By Timothy Hecker
During the latest session the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert, No. 13-502, which limits on signs specifically targeted at religious services was unconstitutional. The signs were limited by an ordinance as follows: Political signs, concerning candidates and elections, were permitted to be as large as 32 square feet, were allowed to stay in place for months and were generally unlimited in number. Ideological signs, about issues more generally, were not permitted to be larger than 20 square feet, could stay in place indefinitely and were unlimited in number. Signs announcing church services and similar events were limited to six square feet, could be displayed only just before and after an event, and were limited to four per property as reported by the New York Times. The decision lands in the favor of religion and free speech which places an interesting irony on what has been a major talking point about how Obergefell v. Hodges, (link to result summary) has been talked about in the media and people ignoring the decision have been treated. As with the controversial religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas, many people have discussed the point that with gay rights becoming prevalent that those who are asking to refuse service are not being given religious freedom to do so, and every year when local communities complain about nativity scenes or lack thereof that the “war on Christmas” or “war on faith” is being started. However, decisions like this one often reaffirm the point that religion is not under attack. Decisions like Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores and Holt v. Hobbs (links to result summaries) both supported religion in the verdict as well. The point is that religion is not under attack, it is still the most important institution in the country by far and the only right being removed is the right to discrimination. Whether that be about loving god or loving a human regardless of gender.
By: David Gardy Ermann
On June 29th, 2015, the matter of Arizona voters’ rights to use an independent commission to draw congressional election districts to prevent the possibility of gerrymandering from state legislatures was affirmed in the SCOTUS opinion. The decision of Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission was a five-to-four split with Justice Ginsburg writing the majority opinion joined by Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.
The case stems from the adoption of Proposition 106 by voters in Arizona in 2000. Proposition 106 created the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) to be the independent commission that decides congressional and legislative election districts, rather than the Arizona State Legislature, in an attempt to prevent gerrymandering. The Arizona State Legislature, claiming that an independent commission violates the ‘Election Clause’ of the U.S. Constitution, filed suit. In the Opinion of the Court, Justice Ginsburg refers to the growth of direct democracy, but also the implementation of direct democracy in the Arizona Constitution, which recognized the voters and the representatives to be equal in terms of legislative power. The opinion noted that the Arizona State Legislature had a reasonable right to file the suit, but Proposition 106 and the independent commission created thereafter did not violate the ‘Elections Clause’ or any law. Thus, the opinion affirmed the ruling from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. It then renders the possibility that if voters in other states follow, the decision could lead to more competitive races for seats in the House of Representatives.
By Timothy Hecker
In the modern era of political buzzwords and sensitivity being the law of the land, it is hard to imagine that some of the most trusted political voices intentionally trying and provoke reaction from their viewers. The voices of comedy and absurd humor have become more integral parts of the media outlook than some “real” news sources. Jon Stewart in particular has done a great job obtaining fans throughout the political arena by making a lot of enemies. He has targeted mainstream media and exposed its manipulative strategies to the point that videos have been about how Jon Stewart is one of the fairest men in politics. In fact a 2014 poll found that eight percent of all surveyed found Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” to be the most trustworthy of news sources. 17% of liberals trusted it the most with more trusting the show than MSNBC. Fox news was the leader in trust, but a lot of that has to with being the biggest mass media market for conservatives especially considering the liberal media bias that has categorized most of mainstream news for a while. While eight percent may not seem like much it is important to remember that this is a comedy show that uses gags and pranks as part of its material, not to mention is part of a very competitive liberal market while Fox is all on its own. Even if it is not the most trusted it is still considered a valid source by millions.
It is easy to wonder what this has to do with law and the short answer is that this country’s voters are undeniably swayed by media in voting and political satirists have seen the incredible movement of people who hate all media news for it bias and corporate sponsorship. Native advertising or ads mixed with news are increasingly worrisome to the point that political comedian John Oliver used his show “Last Week Tonight” to explain why it is so awful to his viewers. Media is important in maintaining independent thought in the people of a country and suppressing it leads to dictatorship and corruption. When French satirists at Charlie Hebdo magazine where killed the world gathered around to remind people of our right to speak without fear of government overreach. Many could argue modern Medias in the pockets of governments or at least ideas but satirists have bias too. The separation is that satirists are meant to be comic and thought-provoking but not meant to be taken as a trust fall, media has failed in its professionalism and many find it hard to know what to believe. Voters who decide who can make laws have clearly shown that media is biased, a rent poll on the Washington Examiner said, “only 24 percent of American adults agree with the statement that "overall, the news media tries to report the news without bias," While 70 percent disagree.” The issue is far more complicated than can be expressed in this article but it makes you wonder who the American people really think is a joke.