A viral video from a Seattle coffee shop illustrates the growing tension between free speech and religious exercise values. In the Facebook video, Ben Borgman — the owner of Bedlam Coffee shop — threw a Christian group out of his shop while spewing vulgar and obscene comments about their views. There are a growing number of such conflicts as store owners assert their right to refuse to serve those with opposing religious or social values. On December 5, the Supreme Court will hear the argument in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Rights Commission. That case will determine if a cake shop owner could refuse to prepare a cake for a same-sex couple on the basis of his opposing religious values.
Below is my column in the Hill Newspaper on the proposals for new gun control measures in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre. As I discuss below, there are some obvious possible measures that could pass constitutional muster like banning bump stocks (which allow semi-automatic weapons to perform more like automatic weapons) and conversion kits. However, these proposals would not have prevented the massacre. There are many “work arounds” for semi-automatic weapons and Paddock would have likely passed any enhanced background checks. Nevertheless, GOP members have expressed interest in some additional gun control measures.
Here is the column:
I have previously criticized Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her continued political comments in speeches to liberal and academic groups. While not unique on the Court, Ginsburg is something of recidivist in abandoning the long-standing avoidance of justices of political discussions. Indeed, justices previously avoided most public speeches where Ginsburg has readily embraced her public persona. Her latest comments occur on the eve of the start of the new term, a term with an array of major cases that arose from highly charged political conflicts over immigration, discrimination, and gun rights. In her latest comments, Ginsburg echoed comments by Hillary Clinton that sexism was a big part of Trump’s victory. It is precisely the type of political commentary that has cast a shadow over the credibility of the Court in earlier controversies.
Below is my column in The Hill Newspaper on the termination of the second travel ban and issuance of the new order by the Trump Administration. As discussed in the column, the Supreme Court went ahead and removed the immigration cases from the schedule for oral argument while agreeing with the Administration to order briefings on whether the cases are now moot. It is hard to see how the cases are not moot in whole or substantial part. The Court tends to take off ramps to avoid constitutional decisions, particularly in the area of the separation of powers. It will hard not to take this obvious off ramp.
While the world did not end as announced on Saturday (which has proven an incredible inconvenience for those of us having to teach next week), the Trump travel ban did end on Sunday. When the Supreme Court lifted a significant part of the injunctions imposed on the bans by lower courts, there was a surprising footnote in the short order that I discussed at the time. The Court indicated that the Trump Administration had not asked for an expedited hearing before October. That set the travel ban up for what I described as “planned obsolescence” to expire shortly before the scheduled oral argument.
I will be participating in a panel today on the Supreme Court’s October Term 2017 with a stellar panel of experts at George Washington University. This has the makings of a historic term with issues ranging from President Trump’s travel ban to gerrymandering to religious objections to providing services for same-sex weddings. The panel will speak about possible new cases and possible outcomes in existing cases with many leading Supreme Court journalists and lawyers in attendance.
Without much notice or debate, Maryland officials ordered the removal of the statue of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney due to his authorship of the Dredd Scott decision. At midnight, workers quietly dismantled the statue in response to the violence in Charlottesville. Taney’s statue stood for 145 years on the Maryland State House and his removal follows calls for the removal of statues not simply of confederate figures but founders like George Washington and others associated with either slavery or segregation. I have cautioned against the wholesale removal of historical images and monuments and names at universities. The flaws and failures of historical figures are often as more important than their triumphs. The Taney removal reflects a widening array of figures who are now subject to call for removal — beyond confederate statuary. It is not clear what Maryland will do with the US Coast Guard Cutter Taney which currently is part of the Baltimore Maritime Museum. It is last surviving active ship from the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941. I have spent nights on the Taney with the Cub Scouts. While this is not on state lands, it is not clear if there will also be a demand that the ship be removed given its namesake or how far this movement to remove historical references will do.