Historic Supreme Court rulings for CWA happened last week and are still to come today!
First, we had a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court declaring unconstitutional a Massachusetts “buffer zone” law that targeted pro-life sidewalk counselors and was a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. CWA was there to celebrate the incredible victory!
Stay tuned as we await the Hobby Lobby decision, the Supreme Court Case against ObamaCare’s HHS mandate.
UPDATE: The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. Stay tuned for our full summary of the opinion. Read our press release HERE.
Below are some pictures, videos and tweets of our efforts. You will also find the summaries of the opinions from our Legal Counsel Mario Diaz, Esq.
Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell summary by Mario Diaz, Esq.
Here is a quick summary of today’s Hobby Lobby decision against the HHS mandate. A more robust analysis of the opinion will soon follow.
There is no question that this is a big win for religious liberty. The Court disposes of a few widespread and troubling myths championed by those of a radically liberal bent. First, the Court held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) applies to closely held corporations. The other side tried to argue that the expansive religious protections under RFRA did not apply to corporations because corporations are not “persons.” The Court though, made clear that “that would leave merchants with a difficult choice: give up their right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefits of operating as corporations.” Besides, it said, “Congress designated the statute to provide very broad protection for religious liberty and did not intend to put merchants to such a choice.” The Court said Congress intended to protect “the religious liberty of the humans who own and control” corporations.
These cases, in particular, dealt with closely-held corporations, and the question of their ability to conduct business according to their religious liberty is greatly minimized. Contrary to what you may hear in the media, the question of a publicly traded corporation being able to exercise a similar control was not addressed by the Court, although it said that “numerous practical restraints would likely prevent that from occurring.” In any event, that case is not before the Court and would require a new analysis from them.
The Court also puts down any and all attempts at justifying the violation of these business’ religious liberties because of their for-profit status. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the Court, said “Any suggestion that for-profit corporations are incapable of exercising religion because their purpose is simply to make money flies in the face of modern corporate law.”
The conclusion is that “HHS’s contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion.” The other side suggested they could just drop providing health insurance for their employees altogether, but the Court rightfully pointed out that the assertion “ignores the fact that the plaintiffs have religious reasons for providing health-insurance coverage for their employees.”
The bottom line is the mandate “requires the Hahns and Greens to engage in conduct that seriously violates their sincere religious belief that life begins at conception.” And the Court finds this is not the “least-restrictive-means of achieving [the government’s] desired goal” to “guarantee cost-free access to the four challenged contraceptive methods.” Among other choices are paying for these itself, or give the “accommodation” it is offering to religious non-profits. It is simply not necessary to insist on this violation of religious freedom.
But perhaps most important of all, the Court recognizes and affirms that “It is not for the Court to say that the religious beliefs of the plaintiffs are mistaken or unreasonable.” Alito continued, “The Court’s ‘narrow function … is to determine’ whether the plaintiffs’ asserted religious beliefs reflect ‘an honest conviction’ … and there is no dispute here that is does.”
This was a 5-4 decision with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Kennedy in the majority and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan in dissent. Justice Ginsburg’s dissent called it “a decision of startling breadth,” which to her is a negative attribute, but for those of us who want broader religious freedom, it is a welcome development.
Some who were hoping for a different result are making much of the Court’s reliance on RFRA, instead of the First Amendment to make its ruling, but this is merely a formality when it comes to the Supreme Court, which always looks to the statutes available when reaching a decision, before looking at the Constitutional provision. There is no question that RFRA is meant to affirm our inalienable right to religious freedom as recognized in the First Amendment. There was simply no reason for the Court to go any further than it did. But this was definitely a great affirmation of our religious freedoms.
McCullen v. Coakley summary by Mario Diaz, Esq.
The pro-abortion, political class received a significant blow to its efforts to silence those who have not surrendered at the altar of abortion. In 2007 Massachusetts officials enacted a law that made it a crime to “knowingly stand on a ‘public way or sidewalk’ within 35 feet of an entrance or driveway to any ‘reproductive health care facility.’” This is known as a “buffer zone” law. The act only exempted “employees or agents of such facility acting within the scope of their employment.”
Eleanor McCullen was a sidewalk counselor who attempted to reach women considering abortion with a pro-life message, presenting other alternatives available for their consideration. The “buffer zone” law would have prevented her from doing that by requiring her to abandon the usual spot where she would stand to engage in conversations with women, greatly stifling her message. Therefore, she and others similarly situated sued to enjoin the law as a violation of their First Amendment rights.
The District Court and the First Circuit denied her claim, affirming the state law. The First Circuit reasoned the law was a reasonable “time, place, and manner” regulation.
But the Supreme Court issued a decisive rebuke of their interpretation in a unanimous reversal of their decisions. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said that although the law was not a form of viewpoint discrimination, but was content neutral, “it is not ‘narrowly tailored’ because it ‘burden[s] substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government’s legitimate interests.’”
The government alleged to be protecting “public safety, patient access to healthcare, and unobstructed use of public sidewalks and streets,” but the Court rightfully pointed out that the law already prohibited the deliberate obstruction of clinics.
On the other hand, it notices that the law does, in fact, “impose serious burdens on petitioners’ speech, depriving them of their two primary methods of communicating with arriving patients: close, personal conversations and distribution of literature.”
The Court also showed a proper understanding of the pro-life efforts relevant to the case. The other side always tries to paint pro-life advocates as “domestic terrorists” wanting to blow up abortion clinics. But that exploitative caricature bears no resemblance to the reality we see every day from committed, peaceful, caring individuals who volunteer their time to help women in distress. The Court said:
While the Act may allow petitioners to “protest” outside the buffer zones, petitioners are not protestors; they seek not merely to express their opposition to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women about various alternatives. It is thus no answer to say that petitioners can still be seen and heard by women within the buffer zones. If all that the women can see and hear are vociferous opponents of abortion, then the buffer zones have effectively stifled petitioners’ message.
The Court rejected the Commonwealth’s unrealistic assertion that the problem was “widespread,” noticing the evidenced suggested just the opposite. It also rejected the almost comical assertion that this law would just make it easier for law enforcement.
“To meet the narrow tailoring requirement … the government must demonstrate that alternative measures that burden substantially less speech would fail to achieve the government’s interests, not simply that the chosen route is easier,” wrote the Chief Justice.
Leave it to radical elites to think that government ease should be the priority when looking at such delicate matters as life, death, women’s health, and our constitutional rights.
Hobby Lobby win! Hobby Lobby wins! https://t.co/SStTxGkzwE— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) June 30, 2014
CWA on center stage this morning! We should not be fined for what we believe. Family businesses are at stake! pic.twitter.com/ldjGbgxCVJ— CWA LAC (@CWforA) June 30, 2014