Tom Waddell: The Supreme Court is putting our basic rights on the ballot this fall


“How many ears must a man have before he hears people cry? Yes, and how many deaths will it be before he knows too many are dead? The answer, my friend, breathes in the wind, the answer blows in the wind” (Bob Dylan, 1962).

Updating Dylan’s appeal, I ask, how many ears does the so-called Supreme Court have to have before it can hear the anguished cries of pregnant women who don’t want children? Yes, and how many behind-the-scenes abortion deaths will it take for Congress to know that too many women have died?

The answer, my friend, is when the six Christian nationalists on the US Supreme Court start making legal decisions based on the US Constitution instead of their personal religious beliefs.

As Americans United for Separation of Church and State wrote, “This Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion in an opinion that is a direct attack on the separation of church and state. Religious freedom requires the right to abortion so that people can make their own reproductive decisions according to their own principles. Abortion bans undermine religious freedom by attempting to impose a religious point of view on each of us. Americans United is preparing a religious freedom litigation that will bring this argument to our courts.

Reversing Roe, requiring states to pay for Christian education, and allowing public school coaches to compel students to publicly pray with them makes defending the Constitution’s First Amendment a constitutional violation.

The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of any religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Reversing Roe establishes a conservative Christianity that teaches abortion to be sinful as a de facto national religion. It also prohibits those whose faith teaches that being able to choose an abortion is a sacred right from exercising their own religious beliefs.

Apparently, prohibiting women from living their faith is only the first step in aborting other personal freedoms. When the disastrous ruling was announced, Judge Clarence Thomas wrote that the court should reconsider all other 14th Amendment due process rulings, including Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell. Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) gives women the right to use contraceptives. Lawrence v Texas (2003) gives same-sex couples the right to have a sexual relationship and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) gives same-sex couples the right to marry.

Interestingly, Thomas did not mention another 14th Amendment personal liberty case, Loving v. Virginia (1967). This case gives interracial couples such as Thomas, a black man, and his wife, Virginia Thomas, a white woman, the right to marry.

Obergefell, the plaintiff behind the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage, said on MSNBC “The Reid Out” which Thomas didn’t mention because “it affects him personally, but he doesn’t care about the LGBTQ+ community.”

Without everyone’s ability to follow their religious beliefs, no one has religious freedom. AUSCS writes, “The fundamental principle of separation of church and state is intended to protect us against this future and to safeguard our right to live as ourselves and to believe as we choose. Our laws must not allow anyone to use their religious beliefs to harm others. Allowing one person’s religious beliefs to dictate another’s personal medical and moral decisions is the very definition of harm. We repeat: reproductive freedom is religious freedom.

Some will say that since the Supreme Court has spoken, any effort by the people to turn the tide will be like spinning our wheels. I do not agree. Who sits on the Supreme Court changes over time, and since that court eliminated respect for precedence, the law of the land will change whenever the balance of power on the court shifts. Since presidents, in conjunction with other elected officials, appoint judges, it is up to voters to elect state and national politicians who will uphold individual freedoms.

Maine voters have the opportunity in November to elect state and national politicians who can directly affect the freedoms we have in Maine. Some candidates support a woman’s right to use contraception and to decide whether she wants to end a pregnancy. They support everyone’s right to marry the person they love. Unfortunately, some applicants do not.

Who you vote for in November will immediately affect whether or not Maine women retain the right to choose.

Tom Waddell is president of the Maine chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. He welcomes comments on [email protected] and

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