Religious Liberty, Right-to-Work Decisions @ SCOTUS

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The US Supreme Court today delivered its rulings in the two cases that ranked among the biggest legal “blockbusters” for this term: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn.

The Hobby Lobby decision involved a particular provision of the ObamaCare law that mandated US employers provide birth control free of charge to their employees. The Green family, which owns the arts and crafts store Hobby Lobby, sued the government arguing that this section of the law violated their religious liberty under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which states that if the government is going to infringe on core religious expression it must have a “compelling government interest” and act only in the “least restrictive way.”

And while Hobby Lobby doesn’t oppose all contraceptives (their employee insurance plans cover most varieties), the company specifically abstained from covering certain medications that it believes induce abortions, such as Plan B.

On a 5-4 decision, with the four so-called conservative justices plus swing vote Anthony Kennedy, the Court agreed with the Green family and the other plaintiffs in the case that the contraception mandate went too far in burdening closely-held companies with threat of either violating the owners’ religious conscience or violating the law.

Unfortunately, the decision apparently leaves open the opportunity for the Obama administration to create a government program that directly distributes birth control at taxpayer expense.

This and other factors have prompted some Republicans, most recently Colorado Representative and US Senate candidate Cory Gardner, to float the idea of legalizing the sale of contraceptives over-the-counter so as to appease both factions in the debate.

The decision does not grant such religious exemptions to publicly-traded companies. It only applies to “closely-held” corporations like sole and joint proprietorships and nonprofits.

In Harris v. Quinn, an Illinois law that conscripted home health care workers into public sector sector unions, or at least forced them to pay union dues, because, the state argued, all medical providers compensated with Medicaid funds count as “public employees” and thus obligated to be represented exclusively in union collective bargaining agreements.

The court again split 5-4 in a decision which distinctively separated Medicaid reimbursement recipients from actual public state employees, arguing that private patient assistants are responsible solely to their customers, not to the state. In so doing the justices have invalidated about a dozen and a half other similar state laws around the US with similar inclusions of home health care workers.

And while the Court’s decision has liberated many thousands of PAs from compulsory union representation, many had wished, or feared, that the it would have gone farther and invalidated all mandated collective bargaining schemes as unconstitutional infringements on First Amendment-protected rights to free association and expression. However, the highest judicial body in the land may be gearing up for such a case in the coming term(s) and plenty of pro-Right-to-Work litigants are eager to test how far they can push the justices in that direction.

The 1st Amendment Protects Flag Burning and Big Money

Luke Wachob at the Center for Competitive Politics has an excellent Op-Ed up today at the Washington Examiner highlighting the hypocrisy of some Democrats who in previous years opposed usurping free speech when it came to flag burning, are now all in favor of assaulting the First Amendment freedom of campaign contributing and spending.

It has become a cause celeb, and a mighty profitable one at many liberal fundraisers, to bash heroic Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon that liberate American political freedom and strengthen the First Amendment.

Tales of “legalized bribery” and “buying elections” infect the discourse like a putrid fever. But the reality is such decisions have been a boon to the little guy in US elections, allowing the Average Joe and Jane Citizen to have more access to money to fund their startup campaigns and causes.

And while the power of incumbency is still overwhelming in part because political campaigns and groups are still too regulated, it has been less powerful in recent election cycles. In 2010, all though it was going to be a good year for Republicans anyway, the Citizens United decision allow for independent groups to express themselves and inform fellow voters on who to support.

In 2012, GOP presidential contenders in the party’s primaries allowed rebel candidates like Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul to stay in the contest longer in part because they and their middle income supporters had the financial lifeline from Big Money donors like Sheldon Adleson, Foster Freiss, Peter Thiel, and of course, Charles and David Koch.

But back to the issue at hand. In his piece Wachob quotes from prominent Democratic senators like Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, DickDurbin of Illinois, and Tom Harkin of Iowa.

On the topic of flag burning, Mikulski says:

“I cannot support an Amendment to the United States Constitution which would, for the first time in our nation’s history, narrow the reach of the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.”

Durbin says:

“The Bill of Rights has served this nation since 1791, and with one swift blow of this ax, we are going to chop into the First Amendment.”

Harkin says:

The Bill of Rights “has stood unchanged for more than two centuries, despite Civil War, Depression, two world wars, and powerful internal movements of dissent. Even at those times of profound turmoil, we resisted any temptation to amend the Bill of Rights.”

That last statement is particularly interesting because this author is pretty sure that all of those things the Iowa Democrat referenced were more dangerous than the danger of “unregulated dark money” in politics.

So why is an anti-flag burning amendment a bridge too far but a similar ban on political contributing isn’t?

Answer: Both were and are dangerous political ploys that need to be abandoned immediately if we are going to continue expanding the First Amendment by abolishing contribution limits that stifle free speech, free expression, and citizen education.

Grover Norquist Makes a Good Point

When he asks:

“Those people who tell me, ‘You know, I’m for this rule of law thing,’ I wonder where they were when we had a 55 mph speed limit. We had that into the ’80s. … As a result, there was a great deal of illegal driving going on. And I don’t remember anyone saying, ‘First thing we do is arrest everybody who’s been illegally driving, and then we’ll have a conversation about what a normal, reasonable speed limit is. … We should come up with a reasonable immigration policy and then enforce it. That’s what all this enforcement is for in the bill.”

Virginia is for Imperial Governors, Apparently…

News is breaking that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, is deciding to buck constitutional government by going forward with a plan to expand the empirically-bad-for-people Medicaid program over the objections of the Republican-controlled legislature, which recently passed a budget that in part prohibited such spending.

The decision comes as the nation faces an entitlement crisis over bankrupt programs like Medicaid. Other states, mostly controlled by Democrats, have decided to put their financial futures in the hands of federal politicians who may or may not cover most of the expanded costs. With the national debt approaching 100% of GDP, it’s very likely that Washington will not be there to pick up the tab when (and not if) these overextended programs fail under their own weight and economic contradictions.

Further more, Governor McAuliffe is radically overstepping his bounds by defying the legislature’s lawmaking power. In the coming days we can no doubt expect a lawsuit challenging the gov’s reckless actions and a likely victory for Virginians’ who do not want to lock themselves into a Draconian unfunded mandate, and who also, you know, value constitutional government and the separation of powers.

But since McAuiffe and his pro-subsidy cronies are at the helm, it’s hard to know just what will happen.

Morning Bomber Joe

Boy, Joe Scarborough and the panels on “Morning Joe” love to dress up and play military strategist for (potential) wars they’ll never have to fight.

Delusions of grandeur combined with zero personal risk of death explains a lot of media infatuation with with intervention.