It was gratifying to see the U.S. Supreme Court lay the smack to Andrew Cuomo as decisively as it did in a late-night decision Wednesday, telling Cuomo in no uncertain terms that it’s not up to him to decide worship is less essential than more secular pursuits.
The governor who famously tells us we don’t need God to get through the pandemic was reminded that the First Amendment doesn’t get shoved in the closet because he feels like issuing orders. As Justice Neil Gorsuch declared:
“So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians. Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?”
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Cuomo thinks he can order people not to go to church because, as he sees it, the First Amendment takes a back seat to the pandemic, and a governor who has little regard for God is happy to decide that worship gatherings are not essential. Now that the Court actually has five constitutionalist Justices, Cuomo is predictably grousing that the Court is just using him to make a statement that a new sheriff’s in town.
But Cuomo is not the only one the majority came down on.
Ever since his decision to uphold ObamaCare in the 2012 case NFIB vs. Sebelius, Chief Justice Roberts has been bound and determined to prevent the Court whenever possible from intervening in political disputes. He says his concern is that the Court will lose credibility if it constantly intervenes in matters that should be decided in the political arena. That’s a concern that has some merit, but Roberts is applying it in ways that make no sense. When politicians take actions that violate the constitutional rights of the people, it’s the job of the Supreme Court to intervene. Refusing to do so, as Roberts once again did here by siding with the liberal minority, gives politicians free reign to throw off constitutional limits and just do whatever they want.
Justice Gorsuch had something to say about that too:
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“Even if the Constitution has taken a holiday during this pandemic, it cannot become a sabbatical,” Justice Gorsuch writes. “Rather than apply a nonbinding and expired concurrence from South Bay, courts must resume applying the Free Exercise Clause. Today, a majority of the Court makes this plain.”
Roberts took umbrage at Gorsuch’s statement, which referred to a ruling earlier this year in which Roberts cited a century-old case that affirmed politicians’ powers in the event of an emergency. But Gorsuch is right. If the Court is never willing to step in on a political matter, there is nothing restraining politicians from violating the Constitution.
When Roberts sided with the liberals in saving ObamaCare, he said it is not the job of the Supreme Court to save the public from the results of its political decisions. We agree. If voters are foolish enough to give Democrats charge of the White House and Congress, voters are going to have to pay the price by living with the liberal policies that will be shoved down their throats.
But it is the job of the Supreme Court to uphold the Constitution. When Democrats raise your taxes, running to the Supreme Court for relief is an exercise in futility. You were the dummies who elected Democrats, and you should have known what they would do. But when Democrats forbid you from going to church, you have a right to relief from that abuse of power, even if you were dumb enough to elect them.
That is how the separation of powers works. That’s how checks and balances work. If Chief Justice Roberts has lost sight of this, it’s a good thing we now have a majority on the Court that understands its job. Perhaps he can brush up on the role of the judicial branch and rejoin the side that favors the Constitution above all else. Or if he never actually understood this, perhaps his colleagues could sit him down and explain it to him.