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Nate Jackson / Nov. 30, 2020

SCOTUS: Religious Liberty, Guns, and the Census

Three issues before the justices have significant consequences.

The Supreme Court on Thanksgiving eve declared that the First Amendment is, even during a pandemic, still a part of the Constitution. Crazy, we know.

Technically, (only) five of the Court’s justices issued a temporary injunction against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 10- or 25-person COVID restrictions on houses of worship. Newly seated Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s vote was the decisive one, while Chief Justice John Roberts once again sided with the Left after previously upholding similar restrictions. The four dissenters argued no action was needed because Cuomo has already rescinded his orders, but that’s meaningless given that he could reinstate them tomorrow at a whim. After all, Cuomo literally wrote the book on tyrannical governing during a pandemic. The ruling should have been 9-0.

“Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” the majority wrote. “The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”

It’s not just that Cuomo put onerous restrictions on the essential practice of religious worship; it’s that he simultaneously allowed a slew of other activities to proceed with much less obstruction. As Justice Neil Gorsuch explained, “It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques.”

The Court concluded that Cuomo, who earlier this summer had the gall to hold up and read from a Bible during a press conference as he lectured people about COVID measures, was clearly and unconstitutionally discriminating against religion. Now it’s up to lower courts to sort out what to do.

In other Supreme Court news regarding basic civil rights, Justice Barrett has an opportunity to further secure the gun rights enshrined in the Second Amendment. Since its Heller and McDonald rulings 12 and 10 years ago, respectively, the Court has been conspicuously silent on gun rights, much to the consternation of Justice Clarence Thomas, for one.

Second Amendment activists are ready. According to The Washington Times, “Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, said his group immediately started lining up plaintiffs and crafting a flow chart of cases they wanted to file after President Trump nominated Justice Barrett to fill the vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

Furthermore, the Times reports, “The Supreme Court did agree this month to take up a Fourth Amendment search-and-seizure case that involves firearms. The case turns on a question of whether police violated the constitutional rights of Edward Caniglia after officers took his guns away following an apparent domestic dispute with his wife.”

Finally, a third Court case worth watching. Today, the justices are considering the question of who counts as a “person” when it comes to congressional reapportionment. Democrats want to include illegal aliens. President Donald Trump, however, issued an order excluding them from the count — hence the lawsuit and case before the Court. Counting illegals would inflate representation for New York and California, but also Texas, so this isn’t necessarily a partisan dispute. Yet it is indisputably Democrats and their “sanctuary” jurisdictions that want to impede and undermine the Rule of Law. We hope the justices keep that in mind in addition to faithfully adhering to the Constitution’s words.

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