religious liberty

Today in Liberty: Harry Reid doesn’t care about religious liberty, Ted Cruz wants a voter fraud investigation in Mississippi

“When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” — Benjamin Franklin

— Harry Reid plans to address Hobby Lobby: Though Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says the Senate will tackle legislation to address the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case in the coming weeks. He didn’t offer specifics, but The Hill notes this morning that Democrats on Capitol Hill are planning to introduce legislation before that August recess to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and reverse the decision. “At least three pieces of legislation being prepared by Democrats would help maintain access to free birth control for women affected by the court’s ruling,” The Hill explains, “though staffers provided few details on Monday.” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is reportedly “leading the push in the upper chamber.” Sen. Dick Durban (D-IL) plans to introduce legislation to require employers to disclose whether prescription birth control is covered by in their plans. That legislation is odd given that Hobby Lobby, for example, objected to two forms of over-the-counter birth control. Two House Democrats are also working on legislation to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The measures being crafted by congressional Democrats have no chance of passage, but this is a wedge issue, so they’re going to play it up to motivate their base. Because politics and elections.

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.

Today in Liberty: Hobby Lobby decision coming this morning, Obama taps ex-Procter & Gamble CEO to lead the VA

“The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.” — George Orwell

— Obamacare contraceptive ruling expected this morning: The Supreme Court will release its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores (formerly Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores) at 10 a.m. this morning. At issue in the case is whether Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate infringes upon religious beliefs of Hobby Lobby’s owner, David Green, who founded the business on Christian values. The Obama administration has exempted some religious organizations, including churches and schools, from the mandate. But businesses are still being forced to offer plans that cover birth control, even if it violates the beliefs on which they were founded. Though the Green family is opposed to abortion and considers certain contraceptives to be morally reprehensible, the case and others like it are about religious liberty. If the mandate stands, Hobby Lobby faces penalties totaling $26 million per year. Most observers, however, expect Hobby Lobby to succeed, though how far the Court will be willing to go remains to be seen, given the implications. We’ll have a story about the Hobby Lobby decision later this morning.

Today in Liberty: Big decisions expected this week at the Supreme Court, Hillary Clinton is still completely tone deaf

If you have ten thousand regulations, you destroy all respect for the law.” — Winston Churchill

— Big week at the Supreme Court: The nation’s High Court is expected to rule on two cases, as early as this morning. National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning deals with the limitations on executive power as it relates to executive appointments. President Obama and his administration insist that the January 2012 appointments to the National Labor Relations Board are valid because the Senate was in recess. That argument, however, is specious, at best. The Senate was in pro forma session — meaning that it had not formally adjourned — when President Obama made the appointments. Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores deals with Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate and the religious freedom of business owners. David Green, the owner and founder of Hobby Lobby, argues that the contraception mandate violates his religious liberty under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) because it would force his businesses to offer plans that cover the morning after pill, which, he believes, is tantamount to abortion. The question is whether the RFRA, which protects an individual’s right to freely exercise their religion, applies to businesses and corporations because of the objections of the owners. The Supreme Court will issue opinions today, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Push for religious freedom legislation likely after Supreme Court rejects photographer’s case

The Supreme Court unceremoniously announced yesterday that it would not hear arguments in Elane Photography v. Willock, a case involving a New Mexico-based photographer who had refused to provide services for a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony.

Elane Huguenin, a Christian and owner of Elane Photography, doesn’t support same-sex marriage and argued that her free speech rights were violated by an anti-discrimination statute that compels her to offer her services. New Mexico’s public accommodation law is broadly written, leaving little room for businesses to object to serve, even on religious grounds.

Though Elane Photography did initially make a religious liberty argument, Lyle Denniston explains that Huguenin’s attorneys didn’t bring that question to the Supreme Court. “Instead,” Denniston notes, “they argued that, since photography is a form of expression, the government should not be allowed to compel the use of that freedom in ways that the business owners find objectionable.”

The Cato Institute filed a brief in support of Elane Photography in December, noting that even though the libertarian think tank supports marriage equality, “a commitment to egalitarian principles can’t justify the restriction of constitutionally protected fundamental rights like freedom of speech or association.”

Today in Liberty: FEC wants answers from Harry Reid, pollster warns Democrats on Obamacare

Today in Liberty is a daily roundup of recent political news and other interesting stories presented with liberty-minded commentary. We frequently keep tabs on liberty-minded politicians and candidates in these updates. We also inject some humor on occasion. Click here to receive Today in Liberty every morning via email.

— Harry Reid’s campaign expenditures come into question: So…the FEC wants details about $16,786 in “holiday gifts” purchased for donors and supporters of Friends of Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader’s campaign name. “The gifts,” Jon Ralston reports, “were purchased from his granddaughter, Ryan Elisabeth Reid, who is a jewelry vendor in Berkeley, CA. The gifts were later passed on to donors and supporters, a Reid spokeswoman told me.” Reid’s campaign tried to hide the disbursement by listing his granddaughter’s name as “Ryan Elisabeth” rather than disclosing her full name. The FEC has given Friends of Harry Reid until April 25 to respond to its inquiry.

Supreme Court to hear contraception mandate cases

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments tomorrow in two casesSebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialities v. Sebelius — dealing with Obamacare’s controversial contraception mandate.

Though there are some religious exemptions to the mandate, there are no carve outs for businesses that base their operations on their religious beliefs, leaving them to face hefty, potentially crippling fines if they refuse to offer health insurance coverage that covers contraceptives.

The case that has received the most attention is that of Hobby Lobby Stores. David Green, the owner and founder of the crafts chain, argues that the contraception mandate violates his religious liberty under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) because it would force his businesses to offer plans that cover the morning after pill, which, he believes, is tantamount to abortion.

The argument at hand, however, isn’t about abortion, though supporters of the mandate are trying to make it about women’s health. The question is whether the RFRA, which protects an individual’s right to freely exercise their religion, applies to businesses and corporations because of the objections of the owners.

Filings in the case explain that Green runs his business “with religious principles in mind” and points to the company’s mission statement, which commits to “[h]onoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

Today in Liberty: CBO on employer mandate, religious liberty and business owners, CPAC boots atheist group

“A good measure of how serious Republicans are on cutting spending is how they react when the tiniest Pentagon spending cuts are proposed.”Coalition to Reduce Spending

— CBO report on employer mandate measure: House Republicans may have received a bit of set back yesterday on a measure that would change the definition of a full-time employee from 30 hours per week, as set under the employer mandate, to 40 hours. The Save American Workers Act would reduce the number of people receiving employer-based coverage by 1 million, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and increase budget deficits by $73.7 billion in the net 10 years. Republicans plan to bring the measure to the floor some time next month. The Obama administration has delayed the mandate for small and medium-sized businesses until 2016. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many other organizations back the Save American Workers Act.

— Tea Party Express likely to endorse in Kansas GOP Senate race: Though she didn’t outright say that they were endorsing Milton Wolf, Amy Kremer, chair of the Tea Party Express, intimated that in a tweet this morning. “Headed to Kansas today for a big announcement tomorrow,” Kremer tweeted. “Looking forward to seeing my friend !”

Ron Paul: Hobby Lobby case transcends abortion debate

The Hobby Lobby lawsuit pending at the Supreme Court isn’t about abortion or contraception, says former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), it’s about rights.

Obamacare supporters paint this as a case of Hobby Lobby refusing its employees an abortion or contraception, which, they say, is a violation of the employees rights. But that’s not at all what Hobby Lobby has in mind, they simply don’t want to be forced to pay for those things for their employees.

“Forcing Hobby Lobby to pay for abortion services is especially offensive because Hobby Lobby’s owners consider abortion a form of murder. Those who, like me, agree that abortion is an act of violence against an innocent person, will side with Hobby Lobby,” wrote Paul in his weekly column.

“However, this case is not about the legality of abortion. It is about whether someone can have a ‘right’ to force someone else to provide him with a good or service,” he explained. “Therefore, even those who support legal abortion should at least support a business’s right to choose to not subsidize it.”

Hobby Lobby Stores, a craft chain with 578 stores and more than 13,000 employees, filed the lawsuit against the contraception mandate in September 2012, claiming that it violated the religious liberty of the owner and founder of the company, David Green, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA).

Supreme Court to hear case over Obamacare’s contraception mandate

The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear a case over Obamacare’s contraception mandate, a requirement on employers to provide health plans that cover emergency birth control, and its implications on religious liberty.

Hobby Lobby Stores, a craft chain with 578 stores and more than 13,000 employees, filed a lawsuit against the contraception mandate in September 2012, claiming that it violated the religious liberty of the owner and founder of the company, David Green, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA).

Filings in the case — Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores — explain that Green runs his business “with religious principles in mind” and points to the company’s mission statement, which commits to “[h]onoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

The contraceptive mandate would include coverage for the morning after pill, Plan B and Ella, which Green believes is tantamount to abortion. Hobby Lobby claims that it could face fines of $475 million each year for non-compliance.

“If Hobby Lobby instead drops employee insurance altogether, it will face severe disruption to its business, significant competitive disadvantages in hiring and retaining employees, as well as penalties totaling $26 million per year,” said the brief filed by the company.


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