Some Nice Surprises in Recent SCOTUS Opinions

The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is not operating like it was designed to operate. “The task of the Supreme Court is not to rule on guilt or innocence, rather it is to determine whether the decisions of lower courts are consistent with, or in violation of, the rights and guarantees defined by the Constitution.” The constitutional framers never intended that five unelected judges should be the final arbiter for what’s right and wrong for 320 million people.

At this point in time, we are stuck with this unbalanced system of checks and balances. Whatever good comes out of the court that actually fits with what SCOTUS was designed to be is a good thing.

Hidden in the arguments of two of the latest SCOTUS decisions offer a defense of bakers, florists, photographers, and caterers who refuse to service same-sex weddings and related functions. In the 5-4 Janus v. AFSCME decision, the Supreme Court ruled that state-government employees cannot be forced to pay so-called “fair share” dues to labor unions. The following comments are from Justice Alito:

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Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates that cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned. Suppose, for example, that the State of Illinois required all residents to sign a document expressing support for a particular set of positions on controversial public issues — say, the platform of one of the major political parties. No one, we trust, would seriously argue that the First Amendment permits this. Perhaps because such compulsion so plainly violates the Constitution, most of our free speech cases have involved restrictions on what can be said, rather than laws compelling  speech. But measures compelling speech are at least as threatening.

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When speech is compelled, however, additional damage is done. In that situation, individuals are coerced into betraying their convictions. Forcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable is always demeaning, and for this reason, one of our land­ mark free speech cases said that a law commanding “in voluntary affirmation” of objected-to beliefs would require “even more immediate and urgent grounds” than a law demanding silence.

Let’s apply some of Justice Alito’s language to a cake-baking case that is ongoing in Oregon:

Suppose, for example, that the State of Oregon required all residents to support a particular set of positions on controversial public issues — say, the platform of one of the major political parties regarding same-sex marriage.

Forcing bakers (or anyone else) “to endorse ideas they find objectionable is always demeaning.” This freedom applies to everyone, not only people who hold particular religious convictions…


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