Gorsuch Will Have an Immediate Impact

Apr 11, 2017

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who replaced Justice Antonin Scalia who passed away in February 2016, takes the bench just in time to vote on several high-profile cases.

Gorsuch will begin by hearing the April 19 oral arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley, a case of religious discrimination by the government.

Missouri’s Scrap Tire Program offers state funds to nonprofit groups that replace playground surfaces with recycled rubber. Trinity Lutheran Church applied to the program in 2012 to replace the gravel surface of its playground, but the state rejected its application, citing a clause in Missouri’s state constitution that bars the use of state funds “directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion.” At issue is a so-called “Blaine Amendment” that originated with U.S. Senator Blaine, who sought to amend the First Amendment to restrict private Catholic schools. When his efforts failed, some states adopted Blaine Amendments. Strictly applied, such provisions would prevent school vouchers and even restrict religious hospitals from receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds.

Another pending case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, first reached the Court in December, but the justices have not announced whether they’ll hear it. Jack Phillips, a baker, cited his religious beliefs when he refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Multiple state courts sided with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which found that Phillips violated the state’s public-accommodations laws by discriminating against same-sex couples.

In Peruta v. California, the justices will also review last year’s Ninth Circuit ruling that found there is no constitutional right to carry concealed firearms in public.

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