Today’s News Roundup: God and Guns

There’s a lot going on that I want to write about, and I’ll never get to it all. This post is about stuff going on not related to the J6 hearings. Tomorrow’s hearing will begin at 3 pm EST, last I heard.

Yesterday the Supreme Court put a big crack in the wall between church and state. In Carson v. Makin, the Court ruled that a Maine school voucher program could not refuse to fund vouchers that pay for religious education. Ian Millhiser explains at Vox,

About 5,000 students in Maine’s most rural areas, where it is not cost-efficient for the state to operate a public school, receive tuition vouchers that can be used to pay for private education. Maine law provides that these vouchers may only be used at “nonsectarian” schools, not religious ones.

Carson struck down this law excluding religious schools from the Maine voucher program, and that decision could have broad implications far beyond the few thousand students in Maine who benefit from these tuition subsidies.

Not that long ago, the Court required the government to remain neutral on questions of religion — a requirement that flowed from the First Amendment’s command that the government “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” In practice, that meant that the government could neither impose burdens on religious institutions that it didn’t impose on others, nor could it actively subsidize religion.

Carson turns this neutrality rule on its head, holding that government benefit programs that exclude religious institutions engage in “discrimination against religion” that violates the Constitution.

It used to be that no public money was ever supposed to go to parochial schools, for any reason. Then (as I remember) a few decades ago the Court decided that it would be okay if the state provided money that benefited parochial students, as long as it didn’t pay for religious instruction. The state could help pay for school buses or for a school nurse, for example, but could not subsidize anything going on in the classrooms that might include religious instruction. But now states can’t disciriminate against religious schools if subsidies are going to non-religious private schools, it appears.

Millhiser goes on to explain that Chief Justice Roberts included language in the decision that says its okay if schools don’t provide religious instruction. In other words, this decision is not supposed to open the door to somebody claiming discrimination if the local public school isn’t teaching children that Jesus is their Savior.

But the Court’s logic seems to be saying that neutrality toward religion is the same thing as discrimination against religion. So they do seem to be inching closer to a decision that religious instruction might be introduced into public schools, or that parochial schools might be in a position to demand more comprehensive government subsidy.

The part the Christianistas don’t seem to grasp is that constitutionally this couldn’t be limited to Christian instruction. If the Right went crazy when some nice Sufi Muslims wanted to open a community center near Ground Zero, wait until they find their tax dollars are paying to indoctrinate kids into Wahabi Sunni Islam. You know, the folks who really were behind September 11. There would be no way around that without completely ignoring the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Of course, our originalist justices could come up with some reason why they can ignore the establishment clause. They are a creative crew.

At the extreme end of this argument, government might be put in a position to decide which belief system calling itself “religion” really is religion and not just some nonsense thrown together to bilk the state out of money. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. It’s really better if government just stays the hell out of religion, and lets it do its own thing on its own dime, which is supposed to have been the general rule all this time.

Yesterday several Trump-endorsed candidates lost runoff primary elections in Georgia, and by very large margins. This is not to say that Georgia voters have necessarily come to their senses, since the winning candidates are still wingnuts who align with Trumpism if not Trump. But it does tell us that Georgia Republican voters may have moved past Trump the man. So they are still hard-right wackjobs, but they aren’t going to follow Trump off a cliff. I guess that’s something.

You may have heard some Stephen Colbert staffers were escorted out of the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill after they’d finished doing some interviews with Congress critters featuring Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. They were lingering in the hallway when security came to detain them.

The Colbert people had not broken into the building but had gone through security and were invited into congressional offices. The problem, according to security staff, was that they were still in the building after public visiting hours were over, and they’d been asked to leave earlier and did not. I believe they have to face unlawful entry charges.

Then Tucker Carlson went crazy and claimed the Colbert people were committing insurrection just like on J6. There is no indication Carlson was joking. You can read about this, and how Colbert took down Carlson, here and here.

Details have been worked out in the lame Senate gun bill, so now we get to see if the Republicans who worked on the bill will vote for it. Here’s what’s in the final bill. I understand the bill was hung up for a few days over closing the “boyfriend loophole.” The mostly male bipartisan group working on the bill struggled to agree on who qualifies as a “boyfriend.”

In related news, you might remember that Texas Sen. John Cornyn was booed at the Texas GOP state convention when he tried to speak about the gun bill. Now the MAGA heads have started a rumor that Cornyn is pushing a bipartisan bill that would provide amnesty to illegal immigrants. No, he isn’t. Cornyn has supported some immigration reform in the past, but not that. But it goes to show that once the MAGA people decide you’re the enemy, they’ll go into overdrive making up reasons to hate you.

Ghastly details about the Uvalde school shooting are still trickling out. See After Uvalde, an emerging narrative of police incompetence by Zeeshan Aleem at MSNBC.

On Tuesday, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Steve McCraw, revealed an astonishing assessment of how poorly he believed local police handled the response to the mass shooting in Uvalde during a Texas Senate committee hearing: He said he believed there were enough properly equipped police officers to stop the shooting just three minutes after it began — instead of the roughly hour and 14 minutes it ended up taking.

McCraw also said a door to the classroom where the shooter was wreaking havoc was unlocked, contradicting initial claims from law enforcement officials who said that part of the reason that it took so long to neutralize the shooter was that the door was locked.

See also Officer Husband of Slain Uvalde Teacher Tried to Save Her But Was Detained, Removed from Scene, Says Official. Let the litigation begin. Some people involved in that disaster might consider living somewhere else, under an assumed name. Maybe growing a beard, too.