Five Bad Men Screw Us Again, Part 2

(1) As further evidence that the all-male, all-Roman Catholic, all-Republican majority on the Supreme Court is willing to sacrifice legal principles to ideology, consider this statement from Justice Alito’s opinion: “A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends”.

Among those ends, however, is limiting the liability of the corporation’s owners, as discussed in this article from Mother Jones. The author explains how ascribing the owners’ religious beliefs to a corporation undermines the idea of a corporation:

[Quoting from an earlier Supreme Court decision:] “Linguistically speaking, the employee and the corporation are different ‘persons’, even where the employee is the corporation’s sole owner. After all, incorporation’s basic purpose is to create a distinct legal entity, with legal rights, obligations, powers, and privileges different from those of the natural individuals who created it, who own it, or whom it employs.” 

That separation is what legal and business scholars call the “corporate veil,” and it’s fundamental to the entire operation. Now, thanks to the Hobby Lobby case, it’s in question. By letting Hobby Lobby’s owners assert their personal religious rights over an entire corporation, the Supreme Court has poked a major hole in the veil. In other words, if a company is not truly separate from its owners, the owners could be made responsible for its debts and other burdens.

(2) The Hobby Lobby ruling was supposedly a limited one. But anytime the Supreme Court rules, lower courts invariably extend the Supreme Court’s “logic” to other cases. Believe it or not, the Supreme Court itself has already ordered lower courts to do just that, as Mother Jones reports:

Less than a day after the United States Supreme Court issued its divisive ruling on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has already begun to toss aside the supposedly narrow interpretation of the decision. On Tuesday, the [Court] ordered lower courts to rehear any cases where companies had sought to deny coverage for any type of contraception, not just the specific types Hobby Lobby was opposed to.

In related news, religious leaders have written to the White House asking that proposed regulations regarding the hiring of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by federal contractors include a religious exemption.When this issue comes to the Supreme Court, we can expect the Republican majority to agree that discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation and even their gender is one more religious belief the government should not burden.

(3) In maybe he most bizarre development of all, the Court yesterday granted a request from Wheaton College to be temporarily exempted from filling out and distributing copies of a particular government form. The form in question allows a non-profit religious organization to declare its opposition to insurance coverage for contraceptives. From the Supreme Court’s ruling:

The applicant need not use the form prescribed by the Government, EBSA Form 700, and need not send copies to health insurance issuers or third-party administrators.

Instead, the Court said it would be sufficient to send a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services stating the organization’s opposition to contraception without identifying its health insurance issuer or third-party administrator. Apparently, the majority agreed that the prescribed use of Form 700 would constitute a serious burden on Wheaton College’s religious beliefs, while sending a letter to the government wouldn’t or didn’t.

The three women on the Supreme Court pointed out the absurdity of this latest ruling in a dissent called “unusually fierce” by the New York Times. Justice Sotomayor stated that this latest ruling “undermines confidence” in the Court. She also pointed out what should be obvious to everybody:

Thinking one’s religious beliefs are substantially burdened — no matter how sincere or genuine that belief may be — does not make it so.

(5) Remember to vote, even in mid-term elections like the one four months from now, and, most importantly, never vote for a Republican.

2 thoughts on “Five Bad Men Screw Us Again, Part 2

    • Sorry for the delayed approval of your comment. I’ve read a bit more about the Wheaton College ruling and the only thing I can surmise is that Wheaton College thought they were being too cooperative with the government by filling out the form (which is very brief for a government form) and sending a copy to their health plan administrator. One of the points made by Justice Sotomayor was that having the government try to determine who the health plan administrator is for an organization like Wheaton is a waste of the government’s time, especially if many organizations choose not to identify those administrators. But the main point Sotomayor made was that the court should decide whether a law burdens a religious organization, not take their word for it, which is what the majority did here.

      The good news (or bad news, depending on your point of view) is that the whole Supreme Court appears to agree that religious exemptions don’t apply to the payment of taxes! So taxes and death both remain certainties.

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