June 28, 2012
Key Quotes from Today’s Decision that Signal the Court’s Willingness to Strike Down the HHS Mandate
..and from Justice Ginsburg no less
Today’s decision and the Becket Fund’s challenges to the HHS mandate are completely separate and distinct legal issues. But did the Supreme Court say anything that is relevant to the HHS mandate? Yes. Two key quotes signal that the Court may be willing to strike down the HHS mandate as a violation of religious liberty.
The first, from the majority opinion, states: “Even if the taxing power enables Congress to impose a tax on not obtaining health insurance, any tax must still comply with other requirements in the Constitution.” In other words, Congress may have authority to penalize organizations that refuse to comply with its mandates; but any penalty will be struck down if it violates “other requirements in the Constitution,” such as the First Amendment—which is just what the HHS mandate does. (The Chief’s quote is in his majority op Part III-C which was joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. p 40)
The second quote, from Justice Ginsburg’s opinion, is even more clear: “A mandate to purchase a particular product would be unconstitutional if, for example, the edict impermissibly abridged the freedom of speech, interfered with the free exercise of religion, or infringed on a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause.” Again, that is just what the HHS mandate does: It “interfere[s] with the free exercise of religion” by forcing religious organizations across the country to violate their religious beliefs.(SC Opinion Part II which was joined by Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. p 29)
Thus, today’s Supreme Court decision makes clear that ObamaCare is still subject to legal challenge. Indeed, if anything, it suggests that the Supreme Court is willing to entertain arguments that the HHS mandate violates the right of religious liberty.