Archive for the ‘Supreme Court’ Category

The Supreme Court Casts Us Beyond the Pale

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Our black-robed Platonic guardian rulers on the United States Supreme Court have now decreed that the federal government — the democratically-elected Congress and the President, that is — may not define the word “marriage” to mean what it always has meant, and always been understood to mean.  Our entire legal history and tradition, dating back to its roots in Roman and English law, has now, at the stroke of a pen of five unelected judges, been swept into the dust heap.

The Court’s specific ruling was to strike down a section of the Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed by wide majorities in both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Clinton.  This provision stated that for the purposes of federal law, “marriage” could only mean a union of one man and one woman.  Until ten years ago, that provision of law would have been completely unremarkable, indeed, unnecessary.  After all, until a decade ago, nobody would have considered it possible that any person would consider “marriage” to mean anything different.

But now, in the post-modern world of ethical, moral, and rational relativism, words no longer mean what they have always meant.  And “democracy” certainly no longer means government “of the people, by the people, and for the people”.

Instead, five Justices (including one who graduated from my own alma mater, Cardinal Spellman High School) have decided that anyone who believes that “marriage” means “one man, one woman”, is irrational, motivated solely by hatred and a desire to stigmatize and insult homosexual persons.  Yes, the Supreme Court has now said that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the vast majority of Protestant communities, Orthodox Jews, virtually all Muslims, and many others of no faith, are mere bigots.  We have been cast out of polite society.

This may sound like “sour grapes” or hyperbole.  So don’t just take my word for it, consider this section from Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent from the Court’s judgment:

But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions…  In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” ”injure,” “degrade,” ”demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.

The Court’s calumny of our position is, of course, utter nonsense.  There are an abundance of rational reasons to defend the authentic definition of marriage.   Just consider the scholarly arguments made in the recent book What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense by Robert George, Ryan Anderson, and Sherif Gergis.  Or, you could watch this video of a presentation I gave to a parish meeting to explain the many reasons that support the real definition of marriage.

It is a sad day when millions of Americans have been slandered by the Supreme Court.  It is sad when reason, history and tradition are traduced so casually.  And it is even sadder when one of the highest institutions of our government gravely wounds the fundamental  structure of society.

The Supreme Court’s Religious Freedom Mess

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Some day, maybe, if we wish hard enough and clap until Tinkerbell’s light comes back on, the Supreme Court will fix the mess that it’s made of First Amendment religion jurisprudence.

Plain Meaning

The First Amendment deals with two basic categories of religious rights in the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.  They read as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

At the time that the First Amendment was enacted, these provisions only applied to Congress, but since then the Supreme Court has applied it to the states as well, under the theory that they were incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment’s limitations on state power.  Also, at the time that the Amendment was enacted, the meaning of these phrases was pretty self-evident.

The Establishment Clause meant that there could be no “established church” — namely, a church that had enjoyed special legal status, that received unique privileges under the law, and that all citizens were either required to belong to or financially support.  Established churches were the norm in most European countries at that time, so our Founding Fathers knew well what it meant — all citizens would experience legal coercion to belong to that church, or would suffer penalties for not belonging.

The Free Exercise Clause was also well understood at the time.  It meant that the government could not forbid, restrict, or penalize people from practicing their faith.  This provision guaranteed that — in the words of the Maryland Toleration Act of 1649 — people would not be “troubled, molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof”. Perhaps the best statement of the well-understood meaning of the Free Exercise Clause was by George Washington, in his letter to the Jewish population of Newport, Rhode Island:

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

As we all know well, one of the main reasons that people have come to America was to enjoy these guarantees of religious freedom.  That was true in the colonial era, and it remains true now.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made a complete hash of the religion clauses of the First Amendment, with the result that the freedoms they guarantee have become threatened.

The Establishment Clause Muddle

The most recent example of this came the other day, when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in a case arising out of Utah.  A private organization was founded to recognize and remember state troopers who died in the line of duty on the highways of that state.  They worked with family members to erect a memorial cross (or another symbol, at the choice of the family) near the site of the trooper’s death.  They obtained permission from the state highway authorities to do so, with the understanding that the state did not pay for or endorse the symbol erected.

Naturally, a group of Christophobic atheists brought suit, claiming that the erection of the memorials violated the Establishment Clause.  The theory was that the use of the cross as a symbol of remembrance would signal that somehow the State of Utah was endorsing the Christian religion — a particular irony, since the majority of citizens of that state are not Christians, but Mormons.

Anyone who reads the bare words of the Establishment Clause, and considers its original and plain meaning, would find this an easy case — permitting private people to put up a memorial cross on the side of the road does nothing to create a state church, and there’s nothing in such a gesture that would coerce anyone into joining or supporting any such church, or would penalize anyone for not joining.

Sadly, the Supreme Court’s religion jurisprudence is such a mess that the federal Court of Appeals ruled that the memorial crosses violated the Establishment Clause, and the Supreme Court declined to review the case.  Justice Clarence Thomas, in his dissent from the Court’s ducking of the issue, commented on the absurdity of it all:

Since the inception of the endorsement test, we have learned that a creche displayed on government property violates the Establishment Clause, except when it doesn’t… Likewise, a menorah displayed on government property violates the Establishment Clause, except when it doesn’t… A display of the Ten Commandments on government property also violates the Establishment Clause, except when it doesn’t… Finally, a cross displayed on government property violates the Establishment Clause, as the Tenth Circuit held here, except when it doesn’t…  Such arbitrariness is the product of an Establishment Clause jurisprudence that does nothing to constrain judicial discretion.

The Empty Free Exercise Clause

The Supreme Court has not shown much more wisdom in interpreting the Free Exercise Clause, and in fact has virtually emptied it of any meaning.

In the case of Employment Division v. Smith (1990), the Court was faced with a case involving the denial of unemployment benefits to several Native Americans, under 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.

At that time, the Native Americans looked to have a good case.  The Supreme Court had previously held that a law could not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless the government had a compelling interest and the law was narrowly defined to serve that interest.  Under that standard, it would appear that the use of ritual peyote — much like the use of sacramental wine, in the face of blanket alcohol prohibitions — would have to be permitted as an exception to the law.

The Supreme Court instead changed the rules, and held that they were properly denied the benefits.  The Court held that 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 said 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.  The irony is that the majority opinion was by a man whose religion is frequently a subject for attention and comment — Justice Scalia, who is a Catholic.

Where this Leaves Us

These may seem like arcane bits of legal doctrine, but they are highly relevant to a central issue facing us at this time — the extent of religious liberty in the United States.  Policies and laws are being pursued that disqualify Christian and Catholic people from full participation in society, and that penalize churches that disagree with or refuse to comply with government policies.

If applied according to their plain meaning, the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses would offer protection from such measures.  Sadly, the Supreme Court has made such a mess of things that the First Amendment may offer little protection to those whose ancestors who came here to America seeking religious liberty.

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.

Varia

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

The following are some of the highlights from the daily email briefing about news and events, which I send out to some of my friends and contacts (if you’re interested in subscribing to the daily mailing, leave your email address in the comments box):

  • Archbishop Dolan, in his role as President of the US Bishops, has written to Congress to lay out the Bishops’ legislative concerns.
  • Must-read of the week — Kathryn Jean Lopez reflects on the reaction to the Tuscon shootings, and why we still countenance violence against the most innocent among us.  Here’s how she closes: “Abortion is a violence we should open our eyes to see and stop rather than keeping quiet and accepting it. It’s one that a civil society can work to stop. Peacefully, with love and support.”
  • Excellent rebuttal of the “lazy slander” against pro-lifers, that we only care about babies before they’re born, and do nothing to help mothers afterwards.
  • Two fine opinion pieces today about NYC’s tragically high abortion rate:  one by former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin in the NY Post and another by Bill McGurn in the Wall St. Journal.
  • Well, the House GOP leaders have made their statement by voting to repeal the health care law.  Now it’s time to make a difference by defunding abortion.
  • In a further step along the way to the compete commodification of human life, rich clueless celebrities who buy the services of surrogate mothers are now denying their humanity, calling them “gestational carriers”.
  • Our Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers on the Supreme Court have declined to hear the Washington DC same-sex “marriage” case — you know, the one where “We the People” were trying to get the issue on the ballot so that democracy could have a say on the law, but a panel of bureaucrats decided that the “We the People” should go into the corner and be quiet?
  • Sargent Shriver, perhaps the last of the old-line Catholic, pro-life Democrats, has passed into eternal life.  One of the good guys.  Rest in peace.
  • Eduardo Verastegui — the unfairly-handsome actor from the pro-life movie “Bella” — is going to finance the building of the largest pro-life women’s clinic in the United States, in Los Angeles.
  • (Please note that these links will take you to websites that are not affiliated with the Archdiocese.  We neither take responsibility for nor endorse the contents of the websites.)

    Varia

    Monday, January 10th, 2011

    The following are some of the highlights from the daily email briefing about news and events, which  I send out to some of my friends and contacts (if you’re interested in subscribing to the daily mailing, leave your email address in the comments box):

  • An overview of the national campaign to shut down pregnancy support centers.  For more information on what’s happening here in New York City with the New York City Council bill that targets pregnancy centers, see here.
  • Ross Douthat, in the Times, reflects on the paradox in American culture when it comes to the unborn child.  His closing line says it all: “This is the paradox of America’s unborn. No life is so desperately sought after, so hungrily desired, so carefully nurtured. And yet no life is so legally unprotected, and so frequently destroyed.”
  • Here’s the Times’ formula for marriage — it’s all about me, how you make me feel, how much “self-expansion” I find in our relationship (and they’re not talking about my waistline!).  You can even take a quiz to see how selfish, er, I mean “self-expansive” your attitude towards your marriage is.  Me + me + me + me + me = Unhappiness + Divorce.
  • The impending GOP effort to repeal the health care law piecemeal will likely include a new attempt at banning abortion funding.
  • A profile of the new pro-life members of Congress.  80 of the 87 new GOP House members are pro-life.  And here’s an interview with Chris Smith, pro-life hero in Congress.
  • Strong anti-porn article in the New York Daily News.
  • More proof, this time from Spain, that the availability and use of contraception does not reduce abortion, since abortion is being used as the contraceptive of last resort.
  • Justice Scalia repeats his position that the Constitution does not guarantee the right to an abortion.  The Justice is certainly not a Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Ruler, but he is a dedicated legal positivist, and believes that if legislatures pass laws authorizing the killing of human beings, that’s perfectly fine with the Constitution — despite its guarantee of equal protection of law to all persons.
  • In announcing his “transformational plan for a new New York”, our Governor made sure to find space for a call to pass the radical Reproductive Health Act and to legalize same-sex “marriage”.  Start contacting your legislators.
  • Those enlightened, tolerant souls over at Apple Corp continue to rebuff the Manhattan Declaration (the interfaith statement of religious commitment to life, marriage, and religious liberty) by rejecting their app for the iPhone.  Apple, which is happy to receive the money of Christians for their gadgets, calls the Manhattan Declaration “objectionable and potentially harmful to others” because of its opposition to same-sex “marriage”.  If you haven’t signed the Declaration yet, please consider doing so, and please sign their petition to Apple.
  • (Please note that these links will take you to websites that are not affiliated with the Archdiocese.  We neither take responsibility for nor endorse the contents of the websites.)

    Varia

    Thursday, December 30th, 2010

    The following are some of the highlights from the daily email briefing about news and events, which  I send out to some of my friends and contacts (if you’re interested in subscribing to the daily mailing, leave your email address in the comments box):

  • The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a statement regarding the Holy Father’s comment about condoms.  In essence — there were no changes in Church teaching, as any attentive reader would already have understood.
  • Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix revoked the Catholic status of a hospital that approved an abortion (and which has been involved in cooperation with contraception, sterilization and abortion in other cases) and that refused to acknowledge the bishop’s authority to oversee their compliance with Catholic ethics.  Story and Bishop’s Olmstead’s full statement.
  • Rather than humbly submitting to the judgment of the Bishop, the Catholic Health Association has once again wounded unity in the Church by siding with the hospital against the Bishop.  Amazing, since the Ethical and Religious Directives, which is cited as authoritative by CHA, gives the ultimate moral authority to the diocesan Bishop, not to CHA or to the hospital.
  • More facts about the situation, directly from Bishop Olmstead.  For those who want the Canon Law side of the story, check out this analysis.
  • One of the tactics of the same-sex “marriage” movement is to brand us all as “haters”.  The strategy is to “marginalize, privatize, anathematize”.
  • Meanwhile, this headline says it all: “Obama ‘wrestling’ with same-sex marriage”.  Yeah, as if the outcome of that wrestling match is really in doubt.
  • It appears that Sonia Sotomayor is now a leader of the “liberal wing” of our Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers on the Supreme Court.  This will, no doubt, become even more evident when the first abortion or “same-sex marriage” case reaches Mount Olympus.
  • A Ugandan Archbishop decries child sacrifice, which is rampant in that troubled nation.  The Cult of Moloch lives on.
  • Speaking of the demon and his devotees, the Temple of Moloch, er, I mean Planned Parenthood, has ejected one of its chapters because they didn’t want to perform abortions.  Oh, but they’re just “pro-choice”, not “pro-abortion”, right?
  • While the Cult of Moloch continues to say that crisis pregnancy centers mislead pregnant girls, check out Kathryn Jean Lopez’s piece on the MTV show “16 and Pregnant”, and you’ll understand how our culture and the abortion industry consistently and blatantly lie to pregnant women.
  • Some useful advice from scientists — really.  If you want your relationship to survive, make sure you speak about “we”, instead of “you and me”.  You could also follow their advice delay sex until marriage, which can strengthen your relationship.
  • What do men want more than anything else from the women in their lives?  To be admired.   Here’s the other side of the story — what women want is to be loved by a man they admire.  Now that’s an agenda for a good marriage.
  • (Please note that these links will take you to websites that are not affiliated with the Archdiocese.  We neither take responsibility for nor endorse the contents of the websites.)

    Varia

    Friday, November 12th, 2010

    The following are some of the highlights from the daily email briefing about news and events, which  I send out to some of my friends and contacts (if you’re interested in subscribing to the daily mailing, leave your email address in the comments box):

  • Msgr. Charles Pope of Washington makes clear that abortion is not a political issue.
  • Contrary to the media presentation, Americans are actually surprisingly united on moral issues.  Hence Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson’s new book: Beyond a House Divided. Here’s Kathryn Jean Lopez’s interview with the Supreme Knight.
  • USCCB’s staff, including pro-life ace Richard Doerflinger, give an outlook on the new Congress.
  • New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie vetoed three bills the other day, with the effect of de-funding the Temple of Moloch, er, I mean Planned Parenthood.
  • The Times recognizes that miscarriage can leave a psychological effect.  Of course, they continue to deny that abortion does so too.  Meanwhile, Prof. Michael New provides an important response to a biased news report that denied the mental health effects of abortion on women.  Why won’t they just listen to post-abortive women?
  • No doubt realizing that the democratic process won’t give them what they want, same-sex “marriage” activists turn to our Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers on the courts, and file more challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act.
  • A quirky ad campaign in the UK to keep Christ in Christmas features a sonogram picture of a baby with a halo, and the message “He’s on His Way”.  Naturally, all the usual suspects are taking umbrage.
  • Today is the anniversary of the day on which former fetus Harry Blackmun emerged from the penumbras and emanations of his mother’s womb and became a “person” with rights which people are bound to respect.  He was destined to serve as one of our worst-ever Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers on the Supreme Court.  His execrable decision in Roe v. Wade doomed millions of his fellow human beings to death.
  • Varia

    Friday, October 22nd, 2010

    The following are some of the highlights from the daily email briefing about news and events, which  I send out to some of my friends and contacts:

  • The Daily News editorialized against the discriminatory bill in the New York City Council that targets crisis pregnancy centers by violating their First Amendment rights.
  • The other day, there was a debate among the candidates for New York’s governorship. One of the minor party candidates was a woman who advocated legalizing prostitution. It would be easy to dismiss her as a joke, except for the horrors of the life of prostitution and human sexual slavery. If you have a strong heart, read this account by a psychologist who has worked with prostitutes for years (warning about some strong language). Please pray for all those caught in this terrible life.
  • Another step into the Brave New World — scientists have developed an “artificial ovary”. Fr. Thomas Berg explains the science and the ethics.
  • Fascinating analysis of poll data about Catholics’ belief in — and knowledge about — the doctrine of the Real Presence. What’s remarkable is how many Protestants believe in the Real Presence, too.  As always, the Body of Christ is a source of unity.
  • Dr. Mildred Jefferson, a pro-life stalwart and pioneer, has passed away. May God receive this heroic woman into His arms.
  • Andrew Cuomo showed his true colors once again, trumpeting his support for the legalized killing of unborn children, which appears to be a centerpiece of his agenda.
  • An interesting poll that shows significant shifts in political views among Catholics. There’s a bit too much emphasis on race in the report, and not enough on Church attendance, which I suspect is a more significant factor, but it’s still illuminating.
  • A frightening overview of the grave threat of low birth rates and the aging of the population worldwide.
  • More studies showing the increased risk of breast cancer among women who have had abortions.  You’d never know this by reading the regular media, which ignores this evidence.
  • Last Saturday was the anniversary of the day in 1898 that former fetus William O. Douglas emerged from the emanations and penumbras of his mother’s right to privacy and became a person whose Constitutional rights we are bound to respect. Douglas went on to become one of our worst Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers on the Supreme Court, including writing the abominable Griswold decision (with its infamous “emanations” and “penumbras” and its “right to privacy”) and joining the Roe v. Wade and Doe v.  Bolton majorities, thereby dooming millions of unborn children to un-personhood and death.
  • 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.