WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision – reversing Roe v. Wade – is undoubtedly one of the history books.
The 5-4 decision in June in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization had been expected for months. The decision was leaked a month earlier and became a hot topic of conversation for months.
The heated reactions to the leak which is still under investigation prompted fencing to be put up around the Supreme Court from May to August at the site of rallies to protest and support the court’s action.
In June, after a man was found near Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home, angered by Dobbs’ flight and saying he planned to kill the judge, Congress passed a 24-hour protective order. out of 24 for Supreme Court families. judges.
The court ruling declared that there is no constitutional right to abortion in the United States, immediately bringing all policy decisions on abortion to the state level and prompting states to pass measures on abortion in the November elections.
The U.S. bishops were disappointed with state votes allowing abortion, in stark contrast to their response to the Dobbs decision, which they called “a historic day in the life of our country, one that awakens our thoughts, our emotions and our prayers”.
Although they were pleased with Dobbs’ outcome, Catholic leaders acknowledged at the time and months later that the decision had not lessened the urgency for the church in its pro-life advocacy efforts.
In other abortion rulings this year, the Supreme Court in January denied a request by Texas abortion providers to immediately refer their challenge to the state’s abortion law to a federal district court. , where a judge had previously blocked the law — which meant that the state law at the time banning most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy would remain in effect.
In March, the court ruled that the Republican Kentucky attorney general could continue to defend an abortion restriction measure overturned by lower courts.
Abortion was also discussed in the confirmation process for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was officially sworn in on June 30, succeeding Justice Stephen Breyer who retired at the end of the court’s term that month.
During Senate confirmation hearings in late March, Jackson was repeatedly asked about her views on abortion. Senator John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, asked her if she had a personal belief about the beginning of life, which she said.
“I have a religious belief that I set aside when deciding cases,” she told the committee.
The Supreme Court also grappled with four religious freedom issues, siding with religion each time. Two of the cases were about prayer and all were about exclusion from religion.
The cases involved chaplains praying with death row inmates during executions; a Christian flag flying at Boston City Hall; Maine tuition goes to schools that teach religion; and a public school football coach praying on the field after a game.
This cluster of religious rights rulings does not mean the majority of the court favors religion, but rather that the judges intend to clarify past views that some have found confusing, court watchers said.
“The court is engaged in a long process of cleaning up decades of religious liberty law that has gone so far astray,” said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket, a religious liberty law firm and professor of law at the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America.
Richard Garnett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and director of the Notre Dame Program on Church, State, and Society, also agreed that the court this term, and previous terms, has been involved. in a “doctrinal cleansing”.
A religious freedom case also involved the death penalty. This year, as in previous years, he did not respond to last-minute calls for stays of execution, allowing death sentences to continue.
The death row religious freedom case involved a Texas prisoner who wanted his pastor to pray aloud over him and lay hands on him in the execution chamber, which the court agreed to, overturning the decision of a lower court. The court ultimately ruled that it was a burden on the prisoner’s religion not to allow such a form of prayer.
This year, the court also gave the Biden administration the go-ahead to end the Trump-era “Stay in Mexico” immigration policy, forcing asylum seekers on the states’ southwest border. States to wait in Mexico for their asylum hearings.
Advocates of immigration, including many Catholic organizations, had spoken out against this policy. A joint statement released by leaders of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC, and Catholic Charities USA, said the asylum policy “obstructs due process and subjects people to the very dangers that forced them to seek refuge in the United States in the first place.
With its new term beginning Oct. 3, the court has embarked on affirmative action, voting, immigration, the environment, and free speech. It also opened its doors again to public pleadings for the first time since the pandemic began in 2020.
In a case examining the scope of free speech protected by the First Amendment, the Dec. 5 Supreme Court ultimately appeared to favor a broad view of free speech for a Colorado web designer who said that She shouldn’t be forced to create marriage websites for same-sex couples based on her Christian beliefs about marriage.
The designer, Lorie Smith, said her First Amendment right to free speech exempted her from Colorado state law prohibiting businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation.
Smith’s case is similar to a 2018 case involving a Colorado baker who refused to make a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs.
The court ruled that the baker did not violate Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, but the judges did not specifically address First Amendment protections, which some religious groups, including the USCCB, said the court had to clarify.
Another important topic before the court this year concerns how higher education institutions use race as a factor in the admissions process.
A group of Catholic colleges have urged the court to uphold affirmative action in admissions, saying the right to accommodate racial diversity in admissions is essential to their academic and religious missions and is ‘inextricably linked’ to their foundations religious.
The court’s busy year began with an in-depth review of the employer’s vaccine or test rule. He blocked a Biden administration rule that would have required employees of big companies to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or wear masks and get tested weekly for the coronavirus. He also said the vaccination mandate for most healthcare workers could come into effect.
The court ended its year with a pandemic-related case dismissing a challenge to New York’s vaccination mandate for healthcare workers without religious exemptions.
Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim
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