By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
June 24, 2022
From school choice to voter ID, the U.S. Supreme Court tackled multiple issues in recent weeks that could impact North Carolinians for generations.
Here is a brief overview of three notable cases:
Court Sides with School Choice in Maine Case
In a 6-3 decision, the justices in late June struck down a Maine law that prohibits parents from using tuition assistance to send their children to religious schools. Under the unique Maine law, parents who live in remote rural areas without a school were given tuition assistance to use for enrollment at a school elsewhere, even in a bordering state. The law, though, prohibited the money from being used at religious schools.
A group of Christian parents brought the lawsuit.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the court’s majority opinion. He was joined by Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.
The law is unconstitutional, Roberts wrote, because it fails to remain neutral on the subject of religion.
“The State pays tuition for certain students at private schools— so long as the schools are not religious. That is discrimination against religion,” Roberts wrote. “A State’s anti-establishment interest does not justify enactments that exclude some members of the community from an otherwise generally available public benefit because of their religious exercise.”
The Supreme Court, Roberts wrote, has “repeatedly held that a State violates the Free Exercise Clause when it excludes religious observers from otherwise available public benefits.”
“[A] neutral benefit program in which public funds flow to religious organizations through the independent choices of private benefit recipients does not offend the Establishment Clause,” Roberts wrote.
“… Regardless of how the benefit and restriction are described, the program operates to identify and exclude otherwise eligible schools on the basis of their religious exercise.”
The case, Carson v. Makin, could have a major impact on the nationwide debate on vouchers and school choice.
Court Says Boston Can’t Ban Christian Flag at City Hall
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous 9-0 decision authored by retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, ruled that the city of Boston cannot ban the Christian flag at City Hall while allowing numerous other flags to fly.
Under the city’s policy, private groups are allowed to hold ceremonies on the City Hall plaza and to fly their flag on a third pole alongside the American flag and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts flag. For example, between 2005 and 2017, Boston approved the raising of about 50 unique flags for nearly 300 such ceremonies.
The city, though, declined to allow a faith-centric organization called Camp Constitution to fly a Christian flag when its director, Harold Shurtleff, made a request to hold an event on the plaza.
Breyer, writing for the court, ruled that the city’s action violated the Free Speech Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
“The city did not deny a single request to raise a flag” until Shurtleff made his request, Breyer wrote.
The city, Breyer noted, had allowed a wide range of flags: from the Albanian flag, to the LGBT Pride flag, to a flag for a community bank.
“We conclude that Boston’s flag raising program does not express government speech. As a result, the city’s refusal to let Shurtleff and Camp Constitution fly their flag based on its religious viewpoint violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment,” Breyer wrote.
“For quite some time Americans have seen their first and most precious right, their religious liberties, chipped away by the courts. We’ve seen a runaway judicial oligarchy supplant inalienable, God-given rights, with decisions that are an offense to Almighty God and nullify the will of the people,” said Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “It’s good to see something good coming out of the Supreme Court.”
The case was Shurtleff v. Boston.
Court Says N.C. GOP Can Intervene in Voter ID Case
The justices, in an 8-1 decision in late June, ruled that North Carolina Republican leaders can intervene in a case to defend the state’s voter ID law.
Republicans Phil Berger, president pro tempore of the state Senate, and Tim Moore, speaker of the state House, had argued they needed to intervene because Attorney General Josh Stein — a Democrat — cannot be trusted to give a full-throated defense of the law. As the attorney general, Stein is legally responsible for defending the law.
The focus of the Supreme Court case wasn’t the law itself but only the legal question of the GOP lawmakers’ intervention.
Moore applauded the court’s decision.
“North Carolinians overwhelmingly support voter ID, and they deserve nothing less than the strongest representation from those who would uphold the will of the voters and our constitution, not a tepid defense by an attorney general who has a record of opposing voter ID,” Moore said.
The majority opinion noted that Stein, “while serving as a state senator,” voted “against an earlier voter-ID law and filed a declaration in support of a legal challenge against it.”
“I am proud of our General Counsel and legal team for their diligent work on behalf of the voters,” Moore wrote. “Rest assured, I will continue to fight to defend the will of the people for voter ID to become law as decided by the voters.”
Rev. Creech said, “This new ruling by the Supreme Court allowing for the legislature to intervene in the Voter ID case puts North Carolinians another step closer to being able to secure the integrity of the vote in this state. It is not unreasonable for us to try to minimize the potential for voter fraud. I can remember a few years ago the loudest voice in opposition to Voter ID in the state was telling marchers in a protest rally they needed to keep an ID on their person all the time. How about it…protesting Voter ID, but advising it necessary for a protest rally? We should be praying about the High Court’s future decision in this case.”
The case was Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP.