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.