Roberts court decisions should propel us to vote
By Dr. E. Faye Williams
Trice Edney Newswire
Many of us who were reared in the Christian church remember stories of King Solomon. In his era, kings were the final arbiters of conflict in their kingdoms. Solomon was the epitome of the thoughtful and deliberate judge. In his most famous trial, he used his God-given wisdom to reach a balanced decision that saved the life of a child and reunited it with its natural mother. Solomon was wise and fair.
Lacking a monarchy and having a nation too large for a single arbiter of justice, Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution provides for a Supreme Court and such inferior courts as Congress may establish. This law placed nine people as final arbiters of law for a nation that has grown to over 316 million people of varying backgrounds.
In our modern era, Chief Justice Earl Warren, is held as the epitome of fairness and impartiality. Despite the misgivings of several justices, the Warren Court rendered the unanimous Brown v. Board decision at a time when the country was embroiled in a transitional period of race relations.
The Warren Court’s legacy is one of decisions made in the best interest of the nation — not a particular political or philosophical position. Unfortunately, the current Court, led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, can’t be held in the same esteem or trusted to act in a manner as balanced as Warren’s.
On June 30, 2014, the Roberts Court issued two major decisions with the potential of reshaping our political and cultural landscape for the next century. In the Chicago healthcare workers’ case, Harris v. Quinn, the Court acted against the collective bargaining activities of unionized workers. In the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the Court reaffirmed its earlier Citizens United decision that gave personhood and free speech rights to corporations!
If one were to only consider these most recent decisions, a generous person might say they were honest judgments of the majority. Looking further, that’s impossible. The hyper-partisanship infesting Congress has also infected the Supreme Court.
We’ve never before seen the overt partisanship as we have with the conservative wing of the Roberts’ Court. Justice Antonin Scalia publicly editorializes about racial entitlements. Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife is CEO of a conservative PAC. Five justices are often speakers at conservative gatherings expressing support for conservative causes. The author of the two referenced decisions is Justice Samuel Alito.
So what impact do these decisions have on us? In Harris v. Quinn, critics see an incremental effort to disconnect unions from union dues, their primary source of revenue. The ultimate goal is union dissolution.
This is significant since labor unions are a primary source of funds for Democrats and progressive initiatives. Weakening unions would also reduce the messaging power to offset the impact of wealthy donors like the Kochs, and serve as an immediate boost to Republicans.
Proponents argue Hobby Lobby was about free speech, not birth control. The result was an extension of free speech rights to corporations. The Court subordinated the religious rights of hundreds of workers to the religious will of their employer.
This decision elevated the “War on Women” to new levels, establishing women’s healthcare issues as being apart from the health concerns of men and, therefore, subject to separate evaluation for need and insurance coverage.
The legacies of Reagan and the Bushes live on through the decisions of their appointees. If we’ve never felt an incentive to vote, we have one now. Using the wisdom God granted Solomon, we must change the mindset our vote doesn’t matter. It matters in 2014 and every election.
Don’t sit on the sidelines and wake up on Nov. 5, 2014 in a world that contradicts the efforts of our ancestors. Their work and their lives must not be in vain.
E. Faye Williams is president/CEO of the National Congress of Black Women. She can be reached at 202.678.6788. www.national congressbw.org.