Monday, March 24, 2014

Hobby Lobby case heard today, during Spring Break

While most of Miami is skiing in Colorado, the High Court is hearing an important case. From the LA Times:

 A challenge to part of President Obama's healthcare law that hits the Supreme Court on Tuesday could lead to one of the most significant religious freedom rulings in the high court's history.Four years ago, in their controversial Citizens United decision, the justices ruled that corporations had full free-speech rights in election campaigns. Now, they're being asked to decide whether for-profit companies are entitled to religious liberties.At issue in Tuesday's oral argument before the court is a regulation under the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to provide workers a health plan that covers the full range of contraceptives, including morning-after pills and intrauterine devices, or IUDs.The evangelical Christian family that controls Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., a chain of more than 500 arts and crafts outlets with 13,000 workers, says the requirement violates its religious beliefs.Some contraceptives can "end human life after conception," the Green family says. Forcing the owners to pay for such devices would make them "complicit in abortion," their lawyers say.A ruling in their favor could have an effect on tens of thousands of women whose employers share the Greens' objections to some or all contraceptives.But the case could also sweep far beyond just this one provision of Obamacare. The justices have been wary of accepting claims that religious beliefs can exempt people — or companies — from following laws that apply to everyone. The court's previous religious freedom cases usually involved narrowly focused claims from religious minorities, such as the Amish or Seventh-day Adventists.But the current court, led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., has shown a greater interest in religious freedom claims. And because the objections to the contraceptive mandate come from Catholic bishops and evangelical Christians, not small or obscure sects, the potential effect has been magnified. The Obama administration argues that if the justices allow Hobby Lobby to refuse to pay for contraceptives because of its owners' religious beliefs, the way would open for religious objections to a broad array of laws. Companies potentially could shape the benefits they offer, and perhaps even their hiring, based on their religious convictions.

Meantime, Justice Scalia is answering questions about the NSA (from Business Insider):

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia got an incredibly astute question from a law student Friday night that could have huge implications for the NSA's domestic surveillance programs.The question came during a spirited Q&A curated by Brooklyn Law School's Judge Andrew Napolitano, who asked Scalia about the controversial subject of the NSA's surveillance of Americans.Scalia made it clear the issue would likely come before the high court, and he hinted he would rule that "conversations" (i.e., the conversations the government might listen to) aren't protected by the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment, Scalia pointed out, prohibits the government from searching your "persons, houses, papers, and effects" without a warrant — not "conversations."However, one student asked the justice whether data in a computer might be considered "effects" under the Fourth Amendment, an interpretation that would prohibit the NSA's capture of communications over the Internet.Scalia, who's remarkably avuncular in person, was visibly pleased by the question but said he "better not answer that.""That is something that may well come up [before the Supreme Court]," Scalia added.

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Anonymous said...

"avuncular"?!? Scalia? Yeah, like that creepy old uncle who is completely full of himself says and completely inappropriate things that he thinks are oh so clever

Anonymous said...

That summary/explanation by the LA Times of the issues in Citizens United and Hobby Lobby is sloppy, inaccurate, and unfortunately typical.