It didn’t take long for Amy Coney Barrett, the newest Supreme Court Justice, to confirm that the balance of the court has shifted radically to the right after she cast the deciding vote to put people’s lives at risk in the name of “religious freedom.”
The High Court is facing backlash from legal experts after ruling 5-4 for a group of Catholics and Jews who sued to prevent the State of New York from imposing restrictions in the future on the number of people who can gather in churches and synagogues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ruling came at 11:57 PM Wednesday, three minutes before the country tries to celebrate Thanksgiving during a health crisis.
“The court’s ruling was at odds with earlier ones concerning churches in California and Nevada,” The New York Times notes, reflecting the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett. “In those cases, decided in May and July, the court allowed the states’ governors to restrict attendance at religious services.”
Legal experts are blasting the decision, one that makes clear this new, Trump-ified version of the Roberts court will rule exactly as critics warned: enshrining “religious rights” over all others.
This time Chief Justice Roberts sided with the liberal wing of his court, over the right-wing jurists, including their newest member, Justice Amy Coney Barrett. She was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh.
In fact, in his dissent, Roberts blasted Kavanaugh:
As this passage shows, Neil Gorsuch, more so than the other reactionary Supreme Court justices, is the ringleader in the too-cute-by-half wave of Trump judges who resort to slogans + talking points in judicial opinions.
This stuff trickles down — and will be with us for decades. https://t.co/PwNFrUP2zX
— Cristian Farias (@cristianafarias) November 26, 2020
Justice Sonia Sotomayor brutally slammed her conservative colleagues in her dissent.
“Justices of this Court play a deadly game in second guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily.”
And she made clear what’s at stake:
“Amidst a pandemic that has already claimed over a quarter million American lives, the Court today enjoins one of New York’s public health measures aimed at containing the spread of COVID–19 in areas facing the most severe outbreaks.”
Harvard University’s Harvard Law School law professor Laurence Tribe set the scene:
“Just before midnight, Thanksgiving Eve, the 5-4 Court’s newly consolidated conservative majority departed from precedent to elevate organized religion over state power to combat disease and save lives.”
Here’s what other legal experts are saying:
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke:
This is a newly configured Supreme Court, one w/ Justices who place religious freedom above ALL else even in the context of a deadly pandemic now moving through a second wave. #COVIDSecondWave
Case now returns to 2nd Circuit but writing is on the wall. https://t.co/1EW2eyGuTQ
— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) November 26, 2020
Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman:
The Supreme Court's overturning of restrictions on religious services designed to protect the public in a deadly pandemic underscores our systemic problem of appointing politically deaf and inexperienced Justices like Barrett so they can serve for 40 years.
— Nick Akerman (@nickakerman) November 26, 2020
University of Alabama Law School law professor, legal analyst at MSNBC and NBCNews, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance:
Your religious views now give you the right to withhold the services of your business from people whose “lifestyle” you disagree with, withhold healthcare from women & attend superspreader events that let you infect your neighbors with a deadly virus. https://t.co/SfDJ6tECB7
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) November 26, 2020