Following two devastating Supreme Court decisions for women’s rights in Gonzales v Carhart and Ledbetter v Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, the Supreme Court has issued four more reactionary rulings. In every case, the Court has split 5-4, with Bush’s appointees Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito siding with Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas. “The Bush-stacked Supreme Court, led by Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts, is doing exactly what they were appointed to do,” Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal said. “They are rolling back the clock on women’s rights and promoting a pro-big business, pro-religious right agenda.”
In the first case, the Court ruled 5-4 that an anti-abortion group’s television ads, which encouraged voters to contact Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) while he was up for re-election, were not in violation of campaign finance rules. In 2002, campaign finance rules were revised to ban corporations and unions from running “issue ads” that included the names of candidates for federal office within 60 days of a general election and within 30 days of a primary or caucus. Republicans and business interests have been leading the effort to challenge these rules. Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the decision for the majority, said that an advertiser’s intention to impact an election is not important, as long as they can show that it is a legitimate issue ad. “This is a big win for big money,” Mary Wilson, president of the League of Women Voters, said. “Chief Justice Roberts has reopened the door to corruption.”
The Supreme Court also ruled that tax-paying citizens do not have standing to challenge President Bush’s faith-based initiative program. The Freedom From Religion Foundation led a lawsuit, objecting to speeches at government conferences in which administration officials encourage religious charities to apply for federal funding. The plaintiffs argued that the spending of federal money to promote and aid church groups violated the separation of church and state. Despite a 1968 Supreme Court ruling that said that taxpayers could challenge the government for spending money on religion, the current Supreme Court threw out the case for lack of standing.
In a third case, the Supreme Court ruled against a high school student, who insisted that his display of a banner with the words “bong hits 4 Jesus” at a school-sanctioned event was within his first amendment right to free speech. The Court sided with the school principal, who suspended the student.
Finally, the Court majority sided with developers who prefer that state governments retain the right to issue permits to discharge waste in water. Because of the Court’s ruling, the Clean Water Act will continue to be enforced by state governments and the Federal Endangered Species Act will not be able to overrule other conflicting laws. Business developers have applauded the decision, while environmental rights advocates find it to be a major setback.