By James Vicini
WASHINGTON, June 28 (Reuters) - A bitterly divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that race cannot be used to decide where students go to school, one of the most important civil rights rulings in years that could affect millions of students nationwide.
By a 5-4 vote on the last day of its term, the court's conservative majority struck down voluntary programs adopted in Seattle and Louisville, Kentucky, to attain racial diversity in public school classrooms.
The ruling added to a string of decisions this term in which President George W. Bush's two appointees -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito -- have shifted the court sharply to the right on divisive social issues like abortion.
Roberts wrote the court's 41-page majority opinion.
"What do the racial classifications do in these cases if not determine admission to a public school on a racial basis?" he asked. "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."
Civil rights advocates had feared that such a ruling would be a significant retreat for the Supreme Court from the principles in its historic Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 that outlawed racial segregation in the nation's public schools.
The court's four liberal justices dissented.
"The last half century has witnessed great strides toward racial equality, but we have not yet realized the promise of Brown," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his 68-page dissent. "This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret."
© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.
I'm going to DC pretty soon to slap the living feces out of Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. This country disappoints me more every damn day.