Facebook Censors conservative children’s book publisher

Romans 1:18  “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness”

Important Takeaways:

  • ‘Another Glaring Example of Cancel Culture’: Facebook Blocks Conservative Children’s Book Publisher
  • The social media giant claimed that Heroes of Liberty violated its rules against “Low Quality or Disruptive Content”
  • Facebook has permanently disabled the ads of a new conservative children’s book publisher offering the biographies of President Ronald Reagan, economist Thomas Sowell, and Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
  • Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz blasted Facebook, tweeting: “When conservatives start independent publishing outlets and platforms, #BigTech companies like Facebook now work to destroy them. This latest example is particularly galling.”

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Back in black: U.S. Supreme Court opens its momentous new term

By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Supreme Court justices took a step back toward normalcy on Monday on the first day of their new nine-month term as they conducted oral arguments in person for the first time in 19 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, holding a muted and polite session in a socially distanced courtroom.

The court’s term includes major cases in the coming months on abortion and gun rights.

Eight justices appeared in person, wearing their traditional black robes as they entered the ornate and sparsely populated courtroom and sat behind the mahogany bench. One justice, Brett Kavanaugh, participated remotely after testing positive for the coronavirus last week, with his questions audible via speakers in the courtroom. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wore a black face mask, while the court’s other members present went maskless.

Monday also marked the first time that the court’s junior-most member, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, participated in an in-person argument. As is customary for a new justice, Barrett, appointed by former President Donald Trump last year to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sat on the far right of the bench and was last to ask questions.

The justices were joined by lawyers, court staff and journalists – all masked, except for the lawyers arguing the cases, and spread out among the rows of seats – in their spacious column-lined courtroom. No members of the public were present.

In the first of two arguments heard on Monday, the justices expressed skepticism about Mississippi’s claim that Tennessee is effectively stealing its water from an underground aquifer that runs beneath both states.

The justices appeared to have learned some lessons from their pandemic-prompted experiment of holding oral arguments via teleconference. They seemed to use some elements of that more structured approach, with justices careful to wait their turn before speaking, in contrast with the previous rough-and-tumble format in which justices competed with each other to get a word in.

At times, Chief Justice John Roberts, seated in the center of the bench, asked each justice in turn if they wanted to pose a question. Roberts also conferred with the justices sitting on either side of him: Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer.

Thomas, who famously almost never spoke during in-person oral arguments in the past, had regularly participated during teleconference arguments – and quickly asked the first question of the new term, indicating he will continue to be a vocal presence.

Monday’s second argument was a Georgia criminal case involving a man convicted of being a felon possessing a firearm.

The court building has been closed to the public since March 2020 due to the pandemic.

Another change embraced by the tradition-bound court is live audio of oral arguments, a practice it had rejected until the pandemic spurred its use in May 2020. That practice continued on Monday.

Before hearing arguments, the court acted on some appeals.

It cleared the way for New York to collect a $200 million surcharge imposed on opioid manufacturers and distributors, ended Oracle Corp’s challenge to how the Pentagon awarded cloud computing contract and declined to hear a New Jersey case involving a legal defense that often protects police officers from accusations of excessive force.

ABORTION AND GUN CASES

The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, has come under close scrutiny after on Sept. 1 allowing a Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy to go into effect.

Among the cases the justices are due to hear during their new term is a challenge set to be argued in December to abortion rights involving Mississippi’s bid to revive a Republican-backed state law banning the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Mississippi has asked the justices to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

A few dozen people attended an anti-abortion rally outside the court. Father Frank Pavone, national director of a group called Priests for Life, led a prayer calling for the end of abortion He mentioned Trump’s three conservative Supreme Court appointees.

“All three, we are confident, will rule the right way,” Pavone said.

The justices are scheduled in November to hear a challenge backed by the National Rifle Association to New York state’s restrictions on people carrying concealed handguns in public in a case that could further undermine firearms control efforts nationally.

All nine justices, three of whom are over age 70, have been vaccinated against COVID-19, which has proven to be particularly dangerous among the elderly.

They are being tested regularly, as well as others who attend the oral arguments. Although Kavanaugh tested positive for the coronavirus last week, the court said he had no COVID-19 symptoms. Written guidance for lawyers requires them to be tested for the coronavirus but there is no vaccine requirement.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham and Scott Malone)

Barrett authors first U.S. Supreme Court ruling, a loss for environmentalists

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday authored her first ruling since joining the U.S. Supreme Court in October as the court handed a defeat to an environmental group seeking access to government documents.

In the 7-2 ruling, the justices sided with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, thwarting an effort by the Sierra Club to obtain documents concerning a regulation finalized in 2014 relating to power plants. Barrett and the court’s other five conservative justices were joined by liberal Justice Elena Kagan in the majority, with liberals Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor in dissent.

The Senate approved Barrett for a lifetime job on the top U.S. judicial body on Oct. 26 after an accelerated confirmation process that unfolded in the weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential election. She is one of three justices appointed by Republican former President Donald Trump and she replaced liberal Justice Ruther Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18.

Her swift confirmation by the Senate, which at the time was controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans but is now led by the Democrats, moved the court further to the right and prevented Biden from replacing Ginsburg with a liberal successor. It marked the closest to a presidential election that a Supreme Court justice had won Senate confirmation.

The Sierra Club ruling limits the scope of U.S. agency documents that would be subject to a federal law called the Freedom of Information Act, which lets people request certain government materials.

The group wanted access to internal documents concerning the Fish and Wildlife Service’s conclusion that a proposed environmental regulation for cooling water intake structures that are used by power plants and other industrial facilities would not adversely affect endangered species, including fish, turtles and shellfish.

In 2013, the agency initially found that the regulation would put the species in jeopardy but its final recommendation to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2014 reached the opposite conclusion.

Writing for the court, Barrett said the 2013 draft documents were protected from disclosure because “they reflect a preliminary view – not a final decision – about the likely effect of the EPA’s proposed rule on endangered species.”

A federal judge in California ruled in 2017 that 11 documents had to be disclosed. Trump’s administration appealed and the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2018 ruled partly for the government but still found that nine documents had to be released.

The case was argued on Nov. 2, the day before Election Day. It marked first Barrett’s first arguments as a justice. She previously served on a lower federal appeals court and as a legal scholar at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

So far, Barrett’s biggest impact on the court came when she provided the decisive vote in favor of religious entities challenging COVID-19 restrictions in New York.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)