What’s At Stake At The Supreme Court?

As a new U.S. Supreme Court justice will soon be appointed to replace the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Christians are rightfully concerned about government hostility toward religion in the marketplace and, specifically, against religious organizations and people of faith. The rise of federal, state and local laws designating sexual orientation and “gender identity” as protected statuses under nondiscrimination laws continues to be a serious concern. Likewise, government pressure to force schools to allow gender-confused boys and girls to have access to the restrooms, locker rooms, shower facilities, athletic teams and even living arrangements usually reserved for the opposite sex, guarantees controversial social issues will, once again, be decided by judges over the next couple years.


The current term of the Supreme Court, which began on the first Monday in October 2016, and which lasts through June 2017, will feature one or more of the following three cases dealing with these urgent issues:

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley

Summary: Church Denied Access To State Benefits.

Issue: Can a state deny the benefits of a secular state program to a pre-school/daycare center simply because it is owned by a church?

Facts: Missouri conducts a statewide program that provides grants to qualified recipients to purchase recycled rubber material specifically made for playground surfaces. Missouri admits the preschool/daycare center would qualify for the grant except for the fact that it is owned by a church. The state relies on its own constitutional provision which forbids public monies from, directly or indirectly, being used “to aid” any church, sect, denomination, priest, pastor, etc.

Importance: Governments should not be allowed to discriminate against religion when it comes to access to secular programs or services, under the pretense of observing a state version of the so-called “separation of church and state.”

Status: The church’s appeal has been officially accepted by the Supreme Court for a hearing and resolution. Parties are currently submitting briefs arguing the various legal and constitutional issues. No date has been set for oral argument.

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

Summary: Christian Baker Violates Non-Discrimination Law For Refusing To Bake A Cake For A Same-Sex Wedding Celebration.

Issue: Does a Christian baker have the First Amendment right to refuse to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, if to do so would violate his religious conscience?

Facts: Colorado law forbids businesses from discriminating on the basis of, among other things, sexual orientation. Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, declined to provide a wedding cake to a homosexual couple, who filed discrimination charges against Phillips with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Phillips was found in violation of the state law, and the Commission’s decision was upheld by the Colorado courts.

Importance: Religious business owners should not be forced to violate their faith in order to earn a living.

Status: Phillips has appealed the Colorado decision against him to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court has not yet decided whether it will hear the appeal.

Gloucester County School Board v. G.G.

Summary:  Girl Says She’s A Boy, Demands To Use Boys’ Restroom, And Federal Government Agrees.

Issue: Can the federal government force a public high school to allow gender-confused boys and girls to use the restrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities of the opposite sex, based merely on a federal agency’s internal decision to interpret the word “sex” in federal education nondiscrimination law to include “gender identity?”

Facts: A gender-confused girl in a Virginia high school asked for―and was denied permission to use the boys’ restrooms, because she asserted that her “gender identity” was male. In an attempt at a compromise, the school offered the student access to private faculty restrooms; however, she refused. She sued for sex discrimination under a federal education statute known as Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination by any educational institution receiving federal funds. Title IX does allow schools to provide sex-segregated private facilities like restrooms, locker rooms, dorms and sports teams, but the U.S. Department of Education now “interprets” the word “sex” in Title IX to include persons like this girl suffering from “gender dysphoria.”

Importance: A federal agency should not be able to redefine words in a federal statute passed by Congress in order to fulfill a particular political agenda without action by Congress to amend the law, or at the very least following the rules created for government agencies designed for creating new administrative “rules.” More importantly, the privacy and safety of young girls have been ignored and put at risk by the actions of the Department of Education.

Status: The school’s attempt to maintain its sex-segregated facilities lost in a federal district court and at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, as well. The U.S. Supreme Court accepted the case and oral arguments will be scheduled for some time this Spring.


Appointing A Justice In The Mold Of Antonin Scalia

In the past, cases such as those discussed above, involving freedom of religion or other social issues, have often been decided on close 5-4 votes, with Justice Scalia proving to be a consistent defender of religious freedom and free speech, and who championed interpreting the Constitution according to its “original understanding.” The appointment of a “constitutionalist” in the mold of Scalia to fill his vacancy would not only maintain the current ideological “balance” of the Court, but combined with future appointments to the Supreme Court by President Trump, perhaps create a decades-long majority of like-minded constitutionalists.

Such a Court might then roll back and reverse some of the egregious decisions of the past, such as Roe v. Wade. And more importantly, it would send a message that the Court will no longer be willing to usurp the place of Congress or state legislatures in creating new laws or constitutional “rights.” Such a Court would be in keeping with what the Founders hoped, as expressed by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper #78, would be “the least dangerous” branch of government.

© 2016 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

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