Supreme Court in 2018: significant, controversial.


Byline: Aaron Van Oort

At the United States Supreme Court this year, Justice Anthony Kennedy retired, his former law clerk Justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced him, and the Court addressed a number of significantand sometime controversialissues. Here are ten cases to remember.

Religion and immigration

Immediately upon taking office, President Trump issued an executive order that for 90 days barred the entry into the United States of all foreign nationals from seven majority-Muslim countries. The bar was struck down in the lower courts, and the President replaced it with a second one. That bar too was struck down, and the President replaced it with a third order that applied to eight countries, some majority-Muslim and others not. Struck down in the lower courts, this bar reached the Supreme Court, which affirmed it against the argument that it discriminated against religion in violation of the Establishment Clause. Although the bar itself was facially neutral as to religion and focused on the affected countries' security screening and threat of terrorism, the challengers argued that the "President and his advisers" had made a series of statements "casting doubt on the official objective" of the bar. "[T]he issue before us," the Court held, "is not whether to denounce the statements" but instead what significance they had "in reviewing a Presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility." Concluding that the very most the courts could do is review the bar for a rational basis, the Court sustained it as being based on legitimate security concerns, notwithstanding the President's comments. Trump v. Hawaii.

Religion and same-sex marriage

The First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion and the freedom of speech, but in 2015 the Supreme Court held that the Constitution also protects the right to same-sex marriage. When state laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation are applied to people holding religious objections to same-sex marriage, courts are called upon to reconcile the conflicting rights. So it was in Colorado, where a devout Christian baker declined to bake a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage and was charged with violating Colorado's anti-discrimination laws. Reviewing the record of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission's adjudication of the claim, the Court found that members of the Commission showed a "clear and impermissible hostility...

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