by Michael Gale
It was a historic week for the Supreme Court of the US. During the fourth week of June, the Justices handed down decisions that protected life itself and rights protected by the First and Second Amendments. All three were great results for the recognition that the US Constitution means exactly what it says, that it limits government authority. Also, all three decisions as written leave decades of litigation ahead of them to finally achieve the protection of the Constitution for a limited government. The Court handed us some powerful tools to work with, which is good because there is much work ahead to build on these decisions.
In the case that will always be called “Dobbs,” six Justices ruled in favor of upholding a Mississippi law that banned almost all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. Four of the Justices, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett, joined Justice Alito’s opinion that also overturned previous Court rulings in “Roe” and “Casey.” Chief Justice Roberts agreed with the majority, except that in a separate opinion, he argues that the Court should not have overturned Roe. The important finding is that the majority ruled that there is not a “right” to an abortion. This is important because of the treatment by the states and federal government of how they have restricted our explicitly enumerated rights to peaceably assemble or be secure our houses or our papers.
Not just Second Amendment advocates were handed a powerful tool in Justice Thomas’ opinion for New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. In another 6-3 decision, the Court essentially declared any gun control law unconstitutional, requiring a law-abiding citizen to show proper cause to exercise our rights as protected by the Second Amendment. This ruling does not eliminate the ability of the States to require licensing. It looks like it eliminated any judicial review of laws concerning the 2nd Amendment except by “strict scrutiny.”
Fourth Amendment advocates were handed a powerful tool in this quote from the Court’s opinion, “… the Constitution can, and must, apply to circumstances beyond those the Founders specifically anticipated, even though its meaning is fixed according to the understandings of those who ratified it.” “Papers” may have become more than something that can be rolled up and put into a saddlebag.
Earlier in the week, unfortunately, eclipsed by the above two rulings was the decision in Carson v. Makin. In this case, with the opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts, “a State violates the Free Exercise Clause when it excludes religious observers from otherwise available public benefits.” In other words, if a State is handing out legislated funds for a function to people, they may not exclude those groups that also are practicing their free exercise of religion.
As an example of how far this country has come in returning the Supreme Court to the wording of the Constitution as written, consider this example from June 26, 2015. From the concluding paragraph of the majority opinion (OBERGEFELL et al. v. HODGES): “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. … [The challengers] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
As any patriot or honest student of the US Constitution knows, rights are not granted by our Constitution. Our rights come from G-d. At best, the Constitution tries to protect our rights from government intrusion. These three decisions together add hundreds of pages of text to the volume of Supreme Court decisions, counting the Opinions of the Court, Concurring and Dissenting Opinions. There will be more to consider and to write opinions on for years to come.