Today is the last day that the Supreme Court of the United States is in session until October. In the past 24 hours, four Supreme Court decisions were handed down, with a decision yesterday affecting religious employers, and President Trump’s financial records today.
In regard to the decision on July 8, 2020, the case argued that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ignored binding case law by allowing teachers to move forward with the employment discrimination lawsuits of two Roman Catholic schools in Los Angeles.
In the Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru decision, the court said “The First Amendment protects the right of religious institutions ‘to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine’. Kedroff v. Saint Nicholas Cathedral of Russian Orthodox Church in North America, 344 U. S. 94, 116. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the lower court’s decision with Judge Alito delivering the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, Thomas, Breyer, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh joined. Judge Thomas filed a concurring opinion, in which Judge Gorsuch joined and Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg joined“.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority, “The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this work lie at the core of their mission”.
There was also a decision yesterday in the Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) requires covered employers to provide women with “preventive care and screenings” without “any cost-sharing requirements,” and relies on Preventive Care Guidelines (Guidelines) “supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration” (HRSA) to determine what “preventive care and screenings” includes. 42 U. S. C. §300gg–13(a)(4). Those Guidelines mandate that health plans provide coverage for all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods. When the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury(Departments) incorporated the Guidelines, they also gave HRSA the discretion to exempt religious employers, such as churches, from providing contraceptive coverage“.
The Trump administration stated that the Obama administration had been wrong to try to compel religious organizations and others to provide services such as the morning-after pill in their health plans because doing so violated their religious beliefs.
Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the opinion of the court. The Little Sisters organization for more than 150 years has considered contraception to be a sin, has “engaged in faithful service and sacrifice, motivated by a religious calling to surrender all for the sake of their brother”. But for the past seven years, since the mandate came out, the organization “like many other religious objectors … have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Sister Constance Veit explained in an interview on Fox & Friends, “Well, you know, according to Catholic teaching, it would not be acceptable for us to provide contraceptives and abortifacients to our employees in our healthcare program because they are not — contraception and abortion are not acceptable in Catholic teaching“. She added, “But, I do have to say that we always knew that God would protect us. We really trust in his providential care. And so, we knew that somehow, someday he would work things out for us“.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during yesterday’s press briefing, “The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution begins Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. She continued, “Almost a decade ago, the Obama administration attempted to force employers, including religious nonprofits like the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns, to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees, in violation of their religious beliefs. … Today, it has once again vindicated the conscience rights of people of faith”. McEnany added, “Since day one, the Trump administration has sought to lift burdens on religious exercise for people of all faiths”.
Today saw two opinions (among others) by SCOTUS regarding President Trump and the release of his financial records. The first from New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance (Trump v. Vance), and in the second case from the Ways and Means Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, (Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP). As Donald Trump indicated his intent to run for President of the United States as a Republican candidate, there had been a call for him to release his income tax returns in the public interest, as most Presidential candidates had done in the past. Trump had stated in his campaign that he would release them once they were done being audited, following his election victory and taking office in 2017.
On the surface, both decisions seem to go against the President. However, in today’s press briefing McEnany pushed back on that stating “The justices did not rule against him, in fact, it was a unanimous opinion saying this needs to go back to the district court and they even recognized that the President has an ample arsenal of arguments that he can make. In fact, I would show that the Vance majority laid out a road map for the President, the Vance majority said ‘the President has the right to challenge the subpoena on any grounds permitted by state law be it bad faith or undue burden or bereft’ they went on to say the President can raise subpoena specific constitutional challenges and they specifically mentioned a violation of the supremacy clause as one thing that he can raise. So they laid out a road map and these justices did not rule against him“.
Jay Sekulow, the President’s attorney, took to Twitter shortly after the decisions were released:
We are pleased that in the decisions issued today, the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked both Congress and New York prosecutors from obtaining the President’s financial records. We will now proceed to raise additional Constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts.
— Jay Sekulow (@JaySekulow) July 9, 2020
The Supreme Court typically takes a recess from late June/early July until the first Monday in October. The term begins on the first Monday in October and goes through the Sunday before the first Monday in October of the following year.