Posts tagged with: U.S. Supreme Court

The Liberty Bell in PhiladelphiaRegarding the Hobby Lobby decision and the Supreme Court, I believe the National Review editors summed it up best: “That this increase in freedom makes some people so very upset tells us more about them than about the Court’s ruling.”

I address this rapid politicization and misunderstanding of religious liberty and natural rights in today’s Acton commentary. The vitriolic reaction to the ruling is obviously not a good sign for religious liberty and we’re almost certainly going to continue down the path of losing rights of conscience and free expression. Obviously, I hope I’m wrong. But I wanted to step back and take a more comprehensive look at where we are now.

One point I make in the piece is that our federal lawmakers no longer hold a consensus to protect religious liberty, as they did with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Back then, there was overwhelming unification and bipartisanship to protect and strengthen religious liberty, that is a thing of the past and it has been swallowed up by partisan politics. Our collective partisan politics is becoming bigger than our once common understanding of natural rights.

Another point I stress is that there is an obvious difference on the very meaning of religious liberty that cuts through our country. This is well known to those who pay attention to these issues. Many saw the Hobby Lobby ruling not as a ruling in favor of the rights of conscience and liberty, but only a temporary setback in divorcing religion from public human affairs.

The Supreme Court ruling is being politicized in a myriad of vicious ways and that by itself is a bad sign for religious liberty. It will be a tough task going forward to educate people on the necessity of a vibrant understanding of religious liberty and natural rights that promotes the common good.

Blog author: rnothstine
posted by on Monday, June 30, 2014

Supreme_CourtSupreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority (5-4) opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The decision was decided in large part because it aligns with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that passed the U.S. Senate 97-3 and was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The law is intended to prevent burdens to a person’s free exercise of religion. At the time, it had wide ranging bipartisan support and was introduced in the House by current U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

That four justices voted against the decision speaks to the current ideological divide at the court and in the nation of a once non-controversial understanding of religious liberty.

Some significant lines from Alito’s majority decision are below:

As applied to closely held corporations, the HHS regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate RFRA.

Religious employers, such as churches, are exempt from this contraceptive mandate. HHS has also effectively exempted religious nonprofit organizations with religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services. Under this accommodation, the insurance issuer must exclude contraceptive coverage from the employer’s plan and provide plan participants with separate payments for contraceptive services without imposing any cost sharing requirements on the employer, its insurance plan, or its employee beneficiaries.

…the court held that HHS had not proved that the mandate was the “least restrictive means” of furthering a compelling governmental interest.

RFRA’s text shows that Congress designed the statute to provide very broad protection for religious liberty…

Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.

HHS has also provided no evidence that the purported problem of determining the sincerity of an asserted religious belief moved Congress to exclude for-profit corporations from RFRA’s protection.

Government could, e.g., assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives to women unable to obtain coverage due to their employers’ religious objections. Or it could extend the accommodation that HHS has already established for religious nonprofit organizations to non-profit employers with religious objections to the contraceptive mandate.

article-photo-Elaine“This ruling is more in the spirit of Nero Caesar than in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson,” said Russell D. Moore. “This is damaging not only to the conscience rights of Christians, but to all citizens.”

Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was responding to the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to rule on a case involving Elane Photography and its owners Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Elaine received an email in 2006 asking her to photograph a “commitment ceremony” between Vanessa Willock and her same-sex partner. Willock asked if Elaine would be “open to helping us celebrate our day . . . .” Elaine politely declined to use her artistic talents to express a celebratory message at odds with her deep convictions. (Elaine had previously declined requests from others for things such as nude maternity photos.)

Willock, a licensed attorney who has served in various paid “diversity” positions, filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. After a one-day administrative trial in 2008, the commission ruled against the Huguenins and ordered them to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees. The case made its way through the state court system, with the New Mexico Supreme Court ultimately affirming the commission’s coercive decision. In an ominous concurring opinion, one justice wrote that the Huguenins “now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” adding “it is the price of citizenship.”

ADF attorneys representing the Huguenins are presenting only one claim to the U.S. Supreme Court—that the punishment of Elane Photography violates the constitutionally protected freedom “not to speak,” known as the compelled speech doctrine.

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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, January 31, 2014

Hobby-Lobby-StoreLast week, over 80 amicus briefs were filed with the Supreme Court on both sides of Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the HHS contraceptive-abortifacient mandate. Here’s what you need to know about amicus briefs and their role in this case.

What is an amicus brief?

An amicus brief is a learned treatise submitted by an amicus curiae (Latin for “friend of the court”), someone who is not a party to a case who offers information that bears on the case but that has not been solicited by any of the parties to assist a court. The amicus brief is a way to introduce concerns ensuring that the possibly broad legal effects of a court decision will not depend solely on the parties directly involved in the case.

Who can submit an amicus brief?

While any interested party can contribute or sign an amicus brief, it can only be filed only by an attorney admitted to practice before the Supreme Court. After filing, the Court decides whether it will accept the brief. Supreme Court Rule 37 provides that an amicus curiae brief which brings relevant matter to the Court’s attention that has not already been brought to its attention by the parties is of considerable help to the Court. An amicus brief which does not serve this purpose burdens the staff and facilities of the Court and its filing is not favored.

Do amicus briefs have any influence on Supreme Court rulings?
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Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Monday, January 27, 2014

Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts retailer with 588 stores across the U.S. is involved in a federal lawsuit against the HHS mandate. Aided in their legal fight by The Becket Fund, Hobby Lobby wants people to know what is at stake in their fight against the federal government’s mandate that employers must include birth control, abortifacients and abortions in employee health care coverage. David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby has stated:

My family and I are encouraged that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide our case. This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only:  the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the constitution. Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.

In addition, the company has released this video:

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The morticians wanted the monks shut down—or even thrown in jail—for the crime the Benedictines were committing.

Casket-making MonksUntil 2005, the monks of St. Joseph Abbey in St. Benedict, Louisiana had relied on harvesting timber for income. But when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their pine forest they had to find new sources of revenue to fund the 124-year-old abbey. For over 100 years, the monks had been making simple, handcrafted, monastic caskets so they decided to try to sell them to the public.

According to the Wall Street Journal, after a local Catholic newspaper publicized the effort in 2007, local funeral directors got the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors—of which eight of the nine members are funeral industry professionals—to serve the abbey with a cease-and-desist order. Louisiana law makes it a crime for anyone but a licensed parlor to sell “funeral merchandise.” Violating the statute could land the monks in jail for up to 180 days.

Since the sole purpose of the “casket cartel” law is to protect the economic interest of the funeral industry, the Institute for Justice filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the monastery claiming the legislation restricts “the right to earn an honest living just to enrich government-licensed funeral directors.”
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Earlier this month, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave a lecture at the Lanier Theological Library, in which he explored the values of capitalism and socialism and their relative consistency with Christianity and the common good. While not asserting that either system is inherently “more Christian,” he does comment on the extent to which Christian principles are able to participate in each. He states:

While I would not argue that capitalism as an economic system is inherently more Christian than socialism … it does seem to me that capitalism is more dependent on Christianity than socialism is. For in order for capitalism to work – in order for it to produce a good and a stable society – the traditional Christian virtues are essential.

Additional quotes from the lecture are featured in a Houston Chronicle article by Cindy George, which was listed as a PowerLink on the Acton Blog a few weeks ago.

See the complete video of Justice Scalia’s lecture below.

Reading through Scalia Dissents: Writings of the Supreme Court’s Wittiest, Most Outspoken Justice, I came across this gem: “No government official is ‘tempted’ to place restraints upon his own freedom of action, which is why Lord Acton did not say ‘Power tends to purify.’”

The comments from Justice Scalia emerged from Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992). A fuller context to his words gives added meaning to the threat to liberty and the rule of law from activist courts:

The Court’s statement that it is “tempting” to acknowledge the authoritativeness of tradition in order to “cur[b] the discretion of federal judges” is, of course, rhetoric rather than reality; no government official is tempted” to place restraints upon his own freedom of action, which is why Lord Acton did not say “Power tends to purify.” The Court’s temptation is in the quite opposite and more natural direction – towards systematically eliminating checks upon its power; and it succumbs.

Jordan Ballor reminded me of a similar Lord Acton quote: “Everybody likes to get as much power as circumstances allow, and nobody will vote for a self-denying ordinance.”

Most Rev. Joseph F. Naumann, D.D., Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas

On Catholic World Report, Carl E. Olson interviews Rev. Joseph F. Naumann, the Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, about the HHS mandate, the Ryan budget, and what the Supreme Court ruling means for the religious freedom fight.

“There are always some people who feel that the Church is becoming partisan and political in this,” Archbishop Naumann said, referring to a collective response to the HHS mandate covering provision of contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization services that includes more than 40 lawsuits and the current, ongoing Fortnight for Freedom developed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“But we try to point out to them that we didn’t pick the time, nor did we pick the fight,” he added. “We’re not trying to advance any agenda other than to protect what has been there. We either have to be silent and acquiesce to the mandate, or we have to make our voices heard at this point.”

Naumann has been an important figure in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as a member of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities and the Committee on Marriage and Family Life.

“Part of my concern, which I expressed at the bishops’ meeting (earlier this month in Atlanta) is that people – who have good intentions and motivations – have too often looked to massive government programs to help the poor,” he said, “yet we have a history now of almost 50 years with these programs and we don’t have fewer poor and we don’t have more people empowered. But we do have a weaker family life and weaker public morality. And so we have to look at it and ask, ‘Are these really the best ways to go about addressing the problem?’”

Read “We didn’t pick the time, nor did we pick the fight,” an interview with Archbishop Naumann by Carl E. Olson in Catholic World Report.

Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Friday, June 29, 2012

Fr. Hans Jacobse

On the Observer blog (and picked up on Catholic Online), Antiochian Orthodox priest Fr. Hans Jacobse predicts that the Supreme Court’s Obamacare ruling will, “by the middle of the next generation” lead those who worked for this program — or ignored the threat — to be “cursed” by their own children. “The children will weep by the waters of Babylon, unearthing old movies and books of an America they never knew,” Jacobse writes.

Antonio Gramsci, that great architect of the coming oppression was a shrewd man. He understood that the overthrow of the great liberal tradition would be a journey that would take generations. It would require a long march through the cultural institutions, overthrowing line by line and precept by precept those bedrock moral values upon which the freedom of men was first defined and later codified into law. Today the children of the great people of the Magna Carta, of English Common Law, the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution worship instead pleasure, safety, and wealth.

The God of Abraham has been forgotten, the same God who freed Abraham from the delusion of polytheism and the Israelite from the tyranny of Egypt, who gave man a Gospel from which insights into the nature and dignity man was drawn, and whose teachings unleashed a creativity that brought healing and light into a world in ways that would astonish the prophets and philosophers of old. And in that forgetting, we embrace a darkness the depth of which most of us do not yet perceive.

Read “The Republic is Finished and the America We Knew is Gone” on the American Orthodox Institute’s Observer blog.

See the response to this article by Fr. Gregory Jensen at AOI.