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The court's four female justices are Amy Coney Barrett, Sonya Sotomayor, Ketanji Brown Jackson and Elena Kagan.

Culture issues focus of new U.S. Supreme Court session

Several cases of interest to Christians are on the agenda as the U.S. Supreme Court begins its new session this week. Some of the court’s most important upcoming cases focus on the future of affirmative action, LGBTQ issues and the control of election laws. The court will hear the cases in the fall and then likely issue rulings in spring 2023.

The court opens with its newest justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, who replaces Justice Stephen Breyer after his retirement at the end of the last session.

“As a close observer of the court, I think this term’s rulings will continue to reject the court’s previous liberal decisions and instead reflect a conservative interpretation of the historical meaning of the Constitution,” Morgan Marietta, professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, wrote for Yahoo News. “At least three of those upcoming rulings are likely to profoundly influence people’s everyday lives in the United States.”

The Supreme Court will hear two lawsuits brought by Students for Fair Admissions. This group argues that Harvard and other schools blatantly discriminate against Asian students. But the claim is a proxy for all other preferences grounded in identity, including those in favor of Black applicants and those disadvantaging whites.

The two cases — one against Harvard and the other against the University of North Carolina — address private as well as public institutions. The core conflict is whether the equal protection clause protects equality or equity.

Another major case, 303 Creative v. Elenis, asks the court whether state law can compel a private business to serve LGBTQ clients or whether the First Amendment protects business owners who oppose those laws on religious grounds. The controversy focuses on a website designer who wants to expand her business to offer personal wedding sites, but not for same-sex couples as required by Colorado’s nondiscrimination laws.

The case comes close to addressing the longstanding conflict between a person’s free exercise of religion, guaranteed by the First Amendment and a state’s power to enforce the equal treatment of all citizens. But the question presented in this case focuses on the website designer’s free speech and artistic expression, rather than the religious motivation at the heart of the conflict. The court’s recent history of supporting religious liberty suggests that the website designer will prevail.

The third major case this term,  Moore v. Harper, is about the control of election law and what is known as the independent state legislature theory. The somewhat arcane question is whether only the U.S. Constitution controls state legislatures’ decisions regarding federal elections rules within their states or whether state constitutions and courts can also oversee the election laws that apply to national elections.

Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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