Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CATO holds book forum on "Religious Liberties for Corporations?"

The Cato Institute held a book forum today in Washington DC for the new brief treatise from Palgrace-Pivot: “Religious Liberties for Corporations: Hobby Lobby, the Affordable Care Act, and the Constitution”.  I purchased a copy of the book and will review it soon on the books blog.
The book concerns, in large part, the case Burwell v. Hobby Looby, decided by the Surpeme Court June 30, 2014 (wiki article ) discussed here June 3, 2014.
The forum was conducted as a debate.

Ilya Shapiro referred heavily to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (wiki here). Shapiro says that the individuals owning a corporation or working for it are individuals, and the government cannot intrude on their ability to express their religious beliefs but not being force to pay for something they  found religious objectionable.  That would be not simply paying for health insurance for contraception, but specifically forms of contraception that facilitate “abortion”. Shaprio also argues that Hobby Lobby had not interfered with employees using contraception, just for their having to pay for certain forms of it. 

On the other side, David H. Gans emphasized that corporations are not fully protected as people in other ways, for example, they don’t enjoy 5th Amendment immunity from self-incrimination.  The Bill of Rights, as such, doesn’t apply to corporations.

Professor Randy Barnett from Georgetown University Law School (link ) framed the issue in terms of the powers of Congress, and said that Congress had exceeded its enumerated powers in setting up the Affordable Care Act, of Obamacare.  Likewise, that implied that Congress would overstep when it tried to regulate employer denial of coverage of contraception. 
The forum made the point that, because Congress generally overreaches its explicit powers, individuals must rely on the courts to secure due process rights, and even equal protection. 

As an aside, Shapiro stuck to libertarian lines and said that government shouldn’t regulate marriage at all. 
There was also mention of the practice of religion as an “original right” or “sovereign right” for an individual.  However, Barnett noted that the original colonies, as states, had set up state religions, and that the Constitution had regulated only what a federal government ca do. 

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