A Severe Headache for the Gang of Four Plus One

A Severe Headache for the Gang of Four Plus One August 14, 2020

The recent case, Aimee Maddonna v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services was discussed in a previous article. It involves a mother of three from Simpsonville, S.C., who was rejected as a foster care provider by Christian Miracle Hill Ministries, a taxpayer-funded agency, solely because she is Catholic. Christian Miracle Hill Ministries is an evangelical Protestant outfit. President Trump and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster think this is just fine.

The state of South Carolina has filed various motions to dismiss the case, but the US District Court in South Carolina has ruled that the case can proceed. It seems likely that however this case is decided, there will be appeals, eventually ending up at the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS).

Any discussion about the SCOTUS must be prefaced with the observation that the current court is a rabidly political slugfest, with the far-right conservative Gang of Four: Justices Kavanaugh, Thomas, Gorsuch and Alito. Opposing them are four liberal-leaning Justices: Breyer, Sotomayer, Kagan and Ginsburg.  The self-described “referee” in this is Chief Justice Roberts, who is also conservative. The Gang of Four plus Roberts are all Catholic. On cases related to religious rights to discriminate, the vote has almost always been 5-4 in favor of the right-wingers.

The Gang of Four and Roberts have been staunch defenders of the “right” of religious believers to discriminate against people for reasons based on their religious faith. The best-known case is the Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. And the pharmacists who refuse to dispense contraceptive pills on religious grounds.

In a decision that has broad implications for LGBTQ+ workers, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that federal antidiscrimination laws do not apply to teachers at church-sponsored schools if instruction in religion is part of their jobs. There is another case coming up in January where a religious adoption agency has refused to accept a gay couple as prospective parents.

These cases involved LGBTQ plaintiffs, but Aimee Maddonna is a straight, Catholic. This will be a good test of the Catholics on the Court, and their commitment to the “right to discriminate” on religious grounds. To put it in plainer terms, “what goes around comes around.” Let’s see how they like it when one of their own tribe is on the receiving end of the discrimination.

My guess is that they are hoping fervently (praying?) that the Appellate Court rules for the plaintiff so that they can just decline to grant certiorari when the case is appealed to them. That would help the headache, but it would not hide the hypocrisy.

But, if the verdict is for the defendant, it’s going to be fascinating to see how they deal with this.

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