Chad’s Morning Brief: Religious Liberty, The Supreme Court, and Obamacare, More Distortion on Racial Discipline Disparities, and Other Top Stories
Here is your Morning Brief for the morning of March 24, 2014. Give me your feedback below and tune in to The Chad Hasty Show for these and many more topics from 8:30 to 11am. Remember, you can listen online at KFYO.com or on your iPhone/Android with the radioPup App.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear challenges to Obamacare's birth control mandate on Tuesday. The case could redefine the limits of religious freedom in this country according to The Hill.
The high court on Tuesday will hear challenges to ObamaCare’s contentious “birth control mandate,” which requires companies to offer contraceptive services to workers as part of their insurance coverage.
If successful, the challenge could peel away a significant portion of the mandate, potentially affecting preventive health coverage for millions of women and striking a major blow to the law itself.
But the court’s ruling could also have far-reaching implications for religious liberty by allowing companies to claim First Amendment rights that the government says are reserved for individuals.
“It’s pretty huge,” said Laurie Sobel, a senior women’s policy analyst at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. “It’s hard to overstate the possible implications.”
The case pits the government against a pair of for-profit companies — the Hobby Lobby craft store chain and Conestoga Woods Specialties, a Pennsylvania-based cabinetmaker. The firms, who together employ thousands workers in nearly every state, say they should be exempted from the mandate to provide contraceptive coverage because the corporation’s owners object to it on religious grounds.
The two companies’ lawsuits — among some 90 legal assaults on the contraception mandate — were consolidated into a single case before the court. The firms cite both the First Amendment’s free exercise clause and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which provides that, “government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.”
In defense of the mandate, the government argues that corporations are not people and therefore are not are not afforded free exercise rights.
The firms — who could face millions of dollars worth of penalties if they are found subject to the regulations and refuse to abide — call the mandate a clear government overstep.
“Ultimately, whether it is the individuals, the corporations, or both who are exercising religion, the government cannot simply wish away the reality that its policies substantially burden Respondents’ religious exercise in a wholly unjustified manner,” Hobby Lobby argues in a legal brief filed last month.
The mandate, imposed via regulations drafted under the Affordable Care Act, requires, with some notable exceptions, companies to cover 20 FDA-approved contraceptive methods to workers at no cost.
The services run the gamut from condoms and oral contraceptives to intrauterine devices (IUD) and surgical sterilization.
Hobby Lobby and Conestoga do not object to regulations requiring them to cover the majority of the methods, which prevent pregnancy by blocking egg fertilization. The firms take exception with the Plan B or “morning-after” pill and the Ella, also known as the “week-after pill,” which block pregnancy by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.
Conestoga is operated by a family that follows Mennonite beliefs, which say a person’s intentional termination of a fertilized egg is “intrinsic evil and a sin against God to which they are held accountable,” according to an American Bar Association overview of the case. They oppose both Plan B and Ella.
The Christian family that runs Hobby Lobby, which believes life begins with the fertilization of an egg, argues their beliefs preclude offering coverage for either of those pills, or two kinds of IUDs.
The companies could face steep $100-a-day penalties for each employee if they violate the regulations. That works out to nearly $475 a year for Hobby Lobby, which covers more than 13,000 workers, Sobel said.
Conestoga, with 950 employees, would face penalties approaching $35 million annually.
Attorneys for the firms note that the government has already exempted houses of worship and companies with fewer than 50 employees from the regulations, and has provided additional accommodations for non-profits with direct religious affiliations that hold the same objections as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga.
Thus, Hobby Lobby’s brief argues, the regulations draw a distinction absent in the Constitution or the RFRA.
“The government’s effort to dismiss that burden as insubstantial is belied by the draconian fines for non-compliance and its willingness to accommodate others with the exact same beliefs,” the firm charges.
But women’s health advocates say a ruling in favor of the firms could lead to a spike in abortions by limiting access to birth control. The healthcare law, they argue, guarantees a woman’s choice of contraceptive method.
“Access to no cost birth control allows women to choose what’s best, not just what’s cheapest,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
The advocates say denying these services to women while allowing the full range of men’s healthcare options is tantamount to discrimination.
They point to other court rulings that prohibit businesses from denying services based on religious beliefs.
“They are out of bounds, they are out of touch, they are out of line,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “And our bodies are not our bosses business.”
If Hobby Lobby prevails, the weakened mandate would likely remain in place. But it could also bode well for a series of other cases winding their way through the courts on the mandate.
In the face of those cases, the mandate — like ObamaCare in its entirety — is threatened with death by a thousand cuts.
However, the government has multiple paths to victory in the case. First, it will attempt to convince the justices that a company is not, in the context of RFRA, a “person” capable of religious belief.
If the court disagrees, the government can still make the case that the firms are not substantially burdened by the regulations. And even if they are, that burden can be deemed acceptable if it comes as the result of a “compelling government interest” to protect women’s health and that the goal is accomplished in the least restrictive way.
Failure on all of those counts could open the floodgates to a torrent of actions designed to bolster the religious rights of businesses, experts say.
The case comes to the Supreme Court on the heels of Arizona’s debate over a law (approved by the state legislature, but ultimately vetoed) that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to any customer on the basis of their religious views.
Similar proposals have cropped up in Kansas, Oklahoma and elsewhere, Sobel said.
“There’s a lot of stake here,” said Yeshiva University law professor Marci A. Hamilton. “This is the heart of the culture war.”
The magnitude will be evident at the Supreme Court Tuesday, as was the case on the sweltering day in June of 2012 when throngs of ObamaCare supporters and opponents gathered for the court’s decision to uphold the law’s individual mandate.
This time around, proponents of the contraceptive mandate say their side alone will have as many as 1,000 supporters on hand.
“We will be out in force at the Supreme Court on Tuesday,” Richards said.
Discipline in the Classrooms
Last Friday, the government released a study showing that black students are suspended and expelled at a higher rate than white students. A report last year showed the same results. National Review has an angle that you probably won't hear in the mainstream press. Instead of blaming the school and treating schools like they are racists, why don't civil-rights advocates address what is really happening in the black community across America?
This latest Civil Rights Data Collection Snapshot includes preschool suspension rates for the first time, and they, too, are racially skewed: Black preschoolers are 42 percent of the students suspended once, and 48 percent of the students suspended more than once though they are only 18 percent of preschool enrollment. Pre-K suspensions are exceedingly rare, however: Fewer than 5,000 students out of over 1 million preschoolers were suspended once in the 2011 school year, 2,500 students more than once.
The media and the civil-rights complex responded on cue with the usual handwringing about racial “inequity.”
“To see that young African-American students — or babies, as I call them — are being suspended from pre-K programs at such horrendous rates is deeply troubling,” Leticia Smith-Evans, interim director of education practice at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, told the New York Times. (Ms. Smith-Evans ignored the fact that “such horrendous rates” only affect a little over a thousand black “babies” nationwide.) “It’s incredible to think about or fathom what pre-K students could be doing to get suspended from schools.”
Actually, what Ms. Smith-Evans should be trying to fathom is the black crime rate, which explains the school-suspension rate. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic males of the same age combined. Given such high crime rates, what do the civil-rights advocates and the Obama administration think is going on in the classroom — docile obedience and strict self-discipline? In fact, the same weak impulse control that leads to such high crime rates among young black males inevitably means more disruptive behavior in school.
Also on Friday, the New York media reported that a 14-year-old boy riding a bus in Brooklyn the previous night had opened fire on the bus and fatally shot an innocent 39-year-old passenger in the head. Did anyone doubt the race of the killer, even though the media did not disclose it? Blacks commit nearly 80 percent of all shootings in New York City, even though they are only 23 percent of the population; whites commit less than 2 percent of all shootings in New York City, though they are 35 percent of the population. The chance that that young bus killer was a model pupil, quietly paying attention in class and not disturbing his fellow students and teacher, is close to zero. (Follow-up stories revealed that the shooter was a member of Bedford Stuyvesant’s Stack Money Goons crew, and had been moved to open fire when three members of the rival Twan Family boarded the bus.)
If the civil-rights industry refuses to acknowledge the behavior that leads to disparate discipline rates, it is even more resistant to confronting the root of both the black school discipline and crime problems. In many urban areas, the black illegitimacy rate is well over 80 percent. Boys growing up without fathers are overwhelmingly more likely to lack self-discipline and the ability to control their anger than boys growing up with married parents. And those behavioral problems show up early. School administrators have been reporting rising violence among ever younger students for years. “We see aggressive behavior from kindergarten up,” Lawrence Jointer, the director of hearings for the Alexandria, Va., school district told the Washington Post in 2012. Student behavior has been worsening over the last four decades, he said.
None of the federal studies mention or control for single-parent households, of course. Instead, we are supposed to believe that well-meaning teachers, who have spent their entire time in ed school steeped in the doctrine of “white privilege” and who are among the most liberal segments of the workforce, suddenly become bigots once in the classroom and begin arbitrarily suspending pacific black children out of racial bias. Oddly, the civil-rights industry never accuses schools of being biased against boys, even though males are as over-represented among disciplined students as blacks. In this case, there would actually be a colorable basis for making such a bias charge, since teachers are indoctrinated in anti-male ideology throughout ed school. Nevertheless, everyone accepts gender disparities in discipline, and not only because no one gives a damn about males these days. It is simply common sense that boys are more likely to be aggressive and impulsive than girls. Given the black–white crime disparities, it is equally common sense that black students are more likely to be disruptive in class as well.
The refusal to take student behavior and family breakdown into account in interpreting student discipline rates means that more millions of taxpayer dollars will be wasted suing hapless school districts for phantom racism and sending teachers and administrators back to anti-racism training. The advocacy and anti-bias training complex cleans up, while the root cause of student misbehavior still goes unaddressed.
Other Top Stories:
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