HomeUSU.S. bishops: Supreme Court ruling ‘criminalizes homelessness’

U.S. bishops: Supreme Court ruling ‘criminalizes homelessness’

The Supreme Court’s ruling, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, said that though homelessness is a complex issue, the courts have no right to interfere with local communities’ attempts to solve it.

The decision reversed a 9th Circuit Court’s ruling that had said fining and imprisoning homeless individuals for camping in public spaces qualified as cruel and unusual punishment for an involuntary condition, something prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.

Gorsuch said the Eighth Amendment “serves many important functions, but it does not authorize federal judges to wrest those rights and responsibilities from the American people and in their place dictate this nation’s homelessness policy.”

“People will disagree over which policy responses are best; they may experiment with one set of approaches only to find later another set works better,” Gorsuch wrote. “But in our democracy, that is their right. Nor can a handful of federal judges begin to ‘match’ the collective wisdom the American people possess in deciding ‘how best to handle’ a pressing social question like homelessness.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a separate concurring opinion.

Catholic bishops respond

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