SCOTUS Speaks, AG And Others React.

June 30, 2014 11:03 am

by Buzz Brockway · 42 comments

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the much anticipated “Hobby Lobby” case. The Little Sisters of the Poor were also part of this case and are presumably also pleased with the 5-4 ruling. From the AP via the AJC:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that some corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.

The justices’ 5-4 decision is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. And it means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies’ health insurance plans.

Georgia AG Sam Olens had this to say via press release:

“Religious liberty is a fundamental principle upon which our nation was founded. I applaud the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding this bedrock freedom, and I am proud to have joined an amicus brief supporting Hobby Lobby before the Court.”

The AG’s brief can be viewed here.

GOP Senate Candidate Jack Kingston also weighed in via press release:

“This is yet another reason why Obamacare should be repealed – it is unworkable. I am glad the court recognized private companies should not be forced to violate their religious convictions. Religious liberty is a bedrock principle of the United States and should be defended fiercely by those elected to uphold the Constitution.”

We’ll post other reactions as we receive them, but in the meantime, discuss this decision and it’s implications in the comments.

UPDATE: Full text of the ruling for your legal nerds out there (and you know who you are).

UPDATE #2: The Georgia Democratic Party, via their Executive Director, reacts:

Today’s Supreme Court Decision, granting craft store giant Hobby Lobby the right to discriminate against women feels like another well-aimed shot in the gut.

As a woman, I constantly wear a target—and not by choice. Whether it’s a corporation arguing that its CFO’s religious preference against contraception is more important than my rights, or if it’s the Georgia’s Republican legislators doing all they can to keep me from safe, affordable, and judgment-free access to contraception, the simple fact that I’m a woman makes me a target. And this target I wear, that all women wear, is getting heavy.

I realize to advance the “war on women” meme the truth must be ignored, but Hobby Lobby offers birth control to it’s employees. They objected to four types of birth control they feel violate their opposition to abortion. From the company’s website:

The Greens and their family businesses have no objection to the other 16 FDA-approved contraceptives required by the law that do not interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg. They provide coverage for such contraceptives under their health care plan. Additionally, the four objectionable drugs and devices are widely available and affordable, and employees are free to obtain them.

Buzz Brockway June 30, 2014 at 11:11 am

I haven’t read the text of the decision but I think the phrase “closely-held” will prove to be key. As with most SCOTUS rulings they aren’t as definitive as some would hope. Hobby Lobby and the Little Sister of the Poor should be pleased but we’ll have to see how this applied to others.

It often gets lost in the debate but Hobby Lobby does cover contraceptives, they object to two types (I think) of contraceptive which they feel amounts to having an abortion. Seems to me SCOTUS says they, as owners of a closely held corporation, can’t be forced to go against that belief. I think that’s a good decision.

CJBear71 June 30, 2014 at 11:26 am

While the Supreme Court may intend to only limit it to this situation and “closely held companies”, I predict we will see this cited as precedent in several wide ranging cases. It would not surprise me to see other companies try to hold out contraceptive coverage for women quickly now, trying to expand beyond “closely held coverage” into larger companies (big multi-state law firms for example). It will probably also be cited in these cases where small local firms have been found to have discriminated against the LGBT community, in violation of their local state civil rights ordinances. This is a very dangerous precedent indeed.

I dont’ get why the RFRA is constitutional at all. How does your religious belief trump mine? How should the government discern when making rules who’s is valid and who’s is not. This is not right for this country.

Buzz Brockway June 30, 2014 at 11:31 am

RFRA doesn’t say one religion trumps another it says the government must not violate a person’s religious belief unless it has no other alternative.

Left Turn Only June 30, 2014 at 11:34 am

Many of the ills in out political system can be laid to the early SCOTUS decision that corporations are “persons” within the meaning of the Constitution. Not that silliness has become complete, with the fiction that an artificially created entity can have a protected religious belief. We are truly a lost society.

Bobloblaw June 30, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Good luck suing a non-person in court.

Lwood June 30, 2014 at 11:37 am

I understood that this was a narrow ruling. How narrow on a 1 to 10 scale? 1 = narrowest, 10 = very broad. If Hobby Lobby changes its’ corporate status, goes from family held to public, will it become subject to mandate?

George Chidi June 30, 2014 at 11:46 am

I’d call it a 6. Limiting it to contraception is very narrow. But a ruling that gives corporate persons a religious right that applies to closely-held private for-profit firms … well, that’s 98 percent of all incorporated entities in the U.S.

Scarlet Hawk June 30, 2014 at 11:51 am

I’m so glad to hear that the company for which I work can determine the best method of birth control for me. I definitely value a corporation more than my OB GYN, and obviously the SCTOUS values the religious beliefs of a business owner over the individual person.

*note the sarcasm*

As a person of faith, a small business owner, and a pro-choice woman, I find this ruling to be questionable on many levels.

seenbetrdayz June 30, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I don’t think you understand. Hobby Lobby is not saying what method works best. That IS the proper question best directed to a gynecology expert.

Hobby Lobby’s owners say they don’t want to support certain forms of birth control, and shouldn’t have to.

I mean ,suppose you decide that copious amounts of alcohol, drugs, and chain-smoking is the best form of birth control. Suppose Hobby Lobby owners decide they don’t want to support that. Should someone be compelled by government mandate to buy your booze, crack, and cancer-sticks?

They aren’t saying that YOU can’t go out and buy it with your own money. That would certainly be an infringement of your belief system. They’re just saying you can’t do it with someone else’s dime, which becomes a infringement of theirs.

Scarlet Hawk June 30, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I have absolutely ZERO problem with people having opinions about what birth control methods are right/wrong/ better/ worse. That’s a personal decision. What I have a problem with is the Supreme Court telling a company that after I have come to the conclusion (with my dr, significant other, faith, and sexual orientation) that they will cover certain ones that they prefer.

That is a decision that this company is narrowly focusing on women and their ability to control the method in which people choose to prevent production of children. It is an economically limiting decision for women who would otherwise be covered at other companies. The ramifications to this are not just religious vs. secular, or anti-women. This is a decision that actually says if you want an IUD, you’re going to have to save up for a few months, b/c the company for which you work may not approve that type of birth control. I’m all about peeps having to carry their own weight, but the fact is this is saying that in every other “closely held” company across the nation, they are required to provide coverage for women that this company is no longer required.

How long before other companies challenge the definition of “closely held” and cite their religious beliefs as reason to define for women which birth controls they will cover?

TheEiger June 30, 2014 at 3:58 pm

You do realize that Medicare tells people everyday what they can have and can’t have when it comes to procedures, prescriptions, durable medical equipment and the list goes on and on. So you are okay with a government bureaucrat telling grandma and grandpa what Dr. they have to see or what procedure Medicare will pay for. Are you against Medicare too? Or ObamaCare in general for that matter?

Noway June 30, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Don’t think they’re telling you which method to use there, Scarlet. They’re just sayin’ your corporation ain’t gotta pay for it!

Scarlet Hawk June 30, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Right, and as a result they are setting boundaries on which birth control methods are going to be most readily available- the ones they approve,and the ones they don’t. This decisions basically says to me that the company is more valuable in their determination of what is the best choice by setting economically impacting boundaries on available birth control.

Think long and hard about how much these workers make and then recognize that all birth control comes at a cost, and the most effective of which comes at a higher cost. This decision does limit women’s choices and therefore does put a default preference on certain types of birth control methods.

Scarlet Hawk June 30, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Oh, but hey- Hobby Lobby WILL cover vasectomies! So while it won’t cover some options for women, it will cover this one for men. :)

c_murrayiii June 30, 2014 at 3:50 pm

If you don’t like it, don’t work for Hobby Lobby or any other company with these silly rules. I’m not a particularly religious person, but jeez, don’t expect the whole world to conform to your expectations and your needs. You have the freedom to walk away from ignorant people, not to force them to change their ignorance.

Scarlet Hawk June 30, 2014 at 11:07 pm

I don’t disagree with you in the sense that this decision rules in Hobby Lobby’s case. and (as a woman who owns her own business) I don’t have to work there. What I’m looking at is the precedent this sets. If I were any other business trying to get out of paying for coverage for anything, I would cite this case.

Bobloblaw June 30, 2014 at 7:32 pm

I read all your posts. You ignorance and misinformation is why the “War on Women” meme works.

Scarlet Hawk June 30, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Hey, thanks for taking the time to read my posts! I guess you missed this one: http://www.peachpundit.com/2014/02/11/whatwomenneed/

Salmo June 30, 2014 at 9:48 pm

I believe they will also cover tubal ligations, will they not?

You’re better than this.

Scarlet Hawk June 30, 2014 at 11:16 pm

The difference in that vs. an IUD or birth control is that it is permanent. If one chooses to use an IUD, it’s 99.9% effective, but can be removed and (at least in theory) a woman could conceive immediately upon removal. (I wouldn’t recommend trying though-sounds painful.)

I’m truly just trying to conceptualize why certain things are paid for and others are not- it’s like it’s totally cool if you want to have a child or you completely don’t. But if you’re somewhere in the middle of your childbearing years but not ready for a child, they want to restrict what they pay for. It just seems rather odd.

Salmo July 1, 2014 at 9:22 am

A vasectomy is permanent as well. Your analogy attempting to perpetuate this stupid “war on women” garbage is highly flawed.

George Chidi June 30, 2014 at 12:09 pm

This will undoubtedly reopen the debate in Georgia about the religious freedom bill proposed earlier this year. The authors of that bill couldn’t overcome the concerns of the public that, as written, it would greenlight discrimination against gays and religious minorities. In retrospect, I see more complexity to the issue than that, but the partisan nature of Georgia politics made higher level conversation difficult.

Some religious conservatives may trumpet this win as the court standing up for Christians. I don’t think it’s that simple.

Suppose the religious “character” of a closely-held company is formally declared as “atheist.” Not neutral, not agnostic, not universalist … atheist. I can see the reverse case of the whole no-gay-wedding-cakes question emerging. “We don’t take photos of straight weddings. Sorry. RFRA, baby.”

Perhaps that the better answer, though. I’m still chewing on this. The lines on all of this aren’t as cleanly liberal-conservative as the talking heads will portray it today.

I respect the court. The decision rests on their determination that the government could not prove a “compelling state interest” in employer-mandated contraception coverage, given the religious objections to providing that coverage. The state had a solution to the coverage problem that didn’t require an intrusion into religious objections.

So be it.

The state will step in to underwrite the coverage, or should. But look at what that means. The decision effectively argues that the country would be better off satisfying its interest in health care by a single-payer state run solution instead of relying on companies to insure their workers. It’s an argument against private health insurance.

Nonetheless, it’s a broad ruling. The contraception issue is narrow … but giving religious rights to corporate persons is not. What is the real distinction between a “closely-held” private company and a widely-held one? Or the distinction between a privately-held company and a publicly-traded one? Is there legal precedent that would grant a small company rights that a larger one wouldn’t have? More to the point — is there precedent on this court for favoring the rights of a weaker party over a stronger one, if a dispute over religious exemptions emerges? Hobby Lobby now, then PWC and Dell and Cargill, then Exxon and Apple and Wal-Mart.

The term “corporate personhood” is misunderstood. All it means — or should — is that a company is separate from the people who own it, so that if it sues or gets sued or goes bankrupt, the assets of its owners are in no legal jeopardy. The principle of separating assets has merit. Few enough people will risk everything they own to start a business without some way of shielding themselves from bankruptcy risks. But I find it problematic that it’s morphed into this thing where corporations have political and social rights.

I fear that this will further politicize — and corporatize — religion. The U.S. Supreme Court has given a legal rationale for religious groups to adopt … curious … interpretations of the Bible (or the religious text of choice) simply to provide a commercial benefit to their members. It’s also provided a rationale for private corporations to make direct subsidy to religious groups, to establish a basis for their “sincerely held religious beliefs,” and to influence the views of religious groups.

Imagine Cargill giving a grant of $2 million to some ministry that just happens to believe that corporations have a religious duty to produce as much grain as humanly possible regardless of the environmental consequences.

We need to amend the Constitution, to properly define — and limit — corporate personhood. Now.

Bill Dawers June 30, 2014 at 12:19 pm

I suspect that the SC has opened up a proverbial can of worms here, but I think very few organizations will choose not to offer contraception coverage, for a host of reasons.

Kingston’s statement sets the stage for innumerable questions about contraception between now and November (assuming he wins in a few weeks). Hard to see how being peppered with questions about birth control will work to his advantage.

Lwood June 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm

A friend of mine owned a real estate/ home construction business. I asked him what “LLC” meant. He said that the corporation could be sued but not him personally. If this is accurate, do owners of corporations lose some protections as the distance between business entities and individuals narrow? It seems to me that the speech decision and Hobby Lobby decisions are thinning the corporate “veil” that has been established. I can see unintended consequences ahead. Corporate bankruptcy and individual bankruptcy are separate now but will that distinction continue? People want benefits of individual rights extended into business but do risks of business extend to individuals? ” It seems that every form of refuge has its’ price” (Bad Eagles quote) . Do we want the refuge without the price?

northside101 June 30, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Maybe before we talk about amending the Constitution, it would be nice if we abided by what was already in there. Quaint little things like the 10th Amendment (powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states). If we did so, there would be no Obamacare in the first place and the Hobby Lobby debate would be moot. The Constitution is pretty clear in listing the powers of Congress—thinks like defense, a court system, post offices and roads—and so-called “free” contraceptives do not fall within such authority. Problem is in this country, too many people think government ought to provide everything. And insurance should be for catastrophic medical events—heart disease, cancer and the like—things that are unpredictable. As for birth control, well, yes, sometimes you might have to pay for it yourself, just as you do for cars, food, clothes and other things in life. And while Obama complains about the “do-nothing” Congress, perhaps had he shown a little restraint in 2009-2010 instead of trying to cram down on a partisan vote Obamacare, well, maybe there would not be a GOP US House today….

George Chidi June 30, 2014 at 1:56 pm

The 14th Amendment radically curtails the power of the 10th.

George Chidi June 30, 2014 at 12:26 pm

And there’s Jody Hice, who has no business saying one damned word about religious freedom.

“Today’s SCOTUS ruling marks a key victory against Obamacare’s assault on our American liberties! Like & Share if you agree!” he writes on Facebook.

So, it’s perfectly acceptable for a fictitious legal creation, established to shield owners from the tort and financial liabilities of running a profitable enterprise, to exercise religious rights.

But a flesh-and-blood human citizen can have their 1st Amendment religious rights stripped from them if they happen to be the wrong flavor of Muslim.

Check. Got it.

Noway June 30, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Dang, George! You have to admit that there are a few flavors/types of Muslims ( ie…the radical ones who saw off heads and blow up children with body bombs) that are to be feared and hopefully stopped!

Will Durant June 30, 2014 at 2:35 pm

And if we are not in the mercenary business in the Middle East in the first place the “radical ones” would have no more truck with us than radical Christians we already have like Eric Rudolph. You tend not to win friends and influence people by having your drones fire Hellfires into their houses.

Noway June 30, 2014 at 4:27 pm

What should our response be, Will, to those radical Muslims who kill and attack us? Whether it be Benghazi, our embassies or Pan Am 103, what should Western Interests do, turn the proverbial other cheek? Another thing, so it’s all our fault for being in the region??

George Chidi June 30, 2014 at 4:51 pm

I have no idea what you want. You don’t like Muslims? Fine. You think they want to kill Americans? Some do. Some self-described Christians feel the same way.

What abrogation of the 1st Amendment are you suggesting is appropriate to the conditions? Loyalty oaths? Blanket bars to visitation or immigration from Muslim countries? Denying construction permits for mosques? Arresting people who advocate “seditious” religious beliefs? Religious profiling in licensure?

View from Brookhaven June 30, 2014 at 1:11 pm

All this “narrow” ruling gives us is the opportunity to re-visit this one over and over and over again.
Can’t wait.
Please be sure to donate to your favorite “social welfare” organization.

Left Turn Only June 30, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Just took a quick look at the US Constitution. Senators and Reps have to be “persons”, not “individuals”. Could we be looking at elections between GM and Boeing for Congress?

John Vestal June 30, 2014 at 3:52 pm

More commentary on today’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.:

From Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog

From David Masci at Pew Research

c_murrayiii June 30, 2014 at 3:55 pm

If they want to be Representatives, they better be 25 years old and if they want to be Senators, they better be 3o years old. And if they want to be President, they better have a US birth certificate.

northside101 June 30, 2014 at 5:03 pm

If there was ever any doubt that the state Democratic leadership is as liberal as the national, the remarks today by the ED should remove any doubt, when she rants about a company’s religious opposition to contraception being more important than her rights? Uh, her rights to………? Contraception will be just as legal tomorrow as it is today—but yeah, you may have to pay for it instead of begging the taxpayers to do so. And what exactly does she mean by “judgment-free” access to contraception? God forbid we have any standards…reminds me of the Sandra Fluke controversy a few years ago at Georgetown University, when the unmarried Ms. Fluke was demanding free access to contraception—at a Catholic school no less—even though presumably if she could afford to go to Georgetown, certainly she could afford birth control. Guess she had not read the Good Book when it comes to such behavior….

George Chidi June 30, 2014 at 7:17 pm

By all means. Raise Sandra Fluke again as an issue and talk about her “behavior.” Because that works, friend. For Democrats.

There’s the legal argument about the right of a private employer to refuse to cover birth control. And then there’s the political argument for asserting that denying birth control is a good thing or a bad thing. 85 percent of voters, including a majority of Republican voters, believe that the use of birth control is moral — even the kinds described in the suit. Go ahead. Talk about Fluke’s “behavior.’ Why not go Full Limbaugh about it. Because, plainly, the public reacts well to slut-shaming attacks on law students.

Bobloblaw June 30, 2014 at 7:33 pm

The GOP and the right should just shut up about contraception. Period

Three Jack June 30, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Amazing that this discussion is taking place as if government should have the ability to dictate benefits offered by private companies. We no longer fight such an obvious intrusion into the private affairs of a company, just what level of intrusion we will accept at a given time depending on the wants of a demographic segment of our population. Damn shame.

SingingLawyer June 30, 2014 at 7:59 pm

To the people railing about corporate personhood and saying that corporations are not persons for purposes of the Constitution, you should know that the Hobby Lobby case was brought and decided upon the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal statute, and not the First Amendment. The statute specifically defines “person” as including corporations. So the part of the decision that Hobby Lobby had religious rights was based upon statutory interpretation, not Constitutional law.

Also, this case has nothing to do with an employer “denying access” to birth control. Not paying for something does not equate to denying access. Furthermore, Hobby Lobby only objected to having to provide coverage for emergency birth control such as Plan B, which they viewed as abortifacients. They were not opposed to covering regular birth control pills. I’m not aware of any health insurance plan prior to the HHS mandate that covered Plan B. It is easily available at a pharmacy without a prescription. So I don’t understand how not forcing Hobby Lobby to provide insurance coverage for a drug that is available without a prescription has somehow become the company wanting to “control women’s reproductive choices.” Coverage for Plan B didn’t even exist as recently as 2012 before the HHS mandate, and yet somehow it’s a woman’s right to demand that her employer pay for it now? I’m a woman and I think this argument is absurd. I have to go to the pharmacy and have my personal information recorded to buy Claritin, and it’s not covered by insurance because its available without a prescription. Does my employer then “deny me access” to allergy medicine because I have to go buy it at CVS?

northside101 July 1, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Yes, George, I will be glad to bring up Sandra Fluke again. While Limbaugh went overboard in his rhetoric (admittedly not unusual), the whole point is that Miss Fluke was angered that a CATHOLIC institution would not provide her with “free” birth control. (I guess she would be just as outraged if she attended an ultraconservative Southern Baptist school only to find out, no alcohol allowed on campus). Her views, uh, seem to clash with the sexual morality teachings of the Catholic Church, which do not accommodate an “anything goes” 1960s mentality when it comes to personal behavior. Well, certainly she could have gone somewhere else. Of course you might ask why she was attending a school with beliefs obviously contrary to her own?

Whether 85 percent or so of people approve of birth control—or 99.9 percent— doesn’t matter. The Catholic Church (and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the two largest Christian faiths) not a democracy where the laity “vote” on whether to accept the Trinity, Virgin Birth, Nicene Creed or other historic Christian truths, based on the “changing times.” But even aside from that, there is no “free” lunch when it comes to providing benefits. Somebody’s gotta pay. The best thing would be for companies to decide what benefits (if any) to provide, and if women find that such companies are not offering this benefit, or to the degree they would like, other companies would get the word and would have their benefits reflect that. (I think libertarian John Stossel has some good writings on that—and on how often, it would be best to let the market handle issues than a one-size fits all federal government).

This is just another example of an overreaching federal government, ironically from a president who claims to be an expert on constitutional law…

George Chidi July 1, 2014 at 7:19 pm

To be clear: neither Sandra Fluke nor anyone else looking for insurance coverage for birth control is looking for “free” stuff. They’re looking for the health risks associated with pregnancy and, yes, sex to be treated like other health risks, and for that risk to be distributed in the risk pool.

You want to talk about Catholic dogma and sexual morality? Fine. But do it when Georgetown isn’t offering to educate non-Catholics, isn’t accepting federally-subsidized loans and isn’t taking her money in the marketplace for the privilege. The “free lunch,” in this case, goes to all the men who were lucky enough to be born male and don’t have to bear the full cost of reproductive health issues.

It’s really not about the dogma, though. It’s about the “overboard” Limbaugh statement you’ve carefully avoided condemning. Sandra Fluke: a whore because she wants birth control to be part of the risk pool.

Say it. I know you want to.

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