Supreme Court Update

June 30, 2014

Supreme Court Update

The Supreme Court has ended its term by handing conservatives several qualified but important victories. In the areas of religious freedom, public-sector unionism, the pro-life movement, and executive overreach, the court dealt significant blows to the leftist agenda. They are:

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby: In February, Phyllis Schlafly wrote about the stakes in this case:

The issue in the Supreme Court case is that the Obama Administration is trying to force Hobby Lobby’s owners to provide abortion-inducing products that violate their religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby’s owners are not demanding that those products be banned or that anyone (including employees or customers) be prohibited from buying or using them. Hobby Lobby’s owners just do not want to insure items that violate their religious beliefs.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the Obamacare contraception mandate violates protections for freedom of conscience. Hobby Lobby’s owners will not have to choose between their business and their faith. The Hobby Lobby decision is narrowly tailored to the particulars of this case, and does not dismiss the idea that the government has a fundamental compelling interest in mandating abortion coverage.

Harris v. Quinn: Home healthcare workers were forced by Illinois law to pay dues to the Service Employees International Union, which then used the funds for political advocacy. Some of the workers sued, arguing that they should not have to fund an organization that they disagree with. The court ruled 5-4 that their First Amendment rights were violated. The decision considers these workers only “partial government employees,” leaving untouched the question of whether full-time government employees can be compelled to join a union.

McCullen v. Coakley: This case centered on a Massachusetts law that declared a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics that prohibited speech. The plaintiffs are “sidewalk counselors” who try to speak with women going into the clinics and encourage them to look at alternatives.  All of the justices agreed that the law was invalid under the First Amendment. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a concurring opinion in McCullen that, while agreeing with the court’s decision, points out how the speech of pro-lifers is still treated as different from other forms of political speech.

National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning: As part of his attempt to push past the boundaries set by the Constitution on executive power, President Obama filled vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board through recess appointments, even though the Senate was not in recess. All nine justices agreed that he exceeded his power and invalidated the appointments, although a concurring opinion written by Justice Scalia argues that the court should have further curtailed the recess appointment power.

Of course, these decisions hardly settle the questions they address, but they are nevertheless positive for the pro-family agenda. It is now up to voters and activists to build on these victories by electing the right candidates in November and ensuring that they work to advance traditional values, limited government, and national sovereignty.