by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef’s latest column for Forbes focuses on the U.S. Supreme Court’s two major decisions Monday.
Those of us who believe that the federal government already far exceeds its constitutional (or merely proper) authority should applaud both decisions — but not too enthusiastically.
I say that because both decisions were defensive victories. By narrow majorities, the Court fended off attacks on the lines holding against further erosion of the First Amendment. Be glad about that, but the forces pushing for ever-increasing political control won’t stop just because two of their offensives were repulsed.
I wrote … about Harris v. Quinn shortly after the Court heard oral arguments back in January and wondered whether the Court would find an excuse to turn a blind eye to the nasty skullduggery that was going on. In brief, the case was about the way public unions had importuned their political allies (specifically, two Illinois governors) to help them extract money from people working as home health care assistants by declaring them to be government employees.
If ever there was a perfect illustration of the way labor unions use political clout to obtain members and money that they could not get through voluntary means, this case is it. The plaintiffs in Harris just wanted to be left alone to handle life’s travails. They did not want any of their money seized for dues, much less by a union whose political objectives some of them vigorously opposed.
Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion, which reversed the Seventh Circuit’s rubber stamping of this act of gluttony. He argued that the justifications offered for dragooning the plaintiffs into an unwanted union and making them pay it money did not even come close to satisfying the Court’s requirements for a “compelling state interest.” …
… Hobby Lobby also fended off a big government offensive, in that case a federal mandate under Obamacare that if an employer provides health insurance, it has to include coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients. The owners of the chain of stores objected to that requirement on religious grounds. They argued that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Congress was obligated to respect religious convictions and avoid regulations that unnecessarily impinge upon religious beliefs.
Again by 5-4, the Court agreed with the plaintiffs, holding that the government had failed to show good reason why the mandate was necessary and therefore that they are entitled to an exception from it.