Posts tagged with: Supreme Court of the United States

supreme-courtJune is a busy month for the Supreme Court. The Daily Signal has given us a tidy round-up of seven cases to keep an eye on.

Reed v. Town of Gilbert: This is a free speech case. The Good News Community Church in Gilbert, Ariz., uses signage to promote events at the church. The town has codes regarding signage, and the church says they are not fair. For example, the church is allowed to put signs for only 12 hours before their Sunday services. Meanwhile, a real estate agency can post much larger signs for 30 days.

The Supreme Court will decide whether the town’s claim that the ordinance lacks a discriminatory motive is enough to justify its differential treatment of religious signs.


Notre_Dame_signEarlier today the Supreme Court threw out an appeals court decision that went against the University of Notre Dame over its religious objections to the Obamacare health law’s contraception requirement.

Last summer the high court ruled that Hobby Lobby Stores Ltd could, on religious grounds, seek exemptions from the contraception provision. Because this case, Notre Dame v. Burwell, was the only appeals court decision on the issue that pre-dated that ruling, the Supreme Court sent it back to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision ruling in light of the Hobby Lobby ruling.

Until now, Notre Dame was the only nonprofit religious ministry in the nation without protection from the HHS mandate. According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the federal government has relied heavily on the decision against Notre Dame in courts around the country, arguing that it should be able to impose similar burdens on religious ministries like the Little Sisters of the Poor.

“This is a major blow to the federal government’s contraception mandate. For the past year, the Notre Dame decision has been the centerpiece of the government’s effort to force religious ministries to violate their beliefs or pay fines to the IRS,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “As with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby, this is a strong signal that the Supreme Court will ultimately reject the government’s narrow view of religious liberty. The government fought hard to prevent this GVR, but the Supreme Court rejected their arguments.”



o-SUPREME-COURT-BUILDING-facebookOne of the core principles of the Acton Institute is the importance of the rule of law: “The government’s primary responsibility is to promote the common good, that is, to maintain the rule of law, and to preserve basic duties and rights.”

While most conservatives would agree with this sentiment, there has recently been a lot of confusion about what defending the rule of law requires and entails. The most troubling mistake is the confusion of the rule of law with judicial supremacy, the view that the Supreme Court gets to have the “final say” on the meaning of the Constitution and that the other branches of government may not contradict it.

As Carson Holloway says, conservatives should defend the Constitution and the rule of law, but they should not defend judicial supremacy. The Constitution—not the Supreme Court—is our country’s highest authority:


IVCF_bannerEarlier today a federal appeals court handed down an important ruling that protects the liberties of religious organizations.

In the case of Alyce Conlon v. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected a plaintiff’s attempt to enforce state and federal gender discrimination laws on one of the nation’s largest Christian campus ministries.

According to the court opinion, Alyce Conlon worked at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA (IVCF) in Michigan as a spiritual director, involved in providing religious counsel and prayer. She informed IVCF that she was contemplating divorce, at which point IVCF put her on paid—and later unpaid—leave. Part of IVCF’s employment policy is that “[w]here there are significant marital issues, [IVCF] encourages employees to seek appropriate help to move towards reconciliation” and IVCF reserves the right “to consider the impact of any separation/divorce on colleagues, students, faculty, and donors.”

When Conlon’s marital situation continued to worsen despite counseling efforts, IVCF terminated her employment. Conlon sued IVCF and her supervisors in federal district court under Title VII and Michigan law. IVCF claimed the First Amendment’s ministerial exception to employment laws.

The Sixth Circuit rejected Conlon’s claims based on conclusions in the Supreme Courts’ ruling in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School (2012).

autocamA few weeks ago, Hobby Lobby made waves when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the arts and crafts chain in its lawsuit against the Health and Human Services Contraception Mandate. West Michigan manufacturer, Autocam, has been engaged in a similar legal fight. John Kennedy, owner of Autocam, stated that his and his family’s Roman Catholic faith “is integral to Autocam’s corporate culture” and the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide contraceptives and abortifacients was a violation of their beliefs.

Late last year, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied Autocam’s lawsuit against the HHS department. The company’s claim was denied on the grounds that, according to that court, engaging in for profit business is  separate from any religious beliefs of owners.

On Monday August 4, The Supreme Court officially reversed the decision from the Sixth Circuit. Tom Ciesielka from the Thomas More Society, who represents the company, gave a statement:

Today, the United States Supreme Court officially vacated the 6th Circuit’s decision that denied Autocam Corporation and its owners, protection against governmental violation of Constitutionally protected religious freedoms. The case has now been sent back to the lower court, following the decision in the Hobby Lobby case, argued on comparable merit. (more…)

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:

hobbylobby1The 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.

Read more . . .