Supreme Court Rules For Hobby Lobby In Major Blow To Obama Administration

Supreme Court300px-HobbyLobbyStowOhioThe Supreme Court finished its term with its usual dramatic flair with the release of the long-waited decision in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores (which is consolidated with Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius). The two cases represent a classic split in the circuits with the Tenth Circuit agreeing with Hobby Lobby as to the religious claims of the company while the Third Circuit ruled against such claims by Conestoga Wood Specialities Corp. The Court ruled that the Hobby Lobby does have religious rights, but limited the decision to closely-held corporations. Where Citizen’s United recognized that corporations have free speech rights like individuals, Hobby Lobby would do the same thing for religious rights. I will be running a column in the Los Angeles Times in the morning not just addressing this ruling but, once again, highlighting what I consider a far more important case that will be decided just a couple blocks away in the D.C. Circuit — Halbig v. Sebelius. I will be discussing the decisions today at CNN starting at 10 am and continuing to the discussion at 1 pm with Wolf Blitzer.

Hobby Lobby is a fascinating case involving the retail arts and craft chain founded by David Green and owned by his family, which also happen to be Evangelical Christians. The Greens actually do not object to all of the 20 forms of birth control under the ACA. However, they are religiously opposed to supplying four methods: morning-after pills Plan B and Ella as well as two kinds of inter-uterine devices (or IUDs). (The Conestoga company is smaller and owed by Hahn family, who are Mennonite Christians) At a running fine of $100 per employee, Hobby Lobby estimates that the federal mandate would cost it about $1.3 million a day, or roughly $475 million a year.

The religious beliefs of the family are formally integrated into their company: Green family members signed a formal commitment to run the stores according to Christian religious principles, including closing on Sunday, advertising their religious orientation. The company even plays religious music inside their stores.

The Greens challenged the provisions under the and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which imposes a high standard of strict scrutiny for the government to meet when a neutral law “substantially burden[s] a person’s exercise of religion”. (Note some amicus briefs suggest that the mandatory plan should also be barred for these purpose under the Establishment Clause). In 2013, United States District Court Judge Joe Heaton granted the company a temporary exemption from the contraceptive-providing mandate. (Conestoga directly raises free exercise arguments).

In an interesting wrinkle, an April article in Mother Jones alleged that Hobby Lobby’s employee retirement plan has more than $73M invested in mutual funds which include manufacturers of some fo the very contraception devices or drugs cited in the complaint.

The decision has sweeping application – well beyond these companies or the 49 for-profit corporations that have claimed such exemptions. The ruling addresses the very essence of a religious claim and the very essence of a corporate entity.

Closely-held corporations are not as limited as it might seem. I agree with Ginsberg that the implications are sweeping. The closely-held corporations represent a huge number of businesses. As I mentioned on CNN, the large corporations are the least likely to demand such exemptions. There are millions of family businesses that may not object not just to the ACA but renew objections to discrimination laws that force such businesses to serve same-sex weddings or engage in other activities that violate their religious beliefs. This is much like Heller and the recognition of individual gun rights. We are still working out the details on how far that goes years after the decision.

This is a major blow to the Administration which in the last ten days have been found to have violated the fourth amendment and privacy and then found to be in violation of the separation of powers and now found in violation of the first amendment and religious freedom.

503 thoughts on “Supreme Court Rules For Hobby Lobby In Major Blow To Obama Administration”

  1. Hi Samantha:

    “The answer is to swear off the American diet, regain your health, then maintain it by staying the hell out of fast food, away from processed food, demand non GMO food. Look, when it comes to your average consumer today, their health is a mess. They didn’t get that way because they don’t have insurance. They got that way by their addiction to their knife and fork, acidic diet, animal protein with every meal, preferring beer and wine to sensible beverage, spectator sports to exercising, the couch to taking a walk in nature.”

    I agree with much of what you say here, except about the animal protein. Lean grass-fed beef or game (as apposed to conventional grain-fattened) is higher in Omega 3s than Omega 6s. Vegetarians have to be very careful about B-12 deficiencies, and other gaps in their diets. Were you saying that we should cut down or cut out animal protein? Fish would be so healthy for us if we hadn’t polluted all the oceans of the world with mercury.

    I loved that movie Supersize Me. Like the person who made it, I intellectually knew that fast food was bad for us, but I had no idea it could destroy us so quickly. I thought it would take longer. When I recently cut out all grain, dairy, and processed foods, made about 1/3 of my diet protein and the rest fruits, nuts, seeds, etc. it was amazing how much healthier I felt.

    And there is a real conflict of interest when Monsanto former employees head the FDA which regulates Monsanto.

    I oppose government mandating what food can be sold. And this latest scandal where health insurance companies are data mining to determine the buying choices their patients make is Orwellian and intrusive. I cannot imagine being in a doctor’s office for a physical one day and having him say, “I notice you fell off the wagon and bought ice cream last week . . .”

  2. Karen, No one is defending the behavior of the VA no matter how you want to turn it into – if you disagree with me you are defending the VA and what happened there.
    As for Coburn he is a republican so has a specific point to push, he has not examined these people and cannot diagnose from afar, (And look at rep Broun who believes the earth is 6000 years old and also has an MD)
    Look at the headline and what Coburn said “Over the past decade, more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of VA malfeasance,”
    He said “May” that does not mean did.
    And saying that, pointing it out does not ipso facto mean I am defending the VA.

  3. Karen, I was making a point about Samantha’s description of “trough feeders”. You are so quick to think someone is attacking someone personally.

  4. It’s one thing to be on a waiting list, and it’s another thing to conclude that as a result of being on the waiting list that’s the cause of death, depending on what your illness might have been at the beginning,” Griffin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee

    You want to make it even worse then it is. That is hurtful to families to say it is incompetence that caused their deaths when it may have been natural causes but better to try and make a problem worse by inflating then look at realities.

    You don’t know what they had. They have been waiting fior a simple problem. I had a friend who took extensive advantage of the VA health care system, always going in for something minor, He was 82 when he died but in fact was hit, by a police car, when he was making a turn across traffic. He was also drinking in the car at the time, had a glass of liquor from which he was sipping. Had he had an appointment coming up (I don’t recall if he did or not) he would be said he died while waiting for his appointment.
    Had he died, since he was 82, from say, coronary disease but he was waiting for an appointment because his foot wasbothering him you woldreport it as he died while waiting for his app’t implying the death was related to the wait time,.
    (That is an extreme example, because I know of it personally.
    I waited over 30 days a while back for the results of a biopsy. I should have gotten the results in 2 weeks, tops. Had I died, say of an M,I before I finally got the results you would be correct and absolutely wrong in making the connection; that I died while awaiting results of a test that did not come in when it should have, the waiting time for the results caused my death? No. But it sounds good. The lab or doctor was not diligent, or even lazy and she died while waiting for what she should have received 2 weeks sooner.

  5. Karen, the spouse actually doesn’t go destitute. The spouse gets to keep and live in the primary residence and they may be able to keep their half of the joint assets accrued in th marriage. An estate lawyer could probably shed some light on this.

  6. Jim, that’s Samantha’s logic, not mine. Didn’t you read her comment regarding trough feeders?

  7. Lee:

    Again, please refer to the Medicare website. It clearly explains that you pay zero until a certain # of days has been reached, after your deductible. I think I have stated something like 4 or 5 times now the breakdown of what you pay after X # of days.

    Just read it. Because you keep arguing with me that you fell below that day threshold, but cannot understand why you did not receive a large bill.

  8. “”Over the past decade, more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of VA malfeasance,” said Coburn, a three-time cancer survivor who says the government should offer veterans access to private hospitals.”

    Who do you want to believe – the government agency who enacted nationwide deliberate fraud to make their numbers look good? The IRS was caught destroying evidence in another scandal, and is trying to have us believe that all of a sudden, miraculously, 7 people involved in a scandal suddenly had their computer crash, while the company required to save those emails miraculously lost them.

    Who is defending this behavior???

  9. Karen, I no longer have the bill or I would post it. You can argue and debate with me til the cows come home. The bill said at the bottom, because I almost fainted when I saw the numbers but had not gotten to the paid part. owed $138,000
    Then it stated ‘Medicare paid $132,000 Your secondary insurance is responsible for the remaining $800.00’
    You may want it to be different but it is not. You are doing what I often see Republicans and the right do: exaggerate, distort or just plain old change the facts.
    This is a fact, Medciare paid all but $800.00
    I have said it in as many ways as I can. You want to continue to deny it you will be debating with yourself.

  10. I have had several elderly loved ones die. I would be infuriated beyond measure if they had been denied “end of life care” that would have made them more comfortable in their final months. Were they just supposed to suffer without pain meds? Does it matter if they lost maybe 6 months of time from having no care?

    I cannot believe they are trying to excuse this. How would you feel if you had to wait 9 months to even see a doctor, let alone get any care? And you couldn’t go anywhere else because you had to use a single payer system? And meanwhile the people you knew who could see private providers could get appointments in a few days?

    1. Karen – because it is the Phoenix area and we get all the Canadians using our doctors during the winter, it is a little harder getting doctors during the winter. It might take you a couple of weeks to get in unless it is an emergency.

  11. Annie – “Oh Jim, you trough feeder you.”

    So protecting my assets that I worked for and saved should be spent to support the others who didn’t. And I’m the trough feeder? Weird logic you got there Annie.

  12. lee:

    “There is no proof the wait times deaths were causal.” That will come.

    When someone waits 9 months to see a doctor, and then dies before he sees a doctor, the burden of proof would be on the doctor to prove that the patient would have died anyway even if he had been seen. Unless the patient was hit by a bus, good luck with that.

  13. It is true that you have to gift away assets a certain # of years before becoming eligible for Medicaid, or the government will go after your heirs for repayment.

    It is also true that doing so is essentially hiding assets to avoid going destitute because of Medicaid.

    The problem is that health care is so expensive, and if one spouse needs long term care, like for Alzheimer’s, Medicaid will force the remaining spouse to go completely destitute before they will pay for care.

    Again, private insurance like long term care insurance can prevent this, but you have to make sure it covers Alzheimer’s which is terrifyingly common nowadays. I watched my grandmother die of it. In the end, she forgot how to swallow. It went so far beyond merely forgetting anyone she ever loved, and then forgetting who she was. It must be one of the worst natural ways to die in existence.

  14. Re the VA, no matter how it is spun it is and was horrendous. But people are trying to make it even worse by saying the thousand + died as a result. There is no proof the wait times deaths were causal, some did die but did they die because they were going to or because had they received the care they would have continued to live?

    “Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson on Thursday said 18 veterans died while waiting for appointments with the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

    Speaking from the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, which has become the epicenter of the scandal over patient wait times, Gibson said the 18 deaths were confirmed through a review of 1,700 veterans who had been placed on so-called “secret lists.”

    Gibson said he had details on 14 of the deaths and it appeared most had contacted the VA for “end of life care.”

    “None of that excuses us,” Gibson said. “These lists were not being worked — inexcusable.”

    Gibson said if any of the 18 deaths is found to have been tied to delays or bogus wait-time stats that the agency will disclose that and discipline the responsible employees”

  15. Lee – please refer to the actual Medicare site, which will explain the benefits to you.

    “Your bill” refers to the bill you are left to pay, not the bill that Medicare pays, if that clarifies.

  16. SWM:

    “Well, if you can afford it you will,pay for the nursing home care if you have not purchased long term care insurance. When your resources are depleted, you will be eligible for medicaid unless you have veterans benefits.”

    Long term care insurance is one of the private insurance options that there has been a call to remove. This illustrates the point that private insurance is so helpful in Medicare, and it is madness for anyone to call for it to be abolished.

    Medicaid – You have to deplete all of your resources before Medicaid will pay for it. That includes leaving a remaining spouse destitute. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s. My grandfather did not. Her care was an atrocious $7,000/month when my mother could no longer manage caring for her. Luckily, my grandparents had a house they could sell and use the funds to pay for her care until Medicaid kicked in, leaving zero for my Grandfather, who moved in with my parents. Medicaid also goes after any assets remaining after the patient passes away, including joint assets. What do elderly couples do when they do not have adult children who can support them, but one has to become destitute for the other to get the care she needs?

    The problem with health care is that it has become too expensive. That is why people even need insurance. That is why I am glad about one single aspect of this behemoth law – no more pre-existing conditions. But I acknowledge that it is not really insurance when you call an auto insurance company and say, “I need insurance right away because I got in an accident yesterday, and I want you to pay for it!” What we are really saying is that we can only afford deductibles, copays, and coinsurance. The actual cost of healthcare has just gotten too high for anyone to afford, which is why pre-existing conditions could be so devastating.

  17. lee:

    The breakdown came from Medicare. Your stay was less than 30 days. The costs go up exponentially, and really hit when you stay over 91 days.

    The reason why you did not receive a huge bill is that you have gap insurance. You already stated you have B. Do you have any other gap plans?

    I did receive a huge bill Karen, $138,000 (for 2 major surgeries, Neuro iCU, etc ) and my supplemental only had to pay the remaining 800$ that medicare did You want me to say Medicare did not pick up the $132,000 but they did. That is a fact, not a spin.

  18. Annie – “Any gifting away of assets has to be done a certain number of years before becoming eligible for Medicaid.”

    We learned this a year or so ago when my mom passed. I believe it is 5 years. Dad is still alive and we are trying to get his money he saved over to something like physical silver where no one will know he has it. I personally have converted as much as I can to silver so I can hand it off to who I want.

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