Tuesday, July 5, 2022

A Supreme Court Majority that will Stop at Nothing

Is there an end point where the conservative majority of the current Supreme Court completes their quest to erode our basic rights? What does that look like?

The Supreme Court’s recent rulings have shown how far the 6-3 conservative majority are willing to erode a wide variety of fundamental rights in this country. It’s not simply about the power of states versus that of the federal government. According to these justices, it’s fine to allow states to restrict abortion but not restrict carrying handguns. It’s okay for the states to violate the sovereignty of Native lands defined by federal laws but not okay for the federal regulations to apply to industrial polluters in states that don’t favor that control. It’s acceptable for states to racially discriminate when redistricting, but it’s not acceptable for the federal government to discriminate against religious schools who want federal funds or school teachers who lead non-private, group prayers at public school events.

Disallowing States to Require Demonstrable Need by Gun Owners to Carry Handguns for Personal Protection - New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. Bruen

On June 23rd, the Supreme Court struck down a 100 year old New York state law requiring those desiring to carry handguns for personal protection to first show a need to do so.  The conservative majority opinion echoes the National Rifle Association’s assertion that any restriction on gun ownership is a violation of the 2nd Amendment. This decision puts similar state laws in Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, Hawaii, and here in Maryland at risk. Based on historical studies on the effects of changes in gun laws over time, gun control advocates predict a higher number of handguns and handgun-related crimes to occur in urban areas. 

Allowing States to Severely Restrict or Outlaw Abortion – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

On June 24th, the Supreme Court allowed a highly restrictive Mississippi state law to stand, effectively overturning Roe v. Wade and 50 years of abortion rights. Thirteen states had previously passed “trigger bans” – laws that were automatically enacted once the ruling became official. The three liberal justices, in their joint dissent, wrote, “As of today, this Court holds, a state can always force a woman to give birth, prohibiting even the earliest abortions.” The fundamental human right of bodily autonomy (the bioethical principle on which the right to abortion rests) was formalized shortly after World War II’s Nuremberg Trials, during which details regarding the medical experimentation, and consequently torture, done by Nazi doctors on nonconsenting, mostly Jewish, prisoners, came to light.

Elevating the Rights of Christians and Christian Institutions Above those of Other Citizens – Kennedy v. Bremerton School District and Carson v. Makin

The Constitution’s guarantees of free speech and religious exercise are tempered by the separation of church and state applied to government-funded entities like public schools and, differently, for private religious schools. On June 23rd, the Supreme Court struck down a Maine state law that disallowed Christian religious schools from participating in a state-funded voucher program. While religious schools provide alternatives to students, they also have the power to bar gay and transgender students and teachers, a practice prohibited in public schools by federal anti-discrimination laws. On June 27th, the Supreme Court ruled that a high-school football coach was improperly disciplined for leading a post-game prayer. The dissenting justices wrote, “Today’s decision elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this Court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection.”

Eroding the Sovereignty of Native Americans’ Lands – Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta

On June 29th, the Supreme Court rolled back the rights of Native Americans, allowing states to prosecute crimes committed by non-Native people on tribal lands. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation released a statement, saying “This will have a ripple effect throughout Indian Country across the United States,” adding that “public safety would be better served by expanding Tribal authority to prosecute any crime committed by any offender within our reservation boundaries rather than empowering entities that have demonstrated a lack of commitment to public safety on Indian lands.”

Limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s Regulatory Power – West Virginia v. EPA

Also on June 29th, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had exceeded its authority in regulating the carbon emissions of existing power plants. These emissions are a chief contributor to climate change, and the ruling jeopardizes President Biden’s plan of the U.S. power grid running on clean energy by 2035, then making the US economy carbon-neutral by 2050. In a 6-3 vote, the conservative majority created a precedent where “The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decisionmaker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan in the dissent. 

Diluting Black Votes through Racist Gerrymandering and Redistricting – Emergency Order

On June 28th, the Supreme Court granted a request by Louisiana’s Republican secretary of state, temporarily halting a lower court’s ruling and allowing a highly racially-gerrymandered Louisiana congressional district to remain during the 2022 midterm elections. Earlier, a federal judge rejected the Republican-drawn map for violating the Voting Rights Act, as it concentrated Black voters into two, majority-Black districts. Even though about one-third of the state’s population is African-American, decades of gerrymandering have given Republicans a solid majority in five out of six congressional districts.

In response, we demand a Moral Revolution:

  • A lack of common sense gun laws in our country have resulted not just in increasing violence in our streets, grocery stores, churches, and schools, but the militarization of our police forces. The excessive amount of funds allocated to body armor, bullet-resistant shields, and higher caliber weaponry for use by law enforcement has not made us safer. We demand gun control, especially regulation of automatic, high magazine capacity, weapons. We also demand new local, state, and national budget priorities, so that social issues that exacerbate gun violence can be simultaneously addressed. 

  • In addition to violating the bioethical imperative of bodily autonomy as a fundamental human right, abortion restrictions and bans are an effective distraction technique used to keep poor and low-wealth communities at odds. In European countries where abortion is easily available, free of cost, and not stigmatized, the actual rate of abortions performed is roughly half that in the US, adjusted for population differences. Life-saving abortion access is a low-income person’s issue – one that crosses all political, racial, ethnic, religious lines.

  • Christian nationalist organizations focus on issues like prayer in school, abortion, and gun rights that distort the national moral narrative, while ignoring the moral commitments enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. We have the right to ground our laws and public policies in a moral narrative that prioritizes and follows our deepest Constitutional moral commitments to justice. Faith is an important part of daily life for million of Americans. But our country was founded in part because of a desire to separate church and state, not favoring any one belief system. Eroding that separation opens the door to some of the abusive prejudices that exist in many organized religions infiltrating our public life. 

  • We demand that industries be held accountable for their air the pollution, as the poor live on the frontlines of climate change and bear the brunt of costs and impacts of climate volatility. We demand 100 percent clean, renewable energy and a public jobs program to transition to a green economy that will put millions of people in sustainable living wage jobs. Environmental terrorism is perpetrated every day by multinational companies who curry favor with sympathetic state or local leaders, and poor and low-wealth people are most likely to sicken and die because of this abuse.

  • First Nations, Native Americans, and Alaskan Natives have a right to their political and cultural institutions, lands, and resources. We demand that Native people retain their tribal recognition as nations, not races, to make substantive claims to their sovereignty. Trespassing upon the federally-recognized statuses of Native Americans under the guise of enforcing the law is not a solution to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women or the violation of natural resources, like clean water, by various energy and development corporations.

  • We demand the immediate full restoration and expansion of the Voting Rights Act, including an end to racist gerrymandering and redistricting. We demand and end to all voter suppression, that mostly targets people of color and poor and low-wealth people. Louisiana is just one of many states that have used the demise of the Voting Rights Act to force legislation creating extremely gerrymandered districts that ensure non-white voters are denied proper representation at every level of government.  

Based on the Demands of the Poor People's Campaign

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