Vegas and SCOTUS: Strange Bet Fellows

Vegas and SCOTUS: Strange Bet Fellows

July 28, 2020

If there's one thing Americans have learned from the Supreme Court in 2020, it's this: there are no guarantees. Even now, after a slew of bad decisions, conservatives wanted to believe that when it comes to religious liberty, even Chief Justice John Roberts couldn't get that wrong. Well, think again. When it comes to siding with the Constitution, even Vegas will tell you -- don't bet on Roberts.

Even by the Left's estimation, Friday's case was cut and dried. When Nevada's governor, Steve Sisolak (D) decided to open casinos to thousands of people -- but cap church attendance at 50 -- the lawsuit almost wrote itself. As far as First Amendment violations go, experts thought, this was textbook. "Not only is this disparate treatment," Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) argued on "Washington Watch," but "the Constitution of the United States gives churches and the right to worship a special status." So, imagine everyone's surprise -- including the liberal media's -- when this case was fast-tracked to the Supreme Court for emergency action, and the liberal majority refused to intervene!

To the absolute astonishment of everyone, Roberts and the other liberal justices decided that casinos should have more freedom to operate than the houses of worship legally protected by the Constitution. "It's quite remarkable," Alliance Defending Freedom's David Cortman said. And the other four justices agreed. In a pair of biting dissents, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, tried to understand how anyone -- let alone five members of the U.S. Supreme Court -- could justify the "right" to play craps over the free exercise of religion.

"The world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges," Gorsuch agreed. "But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel." The Constitution, Alito piled on, "says nothing about the freedom to play... blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine, or to engage in any other game of chance." And while we're on the subject of the pandemic, he wonders, how does the court square the risks of a casino, packed with "thousands of patrons," eating, drinking, and "far less physical distancing," with a church that has strict safety measures in place? It's obvious why Nevada would prioritize casinos, since over a third of the state's revenue comes from gambling. But from a pure health perspective, it makes no sense. And even less, Hawley pointed out, from a legal one.

"[We are in] big trouble," he said. "Big trouble." "I mean, it's bad enough that churches in Nevada and elsewhere are being treated as second-class institutions... worse than liquor stores or gambling halls or casinos or whatever else. That's bad enough... But this decision on Friday, this is antithetical to the rule of law. [It's] dangerous." It's also, he believes, "quite significant that the majority was silent. They didn't write [an opinion]." Maybe, he said, because it's unjustifiable. But either way, Hawley shook his head, "I'd love to see them try to explain this outrageous decision."

And he's not the only one. Outlets from Vox to National Review scratched their collective heads at how the court could get this so wrong. At the Wall Street Journal, the editors wondered what happened to the reliable SCOTUS on religious freedom? "[D]uring the pandemic, it has been missing in action." Even liberal reporters thought the case was a slam dunk and struggled to explain how Nevada's churches could bring such "an unusually strong challenge" to the governor and "los[e] anyway."

What are Americans supposed to do when the deck is so obviously stacked against them? "We've got elected officials in some states who are disregarding the laws of probably their state and certainly of the United States Constitution. And we have the United States Supreme Court that thinks that it's a super legislature, [making] up the law as it goes along..." Hawley argued. What the justices did, he said, "is even worse than taking a pass." They endorsed discrimination -- plain and simple. And while he's asked the Justice Department to open a civil rights investigation in these states, "We should not lose sight of the fact that the Supreme Court is falling down on its constitutional responsibilities here... The imperial judiciary lives," he warned. "...And this Supreme Court is as imperial a court as we have ever had.

Americans have been dealt a bad hand from the Supreme Court in 2020. But rolling the dice with our First Freedom? That's something no one can excuse.

Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Hit or Myth? Dems Call Riots Fake News

July 28, 2020

You have to give the Democrats credit. They've found a way to justify their silence on the riots: refusing to admit they exist! Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) tried that when he ran into a citizen who asked him if he disavowed the Antifa violence in Portland. "That's a myth," he insisted, "being spread only in Washington, D.C." Well, if it's a myth, Oregon residents will tell you, it's a pretty convincing one.

To the hundreds of police and federal officers taking cover from mortars, fireworks, and hammers, the idea that Portland's mayhem belongs in a league with Sasquatch is more than a little deranged. Videos of protestors burning streets, hauling down fences, and lobbing Molotov cocktails at buildings are a lot of things, but faked is not one of them. "Sir," Austen Fletcher pressed, wondering if he'd heard the congressman right, "There's videos everywhere online," Mr. Fletcher continued. "There's fires and riots, they're throwing fireworks at federal officers. DHS is there. Look online. It gets crazy, Mr. Nadler."

Nadler, whose staff is desperately nudging him to the car at that point, is nonplussed. And why not? This is a man who stood on the House floor and called Antifa -- a group so dangerous that President Trump declared them a terrorist organization -- "imaginary." Good luck persuading the people of Portland, who've woken up to the sounds of sirens and destruction every night for 60 days. It's not only real, reporters say, it's a war zone. "I interviewed a veteran," the Daily Caller's Jorge Ventura explained on "Washington Watch," "who told me it actually reminds him of his time in Iraq. That's how bad [it's gotten] here." But to hear it's a myth? "It was shocking," Jorge said. "I mean, an Antifa member actually stabbed a black Trump supporter on Friday night."

"Democrats can't seem to make up their minds," Kaylee McGhee writes. "First they deny that protests in Portland and Seattle are violent, [then they] claim that President Trump and the GOP are propagating this 'myth' to win over voters... Now, after hours of video evidence and multiple insider reports, Democrats are finally admitting that the riots on the West Coast are indeed riots, but with one caveat: Trump is to blame."

Jorge, like other conservative journalists, have gone to Portland to see for themselves what's happening. And to a person they'll tell you: the things they've seen are a whole lot worse than the media's admitting. "I've been covering protests all across the country, and I've never seen anything like we're seeing here in downtown Portland. These groups are very well organized. They have medic teams. They actually have their own kitchen called Riot Ribs across the park that feeds these protesters and actually supplies them with shields and eyewear and other things they need to be out here. It's just, I've never seen anything like it."

The cache of weapons alone is astounding. "We're talking about mortars, fireworks, hammers, all types of things that we've actually never seen on the ground." He talked about federal officers injured and hospitalized in the blasts. Other police officers, he explains, who were possibly blinded for life because of the high-powered lasers thugs are training on their eyes. "We saw some power tools being used on the high fences... guarding the federal courthouse... I've just never seen the organization level that we're seeing here in Portland."

So who, exactly, is fueling the effort? Antifa, Jorge said. No doubt in his mind. They're "taking in money and donations online." And that, to a large extent, is what's supplying these mobs. "One thing that we've been noticing here [is] that numbers of people have been driving up to the parks with all types of things. We've been seeing gas masks delivered here, eyewear, bats, shields, you name it... [and] a lot of these folks here are not from Portland." Some are driving in from Seattle, and others are "bigger members of the Antifa group, bringing in these types of weapons into the riots."

And to the extent that the media is covering the story, they're only telling one side of it. "I call it a media war," Jorge explains. If the local journalists or national press uploads videos or pictures to social media, they edit it so that all people see is the police response -- not the violence that led up to it. "The New York Times just put out a piece basically putting the blame on Trump and the federal administration. But what we've been seeing here on the ground is that's just really not the case."

If it's a myth Democrats are looking for, start there. Because this president isn't starting the fires. He's only trying to contain them.

Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Next Vacancy, Hawley Will Roe His Vote

July 28, 2020

If there's any comfort to be had from 2020's miserable string of Supreme Court rulings, it's that conservatives aren't going to take the next vacancy lying down. After years of taking judges at their word, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) says it's time to play hardball. If the next person sitting before the Judiciary Committee says they're pro-life, they'd better have a record that proves it.

"I don't want private assurances from candidates," Hawley insisted. "I don't want to hear about their personal views, one way or another. I'm not looking for forecasts about how they may vote in the future or predications. I don't want any of that. I want to see on the record, as part of their record, that they have acknowledged in some forum that Roe v. Wade, as a legal matter, is wrongly decided."

Like a lot of Americans, Hawley's had it. Watching the Supreme Court try to justify a horrible ruling on abortion regulations last month only strengthened his resolve. "It's time," he told listeners on "Washington Watch" "that we ask the question that's fundamental to a judge's judicial philosophy. And Roe was an unbridled act of judicial imperialism. It's also a moral outrage -- one of the worst decisions ever handed down by the United States Supreme Court... It belongs with Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson as decisions that have wounded the soul of this nation... And I want to know from any individual judge or whatever nominated to the United States Supreme Court whether they are able to recognize the illegitimate nature of Roe vs. Wade as a constitutional matter." If it's not there, he warns, if there's not evidence, "I will not vote."

Hawley's line in the sand comes after a particularly painful term at the court, where the Constitution took one of its worst beatings in recent memory -- most of them at the hands of Chief Justice John Roberts, who conservatives were assured in 2005 was a solid pick. For years, groups like FRC have been told by Republicans to shut up and support their nominees, even if they didn't have a reassuring paper trail. That ends now. The sanctity of human life is a fundamental issue, and if a nominee can't get that right, it's very unlikely they'll get anything else right either.

If we trace it back, Senator Hawley said, Roe "is the point at which the modern court, back in 1973 said, 'We're not even going to attempt to follow the Constitution.' ... Which is why a judge's position on Roe, the understanding of that case as a legal matter sheds great light. It is a window into their constitutional worldview. And the simple fact of the matter is, if you can't recognize that ruling was wrong constitutionally, then you are a judicial imperialist, and that's going to have consequences across a range of cases. It's a basic matter of constitutional fidelity."

At the end of the day, Senator Hawley pointed out, "it's not my job to choose the judges or the justices to be nominated. I only have one role in this process -- and that is to vote to confirm or not. And I'm just saying that I will not vote to confirm if a judge nominated for the Supreme Court has not acknowledged Roe was wrongly decided."

Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.