The U.S. Supreme Court hears approximately 75 cases of national importance annually, and several of those typically involve First Amendment or other issues of concern to Christians. This term, which ends in June, features three important cases that will be decided in the next few weeks.
The first, Fulton v. Philadelphia, will decide whether the government can order faith-based foster care and adoption agencies with which it contracts for services to violate their religious principles in order to maintain those contracts. The second, consisting of two related cases, Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra and Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Becerra, will determine whether charitable organizations’ donor lists can be kept private in order to protect the identities of contributors. Finally, in California v. Texas, the high court will decide whether Obamacare is still constitutional after Congress made changes in 2017 that eliminated the financial penalty for failing to purchase insurance.
Fulton v. Philadelphia – Freedom of Religion
Catholic Social Services (CSS) had been providing foster care and other services for the city of Philadelphia for over 100 years when the city demanded in 2018 that CSS promise to forego its religious beliefs about placing children with a married mom and dad, and certify same-sex couples as acceptable parents. When CSS refused to make that promise, the city stopped allowing any children to be placed by that agency, citing the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance as the reason. CSS brought a federal lawsuit but lost in the lower courts before the Supreme Court agreed to hear its appeal. Oral arguments were heard last November.
CSS argued that Philadelphia’s action violated its First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
The case is important because foster care and adoption are tightly regulated by every state. If state governments are allowed to require faith-based agencies to violate their deeply held beliefs regarding marriage and the family, it will force such agencies to forego that ministry, which will only increase the backlog of needy children being matched to families at a time when that service is desperately needed.
Thomas More Law Center – Donor Disclosure and Freedom of Association
Disclosure of donor lists to the state of California by charitable organizations was supposed to prevent fraud by unscrupulous types seeking to fleece citizens by requesting donations under the pretext of a worthy cause. As laudable as the stated intent was, the actual result was that the state couldn’t be trusted to keep such lists secret, and donor lists leaked to the public. In this day and age where the outrage industry will force you out of business if it doesn’t like the causes you associate with, the secrecy of donor lists becomes a life-or-death cause for many charitable organizations.
The case is important because the First Amendment implicitly guarantees our freedom of association, meaning the right to join with others to speak out, to petition the government, to seek redress of grievances, or just to worship together. Any government regulation that puts that in jeopardy must be looked at by the courts with the strictest scrutiny.
California v. Texas – Is Obamacare Unconstitutional?
The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, was signed into law in 2010, and has been a contentious political issue ever since. In 2017, Congress zeroed out the penalty the law imposed on individuals for failing to purchase health insurance, aka the individual mandate. The individual mandate was the key to making Obamacare’s various subsidies and other provisions pay for themselves.
Or at least that was what the American public was told in 2009 and 2010 in the public relations effort to get Obamacare passed.
So when conservatives in Congress managed to get the individual mandate eliminated by reducing any penalty to zero, some enterprising state governments challenged the rest of Obamacare, arguing that if the key element – the individual mandate – were removed, then the rest of the law must fail of its essential purpose, making it unconstitutional.
Or at least that’s the argument. And it didn’t look like a majority of the justices bought that argument when the case was argued last November. If the high court rules that Obamacare is still constitutional even with the individual mandate eliminated, it will likely be because of a legal doctrine known as “severability,” which means that if one clause of a law is unconstitutional but the rest of the law can still operate on its own, the remainder will stand.
All of these cases – Fulton, Thomas More, and California v. Texas – will be decided in the next few weeks. When they are, The Daily Citizen will bring you up-to-date reporting and analysis on all of them.