Stillwater News Press

Our View

July 2, 2014

OUR VIEW: What hath the Supreme Court wrought?

STILLWATER, Okla. — Narrow rulings rarely stay narrow under Chief Justice John Robert’s court.

This week’s narrow decision in the Hobby Lobby contraception case likely will follow the same pattern as other recent Supreme Court rulings.

The five conservative justices – Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas, determined the Hobby Lobby case concerned a single, closely held private company whose owners held religious objections to certain kinds of birth control.

The four liberal justices – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagen and Stephen Breyer – disagreed.

In her dissent, joined by the liberal three, Ginsburg wrote the majority erred in granting religious freedom enjoyed by individuals to a for-profit company.

“The Court’s determination that RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) extends to for-profit corporations is bound to have untoward effects. Although the Court attempts to cabin its language to closely held corporations, its logic extends to corporations of any size, public or private,” Ginsburg wrote. “Little doubt that RFRA claims will proliferate, for the Court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood combined with its other errors in construing RFRA – invites for-profit entities to seek religious-based exemptions they deem offensive to their faith.”

One needs to look no further than Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder in 2009. The court upheld a challenge to an application of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The Roberts’ Court decision was termed “narrow” when it was announced.

Section 4 determined which states must receive clearance from the Justice Department or federal court in Washington before they changed voting procedures. Section 5 determined the length of time those states would fall under Section 4.

In 2013, Northwest Austin became the wedge used to destroy Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act, rendering it ineffective in Shelby County v. Holder.

The Hobby Lobby case just became another wedge. This one will be used to grant privately held corporations the rights enjoyed by individuals and erode the very freedoms our forefathers sought to create in the birth of these United States.

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