William Howard Taft, who served as the nation’s 27th president, once mused:
“Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court goes on forever.”
Today marks the final day in an incredibly consequential term for the High Court:
- Religious Liberty Wins at the Supreme Court
Focus on the Family president Jim Daly writes:
It goes without saying that the Supreme Court’s dramatic reversal of Roe last week catapults this year’s slate of cases into the historic tier of terms. No issue is more fundamental than life.
But with most of the attention centered on Dobbs and Roe, it’s easy to overlook some other significant and consequential cases that the High Court addressed concerning religious freedom.
When the Supreme Court affirmed Coach Kennedy’s right to pray silently on the 50-yard line, they actually empowered and encouraged all praying Americans. That’s because for the last 60 years, beginning with banning voluntary prayer in schools, the Christian faithful in this country have been discouraged from publicly expressing their deeply held convictions.
Let’s be clear: Court rulings have had a chilling effect on Christians. Not wanting to offend or do anything illegal, many have simply demurred and deferred when it comes to public prayer. Six justices suggested those concerns were unfounded.
For the good of the record, beginning with the Dobbs’ case, let’s review and summarize some highlights of this past term – and what to look forward to in the next:
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – By a 6-3 vote, the justices upheld the constitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi law prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks gestation.
Kennedy v. Bremerton School District – In a 6-3 vote, the high court ruled that a public high school in Washington state violated Coach Joe Kennedy’s rights when it disciplined him – and ultimately refused to re-hire him – for taking a knee and praying quietly at the 50-yard line after football games.
The majority opinion, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, rejected the school district’s argument that the First Amendment’s “Establishment Clause” required it to prohibit the coach from praying when and where players and students might see him. The coach’s prayer was private and not coercive, according to the majority.
Carson v. Makin – In another 6-3 case, the court ruled in a case from Maine that the government cannot create a tuition assistance program for families to send their children to private schools but prohibit such funds from being used at religious schools.
Maine is a rural state, with a small and widely dispersed population, and some of its public school districts do not have secondary schools, which include middle schools and high schools. To fill that gap for parents, the state has conducted a tuition-assistance program for decades that provides funds for parents to send their children to private secondary schools where no public ones exist. The state law, however, excludes such funds being used to pay for “sectarian” schools.
Shurtleff v. Boston – In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that in 2017, the City of Boston’s refusal to allow a civic group called Camp Constitution, and its director, Harold Shurtleff, to fly a Christian flag at its event held on city property constituted viewpoint discrimination.
In the decision written by Justice Breyer, the court ruled that the city created a forum for public groups to raise special flags for their events held on government property. Having done so, it couldn’t pick and choose which group’s flags (and the messages those flags conveyed) it would allow. In fact, the Christian flag was the first flag it had ever denied, and the city admitted it didn’t want a religious message conveyed.
“Here, Boston concedes that it denied Shurtleff ’s request solely because the Christian flag he asked to raise ‘promoted a specific religion,’ Breyer wrote. “Under our precedents, and in view of our government-speech holding here, that refusal discriminated based on religious viewpoint and violated the Free Speech Clause.”
NFIB v. OSHA – OSHA Vaccine Mandate – On January 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 opinion, issued an order “staying” (i.e., blocking) the OSHA COVID-19 vaccine mandate from taking effect. The mandate, which applied to private employers with at least 100 employees – covering approximately 84 million American workers – required either proof of vaccination or weekly COVID testing and mask-wearing.
303 Creative LLC v. Elenis – The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that in its next term beginning in October, it will hear the religious freedom/free speech case from Colorado involving a Denver-area graphic designer and wedding website business owner named Lorie Smith, a Christian.
Lorie wants to limit her clientele to opposite-sex couples because of her Christian beliefs about marriage, but is vulnerable to potential legal charges of discriminating against same-sex couples under the same state law used to persecute baker Jack Phillips before (and after) his Supreme Court victory in 2018.
Lorie challenged the Colorado anti-discrimination law as violating her First Amendment freedoms but lost in two lower federal courts. The mere fact that the high court has agreed to hear her case is encouraging, indicating that at least four justices already suspect the lower courts decided the case incorrectly. And the current makeup of the Supreme Court has strongly favored religious freedom.
All of this is very good news for everyone, but Christians should especially be encouraged. I hope you’ll join me in giving thanks to the Lord for these outcomes – and continuing to pray for all those impacted by these rulings.
2. Jackson to take Supreme Court oath Thursday, minutes after Breyer retires
From the Washington Post:
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be sworn in as the Supreme Court’s first Black female justice at noon Thursday, just minutes after her mentor Justice Stephen G. Breyer makes his retirement official.
Jackson, 51, was chosen for the court by President Biden after Breyer this year announced his plans to retire. She was confirmed April 7 but has been waiting for Breyer to finish out the last term of his four-decade judicial career.
Breyer’s work on the court will end with release of the term’s remaining opinions and possibly with the announcement of some new cases accepted for next term. Jackson will be sworn in at a private ceremony at the Supreme Court that will be live-streamed on The Washington Post’s homepage. Breyer and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will administer the oaths Jackson must take.
- After ‘Roe’s’ Reversal Twelve States Move to Protect Life Under State Law
From the Daily Citizen:
It’s only been five days since the reversal of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court, and already 12 states have moved to protect life under state law. Many other pro-life states are poised and waiting for trigger laws to go into effect and for injunctions to be lifted by courts so they too can protect preborn human life. That number is expected to rise to as many as 26 states protecting life in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Below is a list of states that have moved to protect life since Roe’s reversal in chronological order.
- South Dakota
- South Carolina
*States where pro-life laws are being challenged by the abortion industry.
Within minutes of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe, Missouri became the first state in the nation to authorize a pre-existing “trigger law” upon certification by the state attorney general. Trigger laws are laws that go into effect once a specific act has occurred. In this context, when Roe was overturned, it triggered pre-existing laws protecting life and restricting abortion. In addition to Missouri, there are 12 other states with “trigger laws” that protect preborn human life either immediately or with limited state action, including Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
- You scheduled an abortion. Planned Parenthood’s website could tell Facebook.
From Washington Post:
The Supreme Court’s decision last week overturning the nationwide right to an abortion in the United States may have sent worried people flooding to Planned Parenthood’s website to learn about nearby clinics or schedule services.
But if they used the organization’s online scheduling tool, it appears Planned Parenthood could share people’s location — and, in some cases, even the method of abortion they selected — with big tech companies.
An investigation by Lockdown Privacy, the maker of an app that blocks online tracking, found that Planned Parenthood’s web scheduler can share information with a variety of third parties, including Google, Facebook, TikTok and Hotjar, a tracking tool that says it helps companies understand how customers behave. These outside companies receive data including IP addresses, approximate Zip codes and service selections, which privacy experts worry could be valuable to state governments looking to prosecute abortions.
In a video shared with The Washington Post, Lockdown founder Johnny Lin visited the Planned Parenthood website, opened the scheduling tool, input a Zip code and selected “surgical abortion” as a service. As he clicked around, a development tool let him see how data such as his IP address was being shared with Google, Facebook and many other third-party companies. Only the companies would know for sure how they use our data, but any data sitting on servers is vulnerable to potential cyberattacks or government subpoenas. In a criminal abortion case, an IP address would be pertinent because with the help of internet service providers, law enforcement can trace IP addresses back to individuals.
- Look Into the Dead Eyes and Hardened Hearts of Abortion Activists. What Do You See?
From The Daily Citizen:
Looking into the eyes of pro-abortion protestors in downtown Colorado Springs, I saw a hollowness and a deadness.
I saw anger and hopelessness. I saw spiritual emptiness. I saw people who have inevitably been hurt by someone or something.
I saw crassness and evilness. One young woman was holding a sign full of expletives. Once upon a time this woman was an innocent young girl in the arms of someone who loved her. They chose life for her; why is she now so determined to support the death of babies who were once as innocent as she was back then?
The deadness and hollowness in these protestors’ eyes contrasts with what I’ve seen in the eyes of mother’s committed to carrying their children to term.
I once stood in the hospital room of a young woman just minutes before she gave birth to our oldest son. Julianna’s eyes were sparkling and glittering, dancing like the sun off the water on a summer’s day. She had chosen to make an adoption plan, because she wanted to give her child what she was unable to provide – a home with a mother and a father.
Seven years later, we sat with another woman who had the same conviction. Tears were falling from her eyes, both out of joy and sadness. She was entrusting her son with us and was convinced it was the right decision for her and for him. You could tell she was using her eyes to look into the future and the life she hoped and prayed he might enjoy.
“The eye is the lamp of the body,” said Jesus. “If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23).
With the fall of Roe, we step into a new season in the quest to protect all life under law. But the larger challenge remains the transformation of the hearts, minds and eyes of those blinded by the lies of the world.
As Christians, we must pray for those who protest, even those who spew their vile rhetoric. We echo the words of Jesus, who, to get his attention, temporarily blinded the future apostle Paul in order for Paul to help others truly see “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18).
Years later, Paul would write to the Ephesians, “Open the eyes of their hearts, and let the light of Your truth flood in. Shine Your light on the hope You are calling them to embrace. Reveal to them the glorious riches You are preparing as their inheritance” (1:18).
May it be so in 2022.
- Get Woke, Go Broke, U.S. Military Edition: Army Recruiting Craters
From PJ Media:
The U.S. Army has not had a great year finding new recruits. Things have gotten so bad that they’ve actually dropped the requirement for a high school diploma or GED.
According to Military.com, the Army is a full 60% below its recruiting goal for this fiscal year:
The Army is tossing its mandate for potential recruits to have a high school diploma or GED certificate to enlist in the service, in one of the most dramatic moves yet in the escalating recruiting crisis hitting the entire Defense Department.
Military blogger Chuck Holton was more pointed in his criticism. He wrote in response to the Task & Purpose article:
Good article. Makes some salient points worthy of further attention by the media. But the authors miss one large reason why young people aren’t joining the military. The kind of men and women who are predisposed to selfless service are often those who have no desire to join the woke mob. Today’s military has alienated conservative, God-fearing patriots who aren’t willing to get the jab or sit through interminable struggle sessions on transgenderism.
The article also misses the point that there are far fewer American youth who can pass the physical and moral requirements to join. The numbers of waivers for drug use, cutting, and other concerning behaviors is at an all-time high.
- Seattle Schools Want To Spend More on ‘Racial Equity’ Programs Than Math, Science
From the Washington Free Beacon:
As more students fail to meet academic standards in Seattle, public education officials in the city are proposing that diversity, equity, and inclusion programs receive more funding than core academic subjects.
Seattle Public Schools would spend more than $5 million on so-called DEI initiatives, including a “racial equity analysis tool” and an after-school program for black male students who are “referred to as kings,” according to a district budget proposal for the 2022-23 school year. The budget allots a little more than $4.5 million for core academic subjects, such as math, science, and literacy. More than half-a-million dollars would be cut from the science budget as well. The school district lists “racial equity,” “engaging students of color,” and ensuring disciplinary policies are not used “as a substitute for culturally responsive behavioral and social emotional supports,” among its guiding principles for the budget.
The decision to prioritize DEI programs comes as students’ proficiency in reading and math has fallen 6 percentage points and 16 percentage points, respectively, since 2019. Test scores from last year found nearly 56 percent of Seattle students are not competent in science and about 57 percent are not competent in math. Just 30 percent of black students and 18 percent of Native American students are meeting grade-level standards. Public school officials in the region have blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for learning losses.
The Seattle school district’s budget recommends around $1.3 million for scholarships and programs in “Native Education,” about $1.5 million for “African American Male Achievement,” and nearly $1.3 million for the “Department of Racial Equity Advancement.” Another $600,000 would be set aside for “Ethnic Studies and Black Studies,” a district representative told the Washington Free Beacon, as well as $650,000 for a Latino academic support and cultural studies program. In addition, each of the district’s three budgetary goals has to do with improving educational outcomes just for black students.
8. House Democrats Introduce ‘Transgender Bill Of Rights’
From the Daily Wire:
House Democrats introduced a “Transgender Bill of Rights” on Tuesday to “protect and codify the rights of transgender and nonbinary people under the law and ensure their access to medical care, shelter, safety, and economic security.”
Led by Democratic Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, HR 1209 proposes “amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, including gender identity and sex characteristics in public accommodations and federally funded programs and activities.”
The Trans Bill of Rights also proposes amending federal education laws to ensure that students can participate on sports teams “that best align with their gender identity” and use “school facilities that best align with their gender identity” — meaning that biological males could use women’s restrooms and play on women’s sports teams.
“As we witness Republicans and an extremist Supreme Court attack and roll back the fundamental rights of trans people across our country, and as state legislatures across the country target our trans community with hateful, bigoted, and transphobic attacks, we are standing up and saying enough is enough,” said Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and co-chair of the Transgender Equality Task Force.
9. Stronger families, safer neighborhoods
Dr. Brad Wilcox writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Even as violence reaches the doorsteps of more families, many commentators and decision-makers seem to have forgotten the old bipartisan truth that the best way to prevent crime is to ensure more children are raised in supportive families.
Brookings Institution senior fellow Shadi Hammid recently criticized many progressives for ignoring the rise of violent crime around the country, calling for a renewed focus on addressing the determinants of crime. Yet, even according to Hammid, “the good liberal knows that poverty, substance abuse, and untreated mental illness fuel criminal activity. These are root causes.” Conveniently excluded from this list is family environment.
Addressing poverty, substance abuse and mental illness are certainly indispensable pieces of a comprehensive effort to curb crime, but the data overwhelmingly show that a child’s family environment has dramatic effects on their likelihood of breaking the law. As sociologist Robert Sampson observed, “family structure is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, predictors of… urban violence across cities in the United States.”
A recent study by the Institute for Family Studies found that men are about twice as likely to be incarcerated by around age 30 if they are raised in a family without a father. These differences held true even after accounting for many other factors used to explain differences in crime: race, family income and parents’ educational attainment. In fact, fatherlessness is a stronger predictor of incarceration than race and poverty.
10. Hikaru Nakamura: Meet the world’s wealthiest chess player
From El Pais:
Multiple sources estimate 34-year-old chess player Hikaru Nakamura’s fortune at around $50 million. However, only a small percentage of those earnings come from prizes he has won in chess competitions such as Madrid’s Candidates Tournament, where he is currently competing (he is in third place). At the beginning of the pandemic, the American chess player, who was born in Hirakata, Japan, devoted himself heart and soul to streaming (playing or commenting on his own games live on the internet). This pursuit made him the richest chess player of all time.
“I am losing money in this tournament,” Nakamura told EL PAÍS a few days ago. He was heading to his hotel to set up another streaming session on YouTube (where he has 1.3 million subscribers) and Twitch (where he has a similar number of followers). He is very popular on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and POG University as well. Additionally, he generates substantial income from energy drink endorsements, among other things.