Reading Time: 4 minutes Supreme Court Storm

Overview:

The nightmare has begun. It started with separation of church and state but where will it end? What is SCOTUS coming for next?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

“What a difference five years makes. In 2017, I feared that the Court was ‘lead[ing] us … to a place where separation of church and state is a constitutional slogan, not a constitutional commitment. Today, the Court leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation.”

-Justice Sotomayor’s Dissent

The Supreme Court has radically redefined our long-held understanding of religious freedom. This is the culmination of decades of work and hundreds of millions of dollars poured into lawsuits by Christian nationalists. In Tuesday’s decision in Carson v. Makin, the court opened the door to government-enforced tithing, an invitation religious extremists will not ignore.

This nation was built on the promise of religious freedom, which has always prevented the state from using its taxing power to force citizens to fund religious worship or education. In Carson v. Makin, the court has violated that founding principle by requiring Maine’s taxpayers to fund religious schools.

Incredibly, the court’s ultra-conservative majority of five Catholic justices (there are six in total, and another raised Catholic) ruled that Maine’s refusal to fund religious education was discriminatory. If they cared about preventing discrimination, they wouldn’t be forcing Maine taxpayers to fund religious schools that discriminate against LGBTQ people and non-Christians.

Far from honoring religious freedom, this decision tramples the religious freedom of everyone. It will open the floodgates to more litigation to further Christian nationalism’s goal of using the law to force all of us to live by their narrow beliefs.

Much of the above is based on an email statement that I received from Americans United for Separation of Church and State President and CEO Rachel Laser.

How did we get to this place? As Sotomayor noted in her dissent, it started five years ago. Until then, no court had ever ruled that the free exercise of religion required the government to subsidize religion. In the 2017 case, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, the Court held that the state of Missouri violated free exercise when it refused to fund the paving of playgrounds for religious schools. Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion in Trinity Lutheran  v. Comer added a footnote stating that the case addressed only the issue of granting money for “playground resurfacing,” not for other “religious uses of funding.” Roberts also wrote the majority opinion for this case. Apparently, he has changed his mind since 2017.

In the Carson v. Makin case, the issue concerns two religious schools that are discriminating against LGBTQ students. One bars their admission, and the other forces them to undergo ‘counseling’ and renounce their sexual orientation or gender identity, or be expelled. One of the school’s stated educational objectives is to “refute the teachings of the Islamic religion with the truth of God’s word.” So now Muslim taxpayers will be forced to fund that school. Can you imagine the howls of outrage if a Muslim school demanded the same subsidy to teach exactly the opposite? Of course, nonbelievers like me are outraged at the whole notion of government-financed religious indoctrination in schools.

Far from honoring religious freedom, this decision tramples the religious freedom of everyone. It will open the floodgates to more litigation to further Christian nationalism’s goal of using the law to force all of us to live by their narrow beliefs.

In an op-ed in the LA Times, Erwin Chemerinsky, constitutional law professor and Dean of the law school at University of California, Berkeley warned of the possible consequences of the ruling:

The decision has huge implications for many spheres of public policy. Throughout the country, including in California, public school systems pay for charter schools. The law has always maintained that publicly financed charter schools must be secular. But now, with this decision there is a strong argument that the refusal to pay for religious charter schools violates free exercise of religion.

There is no stopping point and no reason this approach would be limited to the school context. If the government provides funds for historic preservation of buildings, it will be required to subsidize maintaining churches, synagogues and mosques. If the government pays for alcohol or drug rehabilitation programs, it will have to subsidize faith-based programs.

There has long been a debate over whether the government could even provide such assistance to a religious group or whether its choice to do so would be an impermissible establishment of religion. Now, the court’s conservative majority is saying that a subsidy for religion is constitutionally mandated. It is basically cutting the establishment clause out of the Constitution.

Read that last sentence again. This is the most radical Supreme Court in our history. But it isn’t just the SCOTUS. Our government supposedly has three “independent” branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. But the judicial system has become highly politicized by legislative control over judicial appointments. This has created a dangerous threat to the secular government envisioned by the founders and defined in the Constitution. It has been supported, for the most part, by mutual agreement in the Congress…until recently. But now, the gloves are off. The extremists are in charge, and we are headed down a slippery slope to theocracy.

As the secular segment of our society continues to grow, this will probably be corrected eventually, but with lifetime tenure, these six extremists are going to be with us for a long time. How much more damage will they do?

Aferword

As I wrote this, The Nightmare Court already answered the question above. The nightmare continues:

1. Mandated funding of religious schools

2. Women’s choice demolished as Roe v. Wade is overturned.

3. Concealed carry law demolished in New York.

4. And now, Clarence Thomas, the most fanatical of the Fanatical Five says that access to contraception and same-sex marriage should be “revisited” by the Court

The nightmare may be only just beginning.

Bert Bigelow graduated from the University of Michigan College of Engineering, then pursued a career in electronic systems and software design. He has always enjoyed writing, and since retirement, has produced short essays on many subjects. His main interests are in the areas of politics and religion, and the intersection of the two. You can contact him at bigelowbert@gmail.com.

Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...