The right-leaning U.S. Supreme Court has once again struck a decisive blow for Americans concerned about the preservation of religious liberty across the nation.
In a ruling this week, the nation’s highest court sided with a college student in Georgia who had been reprimanded for evangelizing on campus.
SCOTUS paves the way for “nominal damages”
Reports indicate that the 8-1 decision granted Chike Uzuegbunam the ability to seek nominal damages against Georgia Gwinnett College, which has since reversed the student’s original punishment.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the student “experienced a completed violation of his constitutional rights when respondents enforced their speech policies against him.”
The justice went on to declare that all such violations lead to damage against the individual being deprived of those rights, determining that “nominal damages can redress Uzuegbunam’s injury even if he cannot or chooses not to quantify that harm in economic terms.”
For the sake of clarification, the term “nominal damages” specifically refers to the payment of a symbolic amount of money that is usually ordered in instances where the plaintiff can show an infringement on his or her rights but not significant harm.
Concurring with Thomas’s assessment, Justice Brett Kavanaugh agreed that two lower court rulings that determined the issue to be moot deserved to be overturned.
“On the side of justice”
“I agree with the Court that, as a matter of history and precedent, a plaintiff’s request for nominal damages can satisfy the redressability requirement for Article III standing and can keep an otherwise moot case alive,” he wrote.
An attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative organization that represented Uzuegbunam in the case, welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“When public officials violate constitutional rights, it causes serious harm to the victims,” said Kristen Waggoner. “When such officials engage in misconduct but face no consequences, it leaves victims without recourse, undermines the nation’s commitment to protecting constitutional rights, and emboldens the government to engage in future violations. We are pleased that the Supreme Court weighed in on the side of justice for those victims.”
Chief Justice John Roberts represented the lone dissenting voice, arguing that the plaintiffs “are no longer students at the college” and are not entitled to redress.
“The challenged restrictions no longer exist,” he wrote. “And the petitioners have not alleged actual damages. The case is therefore moot because a federal court cannot grant Uzuegbunam and Bradford any effectual relief whatever.”