Other rights are not equal to religious liberty

2519766036_d988be0058_z (1)The hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court got started.

Judge Gorsuch is so clearly qualified that it’s hard to see the basis the left will use to try to shoot down his nomination.  Evidently, the criticism will be that he rules too frequently in favor of religious liberty.  For example, he ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that the owner’s religious convictions outweigh the Obamacare mandate that female employees should be given free birth control.

Today the key assaults on religious liberty are being made in the name of other rights that are assumed to be equal to, or to outweigh the protections of the First Amendment.  Thus, the right of a customer to buy a cake for a gay wedding is often thought to deserve more consideration than the Christian baker’s qualms about participating in a ceremony that violates his or her religious convictions.

David French, a constitutional lawyer among his other talents, explains why ‘fundamental rights”–that is, inalienable rights specifically listed in the constitution–must always take priority over subsidiary rights granted by government power.

Thus religious liberty has to trump (sorry) the right to buy a wedding cake from the baker of your choice, or the right to free birth control, or the right of an atheist to hold office in a religious group, etc. [Read more…]

Do foreigners have constitutional rights?

constitution-1486010_640The Supreme Court has taken up a case that will decide whether or not foreigners–even those outside of American soil–have constitutional rights.

On the one hand, how could they?  Non-citizens cannot have the same privileges as citizens.  Foreigners in this country will be treated according to this country’s laws, which means no one will be allowed to mistreat them.  But how can a nation’s laws be applied outside its borders?

On the other hand, doesn’t the Declaration of Independence say that human rights are universal?  They are “inalienable,” not granted by a government but “endowed” by God.

The case, Hernández v. Mesa, has to do with a border control agent shooting a rock-throwing teenager who was on the Mexican side of the border.

So what do you think?  Do foreigners have constitutional rights?  Is there a difference between constitutional rights and human rights?  Explain. [Read more…]

“Fundamental” vs. “nonfundamental” rights

In a column on the Supreme Court agreeing to hear a case involving a California law requiring that political donor lists be made public, George Will describes a curious legal distinction between “fundamental” rights that cannot be abridged and lesser “nonfundamental” rights that can be abridged if there is a “rational basis.”  This current case, according to Will, would take the dangerous step of applying the “rational basis” criterion to a fundamental right. [Read more…]

You can now give to as many candidates as you want

The Supreme Court struck down the limits to the number of candidates a person is allowed to give money to and the total amount you are allowed to give.   Left standing is the limit a person can give to one candidate–$48,600–but the law had limited total giving to $123,200.  That meant that a donor wanting to give the maximum amount could only support nine candidates.

I know that critics of the ruling are claiming that this opens the door to political corruption and gives rich people the opportunity to buy candidates.  But are there any constitutional grounds for objecting to this ruling?  Aren’t limitations of political activity unconstitutional on the face of it? [Read more…]

Is religious liberty for individuals or just churches?

Mollie Hemingway has written a piece in the Wall Street Journal about the impact of gay marriage on religious liberty, which is being construed as applying only to religious institutions and not to individuals. [Read more…]

Defining who gets Constitutional rights

A Senate committee approved a “media shield” bill designed to protect journalists from having to reveal their sources and giving them protection from government surveillance.  In doing so, the bill defines who gets to be a journalist.  To get these protections, you have to be a paid, professional employee of a recognized news organization.  Bloggers aren’t protected.  I might be because of my past work for World Magazine.  But not, presumably, Matt Drudge, who has often broken stories from confidential sources, including President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Beyond this particular law is a bigger question.  The Constitution guarantees freedom of “the press.”  Is that to apply only to professional journalists?  Or to those who own printing presses, namely, newspaper companies and publishing houses?  At the time of the Constitution, individuals like Ben Franklin–who could hardly be considered a professional news reporter– ran their own printing presses, printing their political opinions and commenting on the news of the day.  The internet in effect allows just about everybody to have their own printing press.  Shouldn’t freedom of the press extend to what you write on a blog or your FaceBook page?

And might other Constitutional rights be restricted by defining who they apply to?  Isn’t this already happening in the way some are construing civil liberties?  “You have the right to keep and bear arms.  That is, you have the right to join the National Guard and to keep your arms in the local armory.”  “You have freedom of religion.  No one will stop you from going to church, and we won’t make your church pay for morning after pills.  Just don’t act on your religious beliefs in the way you run your business.”  “You have freedom of speech, which entitles you to use pornography.  But don’t criticize homosexuality in public.” [Read more…]