Supreme Court

Hobby Lobby And 'Biblical Economics'

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissent in the Hobby Lobby case that the Court’s conservative majority had “ventured into a minefield” with its decision. Many of those mines have already been placed by right-wing leaders who claim a religious grounding not only for anti-gay, anti-abortion, and anti-contraception positions, but also for opposition to collective bargaining, minimum wage laws, progressive taxation and government involvement in the alleviation of poverty.

In Hobby Lobby, the Court found for the first time that for-profit corporations have religious rights just like real people and can therefore make claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that they should be exempt from laws that burden their corporate “exercise” of religion. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was deeply skeptical of Justice Samuel Alito’s assertion that the decision was limited only to the contraception mandate and only for closely held corporations.

“Suppose an employer’s sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage, or according women equal pay for substantially similar work?” she asked. How would the Court justify applying its logic only to religious views about contraception?  “Indeed, approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.’”

Ginsburg’s questions are not merely rhetorical. Conservative Catholic and evangelical leaders who have signed the Manhattan Declaration, including some U.S. bishops, declare themselves willing to engage in civil disobedience – maybe even martyrdom – in order to avoid any participation in abortion or any “anti-life act.” Nor, they declare, “will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.”

Alito’s majority opinion says Hobby Lobby does not extend the right to religion-based discrimination on account of a person’s race, but is conspicuously silent on other kinds of discrimination. That silence raises concerns that business owners could use the Hobby Lobby decision to opt out of a future federal LGBT civil rights law, or the Obama administration’s executive order against anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors.

Indeed, especially in light of Alito’s mention in Hobby Lobby that RFRA applies to the District of Columbia as a federal enclave, such a claim could be brought today to seek an exemption from D.C.’s Human Rights Act that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.  What happens if and when a local bishop instructs Catholic business owners that it would be sinful to treat legally married gay employees the same as other married couples, or an evangelical businessman declares he will not “bend” to DC’s Human Rights Act?

As Zoe Carpenter writes for The Nation,

Business owners now have a new basis for trying to evade anti-discrimination laws and their responsibilities to their employees. Religious liberty is already the rallying cry for conservatives looking for a legal way to discriminate against LGBT Americans; other business owners have tried to use religion to justify opposition to minimum-wage laws and Social Security taxes. Faith groups are already trying to capitalize on the Hobby Lobby decision out of court; on Wednesday, a group of religious leaders asked the Obama administration for an exemption from a forthcoming federal order barring federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

To be clear, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was used as the basis for the Hobby Lobby decision applies only to federal and District of Columbia laws and regulations, including presidential executive orders, not to state laws.

The stories of business owners being told they cannot exempt themselves from anti-discrimination laws have mostly involved questions about state-level civil rights and religious freedom statutes. Earlier this year the US Supreme Court declined to review a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that a wedding photography business had violated anti-discrimination law when it refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.

Although Hobby Lobby does not apply directly to state laws, it could influence state courts weighing religious claims by business owners in states with their own versions of RFRA.

The clash between religious conservatives and advocates for LGBT equality has been well publicized. But the minefield Ginsburg refers to extends well beyond traditional “social issues.” Religious Right leaders have been working hard to convince conservative evangelicals that the Tea Party’s anti-government, anti-union, anti-welfare agenda is grounded in the Bible – an effort that started well before the Tea Party arrived on the scene.

David Barton is an influential Republican activist and “historian” who helped write the GOP’s national platform in 2012. Barton’s “Christian nation” approach to history has been denounced by historians and scholars, including some who are themselves evangelical Christians, but it is embraced by conservative politicians who extol a divinely inspired American exceptionalism. Barton teaches that Jesus and the Bible are opposed to progressive taxation, minimum wage laws, collective bargaining, and “socialist union kind of stuff.” 

In addition, “mainstream” Religious Right leaders and conservative politicians are increasingly allied with a group of Pentecostal leaders who promote a “dominionist” theology that says God requires the right kind of Christians to take dominion over every aspect of society, including the business world. Many of them were sponsors of, and participants in, the prayer rally that Texas Gov. Rick Perry used to launch his ill-fated 2012 presidential campaign.

Thanks to previous Supreme Court decisions, alluded to and affirmed by Alito’s majority opinion in Hobby Lobby, the Court has for now seemingly closed the door to companies making a religious challenge to paying Social Security and federal income taxes based on their objection to a particular government program funded with those taxes. But the same might not be true for more targeted taxes and fees, or for laws regulating company behavior or the relationships between companies and their employees.

Opposition to unions has deep roots in Christian Reconstructionism, which has influenced the Religious Right’s ideology and political agenda. An early Christian Coalition Leadership manual, co-authored by Republican operative Ralph Reed in 1990, is a stunning example. A section titled “God’s Delegated Authority in the World” argues that “God established His pattern for work as well as in the family and in the church.” It cites four Bible passages instructing slaves to be obedient to their masters, including this one:

Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 

The conclusion to be drawn from these slaves-obey-your-masters passages?

Of course, slavery was abolished in this country many years ago, so we must apply these principles to the way Americans work today, to employees and employers: Christians have a responsibility to submit to the authority of their employers, since they are designated as part of God’s plan for the exercise of authority on the earth by man. 

More recently, Religious Right leaders have cheered on corporate-funded attacks on unions in Wisconsin and Michigan. Does the Hobby Lobby ruling open another front in the right-wing war on workers? It is not uncommon for companies to refuse to cooperate with union organizers or negotiate with a properly organized union. Imagine that a business owner objects to a National Labor Relations Board finding that they have violated the National Labor Relations Act by arguing in federal court that their company’s religious beliefs prohibit them from dealing with unions?

It’s not as far-fetched as it might seem. Since long before the Hobby Lobby case created an open invitation to business owners to raise religious objections to bargaining with unions, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has encouraged workers to raise religious objections to requirements that they join or financially support a union. Here’s an excerpt from their pamphlet, “Union Dues and Religious Do Nots.”

To determine whether your beliefs are religious instead of political or philosophical, ask yourself whether your beliefs are based upon your obligations to God. Do you simply dislike unions or hate this particular union’s politics? Or, does your desire to stand apart from the union arise from your relationship to God? If your beliefs arise from your decision to obey God, they are religious. 

It is possible that conservative courts may not give the same weight to religious claims about anti-gay discrimination or the Bible’s opposition to unions or minimum wage laws as they did to Hobby Lobby’s anti-contraception claims. Those claims were based on the owners’ belief – one that runs counter to medical scientific consensus – that some of the most effective forms of birth control work by causing abortions, and are therefore the moral equivalent of murder.

But as Justice Ginsburg pointed out, it is not clear how courts will differentiate between different types of claims. And it will be easier for claims to meet the new, lower threshold created by the Court in effectively altering the “substantial burden” test.

As Justice Ginsburg pointed out, rather than having to show that a person’s, or corporation’s, practice of religion has been burdened, they simply need to show that a law is “incompatible with” the person’s religious beliefs. Additionally, it seems that a wide array of regulations, conceivably including minimum wage laws, could be threatened by Alito’s reliance on the idea that having the government pay for the cost of implementing a regulation is less restrictive than having the company  bear the cost of a regulation it objects to.   

It is also not clear that the decision will remain “limited” to the 90 percent of American companies that qualify as closely held, which employ more than half of the nation’s workforce. The Court explicitly acknowledged the possibility that publicly traded corporations could raise such claims, but argued that it would be “unlikely.” But in this new world in which corporate religious claims can be made against government regulation, what is to prevent the CEO or board of a publicly traded organization from finding religion with regard to, say, greenhouse gas emissions?

The Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, promoted by the anti-environmentalist Cornwall Alliance, declares as a matter of faith that earth’s ecosystem is not fragile and that efforts to reduce global warming, like regulating the emission of carbon dioxide, are not only “fruitless” and “harmful” but would discourage economic growth and therefore violate Biblical requirements to protect the poor from harm.

Justice Alito’s opinion rejects Justice Ginsburg’s characterization of the ruling’s “startling breadth.” But it is undeniable that the Court majority has opened the door to owners of for-profit corporations making an array of claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

Justice Ginsburg writes in her dissent, “Little doubt that RFRA claims will proliferate, for the Court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood—combined with its other errors in construing RFRA—invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faith.” For today’s right-wing leaders, who claim religious grounding for just about every aspect of their political ideology, there aren’t many forms of regulation that would be off-limits.

Peter LaBarbera Says Doctors Who Perform Sex Reassignment Surgery Should Be Imprisoned

In a Friday appearance on “The Janet Mefferd Show,” Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality criticized “grotesque” and “awful” sex reassignment surgeries for transgender individuals and insisted that the doctors who perform such surgeries should be put in jail.

“These doctors who perform these operations — this should be illegal — these guys need to go to jail, this is almost the most analogues thing to the abortionist on that issue I can think of,” LaBarbera said. “These doctors exploiting these gender confused individuals and making money off of them.”

Earlier in the program, the anti-LGBT activist once again praised the Supreme Court for its decision in the Hobby Lobby case, hailing the court’s ruling as a bulwark against “LGBT tyranny” that should be cited by businesses that seek to refuse to service to LGBT customers.

Ironically, immediately after praising the Supreme Court for watering down the Affordable Care Act in Hobby Lobby, LaBarbera then attacked the court for potentially striking down state bans on same-sex marriage, saying, “We cannot be ruled by nine men and women in robes, by the Supreme Court, they are not supposed to be making law.”

He also called on states to defy any Supreme Court ruling that decides in favor of marriage equality. “I think we need a state like Oklahoma or somewhere where there is a vast, vast majority supporting traditional marriage to say, ‘No, we’re not going to be forced in our state to embrace this counterfeit marriage,’ and I hope that happens,” he said.

Richard Land: 'Alito And Roberts Are The Gifts That Keep On Giving'

National Journal is out today with a profile of the new kinder, gentler Religious Right, looking at the downfall of Richard Land’s career as a sign that the movement is turning away from aggressive culture wars and instead finding a less threatening political approach.

Reporter Tiffany Stanley interviewed Land, a former top Southern Baptist Convention official, who waxed nostalgic for the days when President Bush was in office…and especially for Bush’s commitment to nominating ultra-conservative federal judges.

“Alito and Roberts are the gifts that keep on giving, and we would have gotten neither one of those without our involvement,” Land said, predicting that Roe v. Wade will soon be “thrown onto the ash heap of history.”

The Religious Right has found great success in rallying its supporters against the menace of “activist judges” while stressing the importance of putting “strict constructionists” on the bench. Even during Mitt Romney’s failed presidential bid, many far-right activists told voters not to mind Romney’s apparent attempts to move to the center since he promised to appoint hard-line conservative judges.

The Supreme Court’s ruling this year in the Hobby Lobby case shows the Religious Right’s strong focus on the judiciary is paying off. And Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council told Stanley that conservatives will continue to use the courts as part of their strategy to keep “the barbarians at bay.”

“I love the guy!” Land says. In his office, he gets up from the conference table, goes searching for his cell phone, and pulls up a photo of W. and members of the Land family—his wife, two daughters, and son-in-law—at the Bush Library, which they visited while they were in Dallas for a wedding.

Land proved a valuable presidential ally. When Bush called for preemptive action against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, he was one of the few religious leaders to provide cover, writing a letter supporting the president’s plan with his version of just-war theory. In 2003, after Bush signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act into law, Land joined Falwell and other ministers in the Oval Office, where they prayed with the president. In 2004, Land launched the “I Vote Values” campaign, a mammoth get-out-the-vote operation, which distributed half a million voter guides to churches and included a cross-country tour in an 18-wheeler. According to exit polls, Bush won voters who said their top concern was “moral values” by 80 percent to 18 percent.



By his account, the alignment of religious conservatives and the GOP happened when Republicans more readily took on the antiabortion mantle: “What I’ve always said is … we’re going to be values voters, we’re going to vote our values and our beliefs and our convictions, and if that makes abortion a partisan issue, then shame on the Democrats.” He pushed for a commitment from the GOP so evangelicals would not just be another voting bloc but a constituency whose concerns were a priority. “One of my goals was to make certain that evangelicals weren’t used by the GOP in the way blacks were used by the Democratic Party,” he says.

And it’s undeniable that the alliance with George W. Bush carried benefits for evangelicals. Look no further than the Supreme Court, Land points out. “Alito and Roberts are the gifts that keep on giving, and we would have gotten neither one of those without our involvement,” he says. Land predicts that, if he lives out a natural lifespan, he will see Roe v. Wade “thrown onto the ash heap of history.”



The Hobby Lobby case is in many ways a model for the new strategy being pursued by the Religious Right. It represents a way to engage in politics that is less aggressive than the tactics of the previous generation of believers. Back then, the key phrase was “family values”; now, it is “religious liberty.” You see it everywhere—from contraception court cases to legislation to think-tank conferences.



“We’re not unrealistic,” says Perkins of the Family Research Council. “Our focus is more keeping the barbarians at bay, really.” His organization has started working more at the state level on freedom-of-expression laws. “We kind of saw that coming about three years ago and began shifting a lot of our emphasis on religious liberty.”

Fresh From Celebrating Hobby Lobby, Bob Vander Plaats Calls Judicial Review 'Nonsense'

It is truly amazing how conservative activists continue to harp on “judicial activism,” while supporting sweeping judicial decisions that happen to go their way.

For instance, just a couple of weeks ago, Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader was celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case but today he talked with James Dobson about how when it comes to gay rights cases “the Supreme Court is starting to believe that they are the Supreme Being” and calling the principle of judicial review “nonsense.”

Vander Plaats and Dobson both lamented the Supreme Court’s 1803 decision in Marbury v. Madison, which established the principle of judicial review, which Vander Plaats said meant “we’ve had 50 years of law school teaching the lawyers that no, the courts do make law, which is complete nonsense. And God help us if that ever becomes the rule in our day.”

Vander Plaats and Dobson echoed Mike Huckabee, who insisted last month that "this notion that when the Supreme Court says something it’s the last word is fundamentally unconstitutional and wrong."

Later the “Family Talk” interview, Vander Plaats told Dobson that Americans’ pursuit of “all sort of lustful living” has made us God’s “prodigal son.”

"I just hope we're not feeding with the pigs when we decide to turn back to Him," he added.


 

Jennifer Roback Morse: 'Thank God For The Men On The Supreme Court' Who Are 'Sticking Up' For Women

In a Christian Post column this weekend, the Ruth Institute’s Jennifer Roback Morse thanks God that the men on the Supreme Court are “sticking up for ‘everywoman’ against the Elite Women,” represented by the women on the Supreme Court who have allowed feminism to help them through their careers.

Morse argues that because Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan are childless, they don’t “understand and respect the lives and aspirations” of women who prioritize children over their careers, while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a “lifelong radical feminist ideologue.”

Let me tell you about a friend of mine named Katie. She is a brilliant attorney, who works part-time for a non-profit public interest legal organization. Katie has nine children, whom she homeschools. She lives out in the country in coastal California. By any reasonable reckoning, Katie, is "having it all:" big family, country living in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and meaningful, intellectually challenging work.

However, it is safe to say that Katie is highly unlikely to ever be appointed to the Supreme Court. She has other concerns. She does not have the single-minded focus on her legal career that would allow her to be a serious contender.

I too, have had a wonderful advantaged life: meaningful work, good family life. But I never chaired an economics department. I never sat on any prestigious commissions. I wasn't given any political appointment as my childless or male peers have done.

Which brings me back to the subject at hand: whose interests do the women on the Supreme Court actually represent?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a lifelong radical feminist ideologue. She came of age in the short window of time when women could still get married, have kids, go to law school, and have a career after child-bearing. Her two children were born when she was 22 and 32. Thanks to radical feminism, highly educated women have a much more difficult time doing these things. They can go to law school and have a career alright. But getting married and having children sometime before menopause, not so much.

Justice Ginsburg had the lifelong support of her husband in her career aspirations. Thanks to no-fault divorce, women today cannot count on a lifetime of mutual support with their husbands. Justice Ginsburg has been safely insulated from the negative fallout of the sexual revolution which she and her radical feminist colleagues did so much to champion.

The other two women on the Supreme Court, Justices Kagan and Sotomayor, are childless. It is highly unlikely that the two of them understand and respect the lives and aspirations of women like my friend Katie and me. And for less educated women, family is everything and "career" is a job to put food on the table. Elite women know nothing of "everywoman," the people who have endured the sexual revolution, and who do not have high status jobs as compensation.

Women like Katie and I are willing to let ourselves see the harm that the Sexual Revolution had done to the poor. Our lives do not depend on defending the Sexual Revolution. By contrast, for many Elite Women, the sexual revolution has made possible their lives as they know them. They literally cannot imagine what their lives would be like without contraception, with abortion as a back-up plan.

As I say, Katie and I will never occupy the seats of power that are available to childless women. We have many achievements to our credit, but Elite Women will run the show. We have good lives: I do not regret for one moment, the choices I have made. But there is no getting around it: childless women have an advantage over mothers in the competition for power and influence.

All I can say is: thank God for the men on the Supreme Court. At least someone is sticking up for "everywoman" against the Elite Women.

Samuel Alito: A Movement Man Makes Good On Right-Wing Investments

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ended this Supreme Court session with a bang, writing the majority opinion in two cases that gave for-profit corporations the right to make religious liberty claims to evade government regulation and set the stage for the fulfillment of a central goal of the right-wing political movement: the destruction of public employee unions.

FRC Finds Majority Side With Hobby Lobby If You Lie To Them

In his email to members last night, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins continued to crow about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, claiming that “an FRC-commissioned poll [found] that 53% of voters (including 50% of women!) disapproved of the idea that employers' should have to pay for workers' sexual decisions.”

“So if there is a war, it’s on the facts,” he concluded.

Indeed.

As it turns out, the FRC poll that Perkins cites, which was taken in December of last year, got its results by simply lying to respondents about the content of the contraception insurance mandate.

The pollsters asked respondents whether they supported or opposed the "mandate which requires that all private healthcare plans, including both employer based health plans and individual market health plans, cover preventative care services for women, which includes all FDA approved contraceptives, including drugs that can destroy a human embryo, and sterilization services without a direct cost to the patient."

In reality, none of the contraceptives covered under the HHS mandate “destroy a human embryo” — even if Hobby Lobby’s “sincerely held religious beliefs” hold otherwise.

As the Public Religion Research Institute found, when you poll people about the contraception coverage mandate without lying to them, a comfortable majority support it.

The Time A Corporation Cited Religious Freedom As A Way To Avoid Desegregation

In her dissent in the Hobby Lobby case today, Justice Ginsburg mentioned a 1968 precedent in which the owner of a chain of barbecue restaurants in South Carolina “refused to serve black patrons based on his religious beliefs opposing racial integration.”

Anti-Gay Activists Hopeful Hobby Lobby Will Lead To License To Discriminate

Anti-gay activists are rejoicing at the Supreme Court's decision in Hobby Lobby today, in part because they are hopeful that the decision will pave the way for one of their own policy goals: to use the religious liberty argument to push for broad exemptions for corporations from nondiscrimination laws.

Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber is hopeful that the decision bodes well for those trying to use religious freedom as a cloak to justify discrimination against LGBT people:

Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality has a similar take:

There may be reason for them to be optimistic. As SCOTUSblog pointed out, the majority's opinion pointedly leaves open "the question of whether the Government has a similarly compelling interest in preventing discrimination on the basis of sex or sexual orientation." 

With respect to implications for other kinds of religious-based discrimination, the Court writes that racial discrimination in hiring will not be permitted under RFRA because "The Government has a compelling interest in providing equal opportunity to participate in the workforce without regard to race, and prohibitions on racial discrimination are precisely tailored to acheive [sic] that critical goal." Note that this leave open the question of whether the Government has a similarly compelling interest in preventing discrimination on the basis of sex or sexual orientation.

UPDATE: TPM has more on this.

UPDATE II: Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association has joined the chorus:

Religious Right Reacts To Hobby Lobby Decision: A Victory Over King George III And 'Subsidized Consequence Free Sex'

The Religious Right’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case — in which the Court’s conservative majority ruled that some for-profit businesses must be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate — has started rolling in.

Erick Erickson sees the decision as a victory over the promiscuous:

Eric Metaxas thinks King George III would have been on the side of contraceptive insurance:

The Franciscan University of Steubenville compared businesses that don’t want to provide their employees with contraception coverage to religious martyrs in ancient Rome:

Steve Deace called the Green family, which owns the Hobby Lobby chain, "the Rosa Parks of the religious liberty fight" and urged the movement not to "settle" with just the Hobby Lobby victory:

If we play our cards right, and God grants us a favor, we can use this as a momentum changer. That’s mainly thanks to the Green family, who just became the Rosa Parks of the religious liberty fight. Just as her refusal to comply with an unjust edict on a bus one day blew the lid off the civil rights movement, perhaps the Greens’ refusal to comply with Obamacare’s unjust edict can accomplish the same for a similarly worthy cause.

But that won’t happen if we “settle” for this win like we have all too many others.

AFA’s Bryan Fischer thinks he knows Chief Justice John Roberts’ motivation to vote with the Court's majority:

And finally, the American Family Association is taking a poll:

Hobby Lobby Opens Up A Minefield

With a far-right Supreme Court majority ruling in Hobby Lobby 5-4 that for-profit closely-held corporations have religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), Justice Ginsburg is rightly warning that the Court has "ventured into a minefield."

Hobby Lobby: Religious Rights For Secular For-Profit Corporations … Just This One Time

Writing for the majority in the Hobby Lobby case, Justice Alito emphasized [PDF] that the ruling, which partly overturned the Obama administration’s rules on birth control coverage, does not apply to other cases involving religious objections to government regulations:

This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage man-dates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.



In any event, our decision in these cases is concerned solely with the contraceptive mandate. Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs. Other coverage requirements, such as immunizations, may be supported by different interests (for example, the need to combat the spread of infectious disease) and may involve different arguments about the least restrictive means of providing them.

Apparently, the Supreme Court has determined that contraception, unlike immunizations, just doesn’t cut it in terms of public health.

In a footnote, Alito cites findings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to back up claims that the government should be allowed to require immunizations over the religious objections of people who oppose vaccinations.

Of course, the contraception rule, the New York Times points out, “relied on the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine, an independent group of doctors and researchers that concluded that birth control is not just a convenience but is medically necessary ‘to ensure women’s health and well-being.’”

It is undeniable that the advent of contraception, used by around 99 percent of sexually active women, and family planning has had an extraordinary impact on public health on a level similar to the creation of new vaccines. Unless, of course, your worldview leads you to believe that such pills are simply used by women as tools to have an abortion.

Justice Ginsburg points out in her dissent that the Supreme Court has rejected past religious objections to generally applicable rules from non-persons, including church-operated schools:

And where is the stopping point to the “let the government pay” alternative? Suppose an employer’s sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage, see Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation v. Secretary of Labor, or according women equal pay for substantially similar work, see Dole v. Shenandoah Baptist Church? Does it rank as a less restrictive alternative to require the government to provide the money or benefit to which the employer has a religion-based objection?

Indeed, the high court previously rebuffed religious-based challenges to laws regarding the minimum wage, equal pay and regulation of illicit drugs.

Religious groups that believe in the subservience of women, reject vaccines and blood transfusions or seek to use controlled substances as part of religious rituals, according to the majority opinion, don’t have as much “religious liberty” than a secular for-profit corporation such as Hobby Lobby.

Ginsburg adds:

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga surely do not stand alone as commercial enterprises seeking exemptions from generally applicable laws on the basis of their religious beliefs. See, e.g. Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc (owner of restaurant chain refused to serve black patrons based on his religious beliefs opposing racial integration)…

[H]ow does the Court divine which religious beliefs are worthy of accommodation, and which are not? Isn’t the Court disarmed from making such a judgment given its recognition that “courts must not presume to determine…the plausibility of a religious claim?”

Would the exemption the Court holds RFRA demands for employers with religiously grounded objections to the use of certain contraceptives extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others)?

[A]pproving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be “perceived as favoring one religion over another,” the very “risk the Establishment Claus was designed to preclude.”

While Alito stresses that only closely-held corporations are involved in this case, what about a company board dominated by Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, or evangelicals like David Barton who believe “that the Bible opposes the minimum wage, unions and collective bargaining, estate taxes, capital gains taxes, and progressive taxation in general”?

With Congress currently debating the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, what if Hobby Lobby’s owners cited their religion as a reason to discriminate against LGBT employees? Or refuse to cover HIV/AIDS treatments?

With this ruling, it seems that the court wants to decide for itself what counts as a necessary government strategy to protect public health, and what doesn’t.

NC Lt. Gov. Dan Forest: America 'Must Decide For Or Against God'

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest followed Texas Lt. Gov. candidate Dan Patrick to the microphone at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s 2014 Road to Majority conference. Forest joked about following another “Lieutenant Dan” and said he’d been backstage crossing things out because Patrick was already saying them. Indeed, Forest’s comments about the Constitution being grounded in “biblical truth” echoed Patrick’s Christian-nation address. “My friends,” Forest said, “America is at a great crossroads where it must decide for or against God.”

Excerpts from Dan Forest's remarks:

Forest quoted George Washington and Abraham Lincoln writing about the nation relying on God’s aid, and he said that the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was “one small declaration from tyranny, one giant declaration of dependence upon Almighty God.”

American leaders, he said, continued to rely on God until Supreme Court rulings on church-state separation:

In America, as time moved on, our leaders sought the help of the Lord through the great and terrible Civil War, through a Great Depression, through two great world wars and numerous other conflicts. Then, in 1947 our Supreme Court separated church and state and placed a high wall between the two. In 1962 our Supreme Court removed prayer from our public schools. In 1973, our Supreme Court ruled that it was OK to kill children still in the womb. In the span of a mere 25 years, we, the people allowed our nation to turn its back on God in the name of independence and freedom.

And he began a litany of ways he said America had turned its back on God:

We have forgotten God and we call it freedom.

We kill our children for convenience, and we call it freedom.

We enslave our poor in welfare and call it freedom.

We take from the hard working and give to the sluggard in the name of income equality and call it freedom.

We allow our children to become addicted to pornography in the name of free speech and we call it freedom.

We rack up mountains of debt on the backs of our grandchildren and we call it freedom.

We reward the criminal at the expense of the victim and we call it freedom.

We take God out of our schoolhouse, out of our statehouse, out of our courthouse and we call it freedom.

We allow a few individuals in the courts to determine the moral standard for all and we call it freedom.

Forest said the country must choose between “policy band-aids” and getting at the root of problems, which is that we as a nation have taken our eyes of God, “who is the giver of truth, virtue, and a moral compass.”

The heart of the matter is we have forgotten God. We have kicked him out of our house, out of our schoolhouse, out of our courthouse, and out of our statehouse, and now, out of our nation. We call it everything but what it is, we call it everything but sin, the turning away from God.

He said that the national focus on rebuilding after the 9/11 attacks was done in the name of freedom and security, but that we did it by our own strength rather than relying on God.

We don’t just need, my friends, to rebuild the walls of America. We need to rebuild the biblical foundation upon which the walls sit. We need to trust God. Fear only comes when we don’t believe that God is who he says he is. If God is the creator of the universe, if he allows our hearts to beat and our lungs to breathe, why do we not trust him? If we trust God, my friends, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. With him we can do anything. Apart from him we can do nothing. Seek first his kingdom and all these things will be given.

We continue to declare ‘God Bless America’ without doing our part, without prayer, without fasting, and repentance as a nation, without recognizing the sins we commit and humbling ourselves before the sovereign ruler of nations, and asking for forgiveness.

It is time for America to recognize that freedom does not come from being a nation of wealth, power, influence, abundance, and ease – but rather it comes from being a humble nation on its knees. It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

 

Mike Huckabee's 2016 Themes? God In Textbooks And Attacks On Judges

Part of the Christian-nation lineup at this weekend’s Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority conference was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a right-wing media figure and former (and likely future) presidential candidate.

Excerpts from Huckabee's remarks:

Huckabee said that he and his wife recently went to China to celebrate their 40th anniversary. He said he hadn’t been earlier because he doesn’t like the Chinese government — citing piracy and dumping but, oddly, not China’s repression of dissent and religious freedom.

He praised the flowering of entrepreneurship in China, saying the country is becoming more like America used to be and America is becoming more like China used to be. Huckabee compared NSA spying to Chinese control over Internet access. And more absurdly, he equated the Chinese government’s erasure from history of the massacre of protesters at Tiananmen Square with what he said was our country’s treatment of the role of God in America’s founding.

“And I thought I’m so glad that I’m in a country that would never erase a significant part of our history, and then I remember that we are erasing most of the history of this country. We’re telling young people that God had nothing to do with the foundation of this country when in fact there wouldn’t be a United States of America if it were not for the men and women of faith who got on their knees to pray and then got on their feet to fight, who took muskets off their mantles and took on the toughest  army that had ever existed in the world at that time and had no chance of creating a new country, but they did -- because of the Providence of God’s hand. And you try to find that in an American textbook today in a public school, and good luck doing it.

Maybe Huckabee’s desire to have public school textbooks teaching that God was behind America’s founding reflects the fact that he’s been hanging out with Christian-nation zealot David Lane, who wants to make the Bible a primary public school textbook. CBN’s David Brody reported on Friday that Lane has organized a European trip for Huckabee and pastors from key primary states.  Huckabee says the trip, called “Reagan, Thatcher, Pope John Paul II Tour: God Raising Extraordinary Leaders for Extraordinary Times,” is an opportunity to show “the human instruments used by God to change the world’s history.”

Huckabee clearly has a hankering to put himself in that category. At the Faith and Freedom conference, he railed against government regulation and “irrational people” running the government. He said abortion is “a curse for which we will answer.” He also signaled what may be a defining campaign issue if he decides to run: an attack on the federal courts.

And one of the things that I do not understand is why more Americans have not rallied in opposition to the notion that just because the Court says something that that is the final word. Have we not read our Constitution? Have we not reminded ourselves that we have three branches of government, not one, and all of those three branches are equal branches of government. One is them is not superior to either of the other two, and certainly not to both of the other two. This notion that when the Supreme Court says something it’s the last word is fundamentally unconstitutional and wrong. It is the Supreme Court, not the supreme branch.  And we have allowed guys and women in black robes not simply to interpret a law, but to transform a law, rewrite a law, and actually prescribe the fix and implement it, two responsibilities and functions that are left exclusively and totally to the legislative and executive branches.

It is high time that we recognize that one of the greatest threats to our liberty in this land is the notion of judicial supremacy. There is no such thing in the Constitution of judicial supremacy, and one of the ways in which we must transform America, unlike the way that our current occupant of the White House has transformed America, is to teach our children and to teach our peers that ultimately the authority in this country is not the courts, nor is it even the legislature or the executive branch, the ultimate authority in this country still remains the people of America, We the People.   And if we don’t truly believe that and exercise that, we will lose this country not because we have to, but because we have given it away.

Huckabee that he is optimistic, because there has never been a greater opportunity to show what freedom looks like – and it’s not just because there are a lot of conservative activists motivated to fight.

It’s because I believe that there is a God, and that his country would not be here without him, and that if this country will get on its knees and it will ask God’s forgiveness for how we have behaved. It’s not about the people who hate us, it’s about those of us who decide we wanna love God more than we wanna hate our enemies. And when we get on our knees in forgiveness, God will heal our land and He will restore us.

To those at the conference who seem overly pessimistic about the state of the country and the world, he said he’s “read the end of the book,” and his message is, “In the end, we win, and that’s good news.”

NOM's John Eastman Compares Supreme Court's DOMA Decision To Dred Scott

In his speech to the March for Marriage today, National Organization for Marriage chairman John Eastman compared the Supreme Court’s decision striking down a key part of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act to the infamous Dred Scott decision.

Eastman cited Justice Scalia’s “call to arms” in his dissent to the DOMA decision, paraphrasing it as, “the court should never take away controversial issues away from the voters in this country.”

“The last time the court tried to do that a century and a half ago on the slavery question, Abraham Lincoln refused to comply,” he said.

Tony Perkins Will Have A Lonely Revolution Against Gay Marriage

Operation American Spring. Truckers Ride for the Constitution. Reclaim America Now.

All were right-wing efforts to literally overthrow President Obama. None of them exactly worked.

In 2012, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins similarly warned of an anti-government uprising if the Supreme Court were to strike down bans on same-sex marriage. “I think that could be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said, warning that such a ruling would mean “you could have a revolt, a revolution, I think you can see Americans saying ‘enough of this’ and I think it could explode and just break this nation apart.”

In case you thought that was just a one-time gaffe, Perkins maintained a year later that if the government “goes too far” on marriage equality, it would “create revolution” and “literally split this nation in two and create such political and cultural turmoil that I’m not sure we could recover from it.”

That brings us to a poll released today by the Human Rights Campaign and conducted by Alex Lundry, who served as Mitt Romney’s data director in 2012. Respondents to the poll were read Perkins’ “revolution” remarks verbatim. Unsurprisingly, only a tiny handful agreed with him, and even most opponents of marriage equality didn’t buy into his idea of an anti-gay revolution.

Conducting his poll at the beginning of June, Lundry didn’t find much support for that kind of revolt when the quote was read to respondents, with 59 percent overall disagreeing with Perkins. Of people who said they were opposed to gay marriage, 58 percent said they wouldn’t do anything, despite disagreeing and being disappointed in the decision.

“Only one directly mentions the word ‘revolution,’ five voters threaten to leave the country, and a scant fifteen people (3% of opponents) mention any form of protest,” reads a prepared polling memo. “Clearly, there is no real threat of widespread calamity should we extend the freedom to marry to gays and lesbians.”

Support for gay marriage is at 56 percent, with 37 percent opposed, squaring with public polls. Asked to rate the degree of their support, 44 percent said they “strongly” support legalization, with only 28 percent opposed.



Those feelings are reflected in some of the other answers to the survey: 74 percent of people said their lives wouldn’t change with legalized gay marriage, and among those who did foresee a change, many rated it as one that would be for the better.

But we don’t expect Perkins to be deterred. The only poll on the topic that the Family Research Council president appears to believe was sponsored by his organization and only surveyed Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

Bryan Fischer: Reading Clarence Thomas Is Like 'Listening To Myself'

American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer said on his radio program today that he loved Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion in Town of Greece v. Galloway so much that after reading an excerpt to his audience, he remarked, “I’m reading this and I’m thinking, man, I’m listening to myself.”

As Peter noted, Thomas argued that “the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment does not apply to the states at all,” a view shared by Fischer.

“Clarence Thomas is sounding like me,” Fischer said. “There’s no restrictions on what states can do, according to the First Amendment.”

What If Hobby Lobby Wins?

David Barton, an influential conservative activist who helped write the Republican Party’s 2012 platform, argues that the Bible opposes the minimum wage, unions and collective bargaining, estate taxes, capital gains taxes, and progressive taxation in general. Should a company whose owners share Barton’s views be allowed to ignore laws that protect workers by claiming that those laws violate the company’s religious beliefs?

That’s a questions being asked as the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether it will recognize for the first time ever that for-profit corporations can make religious freedom claims under federal law.

When an actual human being goes to court with a claim that the federal government is violating their freedom to practice their religion, judges consider several questions in applying the Religious Freedom Restoration Act: Does the law or policy in question place a substantial burden on the person’s religious exercise? If so, can it be justified because the law is advancing a compelling government interest and doing so in the least restrictive way?

That’s pretty straightforward, even if individual cases require tough judgment calls about what constitutes a substantial burden and a compelling government interest. But what happens when a for-profit corporation claims a law violates its exercise of religion? Can a business have a religious conscience?

That crucial question is being considered by the Supreme Court in two cases brought by for-profit corporations claiming their religious freedom is violated by a requirement that their insurance plans include comprehensive contraception coverage. In Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, business owners say their companies should not be required to provide their employees with insurance that covers kinds of contraception that violate the business owners’ religious beliefs or what they say are the religious beliefs of the corporation itself.

Legal scholars have weighed in on both sides of the claim. While federal courts have never recognized a for-profit corporation’s right to make a religious exercise claim, they have also never explicitly ruled that there is no such right. In the cases now before the Supreme Court, two appeals courts disagreed with each other. The Tenth Circuit sided with Hobby Lobby but the Third Circuit said, “[W]e simply cannot understand how a for-profit secular corporation—apart from its owners—can exercise religion.”

If the Supreme Court sets a new precedent granting for-profit corporations a soul, so to speak, where will it end? Law professors Ira Lupu and Robert Tuttle warn that it would produce “a massive redistribution of legal leverage away from employees and to their employers.” And, they write, “If Hobby Lobby’s claims prevail…other employer claims under RFRA will be very difficult to deny. Some current cases involve objections to coverage of all pregnancy prevention services. In the future, others may involve protection of employees with respect to different medical services, collective bargaining, family leave, or invidious discrimination.”

The Becket Fund, the conservative legal group representing Hobby Lobby, dismisses concerns about opening the floodgates to all kinds of religious objections, saying it hasn’t happened under RFRA to date. But of course, no Court has yet invited the flood of objections by giving business owners the right to claim corporate exemptions for religious belief.

Justice Elena Kagan raised this concern during oral argument, asking Hobby Lobby’s lawyer Paul Clement about employers who might have religious objections to sex discrimination laws, minimum wage laws, and child labor or family leave laws. Clement said he doubted the “parade of horribles” would happen. But Justice Kagan replied that if the Court were to adopt his argument, “then you would see religious objectors come out of the woodwork with respect to all of these laws." Solicitor General Paul Verrilli noted that if the Court grants corporations a right to make free exercise claims, judges will have to grapple with potential harm to employees and other third parties.

But it’s not just employees who could be hurt by such a ruling – it could be companies themselves. David Gans, writing for Slate, made an interesting observation: corporate America is staying out of this case almost completely, which is surprising given its eagerness to use federal courts to promote corporate interests. Gans says that not a single Fortune 500 company filed a brief in the case. Neither did the Chamber of Commerce or the National Federation of Independent Business. The corporate voices that did weigh in — the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce — oppose Hobby Lobby’s claims because recognizing a corporate right to the free exercise of religion would “wreak havoc in corporate boardrooms.”

Gans cites a brief from a group of corporate law scholars “who argued that Hobby Lobby’s argument would eviscerate the fabric of corporate law” because ascribing a business owner’s religious views to the corporation would treat the owner and company as one and the same. “Such an unprincipled, idiosyncratic exception from corporate law fundamentals, the scholars argued, would breed confusion in the law, lead to costly litigation, and undermine critical aspects of corporate law designed to spur creativity and innovation.”

Mary Ann Glendon, a law professor who serves on Becket’s board, has argued that if we want businesses to behave responsibly, “they must be treated as having some moral agency.” The Supreme Court, she says, “should take the opportunity to confirm that businesses can and should have consciences.” It’s a nice thought. But given right-wing efforts to merge the Tea Party and Religious Right, and foster a growing belief that far-right economics and anti-government ideology are grounded in religious dogma, it seems highly unlikely that the consequence of giving conservative business leaders a powerful new tool for undermining government regulation would be more socially responsible corporate behavior.

American Decency Association: Gay Rights Have Turned America Into North Korea

Anti-gay activists are incensed that the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by a New Mexico photographer who violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws, and the American Decency Association is citing the case as proof that the United States has morphed into North Korea.

“Have we been transported to North Korea? Since when do we have to check our First Amendment freedoms at the door in order to live and work as a citizen of the United States?” the group asked, lamenting that the government is bent on “forcing Christians to closet their faith and bow before our nation’s golden idol giving glory, laud, and honor to all things homosexual.”

Each week it seems the courts and the culture delivers another blow in their attempt to take down biblical truth. Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court announced their refusal to hear the appeal case of Elaine Huguenin, the New Mexico photographer who was found guilty and punished by the New Mexico Supreme Court for putting her faith into practice – politely declining a request to take pictures of a lesbian couple’s “commitment ceremony” due to her religious beliefs.



With the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear this case and weigh in on the constitutional issue of religious rights vs. “gay rights” the justices have, in essence, spoken by their silence. And the verdict is that “gay rights” wins and the First Amendment loses.

The appalling New Mexico ruling will stand. A ruling where one justice actually stated that Christian business owners are “now compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives." The ruling by this court went on to state that such coercion is "the price of citizenship."

The “price of citizenship”?? Have we been transported to North Korea? Since when do we have to check our First Amendment freedoms at the door in order to live and work as a citizen of the United States? What happened to the land of the free where we have the free exercise of religion?



Yet that is exactly what the government is doing (with a complicit stamp of approval from the U.S. Supreme Court) – forcing Christians to closet their faith and bow before our nation’s golden idol giving glory, laud, and honor to all things homosexual.

How Much Congressional Representation Does Billionaire Shaun McCutcheon Have?

This post originally appeared on the People For blog.

Chief Justice Roberts caps his opinion in McCutcheon v. FEC by waxing eloquently about the need to ensure that elected officials are responsive to the people. This and other cases have described campaign contributions as a way to promote such responsiveness. But considering that this case is about a non-constituent buying influence in elections across the country, the passage's repeated references to constituents seems strangely out of place:

For the past 40 years, our campaign finance jurisprudence has focused on the need to preserve authority for the Government to combat corruption, without at the same time compromising the political responsiveness at the heart of the democratic process, or allowing the Government to favor some participants in that process over others. As Edmund Burke explained in his famous speech to the electors of Bristol, a representative owes constituents the exercise of his "mature judgment," but judgment informed by "the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents." Constituents have the right to support candidates who share their views and concerns. Representatives are not to follow constituent orders, but can be expected to be cognizant of and responsive to those concerns. Such responsiveness is key to the very concept of self-governance through elected officials. (emphasis added, internal citations removed)

Shaun McCutcheon – whose contributions are at issue in this case – told the Court that he wanted to make contributions of $1,776 to each of more than two dozen different congressional candidates (as well as to various party committees) during the 2012 election cycle. It seems unlikely that he could have been a constituent of more than two dozen different members of Congress.

Obviously, people have a First Amendment right to participate in congressional races outside of where they live. But a stirring paragraph about political responsiveness to constituents hardly seems appropriate in a case that is all about political responsiveness to non-constituents.

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Supreme Court Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Friday 10/10/2014, 11:10am
Linda Harvey of Mission America warned on her radio bulletin yesterday that America has entered “a time of possible civil disobedience” following the Supreme Court’s recent marriage equality announcement, telling listeners that “we must not serve the interests of sin and darkness” and “this court’s inaction is an act motivated by evil and deception and ultimately will not stand.” “This is attempted theft of what God has ordained and our Lord will not honor this lawlessness,” Harvey said. “Allowing homosexuality to become normal... MORE
Brian Tashman, Friday 10/10/2014, 10:10am
Incensed with the Supreme Court’s recent decision to turn down appeals of several marriage equality rulings, Pat Buchanan fears that Americans, a “once-free people,” are now “under the rule of a judicial dictatorship.” Buchanan writes in his syndicated column today that court rulings in favor of gay rights are just the latest in a long line of decisions that have “ordered the de-Christianization of all public institutions in what was a predominantly Christian country.” “Secular humanism became, through Supreme Court edict, our established... MORE
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 10/08/2014, 12:05pm
Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver delivered a blistering response to the Supreme Court’s decision this week not to take-up marriage equality appeals, telling host Jim Schneider of “Crosstalk” yesterday that the court is endangering public health by effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in several states. Staver said same-sex marriage should remain illegal because “we know male-male sexual relationships are notoriously harmful, physically as well as mentally, and also female-female, same kinds of things.” “It’s harmful to the individuals and those... MORE
Miranda Blue, Wednesday 10/08/2014, 9:33am
Conservative talk show host Steve Deace was, to say the least, livid at the news this week that the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals of a number of lower-court marriage equality rulings, thus allowing same-sex couples in several new states to begin marrying. Deace spent a good part of his interview Monday with Religious Right activist Bob Vander Plaats railing against the LGBT rights movement, which he declared is “not about ‘I want to visit people I love in a hospital’ or ‘I want to pass on to people I care about an inheritance’” but is instead about... MORE
Miranda Blue, Wednesday 10/08/2014, 8:49am
In an interview with Iowa-based conservative talk show host Steve Deace on Monday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee repeated his recommendation that governors simply ignore the Supreme Court’s decision to let stand lower court rulings legalizing marriage equality in several new states, adding that state governments should have also ignored Roe v. Wade and the Supreme Court rulings banning school-sponsored prayer. When Deace pressed him on the “maelstrom” that would be set off if state governments simply ignored court rulings on marriage, Huckabee responded that it was in... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 10/07/2014, 2:00pm
The American Family Association’s Sandy Rios dedicated much of her radio show today to attacking the Supreme Court for refusing to hear appeals on several marriage equality cases, which led her to discuss the purported threats to religious freedom that marriage equality is bringing to America. Rios warned that religious liberty is in peril and viewers should purchase a new AFA DVD, “A Time To Speak.” “If we don’t do something, I think we’re going to see — and this is radical — I think we’re going to see riots in the street, we’re... MORE
Brian Tashman, Tuesday 10/07/2014, 10:40am
Pat Robertson today rebuked the Supreme Court for “punting” on marriage equality, blasting the courts — along with Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring — for “overriding the wishes of the states” to “protect traditional marriage.” The “700 Club” host later compared the decision to Roe v. Wade: “It’s the same thing with abortion. Instead of letting the people decide as they should’ve under the Constitution, it was taken out of their hands by the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade and because of that no effort by... MORE