The sincerity of religious beliefs and doctrines

Over the weekend I attended a very interesting talk on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) by Nicholas Little who is the Legal Director for the Center for Inquiry. He reminded us that RFRA was originally meant to provide legal protection for minority religious practices but is now being used by majority religions to gain privileges and discriminate against others and has become the main vehicle for people to argue against the Affordable Care Act. He said that while courts are required to give deference to the religious beliefs of people because of RFRA, the closely related Religious Land Use And Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and the Free Exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment, this poses a problem with people who try to use that to get special privileges.
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Why can’t we all get along?

As one music group and business after another announce that they will be avoiding North Carolina after that state adopted its new law, ostensibly aimed at restricting the bathrooms transsexuals can use to only the ones that correspond to the gender assigned to them on their birth certificates but in fact allows wider discrimination against the LGBT community and others, Stephen Colbert wonders why we can’t get along the way that Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee did after the bitter civil War.
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Adding a cross to Los Angeles county seal is unconstitutional

Back in 2014, I wrote about an interesting legal case out of Los Angeles where a new county seal was being proposed that would put a cross on the roof of an image of a church on the existing county seal. The case was interesting because of the role that history played in it and I discussed the legal aspects of it in that earlier post and will not repeat them here.
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Important Supreme Court ruling on voting rights

The US Supreme Court issued an important unanimous 8-0 ruling today in a case involving voting rights. States are required to draw electoral districts that have roughly equal numbers of people. The question is whether the ‘people’ who count should be every resident (even those who cannot vote) or just eligible voters. The former has been the universal practice, since the argument has been that government serves everyone, voters and non-voters alike.
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Big victory today for trade unions

On February 16, I wrote about a case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association that had been heard before the US Supreme Court that threatened the existence of trade unions because it challenged a long-standing 1977 precedent. That earlier case named Abood v. Detroit Board of Education allowed unions to collect fees from non-union members to cover the costs incurred in contract negotiations and enforcement that also benefited non-union members.
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Important contraception case hearing today

The US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a very important case involving Obamacare, religion, and contraception. This case does not challenge the constitutionality of Obamacare itself, although the religious groups bringing the suit and its conservative backers had hoped it would. After the Supreme Court twice ruled earlier upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare, it turned down efforts to turn this into a third attempt.
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Reactions to the Supreme Court nominee

President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, to replace Antonin Scalia on the US Supreme Court. Garland seems to be a well-respected jurist, by all accounts not particularly ideological in any clearly identifiable way but instead someone who will bring a proper degree of thoughtfulness to the weighty matters the court deals with.
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Living the high life on a government salary

The members of the US Supreme Court and high elected officials get good salaries and many perks of the job. For example, the salary of the Chief Justice is $258,100 while that of the associate justices is $246,800. This should enable them to live quite comfortably even in the pricey Washington, DC area. What it does not allow for is the ability to live like the millionaire class.
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End of the Alabama’s stand against same-sex marriage

The state of Alabama has been one of the holdouts against same-sex marriage despite the US Supreme Court ruling in June 2015 nullifying all state bans against it. The state’s chief justice Roy Moore has been adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage and on March 3, 2015, before the US Supreme Court’s ruling, the state’s supreme court (with only one justice in dissent) had barred all the state probate court judges from issuing such licenses.
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