Samuel Alito

One paragraph from the Hobby Lobby ruling destroys the entire liberal “anti-women” narrative

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The instant the Supreme Court ruled on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the War on Women™ was back on. Liberals from sea to shining sea had talking points, Facebook memes, and … narratives ready to go and deployed them in a cascade of messaging discipline. It was truly a sight to behold. You may have seen this particularly nonsensical but effective image shared hundreds of times within 24 hours:

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I mean really. But apart from saying “nuh uh!”, conservatives had little effective response to this narrative. But then Julian Sanchez from the Cato Institute’s blog discovered a little-noticed passage in the Supreme Court opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito:

The effect of the HHS-created accommodation on the women employed by Hobby Lobby and the other companies involved in these cases would be precisely zero. Under that accommodation, these women would still be entitled to all FDA-approved contraceptives without cost sharing.

This refers to an exception created by the Department of Health and Human Services that forces insurers to pick up the tab for coverage objected to by religious non-profit organizations and churches. Women employed by these organizations receive the same coverage, medications, and cost-free contraceptives as everyone else as mandated by HHS, even though the organizations themselves refuse to pay for that coverage.

The Supreme Court just handed a huge victory to Hobby Lobby: Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate violates religious liberty

Hobby Lobby

The Supreme Court ruled this morning that closely-held corporations with religious beliefs are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and do not have to comply with Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate.

In the 5 to 2 decision, the High Court explained that the federal government cannot compel Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties, through tax penalties, to provide contraceptive coverage that they believe is morally unacceptable according to their religious beliefs.

“As we have seen, [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] was designed to provide very broad protection for religious liberty. By enacting RFRA, Congress went far beyond what this Court has held is constitutionally required,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority. “Is there any reason to think that the Congress that enacted such sweeping protection put small-business owners to the choice that HHS suggests? An examination of RFRA’s text…reveals that Congress did no such thing.”

Alito explained that the business owners in the case make no objection to most forms of birth control approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but rather the four methods — Plan B, Ella, and two forms of IUDs — that they believe prevent the fertilization of an egg. The business owners consider these to be tantamount to abortion and fundamentally inconsistent with their religious beliefs.

Poll: 43% of uninsured don’t know about ObamaCare’s individual mandate

individual mandate

One of the key components of ObamaCare is the individual mandate, a controversial requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance or face a punitive tax. This particular part of ObamaCare, which goes into effect at the beginning of the year, was focal point of the legal challenge that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

But a new Gallup poll shows that many uninsured Americans aren’t aware of the individual mandate, which may be an unwelcome surprise next year.

“The vast majority of Americans, 81%, say they are aware of the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) requirement that most Americans must carry health insurance or pay a fine,” wrote Jeffrey Jones of Gallup. “Americans who are currently uninsured — those most directly affected by this requirement — are much less likely to be aware of the provision, with 56% saying they know about it and 43% saying they are unaware.”

The main reason uninsured Americans don’t have health coverage is, according to Gallup, predominately because the can’t afford it.

“Uninsured Americans are most likely to mention cost and affordability as the reason why they do not have health insurance. Forty-three percent cite this reason, not surprisingly given the dramatic increase in health insurance costs in the last 20 years,” noted Gallup, which conducted the poll between June 20-24. “Job considerations are also a major factor for the uninsured, with 24% saying they lack insurance because they are currently unemployed. Also, 8% are working but say their job does not offer health benefits, and another 2% lack health insurance because they are self-employed.”

Sen. Mike Lee: “Why John Roberts Was Wrong About Healthcare”

Why John Roberts was Wrong about Healthcare

One year ago this week, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, the legal challenge to Obamacare, which is perhaps the most important, most controversial decision in years.

In a new e-book, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) explains what how Chief Justice John Roberts, the author of the majority opinion of the Court, got the case wrong and what motivations he had in ensuring the Obama Administration’s desired outcome.

Lee has a firm grasp of the constitutional law. His father, Rex Lee, served as Solicitor General in the Reagan Administration. In an March interview with United Liberty, Lee said that the “Constitution was a regular talking point in my home.”

“I think I was 30 before I realized not every family talks about the Presentment Clause of Article I, Section 7 around the dinner table,” he added.

Before becoming the junior Senator from Utah in 2011, Lee served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito before moving onto private practice and later serving as an Assistant United States Attorney in Salt Lake City.

The e-book, Why John Roberts Was Wrong About Healthcare: A Conservative Critique of The Supreme Court’s Obamacare Ruling (Threshold Editions, 78 pages, $3.79), Lee offers an thoughtful, intuitive exposition of the opinion written by the Chief Justice. He also explains how Roberts and the Court rewrote Obamacare in order to save it.

Supreme Court Rejects Lawsuit Against FISA

James Earle Fraser's statue The Authority of Law, which sits on the west side of the United States Supreme Court building, on the south side of the main entrance stairs.

American liberty took one more punch to the gut yesterday when the Supreme Court decided that Americans can’t sue the government’s spy machine in court:

A sharply-divided Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out an attempt by U.S. citizens to challenge the expansion of a surveillance law used to monitor conversations of foreign spies and terrorist suspects.

With a 5-4 vote, the high court ruled that a group of American lawyers, journalists and organizations can’t sue to challenge the 2008 expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) because they can’t prove that the government will monitor their conversations along with those of potential foreign terrorist and intelligence targets.

The outcome was the first in the current Supreme Court term to divide along ideological lines, with the conservative justices prevailing.

Justices “have been reluctant to endorse standing theories that require guesswork,” said Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote for the court’s majority.

Supreme Court deals a blow to labor unions

While the decision in ObamaCare obviously wasn’t released yesterday, the Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, did hand a defeat to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) over the using non-member money in political campaigns:

The U.S. Supreme Courtsharply criticized public-sector unions for using money from nonmembers to fund special political campaigns, stepping into the intense political debate about such unions and signaling that new constitutional limits may be coming.

The justices ruled Thursday that the Service Employees International Union in California violated the 1st Amendment rights of its dissident members by taking extra fees from their paychecks in 2005. The money was used to fight two anti-union ballot measures sponsored by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“This aggressive use of power by the SEIU to collect fees from nonmembers is indefensible,” said Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., speaking for the court’s conservative majority. “When a public-sector union imposes a special assessment or dues increase, the union … may not exact any funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent.”

The court fight carried echoes of the recent battles in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states where Republican governors sought to limit the power of public-sector unions, and the two dissenters Thursday made reference to those tensions.

“The debate about public unions’ collective bargaining rights is currently intense,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer said in a dissent. “There is no good reason for this court suddenly to enter the debate, much less now to decide that the Constitution resolves it.”

Senate Republicans block Goodwin Liu

Yesterday, Republicans were successful in their attempt to filibuster, by a vote of 53 to 43 (60 votes were needed for cloture), the nomination of Goodwin Liu to the Ninth District Court of Appeals:

Senate Republicans staged the first successful filibuster of a judicial nominee since 2005 on Thursday, dealing a blow to the Obama administration on the long-stalled nomination of Goodwin Liu to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The final vote was 52-43, eight votes shy of the 60 needed to overcome the filibuster. Only one Republican joined Democrats in supporting Liu, and only one Democrat voted no to opening debate on the 40-year-old University of California, Berkeley professor’s nomination.
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Republicans have maintained that Liu’s liberal views on issues like same-sex marriage and affirmative action put him outside the mainstream, pointing to his writings that additional individual rights can be found in the Constitution.

Liu also drew Republican ire over his criticism of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in testimony when the conservative judge was nominated to the court.

“His outrageous attack on Judge Alito convinced me that Goodwin Liu is an ideologue,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said before Thursday’s vote. “His statement showed he has nothing but disdain for those who disagree with him. Goodwin Liu should run for elected office, not serve as a judge.”

The Wall Street Journal noted in an editoral against his confirmation that Liu would have been the “most left-wing judge ever”:

Kagan and First Amendment

During the oral arguments in Citizens United case (actually, a rearguing), Elena Kagan told the Court that a book could be banned if the authors purpose was “express advocacy” of a particular issue or candidate, but that there “has been no administrative practice of ever applying” campaign finance laws to that extent.

You can listen to Kagan’s exchange with Ginsburg, Scalia and Alito below. You can read it here (pages 64-68):

Over at Reason, Daniel Shuchman points out that the government’s argument had changed since the first oral argument:

In the first argument before the Court, on March 24, 2009, Kagan’s deputy, Malcolm L. Stewart, represented the government by arguing for the constitutionality of a statute prohibiting corporations and unions from spending funds from their general treasuries to advocate the election or defeat of political candidates. The justices subjected Stewart to a series of stark hypothetical situations testing the extent of the censorship power that the Obama Administration viewed as constitutionally permissible.

SCOTUS incorporates the Second Amendment

The Supreme Court ruled today in a 5 to 4 decision that the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, applies to the states and remanded McDonald v. Chicago back to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals instead of declaring it to be unconstitutional:

In another dramatic victory for firearm owners, the Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional Chicago, Illinois’ 28-year-old strict ban on handgun ownership, a potentially far-reaching case over the ability of state and local governments to enforce limits on weapons.

A 5-4 conservative majority of justices on Monday reiterated its two-year-old conclusion the Constitution gives individuals equal or greater power than states on the issue of possession of certain firearms for self-protection.

“It cannot be doubted that the right to bear arms was regarded as a substantive guarantee, not a prohibition that could be ignored so long as states legislated in an evenhanded manner,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito.

The court grounded that right in the due process section of the 14th Amendment. The justices, however, said local jurisdictions still retain the flexibility to preserve some “reasonable” gun-control measures currently in place nationwide.

In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer predicated far-reaching implications. “Incorporating the right,” he wrote, “may change the law in many of the 50 states. Read in the majority’s favor, the historical evidence” for the decision “is at most ambiguous.”

You can read the opinion here.


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