First Amendment

  • March 24, 2014

    As the Supreme Court prepares to hear Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, Leslie C. Griffin at Hamilton and Griffin on Rights discusses why “Conestoga could provide a more important—and dangerous—precedent than Hobby Lobby.” Walter Dellinger, Member of the ACS Board of Advisors, writes an op-ed for The Washington Post explaining why the Court should “reject claims of religious entitlement that so greatly burden the interests of others.” For more on the “contraception mandate” cases, read Professor Griffin’s ACSblog post on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and more.
     
    Just weeks after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed legislation that would allow businesses to discriminate on the basis of religion, an attempt in Georgia, to pass a similar bill last Thursday, has failed. Georgia Republican State Sen. Josh McKoon “attempted to attach the measure to two unrelated bills in the state legislature, hoping to get the controversial measure passed on the last day of the session.” Adam Serwer at MSNBC has the story.
     
    Writing for the The New York Times, Member of the ACS Board of Directors Linda Greenhouse comments on the most recent decision from the high court regarding railroad rights-of-way to reveal “how far the Supreme Court should go to acknowledge the real-world context of its decisions.”
     
    The public’s call for more transparency at the high court continues. At Jost On Justice, Kenneth Jost comments on the “Supreme Court’s obsession with secrecy.”
     
    Gerard Magliocca at Concurring Opinions reveals how the “Four Horsemen”—the four conservative justices who opposed President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs from 1932–1937—made it to the Supreme Court. 
  • March 21, 2014
     
    Writing for The Global Legal Post,  ACS Board Member Reuben Guttman addresses the growing “privatisation of America.” In the piece, Guttman discusses the extensive use of private contractors and questions whether “we really have a modern day United States Government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’?”
     
    U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified last week before the U.S. Sentencing Commission about a proposal that would reduce the federal prison population.  Among other things, the amendments would offer “modestly shorter sentence recommendations [for] low level, nonviolent drug offenders.” Jessica Eaglin at the Brennan Center for Justice has the story.
     
    The Supreme Court is set to review a petition for certiorari in a case involving whether a photographing company can deny services to same-sex couples on the basis of religion. Richard Wolf at USA TODAY breaks down Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock.
     
    As the high court prepares to hear oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., Lawrence Hurley at Reuters notes how the justices could “dodge the contentious question of whether corporations have religious rights.”
     
    Writing for The Daily Beast, Jamelle Bouie debunks the assumption that “culture” is to blame for inner-city black poverty.
     
    At Opinio Juris, Julian Ku discusses his participation in a hearing of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that addressed the National Security Agency’s surveillance authority.
  • March 20, 2014
    Guest Post
    by Caroline Mala Corbin, Professor of Law, University of Miami School of Law; author of the ACS Issue Brief, “Corporate Religious Liberty: Why Corporations Are Not Entitled to Religious Liberty,” and “Corporate Religious Liberty
     
    While the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was the center of attention during the first round of constitutional challenges to it, its “contraception mandate” stars in two cases currently before the Supreme Court, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. Under health care reform, large employers must now provide employees with health insurance that covers basic preventive care. For women, basic preventive care includes access to FDA-approved contraception. The Obama administration has totally exempted churches from this requirement, and essentially exempted nonprofits from it, so it really only applies to for-profit corporations. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a chain of arts and crafts stores, and Conestoga Woods Specialties Corp., a cabinet manufacturer, argue that they are religiously opposed to certain forms of contraception and that consequently the contraception mandate violates their religious liberty.
     
    Actually, there are two types of plaintiffs in these cases. First, there are the for-profit corporations who claim that the contraception mandate violates the corporations’ religious rights. Second, there are the owners of the for-profit corporations who claim that the contraception mandate violates their individual religious rights. Both plaintiffs should lose, but for different reasons. The corporations should lose because for-profit corporations do not and should not have religious liberty rights. The owners of the corporations should lose because their claims have no merit.
     
    For-Profit Corporations
     
    Starting with the corporate plaintiffs: the reasons individuals and churches are granted religious liberty rights simply do not apply to for-profit corporations. Why do we protect individual religious conscience?  Religious people might respond that we protect individual religious conscience so that people can fulfill their obligations to God. Failure to do so can cause great suffering now and in the hereafter. Corporations, of course, cannot not suffer, have no soul, and certainly have no relationship with God. Secular people might respond that we protect people’s decisions about their spirituality because it is a way of respecting their individual autonomy and inherent dignity. But while people are ends in themselves and possess an inviolable dignity, corporations do not. They are merely a means to an end, and possess no inherent dignity that we must respect. In short, religious rights only make sense when applied to actual people. Corporations lack the fundamentally human attributes, such as a relationship with God or inviolable dignity, which justify religious liberty protection.
     
  • March 20, 2014
    This week, the American Civil Liberties Union advised the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reject an Arizona law denying bail to immigrants in the country illegally. While those defending the law claim that it is meant to “improve public safety, not punish people for federal immigration violations,” the ACLU maintains that “Latino detainees are [being] unfairly held while other nationalities are allowed to put up bond.” Paul Elias of the The Associated Press has the story.
     
    In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which required select jurisdictions to submit all changes in voting rules to the Justice Department for review. Writing for MSNBC, Adam Serwer comments on the role Chief Justice John Roberts played in the controversial decision and the implications of “equal sovereignty.” For further analysis on Shelby County, please see ACSblog analysis by Spencer Overton, former ACS Board Member and the President and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
     
    At CPRBlog, James Goodwin follows the developing legal dispute concerning Duke Energy’s violation of the Clean Water Act. Goodwin explains why “federal prosecutors are now looking into whether North Carolina’s environmental regulators engaged in any criminal activity in their efforts to shield Duke.”
     
    Steven R. Morrison at PrawfsBlawg notes “a rare move in terrorism (and all criminal) cases” concerning former Al-Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghayth.
     
    On C-SPAN, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan reflects on her “life and career” in a conversation with Georgetown University Law Center students.

     

  • March 13, 2014

    by ACS Staff

    Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) accused the Central Intelligence Agency of illegally searching her committee’s computers. Mark Mazzetti and Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times  report on the controversy that has “one of the C.I.A.’s staunchest defenders deliver[ing] an extraordinary denunciation of the agency.”

    The conviction of William Jeffrey Dumas on three counts of rape was overturned last week by Judge Christopher McFadden of the Georgia Court of Appeals. Dumas was accused of raping a woman who is diagnosed with Down syndrome. David M. Perry at CNN describes how this “troubling case reveals the intersections between rape culture and the way we strip agency from people with disabilities.”

    Ronald K. L. Collins at Concurring Opinions explains why, when it comes to the issue of cell phone privacy and First Amendment rights, “there is more here than meets the constitutional eye.”

    Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson is testifying this week on the White House’s 2015 DHS budget request. Georgeanne M. Usova at ACLU’s Blog of Rights answers the major questions on immigration.

    At Dorf on Law, Michael Dorf explains why granting certiorari and ruling for the petitioners in Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock“would open up a pandora's box of businesses seeking exemptions from anti-discrimination law.”