Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fourth Circuit Strikes Proof-of-Religion Requirement in Prison


The Fourth Circuit ruled in Wall v. Wade that a Virginia prison's requirement that inmates show physical indicia of their faith before participating in Ramadan violated the Free Exercise Clause.

The case arose when Wall, an inmate at the Red Onion State Prison, or ROSP, in Pound, Virginia, sought a religious accommodation to participate in Ramadan--special meals served before sunrise and after sunset.  But ROSP policy required prisoners to show "physical indicia" of their faith--such as a Quran, Kufi, prayer rug, or written religious materials obtains from the prison Chaplain's office--before receiving the accommodation.  Wall had none of these, because his "physical indicia" were lost when he was transferred to ROSP from another facility.  So officials denied his accommodation.

Wall nevertheless skipped breakfast and concealed a portion of his meal in his cell to save until after sunset.  ROSP staff discovered the food and threatened to charge Wall with possessing contraband.  As the court wrote, "Faced with choosing between starvation and sanctions, Wall ate during the day and violated his religious beliefs."

Wall filed formal complaints and later sued, arguing that ROSP policy as applied to him violated RLUIPA and the Free Exercise Clause.  The district court dismissed the case, but the Fourth Circuit reversed.

The court held that the policy violated the four-part test in Turner v. Safley:

First, demanding specific physical items as proof of faith will rarely be an acceptable means of achieving the prison's stated interest in reducing costs.  Strict application of such a rule fails even a rational connection requirement. . . .

[Second, i]t is clear that Wall was absolutely precluded from observing Ramadan because of the defendants' actions. . . .

[Third, w]e are not satisfied that the defendants have sufficiently explained how a less restrictive policy would have imposed a significant burden on prison resources. . . .

Finally, we are satisfied that there existed "easy[] [and] obvious alternatives" to the challenged regulation.

The court ruled that Wall's rights were "clearly established," and that ROSP officials therefore did not enjoy qualified immunity.

The court also rejected the claim that Wall's case was moot in light of the Prison's changed policy.  Applying the "voluntary cessation" doctrine, the court wrote,  "We have no difficulty concluding that the defendants failed to meet their "heavy burden" of establishing that it is not "absolutely clear" the 2010 Ramadan policy will not be reinstated." 

February 4, 2014 in Cases and Case Materials, Free Exercise Clause, Fundamental Rights, News, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Court Enjoins Government from Enforcing Contraception Certification

Judge Lee H. Rosenthal (S.D. Texas) on Friday enjoined the government from applying regulations that require "nonprofit religious organizations" to execute the self-certification forms that enable their health insurers to provide health insurance coverage for emergency contraception under Obamacare.

The ruling in East Texas Baptist University v. Sebelius says that the plaintiffs, "nonprofit religious organizations," have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their challenge to the regulations under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The ruling is now at least the twelfth on the issue, and the cases are split.  Judge Rosenthal cites the cases in footnote 2, starting on page 2.  (These are different than the challenges to the contraception mandate by secular for-profit corporations, the case going to the Supreme Court.)

The challenged government regulations require "religious employers" that are not exempt from the contraception mandate to self-certify that they meet the criteria for "eligible organization" (opposes contraception coverage, is a nonprofit, and holds itself out as a religious organization) to their insurer or third-party administrator.  If the employer so certifies, the insurer or third-party administrator must expressly exclude contraception coverage from the group plan, but must also provide separate payments for contraception for plan participants.  (The issuer must segregate premium revenue collected from the eligible organization from the monies used to make payments for contraception services.) 

The regs attempt to build a firewall between an eligible organization and contraception provided by the insurer or third-party administrator. They were designed as a compromise for these organizations that aren't churches (on the one hand) or for-profit corporations (on the other, whose challenge to the contraception mandate is going to the Supreme Court), but organizations that have a religious dimension.

Still, many of these organizations have balked at the certification requirement.  And here (and elsewhere), they've won.

Judge Rosenthal ruled that the RFRA uses a subjective standard, from the perspective of the organization, to determine whether the government regs create a substantial burden:

But under RFRA case law, if the plaintiffs are themselves compelled or pressured by threat of punitive fines to: 1) themselves take or forbear from an action; and 2) it is their own action or forbearance that they find religiously offensive, there is a substantial burden.

Op. at 36.

Here he said there was a substantial burden--the self-certification process:

The plaintiffs have demonstrated that the mandate and accomodation will compel them to engage in an affirmative act and that they find this act--their own act--to be religiously offensive.  That act is completing and providing to their issuer or TPA the self-certification forms.  The act of self-certification does more than simply state the organization's religious objection to covering or paying for its employees to get emergency contraception.  The self-certification act designates the organization's TPA as the TPA for contraception coverage.  The act tells the TPA or issuer that it must provide the organization's employees coverage that gives those employees free access to emergency contraceptive devices and products.  That act tells the TPA or issuer that it must notify the employees of that benefit.

. . .

But the self-certification form requires the organizations to do much more than simply protest or object.  The purpose of the form is to enable the provision of the very contraceptive services to the organization's employees that the organization finds abhorrent. . . .  The purpose and effect of the form is to accomplish what the organization finds religiously forbidden and protests.  If the organizations do not act in the way the accomodation requires, they face onerous fines.

. . .

But under the accommodation, the plaintiffs' employees would obtain coverage and no-cost-sharing payments for emergency contraception only because the employees are otherwise covered by the plaintiffs' group health plan.  The government has taken significant steps to separate this payment from the group health plan.  But the coverage and payment for employees to obtain emergency contraceptive products and devices is because those employees are covered by the group health plan that the plaintiff put into place.

Op. at 36-39.

Having determined that there was a substantial burden, Judge Rosenthal proceeded to apply strict scrutiny.  As to the fit under strict scrutiny, the court said that the government didn't satisfy the least-restrictive-means test, because there were other ways for the government to achieve its interests:

The courts have identified several "less restrictive means" of serving the interests the government has identified [in promoting public health and ensuring equal access by women to health care services] than a total denial of the religious exemption request.  One is to have the government provide the contraceptive services or coverage directly to those who want them but cannot get them from their religious-organization employers. . . .  Another alternative would be to have the government work with third parties to provide emergency contraception without requiring the plaintiffs' active participation.  Still another alternative could be to have the employee self-certify on an as-needed basis that their employer is a religious nonprofit that does not provide coverage for such services.

Op. at 43.

The ruling now adds to the body of lower-court case law.  With the growing split, this is surely yet another issue (in addition to the question whether the contraception mandate violates the religious rights of secular for-profits) headed for the Supreme Court.

December 30, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Free Exercise Clause, News, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Federal District Judge Finds Portions of Utah's Criminalization of Polygamy Unconstitutional

In a 91 page  opinion  in Brown v. Buhman,  federal district judge Clark Waddoups has concluded that Utah's anti-bigamy statute is partially unconstitutional. 

Sister wivesThe statute, Utah Code Ann. § 76-7-101, provides:

  •             (1) A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.
  •             (2) Bigamy is a felony of the third degree.
  •             (3) It shall be a defense to bigamy that the accused reasonably believed he and the other person were legally eligible to remarry.

The challengers to the statute, the Browns, are famous from the reality program Sister Wives and the accompanying book ) and are represented by Professor  Jonathan Turley,  who blogs about the case here.


The judge's scholarly opinion includes a discussion of Edward Said's groundbreaking book Orientalism as a critique of the well-known passage in the United States Supreme Court’s 1879 decision in Reynolds v. United States upholding the criminalization of polygamy by reasoning, in part, that "Polygamy has always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe, and, until the establishment of the Mormon Church, was almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people."

Judge Waddoups considers both the due process challenge (applying Washington v. Glucksberg) and the free exercise challenge (applying Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah). 

In the due process analysis, the judge specifically found

 there is no “fundamental right” to polygamy under Glucksberg. To phrase it with a “careful description” of the asserted right [citations omitted],  no “fundamental right” exists to have official State recognition or legitimation of individuals’ “purported” polygamous marriages—relationships entered into knowing that one of the parties to such a plural marriage is already legally married in the eyes of the State. The fundamental right or liberty interest that was under consideration in Glucksberg is instructive for the analysis of whether the asserted right to polygamy is “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition, and implicit in the concept of ordered liberty, such that neither liberty nor justice would exist if they were sacrificed.”

The judge also found that the criminalization of what it called the "religious cohabitation" portion of the statute did not rise to the level of a fundamental right, extensively discussing Lawrence v. Texas and the Tenth Circuit's limiting interpretation of Lawrence. 

However, the judge did find that "the cohabitation prong does not survive rational basis review under the substantive due process analysis."  This analysis implicitly imported a type of equal protection analysis, with the judge concluding:

Adultery, including adulterous cohabitation, is not prosecuted. Religious cohabitation, however, is subject to prosecution at the limitless discretion of local and State prosecutors, despite a general policy not to prosecute religiously motivated polygamy. The court finds no rational basis to distinguish between the two, not least with regard to the State interest in protecting the institution of marriage.

Complementing this conclusion regarding discriminatory enforcement, the judge's free exercise of religion analysis concludes that while the Utah statute may be facially neutral, the cohabitation prong is not "operationally neutral" and not of general applicability.  The judge therefore applied strict scrutiny to the cohabitation prong and easily concluded the statute failed.

As an alternative free exercise analysis, the judge reasoned that the cohabitation prong also merited strict scrutiny because it involved a "hybrid rights" analysis under Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith (1990), given the claims of due process, but also claims that the judge did not extensively analyzes such as free association, free speech, establishment, and equal protection.  

Thus, the judge concluded the cohabitation prong of the statute is "unconstitutional on numerous grounds."  However, the court explicitly narrowed the constructions of  “marry” and “purports to marry" in the statute, so that the Utah statute continues to "remain in force as prohibiting bigamy in the literal sense—the fraudulent or otherwise impermissible possession of two purportedly valid marriage licenses for the purpose of entering into more than one purportedly legal marriage."  Not surprisingly then, the judge's opinion does not cite the Supreme Court's opinion last term in United States v. Windsor involving DOMA and same-sex marriage, in which Justice Scalia, dissenting, invoked the effect the decision would have on polygamy. [I've previously discussed the similarities of same-sex marriage and polygamy claims here].

Given the district judge's narrowing construction and the clear constitutional issues with the Utah statute's breadth, it might be possible that the state does not appeal.

 

[video via]

December 14, 2013 in Books, Equal Protection, Establishment Clause, Family, Federalism, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Survey of Recent Commentaries on the Religious Rights of Corporations in the Context of the ACA

With Hobby Lobby (and Conestoga Wood) headed to the United States Supreme Court, there's more and more commentary on the issue of whether a for-profit secular corporation, or its "owners" has a right to free exercise of religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause sufficient to be exempted from compliance with the ACA's so-called contraception mandate requiring most employers to provide employees with health insurance that includes contraception.

Interestingly, after the grant of certiorari, some news reports headlined the religiousity of corporations aspect while others headlined the ACA contraception provision. 

The issue has generated many commentaries which often take very polarized positions.  Here's a round-up:

450px-Arthaberpark_Figurengruppe

*     Garrett Epps' Hobby Lobby and the New 'Alienable' Rights in The Atlantic argues that "market triumphalism" is at the heart - - - and will determine - - - cases such as Hobby Lobby.  “In case after case, the Supreme Court, and some of the lower courts, have looked at speech cases solely from the point of view of the asset holder.”   The abstract “inalienable” framework of rights in the Constitution has been transformed into rights as  “assets”  that can be treated as property and owned by corporations, especially those that are assumed to “create” the jobs encompassing the rights being asserted by the individuals.  "The employees have no right to complain; they sold their rights on the free market."

*    Richard Garnett's The Righteousness in Hobby Lobby’s Cause in the LA Times argues that Hobby Lobby should be praised for maintaining and supporting responsible corporate ethics through religious commitment. "Like millions of religious believers and groups," these corporations "reject the idea that religious faith and religious freedom are simply about what we believe and how we pray, and not also about how we live, act and work."  At  "the heart"  of these cases "is the straightforward argument that federal law does not require us to 'check our faith at the door' when we pursue vocations in business and commerce."

*     Linda Greenhouse's  Doesn’t Eat, Doesn’t Pray and Doesn’t Love, in NY Times contends that the conflict is not really over religion but part of the continuing culture war surround sex.  “To the extent that the “contraceptive project” changes anything on the American reproductive landscape, it will be to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy and abortion. The objection, then, has to be not to the mandate’s actual impact but to its expressive nature, its implicit endorsement of a value system that says it’s perfectly O.K. to have sex without the goal of making a baby. While most Americans surely share this view, given the personal choices they make in their own lives, many nonetheless find it uncomfortable to acknowledge.”

 *    Dahlia Lithwick's Un-People over at Slate argues that the "conservative crusade to declare everything a “person”—corporations, fertilized eggs—will have disastrous consequences."  Lithwick notes the extension from Citizens United: "Corporate Personhood is back! And this time, it’s got God on its side.”  She predicts the consequences: "If for-profit secular corporations have religious beliefs, companies run by Christian Scientists can be free to limit medical treatment and those run by Jehovah's Witnesses could object to paying for blood transfusions. Artificially created constructs that exist to shield owners from lawsuits will be able to shield owners from compliance with basic civil rights laws."

*    David Catron's SCOTUS, Hobby Lobby, and Media Practice over at The American Spectator argues against the "mainstream media" characterizations:  “Those Americans still naïve enough to rely on establishment news outlets for information on current events are being told that Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius are part of a sinister conspiracy to restrict access to birth control, endow corporations with religious rights, and escalate the 'war on women.'" Instead, the main question should be this: "Can the government strip individuals of their religious liberties simply because they own a controlling interest in a corporation?"

*    Sally Cohn's When Religion and Liberty Collide over at the Daily Beast draws on originalist interpretations of the First Amendment's religion clauses that  "freedom *from* religion" is central.  She contends that "the settlers who came to America wanted to express their own religious beliefs, but an equal if not greater motivation was escaping the reality of religious tyranny embedded in government," and to "put it mildly, our forbearers would be appalled by how right-wing conservatives are trying to use government to force their religious views on all of us."

*    David Skeel's Corporations and Religious Freedom in WSJ argues that even if corporate religious rights are recognized, that doesn't mean there will be a flood of cases.  Corporations will need to meet the sincerity requirement "and sincerity is much easier to determine with a corporation than with an individual, since there is no need to look inside the heart of a corporation. If a corporation's certificate of incorporation requires that it be operated in accordance with religious principles, or if its board of directors has established a clear and explicit practice of pursuing religious objectives, it would qualify. Otherwise it would not."

*    Clarence Page's Law Protects All Faiths, Not All Behavior Op-Ed in The Chicago Tribune discusses the legal landscape in accessible terms, ultimately relying upon the belief/practice distinction as articulated  "in the 1878 test case of the bigamy conviction of George Reynolds, the personal secretary to Mormon leader Brigham Young."

*     Angelo Young's The Same Religious Conviction That Has Hobby Lobby Challenging Obamacare is Also Why Its Full Timers Start at $14 an Hour with Evenings (and Thanksgiving Off)  in International Business Times argues exactly what its title captures.  Focusing on Hobby Lobby, the article has an interview with David Green, the 73-year-old founder, including Green's comments about salary increases because "Our idea is that we should care about our people. It’s just a basic Christian do-unto-others idea."

*    Amanda Marcotte's Christian Conservatives Have Perfected Playing the Victim Card in Salon (via alternet) argues that by the controversy is fueled by conservatives "redefining “religious freedom” to mean its opposite."  She says  the "hope is that by repeatedly using the term “religious freedom” when they mean “giving the Christian right power to impose their faith on others,” they can eventually drain the phrase of all its meaning and finally, after decades of fighting secularism, make it easier for the religious right to strip away individual protections for religion.”

*    Megan McArdle's A Fight Over Contraception Won’t Help Obamacare Op-Ed in Bloomberg contends that the Obama Administration should "pick its battles carefully."  She argues that if the ACA is to be " viable for the long term" it will "need the support of folks like Hobby Lobby."  

We previously discussed
Ruthann Robson's Puzzling Corporations: The Affordable Care Act and Contraception Mandate originally published over at Jurist, and
Marci Hamilton's Why the En Banc Tenth Circuit’s Interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius Is Indefensible, originally published over at Justia.

[image via]

ADDITIONS:

Bill Keller, Conscience of a Corporation, Op-Ed Column in NYT (February 13, 2013).

 

 

 

Why the En Banc Tenth Circuit’s Interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius Is Indefensible - See more at: http://verdict.justia.com/2013/07/11/why-the-en-banc-tenth-circuits-interpretation-of-the-religious-freedom-restoration-act-in-hobby-lobby-v-sebelius-is-indefensible#sthash.WwGYDXTo.dpuf
Why the En Banc Tenth Circuit’s Interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius Is Indefensible - See more at: http://verdict.justia.com/2013/07/11/why-the-en-banc-tenth-circuits-interpretation-of-the-religious-freedom-restoration-act-in-hobby-lobby-v-sebelius-is-indefensible#sthash.WwGYDXTo.dpuf
Why the En Banc Tenth Circuit’s Interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius Is Indefensible - See more at: http://verdict.justia.com/2013/07/11/why-the-en-banc-tenth-circuits-interpretation-of-the-religious-freedom-restoration-act-in-hobby-lobby-v-sebelius-is-indefensible#sthash.WwGYDXTo.dpufwere discussed on conlawprof previously

December 13, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Current Affairs, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Gender, Interpretation, Religion, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Religious Right Not To Bake a Cake for a Same-Sex Wedding Rejected by ALJ

Wedding-blue-fond-bows-273x300In Craig and Mullins v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, Inc., the subject is not the ACA ("Obamacare") as in the cases recently granted certiorari by the United States Supreme Court, or even a UK hotel or wedding photographs, both of which we discussed here, but a cake.  But all these cases raise a similar question: can a secular for-profit corporation, or its owners, be exempted from a law by reason of a religious belief? 

The 14 page opinion  of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in Masterpiece Cakeshop firmly rejects the arguments of the Cakeshop, reasoning that to accept its position would be to "allow a business that served all races to nonetheless refuse to serve an interracial couple because of the business owner’s bias against interracial marriage."  The ALJ was not persuaded by the fact that Colorado, where the cakeshop is located, does not recognize same-sex weddings, because the cakeshop owner admitted he would feel similarly if it were a same-sex commitment ceremony or civil union, neither of which is forbidden by state law.  Indeed, nothing compels the cakeshop or its owner "to recognize the legality of a same-sex wedding or to endorse such weddings," only, like "other actors in the marketplace serve same-sex couples in exactly the same way they would serve heterosexual ones."

The ALJ rejected the contention that "preparing a wedding cake is necessarily a medium of expression amounting to protected 'speech,' " or that compelling the treatment of  "same-sex and heterosexual couples equally is the equivalent of forcing"  adherence to “an ideological point of view.”  The ALJ continued that while there "is no doubt that decorating a wedding cake involves considerable skill and artistry," the "finished product does not necessarily qualify as 'speech.'"

As to the free exercise claim, the ALJ noted that the regulation at issue distinctly regulated conduct rather than belief.  The ALJ rejected the contention that it merited strict scrutiny, noting that the anti-discrimination statute was a neutral law of general applicability and thus should be evaluated under a rational basis test.  The ALJ also rejected the argument "because the public accommodation law not only restricts their free exercise of religion, but also restricts their freedom of speech and amounts to an unconstitutional “taking” of their property without just compensation in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments"  a hybrid right meriting strict scrutiny was involved.  For the ALJ, the "mere incantation" of other constitutional rights does not a hybrid claim create.

The remedy was a cease and desist order rather than damages. 

[image: one of the cakes advertised on the Masterpiece Cakeshop website]

 

 

December 7, 2013 in First Amendment, Food and Drink, Free Exercise Clause, Opinion Analysis, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, Speech | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

United States Supreme Court Grants Certiorari on Religious Claims of Secular For-Profit Corporation

As widely expected, United States Supreme Court has granted the petitions for writ of certiorari to the Tenth Circuit's divided en banc opinion in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius as well as to the Third Circuit's divided opinion in Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation v. Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services.  

SCOTUS
Supreme Court Justices by Donkey Hotey

 

In lengthy opinions, the Tenth Circuit en banc in Hobby Lobby  essentially divided 5-3 over the issue of whether a corporation, even a for-profit secular corporation, has a right to free exercise of religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause.  The majority essentially concluded there was such a right and that the right was substantially burdened by the requirement of the PPACA that employer insurance plans include contraception coverage for employees. 

The majority of the Third Circuit panel opinion in Conestoga Wood Specialities Corporation, articulated the two possible theories under which a for-profit secular corporation might possess Free Exercise rights and rejected both.  First, the majority rejected the notion that the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation could "directly" exercise religion in accord with Citizens United v. Fed. Election Comm’n (2010), distinguishing free speech from free exercise of religion.  Second, the majority rejected the so-called "pass through" theory in which for-profit corporations can assert the free exercise rights of their owners, and concluded that the PPACA did not actually require the persons who are owners to "do" anything.

For ConLaw Profs, here are some useful links:  A discussion of the most recent circuit case, decided earlier in November by the Seventh Circuit, is here;  a digest of the previous circuit court cases and some discussion of the controversy is here, some interesting hypotheticals (good for teaching and exam purposes) as posed by Seventh Circuit Judge Rovner are here,  ConLawProf Marci Hamilton's discussion is here, a critique of the sincerity of claims in Eden Foods is here,  a discussion of the district judge's opinion in Hobby Lobby is here,  a discussion of the Tenth Circuit en banc opinion in Hobby Lobby is here, and the SCOTUSblog page with briefs is here.

[image: Supreme Court Justices by Donkey Hotey via]

~Ruthann Robson

November 26, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Family, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Gender, Religion, Supreme Court (US), Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Should Veterans Have Veterans' Day Off? Constitutional Concerns

The Veterans Day Off Bill, reintroduced by Congressperson Bruce Braley of Iowa this year would require employers with more than 50 employees to give any veteran Veterans Day off, with or without pay.   The bill includes an exemption for cases in which the day off would negatively impact public health or safety, or cause significant economic or operational disruption.

War_Memorial_(Marion_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(marD0061)The major concerns about the constitutionality of the bill are twofold.

First, there could be an equality challenge.  Nonveterans could challenge the law as a denial of the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment.  Certainly the law would be making a classification between veterans and nonveterans.  However, this classification receives receives the lowest level of scrutiny from the courts: the government would have the legitimate interest of "honoring veterans" and a single day off, that could be without pay, would most likely be reasonable.   It would be similar to veterans preferences in government employment which have been held constitutional, even though they have a disparate negative impact on women, as in Personnel Administrator of Massachusetts v. Feeney, decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1979.

Second, there could be a challenge to Congressional power to require private employers to allow employees a day off.  Requirements that private employers do not practice race or sex discrimination, or comply with wage and hour laws, or provide family medical leave, have all been held constitutional.  This law would be similar to those laws, as well as the the federal law protecting employment for those serving in the military, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).   The Bill does not apply to employees working for state governments where the Eleventh Amendment could serve as a potential bar to lawsuits seeking to vindicate rights.

Lastly, should the United States Supreme Court ever recognize that secular for-profit corporations have a free exercise of religion right under the First Amendment, the future could bring a challenge by the major shareholders of a corporation that sells sequins or makes kitchen cabinets  or sells groceries on the basis that the shareholders are Quakers, for example, who have a sincere and deeply held pacifist religious belief that would be burdened by being mandated to support a day off for someone who had participated in the activities of war.

[image: The Afghanistan-Iraq War Memorial in Salem, Oregon, via]


November 11, 2013 in Commerce Clause, Current Affairs, Eleventh Amendment, Equal Protection, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Federal Judge Upholds New Jersey's Prohibition of Sexual Conversion Therapy

Federal district judge Freda Wolfson has upheld the constitutionality of  New Jersey A3371 banning "sexual orientation change efforts" (SOCE), also known as sexual conversion therapy, on minors in her extensive opinion in King v. Christie. 

Brain painting

Recall that Chris Christie - - - now the recently re-elected Governor of New Jersey - - - signed the bill into law last August, accompanied by a signing statement, and that the plaintiffs, including Tara King, a licensed professional counselor, as well as National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (“NARTH”) and American Association of Christian Counselors (“AACC”), argued that the statute violates their First Amendment rights of free speech, rights of their clients to "receive information," and free exercise of religion, as well as clients' parental due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, in addition to concomitant rights under the New Jersey state constitution.

The district judge found that the First Amendment challenges raised by the plaintiffs were the most serious ones, but also found that the statute restricts neither speech nor religious expression,  and that the statute survived rational basis scrutiny.

Regarding speech, Judge Wolfson concluded that on its face, the statute plainly regulates conduct, quoting the statutory language:

  “shall not engage in sexual orientation change efforts,” and further defines “‘sexual orientation change efforts” as “the practice of seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation.”

(emphasis in opinion).  She extensively discussed the Ninth Circuit's opinion in Pickup v. Brown, upholding a smiliar California statute prohibiting SOCE.  She briefly distinguished the federal district judge's opinion in Wollschlaeger v. Farmer declaring unconstitutional Florida's prohibition of physicians asking patients about gun ownership, noting that unlike the Florida law, the NJ statute "does not seek to regulate the conveying of information, only the application of a particular therapeutic method." She also confronted the implications of the plaintiffs' arguments:

there is a more fundamental problem with Plaintiffs’ argument, because taken to its logical end, it would mean that any regulation of professional counseling necessarily implicates fundamental First Amendment free speech rights, and therefore would need to withstand heightened scrutiny to be permissible. Such a result runs counter to the longstanding principle that a state generally may enact laws rationally regulating professionals, including those providing medicine and mental health services.

She likewise rejected the argument that there was sufficient expressive conduct to merit an analysis under the intermediate scrutiny standard of O'Brien, finding instead that rational basis was the appropriate standard and switching to a due process analysis, having "rejected Plaintiffs' First Amendment free speech challenge."  (footnote 22).  Not surprisingly, she finds this standard easily satisfied.  Relatedly, she easily concludes that the challenge to the term "sexual orientation" as vague and the challenge to the statute as overbroad are both without merit.

As to the free exercise of religion challenge, Judge Wolfson concludes that the statute is a neutral one of general applicability and rejects the argument that the statute's exceptions create a disproportionate impact on religious expression.  Again, she concludes that rational basis applies and for the same rationales discussed in the free speech analysis, the statute easily satisfies the standard.

In other matters, the judge found that the plaintiffs did not have sufficient Article III standing to raise the injuries to their minor clients and their parents.  On the other hand, the judge granted intervernor status to Garden State Equality.

The judge's opinion is a well reasoned one, and is certainly buoyed by the Ninth Circuit's similar conclusion. 

The plaintiffs filed a Notice of Appeal  immediately, so the matter is already on its way to the Third Circuit.

[image: Diagram of the Brain circa 1300 via]

November 9, 2013 in Due Process (Substantive), Family, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Speech, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Robson on Corporate Religion and the ACA's Contraception Mandate

ConLawProfBlog's own Ruthann Robson (CUNY) just posted her thoughtful take on the several oddities that arise when courts consider whether corporations are religious persons in Puzzling Corporations: The Affordable Care Act and Contraception Mandate over at Jurist.org.  Robson exposes the inconsistencies, the hypocrisies, and the unintended consequences in the on-going cases and debates over whether a for-profit corporation is a religious-rights-bearing entity that can skirt the ACA's contraception mandate.

Robson has covered the issue--whether the ACA's contraception mandate violates a corporation's religious liberties (and the included issue whether a corporation can even have religious liberties)--here (Gilardi v. HHS), here (Eden Foods v. Sebelius), here (Autocam Corp. v. Sebelius), here (Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Secretary of HHS), and, of course, here (Hobby Lobby).

Robson argues that the question whether a corporation can have religious liberties has several problems.  First, the profit: historically, religious entities that enjoyed religious liberties (like those in Gonzalez v. O Centro Espirita and Church of the Lukumi Bablu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah) were nonprofits.  But the Tenth Circuit ruled in Hobby Lobby that "sincerely religious persons could find a connection between the exercise of religion and the pursuit of profit."  Next, "the secular shape of many corporations . . . is ill-suited to sectarianism.  There is little, if anything, to alert a consumer or a job applicant that one is engaging with a religious entity."  Finally, there's a slippery slope: treating a for-profit corporation as a religious-rights-bearing person could lead to exemptions for that corporation from all manner of federal requirements that interfere with the corporation's "beliefs."

Robson also shows why attributing the free exercise claims of shareholders to a corporation, or pass-through, is a problem.  "In asserting religious rights, corporations seek to pierce their own corporate veils for the purposes of some sectarian principles such as contraception coverage for employees, but presumably to keep their protective masks in place regarding personal liability."

Treating all these claims as sincerely held religious beliefs probably gives them too much credit, though.  As Robson reminds us, Eden Food's founder's case wasn't really a religious objection to the contraception mandate.  Instead, it was a "laissez-faire, anti-government screed" (the Sixth Circuit's phrase, not Robson's), with decidedly "sexist and anti-worker" overtones (Robson's phrase, not the Sixth Circuit's).  So Robson asks, "If a corporation can have a religion, is it coincidence that its most deeply held and sincere beleifs are in opposition to equality and democracy?"

November 6, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Free Exercise Clause, News, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 1, 2013

DC Circuit Finds Corporate Shareholders' Religious Freedom Burdened by ACA's Contraceptive Mandate

In a divided opinion including two senior judges, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Gilardi v. HHS  entered the fray regarding corporate rights under RFRA and the First Amendment regarding the requirement that an employer include contraceptive coverage in its health care insurance.   Recall that just last week, the Sixth Circuit denied the claim of Eden Foods, following the decision of another panel of the circuit in Autocam Corp. v. Sebelius, decided in September, that agreed with the divided panel of the Third Circuit's July opinion in Conestoga Wood Specialties  that a for-profit secular corporation cannot assert a claim to religious freedom under RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  This is contrary to the holding of the divided  en banc Tenth Circuit's June majority opinion in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius presently before the United States Supreme Court on a petition for writ of certiorari filed by the Solicitor General on behalf of Sebelius.

In Gilardi, the divisions by the DC Circuit judges  - - -  Janice Rogers Brown, Harry Edwards, and A. Raymond Randolph - - - reflect the divisions expressed in the other opinions.  Judge Brown's main opinion is joined in various parts by only one of the other two judges, both of whom wrote separate opinions.  Judge Randolph's opinion is a few pages, while Judge Edwards' opinion, concurring in part and dissenting in part is longer than the majority opinion.

The case involves Francis and Philip Gilardi, adherents of Catholicism, who oppose contraception for women.  They are owners of Freshway Foods and Freshway Logistics, closely-held corporations that employ approximately 400 employees.  Important for the analysis, the corporations "have elected to be taxed under Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code."  Judge Randolph's brief opinion has a good explication of the relevance of Subchapter S.

Freshway Foods

 

The judges, excepting Randolph, first decide that the corporations do not possess a right of religious freedom.  The majority finds that RFRA's "person" language does not solve the issue, and turns to First Amendment doctrine.  The court notes that perhaps the "constitutional arithmetic" of "Citizens United plus the Free Exercise Clause equal a corporate free exercise right" might "ultimately prevail, but "for now" there is "no basis for concluding a secular organization can exercise religion," thus agreeing with cases such as Eden Foods.  In the brief concurring opinion, Judge Randolph states this issue need not have been addressed. 

 This "leaves the Gilardis," as the court phrases it, and finds that they suffer an injury "separate and distinct" from the corporation.  The majority - -  this time without the agreement of Judge Edwards - - - finds that the religious freedoms of the individual men are burdened under RFRA.  It applies strict scrutiny, as required by RFRA, but interestingly quoting from Fisher, last Term's equal protection case involving racial classifications in affirmative action programs at the the University of Texas.  The majority then rejects as compelling the government interests in safeguarding public health, protecting women's autonomy, or promoting gender equality, finding these interests both too broadly formulated and even if satisfactory, not being served by the least restrictive means.  In short, the majority concludes, even without the contraceptive mandate, the "statutory scheme will not go to pieces."

Judge Edwards' lengthy opinion finds that while the Gilardis may be sincere, the legal claim that the mandate imposes a substantial burden on their individual rights of free exercise of religion because "their companies are required to provide health insurance that includes contraceptive services" is "specious."  Judge Edwards argues that while the individuals may have Article II standing to pursue their claim, this does not mean that they have a valid one.  Judge Edwards extensively rehearses the Supreme Court's free exercise doctrine, intertwined with RFRA, and discusses the burden on the Gilardis.  In a paragraph that captures the disagreement over whether individuals are burdened by the acts of corporations, he argues:

Amici also contend that the difference between the Mandate and paying wages is akin to the difference between a person who opposes the death penalty being required to pay taxes that fund executions, and being required to “purchase the drugs for a lethal injection and personally deliver them to the facility where the execution will take place.” Br. of 28 Catholic Theologians and Ethicists at 19. The problem with this rather extraordinary example is that the Mandate does not require the Gilardis to have nearly this degree of personal involvement in providing contraceptives. The Mandate does not require the Gilardis to transfer funds from Freshway’s accounts directly to the manufacturers or retailers of contraception. Nor are the companies required to deliver or distribute contraception to employees. Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(d)(1), Freshway is a distinct legal entity from its self-insured group health plan. The plan is operated by a third-party administrator, and, pursuant to health privacy regulations, the Gilardis are actually prohibited from being informed whether individual employees purchase contraceptive products, or about any other information regarding employees’ health care decisions. See Br. of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, et al., at 29-30 (citing 45 C.F.R. § 164.508; 45 C.F.R. § 164.510). Moreover, the Gilardis are free to procure Mandate-compliant coverage for their employees through an entirely independent, third-party insurance carrier, rather than administering their own group health plan. Id. This is a far cry from personally purchasing contraceptives and delivering them to employees.

Further, Judge Edwards would find that even if there were a substantial burden, there are compelling governmental interests supporting the contraceptive mandate provisions, including "promoting public health, welfare, and gender equality."  He would find the exemptions narrow and, analogizing to the Social Security tax upheld by the United States Supreme Court, the scheme cannot function if persons are allowed to opt-out because money is being spent in a manner that violates their religious beliefs.

Because the district court found as a matter of law that the Gilardis did not have a substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits, it denied the prelimiary injunction.  Having reversed that conclusion of law, the majority remands for a determination of the other considerations for a preliminary injunction.

But most certainly the Gilardis case - - - or this issue - - - will not simply end there.  It may be determined by what the Court does in Hobby Lobby, even as Freshway Foods is distinguished by being a different type of corporation.

November 1, 2013 in First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Religion, Reproductive Rights, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Catholic Media Corporation, Alabama Sue Over Contraception Mandate

The Eternal World Television Network, a Catholic media corporation, and the State of Alabama filed suit against the government yesterday, seeking to halt the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. 

EWTN argues that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the religion clauses, among other claims.  Alabama says that the mandate intrudes on its "sovereign prerogative to regulate the insurance market in accordance with its own law and policy, without being contradicted by unlawful federal regulations."

The case is just the latest religious-based challenge against the contraception mandate.  We posted most recently just yesterday, on the Sixth Circuit's ruling in Eden Foods.  If Eden Foods seemed more political than religious-based--the plaintiff's "deeply held religious beliefs" "more resembled a laissez-faire, anti-government screed," according to the court--this case seems more political than religious-based for a different reason: EWTN is exempt under HHS regs, and if the mandate is valid Alabama simply has no claim.  In other words: the plaintiffs don't seem to have much to complain about.  We posted on the government's proposed regs exempting religious employers here; and we posted on the then-developing circuit split on the issue here.

EWTN says this about its accommodation under the regs:

This is a mere fig leaf.  It would still require EWTN to play a central role in the government's scheme by "designating" a fiduciary to pay for the objectionable services on EWTN's behalf.  This would do nothing to assuage EWTN's objections to the mandate.

The so-called "accommodation" also continues to treat EWTN as a second-class religious organization, not entitled to the same religious freedom rights as the Church it exists to serve.  It also creates administrative hurdles and other difficulties for EWTN, forcing it to seek out and contract with companies willing to provide the very drugs and services that EWTN speaks out against.

As to Alabama, the State apparently seeks to protect itself and its citizens from the "immediate and continuing burdens" of the mandate.  The State points out that its law expressly says that insurers do not have to provide contraception coverage in their plans.  The claim sounds in federalism, but the complaint doesn't say why or how the federal mandate violates federalism principles.  (Maybe that's because it doesn't.)

The plaintiffs also raise free speech, due process, and APA claims.

October 29, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Establishment Clause, Federalism, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, News, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Texans Debate Creationism in the Classroom

Yesterday we wrote about the latest case in Kansas challenging evolution in the classroom.  In a comment, reader Eli Bortman gave us the heads-up that yesterday's NYT included an article on the same issue in Texas.  (Thanks, Eli.)

Here's a bit from the Times piece that helps explain the edu-ese and pseudo-scientific language in COPE's complaint in the Kansas case:

By questioning the science--often getting down to very technical details--the evolution challengers in Texas are following a strategy increasingly deployed by others around the country.

There is little open talk of creationism.  Instead they borrow buzzwords common in education, "critical thinking," saying there is simply not enough evidence to prove evolution.

COPE went even further, though, arguing that the Kansas standards (with (secular) evolution as a centerpiece) themselves represent a kind of religious orthodoxy, and that Kansas in imposing this orthodoxy, without balancing it with "origin science," violated the religion clauses, free speech, and the Eqaul Protection Clause.  In doing so, COPE adopts the language and legal claims of opponents of creationism and tries to create an equivalence between its position and the position of science--putting itself on par with science, both on the "science" and in its legal positions in relation to science, and casting science as a kind of religion.  Then, after creating this topsy-turvey world where religion is science and science is religion, COPE asks the question: If "origin scientists" have an equal claim to the truth, doesn't it violate equality, speech, and religious principles to exclude their position from the curriculum?  

This isn't new, but as the COPE complaint and NYT piece suggest, creationism advocates may be getting a little better at clothing their positions in official- and technical-sounding langauge, and in turning the same constitutional claims that proponents of a curriculum based on science have used against creationism right back on them, in support of creationism.  The strategy is designed to frame the debate as one scientific theory against another scientific theory, not science against religion, and to put the competing policy and constitutional claims on par in order to gain traction under the religion clauses, free speech, and equal protection.

September 30, 2013 in Establishment Clause, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Fundamental Rights, News, Religion | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sixth Circuit Rejects Secular For-Profit Company's Claim Challenging ACA Under RFRA

The Sixth Circuit's succinct and unanimous opinion in Autocam Corporation v. Sebelius sided with the Third Circuit's July opinion in Conestoga Wood Specialties and against the en banc Tenth Circuit's June majority opinion in Hobby Lobby on the issue of whether a for-profit secular business has a free exercise of religion right (as a person) under RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  There is some intertwining of the First Amendment free exercise of religion claim, but the Autocam decision rests on RFRA.

Autocam, like Conestoga Wood and Hobby Lobby, and its owners, argue that the regulations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (“ACA”) requiring employers cover contraceptive methods for their employees - - - often called the contraceptive mandate - - - infringes on their religious rights.  Autocam, like the others, is a large corporation.  And a quick look at Autocam's "mission" on its website indicates no expression of a religious purpose, but only providing superior products. 

Autocam

 

The Sixth Circuit interestingly found that while Autocam as a corporation had standing to assert its claims, the Kennedy family as members (owners?) of a "closely held corporation" did not have shareholder standing:  "Generally, shareholders of a corporation cannot bring claims intended to redress injuries to a corporation, even when the corporation is closely held."  The Kennedys argued that this rule should not apply in RFRA claims, but the court found nothing in RFRA to support their view.  Further, the court rejected their claims they were individually harmed or that a "pass through" theory could be applied.

As to the merits of the corporation's assertion of personhood under RFRA, the court found that RFRA did not support such an interpretation, and moreover, "Reading the term “person” in the manner suggested by Autocam would lead to a significant expansion of the scope of the rights the Free Exercise Clause"  protected prior to Employment Division v.  Smith and the enactment of RFRA. 

By affirming the denial of the preliminary injunction by the district judge, the Sixth Circuit panel has entered the fray of a circuit split on the issue.   With its unamious opinion, it does tilt the "count" toward a nonrecognition of religious rights of secular for proft corporations (recall that the en banc Tenth Circuit opinion was closely divided and the Third Circuit panel opinion was also split; additionally earlier this month a senior district judge in the Tenth Circuit applied applied Hobby Lobby to a for-profit nursing home chain.)  However, the Sixth Circuit opinion adds little new to the analysis of this issue increasingly ripe for Supreme Court review.

September 18, 2013 in Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Family, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Gender, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality, Standing, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Daily Read: Marci Hamilton on Hobby Lobby

Should a for-profit corporation have free exercise of religion rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment as the en banc Tenth Circuit held in Hobby Lobby, Inc. v. Sebelius?

Marci-Hamilton_039-RET-flat-FINALConLawProf Marci Hamilton thinks not.  In her column over at Justia, Hamilton (pictured right) provides cogent arguments countering the majority's opinion. 

Hamilton ultimately contends that RFRA, at least as interpreted by the Tenth Circuit, is unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause in that it means that "large for-profit employers, who may not discriminate in hiring based on religion, can still coerce their employees into following their religious beliefs." 

Hamilton's even larger argument, however, involves the relationship between religion and capitalism in our constitutional democracy.  Assume, she argues, that Hobby Lobby and similar companies

assert that they don’t mind losing money from those who don’t share their religious beliefs.  Or to put it another way, they really only want business from those who share their religious beliefs.  That is the slippery slope on which the Tenth Circuit has set free exercise reasoning.

That isn’t capitalism, which, when working as it should, is driven by the quality of products and competition on price, regardless of the political or religious beliefs of the producer and purchaser.  It is Balkanization, and a first step on the path to the religious wars we in the United States have avoided so far.

Yet perhaps the owners of Hobby Lobby is not anticipating that consumers will actually know that it is an entity with specific religious beliefs rather than simply a store selling sequins?

Whatever the beliefs of the owners of Hobby Lobby, however, Hamilton's column is a must read on the contentious issue of recognizing religious freedoms of for-profit companies.

RR

July 11, 2013 in Establishment Clause, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Profiles in Con Law Teaching, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Tenth Circuit Recognizes For-Profit Corporations as Having Religious Freedom and Free Exercise Rights

In the contentious and closely-watched case of Hobby Lobby, Inc. v. Sebelius, the Tenth Circuit has rendered its opinion concluding that a for-profit corporation has free exercise of religion rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment.

Hobby Lobby challenges the constitutionality of the so-called "contraception mandate" under the Affordable Care Act that require health insurance plans to provide contraception coverage to employees.  We've previously discussed the issue and the circuit split here. 

800px-HobbyLobbyStowOhio

The federal district judge had rejected Hobby Lobby's claim, noting that it was a for-profit completely secular company - - - it is a corporation operating 514 arts and crafts stores in 41 states.  The federal district judge also denied the injunction as to the for-profit corporation Mardel, a Christian supply and bookstore chain, and to the family owning both the corporations through a management trust.  Hobby Lobby sought extraordinary relief from the United States Supreme Court after a Tenth Circuit panel declined to issue a stay; Justice Sotomayor in her role as Tenth Circuit Justice then rejected the claim, ruling that the privately held corporations did not "satisfy the demanding standard for the extraordinary relief they seek."

The Tenth Circuit granted the request for initial en banc review - - - thus, there is no Tenth Circuit panel opinion - - - and issued a lengthy set of opinions from the eight judges, one judge being recused. The majority opinion on pages 8-9 details the rationales of the individual judges.  But the essential division is 5-3 over the issue of whether a corporation, even a for-profit secular corporation, has a right to free exercise of religion under RFRA and the First Amendment.  The majority concluded there was such a right and that the corporations demonstrated a likelihood of success for prevailing on the merits. 

Judge Timothy Tymkovich's more than 65 page opinion for the majority concluded that  

Hobby Lobby and Mardel are entitled to bring claims under RFRA, have established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm. But we remand the case to the district court for further proceedings on two of the remaining factors governing the grant or denial of a preliminary injunction.

Only a plurality of judges would have resolved the other two preliminary injunction factors  - - - balance of equities and public interest - - -  in Hobby Lobby and Mardel’s favor, thus the remand.

The majority, however, held

as a matter of statutory interpretation that Congress did not exclude for-profit corporations from RFRA’s protections. Such corporations can be “persons” exercising religion for purposes of the statute. Second, as a matter of constitutional law, Free Exercise rights may extend to some for-profit organizations.

(emphasis added). The opinion often conflates RFRA (which recall, is only applicable as to federal laws) and First Amendment.  However, in specifically considering First Amendment doctrine, the majority's argument derived from two strands.  First, it noted that individuals may incorporate for religious purposes and keep their Free Exercise rights - - - such as churches, citing Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 525 (1993) (holding that a “not-for-profit corporation organized under Florida law” prevailed on its Free Exercise claim).  Second, it then noted that "unincorporated individuals may pursue profit while keeping their Free Exercise rights," citing United States v. Lee, 455 U.S. 252 (1982) (considering a Free Exercise claim of an Amish employer); Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599 (1961) (plurality opinion) (considering a Free Exercise claim by Jewish merchants operating for-profit).

It then characterized the government's argument as being that these "Free Exercise rights somehow disappear" when "individuals incorporate and fail to satisfy Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3)."  The majority found this distinction to be one that cannot be supported by First Amendment doctrine.  It did, however, implicitly limit the facts under which for-profit corporations could be found to have free exercise rights: 

The government nonetheless raises the specter of future cases in which, for example, a large publicly traded corporation tries to assert religious rights under RFRA. That would certainly seem to raise difficult questions of how to determine the corporation’s sincerity of belief. But that is not an issue here. Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not publicly traded corporations; they are closely held family businesses with an explicit Christian mission as defined in their governing principles. The Greens, moreover, have associated through Hobby Lobby and Mardel with the intent to provide goods and services while adhering to Christian standards as they see them, and they have made business decisions according to those standards. And the Greens are unanimous in their belief that the contraceptive-coverage requirement violates the religious values they attempt to follow in operating Hobby Lobby and Mardel. It is hard to compare them to a large, publicly traded corporation, and the difference seems obvious.

Thus, the majority stated that it did not share any concerns that its holding would prevent courts from distinguishing businesses that are not eligible for RFRA’s - - - and presumably the First Amendment's - - - protections.

While the analysis of substantial burden that follows is important, it is the holding that a secular for-profit corporation has a sincerely held religious belief that entitles it to assert a free exercise claim is the centerpiece of the controversy. 

Indeed, Chief Judge Briscoe, joined by Judge Lucero, call the majority's opinion on this point

nothing short of a radical revision of First Amendment law, as well as the law of corporations. But whatever one might think of the majority’s views, the fact remains that they are wholly unsupported by the language of the Free Exercise Clause or the Supreme Court’s free exercise jurisprudence, and are thus, at best, “considerations for the legislative choice.”

The ability of for-profit corporations to have Free Exercise rights under the First Amendment - - - along with their Free Speech rights as articulated in the still-controversial Citizens United v. FEC, decided in 2010 and liberally cited in Hobby Lobby - - - is highly contested.  This may certainly be going (back) to the United States Supreme Court.

RR
[image via]

June 28, 2013 in Campaign Finance, Congressional Authority, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Privacy, Religion, Reproductive Rights, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Muslim Surveillance in NYC: Federal Complaint Challenges Constitutionality of Practices

4-nypd-casepage-mgb-150x150-v01The complaint in Raza v. City of New York details over 150 paragraphs of facts and alleges that NYPD practices have infringed upon the plantiffs' equal protection and First Amendment religion clauses rights, as well as state constitutional rights.  The plaintiffs are United States citizens as well as Muslim community leaders, as well as two mosques and one chartitable organization.  They allege that they have been "religiously profiled" and subject to surveillance, including infiltration of their organizations.

The complaint is worth reading for its specific facts of an extensive practice of surveillance of the named plaintiffs. Interestingly, the complaint does not include a Fourth Amendment claim but does include a First Amendment Establishment Clause claim, contending that the NYPD practice "fosters an excessive government entanglement with religion by, among other things, subjecting Plaintiffs to intrusive surveillance, heightened police scrutiny, and infiltration by police informants and officers."   More predictable are the equal protection and free exercise of religion claims.  

With the increasing public discussion of generalized surveillance, this challenge to a specific tageted practice within a city is worth watching.  Of course, it is not the first time that the NYPD has been challenged for its practices of surveillance.

RR
[image: logo of the plaintiff organization via]

 

June 23, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Criminal Procedure, Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Establishment Clause, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Free Exercise Clause | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Tenth Circuit Allows Compelled Speech Claim for Oklahoma License Plate

In a divided opinion in Cressman v. Thompson, the Tenth Circuit has allowed a First Amendment compelled speech challenge to Oklahoma's license plate (pictured below).

  2010_Oklahoma_License_Plate

 

For those familiar with Wooley v. Maynard (1977), the case seems as if it is a mere reprise.  However, unlike Maynard's objection to the New Hampshire license plate motto "Live Free or Die," Cressman objects to the image on the license plate.  For the dissenting judge, this distinction makes all the difference.  In a nutshell, the brief dissent contends that Cressman can not clear the basic hurdle of "speech."  As dissenting judge Kelly explains:

In 2009, Oklahoma changed its standard-issue license plate to incorporate a representation of Allan Houser’s “Sacred Rain Arrow,” on permanent display at Tulsa’s Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art.  Though awarded the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association’s best plate of the year award for 2009, Mr. Cressman considers his display of the image on the license plate to be compelled speech.   . . . .Mr. Cressman has connected the image on Oklahoma’s license plate to the sculpture and that sculpture to a Native American legend. He asserts that the license plate promotes “pantheism, panentheism, polytheism, and/or animism,” all of which are antithetical to his religious beliefs.  However, he has not alleged facts from which we can reasonably infer that others are likely to make the same series of connections.

For the majority, it was sufficient that Cressman alleged that the image had an ideological message at the complaint stage.  The court's analysis of symbolic speech and the "particularized message" cases - - - think flags and parades - - - supported this conclusion.  The majority also discussed the compelled speech precedent.  From this, the majority concluded the district judge should not have dismissed the complaint.  The majority declined to enter a preliminary injunction, however, ruling that the State should have the opportunity to present its interests.  The majority very clearly held, however, that Wooley v. Maynard remains viable precedent, despite some arguments that it has been undermined.  The majority also very clearly held that Cressman had standing, except as to one individual defendant.

On remand, the district judge will be considering whether Cressman's plausible allegations can be proven as true.

RR

June 14, 2013 in Federalism, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

School May Ban Rubber Fetus Dolls

A three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit ruled yesterday in Taylor v. Roswell Independent School District that a school can ban students' distribution of rubber fetus dolls without violating free speech, free exercise, or equal protection.

The case arose when members of a student group, Relentless, distributed rubber fetus dolls to fellow students at two schools, without required administration permission.  The dolls were said to have the weight and size of a 12-week-old fetus.  Relentless members apparently distributed them to educate fellow students and to protest abortion.  But that message only backfired:

Both schools experienced doll-related disruptions that day.  Many students pulled the dolls apart, tearing the heads off and using them as rubber balls or sticking them on pencil tops.  Others threw dolls and doll parts at the "popcorn" ceilings so they became stuck.  Dolls were used to plug toilets.

Op. at 7-8.  And on and on.

The administration stepped in and stopped the distribution, even though it allowed students to distribute other non-school-related items (like Valentine's Day items), and even though it previously permitted Relentless to distribute other things like McDonald's sandwiches to teachers.  (Maybe not surprisingly, those things didn't cause the same kinds of disruptions.)

So Relentless members sued, arguing that the administration violated free speech, the Free Exercise Clause, and equal protection.

The Tenth Circuit rejected each of these claims.  As to free speech, it said that the case did not involve content-based discrimination, and that nobody contested the administration's ability to confiscate dolls that were used to harm school property or for lewd or obscene expressions of their own.  Instead, the case involved private, non-school-related speech, and "[a]pplying Tinker, we hold that the District did not violate Plaintiffs' free speech rights because it reasonably forecasted that distribution of the rubber dolls would lead to a substantial disruption."  Op. at 16.  The court also held that the pre-approval policy looked like a licensing scheme, but with plenty of procedural safeguards (inluding two appeals) and substantive constraints on official discretion--and in the special environment of a school, where the First Amendment doesn't give students the same free speech rights that they may have, say, in the public square.  Finally, the court held that the pre-approval policy wasn't unconstitutionally vague, because a student of ordinary intelligence would know when he or she needs to get a license, and how.  The court said that the plaintiffs failed to show any arbitrary enforcement.

As to the Free Exercise Clause, the court held that there was no evidence of discriminatory purpose on the part of the administrators--that the ban on fetal doll distribution was neutral--that therefore rational basis review applied, and that the administrators had a rational reason for banning the doll distribution--that is, stopping the "doll-related disruptions."  As to equal protection, the court said that the plaintiffs couldn't show that they were treated differently than anyone else seeking to distribute items at school and so couldn't show a violation of equal protection.

SDS

April 9, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Fundamental Rights, News, Opinion Analysis, Religion, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Daily Read: US v. Windsor, the DOMA Case, Amicus Brief of National Association of Evangelicals

Third in a Series: Guest Post by Versely Rosales, City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, class of 2014

The brief submitted by National Association of Evangelicals; The Ethics  & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; The Romanian-American Evangelical Alliance of North America; and Truth in Action Ministries supports the position of BLAG arguing for the constitutionality of DOMA. 

Churchfaith
The brief argues that rational basis review is the proper standard for evaluating legislation, like DOMA, that implicates questions of values, culture, and policy. The brief also argues that “moral and religious views voiced in support of DOMA do not detract from its validity.”

The rational basis argument:

This amicus brief first argues that rational basis governs because what is at issue in DOMA “is not a discrimination against a discrete and insular minority.”  Instead, the issue is a “profound culture debate over the nature and meaning of marriage.”  Further, because “homosexuals” have political power, they do not need extraordinary judicial protection from majoritarian interests. Thus, they can rely on the democratic political processes to engage in a debate over values, morals, judgments, and culture. Therefore, rational basis review is the only standard that allows for spirited democratic debate over the different visions of marriage that should prevail in the federal government. By applying anything other than rational basis, the Court would deprive the public of this debate. In particular, it would deny faith communities, who have a “long experience in these matters” and “unique perspectives,” to be heard by democratic decision makers.

Thus, the brief contends that the Second Circuit’s conclusion that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional stands on a “rickety foundation.”  The Second Circuit is faulted for “creat[ing] the first new protected class in 35 years,” and being contrary to every federal court of appeals that has addressed the question.  Further, this amicus brief notes several other reasons why heightened scrutiny is “plainly improper in this case.” First, heightened-scrutiny jurisprudence contains a strong presumption against creating new suspect classes as courts should be very reluctant to closely scrutinize legislative choices. Secondly, the Constitution presumes that unjust discrimination will be remedied through the ordinary democratic process. Thirdly, the Supreme Court’s refusal to recognize any new suspect classes confirms the necessity of a very cautious approach into sensitive areas.  

The amicus brief of these religious organizations criticizes the Second Circuit opinion for failing to recognize that rational basis review is the proper standard of review for preserving the primacy of the democratic process in cases turning on fundamental issues of public policy, culture, and morality. DOMA is argued to be within this category because it has become monumental cultural conflict between two major visions of marriage: traditional marriage which is centered on procreating and raising children; and the more recent, genderless, adult-orientated notion where procreation and childrearing are not central to marriage’s meaning. The traditional marriage concept has deep roots and provides a mechanism for coping with the reality that sex between men and women generally results in pregnancy and childbirth. And, whether proven or not, it is reasonable to accept that children born from opposite-sex married relationships will benefit by being raised by two parents within long-term relationships. In addition, lawmakers cannot and should not rely on social science scholars on the effects of sexual minorities parenting children because, in part, such opinions are inherently tentative and often laden with value-based assumptions.  Thus, lawmakers should be allowed to use their judgments and own experience, which have led them to believe that traditional marriage and family structure deserve distinctive legal protections.

The amicus brief also points out while the Court has never adopted “the genderless, adult-centered definition of marriage,” it has “long endorsed the strong legislative preference for man-woman marriage as the foundation of our society.” Given this historical preference, the Court should construe DOMA as a rational preference for the tried and familiar over the untried and novel.

The moral and religious views argument:

The second main argument of this amicus brief contends “moral and religious views voiced in support of DOMA do not detract from its validity.”  Congress identified “defending traditional notions of morality” as one of the four “governmental interests” for the enactment of DOMA. The brief argues that Congress recognized that the issue of marriage has moral or religious aspects for many Americans and that cannot be divorced from the practicalities. Lawmakers have the right to protect this valued moral norm, and when they do so, it should not be labeled as invalid just because it happens to coincide with the tenets of some - - -or all - - - religions. To declare DOMA void merely because it adheres to traditional moral and religious belief would fly in the face of this Court’s ruling that the Constitution does not allow the government to treat religion and those who practice or teach it as being subversive to American ideals and therefore subject them to unique disabilities. “By scrutinizing a law reflecting, in part, religious values more severely than others, courts would effectively target such beliefs or religious support for unusual burdens or penalties.”

Interestingly, the brief ultimately argues that to subject DOMA to heightened scrutiny simply because of its “affiliation with traditional morality would raise First Amendment concerns.”

Contribution of the Brief:

This amicus brief supports the position of BLAG that DOMA is unconstitutional.  But although BLAG agrees that traditional marriage coincides with religious sections of the citizenry, it does not emphasize the moral aspect of DOMA in its brief.

The Government brief does not agree with the assertion that what is at issue is a cultural debate. The Government clearly argues in its brief that DOMA is based on discrimination and it affects the distribution of benefits to a sub-section of society. The Government also disagrees with the Amicus brief’s most basic contention: Homosexuals are not a discrete and insular minority deserving of heightened scrutiny.

The argument that the First Amendment is relevant is unique; it is not shared by BLAG or the Government.

[posted and edited by RR]
[image via]

 

March 20, 2013 in Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Family, Fifth Amendment, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fourth Circuit Rejects First Amendment Claims from "Fortune Teller"

In its opinion in Moore-King v. County of Chesterfield, a panel of the Fourth Circuit has upheld the constitutionality of ordinances specifically directed at those defined as "fortune tellers."  The fortune tellers must have a business license, like all other businesses, but must also:

  • have a special permit from the Chief of Police, the application for which must include biographical information, fingerprints, criminal history, and an authorization for a background check;
  • pay a license tax of $300;
  • be located within particular business districts, excluding certain other business districts.
Justice_tarot_charles6
"Justice" Tarot Card circa 15th Century

As to the free speech claim, the Fourth Circuit disagreed with the district judge's finding that the Moore-King's practice was inherently deceptive and thus categorically excluded from First Amendment protection.  In support, the panel interestingly replied upon United States v. Alvarez (the "Stolen Valor case). Yet the panel then struggled with the appropriate First Amendment doctrine that should be applied - - - a not unusual situation in First Amendment litigation - - - rejecting the commercial speech doctrine and time, place or manner analysis and settling upon what it named the "professional speech doctrine." 

As the government complies with the professional speech doctrine by enacting and implementing a generally applicable regulatory regime, the fact that such a scheme may vary from profession to profession recedes in constitutional significance. Just as the internal requirements of a profession may differ, so may the government’s regulatory response based on the nature of the activity and the need to protect the public. [citation omitted] With respect to an occupation such as fortune telling where no accrediting institution like a board of law examiners or medical practitioners exists, a legislature may reasonably determine that additional regulatory requirements are necessary.

The panel then engaged in little analysis, except to say that this did not mean that the government had "carte blanche" but that it held that the government "regulation of Moore-King's activity falls squarely within the scope of that doctrine."

As to Free Exercise, the panel rejected Moore-King's qualifications to assert the claim:

Moore-King’s beliefs more closely resemble personal and philosophical choices consistent with a way of life, not deep religious convictions shared by an organized group deserving of constitutional solicitude.

In addition to the First Amendment claims, Moore-King had also challenged the regulatory scheme on the basis of Equal Protection, although this argument was largely predicated upon her First Amendment interests as the fundamental rights that would trigger strict scrutiny.  Again, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district judge's grant of summary judgment in favor of the government.

This is a case ripe for critique and would make a terrific subject for student scholarship.

RR
[image via]

 

February 27, 2013 in Equal Protection, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Fundamental Rights, Opinion Analysis, Religion, Speech, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)