Supreme Court

cdrin and iofoto / Shutterstock

Historic little wooden church and Businessman and businesswoman yelling at each other. cdrin and iofoto / Shutterstock

When disgruntled congregations have left hierarchical denominations such as the Episcopal Church, they’ve often lost property battles as civil courts ruled buildings and land are not theirs to keep.

But outcomes could be different this year, court watchers say, as high-profile cases involving dozens of Episcopal congregations in South Carolina and Texas wind their way through state courts. That prospect has observers watching for insights that could shape legal strategies in other states and denominations.

Both cases involve conservative dioceses that voted to leave the Episcopal Church over homosexuality, among other issues. In South Carolina, congregations representing about 22,000 people are suing the Episcopal Church for control of real estate worth some $500 million and rights to the diocese’s identity. In Texas, the national Episcopal Church is suing about 60 breakaway congregations in the Fort Worth area for properties estimated to be worth more than $100 million.

Richard Wolf 12-10-2012
David Ryder/Getty Images

Couple holds up the first same-sex marriage license in Washington state on Dec. 6. David Ryder/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court's decision to take up the explosive issue of same-sex marriage will thrust the high court into a policy debate that has divided federal and state governments and courts, as well as voters in nearly 40 states.

The court's agreement to hear challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage moves the issue to the top of the national agenda following a year in which advocates scored major legal and political victories.

The court likely will hear the cases in March and rule by late June on a series of questions, potentially including one of the most basic: Can states ban gay marriage, or does the Constitution protect that right for all couples? It also will decide whether gay and lesbian married couples can be denied federal benefits received by opposite-sex spouses.

Any decisions will make history on an issue that has divided the nation for decades. Nine states and the District of Columbia now permit same-sex marriages, and a decision against California's Prop 8 ban would add the 10th and largest state.

A ruling against the 1996 federal law could lead to a spike in gay marriages in all those states. Several more states are likely to consider allowing same-sex marriages in 2013.

QR Blog Editor 12-07-2012

Talking Points Memo reports:

The Supreme Court declared Friday that it will take up same sex marriage next year in what’s sure to be a blockbuster case with sweeping implications.

The Court accepted a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that prohibits federal recognition of same sex marriage. Two appeals courts have ruled that Section 3, which effectively bans same sex couples legally married in their states from receiving federal benefits, is invalid under the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Oral arguments will be next spring and a decision is expected by the end of June

Read more here.

Lisa Sharon Harper 10-19-2012
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Hazel Dukes (L), NAACP New York State Conference, announce 'Stand for Freedom' voting rights campaign. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution was the third in a triad of amendments crafted to protect the rights of recently emancipated African Americans. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery. The 14th Amendment granted citizenship to people who were once enslaved, regardless of race. The 15th Amendment, which was passed by Congress February 26, 1869 and ratified February 3, 1870, reads: 

Section 1.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude —

Section 2.
The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

It took nearly a century of blood, terror, and tears, but in 1965 President Lyndon B Johnson and the 89th U.S. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965; legislation to enforce the 15th Amendment. Finally.

One year more than a decade later, in 1976, I walked hand-in-hand with my mother trudging up and down city blocks lined with row houses in our West Oak Lane neighborhood of Philadelphia. Each time we knocked and a neighbor came to the door, my mom, who served as the judge of elections for our neighborhood, asked: “Are you registered to vote?” If they weren’t, out came the clipboard.

I didn’t understand the legacy we were a part of that day, but with each sweep of the clipboard we were brandishing a non-violent weapon in the long fight of our ancestors to be and stay free. For 100 years — that’s five generations — they faced down the terror of burning crosses, threats to life and livelihood, and the elaborate labyrinth of Jim Crow voting laws — all set up to suppress their votes, all set up to crush their ability to exercise dominion

So, when the Supreme Court announced recently that one of the cases it would take up in this session was a challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the hairs rose on the back of my neck.

Faith groups celebrate the Supreme Court's health-care decision—and then get back to work.

Handgun photo, Nomad_Soul / Shutterstock.com

Handgun photo, Nomad_Soul / Shutterstock.com

A federal appeals court has upheld Georgia’s ban on bringing guns into places of worship.

The Rev. Jonathan Wilkins, a Baptist pastor, and a gun-rights group had argued that church members should have the right to carry guns into worship services to protect the congregation.

But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on July 20 that a Georgia law adopted in 2010 does not violate the Thomaston congregation’s First and Second Amendment rights.

Gun-rights advocates might want a weapon for self-defense, but that is a “personal preference, motivated by a secular purpose,” the court ruled.

Jerry Henry, executive director of GeorgiaCarry.org, said the minister and his organization are mulling an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

James Colten 7-09-2012

After announcing the Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform, Sojourners asked Christians across the country to add their endorsement. More than 10,000 people have now signed their name! 

Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

Religious groups and social conservatives are reacting to the Supreme's Court's historic ruling that largely upholds President Obama's health care law, the Affordable Care Act. 

Sr. Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA):

"We are pleased that, based on an initial read of the ruling, the ACA has been found constitutional and will remain in effect. CHA has long supported health reform that expands access and coverage to everyone. We signed onto amicus briefs encouraging the Court to find in favor of the ACA’s individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion. As the ruling is examined, Catholic-sponsored health care providers will continue to lead health care transformation — finding new and better ways to provide compassionate, high-quality care while strengthening the communities we serve."

The Catholic Bishops of the United States urged Congress and President Obama to repair, not replace, the health care law so that it covers immigrants, includes stronger conscience protections, and ensures that it will not fund abortions -- something the law specifically bars:

"Following enactment of ACA, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has not joined in efforts to repeal the law in its entirety, and we do not do so today.The decision of the Supreme Court neither diminishes the moral imperative to ensure decent health care for all, nor eliminates the need to correct the fundamental flaws described above.We therefore continue to urge Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, legislation to fix those flaws."

Beau Underwood 6-28-2012
Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

In a widely anticipated and extremely consequential decision, the Supreme Court ruled today in a 5-4 decision that President Barack Obama’s chief domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act, is constitutional.

The main challenge to the law had focused on the “individual mandate,” which required people to purchase insurance or pay a fine. In its ruling, the Court upheld the mandate under the taxing power given to Congress in the Constitution.

the Web Editors 6-28-2012
Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

According to SCOTUS Blog, the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act limiting only the Medicaid provision, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the majority. 

Read the full decision HERE.

Stay tuned to Sojourners' blog for additional comments and analysis of the decision.

Jose Cruz 6-27-2012
 Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

Outside the Supreme Court as SB 1070 decision handed down, Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

Both sides have been spinning and claiming victory in Monday’s Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s now infamous immigration legislation SB 1070. Not surprisingly the Court ruled on the side of federal supremacy, striking down three out of four measures in the Arizona legislation, but upholding the right of local law enforcement to demand “papers” if they believe someone is undocumented.

Since the 2008 failure to move comprehensive immigration reform and last year’s disappointment on the Dream Act, the immigration reform movement has had trouble getting any “air-time” in a country that is rightfully concerned about financial recession. However, the 2012 election and a strategically placed Hispanic electorate in key swing states has candidates talking about immigration anew since the GOP primaries.

There has for some time been a larger strategy at play here that I will bluntly call “evil.” 

Ivone Guillen 6-25-2012
Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

Opponents of SB 1070 stand outside the Supreme Court as the decision is handed down. Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

Today, as I stood on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court eagerly following Arizona’s SB 1070 ruling, I had the opportunity to interview some advocates of the immigration reform movement. 

The message that seemed to resonate among those present was that athough three of the four provisions were struck down, the fourth —the so called “show me your papers” clause — is very harmful to communities. It allows racial profiling on the basis of appearance. Even though there might be limits on how this last provision is implemented, those who feel they have the legal authority to enforce laws might feel compelled to use this piece as an excuse to discriminate.

Beau Underwood 6-25-2012
Supreme Court image, Mesut Dogan / Shutterstock.com

Supreme Court image, Mesut Dogan / Shutterstock.com

Today the Supreme Court struck down three central provisions of Arizona’s controversial anti-immigrant law, SB 1070. Attempts by Arizona to force immigrants to carry identification, create legal penalties for undocumented workers seeking employment, or detain individuals solely based on suspicions about their immigration status were ruled to interfere with the federal government’s right and responsibility to set immigration policy.

The Court let one section, known as 2(B), to stand, which allows law enforcement to check the immigration status of individuals apprehended for non-immigration offenses, if law enforcement has a “reasonable suspicion” that the person violated U.S. immigration laws in entering the country. (Read more on concerns about the racial profiling measure HERE.)

Chris Lisee 6-12-2012

WASHINGTON --- An appeal over Christmas sweets turned bitter on Monday (June 11) when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the so-called “Christian candy cane” case.

The case out of Texas has become a rallying point for conservative Christians concerned about free religious expression in public schools and students' ability to distribute religious literature.

The case, Morgan v. Swanson, kicked off nine years ago in the Plano Independent School District as principals prevented self-described evangelical students from distributing religious literature on school grounds.

E.J. Dionne Jr. 6-01-2012

The Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case didn't actually make corporations into people, but it did undercut the role of actual, live human beings in elections.

QR Blog Editor 5-07-2012

From Newsweek Magazine

It’s worrying to think that shareholder democracy is needed to rectify shortcomings in the real thing, yet this week two of the nation’s biggest corporations will give their investors precisely that opportunity. Motions on the ballots at the annual meetings of Bank of America and 3M will act as referenda on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, which handed companies the same freedoms of speech accorded people. Happily, restricting the use of corporate money in politics isn’t just good for democracy, it’s good business.
 
Read Rob Cox's article here
James Colten 4-25-2012
Clergy lead Jericho March around Supreme Court James Colten / Sojourners

Clergy lead Jericho March around Supreme Court. James Colten / Sojourners

I participated the Jericho March for people of faith, organized by the New Sanctuary Movement of New York. We walked the half mile loop around the Supreme Court in silence, praying for a society that builds up justice and dignity. The tough part about this morning was dealing with “the others.”

Duane Shank 4-25-2012

The future of Arizona’s immigration law, and by extension the laws in a number of other states modeled on it, was argued before the Supreme Court this morning. While it’s always dangerous to read too much into the questioning during the oral argument, early news reports indicate that the justices were sympathetic  to the provision allowing police officers to check the immigration status of people who are arrested or otherwise detained.

According to the Associated Press: 

"Liberal and conservative justices reacted skeptically to the Obama administration's argument that the state exceeded its authority when it made the records check, and another provision allowing suspected illegal immigrants to be arrested without a warrant, part of the Arizona law aimed at driving illegal immigrants elsewhere."

The Court’s decision is expected in June, and could become an important issue in the presidential election campaign.

Key stories are HEREHERE, and HERE.

Jim Wallis, Max Rodas 4-25-2012
Jonathan Gibby/Getty Images

A group of protesters opposed SB 1070 at a vigil at the Arizona state Capitol. Jonathan Gibby/Getty Images

Today, the Supreme Court is hearing a case about the constitutionality of Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation, SB 1070. It will be months before the case is decided but a broad spectrum of the Christian community already has their minds made up. 

This legislation is not just ethically bankrupt but undermines basic Christian values and American ideals. The court will decide whether it is legal, but it is already clear it isn’t moral.  

We are both evangelical Christians. One of us is white and one of us Hispanic. It is our common faith commitment, not the color of our skin, that unite us on the need for comprehensive immigration reform and in opposition to patchwork punitive legislation like we have seen in states like Arizona and Alabama. 

LaVonne Neff 3-29-2012
Photo by Stephen Finn /Shutterstock.

Statue ouside Supreme Court building in Washington, DC. Photo by Stephen Finn /Shutterstock.

Maybe the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and maybe it's not. If it turns out to be constitutional, maybe it's good legislation and maybe it's not. In any case, it's looking increasingly likely that the Supreme Court, come June, will strike down at least the requirement that everyone buy health insurance. And if the mandate goes, two other requirements will most likely go with it: Once again insurers will be able to reject or refuse to renew applicants. And once again Americans with pre-existing conditions will be uninsurable.

Let me tell you four short stories about friends of mine. These are true stories, not hypothetical examples. I have changed nothing but the names of the people involved. I am not arguing on behalf of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. I'm just saying that all of these people had serious problems before it was passed, and some of them are doing much better now because of it.

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