Upcoming Supreme Court Cases of interest

From the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:

The Supreme Court opened it’s 2015-2016 term this week. There are several cases involving social issues that will affect issues of concern to Christians. Here are three cases you should know about:

The Case: Whole Woman’s Heath v. Cole (pending)

Subject: Abortion

What the case is about: The court is likely to hear this challenge to a Texas law that would reduce the number of abortion clinics in the state to about 10, down from more than 40. The question in the case is whether two parts of a 2013 state law imposed an “undue burden” on the constitutional right to abortion. According to the New York Times, “One part of the law requires all clinics in the state to meet the standards for ‘ambulatory surgical centers,’ including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.”

What to expect: The last time the court hear an abortion case was eight years ago when it upheld the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. If they do take up this case, the ruling will likely be closely divided and not determined until June 2016.

The Case: Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

Subject: Affirmative action

What the case is about: In 2008, Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas and asked the courts to declare the schools race-conscious admissions policy to be unconstitutional. The court could decide to eliminate or even end affirmative action in college admissions.

What to expect: A decision barring the use of race in admissions would undo the 2003 ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger, in which the Supreme Court said that public colleges and universities could not use a point system to increase minority enrollment but could take race into account in vaguer ways to ensure academic diversity.

Because Justice Kagan is recused from this case (she worked on it when she was the Solicitor Genera) it will be decided by only eight of the Justices. Four justices are likely to vote in favor of Fisher and hope to sway Justice Kennedy, who has never voted to uphold an affirmative action program.

The Case: Carr v. Kansas

Subject: Capital Punishment

What the case is about:  This case is concerned with the sentencing requirements and jury instructions in consolidated cases from Kansas, involving a decision by the Kansas Supreme Court to overturn death sentences for crimes that Justice Samuel Alito said “rank as among the worst.

What to expect: The case could be decided solely on the technical merits or it could be used to question the constitutionality of the death penalty under the Eight Amendment. Justices Breyer and Ginsburg wrote in an opinion in the Court’s last term that they believe it is time to consider “whether the death penalty itself is constitutional.” If they are able to convince three of their colleagues, capital punishment may once more be prohibited in the U.S.

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