« Law - "Do Residency Bans Drive Sex Offenders Underground?" | Main | Ind. Gov't. - Ethics, ethics, ethics »

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Courts - "The Supreme Court term wrapped up nice and neat last week. Unless you are a woman."

That is the subhead to Dahlia Lithwick's column posted last evening on Slate. It begins:

For the first time in my memory as a reporter, there was a men’s term and a women’s term at the U.S. Supreme Court. The men’s term ended last Monday, with a pair of split decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn, and a lot of mumbling on both sides of the political spectrum about the fact that—as Supreme Court terms go—this was a fairly uncontroversial one, marked by high degrees of agreement and consensus-seeking by the justices, and minimalist, incremental changes where there might have been tectonic shifts.

Not so, for women, who—almost a week later—are still reeling over the implications of the Hobby Lobby decision for contraceptive care in America; still parsing the emergency injunction granted in the Wheaton College case only three days after the Hobby Lobby ruling came down; still mulling whether the Hobby Lobby decision may prove a boon for women in the long run; and generally trying to understand how a term that was characterized as minimalist and undramatic by many male commenters, even liberal male commenters, represented a tectonic shift not just for America’s women, but for the three women who actually sit up there and do their jobs at the high court.

And today Linda Greenhouse, now a contributing op-ed writer for the NY Times, has a long column headed "Reading Hobby Lobby in Context." It begins:
To grasp the full implications of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, it helps to read it not in isolation but alongside the court’s other major religion case of the term, Town of Greece v. Galloway. Issued eight weeks before Hobby Lobby and decided by the same 5 to 4 division, Town of Greece rejected a challenge to a town board’s practice of beginning its public sessions with a Christian prayer. A federal appeals court found the practice unconstitutional, concluding that it violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause by conveying an official endorsement of one particular religion.

In his controlling opinion overturning that ruling, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy brushed past the complaint raised by the two non-Christian plaintiffs who said that having to endure a Christian religious observance whenever they showed up to conduct business with the town board made them feel excluded from the community and diminished as citizens. “Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable,” Justice Kennedy wrote, adding that after all, there was no attempt at coercion or intimidation. “Legislative bodies do not engage in impermissible coercion merely by exposing constituents to prayer they would rather not hear and in which they need not participate,” he said.

Compare this breezy dismissal of a complaint by two actual people to the extreme solicitude five members of the court displayed two months later toward Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a multibillion-dollar corporation with 13,000 employees in some 500 locations. Given the undisputed sincerity of the religious beliefs of Hobby Lobby’s Evangelical Christian owners, the company couldn’t be required to comply with the mandate to include contraception coverage in its employee health plan, according to the majority opinion by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 10, 2014 01:21 PM
Posted to Courts in general