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Editorial: Arbitrary rulings underscore need to limit Supreme Court justices' terms

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Three momentous Supreme Court rulings since Thursday underscore not only the convoluted thinking of the court’s conservative majority but also why the court no longer deserves to be taken seriously as a neutral arbiter in constitutional disputes. The court ruled on Thursday against states’ rights in a gun-control decision, then turned around on Friday to empower states to restrict women’s rights to control their own bodies.

The arbitrary nature of those two decisions, coupled with a bizarre ruling Monday allowing a public school coach to conduct prayer services on a public football field, exposes the fallacy behind conservative justices’ claim to be faithfully interpreting the Founders’ original intentions. Their rulings rate as little more than an excuse to impose their blatantly political views on a nation whose majority doesn’t share their far-right beliefs, making it harder and harder to justify lifetime appointments for what amount to black-robed politicians.

It’s not that every decision must win popular public support. If justices consistently pointed to specific wording in the Constitution to back their rulings, they could at least justify their interpretations. In Thursday’s ruling striking down a New York State restriction on carrying guns in public, justices quite specifically ignored the Constitution in order to impose their personal political views.

The Second Amendment’s wording couldn’t be more clear: “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.” Militias, by definition, are state entities apart from the national military forces. The phrase “well regulated” leaves zero ambiguity about states’ right and responsibility to impose the restrictions they deem appropriate.

New York imposed the regulations it deemed fit. But Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the conservative majority, had to blatantly disregard the “well regulated” phrasing to reach his conclusion that the state may not limit “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.”

By focusing on the abortion question as a privacy issue under the Constitution, justices on Friday chose to ignore the equal-protection stipulations of the 14th Amendment. States are now empowered to treat women as baby-making vessels, while men are subject to no such laws. The Supreme Court has enshrined inequality of the sexes in law as if the 14th Amendment simply doesn’t exist.

As for Monday’s ruling upholding a Washington State football coach’s right to pray on the field with student players gathered around him, justices again had to ignore First Amendment stipulations about the separation of church and state instead of simply telling the coach to conduct his religious observance on his own time away from state-owned facilities.

The case has never been stronger for Congress to impose term limits on justices, because the last thing America needs is to install unelected politicians, regardless of liberal or conservative leanings, to lifetime positions purporting to uphold “justice.”


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