And the ruling on the health care law is…

Today, the Supreme Court will announce its decision on the 2010 health care bill. According to the official schedule, the ruling won’t have occurred by the time this post goes live — and it certainly hasn’t happened as I actually write this post on Wednesday night — so I don’t have a lot to say about the decision right now. But presumably you all will, as events unfold.

If you’re reading this before the decision has been announced, you can read SCOTUSblog’s helpful summary of what exactly we’re waiting for. Law junkies can also follow SCOTUSblog’s live coverage of the event throughout the day — they’ve even created a backup site in case their main site gets flooded with viewers.

So, did the Supreme Court get it right?

The right to lie about your accomplishments?

Though easily overlooked in all the discussion about the health care decision, the Supreme Court is announcing its decision in other cases today, as well. Perhaps most interesting is United States v. Alvarez, in which the issue is (as summarized by SCOTUSblog):

Whether a federal law that makes it a crime to lie about receiving military medals or honors violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of the right to free speech.

I assume we all agree that it is morally wrong for a person to lie about what honors they have received. The question is: should this moral failing also be criminalized? And, perhaps an even more important question is: why or why not? What criteria must a moral failing meet in order to merit criminalization?

Arizona v. United States

From The Washington Post:

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down several key parts of Arizona’s tough law on illegal immigrants, but it left standing a controversial provision requiring police to check the immigration status of people they detain and suspect to be in the country illegally.

SCOTUSblog provides an explanation “in plain English”:

The decision was largely (but not entirely) a victory for the federal government:  the Court held that three of the four provisions of the law at issue in the case cannot go into effect at all because they are “preempted,” or trumped, by federal immigration laws.  And while the Court allowed one provision – which requires police officers to check the immigration status of anyone whom they detain or arrest before they release that person – to go into effect, even here it left open the possibility that this provision would eventually be held unconstitutional if not applied narrowly in Arizona.

Click on the latter link to read more about the four provisions at issue.

So what do you think? Does this only further increase the federal government’s power, with a commensurate erosion of state control? Or is this a proper understanding of the federal government’s constitutional control over immigration?

Into the wilderness

Today we head out for a little cabin in the big woods.  We will have no internet connection, no cell phone reception, no cable television, and no newspapers.  If we survive, we will crawl out of the wilderness like Rip Van Winkle, if Rip Van Winkle only slept for five days.   Still, we have been looking forward to this for a long time.  That does mean that I won’t be doing any blogging for the rest of the week.

If we can avoid dying of exposure or getting eaten by wild animals, I’ll be back the first of July.  In the meantime, if something happens in the world that you think I would normally blog about–for example, if the Supremes rule on Obamacare–please make a comment to that effect here and discuss as you think appropriate.

If all goes well, I’ll be posting again on July 2.  By then I’ll probably be grateful again for the blessings of civilization, technology, and the information age.  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy being without them.

[Updated by tODD: Actually, at the risk of presuming on our good host’s hospitality, I’m going to create at least one new post for the discussion of the Supreme Court ruling in Arizona v. United States, as I assume that’s one topic we’ll want to discuss here, and it might keep discussion a bit tidier than having it all in one thread. And, come Thursday, I’ll set up another one specifically for the Supreme Court ruling on the health care law.

Feel free to discuss other matters here, or to propose topics we could discuss in separate posts this week. I’ll do my best to create posts on topics that seem of general interest. I know I’m often wrong about everything you hold dear, but I’ll try to be impartial here — at least, in the creation of discussion posts. I just don’t want us all trying to discuss everything in one thread for four days. I know how whiny you guys can get when you’re not getting your Cranach fix.]

Happy Augsburg Confession Day!

On this day 482 years ago–June 25, 1530–the Reformation princes and free cities confessed their faith before Emperor Charles V at the Diet (the governing assembly of the Imperial states) held in Augsburg, Germany.  The 28 articles drawn up by Philipp Melanchthon (not Luther!) became known as the Augsburg Confession.  It was the first confession of faith of the Reformation and, to this day, it is perhaps the most succinct and definitive summaries of Lutheran theology.

Part of its genius is that it spells out what did NOT change in the Reformation churches–the continuity with historical Christianity that later protestants would throw out–as well as precisely what elements in the medieval church did need to be reformed.  The Augsburg Confession is still startlingly relevant to today’s controversies of theology and practice.

Honor the day by reading it:  Augsburg Confession – Book of Concord.

Matthew Harrison’s open letter

Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, has issued an open letter from religious leaders to Americans, stating why they object to the Obamacare insurance mandate requiring coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients.  It’s getting some notable attention.

FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION:
Putting Beliefs into Practice
An Open Letter from Religious Leaders in the United States to All Americans

Dear Friends,

Religious institutions are established because of religious beliefs and convictions. Such institutions include not only churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship, but also schools and colleges, shelters and community kitchens, adoption agencies and hospitals, organizations that provide care and services during natural disasters, and countless other organizations that exist to put specific religious beliefs into practice. Many such organizations have provided services and care to both members and non-members of their religious communities since before the Revolutionary War, saving and improving the lives of countless American citizens.

As religious leaders from a variety of perspectives and communities, we are compelled to make known our protest against the incursion of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) into the realm of religious liberty. HHS has mandated that religious institutions, with only a narrow religious exception, must provide access to certain contraceptive benefits, even if the covered medications or procedures are contradictory to their beliefs. We who oppose the application of this mandate to religious institutions include not only the leaders of religious groups morally opposed to contraception, but also leaders of other religious groups that do not share that particular moral conviction.

That we share an opposition to the mandate to religious institutions while disagreeing about specific moral teachings is a crucial fact. Religious freedom is the principle on which we stand. Because of differing understandings of moral and religious author- ity, people of good will can and often do come to different conclusions about moral questions. Yet, even we who hold differing convictions on specific moral issues are united in the conviction that no religious institution should be penalized for refusing to go against its beliefs. The issue is the First Amendment, not specific moral teachings or specific products or services.

The HHS mandate implicitly acknowledged that an incursion into religion is involved in the mandate. However, the narrowness of the proposed exemption is revealing for it applies only to religious organizations that serve or support their own members. In so doing, the government is establishing favored and disfavored religious organizations: a privatized religious organization that serves only itself is exempted from regulation, while one that believes it should also serve the public beyond its membership is denied a religious exemption. The so-called accommodation and the subsequent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (AN- PRM) do little or nothing to alleviate the problem.

No government should tell religious organizations either what to believe or how to put their beliefs into practice. We indeed hold this to be an unalienable, constitutional right. If freedom of religion is a constitutional value to be protected, then institutions developed by religious groups to implement their core beliefs in education, in care for the sick or suffering, and in other tasks must also be protected. Only by doing so can the free exercise of religion have any meaning. The HHS mandate prevents this free exercise. For the well-being of our country, we oppose the application of the contraceptive mandate to religious institutions and plead for its retraction.

Sincerely yours,

Leith Anderson, President National Association of Evangelicals
Gary M. Benedict, President The Christian and Missionary Alliance U.S.
Bishop John F. Bradosky, North American Lutheran Church
The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church Bishop, Fellowship of International Churches
The Very Rev. Dr. John A. Jillions, Chancellor Orthodox Church in America
Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, l.s.p., Provincial Superior, Baltimore Province Little Sisters of the Poor
The Rev. John A. Moldstad, President Evangelical Lutheran Synod
Deaconess Cheryl D. Naumann, President Concordia Deaconess Conference The Lutheran Church MS
The Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York President United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., Superior General of the Sisters of Life
Sister Barbara Anne Gooding, R.S.M. Director, Department of Religion Saint Francis Health System
Sister Margaret Regina Halloran, l.s.p. Provincial Superior, Brooklyn Province Little Sisters of the Poor
The Most Blessed Jonah, Archbishop  Orthodox Church in America
Imam Faizul R. Khan, Founder and Leader Islamic Society of Washington Area
The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Director of Interchurch Relations Orthodox Church in America
The Most Rev. William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore Chairman USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty
Sister Maria Christine Lynch, l.s.p., Provincial Superior, Chicago Province Little Sisters of the Poor
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President NHCLC Hispanic Evangelical Association
Sister Joseph Marie Ruessmann, R.S.M., J.D., J.C.D., M.B.A. Generalate Secretary Religious Sisters of Mercy
The Rev. Mark Schroeder, President Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
L. Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America
Sister Constance Carolyn Veit, l.s.p., Communications Director Little Sisters of the Poor
Dr. George O. Wood, General Superintendent The General Council of the Assemblies of God


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