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Sonia Sotomayor Rips Court a New One

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The dust from the “Hobby Lobby” ruling at the Supreme Court has not even settled yet, and the next SCOTUS scandal is already hitting the ground.

In the landmark case involving the Affordable Care Act, certain forms of contraception, and whether corporations can claim religious differences that exempt them from following the law of the land, the Court handed down a ruling that divided the country sharply. Through the loads of misinformation on both sides of the issue, the Court sought to allay fears that their decision would have far-ranging consequences. They assured the public that their stance was only applicable to “closely-held” corporations.

The IRS defines closely-held corporations this way:

Generally, a closely held corporation is a corporation that:

* Has more than 50% of the value of its outstanding stock owned (directly or indirectly) by 5 or fewer individuals at any time during the last half of the tax year; and
* Is not a personal service corporation.

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” She said the Court had “ventured into a minefield,” and that her dissent was because she was “mindful of the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce.”

Now, mere days removed from that case, the Court has expanded on its decision, just as Ginsburg feared.

The new development is a case where Wheaton College objects to having to fill out a simple form for the Department of Health and Human Services, which would exempt them from providing the contraception in question. The form is simple; one page, front and back. You can see it here. The College says that the act of having to fill out a form burdens their religious freedom. They see it as making them “complicit in the provision of contraceptive coverage, in violation of [their] religious beliefs.”

Churches do not have to fill out the form. Thus, non-profits like Wheaton are asking to be treated as churches.

The Court agreed, and said that Wheaton did not have to fill out the form.

This time, it was Justice Sonia Sotomayor who took the heat to the five male justices who made that call. In a dissent coming from all three female justices, she said the Court had assured the American public that their decision only affected certain types of companies, but now they were going back on their word.

“Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “Not so today.”

“After expressly relying on the availability of the religious-nonprofit accommodation to hold that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] as applied to closely held for-profit corporations, the Court now, as the dissent in Hobby Lobby feared it might, retreats from that position.”

The fears that the Hobby Lobby ruling would sprawl to include other organizations, even to the extent of telling companies not to even bother with the paperwork of the law that would make them exempt, appear to be coming to pass.

Keep in mind that it was Sotomayor who temporarily blocked the contraceptive provision in the first place, as seen in this news story. So this is not about birth control, it is about Supreme Court decision creep.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Sonia Sotomayor Rips Court a New One
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