Ronald Ayers

Posts Tagged ‘John Roberts’

Legislative prayer gets Supreme Court review

In General News, Prayer, Supreme Court on November 4, 2013 at 7:11 pm

MARK SHERMAN, AP

The Justices of the United States Supreme Cour...

The Justices of the United States Supreme Court with President George W. Bush, October 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court, which asks for God’s protection before every public session, will settle a dispute over prayer in the halls of government.

The case being argued at the court Wednesday involves prayers said at the start of town council meetings in Greece, N.Y., a Rochester suburb. It is the court’s first legislative prayer case since 1983, when the justices said that an opening prayer is part of the nation’s fabric and not a violation of the First Amendment.

But the federal appeals court in New York held that the town crossed a line and violated the Constitution by opening nearly every meeting over an 11-year span with prayers that stressed Christianity.

Under Chief Justice John Roberts, and with the replacement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor with Justice Samuel Alito in 2006, the court has been more open to religion in public life. The case may serve as a test of the ongoing viability of the decision in the 1983 case, Marsh v. Chambers.

But it also could have an even broader impact, giving conservative justices the opportunity to jettison legal rules that have tended to rein in religious expression in the public square.

That is what some conservative Christian groups, Republican lawmakers and state officials are hoping for, and it’s what liberal interest groups fear. The issue extends well beyond prayer and could affect holiday displays, aid to religious schools, Ten Commandments markers and memorial crosses.

The Supreme Court “has issued a series of narrowly divided and splintered decisions that have confused the lower courts, baffled the public and incentivized government officials to suppress legitimate religious expression in order to avoid the costs and hazards of litigation,” said 85 members of Congress, almost all Republicans, in a court filing.

Among the examples of confusion cited are the court’s twin rulings on a single day in 2005 that upheld a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas state capitol in Austin, yet declared unconstitutional a display in the McCreary County courthouse in Kentucky.

Official 2007 portrait of U.S. Supreme Court A...

Official 2007 portrait of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The lawmakers are among those calling on the justices to adopt a clear rule — requiring government to refrain from coercing participation in any religion or religious exercise, or from creating a state religion — to determine whether a practice runs afoul of the First Amendment’s clause barring laws “respecting an establishment of religion,” known as the Establishment Clause.

But doing so would drastically cut back on protections against instances in which governments abandon religious neutrality, including the dispute in the New York town of Greece, said Erwin Chemerinsky, a liberal legal scholar and dean of the University of California at Irvine law school. If the court adopts the test that the lawmakers and others are urging, “very little will be left of the Establishment Clause,” Chemerinsky said.

Chemerinsky said the prayers in Greece should be held unconstitutional under any standard.

The Obama administration is taking a middle ground, siding with the town because it said the appeals court made a mistake in departing from the Supreme Court’s 30-year-old precedent. “Courts should not parse or evaluate the content of prayer,” Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote in his brief, relying on the 1983 case. He said the administration has an interest in protecting the tradition of opening each day of Congress with a prayer that stretches back to the nation’s founding.

At the Supreme Court, the justices stand at their seats while Marshal Pam Talkin asks God to “save the United States and this honorable court.”

The facts of the situation in Greece, a town of roughly 100,000 people, are not in dispute.

From 1999 through 2007, and again from January 2009 through June 2010, every meeting was opened with a Christian-oriented invocation. In 2008, after residents Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens complained, four of 12 meetings were opened by non-Christians, including a Jewish layman, a Wiccan priestess and the chairman of the local Baha’i congregation.

A town employee each month selected clerics or lay people by using a local published guide of churches. The guide did not include non-Christian denominations, however. The appeals court found that religious institutions in the town of just under 100,000 people are primarily Christian, and even Galloway and Stephens testified they knew of no non-Christian places of worship there.

The two residents filed suit and a trial court ruled in the town’s favor, finding that the town did not intentionally exclude non-Christians. It also said that the content of the prayer was not an issue because there was no desire to proselytize or demean other faiths.

But a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that even with the high court’s 1983 ruling, the practice of having one Christian prayer after another amounted to the town’s endorsement of Christianity.

Richard Garnett, a University of Notre Dame law professor and former Supreme Court clerk, said it is likely that the court will reverse the appeals court and that a narrow ruling of the sort sought by the administration could cause some liberal justices to join their conservative colleagues.

But because the case can be resolved narrowly, Garnett said it probably is not one the justices will use to order judges to take a more hands-off approach to instances in which religion and government mix.

The case is Greece v. Galloway, 12-696.

Source: Associated Press

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Scalia says no ‘falling out’ with Roberts

In General News, Supreme Court News on July 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm

By JESSE J. HOLLAND, AP

Justice Antonin Scalia said he hasn’t had a “falling out” with Chief Justice John Roberts over the Supreme Court’s landmark 5-4 decision validating much of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

In an interview that aired Wednesday on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight,” the justice said that, despite reports that he and Roberts had clashed, there is not a personal feud going on between the court’s two leading conservatives.

“There are clashes on legal questions but not personally,” Scalia said of the court.

The Supreme Court earlier this month upheld much of Obama’s signature health care law, with Roberts siding with the court’s liberals to uphold the hotly debated core requirement that nearly every American have health insurance. The decision allowed the law to go forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans.

Since then, Roberts has been the focus of derision from some of the nation’s leading conservatives, and there have been reports of fractures in the relationships on the court’s conservative wing, of which Roberts and Scalia are members.

“No, I haven’t had a falling out with Justice Roberts,” Scalia said, when asked about a purported clash between him and Roberts.

photograph of the justices, cropped to show Ju...

photograph of the justices, cropped to show Justice Scalia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Loud words exchanged, slamming of doors?” prompted Morgan.

“No, no, nothing like that,” said Scalia, who noted that he was out of the country for most of the criticism of Roberts.

Scalia also emphasized “the court is not at all a political institution” and said he believed “not a single one” of his Supreme Court colleagues considers politics when making decisions at the court.

“I don’t think any of my colleagues on any cases vote the way they do for political reasons,” he said. “They vote the way they do because they have their own judicial philosophy.”

Scalia also defended the court’s 2-year-old decision in Citizens United to give corporate and labor union interests the right to spend freely to advocate for or against candidates for state and local offices.

“I think Thomas Jefferson would have said the more speech, the better,” said Scalia, when asked about so-called super PAC spending on national elections. “That’s what the First Amendment is all about. So long as the people know where the speech is coming from.”

Scalia also said in the interview that the case that brings about the “most waves of disagreement” is still the ruling that decided the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. But the justice said his normal answer to people who ask about Bush v. Gore is to “get over it.”

Scalia said it was Gore who decided to bring the courts into the battle. “The only question in Bush v. Gore was whether the presidency would be decided by the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court,” Scalia said. “It was the only question and it’s not a hard one.”

Scalia said he had no regrets about the court’s decision.

“No regrets at all,” the justice said. “Especially because it’s clear that the thing would have ended up the same way anyway. The press did extensive research into what would have happened if (what) Al Gore wanted done had been done, county by county, and he would have lost anyway.”

Scalia is beginning a book tour promoting his new book, “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts” with co-author Bryan A. Garner.

Source:  Associated Press.

 
 
 
 
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