It wasn’t a “driveway moment” because I wasn’t in my driveway, I wasn’t sitting in the car listening to the radio to hear the end of a story that had sucked me in. No, I was still on the road headed home from the grocery store when I heard two words that broke through and provided some clarity of mind, finally, amid the onslaught of distressing rulings from the Supreme Court of the United States.
Just a week ago, the court’s six “conservative” justices ruled that a program in Maine that subsidizes tuition for certain private schools in rural areas of the state cannot exclude religious private schools from the program. Two days later the same six found that a New York law placing strict limits on carrying guns in public violates the Second Amendment. And the day after that, those same six members not only found that a Mississippi ban on abortions after just 15 weeks was constitutional, they went the extra step and overturned the nearly 50-year old precedent of their own court that established a woman’s right to an abortion.
The separation of church and state. The rights to privacy, and to safety, individual liberty, and self-determination. The targets of this Supreme Court and the “conservative” movement in general couldn’t be clearer. With each new Republican-appointed justice on the court, and each new ruling by the new majority, they demonstrate their mission to remake America as a paradigm of Christian nationalism. It seems clear that the decades-long mission to destroy the secular society that has grown up since World War II just can’t be denied, not even when the inconvenience of the facts gets in the way.
It was Nina Totenberg on the radio reporting on the ruling in favor of the high school coach who insisted on holding a prayer circle at midfield after football games, and Justice Neil Gorsuch’s opinion scolded the school district:
“Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a personal religious observance, based on a mistaken view that it has a duty to suppress religious observances even as it allows comparable secular speech. The Constitution neither mandates nor tolerates that kind of discrimination. Mr. Kennedy is entitled to summary judgment on his religious exercise and free speech claims,” Gorsuch wrote.
The three dissenters said that account of the facts blinkered reality (emphasis added). Writing for the three liberals, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that Kennedy’s prayer was neither private speech, nor benign. She pointed to the fact that the coach conducted a media blitz leading ultimately to the field being stormed and students being knocked down. And she said “schools face a higher risk of unconstitutionally ‘coerc[ing] … support or participat[ion] in religion or its exercise’ than other government entities.”
“This decision does a disservice to schools and the young citizens they serve, as well as to our Nation’s longstanding commitment to the separation of church and state,” Sotomayor wrote. “Today’s decision elevates the rights of a school coach who voluntarily accepted public employment, over the rights of students required to attend public schools and who may feel obligated to join in prayer.” In doing so, Sotomayor claims, the court gives “short shrift” to the constitutions ban on state entanglement with religion.
University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock usually files briefs siding with religion advocates. But not in this case. He called Monday’s ruling, “fundamentally dishonest” and pointed to the third sentence of the Gorsuch opinion, which characterizes coach Kennedy’s conduct as “quiet isolated prayers,” stating, “They weren’t quiet and they weren’t isolated. They were leading the students in prayer, and to say that’s okay undermines all the school prayer cases.” By that he means Supreme Court decisions barring teacher- or student-led prayers in public school classrooms, and ceremonies like graduation.
It was like a fire alarm went off inside my head: “fundamentally dishonest.”
Yes—the fundamental dishonesty of these justices, and of the Christian religious extremists who have been fighting the secularization of American society for generations! They have had a winking understanding with a certain segment of America: anything is permissible—the end justifies the means—when it comes to returning America to be the Christian country we all “know” it should be, including lying under oath in order to gain positions of power. Don’t believe me? Look at the video of the confirmation hearings over the years of the “conservative” justices now on the court: is it just a coincidence that when the Senate Judiciary Committees asked these nominees about Roe v. Wade, these individuals had the same answer, in virtually the same words, words meant to leave the impression that they believed in the doctrine of stare decisis in general and specifically for this case? I think not.
In a concurring opinion on Dobbs, Justice Clarence Thomas says the quiet part out loud about using the wedge they perfected in overturning Roe to take aim at other precedents that guarantee other rights to Americans.
“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” Thomas wrote on Page 119 of the opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, also referring to the rulings that legalized same-sex relationships and marriage equality, respectively. “Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous’ … we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.”
Just coincidence, right, that the other cases on his mind are the ones that guaranteed the rights to same-sex marriage, and same-sex sex, and the use of birth control. BIRTH CONTROL!? He wants to return to a time when the use of birth control by married couples in the privacy of their own home could be and was prohibited by states? Who can even imagine such a thing?
I know who…so do you. And I don’t take any comfort—at all—in the protestation from the other five “conservative” justices that “[n]othing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.” When there is fundamental dishonesty, I have doubts.