Earlier today, Rev. Sirico spoke with WSJ Live’s Mary Kissel about the contraceptive mandate ruling, religion’s place in the public square, and the historical context of the Supreme Court’s decision. Watch below:
The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby contraception case. But which arguments will have the most influence on the justices? Michael McConnel, a respected Religion Clauses scholar from Standford, explains which four arguments are most likely to be important:
Cutting through the politicized hype about the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga case (“Corporations have no rights!” “War on Women!”) the Justices during oral argument focused on four serious legal questions, which deserve a serious answer:
(1) Could Hobby Lobby avoid a substantial burden on its religious exercise by dropping health insurance and paying fines of $2,000 per employee?
(2) Does the government have a compelling interest in protecting the statutory rights of Hobby Lobby’s employees?
(3) Would a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby give rise to a slippery slope of exemptions from vaccines, minimum wage laws, anti-discrimination laws, and the like?
(4) Has the government satisfied the least restrictive means test?
I think the answer to all four questions is “no.” I offer brief thoughts on each below.
Over at The Federalist, Gabriel Malor runs down some interesting “illusions” (okay, he calls them lies) regarding the HHS mandate and the Supreme Court. Here’s a quick run-down:
- The HHS mandate is all about women’s rights. Nope: women don’t lose a thing if Hobby Lobby et al. win. What will happen if Hobby Lobby and others like them win their case is that women who do not wish to pay for others’ birth control and/or abortions will not be forced to do so.
- The HHS mandate is about gay rights. Admittedly, this one was new to me. However, there are some who are saying that if business owners don’t have to pay for birth control, they can turn away gay customers as well, or as Malor puts it, if the government loses, it will “unleash an apocalypse of discrimination heretofore avoided.” No; every time there is a possible violation of religious freedom, our court system must weigh each case individually.
- These contraception cases are all about for-profit companies. Big business, bad business, you know. These companies, who are already pocketing millions, are looking for special treatment. However, there is no mention of the corporate form in the First Amendment. It neither includes nor precludes it.
- Corporations cannot exercise freedom of religion. People can (hopefully) but businesses can’t. This would be news to every Catholic diocese in the United States, as they all operate under corporate form.
- We can’t allow dangerous new rights for corporations/businesses. Um, since when has the federal government been allowed to tell business owners what types of insurance they have to provide? Oh, yeah…now.
- Our government has a compelling interest in forcing businesses to provide birth control. Legally, that is what the government has to prove. Of course, this is “bunk,” according to Malor, especially since Kathleen Sebelius has already granted 190 million exemptions. How can the government prove then a compelling interest?
The Thomas More Society stated today in a press release that they are working with Catholic Vote Defense League in a fight to seek “constitutional protection of religious freedom.” Specifically, they have filed a cert petition with the Supreme Court for the case, Autocam Vs. Sebelius. They are petitioning
the U.S. Supreme Court to review and reverse the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ recent decision, denying the claims of Autocam, an international automotive manufacturer, and its owners, that Obamacare’s so-called “HHS mandate” abridges their federal constitutional and statutory rights to the free exercise of their religious faith as well as other legal rights. John Kennedy, CEO of Michigan-based family-owned company, Autocam, joined the company as well as its other family owners to urge the Justices to rule that the government has no right to require that Autocam purchase group insurance coverage, providing its employees with morally objectionable contraceptives, including abortifacients (e.g., the so-called abortion pill, Plan B, and “Ella”), and sterilization.
See the press release here. The official petition to the Supreme Court states that “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act cannot mean one thing in one part of the United States and something entirely different in another. This Court’s attention is required to sort out the important legal questions HHS Mandate under RFRA.”
Autocam, a West Michigan business owned by John Kennedy and his family, filed suit against the federal government in October, 2012. The suit is one of over 200 plaintiffs battling the HHS mandate requiring employers to cover costs for abortions and abortifacients in employee health insurance. Now, the Thomas More Society is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Autocam’s case after the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dismissed the case brought by the Kennedy family and Autocam Corporation. A press release from the Thomas More Society stated:
We mean to take this case directly up to the U.S. Supreme Court, as the U.S. Courts of Appeal are now sharply divided on these critical issues,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, the national public interest law firm representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit along with CatholicVote Legal Defense Fund. “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was enacted in order to protect people of faith against government mandates that impose a substantial burden on believers’ efforts to freely exercise their religious convictions, unless the government has really compelling reasons for doing so, and even then only if the means used are the least restrictive and burdensome among possible alternatives. We hope the Supreme Court will agree to hear this case so that the Kennedys and other business owners who practice as well as profess their religious faith can keep on doing so without having to ‘bet the company’ and thereby risk their employees’ jobs as well as their own livelihood.”
Even before America became a republic, Americans have opened public meetings with prayer. The Supreme Court even acknowledged this fact thirty years ago in the case of Marsh v. Chambers. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Burger said, “From colonial times through the founding of the Republic and ever since, the practice of legislative prayer has coexisted with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom.”
But the “ever since” may soon be coming to an end.
This week has seen some pretty substantial Constitutional drama unfold in the chambers of the United States Supreme Court as the constitutionality of President Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment is put to the test. Relevant Radio host Drew Mariani called upon Acton’s Director of Research, Dr. Samuel Gregg, to give his thoughts on the course of the arguments so far and his thoughts on how Catholic social teaching applies to the issue of health care in general.
The interview lasts about 20 minutes; Listen via the audio player below: