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Supreme Court decisions could impact each of us

By Paqui Toscano, Editor-in-Chief

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Although the Supreme Court isn’t as prominent in the public eye as the president or certain congressional leaders, this doesn’t diminish the importance of the Court’s role in American society – and the profound effects that Supreme Court decisions have on average Americans across the country.

Swear words, the Ten Commandments

The latest Supreme Court term dawned like it does every year on the first Monday of October (this year, Oct. 3), and it seems this term could turn out to be quite prolific, with a score of important cases that the Court is expected to grant a writ of cert to hear.

Although perhaps not the most important case, the Supreme Court’s opinion in FCC v. Fox Television will be an important freedom of speech decision in the relative dawn of a new century – with new technology. The FCC enacted a policy in 2001 that not only punished systematic obscenities but ephemeral ones as well. Things came to a head when the FCC sought to penalize Fox Network for the passing “F-word” and “S-word” that certain public figures said on music awards programs, while also seeking to charge ABC with violation of the fleeting scene of a nude woman’s buttocks in a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue.

Although President Obama’s administration is standing behind the FCC’s policy, the president, betraying his liberal roots, fails to see the message at the heart of the First Amendment, which sets an absolute that no act of Congress can abridge freedom of speech. If parents are uncomfortable with these passing acts of indecency, they should be able to police their children well enough to not let them watch shows that are well-known as being adult in content. The protections of the First Amendment should not be weakened because of it.

On a similar First Amendment note, the Court is also due to hear a case about whether it is permissible under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to allow the building of large crosses along the sides of state-owned roads in Utah and whether the Ten Commandments can constitutionally stand in a judge’s courtroom in Ohio.

The Establishment Clause, which states that Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, has had a long and colorful history in the United States and was the lynchpin of Supreme Court cases in which the Court struck down school prayer and Bible readings.

At the essence of these cases was the idea that the government should not in anyway be projecting an ecclesiastical message. Such attempts to influence the religious preferences of citizens have time after time been a blueprint for totalitarianism. I can think of no other purpose for such flagrant signs of Christianity; without any greater context, this case should clearly be decided against the government.

Packing heat in public

The Court also will likely hear a case about whether a person has a Second Amendment right to carry a gun into a public place for self-defense. To be totally honest, I consider the right to carry a gun analogous to the right of a pornographer to publish his pornography, but the Constitution is exceedingly clear on both of these issues. Of course the Second Amendment, which boldly declares that a person has a right to bear arms, protects the rights of those to carry around their weapons. In my opinion, however, this right doesn’t encompass the right to carry a concealed weapon. For safety’s sake, such laws that allow this should be flatly repealed.

Racial preferences, GPS tracking

Also on the Court’s docket is a case about whether racial preferences can be used in university admissions programs. My question to proponents of such plans is: Whatever happened to the Equal Protections Clause, which guarantees equal treatment for American citizens? Almost all colleges accept federal funding, and any institution that accepts federal funding should be held to Constitutional standards. Aren’t people supposed to be treated equally in this country? These types of programs are only prolonging racial strife in this country, not helping anything.

United States v. Jones, a case dealing with the Fourth Amendment, will pose yet another perplexing Constitutional conundrum for the Court to settle. This case involves the Fourth Amendment, which states that the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” (without warrants) shall not be violated. The question before the Court will be: Did law enforcement officials violate the Fourth Amendment when they planted GPS tracking system on a suspect’s car without a warrant?

If law enforcement officers are allowed to do this, we will soon embark on a slippery slope that could lead us to oppression. Can there be any be a more insidious way for the government to spy on its citizens than to track their movement? I don’t think so.

Immigration law, health-care mandate

The two most important cases of the current term, however, have still yet to be mentioned. In one, United States v. Arizona, the Court will decide the constitutionality of Arizona’s SB 1070, the infamous immigration law that mandates police officers verify the legal citizenship of a person they pull over for another reason if there “is a reasonable suspicion that the person is unlawfully … in the United States.”

Although Arizona has said that racial profiling is not to be used, the law will inevitably breed such unconstitutional tactics. In addition, the State ofArizonais clearly tampering with the enumerated powers of the Federal government – national defense, foreign relations and international commerce. Even more important is that in order to combat the issue of immigration, there must be one solid and concise policy that American citizens can stand united behind. The states simply cannot be defying the federal government on an issue of national concern.

In State of Florida v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Court will meet the most important case of the term: whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – also known more disrespectfully as Obamacare – is unconstitutional. Although there are a host of reasons why this law should be struck down by the Court, none of them are as important as the fact that in this law, the federal government is forcing American citizens to purchase health-care insurance, at the risk of paying a penalty.

Contrary to what the president believes and Congress believes, they cannot hide behind the Commerce Clause – because no commerce existed previous to the government’s regulations. This is an issue about choice and the private decision involved in deciding whether or not to pay for health insurance. I normally support the idea that the Constitution has compassion entwined into the fabric of its being, and as a supporter of Earl Warren, I strongly support the idea of a strong and robust Commerce Clause. But when the federal government is so directly interfering in the private choices of the American citizen for no substantial governmental reason, something must be done.

The Democratic Party has traditionally been supportive of the American citizen’s right to make his own choices, standing up for individual liberties, abortion rights and contraceptive rights. Have they even though about the slippery slope the government is embarking on when it starts regulating the type of health services the American citizen is making use of? This law has the government bearing down over the American citizen. What kind of hypocrisy and betrayal to those liberals who fought to ensure that the government would not become oppressive are we seeing now?

This term for the Supreme Court will, if nothing else, be interesting, and as it progresses, Constitutional law will be changed in the process.

3 Comments

3 Responses to “Supreme Court decisions could impact each of us”

  1. Dakota Miller on November 8th, 2011 9:40 am

    First, great column, Paqui.

    Second, a few points of agreement and disagreement.

    When it comes to the FCC v. Fox News case, I personally think that while free speech is in fact our most important freedom, it isn’t without caveat. As I broadcast on WKET-FM Kettering, the school’s radio station, I am very familiar with FCC regulation and the penalties associated with them. While I agree that parents should take more policing action on their children, monitor what they watch and be a part of their children’s lives, the fact of the matter is sadly that they can’t be there all the time. That’s where the FCC comes in and makes sure that our media, especially major networks, aren’t abusing their rights of speech to use four-letter words that many find offensive.

    With the case of the Establishment Clause, I’d agree with you on that. Because of the past rulings of the Court, I wouldn’t be surprised to see rulings against both the crosses and the Commandments, simply because it would be seen as hypocritical to say one thing at one time and then another the next.

    When it comes to the Second Amendment case, I’m fairly torn. I don’t particularly like firearms (even if I do enjoy a good game of Call of Duty or Battlefield) and hate the fact that they are often used for illegal means, but I don’t think that taking them away will do much of anything, including concealed weapons. If I am not mistaken, anyone who wants to carry a concealed weapon must get a license in the state of Ohio. As has sadly been seen time and time again, the people will usually find a loophole or a way around the law or simply just go straight through it, as we saw 90 years ago in the age of Prohibition. I think that keeping concealed weapons, as long as they are under the protection of state=issued licenses, are a necessary evil to protect the freedoms of America.

    Continuing to United States v. Jones, I’m simply reminded of a snippet of George Orwell’s “1984” that I read a while ago. In a society where the television can watch back, isn’t it seemingly only a step away in the age now where a webcam can be the size of a pen tip? Allowing law enforcement to stick GPS devices onto our cars without our knowledge is a scary, scary thought – I like being protected, but I don’t like the thought of having the entire police force ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice because I turned at the wrong corner.

    In United States v. Arizona, I see where you’re coming from, and I agree that the people of law enforcement will probably (and sadly) abuse this power now and then, but it’s something that strikes me as needing to be done. The problem of illegal immigration into our country is downright offensive to me – while many immigrants come to America for a better life, it’s a few of the rotten apples that spoil the bunch. Anyone who comes to America and downright refuses to learn English, as has been seen a few times in cases of illegal immigrants, should simply be given the choice to learn English or leave the country.

    I, for one, am a proponent of the idea that illegal immigrants should be given a chance to serve for one or two years in our military for their right to be in the country. If you really feel like you need to be in this country and can’t afford it, fighting for your new home and the right to live there is more than fair in my mind.

    Lastly, in Florida vs. Department of Health and Human Services, I really must disagree with you. While I do enjoy a more hands-off approach to government and economics at times, it’s something incredibly different to me when it comes to caring for the people themselves. Universal health care, while disliked by many groups, is simply caring for the people at its core. Thousands upon thousands of people are placed into the care of the streets and often are without a proper bed or IV drip when they’re incredibly sick, and that makes ME sick. We need this law to protect the wellbeing of our nation.

    Besides, if more people are healthy, more people can work … and that’s great for the economy, right?

    [Reply]

  2. Caroline on December 1st, 2011 8:19 am

    Great column, Paqui. And I have my agreements and disagreements with your opinion.

    First, I totally agree with your views on freedom of speech and religion. While some might argue that showing a cross or Bible in public schools isn’t enforcing a religion, it is the showing of a preference to one religion over another that can lead to a theocracy. How long after showing crosses in schools will certain religious components decide to make a national religion, while only “allowing” other religions?

    As for the right to carry concealed weapons, I totally disagree with you. If you did some research in the illegal arms trade, you’d realize that too many dangerous people already have access to arms, licensed or not. This right to bear arms is here for the Average Joe and Jane who need to protect themselves from those criminals. While Kettering doesn’t see much gang activity, that doesn’t mean it’s an accurate reflection of the rest of America.

    As for racial preference, I’m torn between my idealistic belief for equal opportunities to all and the cynical belief that without such principles, racism, a blatant problem in America (even in Kettering), would run rampant. As for GPS tracking, you’re absolutely right. Such methods might help catch criminals, but it sacrifices our freedoms. Those who would choose protection over freedom deserve neither. How far is our government willing to go, how many rights are they willing to trample, to “protect” us?

    Finally, I find Dakota Miller’s suggestion on immigration intriguing. Having these immigrants fight for our nation sounds fine and dandy, but how hard would it be for a foreign nation to then slip an “illegal immigrant” into our nation’s defenses? I don’t like the immigrant situation. Yeah, I empathize with their troubles, but they’re just bringing more here by coming here, ILLEGALLY. Doesn’t America have enough issues to deal with (DEBT) without having to deal with non-Americans?

    As for the health care issue … I don’t really know. All of Europe’s strongest nations have universal health care and it works out for them … but I just don’t know. It’s good for the poor but the way Obama is enforcing is stupid. I’ll pass judgment on that topic for now.

    [Reply]

  3. Corinn Herrick on December 4th, 2011 10:07 pm

    Wow, Paqui! The last part of your article was surprisingly conservative! Opposed to Affirmative Action AND Obamacare? I think you’ve been hanging around Adam too much lately… :)

    [Reply]

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The school newsmagazine of Kettering Fairmont High School.
Supreme Court decisions could impact each of us