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Donald Morrison: Like the Taliban, Supreme Court rules from the dark ages

Clarence Thomas smiles

Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, shown in 2018, has indicated that overturning Roe v. Wade could pave the way for tossing out other rights like birth control and same-sex marriage.

The Taliban, as you well know, is a militant, fundamentalist movement that favors dark robes, male supremacy and the primacy of religion over government.

Founded by Islamic students in Afghanistan in the early 1990s, the Taliban took over that country last August and is now imposing its highly retrograde brand of religious law on most facets of human activity.

An offshoot of the movement is currently doing something similar in the U.S.

On Friday, mullahs in dark robes decreed an end to the right of American women to obtain safe abortions, overturning a half-century of legal precedent. In a 6-to-3 decision, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority zeroed out the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, thereby allowing U.S. states to limit and even end female reproductive rights as they see fit.

That move was the third medieval decision in the closing week of the court’s current term. On Tuesday, it ruled that Maine must include religious schools in a government scholarship program, an unusual breach of America’s long tradition of church-state separation. On Thursday, the court struck down a New York law requiring licenses for carrying concealed handguns in public and opening the way for Old West firefights on the streets of Albany and Brooklyn. In all three cases, the six Republican-appointed justices formed the majority.

The trend is unmistakable. A conservative takeover of the court, sealed by President Donald Trump’s fortuitous appointment of three staunch right-wingers in his single term, will be remaking America for years, perhaps decades.

How? In his concurring opinion on Friday’s abortion decision, Clarence Thomas — a Republican appointee whose wife, Ginni, is a prominent anti-abortion activist — laid out the court’s conservative agenda.

Thomas indicated that overturning Roe v. Wade could pave the way for trashing Griswold v. Connecticut (access to birth control), Lawrence v. Texas (the right to same-sex relationships), and Obergefell v. Hodge (the right to same-sex marriage). Thomas didn’t mention it, but other conservatives have their sights set on Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 case that recognized the legitimacy of interracial marriages.

You’ll be hearing a lot in coming months about how electing Democratic legislators and presidents, or perhaps even expanding the court, is necessary to help America avoid this fate. But the Taliban takeover of the U.S. Supreme Court will likely linger for all my remaining years, and many of yours.

The irony is thick. After years of battling a militant, misogynist, repressive insurgency in Afghanistan, the U.S. is losing a similar battle at home over its identity as a free and tolerant nation. Say goodbye to a raft of women’s rights, minority rights and rights of all kinds for a majority of Americans. Get used to living in the last century, or perhaps the golden age of the caliphs a millennium ago.

The parallels don’t end there. Nearly all recent Supreme Court justices, including a few appointed by Democratic presidents, have ties of one sort or another to the Federalist Society. Founded in 1982 by a group of law students, that well-funded, well-connected legal organization aims to propagate conservative juridical principles and to groom future lawyers and judges.

The real Taliban, not incidentally, is allied with the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence. The largest and most influential among Islam’s several tendencies of legal thought, Hanifism is known for for favoring expediency over reason and personal opinion over fact. Also, for its robust justifications of a particularly conservative form of justice: the stoning to death of women for sexual misbehavior.

Don’t mention that last one to our current justices.

Donald Morrison is an Eagle columnist and co-chairman of the advisory board. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.

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