Though the Supreme Court issued important decisions in the consequential Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn cases, the justices also declined to hear important cases regarding the establishment of religion, privacy concerns, and the First Amendment.
For one, the Supreme Court turned down a chance to review a case involving a giant Christian cross on public property. The legal issue is confusing: The cross sits on a piece of land in La Jolla, California, that was obtained by the federal government via eminent domain in 2006. The area was declared a national war memorial. Some contend, however, that the cross's inclusion constitutes religious endorsement and violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. According to ABC 10 News:
In 2011, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the cross violates the U.S. Constitution's establishment clause and ordered the case returned to district court for disposition. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns last December issued his order in response to that decision, stating the cross be removed in 90 days, but he issued a stay until appeals are exhausted.
… Justice Samuel Alito wrote that a judicial review by the nation's highest court was not yet warranted because "no final judgment has been rendered and it remains unclear precisely what action the Federal Government will be required to take."
The Supreme Court may take a look at the case sometime in the future—after the cross's supporters exhaust other legal options—though when, precisely, is unclear.
The Court also decided to stay out of a dispute between Google and the federal government. Federal prosecutors charged the company with violating wiretapping laws when its Street View mappers accidentally obtained unsecured network data. Google acknowledged the mistake and paid several fines, but has insisted that it is innocent of the wiretapping charges because of an exemption in the law for data that is already publicly available.
A California law that prohibits so-called "reparative therapy" aimed at making gay kids straight will take effect now that the Court has declined to hear arguments from the law's opponents. A lower court decided that the state was permitted to prohibit such therapies, which have very little backing in the scientific community. Supporters of the ban were pleased, according to The Huffington Post:
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that California lawmakers properly showed that therapies designed to change sexual orientation for those under the age of 18 were outside the scientific mainstream and have been disavowed by most major medical groups as unproven and potentially dangerous.
"The Supreme Court has cement shut any possible opening to allow further psychological child abuse in California," state Sen. Ted Lieu, the law's sponsor, said Monday. "The Court's refusal to accept the appeal of extreme ideological therapists who practice the quackery of gay conversion therapy is a victory for child welfare, science and basic humane principles."
Reason's Scott Shackford wrote that even though anti-gay psychological counselling has been horrible for the men and women subjected to it, permitting the government to ban such things is at least slightly worrying for free speech enthusiasts:
The court may dismiss the First Amendment concerns here, but the law is truly telling psychologists what they may and may not discuss with their patients. And given that the law can't affect the behavior of unlicensed therapists anyway, California teens with unaccepting parents may still find themselves shipped off to some camp in the woods somewhere.