WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - JULY 12, 2023
In this week's Intersect, read about:
Supreme Court Strikes Down Biden Student-Loan Forgiveness Program
“By a vote of 6-3, the justices ruled that the Biden administration overstepped its authority last year when it announced that it would cancel up to $400 billion in student loans. The Biden administration had said that as many as 43 million Americans would have benefitted from the loan forgiveness program; almost half of those borrowers would have had all of their student loans forgiven.” read more at SCOTUSblog
- The key question the court needed to answer was not whether the debt-relief program was a good idea, but whether it complied with federal law. The court ruled that it did not. The decision was split between the conservative and liberal justices.
- Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that if Congress had intended to give the Secretary of Education authority to decide such vast economic impact, it needed to explicitly say so in the law. This comes back to the separation of powers. When unelected bureaucrats exceed the boundaries of the laws written by our elected representatives, we cease to be a government of, by, and for the people.
- Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the dissenting opinion, argued that the law in question does give the Secretary of Education “broad authority to give emergency relief to student-loan borrowers,” including the decision to cancel up to $20,000 per borrower. She argued that the majority’s opinion overrules Congress’s decisions about when and how to delegate authority to federal agencies.
- It all comes down to the question, “What did Congress authorize? How much power did it give to the Secretary of Education?” This case shows the distinction between the philosophies of conservative versus liberal justices. Both are reading the same law, but the interpretations are quite different.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the blessing of living in a country founded on the rule of law, not the dictates of human beings. I acknowledge that this is a big responsibility. Help me to seek Your will and honor You as I vote and seek the welfare of the country in which You have placed me. (Jeremiah 29:7)
Our votes directly or indirectly influence the decisions of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our federal government. Each of us has the responsibility to read the Constitution so we will understand the role and limits of each branch. Take a few minutes to download and read the U.S. Constitution.
Most Americans Approve of Supreme Court Decision Restricting Use of Race in College Admissions
“On Thursday, the Supreme Court set new limits on affirmative action programs in cases involving whether public and private colleges and universities can continue to use race as one factor among many in student admissions. A little more than half of Americans -- 52% -- approve of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on restricting the use of race as a factor in college admissions, while 32% disapprove and 16% saying they don't know.” Read more at ABC News
- What is Affirmative Action, and why is it controversial? Affirmative Action is the policy of offering preferential treatment on the basis of race. It was originally adopted to ensure those in a racial minority were treated equally. However, it quickly metastasized into a policy which emphasized differences among races, defined people by those differences, and implied that those differences can be fatal to a race’s success. The Court referred to this as “stereotyping” stating, “When a university admits students ‘on the basis of race, it engages in the offensive and demeaning assumption that [students] of a particular race, because of their race, think alike.” They went on to note that this was the very type of discrimination the Equal Protection Clause was meant to protect against. In this article, we take a more in-depth look at how focusing on differences causes division, not equality.
- As the Ipsos poll revealed, Americans are largely divided over this issue. Every sane person would agree that racial discrimination is despicable, but we somehow cannot agree on how far we should go to ensure one race is not given an advantage over another. At what point do we unconsciously begin racially discriminating in an effort to end racial discrimination? As Christians, we wrestle with the biblical mandate to show no partiality (James 2:9) whilst desiring all people of all races to have the same opportunities, but as Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the Court’s opinion, “Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.” In other words, discriminating to avoid discriminating is still discrimination at its core.
- While this case was focused on race-based college admissions, Affirmative Action has the potential of expanding to other marginalized groups. Today it is race, tomorrow it could be gender identity. Today it is academia, tomorrow it could be employment. By declaring race-based admissions unconstitutional, the Court laid the groundwork to protect Americans from other forms of discrimination.
Lord, we thank You for Your Word which tells us that You look at our hearts and not our outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7). We pray that our nation would also look at the hearts of people rather than discriminate based upon external differences. As we stand for what Your Word says, we ask that You sustain us and give wisdom and discernment to those You have allowed to hold seats in our justice system. Amen.
The United States’ justice system is extremely complex. We have local, state, and federal courts all tasked with evaluating cases for different things. Then we have the Supreme Court—the highest court in the nation—primarily ruling on the constitutionality of the law itself. In such a multifaceted system, it is easy to get tied up in the intricacies. That is why we developed this free resource—to help you better understand the justice system and the role you play in it.
Colorado Can't Punish Christian Website Designer for Refusing to Create Sites Against Her Beliefs
“The United States Supreme Court has ruled that Colorado cannot force a Christian website designer to create websites celebrating same-sex marriage. In a decision released Friday morning in the case of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, the high court ruled 6-3 that Lorie Smith of 303 Creative could not be compelled by state civil rights law to make websites that go against her sincerely-held religious beliefs.” read more at the Christian Post
- False narratives regarding this case abound. Kristen Waggoner of Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Smith, has publicly addressed them. The most fundamental falsehood is the idea that civil rights are now jeopardized, and business owners can refuse service to people based on their identity group. Both the dissenting opinion by Justice Sonya Sotomayor and a statement by President Biden tout this view.
- But is declining to promote a certain message the same as refusing to provide a general service to a certain person? Kellie Fiedorek of ADF pointed out that “various state and local governments have passed their own public-accommodation laws. While many states correctly apply these laws to help ensure that businesses do not discriminate against people based on who they are, Colorado is misusing its law and forcing people to say things they don’t believe, which violates their First Amendment rights.” I encourage you to read F`iedorek’s clear explanation of why freedom of speech does not conflict with public accomodation laws.
- While the case was argued on free speech grounds, it is also a victory for religious liberty since the message Lorie Smith could have been compelled to promote violated her religious beliefs about marriage. It also positively affected the case of Melissa Klein, a bakery owner in Oregon who was fined for declining to create a custom same-sex wedding cake. The Supreme Court has sent Melissa’s case back to Oregon with instructions to reconsider it based their ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis.
Heavenly Father, thank You for this victory for Christians, and people of all worldviews, from being forced by the government to promote messages against our beliefs. Help me to be inspired to live faithfully for You in everything I say and do, even when I am misunderstood. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
My Faith Votes recently sat down with best-selling author, Eric Metaxas, to discuss the disturbing silence of many American Christians in the face of evil policies – like the Colorado law Lorie Smith successfully fought. In this conversation, Eric encourages Christians to repent of their silence, bring their faith into the political sphere, trust God, and fight for what is right. Watch this inspiring wake-up call and share it with a friend!
Supreme Court Rules Unanimously for Sabbath-keeper
“A unanimous Supreme Court on Thursday told a lower court to take another look at an evangelical Christian postal worker’s request to have Sundays off for his Sabbath observance. The decision increases the expectations for employers seeking to deny religious accommodations to employees. Writing for the court, Justice Samuel Alito said that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires an employer that denies a religious accommodation to show that granting such a request would substantially increase the cost of doing business. Thursday’s ruling will affect every workplace that employs 15 or more workers. Employers will have to do more to justify denying an employee an accommodation to honor holy days, take prayer breaks during the day, dress according to religious beliefs, or otherwise keep their religious beliefs on the job.” read more at World News Group
- The rare unanimous ruling was a victory for Gerald Groff, an evangelical Christian who believes that Sundays should be reserved for rest and worship. Groff began working for the U.S. Postal Service in 2012, but when they contracted with Amazon to deliver packages on Sundays, his supervisor wouldn’t accommodate him, saying it had a negative impact on other employees. Rather than be fired, Groff resigned and brought forth a lawsuit. Groff had urged the court to overturn Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, a 1977 decision on the meaning of the “undue hardship” provision. Instead, Groff contended, the justices should hold that employers must accommodate their employees’ religious practices unless doing so would require significant difficulty and expense. The justices are sending Groff’s case back to the lower court for another look in light of the new legal standard. In the 21-page opinion, Alito explained that although lower courts since Hardison have interpreted the phrase “undue hardship” to mean “any effort or cost that is ‘more than … de minimis,’” that interpretation is “a mistake.”
- In a statement, a Postal Service spokesperson expressed confidence USPS will ultimately win the case after the lower court revisits it. "We agree with the Supreme Court’s clarification, which accepts the arguments we made before the Court, and which is fully consistent with the standard we apply when seeking to accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs, observances, and practices of our employees," the Postal Service said. "For those reasons, and because we believe the lower court will conclude that providing the requested accommodation here would impose a substantial burden on the Postal Service, we are confident that the Postal Service will again prevail when the case is remanded."
- Did you know that the only one of the 10 Commandments not repeated in the New Testament is the one about Sabbath-keeping? Does God require Sabbath-keeping of Christians? This article gives an insighful biblical explanation of why Sabbath-keeping is a matter of spiritual freedom, not a command from God. But even so, Romans 14 warns us not to pass judgement on each other for our beliefs about this matter. How much less should employers!
Lord, thank You for Mr. Groff and all of those he represents who have taken on the battle to protect our religious liberty in America. Bless them and protect them from the backlash of the enemy – spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. Thank You that no matter the worldly circumstances, we can worship, honor and praise You at any time and any place.
One of the ways we can celebrate the religious liberty we enjoy is to wear it for others to see. We’ve got new t-shirts in our My Faith Votes shop that will help you start a conversation about faith and freedom, right here. Every single time I wear my “Pray for America” shirt, I get stopped and asked about it!
My Faith Votes—is a nonpartisan movement that motivates, equips and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth. By partnering with national faith leaders, My Faith Votes provides resources to help Christians Pray, Think, and Act to create an America where God is honored in the public square.