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Posts tagged ‘Supreme Court’

DOJ to Supreme Court: Religious Beliefs Aren’t Important:

Barack Obama and Eric Holder
President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (Courtesy of the ACLJ)

If we wanted your religious beliefs on abortion-pill coverage, we’d give them to you appears to be the latest in an untenable string of arguments from the Obama DOJ over the HHS mandate.

On Friday, the DOJ filed its response to the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case.

Politico has the latest on the DOJ’s arguments:

“In arguments filed late Friday, Justice Department lawyers told the court that an employer’s religious beliefs aren’t a legitimate reason to deny something as important as preventive care to an employee who is entitled to it under the health law.

“ ‘The connection is too indirect as a matter of law to impose a substantial burden’ on employers’ right to practice their religion, the lawyers wrote in their opening argument defending the contraceptive requirement against Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.”

The crux of the Obama administration’s legal argument seems to boil down to two points:

1) Opposing forced coverage of abortion pills isn’t a legitimate religious belief; and 2) our pro-abortion agenda is far more important than your silly religious beliefs anyway.

If that sounds like an argument to turn the religious liberty protections of our Constitution on its head, that’s because it is. The moment the government can tell us what is and is not an important part of our faith and further that what we consider to be a sin is far too attenuated to actually be real sin in God’s eyes is the moment we have lost our religious liberty.

This argument comes days after Obama’s DOJ attempted to convince the court that forcing Catholic nuns to pay for abortion pills in no way violated their faith because all they had to do was sign a form and let someone else violate their faith for them.

The absurdity of these arguments is astounding. There is no stronger principle upon which our nation was founded than religious freedom. If the government can say my religious beliefs don’t count, then what religious liberty can we possibly have?

The Supreme Court is set to consider this exact question later this year. At the ACLJ, we are preparing to file a brief on behalf of thousands of concerned Americans and our clients (each of which we have put a stop to the mandate for as their cases continue). Join the fight by signing on to our amicus brief today.



Matthew Clark is associate counsel for government affairs and media advocacy with the ACLJ. A lifelong citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia, he lives with his wife and three boys in Northern Virginia. Follow Matthew Clark on Twitter at @_MatthewClark. This article is crossposted on Red State.

Thankful Nuns Celebrate Sotomayor’s Contraceptive Mandate Stay.

Image: Thankful Nuns Celebrate Sotomayor's Contraceptive Mandate Stay

By Andrea Billups

A group of Catholic nuns celebrated Wednesday the decision by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to issue a stay in a crucial portion of the Obama healthcare law that would have forced religious groups to provide health insurance coverage for birth control and other medications designed to induce abortions.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Baltimore-based order that operates nursing homes for low-income elderly around the country, issued a statement praising the justice’s actions.

“We are grateful for the decision of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granting us a temporary injunction protecting us from the HHS contraceptive mandate,” the nuns said. “We hope and pray that we will receive a favorable outcome in order to continue to serve the elderly of all faiths with the same community support and religious freedom that we have always appreciated.

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The sisters were represented in the case by attorneys from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which issued its own statement in the case.

“We are delighted that the Supreme Court has issued this order protecting the Little Sisters,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund. “The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people  it doesn’t need to force nuns to participate.”

In defending its healthcare law, the Justice Department had argued that such a mandate for contraceptives offered “no substantial burden on their (nuns) exercise of religion.” The administration said the nuns could complete a self-certification form to opt out of the coverage requirements, turning it over to their health care provider.

“To opt out of providing contraceptive coverage, Little Sisters need only certify that they are nonprofit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and that, because of religious objections, they are opposed to providing coverage for some or all contraceptive services,” attorneys for the Justice Department defended in the appeal.

The nuns would have faced “draconian” fines if they did not comply to the original law,the Los Angeles Times noted.

The Obama administration has until Friday to file a response in the justice’s stay order, which applies only to the nun’s case. Other religious groups and corporations that object to the contraceptive mandate have filed similar motions, which are expected to be heard in March by the high court.

Sotomayor’s Tuesday ruling gave Roman Catholic Church-affiliated organizations temporary exemptions from a part of the Obamacare healthcare law that requires employers to provide insurance policies covering contraception.

She granted the temporary injunction to the Little Sisters of the Poor and Illinois-based Christian Brothers Services, plus related entities.

Sotomayor is giving the government until Friday morning to respond to her decision.

Two different appellate courts had granted stays in three other cases that were pending at the high court, filed by various organizations, including Catholic University of America and non-profits in Michigan and Tennessee, said a lawyer representing the groups. The lower-court actions meant the Supreme Court did not need to act in those cases.

The groups were all asking the courts to exempt them temporarily from the so-called contraception mandate while litigation continues. The mandate, which was to take effect for the organizations on Wednesday, is already in place for many women who have private health insurance.

The organizations accuse the federal government of forcing them to support contraception and sterilization in violation of their religious beliefs or face steep fines.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, requires employers to provide health insurance policies that cover preventive services for women, including contraception and sterilization.

The law makes an exception for religious institutions such as houses of worship that mainly serve and employ members of their own faith, but not for schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations that employ people of all faiths.

As a compromise, the administration agreed to an accommodation for nonprofits affiliated with religious entities, which was finalized in July.

Under the accommodation, eligible nonprofits have to provide a “self certification” — described by one lower-court judge as a “permission slip” — that authorizes the insurance companies to provide the coverage. The challengers say that step alone is enough to violate their religious rights.

In separate cases, the Supreme Court already has agreed to hear oral arguments on whether for-profit corporations have a basis to object to the contraception mandate on religious grounds. The court is due to hear those arguments in March and decide the two consolidated cases by the end of June.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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Bode George’s Acquittal: Supreme Court Erred In Judgment, Says Falana.

…Describes Judgment As “Expression of Class Solidarity”

Ayo Balogun, Lagos

Activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana has faulted the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Chief Bode George and others, quashing their ex-convict status, saying that the apex court wrongfully carried out the action.

Lagos Lawyer Femi Falana (SAN)

Lagos Lawyer Femi Falana (SAN)

Falana, in a statement said the verdict of the Supreme Court had serious implications for the nation’s criminal law jurisprudence, more so, that the finding of the apex court that the appellants were tried and convicted for contract splitting was not borne out of the records of both the trial court and the Court of Appeal.

“In other words, the Lagos High Court had convicted them of the offences of abuse of powers and disobedience to lawful order contrary to sections 104 and 203 of the Lagos State Criminal Code. However, while congratulating the appellants for removing the stigma of infamy from their names, it cannot be denied that the outcome of the case is a major setback for the anti-corruption crusade.

“In the case of Bode George & co. the appellants were tried, convicted and sentenced to various prison terms by the Lagos High Court on October 26, 2009 for abuse of powers and disobedience of lawful orders. Completely displeased with the verdict, the appellants challenged it on appeal. In its considered judgment delivered on January 21, 2011 the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the learned trial judge, Olubunmi Oyewole. Still dissatisfied the appellants further appealed to the Supreme Court. In its judgment handed down a fortnight ago, the Supreme Court set aside the concurrent findings of both the Lagos High Court and the Court of Appeal with respect to the conviction of the appellants,” he said.

He stated that in discharging and acquitting them, the apex court held that the offence of contract splitting was unknown to law at the time the appellants were tried and convicted by the Lagos High Court, saying that in his leading judgment, the judge, John Fabiyi, held inter alia, “It occurred to me that section 203 of the Criminal Code is not in tune with the dictate of section 36(12) of the 1999 Constitution.

“That being the position, the charges filed under section 203 of the said Code ostensibly for splitting contract in disobedience of lawful order by constituted authority cannot stand. I say it with utmost confidence that the same position applies to the provision of section 104 of the said Criminal Code. Acts said to have constituted arbitrary acts resulting in abuse of office are splitting of contracts which were not offences known to law at the material time.”

“It is submitted, without any fear of contradiction, that the appellants were not charged for contract splitting by the EFCC but for “abuse of powers” and “disobedience of lawful order” contrary to sections 104 and 203 of the Criminal Code of Lagos State respectively. In summarising the unassailable judgment of the learned trial judge, Clara Ogunbiyi JCA (as she then was) had, in her lead judgment, said that the appellants were arraigned “on 68 counts of offences bordering on inflation of contracts, conspiracy to disobey lawful orders and abuse of office.”

“Since both sections 104 and 203 have been part of the Criminal Code as far back as 1914, it is unbelievable that the Supreme Court held that the appellants were charged under an unknown law. The crime of disobedience to lawful order by splitting contracts was not unknown before the enactment of the Public Procurement Act, 2007. In the instant case, contract splitting was a particular of the offence and not the offence alleged against the appellants.

“But for some inexplicable reasons, the apex court substituted the particular for the offence and arrived at a wrong conclusion. Curiously, the Supreme Court conveniently ignored the finding of the Court of Appeal that the appellants violated sections 104 and 203 of the Criminal Code when they awarded contracts beyond their approval limits which were “borne out by evidence from all the witnesses on both sides,” he explained.

According to Falana, it has been established in a plethora of cases decided by the Supreme Court that an appellate court has no power to disturb the finding of a lower court which is not challenged on appeal, “however for reasons best known to the apex court, it decided to depart from the settled principle of law in discharging and acquitting the appellants. From the record of appeal, it is indisputable that the Court of Appeal had unanimously agreed with the prosecution that the intention to defraud the nation was proved beyond reasonable doubt by the conduct of the appellants who consistently approved contracts of several billions of naira beyond their approval limit.”

“There was not a single ground of appeal that attacked that particular crucial finding of the lower court. Yet the Supreme Court decided, albeit illegally, to tamper with the finding of the court below and proceeded to hold that the prosecution failed to prove the guilt of the appellants.

The most embarrassing aspect of the judgment was that the Supreme Court annulled two provisions of the Criminal Code of Lagos without hearing from the Attorney-General of Lagos State in line with established practice.

“With profound respect to their Lordships, there is no legal justification whatsoever for declaring sections 104 and 203 of the Criminal Code illegal and unconstitutional. No doubt, the attention of the apex court was not drawn to the undeniable fact that section 104 of the Criminal Code is in pari materia with section 9 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers set out in Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution which has created the offence of abuse of power. Therefore, section 104 of the Criminal Code cannot be said to be unconstitutional since the same Constitution has created the offence of “abuse of powers.”

He added that as the verdict of the apex court was based on wrong legal foundation, its validity remained questionable, stressing that, although, the appellants had been exculpated, it is hoped that the Supreme Court would soon have another opportunity to reverse the highly erroneous judgment so as to restore sections 104 and 203 of the Lagos State Criminal Code which were struck down for no justifiable legal reasons.

“However, the case of Bode George & co. should not be treated in isolation as it is now the trend to strike out or dismiss charges filed against members of the bourgeoisie. To that extent, the decision of the Supreme Court should be seen as an audacious expression of class solidarity.

“Perhaps, majority of Nigerians are not aware of the fact that out of the over 400 convictions which the EFCC has secured in the 10 years of its existence, only four members of the political class have been successfully prosecuted through dubious plea bargain deals. In the circumstance, instead of wasting the meager resources allocated to the anti-graft agencies on securing convictions which are going to be set aside in favour of members of the ruling class, it is high time the Federal Government stopped charging politically exposed persons and other influential criminal suspects to court. In the atmosphere of impunity in the land, judges should equally stop the immoral practice of railroading petty criminals to jail,” he stated.

Source: African Examiner.

Supreme Court Faces Challenge Over Contraception Mandate.

The Supreme Court faces a tough challenge ahead as it decides on the Obamacare contraception mandate, using legal precedent to weigh religious freedom against government ordinances.

Analysts say it is difficult to predict how the nine justices will rule after federal appeals courts across the country have not been able to agree on whether the Obama administration can force for-profit companies to insure birth control, reports the Washington Times. 

New Medicare Warning: Obamacare Rule Changes Coming 

The Supreme Court agreed last month to hear challenges brought by two businesses that object to the mandate on religious grounds.

One of the cases involves Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees, which won in the lower courts. The other is an appeal from Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets, whose claims have been rejected by lower courts.

At issue is the requirement that employers who provide health insurance to their employees offer a full range of preventive benefits.

“I think this will really be an issue of religious freedom, divorced as much as possible from the specific content of the objectionable requirement,” Holly Lynch, a healthcare policy and bioethics specialist at Harvard Law School, told the Times.

Trevor Burrus, a research fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies, pointed to the 1990 Supreme Court decision in Employment Division v. Smith, when it ruled that Oregon could deny unemployment benefits to American Indians fired for using peyote, even though it was part of a religious ritual.

Referring to Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the opinion, Burrus told the Times, “The criticism he got from the religious community on that was huge.”

On the other hand, after Congress passed the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act of 1993, noted Randy Barnett, a professor at the Georgetown Law Center, the court used the law to uphold the rights of a New Mexico church to use sacramental tea seized by federal agents because it had an illegal hallucinogen.

Barnett said Chief Justice John Roberts applied the act in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente to rule that the government failed to prove that banning use of the tea met a compelling government interest.

The high court upheld virtually all of the healthcare reform law in 2012, but the administration has unilaterally delayed parts of the bill leading up to its implementation.

In July, the administration delayed the employer mandate until 2015, and last month the president announced changes to the law that allow insurance companies to continue offering policies that don’t meet all of its requirements.

The Supreme Court, though, will have the final say on the contraception mandate, which was upheld Monday in a ruling against Catholic schools in Washington, D.C.  but not in an earlier ruling in favor of Catholic educational institutions in New York City.

Courts in Chicago and Denver had previously ruled the mandate may violate religious freedom, while courts in Philadelphia and Cincinnati sided with the government.

Oral arguments in the Supreme Court are likely to be heard in March, with a ruling due by June.

New Medicare Warning: Obamacare Rule Changes Coming 

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By Lisa Barron

Reid Welcomes NSA Ruling, Is Open to Restrictive Legislation.

Joining other senators who welcomed a federal ruling that the National Security Agency’s cellphone snooping is likely unconstitutional, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he’s now open to legislation that would curb some of the agency’s data collection, two reports said.”We know that senators, both Democrats and Republicans, would like to change the law that relates to some of the collection activities,” Reid said Tuesday, according to Politico 
and the Huffington Post.

“I think that’s good, I think we need a good, public debate on this,” Reid said.

NSA critic Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called Monday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon “a wake-up call to those who are supporting the status quo” that “puts at risk the liberties of the people and is damaging our economy.”

“I think our side is on the march,” he said, the Huffington Post reported.

But Reid said Leon’s ruling isn’t crystal-clear.

“All the rulings that have taken place on bulk collection, they don’t agree with what Leon said,” Reid said, the Huffington Post reported.

He’s not alone in his concern: Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein,D-Ca., one of the NSA’s biggest supporters, noted that a federal court decision last month ruled the NSA’s business records program constitutional, Politico reported.

But on “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on Tuesday, Feinstein eased up on her insistence, in an op-ed piece she wrote for The Wall Street Journal in October, that the program “is necessary and must be preserved if we are to prevent terrorist attacks.”

“I’m not saying it’s indispensable,” she said Tuesday. “But I’m saying that it is important, and it is a major tool in ferreting out a potential terrorist attack.”

Feinstein said that “only the Supreme Court can resolve the question on the constitutionality of the NSA’s program . . . I am very eager to see the court take this case. We will know once and for all,” the Huffington Post quoted her as saying.

Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss criticized Leon’s ruling, calling it “very disturbing,” Politico reported.

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By Cathy Burke

Ex-AG Gonzales: Supreme Court Should Make NSA Decision.

The constitutionality of the NSA data collection program has to be made by the U.S. Supreme Court rather than any district court, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told MSNBC‘s “Morning Joe.”

“That’s the kind of decision, it seems to me, the Supreme Court should be making. Not a district court judge, whose primary responsibility is to follow precedent in applying the law,” Gonzales said Tuesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled Monday the mass collection of phone records by the NSA was unconstitutional. Leon put a stay on his ruling pending a likely appeal.

Gonzales, who served under President George W. Bush, said the program should have strict supervision by Congress. If it appeared abuses were taking place, he maintained it would be worthwhile to question the program’s viability.

Story continues below video.

“If it appears that the agency is incapable of exercising its authorities without abuse, then it is legitimate to look to see whether or not continued use of these programs makes sense, because it’s important to protect the privacy interests of Americans, the constitutional rights of American citizens,” he said.

Gonzales voiced surprise the government did not present any cases before Judge Leon of how the program prevented terrorist attacks. If it was not effective toward that end, Gonzales said it was legitimate to question its use.

“If, in fact, they’re not being used to protect our country, why are we engaged in this kind of activity? It’s a very important question,” he said.

The fact that the program has been brought to light gives people the opportunity to voice their opinions to elected officials, Gonzales said. Congress must continue to ensure the NSA is operating “in a way that can be reassuring to the American people that their rights are being protected.”

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By Wanda Carruthers

EFCC, Unhappy With El-Rufai Acquittal, To File Appeal.


By Saharareporters, New York

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), has decided that it will pursue an appeal in a higher court against last week’s decision of a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja which acquitted a former Minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai.
In a statement, the commission expressed dismay at two separate court losses it suffered last Friday, the other being the Supreme Court acquittal of the former Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Chief Olabode Goerge and five others.

“Without going into the merit or otherwise of the Supreme court ruling, it is unfortunate that the apex court disagreed with the decision of the two lower courts—the Lagos High Court and the Court of Appeal—which upheld the conviction of the accused persons based on the evidence presented by the Commission,” the statement said.

“While this turn of event is saddening, the Commission as a law abiding institution always respected judicial pronouncements and this will be no different.”

It described the decision of Justice Sadiq Umar that the Commission failed to establish a prima facie case against El-Rufai as being “against the weight of the evidence” it had presented to the court.

Judge Orders Removal of San Diego War Memorial Cross.


Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial
A Califronia judge ordered the removal of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego. (Liberty Institute)

A federal district court judge in California ordered the removal of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego late Thursday.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) said the decision is “deeply flawed” and promised to file an amicus brief in support of an expected appeal to keep the memorial—which includes a commemorative cross—in place.

“This latest decision in the long and winding legal road concerning the constitutionality of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial is deeply flawed,” says Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, which has been active for years in defending the constitutionality of the memorial and its cross.

“The federal court decision declaring the memorial unconstitutional and ordering its removal does not square with the facts. This memorial is part of the historic landscape of San Diego and is consistent with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

This new legal decision is the result of action that occurred in 2012 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take the case, leaving in place a decision by the Ninth Circuit declaring the memorial unconstitutional and sending the case back to the trial court in San Diego. The ACLJ urged theSupreme Court to take the case at the time, filing an amicus brief representing 34 members of Congress.

In an amicus brief filed in August with the U.S. District Court representing 18 members of Congress, the ACLJ urged the court to permit a private organization to obtain and operate the war memorial—a remedy that would remove any constitutional questions and keep the monument and cross in place.

Thursday, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ruled that the memorial must be removed because it violates a constitutional ban on government endorsement of religion.

“Deliberate language in the opinion makes it clear that removal of the large, historic cross is the only remedy that the Ninth Circuit conceives will cure the constitutional violation,” Burns wrote in his ruling. Burns ordered the memorial be removed within 90 days but put that order on hold, pending an expected appeal.

“We will continue to aggressively argue in support of this memorial and commemorative cross,” Sekulow says. “We believe the law and precedent are clear: The Supreme Court has concluded in the past that ‘a Latin cross is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs. It is a symbol often used to honor and respect those whose heroic acts, noble contributions and patient striving help secure an honored place in history for this nation and its people.’ This memorial should not create a constitutional crisis. It is part of the history and heritage of the San Diego area.”


Obama Uses IRS to Eliminate His Enemies.

President Obama
President Obama

“The power to tax involves the power to destroy,” the Supreme Court wrote in 1819, shortly after America began.

Now in 2013, President Barack Obama is launching a frightening attack on free speech, using one of the most-feared agencies in all the federal government: the Internal Revenue Service.

One of the most roundly condemned aspects of Richard Nixon’s malfeasance in office was his use of the IRS to target his political enemies with audits. If people shudder at Nixon’s abuses with the IRS, what Obama is doing should drive them to convulsions.

Obama seeks to silence dissenting voices with unprecedented new regulations to curtail political speech by nonprofit organizations. These new rules would help silence conservative organizations and Obama’s critics and raise serious First Amendment concerns, as these rules look like the federal provisions struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in its famous Citizens United case.

Congress allows for various types of organizations to organize as nonprofit, revenue from which is not subject to corporate federal income tax. For example, fundamentally charitable or educational nonprofits—such as churches—are 501(c)(3) organizations, contributions to which are also tax-deductible by the donors.

Some groups are 501(c)(5) organizations. These are political action committees (PACs), which endorse candidates for office and devote their resources to advancing or defeating certain candidates.

Then there are 501(c)(4) organizations. These are social welfare organizations, dedicated to advancing certain issues or viewpoints they believe promote “the common good and general welfare.” These nonprofits can devote much of their resources to political activity, so long as politics is not the group’s “primary purpose.”

It’s always been assumed that less than 50 percent would be devoted to pure politicking, but no one knows because the law does not specify. Also—conveniently—the tax code fails to define the term “political activity.”

On Nov. 26, the Treasury Department and IRS announced new regulations “regarding qualification requirements for tax-exemption as a social welfare organization,” that is, 501(c)(4) organizations. TheIRS then goes on to specify what sorts of activities will henceforth be regarded as political activity, including but not limited to:

  • Any message expressing approval/support or disapproval/opposition to any candidate for public office. For example, an ad saying, “Thank Senator Smith for supporting our troops.”
  • Within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary election, any mention by name of any candidate or showing his picture, even without expressing approval or disapproval.
  • Any money given by a 501(c)(4) to a 527 organization, which citizens may give, however much of their personal money they want to promote public issues they personally support.
  • Voter registration drives.
  • Voter guides that inform citizens of where politicians stand on various issues.
  • Any event within 60 days of an election at which a candidate makes an appearance.

The impact of such regulations would be far-reaching. Groups such as the National Rifle Association and its political affiliate, NRA-ILA, are 501(c)(4) organizations. Imagine if NRA-ILA could not spend much of its resources discussing issues and legislation or informing voters of where candidates stand on gun rights issues. Now imagine those restrictions imposed on the major organizations of every public issue in America.

Less than four years ago, in Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law that made it a crime for organizations to speak about candidates within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary. The Obama administration claimed the authority to ban even books, if a 600-page book mentioned a candidate even once on its pages.

The Court held that these restrictions violated the First Amendment. Yet these new IRS rules closely track those invalidated provisions.

In some respects, these restrictions go even further than the ones struck down by the court. Previous restrictions only applied to candidates for federal office. The new IRS rules would also apply to every candidate for state and local elections. Thus, criticizing your county dog catcher could land your organization in hot water with the IRS, even if the dog catcher election is vitally relevant to the social welfare interests of your nonprofit group, such as a group called Citizens for Safe Dog Catching.

In our 2010 book, The Blueprint, we discussed how free speech is the essential lifeblood of public debate, empowering voters to make a thoughtful and well-considered choice at the ballot box. We also warned that Obama might create laws to silence his political opponents, using the same Chicago-style political tactics he knew from his days as an Illinois politician, like a couple rough-looking thugs built like brick walls who muscle their way around your storefront to send you a message that you’d better quiet down if you know what’s good for you and your business.

The Supreme Court restored free speech for average citizens in Citizens United. Shortly thereafter, President Obama demeaned his high office by denouncing the Supreme Court to the justices’ faces during the 2010 State of the Union address on national television before a joint session of Congress. Obama later promised to find ways to get around the Citizens United decision.

That is what the IRS is doing here—limiting how much groups can speak about Obama’s policies or promote alternative policies about health care, free markets, traditional values or national defense. Obama and his supporters can use the enormous platform of their public offices to promote whatever they want without limit. If the president gives a speech, the media will cover it.

But if a group of citizens wants to pool their resources to express an opposing viewpoint before an election, that group can lose its tax-exempt status. Unlike the law struck down in 2010, it will not be a federal felony.

But while its bite isn’t as deep, the reach is much broader. It serves to choke off funding and impair the ability of those groups to participate in the democratic process.

The solution to political speech you don’t like is to offer opposing speech; the cure for bad speech or wrong speech is more speech, not less. That free exchange of ideas is the blood flowing through the veins of a free society, so that voters can fully hear both sides. When you stop that flow, you stop the beating heart of democracy.



Ken Blackwell is senior fellow of family empowerment, and Ken Klukowski is director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council. This article appeared on on Dec. 2, 2013.

High Court Sidesteps Liberty University’s Challenge to Employer Mandate.

U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court sidestepped an opportunity on Monday to take up Liberty University’s challenge to the entire employer mandate, declining to review the case without comment. (Chris Phan/Flickr/Creative Commons)

The United States Supreme Court sidestepped an opportunity Monday to take up Liberty University’s challenge to the entire employer mandate, declining to review the case without comment.

Denial of review does not result in an opinion on the merits. The court could take up a similar challenge if a federal court of appeals strikes down the entire employer mandate, although no such challenge is currently pending.

Liberty Counsel represents Liberty University and two private individuals in the case of Liberty University v. Lew (formerly Liberty University v. Geithner). This was the first private lawsuit against Obamacare filed on the day President Obama signed it into law on March 23, 2010.

The Liberty University case challenged (1) the entire employer mandate, (2) the forced funding of abortion drugs and devices under the law and as implemented by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and (3) the forced funding of abortion by individuals under the individual mandate.

The Liberty University case first reached the Supreme Court in 2011, and the issue raised by the case (the Anti-Injunction Act) became the subject of the first day of the three-day oral argument in 2012. In November 2012, the high court ordered the federal court of appeals to rehear the remaining unresolved issues, including the employer mandate.

After the three-judge panel (two of whom were appointed by President Obama) upheld the law, the case again went back to the Supreme Court. Last week, the high court accepted the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases, both of which are for-profit corporations challenging only the HHS contraception and abortifacient provision.

“The high court has decided to take up the HHS contraception and abortion drug mandate, but it is not ready yet to tackle the entire employer mandate. That challenge will wait for another day,” says Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The Liberty University case would make strong arguments that the employer mandate could not be upheld as a tax because the penalties are exorbitantly high and punitive.

“Deciding the case would have highlighted the absurdity of the Supreme Court’s convoluted decision upholding the individual mandate as a tax. Apparently the court was not willing right now to venture back into that morass.”

Staver concludes, “We will wait on the court’s ruling next year to decide whether to file a new challenge. It is possible the high court could sidestep the HHS abortion mandate issue by deciding that for-profit corporations do not have free exercise of religion rights. I hope the court will decide the issue and strike down this most egregious trampling of the free exercise of religion.”


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