In a victory for religious liberty, the United States Supreme Court granted an injunction last Wednesday, protecting two New York religious organizations from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's executive order that imposed "very severe restrictions on attendance at religious services in areas classified as 'red' or 'orange' zones" pending a decision on the merits of the case by the Second Circuit.
The Court's unsigned per curiam opinion was joined by Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. Both Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh wrote concurring opinions. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a dissenting opinion. Justice Breyer also authored a dissenting opinion that Justices Sotomayor and Kagan joined. Justice Sotomayor wrote her own dissenting opinion joined by Justice Kagan.Read more
On Friday, the Supreme Court denied a Nevada church's emergency application for injunctive relief to allow the church to operate beyond the limit placed on them by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak. The church was challenging the Governor's Directive 021 which allows large groups at restaurants, bars, casinos, gyms, bowling alleys, indoor amusement parks, water parks, and pools as long as they remain at a 50% fire-code capacity limit. However, places of worship are limited to a 50-person limit regardless of the available facilities or precautions taken. The church alleges that the Governor's directive violates the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment. While the Court's denial of the church's application was a single sentence long, the 4 dissenting Justices wrote 3 separate dissents totaling 24 pages expressing their concerns over the Governor's blatant disregard for religious Nevadans' Constitutional rights.Read more
One of the hallmarks of the Trump Administration has been placing judges on the federal bench. As of June, President Trump had his 200th federal judicial nominee confirmed by the Senate. Notably President Trump has appointed two justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. One of the most lasting effects of these appointments has been the strengthening of religious liberty which has been under attack over the past several decades. In this past year’s term alone, the Court handed down 3 major victories for religious liberty in Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, and Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania.Read more
Today, the Supreme Court held in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that, under the Free Exercise Clause, if a state has a program giving public dollars to citizens to use at private schools, it cannot tell those citizens that the money can only be used at non-religious private schools. Montana had decided that its scholarship program funds could not be used at religious schools under the state's Blaine Amendment, a legacy of a failed anti-Catholic amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Many First Amendment advocates hope this opinion proves to be a fatal blow to the discriminatory anti-religious Blaine Amendments still found in many state constitutions.Read more
Today’s decisions by the Supreme Court were a mixed bag. First, any way you look at it, Chief Justice Robert’s decision in June Medical Services v. Russo is hard to reconcile with his dissent in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. From SCOTUSblog:
Four years ago, by a vote of 5-3, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that (among other things) required doctors who perform abortions to have the right to admit patients at a nearby hospital. In that case, Justice Anthony Kennedy joined his four more liberal colleagues in holding that, although Texas has a genuine interest in protecting the health of pregnant women, there was no evidence that the law actually did anything to promote that interest – but it did make it more difficult for women to get an abortion. Kennedy is no longer on the court, but today it was Chief Justice John Roberts who joined the court’s four liberals in ruling in June Medical Services v. Russo that a similar law from Louisiana is unconstitutional – even as he maintained that he continues to believe that the Texas case was wrongly decided.Read more
Today, Justice Gorsuch's new book, A Republic if You Can Keep was officially released.
Early reviews and comments indicate that President Trump hit a home run when he nominated Justice Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Here are few quotes about and from the book that have come out in the last few days.Read more
Despite criminal referrals and the involvement of ne'er-do-wells like Michael Avenatti, one group, “Demand Justice,” is continuing its groundless attacks on Justice Brett Kavanaugh. As Ashe Schow writes in the Dailywire in an article entitled “Former Hillary Clinton Spox Is Trying To Get Brett Kavanaugh Fired From His Teaching Job:”Read more
Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Rucho v. Common Cause, a partisan gerrymandering claim against North Carolina's congressional map, and Lamone v. Benisek, a First Amendment retaliation partisan gerrymandering claim against one Maryland state legislative district. Both cases were before the Court last term and were sent back to the district courts for further proceedings. As in the past, today the justices continued to search for a justiciably manageable standard for considering partisan gerrymandering claims:Read more