Culture War and Supreme Court

by Gaurav Vaidya

Lynch V. Donnelly - 1984 (5-4)

  • The Issue:

Does the inclusion of a creche in a city's Christmas display violate the Constitution?

  • The Rights Involved:

Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution

  • Impact: (Conservative)

Display of the creche was not an effort to advocate a particular religious message and had "legitimate secular purposes."

  • Historical Significance:

This decision shows that Christians were losing power in the Supreme Court because of how close the decision was split.

Mitchell v. Helms - 2000 (6-3)

  • The Issue: Is it permissible for loans to be made out to religious schools by local education agencies?
  • Rights Involved: Chapter 2 of the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act of 1981 which gave federal funds via state educational agencies to local educational agencies which in turn loaned school supplies to public and private schools including religious schools. The First Amendment separates Church and State but secularist taxpayers don't want their money going to religious schools.
  • Impact: (Conservative) Court decided the program was constitutional.
  • Historical Significance: Taxpayers have been paying religious schools indirectly for a very long time and now that people are not as religious or support different religions, they don't want to pay for Christian schools.

Lee vs. Weisman - 1992 (5-4)

  • Issue: Is it constitutional for public schools to sponsor clerics to conduct school prayers?
  • Rights Involved: Establishment Clause of the First Amendment
  • Impact: (Liberal) Court ruled that clerics were not to be sponsored by public schools to conduct prayer in school.
  • Historical Significance: This Supreme Court ruling reaffirmed the principles of the case Engel v. Vitale except this time any religious exercises in school has been banned. This case has further strengthened the wall between Church and State.

Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah - 1993 (9-0)

  • Issue: Did the city of Hialeah's ordinance violate the constitution by not allowing the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye practice animal sacrifices?
  • Rights Involved: First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause states that people are allowed exercise any religion they want.
  • Impact: (Liberal) Court ruled that the ordinance specifically targeted the activities of the Santeria faith so it is unconstitutional.
  • Historical Significance: Minority religions like the Santeria faith should not be treated any different than Christianity. Christians would not like it if a law banned baptisms so the Santerians should also be allowed to practice their rituals.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

If Justice Ginsburg were to retire or die, she would remove her liberalism from the Supreme Court as well. She supports abortion, gay rights, and gender equality. She is against the death penalty and is more lenient on drug policies. She is concerned for the environment and believes in the separation of Church and State. Her leaving the court would open up a spot for either a conservative or liberal justice depending on who is president by 2016.
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Justice Stephen G. Bryer

He is for gay rights, gender equality, and pretty much very similar to Justice Ginsburg. If he left, the hole in the Supreme Court could seriously shift the decisions of the future. If a conservative replaces him, abortion might have more severe laws and homosexuals might not have as many civil rights as heterosexuals. The wall between church and state could be blurred.
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Conclusion

There are many different cultures and acceptance of those cultures in the United States which is something we are quite proud of. Our Founding Fathers wanted the government to be free of any religious influences. But that is not the case today. Religion plays a huge role in our government simply because there are certain government officials who have similar faiths and think that the rest of America should share the same faith. Evangelicals have a lot of power in our government and they are battling secularists and people of other religions for total government power but they are losing.