Supreme Court on trial

By William R. Toler

Two important cases were before the nation’s highest court last week, both involving issues stemming from the Bill of Rights.

One received major press coverage…the other did not. The one that didn’t get any mainstream mention, may be slightly more important, because of the ruling.

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 in McDonald vs. Chicago, striking down the Windy City’s 1982 ban on handguns, reaffirming the individual right to “keep and bear arms.” However, instead of just relying on the Second Amendment, the ruling majority based its decsion on the Fourteenth Amendment, incorporating Federal laws over the states.

While, in principle, I agree with the overall decision of the court, the application of the Fourteenth Amendment creates a slippery slope of diminshing states’ rights.

Gary Howard, director of communications at Campaign for Liberty, recently wrote an opinion articulating that argument. “I am leaning even further toward being against this ruling on grounds that it further expands federal power. And if I want to remain consistent about limiting federal power, I must oppose such a ruling.”

But the fight to bear arms in Chicago isn’t over. Disappointed in the court’s ruling, aldermen voted unanimously to implement a new law hindering gun ownership, according to the Sun-Times. New regulations include limiting the purchase of firearms to one per month, the requirement of five hours of training and registration and permit fees, which must be done within 100 days. The new law also stipulates that anyone convicted of a gun-related crime “will have to register at their local police station like sex offenders.”

While the Court seemed to favor the Second Amendment, the First Amendment didn’t make out so well.

In what the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education calls “a blow to freedom of association and religious liberty on campus,” the high court upheld a lower court’s decision in Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez that gives public colleges the authority to require that all student organizations institute an “accept all comers policy.”

The case of arose when the organization was denied recognition by the the University of Hastings for making voting memebers and officers sign a “Statement of Faith,” expressing that they shared the views of the orgainzation.

FIRE filed an amicus brief in February stating: “Denying belief-based student groups the fundamental First Amendment right to associate around shared beliefs would thus be anathema to this Court’s understanding of the role of public universities in our modern liberal democracy.”

While the Court’s apparent intention was to increase diversity, FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley says the decsion will have the opposite effect. “Forcing student groups to lie about their core beliefs in order to participate as equals in the life of their university is intolerant and trades real diversity for a majority-approved homogeneity.”

Greg Lukianoff, FIRE president, mirrored Shibley’s statement, cementing the organization’s stance on the case. “This is a loss for diversity and pluralism on campus, not a win,” he said, adding, “College Democrats have the right to be Democrats, the College Atheists have the right to be atheists, and the College Christians have the right to be Christians.”



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    The mountain saw a man chipping away. The mountain laughed. It may take years but the mountain will disappear. Just like our freedom, chip, chip, / chip, chip. Then all gone.

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