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  • Writer's pictureDé Bryant, Ph.D.

Part II: Pretty words without substance

Rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States are handed down in pretty words, but lack substance in our litigious country, in these hyper-politicized times. Cases that will set life-altering precedents are on the horizon at the Supreme Court. At the heart of several cases are the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, also known as RFRA; Title VII protected classes; the ADA: EEOC v. R. G. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc.; Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital; Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc. The Equal Pay is the fulcrum in Lauderdale v. Illinois Department of Human Services. Race still matters in the case of Johnson v. Advocate Health & Hospital Corporation in which the court will define "hostile work environment."

Troubling cases that are not high-profile news but could have devastating impact on daily life because they define who watches the watchers. A case on hiring administrative law judges to prevent fraud and deliberate deception (Securities Exchange Commission) has already appeared before the court. The ruling in Lucia v. SEC gave PODUS, or the person he appoints as agency head, the power to hire these judges. The Office of Personnel Management is out of the process. Precedent has been set for assault to protections for public health and safety (the Nuclear Regulatory Commission); oversight for retirement, disability, and survivor benefits (Social Security Commission); or regulating all forms of media (Federal Communications Commission).

To ensure the freedoms contained in the UDHR, we can stay informed about cases before the court. We can foster discourse between conflicting opinions in personal conversations, town hall meetings, classrooms, public forums, and spoken-word poetry slams. We can be diligent about identifying voices to place in public offices and then demand accountability for their performance. This will be hard work. There will be raucous arguments. Such is the nature of a democracy.

I believe in our collective ability to live up to the aspiration that the UDHR should promote social progress. We must keep chipping away at laws and customs that use public policy to reduce the worth of the human person.


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