The New Supreme Court and Religious Liberty

A couple of days ago, the Supreme Court issued a ruling nullifying New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s order forbidding large gatherings at religious sites in highest COVID-19 risk areas. I’m not surprised at the ruling, given its new makeup, especially with Justice Barrett’s confirmation. I don’t agree with it, in overriding the order whose purpose was public health and safety, during this extraordinary time of global pandemic, with cases rising all over the nation, including New York. I do get the point that religious liberty was at stake, in the sense of limiting the right of some people to freely practice their religion, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment. The people affected are especially the practitioners of those religions, and it’s their right to go to these large gatherings, and expose themselves to coronavirus, if they want to, I suppose (although, the argument can be made that, if these are “superspreader” events as predicted, the attendees will be exposing many others to the virus who don’t subscribe to their religions). The justices on the winning side obviously are favoring “Religious Liberty” over public health here, and, while I disagree with the ruling, I can see how religious liberty is legitimately involved.

I’m more concerned for possible future rulings by this Court (maybe in the not-too-distant future) that have to do with subjects like abortion rights, birth control and same-sex marriage. The ability of American citizens to have a legal abortion, practice birth control and marry people of the same gender has been established by law and by previous Supreme Court rulings, after taking many years to get there. Some religions, obviously, don’t approve of or allow any of those three activities, but some do. Any court ruling (Supreme or otherwise) that returns to the past, and forbids or restricts access to abortion, birth control, or same-sex marriage favors some religions over others, and has to be considered as against freedom of religion. and therefore unconstitutional in my book. As I’ve said before, these activities (having an abortion, birth control, same-sex marriage) are not compulsory–if some people don’t approve of them, they should refrain from them)—but, don’t tell others they can’t do them if they subscribe to different religions, or none.

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