The Supreme Court Enters US Cultural Wars

With the conservative majority ready to stamp its mark on America’s most polarizing topics, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that might endanger university rules based on race.

The court was supposed to rule by the end of June on issues limiting abortion rights and expanding gun rights, key aims of US conservatives.

On Monday, the court took up the case against Harvard and UNC, allowing conservative justices to hobble affirmative action systems long loathed by the American right.

The court has gotten more forceful since Trump’s third nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, joined the 6-3 conservative majority in 2020. Her selection marginalized Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative institutionalist.

According to Elizabeth Wydra, head of the liberal Washington-based Constitutional Accountability Initiative, the six-justice majority looks unconstrained by the limitations of judicial restraint, stare decisis, or incremental change.

Precedents are to be Respected in the Law

Judging from oral arguments last year, the court’s conservatives appear prepared to overrule the 1973 Roe v. Wade verdict that legalized abortion nationally. They also appear prepared to expand the ability to carry weapons in public in New York.

Observers say the court’s apparent eagerness to hear fresh cases reflects an empowered majority speeding up its rightward trend.

The court is more prepared to rethink precedent and broad questions when given a chance, says Jonathan Adler of Ohio’s Case Western Reserve School of Law.

This was because the court had been more careful in determining what cases to hear, well before conservative Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing in 2016.

With a 5-4 conservative majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy occasionally sided with liberals on hot-button topics like abortion, affirmative policy, and LGBT rights. As a result, the court avoided controversial cases or took on issues with smaller stakes.

It no longer has such concerns.

Approach to Politics

A case normally requires four justices to be heard. It has at least that many people who are unconcerned about being labeled as political actors, according to Joshua Wilson, a law and politics expert at the University of Denver.


Justices are also skeptical of government agencies’ influence, which might stifle President Biden and future governments. So, the court recently ruled that enterprises with 100 or more employees are not subject to Biden’s COVID-19 immunization or testing obligation.

The Supreme Court has taken up two lawsuits contesting the scope of groundbreaking environmental legislation to lower air and water pollution, despite the president’s requests to hold off until agencies create new regulations.

According to environmental attorney Ian Fein, the court was overly aggressive in bringing up the two cases. The court has also stepped up religious freedom. Before Kennedy’s retirement, it was generally pro-religious.

Since then, the court has ruled in favor of religious organizations contesting COVID-19 limits. Last week, the court heard a case from Maine that might increase public support of religious institutions.