12 votes

Supreme Court rules for former coach in public school prayer case

12 comments

  1. [12]
    vord
    Link
    This writeup better highlights the reality distortion field the Supreme Court is using to justify its claims. Another sad day of the Supreme Court destroying the barriers that kept the nation from...

    This writeup better highlights the reality distortion field the Supreme Court is using to justify its claims.

    Another sad day of the Supreme Court destroying the barriers that kept the nation from being a theocracy.

    11 votes
    1. [11]
      cfabbro
      Link Parent
      Also related: Sotomayor says Gorsuch flubbed prayer case facts (and she’s right)

      Also related:
      Sotomayor says Gorsuch flubbed prayer case facts (and she’s right)

      There’s no shortage of obvious problems with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. This is, after all, a case in which six Republican-appointed justices ignored decades of precedent about church-state separation and effectively declared that a public school official, whose salary is paid by taxpayers, can lead public school students in religious worship at a public school event.

      But less obvious is a different kind of problem: The high court’s conservative majority appears to have misrepresented highly relevant details about the case itself.

      Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch insisted that coach Joseph Kennedy lost his job after offering “a quiet personal prayer” after football games. Gorsuch, whose rhetoric about church-state separation has echoed televangelists’ phrasing, added that the football coach simply wanted to participate in “a short, private, personal prayer.”

      Pushing back, Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained that the conservative majority wasn’t just wrong in its judgment about religious liberty, it was also wrong about the basic factual details. From her dissent:

      “To the degree the Court portrays petitioner Joseph Kennedy’s prayers as private and quiet, it misconstrues the facts. The record reveals that Kennedy had a longstanding practice of conducting demonstrative prayers on the 50- yard line of the football field. Kennedy consistently invited others to join his prayers and for years led student athletes in prayer at the same time and location. The Court ignores this history. The Court also ignores the severe disruption to school events caused by Kennedy’s conduct.”

      For those who’ve never read a slip opinion from the Supreme Court, it’s worth emphasizing that they almost never include images: Justices write their opinions, concurrences, and dissents — and that’s it. There's nothing but text.

      But in her dissent yesterday, Sotomayor took the highly unusual step of including several photographs to prove her point: The images showed the high school coach engaged in public worship with public school student athletes — minors who were seeking their coach’s approval, and who needed to stay on his good side if they intended to play — at public school events.

      This is the same coach who, according to the public record, led Christian prayers in public school locker rooms with public school students before games.

      And yet, there was Gorsuch, marveling at school officials objecting to a person engaging in “quiet,” “short,” “private,” and “personal” prayer.

      In reality, if Kennedy had engaged in a “quiet,” “short,” “private,” and “personal” prayer, there wouldn’t have been a case since no one would’ve cared. Indeed, this is precisely what school officials asked Kennedy to do.

      But for the coach, “quiet,” “short,” “private,” and “personal” prayers weren’t good enough. By all appearances, Kennedy went out of his way to pursue the opposite course, indifferent to the law, the school district's policies, or the interests of students and their families who may not have been comfortable with these religious exercises.

      The result was a Supreme Court case in which the justices not only disagreed over how best to apply the First Amendment, but they also appeared to be examining entirely different facts. The conservative majority settled on a conclusion that relied heavily on falsehoods.

      Alas, there is no fact-checking follow-up process with the Supreme Court. It’s not as if lawyers could file an appeal, telling the Republican-appointed justices, “Since you appear to have been confused about basic details, we’d like you to take another look.”

      Instead, we’re left to deal with the consequences of a case in which conservative jurists wanted to reach a specific outcome, while being about as honest with the relevant points as they were during their confirmation hearings when talking about their respect for precedent.

      13 votes
      1. FishFingus
        Link Parent
        Wow, what a shite justice. Not even trying, and really making the Democrats' case for the to unpack the court by shoving a few more justices in.

        Wow, what a shite justice. Not even trying, and really making the Democrats' case for the to unpack the court by shoving a few more justices in.

        7 votes
      2. psi
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I likewise recommend this article from SCOTUSblog on the Justices's distortion of history, only this article concentrates on the recent gun case: (Emphasis added.)

        I likewise recommend this article from SCOTUSblog on the Justices's distortion of history, only this article concentrates on the recent gun case:

        In the Bizzaro constitutional universe inhabited by Thomas, Shakespeare’s England was filled with pistol-packin’ peasants, a notion that most English historians would find bonkers. The characterization of early American firearms regulation is equally flawed, and Thomas rests his dismissal of antebellum enforcement of gun laws on an as yet unpublished and error-filled account by one of his former clerks — even as he dismisses the many counter-examples provided by New York as a slender reed upon which to rest their case.

        [...]

        Evidence of robust regulation of guns in public featured prominently in the briefs filed in the case, but the majority either dismisses contrary evidence as unrepresentative or simply ignores evidence it finds inconvenient. Here is what Thomas says about Texas, a state whose robust gun laws, he reluctantly concedes, undeniably support New York’s approach to public safety. “We acknowledge,” Thomas wrote, “that the Texas cases support New York’s proper-cause requirement, which one can analogize to Texas’ ‘reasonable grounds’ standard. But the Texas statute, and the rationales set forth in English and Duke, are outliers.”

        [...]

        The Thomas version of originalism might be summarized as follows: No amount of evidence is enough to support gun control, but no iota of evidence is too little to legitimate gun-rights claims.

        (Emphasis added.)

        5 votes
      3. [8]
        inwardpath
        Link Parent
        It boils my blood to no end that SCOTUS has no accountability. As long as there is enough of a majority, things can just be wholly fabricated along the way. Enough has happened that I've lost all...

        It boils my blood to no end that SCOTUS has no accountability. As long as there is enough of a majority, things can just be wholly fabricated along the way. Enough has happened that I've lost all faith in the idea that SCOTUS was ever a good idea in the first place. It is designed to fail us. A poorly-constructed institution flawed from the beginning.

        Out of some misguided sense of tradition or constitutional exceptionalism, even if we ever get a strong left-leaning majority in congress, we'll never have enough consensus to change or dismantle the current SCOTUS structure either.

        5 votes
        1. [7]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          It's unclear that the Supreme Court was originally intended to serve its current role at all. This was essentially invented in Marlboro vs. Madison, which was a weird case. Nonetheless, there have...

          It's unclear that the Supreme Court was originally intended to serve its current role at all. This was essentially invented in Marlboro vs. Madison, which was a weird case.

          Nonetheless, there have been a lot of good court rulings (along with the notorious ones), and we don't have a better version of judicial review waiting in the wings.

          One way to think about Roe vs. Wade is that for almost 50 years, the court used its power to protect women's rights, and then with the Dobbs ruling it gave up that power, leaving it to other forms of government, and, ultimately, the people, to fight over. They are unlikely to do better.

          6 votes
          1. [5]
            vektor
            Link Parent
            Did you mention that the other day? It prompted me to read a bit, and it just left me completely confused. Nevermind that there's entirely too many names with M in it, with all the unreasonable...

            This was essentially invented in Marlboro vs. Madison, which was a weird case.

            Did you mention that the other day? It prompted me to read a bit, and it just left me completely confused. Nevermind that there's entirely too many names with M in it, with all the unreasonable justifications floating about it's hard to keep track of who wants what, if they're in conflict with themselves.

            Anyone who isn't confused really doesn't understand the situation.

            1 vote
            1. [4]
              skybrian
              Link Parent
              I read a biography of John Marshall that described the case. Unfortunately I've forgotten most of the details other than a general impression that the early Supreme Court was pretty weird. Many...

              I read a biography of John Marshall that described the case. Unfortunately I've forgotten most of the details other than a general impression that the early Supreme Court was pretty weird. Many things we take for granted about the US government weren't settled yet.

              1 vote
              1. [3]
                vektor
                Link Parent
                One thing that hasn't changed in US government was self-serving arguments though. Seemed that all sides were very much willing to throw procedures, principles and decorum to the wind for the sake...

                One thing that hasn't changed in US government was self-serving arguments though. Seemed that all sides were very much willing to throw procedures, principles and decorum to the wind for the sake of winning.

                Y'all need a new constitution, or at least completely overhaul this one. IMO any country that wants to call itself a democracy, the people should have immediate oversight over any government position and process. Don't like that the supreme court justices are life-time appointments? Term limits coming in via referendum. Senate doing shenanigans that serve a small minority? Referendum to abolish the senate.

                The reason we shouldn't rely on referendums all the time is because in a function democracy, people aren't informed and engaged enough to handle all the minute bullshit. They delegate. If that delegation process stops working, you stop delegating and take matters into your own hands.

                1. [2]
                  skybrian
                  Link Parent
                  California has referendums and it's another messy system. Which ones get on the ballot depends on paid workers who ask shoppers to sign petitions, so it's largely driven by money and what sounds...

                  California has referendums and it's another messy system. Which ones get on the ballot depends on paid workers who ask shoppers to sign petitions, so it's largely driven by money and what sounds vaguely good to busy shoppers. Many proposed referendums are poorly drafted. Referendums can pass that sound good to voters but are not really useful in practice. (Prop 65 warnings, for example.)

                  Voting on propositions is more interesting than voting on local politicians you hardly know anything about, though. Often, very little is written about them and their own websites are unhelpful or nonexistent.

                  More generally, the "will of the people" is an abstraction that's less easily determined than you might think. There is no thing, really. Everyone has opinions but how they are aggregated is a messy procedure. Change the procedure and you change the results, but whether it's closer or further away from the "true" will of the people is a matter of opinion.

                  Also, "taking matters into your own hands" sounds like a coup to me. I'm more in favor of recall elections, though it's tricky to get it right and California doesn't.

                  6 votes
                  1. vektor
                    Link Parent
                    Oh, I'm well aware that referendums are a mess. Wherever possible, lawmakers should be involved, but that's of course not always possible. Here's a tangible proposal for such a system that is...

                    Oh, I'm well aware that referendums are a mess. Wherever possible, lawmakers should be involved, but that's of course not always possible. Here's a tangible proposal for such a system that is undoubtedly flawed, but might ease your worries about what I'm trying to do here. This is just a "our system is borked and doesn't represent the people anymore, we need the people to fix it" fallback option. These subject matters should ideally be dealt with by representatives, but in case they can't, tough luck.

                    Referendums can only be called when the subject matter concerns the fundamental functioning of the democratic process. This includes elections themselves as well as the roles, interactions, pay and responsibilities of officials and branches of government. Actually getting a referendum underway works by getting e.g. 100000 people to sign a petition. That petition comes with a proposed legal text. This petition gets handed off to parliament, who can propose alternative wordings to the legal text in case they spot issues. An alternative can be passed by e.g. 10% of the parliament's votes. Alternatives come with an explanation of why those changes are important. Those explanations are binding law, i.e. if they get accepted, the explanation is what matters, not any technicalities in the legal text. [Just in case some sneaky politician puts a BS explanation in there to get people to vote for his text under false pretenses.] Parliament has a deadline by which to provide these alternatives. [I'm thinking the proposal gets to set the deadline, though that comes with its own issues.] After the deadline all the alternatives + explanations as well as the original wording (just in case no one in parliament can be trusted) are put to the vote: Leave as is, original phrasing, or one of the suggested changes. As for how to count the votes, I'm wondering if you can't do ranked choice voting, with a X% threshold required for change. [You know how some votes need 60% in parliament? That, just for ranked choice. Pick the best proposal via ranked choice, and pit it against "no change" directly. It needs 60-40 in favor to pass. Something like that.]

                    Might be you'd need some additional, but very light-handed gatekeeping to ensure this isn't used excessively. Maybe adjust the 100k as needed.

                    Again, this is certainly flawed. I'm not necessarily interested in picking it apart till it's perfect, just to illustrate that I think there's ways around the common pitfalls and that I'm not trying to make the people legislate everything. There's probably pitfalls I ignored. If one were to actually do this, you'd study any direct democracy systems to see how they work/don't work.

                    3 votes