The First Amendment provides religion unique but potentially contradictory protections. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”In guaranteeing these bedrock rights, the competing principles of the “Religion Clauses” may conflict. To solve this paradox, the Supreme Court once recognized “there is ‘play in the joints’ between what the Establishment Clause permits and [what] the Free Exercise Clause compels.” A recent decision regarding the constitutionality of state-sponsored scholarship funds flowing to religious schools may have narrowed that gap, further ushering in an age of “‘[F]ree [E]xercise supremacy.’”
II. No Straight Line Between Establishment and Exercise
While ruling that tax exemptions for churches did not violate the First Amendment, Chief Justice Warren Burger first articulated this “room for play in the joints productive of a benevolent neutrality which will permit religious exercise to exist without sponsorship and without interference.” When the Court applies the Religion Clauses, its judgments must turn on whether acts are intended to “establish or interfere with religious beliefs and practices or have the effect of doing so.” But the “complexities of modern life inevitably produce some contact” between government resources and religion.
This year, a number of bills were introduced in Maryland’s House and Senate that addressed immigration and how local law enforcement would handle cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The purpose of these bills is to make Maryland a safer place for the immigrant community and to build trust between these communities and local law enforcement. One of these bills, House Bill 304—also known as the Trust Act—would prohibit local law enforcement from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status during a stop, search or arrest, and also prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating with ICE agents unless there is a judicial warrant against the individual. Another piece of legislation, House Bill 16, also known as the Dignity Not Detention Act, would end local contracts with ICE and prohibit local law enforcement from detaining individuals based solely on federal civil immigration violations under those contracts.
Although House Bill 304 and House Bill 16 have not yet been passed, their introduction and the discourse surrounding them can make a monumental impact on the safety and overall quality of life of innocent immigrants, who have grown more fearful from the increasingly stringent immigration policy in the U.S. Even though many of these immigration bills have yet to pass one or both chambers, there are discussions beginning at the county and city level which indicate that these bills may pass sooner rather than later.
If this change is to occur, many immigrant communities in Maryland may become less fearful of local law enforcement and more open to seeking them out when they are victims of a crime. In particular, undocumented women who are victims of domestic violence may be more comfortable seeking help from Maryland law enforcement if these bills are passed.
Beginning in 2018, the Trump Administration sought to exclude certain non-citizens from being counted in the census. At that time, the Department of Commerce, which administers the Census, sought to add a question to the 2020 Census regarding U.S. citizenship. Multiple states and advocacy organizations sued to stop the addition of this question, and the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump Administration. However, the Administration subsequently issued Executive Order 13,880 requiring that federal agencies share citizenship information with the Census Bureau. Towards the end of Trump’s term, his Administration issued a Memorandum expressing its intent to exclude undocumented individuals from the 2020 Census altogether. Multiple plaintiffs sued to stop this exclusion, and the Supreme Court heard their challenge in Trump v. New York on November 30, 2020. The Court ultimately dismissed the suit, holding the plaintiffs had not alleged an injury that would give them standing to sue because the time for data collection had passed. Once President Biden took office, he signed Executive Order 13,986 reversing Trump’s exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census. However, because the Supreme Court never expressed an opinion on the legal merits of the Trump Administration’s policy, a future administration could easily overturn Executive Order 13,986 and seek to implement the same strategy.
A harmful paradox has rapidly emerged in the restaurant industry—U.S. restaurants are losing revenue—while third-party delivery apps are seeing an exponential increase in revenue. The COVID-19 public health emergency has razed local restaurants with ordinances preventing on-site dining, causing an uptick in delivery. This has created a temporary paradigm shift, forcing restaurants to change their business models to rely more on delivery until vaccination rates are high enough for the U.S. population to gain herd immunity, allowing restaurants to open without restrictions. Many hungry customers think they are supporting local restaurants by placing orders with third-party apps, including Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Postmates. However, these self-proclaimed restaurant lifelines are actually more cancerous, as they impose exorbitant commission fees on local restaurants, crippling an already struggling industry.
In a highly-anticipated move, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an antitrust lawsuit against tech-conglomerate Google LLC (Google) for its exclusionary and monopolistic practices in search optimization and advertising markets. The fifty-seven page complaint argues that “Google has [illegally] used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising and general search text advertising . . . .” The DOJ specifically notes that “Google’s actions ha[ve] hurt consumers by stifling innovation, reducing choice and diminishing the quality of search services . . . .”
The complaint focuses on a series of exclusionary agreements Google entered into with mobile-tech companies such as Apple. Through these agreements, Google is the “preset default general search engine on billions of mobile devices” and has even banned preinstallation of their competitor’s products. Google also entered into agreements with other leading smartphone manufacturers, requiring all who use its Android operating system to preinstall its search engine by default––thereby creating control over both the android and IOS mobile platforms. This enables Google to compel preferential treatment of its products across the mobile-tech industry and has dramatically chilled competition through its monopolistic hold over these devices. Additionally, advertisers who use Google’s products must also “pay a toll to Google’s search advertising and general search text advertising monopolies.” Google leads the search advertising sector, making use of their product virtually unavoidable. Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, responded to these allegations by noting that they are “deeply flawed,” as users can freely use other search engines––e.g., Bing, Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo––and only use Google out of preference because it offers the best service. This suit stems from an investigation which took longer than sixteen months and is one of the most significant challenges to a tech company’s market power since the 1998 antitrust case against Microsoft. While the DOJ investigated this matter, several other states conducted their own parallel investigations. In December, more than thirty states joined together to bring a separate suit against the tech company.