Monday, April 7, 2014

Religion In Your Life? Or Only In Your Church?

It's getting harder to find justice in the civil courts of this state and country. But sometimes something reasonable and appropriate does happen. Here's a case in point:

The Court of Appeals in Washington, DC appears to be taking the view that the law (in this case, Obamacare) actually means what it says. In the case at the bar, the statute says that Obamacare subsidies are only available for health insurance plans purchased through the state healthcare exchanges, and not for plans purchased through the exchange run by the federal government. The subsidies were extended to the federal exchange by IRS fiat, contrary to the law, thus provoking the lawsuit. Now it appears the Court of Appeals will side with the law and the plaintiffs. That's sure to give the White House heart attacks, so it's sure to be appealed to the US Supreme Court — perhaps arriving there about the same time as the lawsuit over the Obama Administration attempting to compel the Little Sisters of the Poor to direct others to provide contraception and abortion drugs on their behalf.

Meanwhile, too, we're waiting to see what the Supreme Court will do in the Hobby Lobby case. (I forget the name of the other primary plaintiff in that case — the Mennonite wood products manufacturer.) The decision, when it comes, will answer two key questions:

  1. Does the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (passed unanimously in the House and nearly so in the Senate, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton) mean what it says?
  2. Do Americans enjoy religious liberty protections when they are at church, or do Americans enjoy religious liberty protections when they are Americans?

I'm not sure I hold out a lot of hope. One reason is an item in the news today. (See this report, too.) The US Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of a case from the New Mexico Supreme Court. In it, an Albuquerque professional photographer would not accept a job to assist in celebrating a gay commitment ceremony. (At the time, the NM Supreme Court had not yet unilaterally rewritten the state's marriage law, so it was a commitment ceremony rather than a marriage.) The gay couple easily got another photographer, and paid less in the process, but sued this photographer for illegal discrimination. The courts convicted the photographer of discrimination, and the NM Supreme Court upheld the conviction. Comments made by the justices in their opinions include that the photographer is “compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.” and that the photographer "must surrender the faithful practice of their religion in the name of citizenship." And the US Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

An article about this case, written at the time of the New Mexico Supreme Court decision, can be found here. A current update that also notes some of the comparable cases is here. Some of those other cases are also discussed here. Perhaps the US Supreme Court will take one of these other cases and use it to make clear that the New Mexico Supreme Court screwed up.

I have heard it said that the best way to attack a bad law is to insist on its vigorous enforcement. Perhaps we can do that here. No, not against the Left — they have no principles or scruples to press them on. But perhaps we can press one of the Left's key allies. Like this:

That may be the quickest and easiest way to get everyone to agree that religious principles matter.

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