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Sunday, July 01, 2007

SCOTUS End of Term Decisions:

First, the easy ones: The Texas death-row inmate who was clearly too insane to know what he was doing... Dude needs help and to be locked away for the rest of his life, not to be strapped to a gurney and killed. While what he did was monstrous, justice is better served by treating someone so obviously mentally ill, rather than by ending his life. Some might argue that it is crueler to leave someone in that state, but my responses to those arguments are, on the first count, an echoing of what occurred in Nazi Germany, and second, an old Latin phrase, Dum spiro, spero. While I breathe, I hope, and in this case, I hope that man gets the help that he needs and that he is never again placed in a position where he can do harm to others or himself.

Another easy one, and one long overdue, was the Supreme Court's decision to hear the appeals of two Guantanimo Bay detainees. If our Constitution is to have any meaning, it must be applied to all equally. It is my hope that this will begin to address that particular imbalance.

Sadly, those two were the only easy ones to consider. The striking down of the McCain-Feingold Campaign finance reform act was easy from a legal perspective. The First Amendment trumps any of the provisions in that law, and the Court rightly saw that and acted accordingly. However, the larger question of how to better handle campaigns remains alarmingly untouched, and will likely remain so for quite some time.

It is with the McCain-Feingold ruling in mind that I take issue with the Morse v. Frederick decision that allowed the government, in the form of the school, to abridge Joseph Fredericks' First Amendment rights. While I think holding a sign that said "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" was quite stupid, I also believe it falls under protected free speech. As a result, I am deeply alarmed by this ruling.

I also take issue with the decision in the matter of Bowles v. Russell. In this case, the Court decided that it was the responsibility of a litigant to independently verify deadline information provided by a judge acting in his or her official capacity. In the business sector, this illogic would never fly. In this case, the judge provided incorrect information which led to harm against an individual, and the Supreme Court ruled to abdicate its responsibility to address that harm. This is a truly sad day for this nation.

Next is the case of school desegregation. It's sad that this is still an issue today, and it's even sadder that some demagogues on both the left and, to a lesser extent, the right are intent on distorting the dream of true equality. The question at issue was whether a mother should be required to drive her child 90 minutes each way to and from her child's school simply because he's white. On this issue, I agree with Justice Kennedy's position that schools should not decide which students can attend which schools based solely on race, but that other measures should be taken to prevent resegregation.

Finally, the Supreme Court took what I consider the weasel way in refusing to consider the case against the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Instead of handling the issue head-on, they instead ruled that taxpayers had no standing in filing such a suit. My opinion on the substance of the case is twofold. I start with the White House press release on the issue. While the words are beautiful, and the intent may even be for the betterment of the country, I cannot help worrying that this is yet another slippery slope this administration has put our nation in. Churches have been instrumental in very positive social changes in the past, including but not limited to the Abolitionist movement and Civil Rights movement. On an oftentimes smaller scale, churches have for a very long time served as centers for distributing aid to those in need. These efforts are to be applauded and met with gratitude. However, no matter how effective the accounting practices, what is to prevent churches from switching their primary means of gathering aid from the donations of their members to the federal government, while spending an increasing amount of money on their evangelical desires? On the other side of the equation, what is to prevent the federal government from attempting to influence such churches' teachings by holding the purse strings? As it stood before the creation of this office, the main benefits churches received from the government were passive. They are not taxed if they apply for tax-exemption and abide by the policies to keep that status, and those policies allow for a wide range of religious expression in keeping with the First Amendment. However, I am deeply concerned that this office blurs that line significantly.

It is with that last decision in mind that I post the following music video. I've had my emo moment in my previous post. It's long past time for me to start kicking ass again. Religious fundamentalists really bother the hell outta me when they decide to get into politics. In fact, when I was younger, it was, oddly enough, my faith that drew me towards libertarianism.

1 comment:

Snave said...

Scheise... I won't take up loads and loads of your comment space blabbering on and on about the makeup of the current Supreme Court. Because I am a leftist, I think four of them tend to be antithetical to much of what I believe, and I'll leave it at that.

However, as usual, I will blab on and on anyway about religion in government. Sorry.

As far as religion and government go, I think the two need to be exclusive of each other. Let's keep religion out of government, and keep government out of religion. We shouldn't be basing our national policies on religious dogma, but rather on reason. Our tax dollars do NOT need to be used to subsidize churches, for God's sake! 8-)> I think the Faith-Based Initiatives stuff needs to be done privately, and not subsidized with my (or your) tax dollars, or with ANY tax dollars. Who is to say that a few churches here and there might just (maybe!) use their already free tax-exempt ride PLUS newly found government monies to increase their wealth and influence, and to push religiously-based right-wing ideology into politics? Lobbyists write much of our legislation now, how long would it be before we'd see churches writing legislation? I'm sure that's already happening.

If the Court wants to base a decision on the rights of individuals in America to believe what they want to believe, that is all to the good. If what they do blurs the lines between religion and government, then sorry... I have to say FUCK THEM. That isn't how our country was originally designed, and if they can't keep their own religious beliefs and preferences out of their decision-making, they either need to go back to law school or find a different profession (like maybe working in pharmacies, where they can refuse to dispense birth control pills for religious reasons). What they decide often determines what will happen to millions of us for many years... and freedom OF religion is as important to many of us as freedom FROM it.

Obviously MC, religious fundamentalists also really bother the hell outta me when they decide to get into politics. I think more of us should be making every effort to keep reason at the forefront when it comes to important national decisions. That doesn't mean setting up a "reason versus religion" thing (even if Martin Luther did such a thing way back when, and it has persisted in some form throughout history since then). However, while the two aren't always mutually exclusive of one another, I often find them to be separate.

All I can say is, I sure hope Justice Stephens, now 87, can make it through the rest of the Bush administration. I hope all of the left-leaning justices can, for that matter. For one of them to die or retire would mean that Bu$hCo would be attempting to install another Scalia or Alito. Just think of what that would do to the Court for the next 20-30 years. At least with a Democrat-controlled Congress, I suppose Bush's nominations could be refused one after another until someone else is in office. However if the next president is someone like Fred Thompson, I think we would continue to see similar types getting nominated.

Anyway, I'm so glad that a president doesn't APPOINT people to the Supreme Court, and that he or she can only NOMINATE people for the job. Unless the president's political party controls Congress, it allows some kind of checks and balances. This is why it wouldn't bother me that much if we have a Democrat president and either the House or Senate controlled by the opposition.

It also makes me wish we had some kind of system that went beyond two political parties. Sigh...