By Jeremy Wallace
July 4, 2014
According to the Albert Lea Tribune: Much ado about contraceptives
Talk about overreach.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that “closely held” (read: family-owned) for-profit corporations could opt out of the contraceptives portion of the employees’ health care plans offered under the Affordable Care Act.
It was a narrow ruling, in that it was a small aspect of a widespread law regarding the entire health care industry.
But the shrill reaction by supporters and opponents of contraceptives is out of hand. They have made the overreach. One side is making it seem like women now have to return to being barefoot and pregnant while the other side seems like, well, women have to return to being barefoot and pregnant. It must be a bad and a good thing, depending on the political persuasion of the protester.
One side has been quick to portray the Obama administration was way off base with Obamacare all because of the contraceptives provision. It’s like they are ready to take this narrow ruling and win over a generation of Americans, even though Obamacare has been upheld by this very same Supreme Court. The other side is as mad as hornets, as though one minor loss after a long string of victories is the end of America as we know it.
By any standard, the decision could have been worse for either side. After all, the Obama administration already allowed exemptions for religious nonprofit organization. This ruling only expands that for some companies, and the federal government might end up picking up the contraceptives tab for those employees anyway.
The Supreme Court’s conservative side could have ruled to wipe out coverage of all contraceptives. But it didn’t. It found what appears to be a happy medium between the new law and its interpretation of religious freedom found in the First Amendment.
The greater issue is not about contraception at all. It’s the notion that a corporation has religious beliefs. The ruling, written by Justice Samuel Alito, even reinforces the long-held legal stance that a corporation is a fictional entity. So now fictional entities have religion? As silly as that notion may seem to some people, it is near and dear to others. Debate over rights, no matter the side, are nothing to scoff at.
On one hand, why allow fictional entities formed primarily to prevent personal liability in group, for-profit endeavors the same rights as individual people? After all, these fictional entities don’t go to prison like individual people, and the Constitution’s preamble says in big letters, “We the people.” On the other hand, if you formed a company, would you want to give up the rights you had as an individual? Probably not. They view the company as a group method for their personal decisions and actions. So it’s a tough line to draw.
The debate over whether corporations have the same rights as people — corporate personhood — is one of the major arguments of our age. The Citizens United vs. FEC ruling in January 2010 only got the ball rolling. It will be interesting to see where the ball stops.
According to the News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Florida: on cellphone privacy:
The Supreme Court last week ushered privacy rights into the 21st century.
In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that police can’t search the digital information on cellphones they seize from people they arrest unless they first obtain a warrant. Although the justices allowed for some exceptions, they made the key point that modern smartphones aren’t just two-way communication devices akin to traditional land-line phones. They also store, on board and in computing “clouds,” such vast amounts of personal data that a search by authorities would be akin to rifling through personal filing cabinets in a home or business — police activities that normally require warrants.
That all nine justices agreed on this sweeping principle, over the objections of the federal government, is a reassuring affirmation of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures — particularly in an age when the ubiquity of digital personal media has weakened barriers to privacy.
Writing the court’s unanimous opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged that arrestees have diminished rights to privacy, and that court precedents allow searches of such personal items as a zipper bag or a cigarette pack carried inside a pocket. Yet Roberts mocked the Obama administration’s argument that the data stored on a cellphone is “materially indistinguishable” from searches of other physical items.
“That is like saying a ride on horseback is materially indistinguishable from a flight to the moon,” Roberts wrote.
Clearly, he continued, cellphones differ in a “quantitative and qualitative sense” from an arrestee’s other possessions. Not only do they function as cameras and video players, Rolodexes, calendars, diaries and other media, but they also store vast amounts of data. A search of such varied information without probable cause is a much broader violation of privacy than patting down a suspect or checking a bag. It can reveal who a person has associated with, where he has been and where he might be traveling, as well as his finances and commercial transactions.
If authorities have probable cause to access someone’s cellphone, they can get a warrant. An arrest should not be license to go on a fishing expedition of any and all data.
Still, the court gave police some wiggle room. They can search cellphones without a warrant in specific situations where officers have reasonable fear about their safety or the lives of others, such as a kidnapped child or the ever-popular “ticking time bomb” scenario. Those situations are and should remain rare.
The court did well to stake out protections in a modern world.