Category Archives: The Supremes

Can We Have Religious Liberty In Modern America?


The Supreme Court is soon to decide a case that could potentially impose same-sex marriage as a nationwide civil “right.” During one exchange in oral arguments in the case, Obama administration Solicitor General Donald Verrilli was asked by Justice Alito whether a religious school could lose its nonprofit status if it held that marriage is between one man and one woman. Here is the solicitor general’s response: “It’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is it is going to be an issue.”

That certainly sounds like a “yes.” Will it end with religious schools? What about churches? Will Christian churches lose their nonprofit tax status if they hold firm to one of their foundational beliefs—a sacrament of their faith?

It is no exaggeration to say we are at a tipping point of one of the pillars of the American founding: Religious liberty. Can religious liberty be sustained in the America of today which understands itself, and the idea of liberty, in a different way than our forefathers did? John Adams, that venerable founder of our republic, once wrote that we are “a government of laws, not of men.”

Christians must hold in tension our personal desire for liberty, and religious liberty in particular, with the God-given desire to see the culture around us receive spiritual liberty from all the destructive desires which hold it in bondage. The best way we can do this, the best way I believe we can save this fragile and declined republic, is by going back to our founding principles—principles founded on the laws of nature and of nature’s God—even when rogue governors, tyrant judges, and media-enabled shout-downs are encroaching upon us.

We must prepare for this to take a very long time, and along the way we will encounter setbacks: religious institutions losing tax-exempt status may or may not yet be one of the many we face. Our culture will give us repeated occasions to prove our integrity and sincerity. The fight is on two fronts: civil and spiritual. Both require our energy and commitment. Both require humility and peace-ability.

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Filed under "Transparency", Constitutional, Culture, Government, Law, Politics, Religious Freedom, The Supremes

Christians Who Have Avoided the Culture Wars May No Longer Have a Choice With Religious Freedom in Jeopardy, Legal Scholar Says


“Must pastors, priests, and rabbis provide religious marriage counseling to same-sex couples? Must religious colleges provide married student housing to same-sex couples? Must churches and synagogues employ spouses in same-sex marriages, even though such employees would be persistently and publicly flouting the religious teachings they would be hired to promote? Must religious organizations provide spousal fringe benefits to the same-sex spouses of any such employees they do hire? Must religious social-service agencies place children for adoption with same-sex couples? Already, Catholic Charities in Illinois, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia has closed its adoption units because of this issue.

“Religious colleges, summer camps, day care centers, retreat houses, counseling centers, meeting halls, and adoption agencies may be sued under public accommodations laws for refusing to offer their facilities or services to same-sex couples. Or they may be penalized by loss of licensing, accreditation, government contracts, access to public facilities, or tax exemption.”

Christians who have so far avoided controversial “culture war” issues will likely be pulled into those battles as their religious freedom becomes threatened due to gay marriage, Dr. John Inazu warned Monday.

Theologically conservative Christian non-profit organizations, including churches, could face losing their tax exempt status or being shut down, and Christian doctors, lawyers, counselors and other professionals could be forced out of their professions, he explained.

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Supreme Court ruling could increase Obamacare premiums 700 percent


If the government loses in a major Obamacare challenge before the Supreme Court, it will result in premium increases of up to 700 percent for nearly 8 million people, a new analysis claims.

The analysis from think tank Avalere Health was released Thursday as the Obama administration continues to take heat from Congress for having no backup plan in case the Supreme Court ruling in King v. Burwell doesn’t go their way. Oral arguments are set to start on Wednesday for the case, which has the potential to cripple the healthcare law.

The case challenges the government’s authority to dole out subsidies to the 37 states with federal-run exchanges. Plaintiffs say the Affordable Care Act specifically only allows for states that set up their own exchanges to receive subsidies, while the government says the plaintiffs are misinterpreting the law.

If the subsidies are illegal, average monthly premium contributions for about 7.5 million people could increase between 122 and 774 percent, depending on the state, according to Avalere.

Residents in Alaska and Mississippi would have the highest increases, the think tank said.

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Clarence Thomas: ‘Another Example of This Court’s Increasingly Cavalier Attitude Toward the States’


On Jan. 23, U.S. District Judge Callie Granade ruled that Alabama laws limiting marriage to the union of one man and one woman violated the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection of the law. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange petitioned the Supreme Court to prevent the judge’s decision from going into effect until the Supreme Court itself issued its ruling on same-sex marriage–which the court will do this term.

The Supreme Court refused to stay the lower court ruling–with Justice Thomas and Scalia dissenting.

In his dissent from the court’s refusal to grant the stay, Justice Thomas rhetorically smacked his colleagues for disregarding it own standard practices and the deference due to state governments and voters.

“This acquiescence [in the lower court ruling] may well be seen as a signal of the Court’s intended resolution of that question [of same-sex marriage],” wrote Thomas.

“This is not the proper way to discharge our Article III responsibilities,” he said. “And, it is indecorous for this Court to pretend that it is. Today’s decision represents yet another example of this Court’s increasingly cavalier attitude toward the States. Over the past few months, the Court has repeatedly denied stays of lower court judgments enjoining the enforcement of state laws on questionable constitutional grounds.

“It has similarly declined to grant certiorari to review such judgments without any regard for the people who approved those laws in popular referendums or elected the representatives who voted for them,” wrote Thomas. “In this case, the Court refuses even to grant a temporary stay when it will resolve the issue at hand in several months.”

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Filed under Culture, Government, Law, LGBT, The Supremes, Traditional marriage

Another not-so-big surprise…

Obama Admin Admits it Inflated Obamacare Numbers by 1.3 Million

President Barack Obama’s much-touted 8 million Obamacare enrollment number was inflated by 1.3 million, the Obama administration now admits.

“The mistake we made is unacceptable,” tweeted Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell. “I will be communicating that clearly throughout the department.”

Burwell, now under fire for the inflated figures, says the Obama administration counted nearly 400,000 dental plan subscribers as health insurance customers to boost the figures. In September, HHS admitted Obama’s oft-cited eight million enrollment figure was inflated by 700,000 and was really 7.3 million.

Burwell conceded Americans may remain “skeptical” about the Obama administration’s numbers but said she hopes “our clarity that this is a mistake and the fact that we have quickly corrected the numbers should give people confidence.”

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Would We Be Better Off Losing on Obamacare at the Supreme Court?


A few days ago, Ricochet’s John Yoo predicted that Supreme Court will decide that the PPACA (Obamacare) does not allow for the federal exchanges to pay out subsidies in the upcoming King v Burwell case. Although I am a legal ignoramus, I have been following the excellent symposium on this case over at SCOTUSblog, and I wonder whether we might see an unexpected result here.

Based on the evidence from both sides, two points become clear. There is indeed no explicit passage in the law that mandates the federal subsidies, as exists for state exchanges. Still, there are a number of passages which make no sense if the federal exchanges are forbidden from paying out subsidies. More to the point, the law is so inconsistent and muddled that a good-faith argument could be made that it is simply ambiguous and incoherent on this issue; if so, the IRS will have the authority to come up with its own interpretation (the so-called Chevron deference).

It’s also worth considering the issue from the Court’s perspective. Roberts obviously prefers legislative fixes to judicial ones, and wants to preserve the public’s faith in the Court and the judiciary. Yet, if the Supreme Court rules completely against the government in King v Burwell — option a from above — the ruling will become the left’s Roe v Wade for the next generation: their textbook example of judicial overreach.

I imagine everyone on Ricochet would be perfectly content if the Supreme Court gave Obamacare a coup de grace, regardless of the political fallout. But from the standpoint of good governance, this should be determined by elected officials chosen directly by the people.

Giving the president explicit authority to decide on these subsidies would likely turn the next presidential election into a referendum on Obamacare. If the bill is truly as unpopular as polls suggest, a Republican candidate running on a platform of eliminating federal subsidies (which would almost inevitably lead to the unravelling of the entire law) should be a shoo-in. And given the difficulty for Republicans to win 60 Senate seats, it would provide voters an unprecedented and historic opportunity to roll back an entitlement program at the ballot box.

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Filed under "Intelligence", "Transparency", Government, Insurance, IRS, ObamaCare, The Supremes

‘Climate Change’ in the Land of Gruber/Obama


How do the Chinese figure in all this? Since they break into practically every computer we own, we can assume they also read our newspapers and watch Fox News (maybe even MSNBC, Heaven help them).  Besides Obama’s being a lame duck who was clobbered in the last election, they are fully aware of his myriad lies and prevarications from “If like your plan…” to red lines in Syria.  No one trusts him, even members of his own party.

The Chinese therefore know any deal with Obama is just for show, meaningless.  But to make doubly sure, they arranged for the language in the agreement to say “intend” to reduce their emissions by such-and-such by 2020 — “intend,” the mother of all wiggle words.  (I “intend” to win the Oscar in 2016, even though I have not written the script yet.) Actually, the Chinese, as usual, did a brilliant job of using Obama for their own propaganda, knowing full well that he was desperate to be back in the news for something positive, preferably as far from D.C. as possible.

So, as I said, Mitch McConnell should relax.  Not that he shouldn’t oppose the deal, but in the end this will be the least of his problems. Obama is only making a fool of himself, at least in the eyes of the Chinese and probably most people who see the reality of the situation.

But not as a big a fool as Jonathan Gruber, the MIT professor and putative architect of Obamacare, who has been caught on three videos explaining why it was necessary to overcomplicate and lie about the Affordable Care Act in order to pass it. (At least he read it.  I doubt Obama did and I know Pelosi didn’t.)  Besides the professor’s sleazy Gramscian elitism that doesn’t do much for the reputation of MIT, Gruber has something unconscious and disconnected about him that suggests a personality disorder.   He doesn’t seem to quite get why people might be upset that his deliberate obscurantism completely undermines democracy and the founding documents of our country.  After all, he means well.  (The ends justify the means meets Asperger Syndrome)

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Filed under "Global Warming", "Intelligence", "Transparency", Abuse of Power, China, Cronyism, Democrats, Ecology, Elitism, Entitlement, Foreign Policy, Government, Hypocrisy, Insurance, Law, Liberals, ObamaCare, Politics, President, The Supremes

Louisiana Ruling a Rare Lose for Gay Marriage Supporters


A federal judge upheld Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriages on Wednesday, a rare loss for gay marriage supporters who had won more than 20 consecutive rulings overturning bans in other states. U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman also upheld the state’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states. His ruling was the first to uphold a state ban since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. In 2004, 78 percent of Louisiana voters approved an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage. Gay marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Feldman said gay marriage supporters failed to prove that ban violates equal protection or due process provisions of the U.S. Constitution. He also rejected an argument that the ban violated the First Amendment by effectively forcing legally married gay couples to state that they are single on Louisiana income tax returns. Feldman sided with the state, which had argued that the nation’s high court, in the Defense of Marriage Act decision, recognized the rights of state voters and legislatures to define marriage. Gay marriage supporters vowed to appeal. They had argued that the ban violated constitutional due process and equal-protection rights.

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Filed under Culture, Law, LGBT, The Supremes

Halbig Shows How We Legislate Now

Do we even pass laws any more?

This is important because the majority of states declined to set up those exchanges—deciding to reject a system and a set of obligations foisted on them by Washington. And ObamaCare is just a big, complicated mechanism for delivering subsidies. Without that, all it does is cancel everyone’s insurance policies and force them into more expensive plans they didn’t want. So you can see why ObamaCare’s defenders really need to keep those subsidies.

So they screamed that the court’s decision was totally ridiculous and implausible—and then up pops a two-year-old video from one of the Affordable Care Act’s architects, Jonathan Gruber, in which he clearly explains that this is exactly what the law says—that denying subsidies on the federal exchanges was a way of pressuring the states to get on board.

But the big question is: why do they think they can get away with this? Why do they think they can write something into the law, go around for a couple of years explaining that provision to audiences, and then pretend later that it wasn’t there at all and it’s patently ridiculous for anyone to think it ever was?

They think they can get away with rewriting the law on the fly because of the way we legislate now. With previous regulations, the abdication of power from Congress to the executive branch agencies was a way of evading responsibility for unpopular decisions. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how we legislate now. What used to be a “law” is now just an open-ended grant of power coupled with a vague aspiration.

If you understand that context and that mentality, then you can see why ObamaCare’s defenders were so confident—and in many cases remain confident—that they get to skate on following the actual letter of the law. They believe no one will hold them to it, not the courts, not the press, not the public, because that’s the system they’re already living in.

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Obama Goes Around Congress — Again — to Expand Obamacare Coverage

Tic toc, Barry…

The Obama administration on Tuesday will publish a proposed rule that would give thousands of temporary and seasonal government workers access to the government’s health care program, even though Obamacare explicitly prohibits them from using that program.

The rule from the Office of Personnel Management would let these federal workers sign up for coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and also allow some of them to enjoy a government contribution to their insurance premiums. Both steps would be done through OPM’s proposed regulation, and not through an act of Congress.

As passed by Congress, Obama set up rules governing which federal workers are eligible to enroll in an FEHB plan, and which cannot. For example, temporary federal workers with less than a year of service can’t enroll in FEHB.

Seasonal employees working six months or less are also prohibited, as are many intermittent employees. And temporary workers with more than a year of service can sign up, but get no government contribution.

OPM’s rule would change all that:

“This proposed rule would allow newly eligible employees (employees on an appointment limited to one year and employees working on a seasonal or intermittent schedule) to initially enroll under the FEHB program with a government contribution to premium if they are expected to be employed on a full-time schedule and are expected to work for at least 90 days,” the proposed rule states.

It would also let temporary employees with more than a year of service “to enroll in a FEBH plan… (with a government contribution to premium) if the employee is determined by his or her employing office to be newly eligible for FEHB coverage under this regulation.”

Republicans have argued for years that the Obama administration has improperly implemented Obamacare by creating various delays and taking other liberties that are not provided by the health care law. That frustration is prompting House GOP leaders to pursue a law suit against the administration.

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