Home Christian News Court’s Term Delivers Wins for Life, Religious Liberty

Court’s Term Delivers Wins for Life, Religious Liberty

No decision proved as significant for Southern Baptists and other pro-lifers as the justices’ long-awaited reversal of the Roe decision, which struck down state restrictions on abortion. By a 5-4 majority June 24, the court overturned both Roe and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling that affirmed it, sending policy decisions on the issue back to the states. About half of the 50 states have enacted or are soon expected to enact abortion bans throughout pregnancy or at some stage of pregnancy.

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“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s unequivocal rejection of that opinion. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.”

The watershed decision came in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case regarding a Mississippi law that prohibits the abortion of preborn children whose gestational age is more than 15 weeks.

“The bottom line is the Supreme Court rightly held that this so-called right to abortion has no basis in the Constitution’s text or in our nation’s history, and it never has,” said ADF’s Theriot, who called it “awesome now that states can affirm that life’s a human right and make sure that women have greater access to the support and the services that they need.”

The high court pronounced the death of the Lemon test, which was based on a standard offered in the 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman opinion, in its June 27 ruling that the post-game, midfield prayer of a high school football coach did not violate the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion. According to the now-discarded Lemon test, a law was required to have a secular purpose, not primarily promote or restrict religion and “not foster an excessive entanglement with religion” to avoid a violation of the Establishment Clause.

In the court’s 6-3 opinion in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch said the court “long ago abandoned Lemon and its [government] endorsement [of religion] test offshoot.” In a dissent joined by two others, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the court had now overruled Lemon “entirely and in all contexts. It is wrong to do so.”

Instead of the Lemon test, the court has for years emphasized in its Establishment Clause decisions an “analysis focused on original meaning and history,” Gorsuch wrote.

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The Lemon test “really was misused in a lot of ways to discriminate against religious people,” Theriot said in commending the court’s rejection of the standard. The justices’ reliance on coercion in now determining Establishment Clause violations “helps minimizes the chance that the Establishment Clause is going to be used as a sword to discriminate against religious people instead of a shield to protect them from the government interference with their religious conviction.”