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Besides abortion ruling, Supreme Court taking on many high-profile cases

Security fencing is in place outside the Supreme Court in Washington.Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

With legal observers focused on a Supreme Court draft ruling showing the justices are poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that guaranteed abortion rights nationwide, the high court is also planning to issue decisions this term on several additional high-profile cases.

Here’s a quick primer on five pending cases concerning guns, religion, immigration, and the environment. It’s not clear when the rulings are coming down.

1] New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc v. Bruen - This case examines to what extent Americans have a constitutional right to carry loaded, concealed firearms outside the home and in public. The National Rifle Association-backed lawsuit seeks to overturn a century-old New York state law, which is similar to restrictions on gun possession in seven other states.

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The high court has turned down numerous requests from gun-rights advocates to eliminate government restrictions on carrying loaded handguns outside the home. A 5-to-4 decision in a key 2008 case made clear that the Second Amendment is not unlimited and does not protect a right to ‘’keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any matter whatsoever for whatever purpose.’’

2] Carson v. Makin - In this case out of Maine, the Supreme Court’s weighing a challenge brought by parents who want to use a state tuition program to send their children to religious schools.

The parents argue their exclusion from the state program violates their religious rights under the Constitution, though teachers unions and local school boards say public education would suffer a blow if the plaintiff families prevail.

In largely rural Maine, families who live in towns with no public schools can receive public tuition dollars to send their children to the public or private school of their choice. The program excludes religious schools.

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Last year, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states must give religious schools the same access to public funding that other private schools receive, preserving a Montana scholarship program that had largely benefited students at religious institutions.

3] Kennedy v. Bremerton School District - This case deals with a former assistant high school football coach in the Seattle, Wash., area who came under scrutiny for leading players in prayer on the field after games and in the locker room.

The coach, Joseph Kennedy, began coaching in 2008 and initially prayed alone at the end of games. But students started joining him, and he began delivering short, inspirational talks with religious references and also led students in locker room prayers. The school district asked him to stop in 2015.

Kennedy stopped leading students in prayer in the locker room and on the field but wanted to continue praying on the field himself, with students free to join if they wished. Concerned about being sued for violating students’ religious freedom rights, the school asked him to stop his practice of kneeling and praying while still “on duty” as a coach after the game. When he kept kneeling and praying on the gridiron, the school put him on paid leave.

Kennedy’s lawyer, Paul Clement, argued before the high court that the Constitution’s freedom of speech and freedom of religion guarantees protect his client’s “private religious expression.”

Richard Katskee, a lawyer for the school district, said public school employees can have quiet prayers by themselves at work even if students can see. But, he said, Kennedy’s actions pressured students to pray and also caused a safety issue.

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4] Biden vs. Texas - In this case the high court is weighing whether the Biden administration can end a Trump-era immigration program that forces asylum-seekers arriving at the southwestern border to await approval in Mexico.

The challenged program, known commonly as Remain in Mexico, applies to people who left a third country and traveled through Mexico to reach the US border. Soon after he took office, President Biden sought to end the program. Texas and Missouri sued, and lower courts have reinstated the initiative, on the grounds that federal immigration laws require returning immigrants who arrive in the US by land and who can’t be detained here while their cases are heard.

5] West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency - This case concerns a legal challenge to the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

Writing in the Boston Globe Opinion section in February, three Harvard researchers said the “future of our country’s capacity to protect the world from catastrophic climate change could hinge on what the justices decide.”

The plaintiffs in the case want the high court to block the kind of sweeping changes to the electricity sector that defined the Obama Clean Power Plan during the last decade.

Instead, Republican attorneys general in 18 states and some of the nation’s largest coal companies contend the 1970 Clean Air Act limits the E.P.A. to dictate changes only at individual power plants, not across the entire power sector.

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Material from the Associated Press, the New York Times, and the Washington Post was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.