U.S. Supreme Court Ends 2018 Session with Extreme, Reactionary Decisions

July 2, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


A series of reactionary decisions closed out the 2018 session of the U.S. Supreme Court. These rulings forged new ground in the transformation of the U.S. into a fully fascist society in which bigotry, wealth and power have free rein to trample the rights and the very lives of the people (often under the banner of “free speech”), and their opponents are required to sit down and shut up.

Here’s a look at some of the key decisions:

Trump v. Hawai`i (Muslim Ban): Shortly after taking office Trump banned people from a number of predominantly Muslim countries from coming to the U.S., while promising exceptions for non-Muslims in those countries experiencing persecution. This fulfilled Trump’s frequent campaign promises to ban Muslims from moving or traveling to the U.S., which was based on blatantly anti-Muslim ideology, and clearly discriminatory and unconstitutional. In court the Trump/Pence regime claimed that there was no discriminatory intent and that it was all about “national security”—even though there had been almost no terrorist incidents in the U.S. traced to any of the millions of people from the banned countries. Undeterred by mere facts, the Court ruled that all Trump’s anti-Muslim statements should be disregarded; it accepted at face value the claim that there was no discriminatory intent and upheld the ban.

Consequence: Millions of Muslim families ripped apart, permanently separated from their loved ones; millions of war refugees from Syria and elsewhere denied any hope of coming to the U.S.; and obvious religious discrimination enshrined in law and legal doctrine, covered over with the thinnest fig leaf.

National Institute of Family and Pro-Life Advocates v. Becerra (abortion rights): In California (as throughout the U.S.) over 200 “pregnancy crisis centers” masquerade as clinics and prey on women who want to end their pregnancies, implying that they can help. Once they have the women in their clutches, the clinics bombard them with anti-abortion propaganda grounded in religious fanaticism. Even if the women aren’t convinced, this often delays them taking action until abortion becomes riskier, or unavailable. California state law required these “clinics” to a) inform women of the availability of the legal, safe and low-cost option of abortion, and b) in the case of unlicensed clinics, inform patients they were not a licensed medical facility.

The Court ruled that to require these “clinics” to provide factual information (amidst their barrage of lies) about abortion availability violated their “free speech” rights under the First Amendment. As to licensing notification, the Court found a different pretext to support the anti-abortion centers, striking down the California law because it required notification be posted in 13 languages. The Court preposterously claimed this unduly burdensome—even though such a notice could be produced by one center, posted online and then just printed out by every other center.

Consequence: Blocking tens of thousands of women from pursuing their choice of abortion, further enslaving women, legitimizing fanatical religious opposition to women being respected as full human beings, and eroding the distinction between unscientific bullshit and actual facts.

Janus v. American Federation (union rights): The issue was whether public sector workers can be required to pay dues to the unions that bargain for them, if they don’t belong to the union. The plaintiff, Janus, objected that this violated his free speech rights because he would be financing his union’s political activities that he did not support. The union’s response was that 1) all employees benefit from the union’s collective bargaining with the government and therefore those like Janus had a responsibility to help finance it, and 2) the union’s political activities were financially and organizationally separate from collective bargaining, so Janus was not, in fact, paying for political activity he didn’t support.

Everyone knew that the real issue here was breaking the back of public service workers unions (with seven million members, one third of whom are people of color). These employees are under sharp economic attack as state governments slash funding for social services and education, which unions to some extent are resisting. And these unions are a major source of political and economic support to the Democratic Party, and to liberal and progressive causes generally. Everyone understood that if obscenely underpaid employees like teachers are given an option not to pay dues, many will take it, and that this will greatly weaken, if not destroy, the public workers unions. And since in the U.S. today, membership rates in public sector unions are much higher than for private sector unions, this case was an attack on unions overall.

The Court ruled in favor of Janus, again arguing that “free speech” rights were being violated, even though, as noted above, Janus’s dues were not directly financing union political action.

Consequences: Major damage to unions in both the public and private sector; major undercutting of the financial and political base of the fascists’ ruling class opponents in the Democratic Party; further consolidation of fascist control of society as a whole.

Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (LGBTQ rights): A Colorado baker claimed he had the right to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple because he was opposed to gay weddings on religious grounds. This was in violation of Colorado state laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. The Supreme Court did not directly rule on this claim but ruled that the state’s Civil Rights Commission showed “clear and impermissible hostility towards sincere religious beliefs motivating [the baker’s] objections.”  This was a reference to a member of the Commission who said that “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust.” On that outrageous basis, the Court ruled in the baker’s favor.

So, you get it? Under the Court’s interpretation of “freedom of speech,” you can opt out of paying dues to a union that conducts collective bargaining, refuse to inform patients that you aren’t a licensed medical facility or inform them of the availability of vital medical procedures that you don’t provide. But if you simply note that religious belief has been used to justify discriminate and worse—you’re outta there, case dismissed!

Consequence: Validating discrimination against LGBTQ people as long as it is “motivated” by “a sincere religious belief” (i.e., ignorance and bigotry). Ruling that a statement of scientific fact disqualifies you from challenging that discrimination.

Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute (voting rights): The A. Philip Randolph Institute challenged an Ohio state program aimed at purging voters from the rolls. In Ohio, if you don’t vote for two years, the state sends a postcard (in English only) asking you to confirm that you still live there. If you don’t respond, and don’t vote for another four years, you are purged from the rolls. Because of the language issue, and because of the higher level of chaos in the lives of poor people, this policy effectively targets Blacks and Latinos who primarily vote Democratic. One study showed that in Cincinnati, 10% of voters in an inner-city neighborhood were purged, vs. 4% in a white suburb.

The pretext for this law (and many others across the U.S.) is that it prevents “voter fraud,” which is virtually nonexistent in the U.S. But it is no secret—in fact, the Republicans openly brag about it—that this is one of dozens of laws aimed at suppressing the vote of people of color and weakening the fascists’ ruling class opponents in the Democratic Party.

The Court completely disregarded the blatant partisan and discriminatory objectives and upheld the Ohio program.

Consequence: Further erosion of the right to vote for Black and Brown people, a major part of reducing them to second-class citizenship status; further consolidation of the fascists’ grip on power by creating a situation where they can continue to hold—and “win”—”free elections” that legitimize their rule even though they have the support of only 30-40% of the population.

Clip: "Order or Justice?"

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