The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns freedom of religion. This constitutionally protected right has been threatened numerous times during the COVID-19 pandemic and prior to it. The Supreme Court accepted four religious freedom cases for its 2021-22 docket. Kelsey Dallas has the following descriptions of the cases. She included the dates that the cases will be heard.
Ramirez v. Collier: This case grew out of a death row inmate’s quest to have his pastor with him just before he was put to death by the state of Texas. Under the state’s current policy, religious advisers do not have access to inmates in their final moments. Last month, the Supreme Court put John Ramirez’s execution on hold in order to weigh his religious freedom concerns. The justices will hear oral arguments in this case on Nov. 1.
Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Fazaga: In the wake of 9/11, Muslim Americans faced intrusive and often unjustified surveillance, as I reported last month. However, the people affected generally struggled to challenge the government’s practices in court, in part because officials could claim “state secrets privileges” and refuse to turn over significant evidence. In Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Fazaga, the Supreme Court will examine the limits of these privileges and determine whether the government has been given too much leeway. Oral arguments will take place on Nov. 8.
Carson v. Makin: This case centers on a tuition assistance program in Maine that’s currently unavailable to students at some private, religious schools. The justices will consider whether it’s unlawful to use public money to fund faith-based education, as state officials believe it is. Oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 8.
Shurtleff v. City of Boston: Can faith-related flags fly on public flagpoles? That’s one of the key questions in this clash between Boston officials and a Christian group. The group alleged religious discrimination after the city turned down its request to use a city hall flagpole that had been shared with a variety of other organizations. The Supreme Court will have to decide if Boston officials were right to worry that flying the flag would represent unlawful religious expression. Oral arguments have not yet been scheduled in this case.