The Supreme Court as a Legion of Decency

Posted May 13, 2009 on 5:43 pm | In the category Free Speech, Supreme Copurt, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

The current U.S. Supreme Court has distinguished itself as an activist handmaiden of the Christian religious right. Two recent decisions illustrate the nuttiness that might have contributed to the retirement of Judge Souter and led many observers to wonder how in the devil we allowed such a takeover of one of our most important institutions. Both decisions relate to the efforts of the former chairman of the FCC to protect our tender eyes and ears from certain kinds of words and sights. One case involved the FCC’s policy to fine TV and radio stations for allowing “fleeting expletives” to go out on the airways. So if a sportscaster goes into a locker room and – shocking as it may seem – a professional athlete should refer to a loss as a “fuckin disaster” the broadcaster is liable to receive a sizable fine. Similarly, if a rock star wins a Grammy and accepts it in a live broadcast with the words, “fuckin awesome” the same holds. This FCC policy is apparently the brainchild of former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, an absolutist when it comes to the FCC’s right to determine what we can and cannot hear and see. The other case, of course, is the infamous half-second display of Janet Jackson’s left (or was it the right?) nipple during the Superbowl halftime extravaganza. The FCC fined CBS TV over $500,000 for that incident and surely the morals of American youth have not yet recovered. In any case the fine was overturned in a lower court and now the Supreme Court has sent it back to be reconsidered.

None of this would matter all that much if it were not emblematic of a right-wing activist court bent on controlling our lives in ways that are silly but nonetheless disturbing. Which brings us to the retirement of Justice Souter and the immediate response of Republican Senators that President Obama must not appoint anyone who might just possibly bring a modicum of sanity to a court populated with a majority of right-wingers who have done all possible to further the narrow ideology promoted by right-wing Christians. This before Obama has even mentioned possible names. What we are in for is a time wasting, grandstanding display of ignorance and hypocritical piety by Republican Senators who will carry the water of the likes of Pat Robertson and Pope Benedict. This in a country founded on the basis of separation of Church and State.

The complaints from the right will focus on what they contend are the evils of “activist” judges, (conveniently forgetting that the court has been – in their word, “activist,” for a number of years in the promotion of THEIR agenda), now defined as any judge who decides cases differently from what their religious beliefs would dictate. The political make-up of the Senate makes it likely that the Christian right will not prevail in the upcoming battle for the integrity of the Supreme Court but they will certainly make some of us scream for sanity.

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