Saturday, November 28, 2020

Response to After Thanks

(See: Just Above Sunset : After Thanks)

Okay, I’m no lawyer, and please don’t judge me, but after having now read the Supreme Court opinion, plus Roberts’ separate opinion, I find myself more or less (gasp!) siding with the Republican majority!

Except that I don’t think the dispute really has much of anything to do with religion at all — although if it’s not about religion, it shouldn’t be in the Supreme Court, right?

I suppose maybe the justices wanted to weigh in on this, but couldn’t do that without arguing that it involved the Constitution? I think they thought they couldn’t argue that these churches and synagogues can’t be treated worse than bars and restaurants without pointing out that those other places aren’t mentioned in the Constitution.

I don’t know. As I say, I’m not a lawyer. Whatever.

This case really seems to be just a question of whether churches and synagogues should be treated pretty much like everyone else, including “essential” and “non-essential” businesses alike — and from the looks of it, they’re not. In fact, some businesses seem to have no restrictions at all.

Also, I assume some huge church building that could normally accommodate thousands should be able to have more than ten (red zone) or twenty-five (orange zone) congregants in it at a time.

Plus, the dissenters’ argument — that the question is moot now because Cuomo has since relabeled the districts these institutions are in from orange down to yellow (no more than 50% capacity) — is silly, since that same color-coded system is still in effect, which means a district might still be flipped back in the other direction at a moment’s notice, and then we’re back to square one, but since this subject has now been breached, the justices might just as well deal with it now, when they have it, rather than later, after circumstances change back.

What I think should happen is Governor Cuomo should go back to the drawing board and see if he can find a way to design a more “equitable” system that loosens the restrictions, where all businesses (and please let’s not pretend religious institutions aren’t businesses!) are roughly on a level playing field, but without increasing the risk of even one more case of COVID than these institutions have already been racking up — which apparently is absolutely none (although that could be thanks to Cuomo’s help, for all we know.)

On the other hand, by the way, the reason I put “equitable” in quotes, above, brings up one more absurdity that gets hardly any mention in all this:

Pandemic restrictions shouldn’t be viewed as unfair treatment of some venue, they should be seen as necessary steps taken to keep human beings from getting sick and, in some cases, dying, not to forget passing the disease on, which would help create a gargantuan third wave of cases and deaths to levels to levels that tend to shock the rest of the world. 

In other words, it’s not about some state governor dissing Catholics or Orthodox Jews, it has more to do with Americans everywhere hiding in their homes and keeping their kids out of school, just to keep the family healthy and safe, and to keep this virus stuff from ruining our lives and economy for another two or three years or more.

The aim here should not be whether churches are being treated as fairly as hardware stores, the aim should be to make sure nobody, no matter if they’re singing praises to their god or purchasing a phillips screwdriver, catches a disease that not only could kill them but could endanger a member of their family or a friend or a stranger on the subway, who will then pass sickness and possible death on to others, ad infinitum.

But in fact, I see the court didn’t actually rule on whether the first amendment allows governments to tell religious institutions how to conduct themselves at all. In fact, if anything, it seemed to confirm that, yes, governments can do that, but that they just need to be sure they're “fair” about it when they do.

And while I did argue this decision isn’t about religion, the court itself might disagree with that, and I suppose may come back some day to revisit the question of whether or not we should be a theocracy after all, with governments being prohibited from even speaking to religious organizations at all, much less telling them they must obey our federal and local laws, just like everyone else.

At that point, I will rue the day that Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed, which was the day that conservative Republicans — who represent a minority of Americans, I must remind you! — finally took control over our nation's highest court, which is discussed in a recent issue of New York Times Magazine:

"Republican dominance over the court is itself counter-majoritarian. Including Amy Barrett, the party has picked six of the last 10 justices although it has lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, and during this period represented a majority of Americans in the Senate only between 1997 and 1998…”

If you’re interested in ideas of what we can do to fix the court, you should check out that article.

No, I’m not sure I'm in favor of “packing" the Supreme Court with my kind of judges — which could be undone in the time it would take the next president to snap his (or her) fingers — but I do think we are now at a point where we have to look into changing its structure and operation in a way that allows no one party to overwhelm the other, at the very least.

If we can't do something like that, along I suppose with a bunch of other things, this American ship might just find itself dead in the water.

But step one for Biden getting anything done next year might be for someone to pay Mitch McConnell a bucket of money to just go back home and leave America alone.

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(No trolls, please! As a rule of thumb, don't get any nastier in your comments than I do in my posts. Thanks.)