Saturday, May 30, 2020

A Supreme Legacy Of Order

In a 5-4 decision, US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts sided with California's right to public safety over a church's challenge to be immune from common sense during a pandemic.

The Supreme Court on Friday turned away a request from a church in California to block enforcement of state restrictions on attendance at religious services.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority.

“Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in an opinion concurring in the unsigned ruling.

“Similar or more severe restrictions apply to comparable secular gatherings, including lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports and theatrical performances, where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time,” the chief justice wrote. “And the order exempts or treats more leniently only dissimilar activities, such as operating grocery stores, banks and laundromats, in which people neither congregate in large groups nor remain in close proximity for extended periods.”

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh noted dissents.

“The church and its congregants simply want to be treated equally to comparable secular businesses,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote in a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch. “California already trusts its residents and any number of businesses to adhere to proper social distancing and hygiene practices.”

“The state cannot,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote, quoting from an appeals court decision in a different case, “‘assume the worst when people go to worship but assume the best when people go to work or go about the rest of their daily lives in permitted social settings.’”

The court’s ruling was its first attempt to balance the public health crisis against the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom. And it expanded the Supreme Court’s engagement with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, after rulings on voting in Wisconsin and prisons in Texas and Ohio.

The case was brought by the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, Calif., which said Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, had lost sight of the special status of religion in the constitutional structure.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is a national tragedy,” lawyers for the church wrote in their Supreme Court brief, “but it would be equally tragic if the federal judiciary allowed the ‘fog of war’ to act as an excuse for violating fundamental constitutional rights.”

The brief, filed May 23, asked the justices to block a ruling the day before from a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, saying that the shutdown orders did not single out houses of worship for unfavorable treatment. The majority said state officials had struck an appropriate balance.

“We’re dealing here with a highly contagious and often fatal disease for which there presently is no known cure,” the majority wrote in an unsigned opinion that went on to quote a famous dissent from a 1947 Supreme Court decision. “In the words of Justice Robert Jackson, if a ‘court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.’”

Luckily, Roberts was the voice of reason here that saved America from becoming a theocracy.

For now.  But remember, there were four justices who agreed that the church has the right to kill you with a deadly disease, and that your right not to die from COVID-19 cannot take precedence over the church's right to violate health and public safety.

A second Trump term would end us all.

Tales From The Trump Depression, Con't

We're basically entering June under a worst-case scenario situation, and it doesn't look like there's going to be any relief anytime soon.  It's all what we make of it from here on out.

A global pandemic has now killed more than 100,000 Americans and left 40 million unemployed in its wake. Protests — some of them violent — have once again erupted in spots across the country over police killings of black Americans.

President Trump, meanwhile, is waging a war against Twitter, attacking his political rivals, criticizing a voting practice he himself uses and suggesting that looters could be shot.

America’s persistent political dysfunction and racial inequality were laid bare this week, as the coronavirus death toll hit a tragic new milestone and as the country was served yet another reminder of how black people are killed by law enforcement in disproportionately high numbers. Together, the events present a grim tableau of a nation in crisis — one seared by violence against its citizens, plagued by a deadly disease that remains uncontained and rattled by a devastating blow to its economy.

The threads of our civic life could start unraveling, because everybody’s living in a tinderbox,” said historian and Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley.

Barbara Ransby, a historian at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a longtime political activist, said the toll of the coronavirus outbreak made long-standing racial inequities newly stark. Then, images of police violence made those same disparities visceral.

“People are seething about all kinds of things,” said Ransby, the author of “Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First Century.” “There are major turning points and ruptures in history. . . . This is one of these moments, but we’ve not seen how it will fully play out.”

In the days after a 46-year-old black man died in the custody of Minneapolis police in an incident caught on video, demonstrators took to the streets. In that city, a police precinct was breached and set ablaze, along with other businesses. In Colorado, shots were fired near the statehouse. At a protest in Louisville, seven people were shot.

At this point America itself is entering a new chapter, as I've said before.  We're witnessing history, and not all of us will make it out to the other side in order to observe what's going on from the distance of time and safety.

We'll see what happens, but at this point all my fears being realized of America quickly descending into a semi-fascist state with Trump as dictator through emergency powers is not only possible, but I'd say increasingly likely.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

Meanwhile here in Kentucky, protests continue against police for the murder of Breonna Taylor in March, killed by Louisville Metro PD as they invaded her home.

Groups of protesters demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, who was an African American woman killed in her apartment by police officers on March 13, are gathered on Jefferson and Sixth Street.

Around 9:30 p.m., shortly after a police transport unit was rolled down by protesters on Jefferson Street toward Sixth Street, against normal flow of traffic, reports of loud bangs came followed by tear gas.

Around 9 p.m., protesters pulled down the American and Kentucky flags in front of the Hall of Justice and set them ablaze. Moments later, some protesters threw objects at the building's glass doors, more items were lit on fire and there was three loud bangs went off.

A group of more than 1,000 people were estimated to be gathering around the Hall of Justice where everything seems to be focused.

Earlier in the day, the group which was more than 500 gathered at Jefferson Street with two helicopters circling overhead, including a LMPD chopper. The groups had speakers talking from the steps of Metro Hall. The crowd has continued to grow as the evening demonstrations carried on.

Hundreds also knelt between Broadway and Jefferson Street with their fists are in the air and marched around the police department chanting, 'No justice no peace.'

Protesters were also seen banging on glass at Hall of Justice steps calling for officers to come outside.

Jibriyll Izsreal, of Louisville, told the crowd they shouldn't bang on the doors.

"What I said to the crowd, 'Was do you really want to break down the glass doors of the police precincts? You’re going to give them the impression that you want to fight and if you want to fight the police what you really need to do is go home and get your guns and come back here with some force,' at which point everyone got silent," he said. "I asked everyone who had a gun and again every one was silent. Breonna Taylor’s family asked all the people in Louisville who are concerned about her loved ones not to engage in violence in order to honor memory. I felt imperative to come down here primarily for that reason, to honor Breonna's family in the way that her family is asking the community to do."

To his credit, Mayor Greg Fischer says the LMPD will suspend no-knock raids until further notice.  Seven people were shot during protests Thursday night, nobody was killed thankfully, but LMPD, hours after saying they didn't fire a single bullet, promises lethal force against protesters if things get out of hand again this weekend.

But at this point it's been ten weeks, and nobody's been fired yet.

It's going to be a long, deadly summer.
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