Government-Supported Religion

Here’s A Look At What To Expect At The Supreme Court This Term

  Rob Boston

The U.S. Supreme Court kicked off its 2021-22 term Oct. 4. This could be one of the court’s most consequential terms when it comes to religious freedom.

Here’s a roundup of key cases with church-state implications the Supreme Court will decide during the term:

Carson v. Makin: In rural areas without public high schools, Maine pays for students to attend private schools instead. This program now requires those schools to provide the equivalent of public education, not religious education. The court will decide if Maine’s program must subsidize religious instruction as well. Oral argument is scheduled for Dec. 8. AU plans to file a friend-of-the-court brief on the side of Maine officials by Oct. 29.

Shurtleff v. Boston: Officials in Boston have flown secular flags to mark certain special events sponsored by private groups. A state resident is demanding that city officials fly a Christian flag for his event. AU’s Legal Department plans to file a brief in this case by Dec. 22 arguing that the city has no obligation to hoist the Christian flag.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization: This abortion-rights case could be a blockbuster. It concerns the legality of a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. Christian nationalist groups are urging the court to use the case to undermine or even overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that established a right to legal abortion. The case will be argued Dec. 1. AU and other groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief last month. (AU has a long history of supporting reproductive rights. Read about it here.)

Ramirez v. Collier: This case concerns a death row inmate in Texas whose execution has been put on hold while the justices decide if he has a right under a federal religious freedom law called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act to have a pastor present to say a prayer and lay hands on him. The oral argument takes place Nov. 1.

Keep your eyes on this blog and the pages of Church & State for more information about these cases and others that might come before the Supreme Court.


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