Conservatives and Liberals Both Win in Court

By Cheryl K. Chumley | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

( - Conservative groups won two key decisions in the US Supreme Court Wednesday, but lost two others dealing with abortion.

The Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America can bar homosexuals from being troop leaders. It also ruled that taxpayer funds may be used to buy computers and other items for religious and private schools.

However, the high court reasserted abortion rights by striking down a Nebraska law banning partial-birth abortion and upholding a Colorado law requiring anti-abortion demonstrators to keep their distance from anyone entering or leaving a medical facility.

The Family Research Council praised the justices' rulings on the Boy Scout and school funding cases, but called the partial birth abortion ruling "the most unjust" in more than 200 years.

"The court ruled today that the American people, acting through their elected lawmakers, cannot stop an abortionist from puncturing the skull and sucking out the brains of a living, feeling infant," a press release from the FRC stated.

Officials from the National Organization for Women were unavailable for comment on the partial birth abortion ruling. Members of the group had spoken about the case, however, in April, when it was argued before the Supreme Court.

"Anti-abortion extremists are using abortion procedure bans as an underhanded strategy to stop abortion," NOW President Patricia Ireland said April 24, a day before the Court heard arguments.

"If the Court upholds the constitutionality of abortion procedure bans, safe abortion procedures will be eliminated, regardless of trimester or health risks to women."

The 5-4 ruling Wednesday struck down a Nebraska state law banning the procedure, and was the first case related to abortion considered by the Court in about nine years.

"(This) method of killing a human child ... is so horrible that the most clinical description of it evokes a shudder of revulsion," dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.

Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the five striking the state law, said, "rhetoric does not provide me a reason to believe the procedure Nebraska (banned) is more brutal, more gruesome," than abortions performed within the first trimester.

In a 6-3 vote, the Justices also upheld a Colorado state law requiring pro-life activists to stay at least eight feet from those entering or exiting abortion clinics and medical buildings. In that case, the Court ruled the law - enacted for patient safety - did not violate the Constitutional free speech rights of protesters.

Gary Bauer, president of the Washington-based American Values and a former Republican presidential candidate, criticized the Court's decision regarding partial birth abortion as "judicial infanticide," but praised its ruling that Boy Scouts could ban homosexuals from serving as troop leaders.

"Is it not possible for these justices to move any further towards abandoning the Constitutional intention of our founding fathers?" Bauer said, in a written press release in reference to the abortion ruling.

Those same justices, he continued, "allow us some comfort, by the slimmest of majorities, in ruling that we are able to associate with each other in private organizations," like the Boy Scouts.

The case involving the Scouts was heard in May, after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the agency was a public affiliation and subject to state anti-discrimination laws that prevent exclusion based on sexual orientation. James Dale filed the suit after he declared his homosexuality to a New Jersey newspaper and was subsequently relieved of his scoutmaster leadership role.

Several church organizations that had argued in support of Dale, expressed dissatisfaction with the court's decision. "(It's) a setback for justice, human rights, and nondiscrimination," Unitarian Universalist Association President John Buehrens said. "Unitarian Universalist and others know it is homophobia that is the sin, not homosexuality," and "we call on the Boy Scouts" to stop the "discrimination."

Claremont Institute members supported Court opinions on both Boy Scout and religious school funding issues, calling the former "an important victory" and the latter, a Constitutional buttress.

The school funding case focused on whether religious affiliated public facilities have the right to receive taxpayer dollars, as nonsectarian systems do. The Court ruled both sectarian and nonsectarian public schools were entitled to receipt of public dollars, despite the opposition from such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Federation of Teachers, who had argued a violation of what they called "the separation of church and state."

"Nowhere" does it stipulate in the Constitution a "separation of church and state" must exist, said John Eastman, the director of the Claremont Institute Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence. "It prohibits Congress from making any law with respect to an establishment of religion."

Eastman said the interpretation of "separation of church and state" was derived from an "offhand comment" made by Thomas Jefferson that was "grabbed in this century" and twisted from its original meaning: to "prevent the federal government from interfering with established state churches."