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“I solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” (A portion of the oath that I swore when I enlisted into the U.S. Army in 1985)
When our federal Constitution was crafted in 1787, our federal government was intentionally split into three separate branches, the Legislative, the Executive and the Judicial. Our Congress legislates laws and passes them on to the Executive Branch to either approve with a signature or to veto while the Supreme Court judges decide whether laws do or do not pass constitutional muster.
Over this past week our Supreme Court made three separate landmark rulings dealing with gun rights, abortion and public prayer. In my Libertarian opinion, all three were decided correctly.
Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Case number one, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, 597 U.S. ___ (2022). This case concerned the constitutionality of a New York state law known as the 1911 Sullivan Act that required applicants for a license to carry a pistol concealed upon their person to show “proper cause,” or a special need distinguishable from the general public. In a 6–3 decision, the majority ruled that New York’s law was unconstitutional and effectively ruled that the public possession of pistols was a constitutional right under the Second Amendment.
Libertarians affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms as an extension of the most fundamental right of all, the right of self-defense. We oppose all laws at any level of government restricting, registering, or monitoring the ownership, manufacture, or transfer of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories.
Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Case number two, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19-1392, 597 U.S. ___ (2022). This case was about the constitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi state law that banned most abortion operations after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. The majority opinion held that abortion is not addressed anywhere within the Constitution and therefore is not a constitutional right at the federal level, yet recognizing that the 10th Amendment defers discretion in regulating abortion to the individual states.
Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, Libertarians believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.
Libertarians also oppose the use of taxpayer funds or other government resources for abortion. Like other matters of individual conscience, abortion should be kept out of the public sphere. Those who truly want to reduce abortions should consider that a culture of freedom, persuasion and real individual choice can accomplish far more than a culture of prohibition and punishment ever has.
First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Case number three, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, 597 U.S. ___ (2022), the court held that while following the Establishment Clause (separating church and state, taken from Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 reply to the Danbury Baptist Association), the government may not suppress an individual from engaging in personal religious observance, as doing so would violate the Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment.
The case involved Joseph Kennedy, a high school football coach in the public school system of Bremerton, Washington. Kennedy had taken the practice of praying at the middle of the field immediately after each game. The practice was soon joined by the players and others.
The school board was concerned the practice would be seen as infringing on the Establishment Clause, and Kennedy’s contract was not renewed, leading Kennedy to sue the board. While lower courts had ruled in favor of the school board and their argument regarding the Establishment Clause, the majority opinion from the Supreme Court found that the Establishment Clause does not allow a government body to take a hostile view of religion in considering personal rights under the Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses, ruling that the board acted improperly in not renewing Kennedy’s contract.
Libertarians support the full freedom to engage in or abstain from any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others. We oppose government actions that either aid or attack any religion.
Justice Clarence Thomas summed these decisions stating that: “You can be in the middle of a hurricane, or you can be on a calm day, north is still north. You could be in a thunderstorm, north is still north. People can yell at you, north is still north. It doesn’t change fundamental things, and in this business, right is still right.”