Election results in Nebraska have been certified, and other states across the country are doing likewise. And, now, we have just finished up Thanksgiving and move ahead full sail into the Advent season. Then, of course, the celebrations of the Christmas season and the New Year’s (the end of 2020 can’t come soon enough, amirite?). With all these activities, many things can easily be lost in the shuffle. Among those things is the beginning of the United States Supreme Court’s term.
As required by federal statute, the Supreme Court begins their term on the first Monday of October. This term typically continues into late June or early July. In the time between July and October, the Supreme Court continues to work, but like with so many other professions this time of the year allows for a more tamed schedule.
During the Supreme Court’s October to July term, they split their time between “sittings” and “recesses.” Sittings are when they hear oral arguments on cases before them and deliver opinions on cases that they have heard arguments on. During recesses, they deal with other business of the court and write opinions on the cases they have heard.
In a given term, the Supreme Court is asked to review more than 7,000 cases. Of these, they accept around 100-150. They are often asked to decide cases where there are conflicts between lower courts or where there are legal controversies between states.
These 100-150 cases cover a range of issues, with some being more interesting than others and with some being more important than others. It’s worth noting some of the major cases of interest to Catholics that the Supreme Court will hear and decide this term.
Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. This case pertains to the ongoing cultural and legal struggle between traditional views on marriage/human sexuality and the LGBTQIA+ movement. In this case, the city of Philadelphia quit placing children in foster care with parents that worked with Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. To be allowed to provide foster care services the city of Philadelphia demanded of CSS that they deny their sincerely held religious beliefs on marriage and human sexuality—specifically, that a child is best placed in a home with a loving mother and a father. In short, CSS would not endorse and affirm placing children with same-sex or unmarried couples.
The case is named after Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, who are both Catholic. They each have worked with CSS for years and, between the two of them, they have lovingly cared for more than 45 foster children. CSS has helped place some of the city’s most difficult foster care children into loving and stable homes. Yet, this was not enough for the city of Philadelphia. They required total adherence by Catholic Social Services to a progressive and secular, ideologically-driven agenda which undermines the sincerely held religious and moral beliefs of CSS.
The Supreme Court has already heard oral arguments on this case. The outcome of this case is predicted to be favorable for CSS and will also have a major impact on the clash between religious liberty rights and LGBT political interests.
Other Religious Freedom Cases. The Supreme Court will also hear two other religious liberty cases. One is Dalberiste v. GLE Associates which involves a Seventh-Day Adventist who asked their employer for a religious accommodation to not work from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown which is the Sabbath for Seventh-Day Adventists.
The other is Uzuegbunam v. Presczewski which involves some students at Georgie Gwinnett College who have sued their school over free speech concerns. The students were evangelizing within a zone spaced for free speech, but were nevertheless told they had engaged in “disorderly conduct.”
Other Cases on the Horizon. As the term progresses, the Supreme Court is likely to accept other major cases on major social issues of concern to Catholics. Some possible issues that might be raised relate to pre-viability bans on abortion through legislation that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks or because the child has Down syndrome. There are also several cases across the country challenging COVID-19 restrictions and their application to religious entities and religious services.
All this is to say: don’t lose sight of the United States Supreme Court. Their work is pivotal to the direction of our country and the understanding of our great Constitution. God save this Honorable Court!