Policy: Labor

Supreme Court strikes two big blows for freedom: Examiner Editorial

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Opinion,Editorial,Labor unions,Obamacare,Labor,Illinois,First Amendment,Freedom of Religion,SEIU,Contraception,HHS,Washington Examiner

Monday was a lousy day at the Supreme Court for politicians and bureaucrats who enjoy forcing others to do their will. The high court issued two crucial opinions, Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn. Both rulings protect constitutionally guaranteed individual freedoms that Democratic politicians seek to compromise.

The Hobby Lobby ruling weakened a controversial Department of Health and Human Services mandate imposed on employers after Obamacare became law. The so-called HHS mandate imposes massive fines on employers unless they provide comprehensive coverage for all FDA-approved forms of contraception - including four that can extinguish a human life after conception. The Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby, a closely held business owned by the devoutly Christian Green family, objected to the requirement for abortifacient coverage.

Both rulings protect constitutionally guaranteed individual freedoms that Democratic politicians seek to compromise.

The court ruled in the business's favor on two key questions. First, can a for-profit business even make a religious freedom claim? In other words, can people of faith incorporate businesses, then insist on running them according to their religious beliefs? Only two justices -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor -- took the Obama administration's position that they could not.

The second question, of whether this particular claim was valid, split the court 5-4. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, cited the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. It requires that when government claims a “compelling interest” to place a “substantial burden” upon a religious practice, it must use the “least restrictive means” available in satisfying that interest. He concluded that the HHS mandate failed that test in the Hobby Lobby case.

Alito also wrote the majority opinion in Harris, which found that Illinoisans who receive state subsidies to care for homebound invalid family members cannot thereby be compelled to pay agency fees to a public employee union. By another 5-4 vote, the high court finally put a stop to a scam concocted to benefit the Service Employees International Union.

Thanks to a 2003 executive order by corrupt former Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the SEIU in Illinois has been legally permitted for more than a decade to skim $20 million annually from the state's Medicaid program. Illinois funneled this money to the union by imposing government-employee status on all subsidized home caretakers, then requiring them to pay union dues.

Democrats have attempted to erect similar schemes in other states as well. The funneling scheme is part of a broader effort by unions to stave off irrelevance and restore dwindling membership numbers. The opinion encourages continued hope that the Supreme Court may yet overturn a widely criticized 1977 decision that upheld governments forcing all of their employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

The two decisions upheld individual liberties Americans have always enjoyed: freedom from excessive government coercion on business, economic, and religious questions. But the narrow majorities in both cases highlight, as Independence Day approaches, that freedom is a very fragile thing.

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