There’s a lot going on at the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices this morning heard oral arguments on emergency lawsuits filed by the Biden administration and Texas abortion providers to block a law that essentially bans abortion in that state.
The argument will focus on the technical matter of who has the right to sue and who can be sued to stop this law, which Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser has appropriately called “Orwellian” because it establishes a vigilante-style system whereby all private citizens are granted the power to sue abortion providers for damages for performing abortions, even if the suing citizens had absolutely nothing to do with the abortions or anyone involved.
One month from today, the high court will hear arguments in a case challenging a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks – a direct assault on 1973’s landmark ruling Roe v. Wade. The fate of legal abortion hangs in the balance.
That’s not all that is going on at the court. On Friday, Americans United filed an important brief in Carson v. Makin, a case from Maine that could result in taxpayers being compelled to support religious instruction.
In Maine, some rural areas don’t have public high schools. In those cases, parents can send their children to private schools that provide secular education or public schools in other districts. Anti-public education ideologues are suing, insisting that religious education must be subsidized as well.
“Church-state separation is the foundational American principle that protects religious freedom for everyone, guaranteeing that all of us are able to live as ourselves and believe as we choose,” Laser said in a media statement. “One of the core reasons our country’s founders enshrined church-state separation in the Constitution was to ensure that taxpayers are not forced to pay for the private religious education of others. If the Supreme Court requires Maine to fund religious instruction, it will be the first time the court mandates that taxpayers explicitly pay for religious activities – shamelessly undermining our country’s founding promise.”
Finally, on Friday night, the high court handed down an order that Americans United was happy to see. The court denied an emergency request from a Religious Right legal group for religious exemptions from a Maine requirement that health care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“The Supreme Court’s order upholds our country’s constitutional principle of church-state separation, which protects religious freedom for everyone and ensures we are all treated equally under the law,” Laser said. “Religious freedom is not a right to risk other people’s lives, especially during a global pandemic that has already killed more than 700,000 people in the U.S. This order is in line with more than a century of court decisions that make clear the Constitution does not mandate religious exemptions from vaccination requirements.” (Americans United, joined by religious, interfaith, and civil liberties organizations, has filed three briefs in this case, including this one before the Supreme Court.)
Americans United will continue to monitor important developments at the Supreme Court and do our best to defend church-state separation there.