June 20-24 would have been an historic week if all the U.S. Supreme Court did was issue a ringing 6-3 decision, Dobbs v Jackson, consigning Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history alongside other similarly shameful landmarks like Dred Scott and Plessy.
Five decades of nationwide infanticide unleashed by Roe that killed nearly 64 million unborn babies thus ended on Friday, but the deaths go on in those states like California, Maryland, and New York where abortion-on-demand is effectively the law. Unless majorities of voters in such states have an unexpected change of heart and demand change, the killing of the innocent will continue.
But the Dobbs landmark was joined by two other High Court decisions earlier in this historic week, decisions that crucially affirmed the First and Second Amendment rights of every American citizen.
For our VIPs: The Magnificence of the Fall of Roe v. Wade
In Carson v. Makin, issued on Tuesday, the High Court affirmed that the First Amendment guarantees every individual American freedom of religious expression and practice.
The occasion for Carson was a Maine law passed in 1981 that denied state aid to parents of children without access to a public school and who wanted to use the funds to pay tuition to a faith-based school. The Maine law considered such schools to be “sectarian,” so allowing the state funds to be spent in that fashion would be a violation of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.
That’s long been the conventional wisdom of liberal jurisprudence, but no longer, thanks to the High Court.
The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment protects against “indirect coercion or penalties on the free exercise of religion, not just outright prohibitions,” the court majority said, with more than a hint of exasperation.
“In particular, we have repeatedly held that a State violates the Free Exercise Clause when it excludes religious observers from otherwise available public benefits,” the decision continued.
The majority then pointed to multiple prior decisions in which it upheld the Free Exercise Clause against state attempts to deny public benefits on the basis of a religious test.
“Maine’s ‘nonsectarian’ requirement for its otherwise generally available tuition assistance payments violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Regardless of how the benefit and restriction are described, the program operates to identify and exclude otherwise eligible schools on the basis of their religious exercise,” the decision said.
Carson represents a huge victory on behalf of First Amendment religious liberty, and it’s only a matter of time before more state and local laws that now deny public benefits on the basis of religious discrimination will be tossed out, either voluntarily or by court order.
The third and final huge win of this amazing week concerned the Second Amendment right to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense. A long-standing New York law denied the right to carry without a state-approved “proper cause” to do so.
In another 6-3 decision, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority, saying:
“The Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home. The New York ‘proper cause’ requirement violates the Constitution because it only allows public-carry licenses when an applicant shows a special need for self-defense …
“The government will have to show that a gun regulation is consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. This test, accords with how we protect other constitutional rights.”
In other words, the Second Amendment’s guarantee to every citizen of the right to keep and bear arms cannot be reinterpreted by state officials to only apply to a few citizens. The decision does nothing to bar states from denying concealed carry permits to individuals with felony convictions or mental health declarations.
Gun sales have skyrocketed in recent years as violent crime, particularly in the nation’s biggest cities, exploded. Criminals will always find illegal ways of having firearms, so denying law-abiding citizens the right to carry for their own defense is an invitation to even more crime.
One week, three hugely important decisions. Think what you will of Donald Trump, the fact is, he promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who would respect the Constitution, and that’s exactly what he did. Imagine that — a politician who actually kept his promise!