Culture Wars & The Supreme Court

Clayton Whitt

4 Cases

McCullen v. Coakley (2014)

The Issue:

This was a major ruling in the final days of the Supreme Court's 2013-2014 term. There was a Massachusetts law that created a thirty-five-foot “buffer zone” around abortion clinics that protestors were not allowed to demonstrate in. The court decided that this violated protesters’ free speech and was unconstitutional.

The Rights Involved:

Free Speech, Abortion laws

Impact:

This was a major blow to women. There are some cases were women visiting abortion clinics have been harassed profusely and by removing this "buffer zone", they are given less privacy. This is a very conservative move because it is anti-abortion.

Historical Significance:

Abortion is a very heated and debated topic in society today. One side says abortion is extremely sinful, others say these clinics are a necessity. I have yet to see a progression on this issue where both sides were happy.

Employment Division v. Smith (1990)

The Issue:

Alfred Smith and Galen Black were both members of the Native American Church. They were both fired because they had ingested peyote as part of their religious ceremonies. At that time intentional possession of peyote was a crime under Oregon law. They filed a claim for unemployment compensation with the state, which was denied because the reason for their dismissal was deemed work-related "misconduct."

The Rights Involved:

1st Amendment (Religious freedom

Impact:

The Justices determined that the state could deny unemployment benefits to a person fired for violating a state prohibition on the use of peyote, even though the use of the drug was part of a religious ritual. This is a very conservative view on the issue.

Historical Significance:

Maybe we should ban bread and wine too.

Lawrence v. Texas (2003)

The Issue:

The case arose when police arrested two men found engaged in homosexual activity after getting a domestic violence tip. This case eventually made it to the Supreme Court. It was argued that getting arrested for something like this was simply unconstitutional.

The Rights Involved:

Gay Rights, 1st Ammendment

Impact:

When the case eventually made its way up to the Supreme Court, the 6-3 decision also struck down similar sodomy laws in 13 other states, thus legalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity in all U.S. states and territories. Very Liberal decision.

Historical Significance:

While this did not legalize the marriage of same sex couples, it was a major step towards it. Without this case, it would not be possible for gays to get as many of the same rights we have today.

Edwards v. Aguillard (1987)

The Issue:

The Court ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools, along with evolution, was unconstitutional because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion

The Rights Involved:

Religious Freedom

Impact:

This is a liberal decision because conservatives would prefer that their church and school system is at least somewhat connected.

Historical Significance:

This was a major step in completely separating church and public schools. It was decided that no religion should be pushed onto students.

Future Vacancies in the Supreme Court

Ruth Ginsburg & Antonin Scalia

There have been reports that in upcoming terms, there is a good possibility that Ruth Bader Ginsburg will retire. She is currently the oldest Supreme Court Justice at age 81 and has served for 21 years. As a democratic liberal, Ginsburg's vacancy will weaken the democratic's strength the Supreme Court. But it really depends on her replacement. If she is replaced with another democrat then there isn't much shift. If she is replaced with a more conservative justice then there is a shift in power towards the republican party.

Another future vacancy in the Supreme Court is Antonin Scalia. He is currently the longest serving justice on the court (28 years). It's is basically the same case that it is with Ginsburg but reversed. If he is replaced with another conservative then there isn't much shift. If he is replaced with a more liberal justice then there is a shift in power towards the democratic party.

Culture War Conclusion

The Culture War in America has continued to tear groups farther and farther apart. With so much diversity in the United States, it's hard to say if it will ever end. I feel like there will always be disagreements on how things should be. It's just up to us all to find solutions that don't favor one religion/belief.