some kind of sexual violence, and 40% had been coerced into prostitution.
  • After legalization in New Zealand, 35% of prostitutes reported having been coerced into the work.
  • 80% of prostitutes in Holland had been trafficked — forced into sexual slavery.  This number had gone up after legalization.
  • In a multi-national study, 68% of prostitutes suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the way they are treated.
  • 90% of women in prostitution report that they want to escape.
  • The dehumanizing impact on the prostitutes is matched by the degrading effect on men who use these children of God for their momentary sexual pleasure.  Studies show that men who frequently use prostitutes are more likely to be aggressive towards other women in their lives.  Virtually every time a man has sex with a prostitute, he is perpetuating a nightmare of rape and trauma.  Obviously, many become infected with sexually transmitted diseases and give them to their unsuspecting spouses.

    Prostitution is a crime that cries out to heaven for protection.  Rather than de-criminalizing it, or treating it as a “choice” or “profession”, we should be calling for rigorous enforcement of law against human sexual slavery and trafficking, and help the prostitutes escape from that life.  Moreover, we should support aggressively prosecuting those who exploit these victims of virtually institutionalized sexual violence — yes, I’m saying that society should arrest and prosecute the men who patronize prostitutes.  Maybe by shaming them and treating them as sexual abusers, we can help to liberate the prostitutes from their life of misery.

    This situation is far from a joke.  Please pray for all those caught in this terrible life.

    Astonishing — A Judge Who Does the Right Thing

    Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

    I have frequently written some strong criticisms of judges who take matters in their own hands, inventing new law out of the penumbras, emanations and miasmas of their own imaginations.  Judges like Justice Blackmun of Roe v. Wade infamy, or the most recent example, Judge Walker, who struck down Proposition 8.

    I like to call them, derisively, our “Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers on the Courts”, to highlight their high-handed disregard of the rule of law, their replacement of their own political views for the plain meaning of statutes or the Constitution, and their establishment of a virtual judicial oligarchy in place of our constitutional republic.  I’m a bit cynical when it comes to judges.

    But all is not hopeless, because occasionally, a judge will actually come along and do what judges are supposed to do.

    Namely, read the law, and interpret its plain meaning.

    And so, we come to a decision handed down today by Judge Royce Lambert of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.  A case was brought before him, challenging the Obama Administration’s much-heralded relaxation of restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.  The basis for the challenge was a law called the Dickey-Wicker Amdendment, after its original sponsors.  This law is passed annually by Congress as part of the budget process, and it bans federal funding for any “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”

    The wily lawyers representing the Administration claimed that their new regulations didn’t violate that law, because they only paid for research after the embryos were destroyed.  In another context, it would be like arguing that the stolen property received by a fence was legitimately his own property, because somebody else had stolen it.

    Now, many creative judges would undoubtedly have bought into the “logic” of that argument, and upheld the Administration’s position.  But not Judge Lambert.  He actually read the law, saw what it meant in its plain language, and discerned the undeniable scientific fact that any research on stem cell lines derived from human embryos necessarily and always relies upon the destruction of a human embryo.  As a result, Judge Lambert logically and sensibly concluded that the Administration’s policy violates the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, and had to be put on hold for further review.

    I would expect that, in the next few days, we will hear and read all the usual denunciations of opponents of embryonic stem cell research as being “anti-science”, even though we all support research with adult stem cells, which is producing cures and therapies virtually every week.  We will also likely read criticisms of the judge for alleged ideological bias — from those who never find a voice to say anything about courts that routinely substitute their opinions for the duly-enacted laws of our land.  No matter what, the struggle to defend the value of human life at its earliest stages — the embryonic stage — will go on.

    But for one day we can take some satisfaction that there is at least one judge who does not hold himself out to be one of our unelected rulers, and who did the right thing.

    Judge Humpty Dumpty Has Ruled

    Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

    In his classic novel, Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll describes a surreal argument between Alice and Humpty Dumpty over the meaning of words.  The dispute culminates in this exchange:

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

    Mr. Dumpty, meet Judge Vaughn Walker of the federal district court in California.

    Judge Walker has just issued his much-anticipated ruling in the legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8.  That ballot initiative, which was passed by a majority of California’s voters in 2008, overturned an earlier judicial decision requiring the recognition of same-sex “marriages”, and amended the state constitution to ensure that only a man-woman marriage would be recognized by law.

    Earlier this year, Judge Walker held a circus-like trial that was widely condemned for his obvious bias, and for the failure of the State of California to defend it’s own constitution.  It hardly comes as a surprise that the judge has now used his Tom Mix Decoder Ring (or is it his Rose-Colored Glasses) to find a right to same-sex “marriage” hidden deeply within the penumbras, umbras, emanations, exhalations and miasmas of the United States Constitution.  Marriage has been re-defined and constitutionalized to mean nothing that it has ever meant before, nothing that it ever could mean.

    To get a sense of the so-called “merits” of the judge’s ruling, only one quote is necessary to ponder:

    “Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage.”

    As George Orwell once said, “There are some ideas so preposterous that only an intellectual could believe them.” Or, it seems, a federal judge.

    From such a premise, Judge Humpty Dumpty, our Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Ruler on the Court, has blithely repudiated democracy, the rule of law, history, tradition, and common sense.

    Erasing the First Amendment

    Thursday, July 8th, 2010

    When we all studied American History and Civics 101 in school, we were taught that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees religious liberty to all.  It ensures that the government cannot interfere with religious belief or practice, nor canthe state reward or punish religious people or groups for their beliefs.  All religions are to be treated equally, with no favoritism or legal restrictions.  It’s to enjoy this specific freedom that the early settlers, and many of our ancestors, came to this country.  It’s part of what makes America great.

    Too bad that the Supreme Court has been on a path to erase the First Amendment to the Constitution.

    This has nothing to do with the issue of prayer in public schools or copies of the Ten Commandments in public buildings.  It has everything to do with marginalizing and penalizing religious practices that are not popular with the current powers that be.

    The first major instance of this came in 1990, in the case of Employment Division v. Smith.  The case involved the denial of unemployment benefits to several Native Americans, pursuant to a rule that denied benefits to anyone who couldn’t pass a drug test.  But the reason they couldn’t pass the test is because they used the drug peyote in their religious practices — much as we use wine at Mass.  They challenged the law, claiming that it would force them to violate their religious beliefs.

    The Supreme Court held that they were properly denied the benefits, because the government is not required under the Constitution to grant exceptions to neutral laws that apply to all people, even if that law imposes a burden on a person’s religious liberty.  In essence, the Court held that the government can require a person to forego their religious practices — to give up their sacraments — in order to qualify for benefits.

    In one decision, the Court essentially gutted the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment.  The irony is that the majority opinion was by a man whose religion is frequently a subject for attention and comment — the Catholic Justice Scalia.

    The most recent shredding of religious liberty came last week, in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.  This case arose at a public university law school — an arm of a state government.  The Christian Legal Society, an interfaith group of law students, adoped rules that required all its officers and members to subscribe to a basic tenet of Christian moral teaching — that sexual relations are properly reserved only to a man and woman joined in a marriage.  The school denied the organization recognition because of this provision “discriminated” against personw who are engaged in homosexual acts and relationships. The effect of this was to deny the Christian students access to funding and activites that were open to all other kinds of groups (including, ironically, a “gay and lesbian” association).

    The Supreme Court upheld the denial of recognition to the group, holding that the school could require that all student organizations accept anyone who applies, both as members and as leaders.  In essence, the Court decided that the state government has the power to regulate the identity and message of religious organizations, and can force them to accept people who deny or undermine the integrity of their beliefs.  And, by implication, the Court’s decision means that a religious group cannot be a full participant in the “marketplace of ideas” unless its beliefs conform to current standards of political correctness.  In other words, the government can play favorites among religious groups — granting “equal” access to those it approves, and denying it to those it disapproves.

    So much for the “free exercise” and “free association” rights that are supposedly guaranteed under the First Amendment.

    This decision was written by Justice Ginsburg, but was joined by two Catholic Justices, Kennedy and Sotomayor.  Since this was Justice Sotomayor’s first foray into religious liberty jurisprudence, it does not bode well for how she will rule in future cases.

    There is a movement afoot in America to stigmatize religious people who uphold traditional moral teaching (particularly about homosexuality and other sexual subjects) as bigots who do not have to be tolerated in the public square.  Whether they knew so or not, the Justices of the Supreme Court have advanced that agenda and, in doing so, have reduced the liberties of all.

    Here Comes Another Anti-Life Judicial Ruler, Thanks to Our President.

    Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

    So, the President has nominated yet another Ivy League college/law school product to be one of our Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers on the Supreme Court.  Another person who is committed to a legal regime that has no regard for the protection of unborn human beings.

    Is anyone surprised?

    Remember, this is the same President whose spokesman said, last year:

    Q: Looking back to November of 2007, when he was a candidate, he said that he would not appoint somebody who doesn’t believe in a right to privacy [i.e., the right to abortion]. Does he stand by that now that he’s President?

    MR. GIBBS: Absolutely…. I think he believes that the right to privacy in the case of Roe v. Wade… was settled and was in his mind settled correctly.

    And the same President who said just two weeks ago that he was looking for:

    “somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women’s rights. And that’s going to be something that is very important to me…. somebody who believes that women should have the ability to make often very difficult decisions about their own bodies and issues of reproduction.”

    The President, of course, mouths all the usual pieties about not having a “litmus test” for judges, particularly when it comes to abortion.  But try a thought experiment for a second.  Can anyone imagine this President considering the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice who might overturn Roe v. Wade?

    To ask the question is to answer it.  Of course he wouldn’t.  The President is so deeply immersed in anti-life attitudes and beliefs that it would never even occur to him to appoint such a person.  Remember, this is the man who is so incoherent in his legal thinking that he can be 100% pro-abortion in all of his policies and positions, and still say this:

    “I want my Justice to understand that part of the role of the court is to look out for the people who don’t have political power. The people who are on the outside. The people who aren’t represented. The people who don’t have a lot of money; who don’t have connections. That’s the role of the court.”

    Above the main entrance to the Supreme Court building,  where this new nominee will likely rule us for decades, there is an inscription: “Equal Justice Under Law”.

    That statement is a lie, and as long as this President makes appointments to the bench, it will continue to be a lie.