Supreme Court skips religious liberty fight

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 14th of April, 2020. We’re so glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Well, a busy week for the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday, the high court at long last announced it will take up some of the remaining oral arguments in May. It’ll be via telephone, and the media will have access. So this’ll be interesting.

And last week, the justices turned down an appeal from the Roman Catholic Church over the ban on religious ads on public buses. For years, the Washington, D.C. transit authority accepted ads both religious and non. But then in 2015 it made a new policy prohibiting ads that promote or oppose religion.

EICHER: Two years later during the Advent and Christmas season the Archdiocese of Washington wanted to put an ad on buses with a graphic of shepherds and sheep in silhouette along with the caption: Find the Perfect Gift. 

The transit agency said no. So, the church sued on First Amendment grounds. It lost in lower court, so the church appealed to the Supreme Court.

REICHARD: But the Supreme Court didn’t take the case. It turns out it just wasn’t a good candidate for review, because Justice Brett Kavanaugh recused himself—and that move left only eight justices to decide. I think this is an acknowledgement the remaining justices might split 4-4, and resolve nothing. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote separately about the merits of this dispute. Very interesting.

EICHER: Let me quote a line you highlighted, Mary: “…the government may designate a forum for art or music, but it cannot then forbid discussion of Michelangelo’s David or Handel’s Messiah. And once the government declares Christmas open for commentary, it can hardly turn around and mute religious speech on a subject that so naturally invites it.”

REICHARD: I think the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority might want to revise its policy, given that.

(AP Photo/Mark Tenally) This is a Jan. 27, 2020 file photo of The Supreme Court in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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