In Brief — The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) — now back to nine justices with the elevation of Neil Gorsuch — determines the direction of the country. The author explains how the conservative justices will set the tone for the foreseeable future. [Written in April-May 2017.]
Partisanship and Conservatism Rule —
“Theft” is what it’s been called. The Republican theft of a seat on SCOTUS is a stain on American justice that will go down in the annals of jurisprudence for decades. With ten months yet to go in his second term, President Barack Obama nominated the well-qualified moderate Merrick Garland to fill the seat that had been occupied by conservative Antonin Scalia.
Garland had been enthusiastically confirmed by Republicans and Democrats alike when he was named to the Appeals Court of the District of Columbia Circuit in 1997. What a difference from 2017 when the Republicans were in power.
For ten months, Senator Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues refused to give Garland a hearing in the Senate, saying that not only would they not “advise and consent” regarding Garland but if a Democrat were elected president, they wouldn’t approve anybody not to their liking. Thus, they made SCOTUS a partisan body.
Now let’s look at the odds of how SCOTUS will rule on cases dealing with religion, women’s rights and the death penalty.
Religion and the First Amendment —
The First Amendment to the Constitution essentially states — among other important matters — that there must be no interference with the religious rights of the citizens. Well-settled case law extends that right to others and those who don’t believe in a deity. It should be noted that notwithstanding this, several states still ban non-believers from holding office and Trump would deny entry to Muslims.
As I’ve previously stated, all of the conservative justices, including newly elevated Neil Gorsuch, are devout Roman Catholics. There is an old fable about allowing a camel’s nose into the tent. It is a warning that permitting even a small incursion can lead to a more dangerous one. SCOTUS has already allowed religion into public life. Today we have five conservative justices who are devout Roman Catholics. How are they likely to rule on cases dealing with religion? Such a case is before SCOTUS now.
By now you will have read my blog piece “Gorsuching the Supreme Court.” If you missed that, by all means go back and read it. If these two entries don’t light your fire, you aren’t paying attention.
Women and Their Own Bodies —
Conservatives — particularly religious conservatives — are slavering to control what a woman does with her own body. They lie when they say a woman’s pregnancy begins when a sperm enters the egg. This is a religious myth. In fact, pregnancy begins when the fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus. The myth fits well with the views of the conservatives on SCOTUS because it allows them to say that contraception and abortion are alike. It’s a genuine threat to science if SCOTUS holds that a woman’s pregnancy occurs as soon as sperm enters the egg.
.I’ve written only of contraception and abortion, but the Republicans have targeted Planned Parenthood, people of color, Muslims, immigrants, voting rights and much more, but this blog piece is focused on just three fronts in the war for America’s soul.
It’s long been assumed that legal precedent — what has gone before — should guide a court in deciding cases. That can be deadly when the blinkered past controls modern times, but when current medical science informs an issue, then precedent should rule. Will the Roman Catholic conservatives on SCOTUS allow Rome to control American law? Is the pope Catholic?
The Death Penalty —
Arkansas rushed to kill death row prisoners before the state’s supply of questionable drugs expired at the end of April. Although the state politicians’ motivation is abhorrent, SCOTUS conservatives — not least newly elevated Neil Gorsuch — eagerly approved the killings brought before them. What follows are the rationales for incarceration and the death penalty.
The purposes of incarceration are fourfold (sometimes fivefold):
- 1) Retribution, i.e., society’s right to inflict harm on a convicted criminal who presumably harmed society. The death penalty falls within this category. In plain words, it is revenge;
- 2) Incapacitation, i.e., a convicted criminal cannot commit crimes while imprisoned;
- 3) Deterrence, i.e., the threat of punishment presumably prevents other people from criminal acts;
- 4) Rehabilitation, i.e., Changing for the better the convicted criminal. Rehabilitation is said to include vocational training, counseling and, if needed, drug treatment. Good luck with that!
The possible fifth rationale for incarceration is that the convicted criminal has a chance of at least partially paying back the victim. This is seldom applicable.
For incarceration to be justified, the punishment must fall within at least one of the above.
Thanks to Trump, Sen. McConnell and the Republican Party what America now has is a partisan, religion-friendly SCOTUS. Do I need to remind you that the 2018 general election gives the American voters a chance to send the Republicans home with their tails between their legs? Will they?
The Weekly Sampler—
As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.
If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.
Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.
Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on February 2016.