Posts Tagged ‘RFRA’

WHAT HAPPENED:  Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell that the contraceptive mandate could not compel religious institutions to provide birth control to their employees.  “Fine” said the government, “You don’t have to provide birth control, and instead you just have to fill out these two forms and we’ll take care of it for you”.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  “NO!” replied the host of religious institutions who were not satiated by the Supreme Court’s favorable ruling in Hobby Lobby.  “Two forms, as nominal as it may seem, constitutes an affirmative act in favor of providing birth control and that is a sin.”  And that is where we stand now, in that the Court must determine whether two forms is an acceptable burden to place on a company that is denying medical care to their employees, or if two forms is a condemnation to hell-fire and brimstone.

WHAT IS THE RULING:  Thankfully, this case is not yet decided.

RAMIFICATIONS:  Everything and nothing.  Everything if the idea that a hypothetical employee of the Catholic Church cannot get birth control serves as the opening of Pandora’s Box toward overruling Roe v. Wade and diminishing Women’s Rights.  Nothing if you are neither person described in the above referenced sentence.

ROOT FOR ZUBIK IF:  To you, the idea of hell isn’t ridiculous.

ROOT FOR BURWELL IF:  You would like to end more sequels to this never-ending horror movie of a Supreme Court case, which by the way, was what I was going for with the picture above of Dennis Hopper fighting Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

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Holt v. Hobbs

Posted: February 22, 2015 by beguide in case summaries, Religious Freedom
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HOLT V. HOBBS FULL DECISION

WHAT HAPPENED: Holt is a criminal defendant who is incarcerated for a host of violent, extreme crimes. During Holt’s stay in federal prison, Holt requested the right to grow a one-half-inch beard as part of a necessary practice in his religion. Hobbs is, for lack of better qualifier, a representative of the prison that denied Holt the right to grow his beard. The prison has a grooming policy that prohibits inmates from growing facial hair, which is based on prison safety.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT: This case revisits the a different form of the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act covered in the Hobby Lobby case, which is a federal statute that protects citizens from government action that infringes upon private religious beliefs. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 prevents government actors from unfairly inhibiting an inmate’s exercise of religion, unless the government is able to show a compelling purpose in favor of the law and that the law is the least restrictive means of interfering with the inmate’s religion. Hobbs was therefore required to show that the prison policy preventing Holt from growing a beard had a compelling reason that was the least restrictive means of achieving that goal.

WHAT WAS THE RULING: The Court ruled 9-0 in favor of Holt and struck down the prison grooming policy as it applied in this case.   Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion which stated primarily that preventing inmates from growing short beards for sincerely held religious beliefs was the least restrictive means of achieving prison safety. The Court furthermore held that providing different religious accommodations to Holt did not excuse the prison’s ban on facial hair. Justice Ginsberg, she of the blistering dissent in Hobby Lobby, stated that Hobby Lobby had nothing to do with this case because Holt’s request only affected his own beliefs, and not the beliefs of others.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION: Beards for everyone!!

THE GOOD GUYS WON IF YOU: appreciate the irony of the Hobby Lobby decision, which is generally considered a case favoring right-wing Christian beliefs, allowing a Muslim extremist to grow a beard in jail.

THE BAD GUYS WON IF YOU: were hoping that the religious accommodations in Hobby Lobby were restricted to just that case.

WHO WAS RIGHT: This was a bit of a slam dunk in favor of Holt, as both Brett and Nazim believed that Holt was going to win. Brownie points go to the podcast for addressing the Hobby Lobby connection which the majority touched on and Ginsberg downplayed in her concurring opinion.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

Posted: January 3, 2015 by beguide in case summaries
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Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Full Decision

WHAT HAPPENED: Geez, where do even start. Burwell is a government official tasked with defending the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, which required, amongst many other things, that employers provide contraceptive care for its employees. Hobby Lobby is a closely held corporation, despite having many stores throughout the country and hundreds of employees and Hobby Lobby, the entity, claimed that the ACA’s contraceptive requirement violated Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT: Hobby Lobby claimed that the ACA’s contraceptive mandate violated the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, which is a federal statute that protects citizens from government action that infringes upon private religious beliefs. Under the RFRA, any law that infringes upon religious beliefs has to be the least restrictive method of accomplishing the government’s goal. The Court therefore had to determine whether or not (1) Hobby Lobby as a corporation had genuine religious beliefs, and (2) whether or not the ACA could require Hobby Lobby provide contraception in violation of those beliefs.

WHAT WAS THE RULING: The Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby. Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion which stated that Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs were protected by the RFRA and that the ACA was a violation of Hobby Lobby’s genuine religious beliefs. The decision first affirmed that Hobby Lobby, as a close corporation, possessed genuine religious beliefs based on existing precedent and the terms of the statute. Although the Court held that the government had a viable goal in providing birth control, the Court held that the existing contraceptive mandate, which put the cost and responsibility of providing contraception to employers, was not the least restrictive option. The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Ginsburg, threw white hot fire at the majority decision, holding that the Court was setting the stage for corporations to opt out of government laws based on religious beliefs, which drawn out to its hyperbolic conclusion, could lay the stage for wide-spread discrimination.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION: This case would strike down the contraceptive mandate for other close corporations who, like Hobby Lobby, had genuinely held religious beliefs that contradicted their ability to provide birth control to employees. In a broader view, this decision set the stage for state RFRA laws which expanded upon the federal statute and led local Indiana Pizza Companies to believe they could start discriminating against same sex couples.

THE GOOD GUYS WON IF YOU: (1) are a closely held corporation that does not want to provide contraception to its employees, (2) believe in the transcendental consciousness of business entities, and/or (3) believe America is in the midst of a war on morality.

THE BAD GUYS WON IF YOU: (1) are the employee of a closely held corporation that does not want to provide contraception to its employees, (2) are a LGBT pizza enthusiast living in the heartland of America, and/or (3) are actively engaged in a war against morality.

WHO WAS RIGHT: Neither Brett or Nazim read this decision before the episode took place, so neither of them had the correct view of the decision going in. Brett was slightly more correct as to the scope of the opinion, so let’s give this one to him.