FFRF’s honorary directors speak out on court rulings
FFRF asked its honorary directors for their thoughts about the recent Supreme Court rulings that have rolled back rights for women and dismantled the separation of church and state. The following are the responses received.
Geoffrey R. Stone
The Supreme Court’s decisions this term reveal the fundamental values of the Republican appointed justices. What they reveal is that these justices are determined to place their own values — and their personal religious beliefs — above their constitutional responsibility to interpret the Constitution in a fair and principled manner.
In this environment, it is more important than ever that we increase our focus on state supreme courts for protecting our rights and, most important, on the political and electoral process to gain a greater voice in that central component of our democratic process.
Anyone who assumed that the religious fanatics on the new right-wing Supreme Court would play by the rules of honesty, decency and decorum have gotten a rude wake-up call. This is about ideology, politics and power. A handful of corrupt, unelected jurists are eagerly poised to drag the country back into the Dark Ages, democracy be damned.
The religious extremists making up the majority on today’s Supreme Court have tipped their hand, brazenly and without conscience or remorse as they move quickly to cement minoritarian rule over the American public. Their triumph would mean the end of democracy.
Don’t be fooled by Sam (the Sham) Alito’s expressions of concern for the unborn. In his reckoning, the fetus is a utilitarian object, not a subject, and stands in conveniently voiceless contrast to the women whose full agency he regards with misogynistic scorn.
They are not done, these dishonest, hypocritical faux jurists. They are coming for marriage equality, affirmative action, free and fair elections and the separation of church and state. Interracial marriage alone may escape the chopping block. If you’re wondering why, ask Clarence Thomas!
In the face of a determinedly corrupt Supreme Court majority, the surest road to disaster runs through denial and defeatism. Stand up and fight! Get creative! And vote!
We’re reeling at the news that the Supreme Court actually did it. They utterly erased Roe v. Wade. Not that we weren’t expecting this, because we were. But we need to fortify ourselves — with will, political will, because make no mistake: Women will die from this decision.
We anticipated this, we know “forelash”’ when we see it, and we’re ready. This will be an even longer battle than anticipated.
Yet, it’s one we must fight. We’re in the streets, we’re registered to vote, we’re prepared to commit massive civil disobedience, if necessary, and we’re absolutely determined to prevail in all the multiple ways we’ve already laid out and will again: from new legislation to menstrual extraction kits; from court challenges to fundraising groups for poor women who can’t afford to travel, get off work, or pay for babysitters; from morning-after to weeks-after pills; from legal aid to pharmaceuticals sent by mail. We are demanding that Congress immediately pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to restore protections for abortion nationwide. And there is a basic constitutional change in the offing, if we get behind it and push: passage of the ERA would by its existence nullify the Supreme Court’s decision. They want us to give up. Why in hell should we grant their wish?”
We are hearing a good deal about each new Supreme Court decision that seems designed to replace the world’s first secular government with a 21st-century version of theocracy. There is no question, for instance, that the decision overturning Roe v. Wade is the result of former President Trump’s having had the opportunity to appoint three far-right-wing judges to the high court.
The basic problem with this court and many of its recent decisions is the idea that our political policies and institutions should be based not on reason but on someone’s idea of what a deity expects us to do.
Rusty Bowers, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, incurred the ire of Trump for refusing to go along with the big lie about Democrats having stolen the election. Bowers’s explanation for his refusal to cave to Trump, however, was that “it is a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired.” Bowers could not go along with Trump’s lies because he was forbidden by his god to do so. If that god had spoken to him in another voice, presumably it would have been all right to commit election fraud.
The Constitution, of course, does not mention the word “God.” It was written by a group of human beings as fallible as they were brilliant, as willing to compromise the new nation morally on the founding issue of slavery as they were concerned about freedom for whites. If ever a document was written by feisty, ambivalent human beings, the Constitution is it.
Nevertheless, the Constitution is a remarkable document. But it is being misused in current political strife because so many people — including public officials — do not recognize its secular nature.
During Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings, the flaky Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina asked her (in an exceedingly nasty tone) how she would rate her own faith on a scale of 1 to 10. Jackson had the good sense not to answer. In fact, this was an unconstitutional question. Article 6 of the Constitution explicitly states that “no religious test” shall be applied to any candidate for federal office. There is no ambiguity here. No religious test means no religious test.
In its decision on abortion, the high court is mixing personal religious beliefs with public policy in a truly dangerous way that could be extended to other issues such as gay marriage or contraception. We are in deep trouble.
Although the political aspects of the Supreme Court and its composition are surely important, I will leave discussion on that realm to others. What is more interesting to me is the manner in which cases were presented this year, especially in the Bruen (Second Amendment) and the Dobbs (abortion) litigation. The issue in Bruen was the constitutional right to bear arms, which the majority opinion — over 100 times — referenced as a right of “self-defense” and/or a right of “self-protection.” The right in Dobbs was referenced as a “right to abortion,” an “abortion right” and similar “abortion” verbiage a similar number of times.
Look at the difference: Bruen spoke of a noble and worthy right: the right of each person to self-defense and self-protection. To be sure, when one uses a gun for self-protection, someone is likely to be killed.
But nowhere in Justice Thomas’ Bruen majority opinion was there a claim of a right to kill. Contrast that with Dobbs, which also pertains to a noble and worthy right: the right of each person to not be a parent. That’s what people seek. Sure, an abortion may be the byproduct of exercising that right, just as a dead person may be the byproduct of bearing arms. But just as gun rights advocates never characterize their desire as a right to shoot somebody, “abortion rights” advocates should never have sought a “right to abortion.” That’s the wrong right.
The right right, as just noted, is the right to not become a parent when the associated burdens and responsibilities are unwanted. Why was that never argued?
In just this year, the U.S. Supreme Court, dominated by conservative Catholic judges, has rendered three decisions that weaken our country’s founding principles of separation of church and state. In Kennedy v. Bremerton, they decided that Christian public prayer by a coach at a public high school’s football game on the 50-yard line, was OK by them. They decided in Carson v. Makin that if there were no public high schools available (a situation vague and open to manipulation), the government must fund religious school alternatives. They decided in overturning Roe v. Wade that women did not have guaranteed federal rights to decide on the course of their own pregnancies.
These decisions affect all of us, and a great many of us directly, in our everyday lives. These decisions make way for religious views to take precedence over our country’s shaky secular foundation. Now, people will feel free to publicly demonstrate their religiosity by praying in a coercive manner on public property, to manipulate circumstances so that the government will pay for religious instruction, and for women to fear any pregnancy itself as it could be monitored by the state.
The right wing of the Catholic Church has had outsized influence on the laws of the land. This has come about from a concerted, coordinated effort, led by highly conservative, Christian men that has been developed over 50 years of effort and coordination. They have been spectacularly successful at changing the legal landscape, halting the law’s progress toward a more modern, less religiously determined environment.
We must stop thinking that the obvious march toward an open, secular, freedom-from-a-regressive-patriarchal-authority world is inevitable. It isn’t. We could slide into a frightening tyrannical and rigid state quite easily.
After I predicted that George McGovern would beat Richard Nixon in 1972 — and McGovern only carried one state — I realized I wasn’t very good at predicting anything. But I do believe there is a chance that the decision of the Supreme Court to outlaw abortions will outrage so many voters that the Democrats will win a majority in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.
Then abortion rights can be placed in the law once and for all.