Conservative justices are killing the rule of law

Roe v. Wade is in danger, Supreme Court justices (those not in the five-member conservative bloc) are warning the country.

But it’s not just Roe. Many of America’s cherished rights are threatened by President Trump’s Supreme Court, including the wall of separation and religious freedom.

On Monday, the conservative bloc cavalierly threw out 40 years of precedent in an unrelated case, casting aside settled case law. Decades of law were thrown out not because of what the Constitution actually says, but because the majority claimed that previous cases “failed to account for the historical understanding of state sovereign immunity,” as Justice Clarence Thomas put it.

In a dissent calculated to raise the alarm, Justice Stephen Breyer warned our country that this decision is a precursor. “The majority has surrendered to the temptation to overrule Hall [the earlier case] even though it is a well-reasoned decision that has caused no serious practical problems in the four decades since we decided it. Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next.”

Breyer is clearly referring to Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion. Women’s rights, contraception rights, abortion rights, the right to choose — the conservative bloc is gunning for them. Every court-watcher knows it. The Religious Right knows it, and that’s precisely why we’re seeing legislatures in Alabama, Georgia, and elsewhere passing sweeping abortion bans. The laws are unconstitutional, but only so long as Roe stands.

Trump’s conservative bloc is gunning for Roe. We need to defend it with everything we’ve got. The only organized opposition to abortion is religious in nature, predicated on a religious definition of life. But it’s not just the right to choose and women’s sovereignty over their own bodies that is at stake. The conservative bloc is seeking to tear down the wall of separation between state and church. It has aimed a wrecking ball at the wall, which could topple any day now. And that threatens true religious liberty.

There is no freedom of religion without a government that is free from religion. A secular government is a prerequisite to religious liberty. More than that, the separation of state and church is actually “embedded” in “the constitutional design” — to borrow a phrase from Thomas’ opinion that threw out 40 years of precedent. But that won’t protect it from Trumpian ideologues on our highest court.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation serves as a watcher on that wall, but we can’t do it alone. Now, more than ever, we need your help and support.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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