Campaign Finance

How Do Decisions Upholding Freedom of Speech and Religion Violate Civil Liberties?

|

ALGOP

Slate's list of last year's "10 Worst Civil Liberties Violations" includes two Supreme Court decisions that do not constitute civil liberties violations by any stretch of the imagination: McCutcheon v. FEC, in which the Court overturned aggregate limits on contributions to federal candidates, and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which the Court ruled that the Obama administration violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) when it required employers to provide health insurance that covers forms of birth control to which they objected on religious grounds. I gather that the authors of the Slate piece, Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern, think these cases were wrongly decided. But even if that were true, it would not necessarily mean the decisions endorsed the violation of anyone's civil liberties. To the contrary, people who welcomed these rulings (including me) believe they vindicated civil liberties.

In McCutcheon the Court concluded that restricting the total amounts people can give to candidates and political committees violates the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. "The Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candi¬≠dates it may endorse," the Court declared in an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts. I get that Lithwick and Stern disagree with this application of the First Amendment and worry that it will magnify money's corrupting effect on the political process. But even if no one has a First Amendment right to give the maximum donation to more than 18 candidates, it does not follow that anyone has a First Amendment right to stop people from doing that.

In Hobby Lobby the Court ruled that the Obamacare contraceptive mandate failed the test established by RFRA because it imposed a substantial burden on the exercise of religion and was not the "least restrictive means" of furthering a "compelling governmental interest." That was the test the Court applied under the First Amendment until 1990, when it decided that restrictions on religious freedom are constitutional as along as they are by-products of neutral, generally applicable laws. Congress, concerned that the new approach provided inadequate protection for religious freedom, responded with RFRA, which had broad support across the political spectrum and passed almost unanimously. Although I am not sure how Lithwick and Stern feel about RFRA in general, I gather they think the Court misapplied it in Hobby Lobby. Even if they were correct, the result would not be a civil liberties violation, because no one has a right to employer-subsidized contraceptives.

Lithwick and Stern's gloss on the case suggests otherwise: "The Supreme Court invites our corporate bosses to take away our birth control," threatening "women's health and autonomy." But declining to pay for something is not the same as taking it away (or "blocking access" to it), and being free to do something does not mean you get to do it for free. By Lithwick and Stern's logic, the right to arms entails a right to taxpayer-subsidized handguns, the right to freedom of speech requires The New York Times to publish my op-ed pieces, and the right to free exercise of religion means my boss has to pay the dues at my synagogue. 

NEXT: Watch Lenore Skenazy Talk About the Craziest Zero-Tolerance Stories of 2014!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Anything which restricts Tyranny of the (preferred) Majority is, in the eyes of these people, a restriction on their civil liberties.

  2. Slate’s list of last year’s “10 Worst Civil Liberties Violations” includes two Supreme Court decisions that do not constitute civil liberties violations by any stretch of the imagination

    No surprise there. The guys at Slate wouldn’t know civil liberties if they hit them in the face with an iron skillet.

    But declining to pay for something is not the same as taking it away

    It is in the mind of the little red Marxians, Mr. Sullum. The logic goes like this.

    a) You need money to buy A;
    b) Your boss does not give you money to buy A;
    c) Therefore, you’re being deprived of A.

    Of course it’s a non-sequitur but since when have little red Marxians argue with anything resembling logic and reason? Most of their explanations and justifications rely on emotional arguments. You know, like those used by little children.

    1. Even more perverse =

      a) You need money to buy A;
      b) your boss DOES give you money to buy A
      c) You are upset they didn’t buy A for you already and not “force you” to have to go find and pay for it yourself
      d) PISS AND MOAN THAT GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO FORCE THEM TO BRING YOU “A” ON PLATTER BECAUSE *HUMAN RIGHTS*!

    2. It’s not even that. It’s more like this:

      a) You need money to buy A;
      b) Your boss gives you money;
      c) Your boss does not give you A COUPON specifically for the purpose of buying A;
      d) Therefore, you’re being deprived of A.

  3. The Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candi?dates it may endorse

    The logical conclusion to this is that it’s also wrong for government to place any limit on how much a donor can give to a single candidate.

    -jcr

  4. How Do Decisions Upholding Freedom of Speech and Religion Violate Civil Liberties?

    The FEELZ!!!

  5. More freedom for individuals means less freedom for the state. It’s quite simple, really.

  6. Failing to get the government to force people to do what you KNOW is right is violating the civil rights of said people’s victims.

  7. With some exceptions very far and wide the vast majority of Christians are rabid enemies of human liberty unless said liberty equates to the ‘freedom’ to build a state that will violently impose their god-ordained morality upon others- Praise Jebus!

    I say let the Almost Marxists and Christians fight their own goddamn battles between each other. Though, I appreciate the fact that scribes need to scribe so they can buy underwear and peanuts.

      1. No, I’m pretty sure scribes need to buy at least underwear…

    1. Don’t be an asshole. You are only supposed to make sweeping generalizations about Muslims and Negroes and Mexicans on this board.

      1. You just generalized my fucking assholery, SugarCube. Unacceptable in the blazing light of the fact that the last time I checked my asshole quotient I am clearly and currently running at about .25% asshole. Sheesh.

    2. “the vast majority of Christians are rabid enemies of human liberty unless said liberty equates to the ‘freedom’ to build a state that will violently impose their god-ordained morality upon others

      I missed that part.

      Last I checked, people of all major religions simply don’t want their own personal religious practices to be circumscribed, delimited, or regulated.

      I fail to see how, say, allowing some people to pray in school (or have after school Bible Clubs/Kabbalah club/Hindu Arm Wrestling/Buddhist Meditation Team or whatever the fuck) is in any way infringing on other people’s ‘morality’

      The last time i recall any vestige of religion being ‘forced’ on anyone was back when they said, ‘place your hand on the bible and swear’. I believe that show was called Andy Griffith

      1. I was co-captain of my high school’s Buddhist Meditation Team, but I still didn’t get into Harvard.

        1. Your “one handed clapping” was weak

      2. “The last time i recall any vestige of religion being ‘forced’ on anyone…”

        Most of your state’s legal code is derived from morality designed by the religious or obsessive Almost Marxists.

        Almost no Christian would agree to LESS law on the books as it pertains to adult-to-adult personal choices.

        What is your experience with Christianity?

        1. Almost no Christian would agree to LESS law on the books as it pertains to adult-to-adult personal choices.

          Funny, I and most other Christians I know (family and friends) would gladly agree to less of such law, and one of them is a minister. Yes, there are plenty of Christians who go with their “I don’t like it so it should be illegal” reflex, but so do lots of other people. If we disentangled the state from all the places it doesn’t belong, and restored freedom of (non-)association, most Christians of the non-Westboro sort would adapt just fine to handling things via social support/stigma rather than the law.

          The exception to this is abortion, but that’s not the same thing as, say, a law against blasphemy. The dispute there is over whether or not a crime (murder) is actually being committed, not whether or not the crime should be a crime.

    3. Wow, you must be using the extra-powerful LSD today!

  8. The Hobby Lobby case is a view of positive rights despite the fact that the ACA law znd regulations as structured do not create such a right, it does not change that the progs think one should exist. The 1st amendment case is a queerer sort of logic. Basically, someone having the means to ecercise their rihts when others do not means the former have taken away the latter’s rights. Of course that suggests the anyone’s right to speech is limited to what the poorest person can afford, effectively rendering the right moot.

    1. What is even queerer is that progs think that you have a positive right to healthcare provided by your employer.

      Like, they aren’t satisfied that you can go buy a community-rated individual policy on one of the exchanges, they specifically think that you’re morally entitled to make your employer pay for it. Even though they all concede (nay trumpet) the fact that the money is coming out of your compensation anyway.

      I mean what’s more restrictive of the employees liberty here: (A) the fact that you have to get paid in health insurance, (B) the fact that you get limited to the 2-3 insurance options your employer chooses to make available, or (C) the fact that the employer doesn’t cover ONE very specific $20/month prescription pill.

      Progs freak the fuck over (C) but think that (A) and (B) are awesome and should be mandatory.

  9. Well, Civil Forfeiture is on the list, so 1 out of 10.

    I would have counted “Grand Juries Reviewing Police Misconduct” but the ever-breezy Ms. Lithwick seems to have only a vague notion of what she’s talking about on that one.

  10. You are only supposed to make sweeping generalizations about Muslims and Negroes and Mexicans on this board.

    And teh PROGZ! Never pass up an opportunity to make sweeping collective accusations about them.

    1. Why not, they strive to be collectivized themselves, as much as possible. Their earnest desire is to achieve a mind-meld with all other progs so as to march in lock-step towards the bright socialist future.

    2. In my experience/observation, sweeping generalizations about progs/liberals seem to be largely true.

    3. I called them Fucking Almost Marxists. That should count as a myriad of salvaged points.

      1. Here’s a good definition to live by:

        Progressive: someone not quite pink enough to punch.

        1. I can’t think of anything BUT punching when confronted with proglodytes.

  11. Slate’s list of last year’s “10 Worst Civil Liberties Violations” includes two Supreme Court decisions that do not constitute civil liberties violations by any stretch

    …because Slate includes positive rights in its definition of civil liberties.

    1. Do not use the rhetoric of your opponents. It uses you to establish their position (which is why they invented the terms). There are no “negative” and “positive” rights. There are rights, which are God-given and which governments were established to defend, not grant – and there are entitlements, which are given by governments and which they can remove by the same mechanism they granted them. Congress and the President could get rid of Social Security and Medicare tomorrow, and no appeal to the Supreme Court or the Constitution would force them to re-establish them. They are entitlements, not rights.

  12. Before reading all the comments – do they include a certain Orwell quote?

    1. No?

      FREEDOM IS SLAVERY!

  13. Sometimes dude you have to roll with it.

    http://www.Way-Anon.tk

    1. Anon-bot is down with the zen of Slate.

  14. Up to I saw the paycheck which had said $7546 , I did not believe that…my… best friend was like realie bringing home money parttime from their laptop. . there sisters neighbour haz done this less than 14 months and recently repayed the morgage on their condo and got Alfa Romeo .
    Learn More Here ~~~~~~ http://www.jobsfish.com

  15. Whenever you are faced with this assertion, simply ask the person making the assertion this question:

    “You say that if my refusal to pay for ‘x’ when someone who has a right to it can’t afford it is a violation of their civil rights? Then your refusal to pay for a gun for someone who can’t afford it is a violation of their civil rights.”

  16. If I’m not free to force you to give me something and to shut other people up, I’m really not free.

  17. If “contributions” are protected speech, why not straight-up bribes? After all, it’s legal to lobby, or ask a politician to do something for you – why can’t you just let the money speak for you more directly? Why should that speech restricted? As far as I can see, in spite of the fictional middle-man of a fund or PAC, a contribution really is just a bribe, anyway. I don’t think anyone can pretend otherwise.
    While I do see your point, Mr. Sullum, and even agree to a certain extent, I wonder how you would address “money’s corrupting effect on the political process?” Surely you don’t think that throwing money at politicians is the best way to run a democracy, even if were possible for the ninety-nine-percent to out-spend, and out-organize the one-percent?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.