Supreme Court Rebuffs Anti-Corruption Appeal, Takes First Amendment Cases

The Supreme Court turned away the Justice Department’s appeal of a ruling that will make it harder to prosecute New Orleans Congressman William Jefferson, who was caught red-handed with $90,000 in bribe money in his freezer.  (While I found Jefferson’s arguments challenging his prosecution on a technicality wholly unpersuasive, an appeals court was   partly persuaded by them, restricting the use of certain evidence against him).

It also agreed to review two strange First Amendment rulings by appeals courts.   The first appeals court ruling struck down an Idaho law challenged by unions that barred public-employee payroll deductions for union political activities.   (In 2007, the Supreme Court upheld a Washington law limiting payroll deductions for the benefit of unions).  The other appeals court ruling ordered a city to place on public property a monument to the “Seven Aphorisms of Summum,” a religious sect that celebrates mummification and masturbation.   The appeals court reasoned that because other monuments on city property included the Ten Commandments, the practitioners of the Summum religion were also entitled to place a monument to their own, supposedly-competing religion on public property.  It ignored the fact that Summum is a recently-invented religion that did not influence any secular legal codes or legal history, the way the Ten Commandments did, and that advertising it on public property lacks any conceivable justification.   Summum is free to celebrate its idiosyncratic beliefs, but it should not receive public assistance in doing so.