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Dutch Airline Sends ‘Racist’ World Cup Tweet, Apologizes



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Immediately after the Netherlands’ last-minute World Cup victory over Mexico on Sunday, Dutch airline KLM took to Twitter to celebrate its opponent’s demise. But a tweet intended to be a joke was condemned by Mexican Twitter users as “racist.”

The controversial post displayed the message “Adios Amigos!” over a picture of an airport “Departures” sign, next to which is a small caricature in a sombrero: 

KLM, which offers direct flights between Mexico City and Amsterdam, shortly took down the tweet and issued an apology, but not before the post was retweeted almost 10,000 times.

Political correctness: 1. Sense of humor: 0.

Via Fox News.

Obama Announces Less Interior Immigration Enforcement



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President Obama admitted that the unaccompanied children coming to the border en masse are motivated by confusion about the country’s immigration laws, but he blamed Republicans for that ambiguity as he announced that he is shifting immigration law-enforcement resources from the interior to the border.

“The problem is is that our system is so broken, so unclear, that folks don’t know what the rules are,” Obama said, faulting House Republicans for failing to pass the Senate’s immigration bill.

“The failure of the House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s bad for our economy, and it’s bad for or future,” the president said.

Obama announced that he has ordered Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson “to move available and appropriate resources from our interior to the border.”

“Protecting public safety and deporting dangerous criminals has been and will remain the top priority, but we are going to refocus our efforts where we can to make sure we do what it takes to keep our border secure,” the president said, adding that he has asked Holder and Johnson to propose additional executive actions pertaining to immigration.

“I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress,” Obama said.

The Los Angeles Times reported that interior immigration enforcement has already plummeted under Obama. “Expulsions of people who are settled and working in the United States have fallen steadily since [Obama's] first year in office, and are down more than 40% since 2009,” Brian Bennet wrote in April“On the other side of the ledger, the number of people deported at or near the border has gone up — primarily as a result of changing who gets counted in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s deportation statistics.”

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If You Want to Read Something Other Than Hobby Lobby Reactions



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Read my interview with the author of a new book on Saint John XXIII. 

Web Briefing: July 11, 2014

Hobby Lobby: The Left Is Weeping Hot, Bitter Tears, and It Should



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Andrew’s and Molly’s post reflecting the hysterical reaction on the Left to the Hobby Lobby decision makes for both entertaining and instructive reading. It’s entertaining because — regarding the issue they claim to care most about, access to contraceptives — the decision blocks exactly no one from obtaining the drugs they choose to purchase. There’s just slightly less free stuff on the market. This is hardly Handmaid’s Tale territory.

It’s instructive because it demonstrates the extent to which the Left is emotionally and ideologically committed to the power of the regulatory state. For some time, the Left has been selling the public and the courts on the notion that somehow the act of forming a corporation and opening for business operates as an effective waiver of your most basic liberties, including free speech, free exercise of religion, and virtually the entire panoply of property rights. In effect, your business is not “your” business at all, but instead all aspects of its operations exist at the whim of the state, and if the state wants to draft you into its child-killing abortion crusade — or wants to muzzle you during political campaigns – then you best salute and fall in line.

By holding that RFRA protects closely-held businesses, the Supreme Court upheld not just the plain meaning of federal statutes but also common sense. In fact, the Obama administration admits that nonprofit corporations can exercise religious-liberty rights, so is the problem the corporate form, or the intent of the corporation? Justice Alito, writing for the Court, notes the irony:

We see nothing in RFRA that suggests a congressional intent to depart from the Dictionary Act definition, and HHS makes little effort to argue otherwise. We have entertained RFRA and free-exercise claims brought by nonprofit corporations, see Gonzales v. O Centro Espírita Beneficiente União do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418 (2006) (RFRA); Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, 565 U. S. ___ (2012) (Free Exercise); Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U. S. 520 (1993) (Free Exercise), and HHS concedes that a nonprofit corporation can be a “person” within the meaning of RFRA. This concession effectively dispatches any argument that the term “person” as used in RFRA does not reach the closely held corporations involved in these cases. No known understanding of the term “person” includes some but not all corporations. The term “person” sometimes encompasses artificial persons (as the Dictionary Act instructs), and it sometimes is limited to natural persons. But no conceivable definition of the term includes natural persons and nonprofit corporations, but not for-profit corporations.

The desire to make money does not act as a waiver of constitutional or statutory rights, nor is it morally suspect, but it certainly is indispensable to a system of free enterprise that all too many on the Left view as the enemy of “social justice.” As one of my colleagues at the ACLJ stated (full disclosure: We filed seven lawsuits against the mandate, filed an amicus brief in the Hobby Lobby case, have two mandate cases before the Supreme Court now, and have filed more than a dozen amicus briefs against the mandate nationwide), “If anything rivals the Left’s passion on the abortion issue, it’s their commitment to the regulatory state.”

When a case combines elements of both issues, for the Left a loss is cataclysmic. And if much of your public “argument” depends on creating a sense of cultural inevitability, then a dramatic halt to the latest leap forward of the allegedly unstoppable sexual revolution and regulatory state is a cause for leftist weeping indeed.

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Rand Paul Beefs Up Iowa Operation



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Rand Paul is beefing up his Iowa operation, hiring former Iowa GOP chairman Steve Grubbs as an adviser to his political-action committee.

It is Paul’s vision for the GOP that compelled him to sign on with the senator’s team, Grubbs told Politico. ”Rand Paul’s vision for the Republican Party is one that can expand our base and welcome under-30 voters into the party,” he said. “And that’s important not just for this election, but for the future as well. That’s one of the reasons I’m stepping into RAND PAC as they move forward in the 2014 election.” 

Grubbs is the second former Iowa GOP chairman to join forces with Paul. A. J. Spiker stepped down from the party chairmanship in March to serve as an adviser to RAND PAC. 

The moves are not only a sign of the seriousness of Paul’s presidential aspirations but also of the internecine warfare that has for years been taking place within the Iowa Republican party between the state’s governor, Terry Branstad, and political operatives loyal to Paul and his father, former Texas representative Ron Paul. 

Over the past several months, Branstad’s forces have wrested control of the party from the Paulites, freeing them to officially sign on to his campaign. 

Bodies of Three Kidnapped Israeli Teens Found



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The Israeli media reported Monday that the bodies of the three Israeli teens who had been kidnapped were found north of Hebron, a solemn end to the three-week search for the boys. 

Eyal Yifrach, Gild Shaar, and Naftali Frenkel were kidnapped on June 12 while hitchhiking in the West Bank. Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed that the kidnapping was likely tied to Hamas. Israel has “unequivocal proof that this is Hamas,” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month. The Palestinian militant group denies the accusation. 

Sources told Fox News that the bodies of the three teenagers were found in a shallow grave in an open field. 

Frenkel, who was 16, held dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.

EWTN Granted Emergency Relief in Wake of Hobby Lobby Ruling



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A woman who would be hailed as a trailblazer for women in the media if she weren’t a Catholic religious sister in a full habit is Mother Angelica. The international media presence she founded, Eternal Word Television Network, filed an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court and then found itself receiving a temporary injunction from the 11th circuit keeping them from having to be subject to the abortion-drug, contraception, sterilization mandate.

More about the case here.

A video Becket put together about Mother Angelica: 

Tags: Hobby Lobby

Thanksgiving Day Outside the Supreme Court:



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That much-played Pharrell Williams song “Happy” could have been part of the soundtrack outside the Supreme Court this morning. 

I got to there a little before 10 a.m. Once I got beyond the name-calling and attempts to obscure what was going on in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods cases, what I saw is joy. And lots of joyful women. They were optimistically hoping and praying and chanting for a win and when news broke that the majority opinion was written by Justice Alito, there was immediate happiness and relief.

Let’s start with the moment the news of the win was announced: 


The “Pro-Life Generation” was out in force: 

Keep reading this post . . .

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WH Press Secretary: Hobby Lobby Ruling ‘Jeopardizes’ Women’s Health



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The Hobby Lobby ruling, which allows businesses a religious exemption to the HHS mandate, “jeopardizes the health of women who are employed by these companies,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

“President Obama believes that women should make personal health care decisions for themselves, rather than their bosses deciding for them,” he said at a White House briefing Monday. “We will work with Congress to make sure that any women affected by this decision will still have the same coverage of vital health services as everyone else.”

Earnest said that the president “believes strongly in the freedom of religion,” noting that accommodations have been made for religious institutions and non-profit religious organizations who have religious objections to contraceptive care. “But we believe that the owners of for-profit companies should not be allowed to assert their personal religious views to deny their employees federally mandated benefits,” he said.

The Obama administration will respect the Supreme Court ruling, Earnest insisted. They will continue to look for ways improve health care, he said,” by helping women have more, not less say over the personal health decisions that affect them and their families.”

Later in the briefing, Earnest said that the constitutional lawyer in the Oval Office disagrees with the Supreme’s Court decision. 
 

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K-Lo at the Supreme Court on Hobby Lobby Victory Day



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Some highlights: 

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Hobby Lobby Reminds Obama He Can’t Just Interpret the Law How He Likes



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The Supreme Court today rang a victory bell for religious freedom as it ruled 5–4 that “HHS’s contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion” of three closely held companies — Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood Specialties, and Mardel.

The companies objected to the Obama administration’s mandate that they must provide, at no cost to their employees, coverage for products that violate their religious beliefs.

Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, noted that the companies have “sincere Christian beliefs that life begins at conception and that it would violate their religion to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs or devices that operate after that point.” The administration had argued that the plaintiffs were for-profit corporations and therefore couldn’t have religious beliefs.

“Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations . . . protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them,” the Court found, citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

The government’s loss ignites a fresh challenge to the Obama administration’s often-illegal implementation of the health overhaul law. As the Court pointed out, the mandate was not included in the statute but was imposed by the administration through its regulations to implement the law.

Today’s decision gives Congress a stronger basis for legislation to rein in the administration’s liberal interpretation of its powers under the statute, a power the legislature will very likely exercise if the U.S. Senate changes hands in the November elections.

Keep reading this post . . .

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What Hobby Lobby Shows about Obama’s Fundamental Abuse of Executive Power



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This should have been an easy case, as Justice Alito’s straightforward analysis demonstrates. The logic is simple: 1. corporations are persons because Congress said so in the Dictionary Act; 2. Hobby Lobby’s right to religious freedom is violated, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because the contraceptives requirement for mandatory insurance supplied by employers contravenes the owner’s sincere beliefs; 3. the government did not explore any less burdensome alternatives to the mandate. This is a straightforward vindication of Hobby Lobby’s rights under the laws of Congress, not the Constitution.

But more important, this case shows the extreme ideological ends pursued by the Obama administration through its legal powers, and so is of a piece with the Noel Canning recess appointments clause case of last Thursday. In both cases, the president pursued extreme arguments in court to advance an ideological agenda — today, it was to sweep religious minorities into Obamacare; on Thursday, to create a union-friendly NLRB.

In both cases, the policy preference of Democrats was broadly at work. Most employers who supply insurance under Obamacare will not have religious-freedom rights at stake. The NLRB and labor law already gives unions broad rights to organize. But in order to push its ideology to extremes, the administration had to pursue even the small number of religious-oriented small businesses to force them into the contraceptives mandate. To guarantee unions a 100 percent win rate, rather than say 75 percent win rate in the NLRB, Obama had to illegally appoint its officials.

To me, that is Obama’s fundamental abuse of presidential power. He is not broadly interpreting his powers to respond to emergencies or national-security challenges. He is relying on extreme interpretations of his powers to play small-ball politics and win for ideological supporters. It is not only a misuse of power, but it damages the institution of the presidency for times when it will really matter.

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Wasserman Schultz: Hobby Lobby Ruling ‘Totally Unacceptable’



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Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) says the Hobby Lobby ruling, which says that for-profit companies do not have to provide coverage for contraceptives due to religious views, is “totally unacceptable.”

She told MSNBC on Monday that the decision is a “rallying cry” for voters. “It’s very clear to American women yet again,” she said, “that Republicans want to do everything they can to have the long hand of government and now the long hand of business reach into a woman’s body and make health-care decisions for her.”

Wasserman Schultz explained that for the election in 2016, the Democratic party can underscore the importance to American women of who is elected  president and who controls Congress.

“Republicans want to constrict and restrict women’s choices, and Democrats want make sure that women have the ability to make their own choices,” she concluded. 

Tags: Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby Sparks Twitter Outrage on the Left



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The Supreme Court’s ruling to side with Hobby Lobby and protect corporations from having to violate their religious beliefs did not go over well with Democrats and left-leaning commentators and organizations. Several took to Twitter to express their outrage in rather dramatic fashion:

MSNBC contributor and Democratic strategist Jimmy Williams offered his own series of hysterical tweets, equating the decision to the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling:

Top Democratic members of Congress also weren’t shy in voicing their frustration with the ruling:

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Striking Down Hobby Lobby Strawmen



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Two of the liberal arguments against the corporations looking for an exemption from the HHS mandate requiring companies offering insurance to cover a range of forms of birth control rely on slippery-slope arguments. If companies can offer insurance that doesn’t cover certain birth-control methods, what’s stopping them from not covering, say, vaccines or blood transfusions? And if Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties can get an exemption, what’s stopping, say, Apple from claiming some kind of religious belief?

But these arguments aren’t very compelling, not least because they are largely hypothetical, as the majority opinion notes:

HHS and the principal dissent argue that a ruling in favor of the objecting parties in these cases will lead to a flood of religious objections regarding a wide variety of medical procedures and drugs, such as vaccinations and blood transfusions, but HHS has made no effort to substantiate this prediction. HHS points to no evidence that insurance plans in existence prior to the enactment of ACA excluded coverage for such items.

The dissenting opinion, authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, suggests that the court risks a number of these potential entanglements but doesn’t offer empirical evidence for their relevance. But aside from the fact that there really is very little evidence that companies will propose such policies, the decision today is also narrowly tailored, meaning that the decision basically says such hypothetical companies will have to make their own case that they’re complying with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (the statute that the HHS mandate was found to violate): 

In any event, our decision in these cases is concerned solely with the contraceptive mandate. Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs. Other coverage requirements, such as immunizations, may be supported by different interests (for example, the need to combat thespread of infectious diseases) and may involve different arguments about the least restrictive means of providing them.​

Moreover, the ruling only applies to closely held corporations, which the IRS defines as firms where 50 percent of the value of the corporation is held by five or fewer individuals. That happens to be a very common arrangement — more than 90 percent of U.S. businesses, apparently, meet the criteria — but they only employ half of U.S. workers, and any firm with fewer than 50 employees (i.e., most the closely held firms) is already exempt from most of Obamacare’s mandates, including this one. The vast majority of large corporations provided contraception coverage before the ruling, and no for-profit corporation remotely as large as Hobby Lobby (a multibillion-dollar-a-year firm with 20,000 employees) has challenged the rule.

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When the Obama Administration’s ‘War on Women’ Talking Points Stopped Working



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The biggest sign of victory this morning at the Supreme Court I noticed was watching the NOW/NARAL Hobby Lobby opponents grow faint after initial “we’ll be back” chants. When they piped up again, they actually adapted a Students for Life theme: They took the pro-lifers’ “We are the Pro-Life Generation” chant and announced “We are the Pro-Choice Generation.” Good luck with that as science and education makes clear what exactly the choice they insist on so adamantly is, really and truly.

Outside of the Court this morning, one pro-life, pro-religious-liberty lawyer observed, clearly not for the first time in a few decades: Women come to the Supreme Court and scream about their ovaries. Is this really what it’s come to? Is this really who we are?

And she didn’t see what was on Twitter. It’s nothing new, as we’ve seen before at feminist rallies. But how about a generation that cares about women and freedom and health care that insists on something better? That’s something we can find common ground on, isn’t it? Why settle for tired talking points? Talking points that don’t even make sense — opponents of Hobby Lobby were talking about staying out of bedrooms, while supporting an administration that insists that those who oppose abortion provide abortion-inducing drugs to their employees. What should the Little Sisters of the Poor ever have to do with contraception and abortion?

Here’s some of the raw reaction — not family friendly — from Twitter when I checked the #HobbyLobby hashtag earlier. I include them here because surely we can do better and ought to insist on it as a matter of civil public discourse:

Keep reading this post . . .

Tags: Hobby Lobby

There’s No Illegal-Immigrant Surge in the Best-Staffed Sector of the Southern Border



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While the federal government may have people worried that there is almost nothing that can be done to stop the flow of illegal-immigrant children crossing the border, newly released figures from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency seem to suggest otherwise. The more than 52,000 kids who illegally crossed America’s southwestern border in Fiscal Year 2014 through June 15 represent a 99 percent increase over the number of unaccompanied alien children crossing during the same period last year, and the Rio Grande Valley sector alone has seen an increase of nearly 180 percent.

But the Tucson, Ariz., sector has seen 4 percent fewer kids illegally crossing this fiscal year compared with last. That might be because Tucson has more Border Patrol agents working in its sector than any other sector on the southern border, leading the next closest station by more than 1,000 agents. (The staffing comparison is as of FY 2013, but according to the Tucson Sector’s website, there are currently even more agents, 4,200 in total, working on the sector.) 

And Tucson’s drop is startling when considering the record high number of children crossing from Central America. The number of illegal-immigrant children from Honduras who have entered the country thus far in Fiscal Year 2014 includes 2,324 more kids than came during the previous five fiscal years combined. In those five fiscal years, Honduras produced an average of approximately 2,541 illegal-immigrant children per year, and fewer than 1,000 kids came to the U.S. during two of those years; more than 15,000 have arrived this year.

While the number of illegal-immigrant children crossing in the Tucson sector has dropped, the federal government has decided to ship illegal-immigrant children there anyway. The feds transported nearly 1,000 illegal-immigrant kids to Tucson and Phoenix during the first week of June alone, according to CNN.

For More Hobby Lobby Coverage . . .



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The Beat Goes On



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Other NRO writers keep you up to date on important matters of state. I remain on my lonely, humble beat: the cellphone announcement at the New York Philharmonic. As I reported weeks ago, audience members were booing and hissing the announcement recorded by Alec Baldwin. I figured the Philharmonic would have to ditch the announcement. In due course, we had an announcement recorded by Whoopi Goldberg. No one would dare hiss the Whoopster. But then, there was a time when Alec Baldwin seemed sacrosanct: a perfect liberal Democrat. Anyway, the Baldwin announcement was back on Saturday night, with not a hiss or boo in the house. Is all forgiven (whatever it was)? Or merely forgotten?

To read my write-up of Saturday’s concert, go here. To read my post on Michael Hersch’s new opera, On the Threshold of Winter, go here. (Both articles appear on Armavirumque, The New Criterion’s blog​.)

Senator Mike Lee: Obama Might Create Government Program to Pay for Contraception



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President Obama is rumored to be planning a government program that would provide free contraception as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Department of Health and Human Services cannot mandate family-owned businesses to provide contraception and abortifacients to employees when the owners have a religious objection to the service.

“I’ve heard rumors to the effect that they’re going to announce that there will be a government program that will use federal funds to cover anyone who loses coverage as a result of this ruling,” Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) told National Review Online. Conservatives might not like that use of government funding, “if they do that, I don’t think anyone would argue that that would fall afoul of this decision,” he said.

The Supreme Court’s majority opinion noted that the possibility of creating such a program was one of the reasons that Obama’s team failed to prove that the HHS mandate was was the least restrictive means of pursuing the goal of providing women with contraception.

“HHS’s view that [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] can never require the Government to spend even a small amount reflects a judgment about the importance of religious liberty that was not shared by the Congress that enacted that law,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority.

Justice Anthony Kennedy doesn’t seem to like that idea. “In discussing this alternative, the Court does not address whether the proper response to a legitimate claim for freedom in the health care arena is for the Government to create an additional program,” he writes in his concurrence. ”The Court properly does not resolve whether one freedom should be protected by creating incentives for additional government constraints.”  

Lee suggested that the court’s ruling bodes well for the Little Sisters of the Poor, a non-profit that HHS regards as a beneficiary of its accommodation that has filed a class-action lawsuit against the mandate nonetheless.

“I don’t see the Supreme Court being willing to do what it did in Hobby Lobby today and unwilling to provide relief to a non-profit who is being asked to provide the same type of coverage, just going through an insurance company,” he said.

Obama announced that HHS would develop an “accommodation” of religious organizations moral objections to contraception or abortifacient drugs, but that didn’t satisfy the nuns.

“Under this, an objecting organization will notify its insurer or plan administrator, which will make payments to employees for the mandated contraceptive services,” explains The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents both the Little Sisters and Hobby Lobby. ”The rule insists these payments are not ‘benefits’ and are separate from the organization’s health plan. Nonetheless, the accommodation means that employees are guaranteed payments for objectionable services, specifically because they are covered under the organization’s plan. Furthermore, the accommodation requires a self-insured organization to ‘designate’ its plan administrator as an agent who will make or arrange for payments for the mandated services. This ‘accommodation’ fails to solve the moral problem created by the mandate for many religious organizations.”

Ed Whelan notes a line from Alito’s opinion that he thinks gives hope to the nuns’ challenge against the accommodation.  “We do not decide today whether [the accommodation] complies with RFRA for purposes of all religious claims,” Alito wrote. 

 

 

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