On Monday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg penned a blistering dissent to the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling that the government can't require certain employers to provide insurance coverage for methods of birth control and emergency contraception that conflict with their religious beliefs. Ginsburg wrote that her five male colleagues, "in a decision of startling breadth," would allow corporations to opt out of almost any law that they find "incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs."
More MoJo coverage of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision.
Here are seven more key quotes from Ginsburg's dissent in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby:
"The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers' beliefs access to contraceptive coverage"
"Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community."
"Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby's or Conestoga's plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman's autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults."
"It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month's full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage."
"Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah's Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today's decision."
"Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be 'perceived as favoring one religion over another,' the very 'risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude."
"The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield."
On Monday, seven members of Congress, all Democrats, sent representatives, either staffers or interns, to attend a Capitol Hill "cryptoparty," where they learned how to defend their online communications from the NSA and other snoops. The party was sponsored by Reps. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), two vocal NSA critics.
There were about 25 people in attendance, according to Jamila Brown, a spokesperson for Access, an internet freedom group co-hosting the event. She says that representatives for Lofgren and Grayson were there, along with representatives of Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).
Cryptoparties are part of an international grassroots movement to spread encryption, including information about the Tor network, which allows users to engage in anonymous web browsing. (Former contractor Edward Snowden led a cryptoparty in Hawaii in 2012, months before he leaked information about NSA surveillance.) At this event, Karen Reilly, the development director of the Tor Project, led a session, and others presented information on how to encrypt chats and protect mobile devices from surveillance.
Amie Stepanovich, senior policy counsel at Access, says that there there were several questions raised at the meeting about the extent of NSA surveillance and how to defeat NSA spying. Attendees were concerned, she adds, about how NSA activities "impacted each of them and their communications."
Last week, the House unexpectedly approved a proposal sponsored by Lofgren and other members that would bar the NSA from searching emails, chats, and other communications of Americans without a warrant. The amendment also prohibits the NSA from undermining encryption on the web.
Update: This post has been updated to reflect comment from Access that the office representatives included either staffers or interns.
On Thursday, former Republican congressman and Tea Party darling Joe Walsh complained on Twitter about being kicked off his radio show for using the n-word and other racial slurs on air. He tweeted, "It appears I can say [The name of Washington's pro football team], which is supposedly offensive, but when I say other words, commercial." He then proceeded to go on a bizarre online rant, repeating more racial slurs.
Walsh's radio show airs on "The Answer" in Chicago and New York, which is home to a number of conservative talk shows. According to Walsh's Twitter account, his manager allowed him to say the name of Washington's football team on-air, but didn't allow him to say other offensive racial epithets. Here's what Walsh had to say about it all:
Walsh, who once called Obama a "tyrant" for ceasing to deport certain young undocumented Americans, noted that the radio station had sent him home, and he would find out what happens next with his job tomorrow at 5 p.m. Mother Jones has reached out to Walsh and "The Answer" for comment.
But Monday's ruling was only the latest in a string of setbacks the high court has dealt the NRA and other national gun groups. The gun lobby was flying high after its 2010 victory in the McDonald v. Chicago, in which the justices ruled that the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments. But since then, the Supreme Court has refused to take up another major Second Amendment case. During the court's latest term, which began in October 2013, the justices have rejected at least five high-profile petitions supported by the NRA and other pro-gun lobbying groups, and ruled against two challenges backed by pro-gun organizations that they did consider. Here are the highlights:
In February, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case the NRA brought against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in which the group was aiming to legalize the sale of handguns to Americans between the ages of 18 and 20.
In March, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled the federal law barring domestic violence offenders from owning guns applies to a broad range of abusers. (In this case, the NRA did not file a brief against the government, although the Gun Owners Foundation did.)
In May, the Supreme Court declined to hear Drake v. Jerejian, a major Second Amendment case that challenged a New Jersey law barring most citizens from toting handguns around in public unless they can prove "justifiable need." (The NRA had argued that citizens' right to bear arms applies everywhere.)
Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, says the Supreme Court's recent refusal to rule on major gun lawsuits isn't necessarily unusual, since the high court only hears a small percentage of all cases. But Adam Winkler, another law professor at UCLA, says he's "definitely" seen a trend in the Supreme Court dealing blows at the NRA since the agency's last big win in 2010, and he's seen lower courts consistently fall on the side of gun control. "Gun control is dead everywhere except the courts," Winkler says. "The courts are not as much of a victim to political pressures, and the judges rightfully see while there's a right to bear arms, there's plenty of room for gun control." (The NRA did not respond to comment.)
But gun control advocates aren't satisfied with their legal victories."What's shocking and appalling," says Jonathan Lowy, the director of the legal action project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, "is not that courts have recognized that the constitution allows for sensible gun laws. It's that Congress hasn't acted."
Missouri Republicans are pushing for a measure to expand early voting in the state. The move seems like a departure from the nationwide, GOP-led effort to shrink the window of time voters have access to the polls, but Democrats say it's more of the same. The measure from Missouri's Republicans, who in May failed to amend the state's constitution to implement stricter voter ID requirements, comes at the same time as a citizen-led ballot measure that would expand early voting significantly. State GOPers say their version, which expands early voting by a much smaller amount and includes restrictions, will combat voter fraud and help voters make up their minds. But critics say the Republican-backed measure excludes days when working families and African American voters are more likely to hit the polls.
The hullabaloo started after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when volunteers such as Greg Oelke, a retired pipefitter in Missouri, gathered signatures to place an initiative on the ballot that would give voters six extra weeks to get to the polls at multiple locations and provide time to vote on the weekends. Oelke, who often worked overtime on construction projects both in and out of Missouri, collected signatures around Springfield because he said it was hard for him to make it to the polls on Election Day. "Early voting is an issue that really means a lot to me," he told Missouri Jobs With Justice, a group that helped organize the petition drive.
In early May, after hundreds of volunteers collected signatures in church basements and break rooms, citizens delivered a petition with more than 300,000 signatures to Missouri's secretary of state, whose office has until August to verify the signatures and decide whether to place the measure on the November ballot. But Missouri Republicans won't let that happen without a fight.
On April 1, a couple months after the petition drive had begun, Rep. Tony Dugger (R-Hartville) sponsored a competing measure. In May, the GOP-led House passed a version of the bill that expands early voting by six days—excluding the weekend—to a limited number of polling places, while also prohibiting same-day voter registration. If the citizens' initiative is approved, both measures will appear on the ballot in November. "The testimony in the Legislature in favor of the sham early voting bill was actually testimony against early voting," says Lara Granich, the director of Missouri Jobs With Justice. "That makes the real motivation behind it clear. They want it to be more difficult for folks to vote."
GOP-led legislatures in other key swing states, including Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, have all recently advanced measures to cut down on early voting. Democrats contend that Republicans target early voting because people who utilize it—low-income voters and minority voters—tend to also vote Democrat, a perception fueled by President Obama success with early voters, the Associated Press notes.
Republicans have offered different theories as to why six days of early voting makes more sense than six weeks. Last week, state Rep. Paul Curtman (R-Pacific) told the Missourian that six weeks of early voting would give voters too much time to commit voter fraud. (Between 2000 and 2010, there were 13 credible cases of in-person voter impersonation nationwide.) State Sen. Brian Nieves (R-Washington) said that six weeks of early voting "invites and begs" voter fraud, because it's not uncommon for people to lie about their addresses, or to have people vote who are not registered. Mother Jones reached out to both Curtman and Nieves for information about documented voter fraud cases in Missouri, but did not receive a response.
Dugger, who introduced the measure, did not comment on the voter fraud allegations. He told Mother Jones that six weeks of early voting is too much because voters who cast a ballot early might end up changing their minds by Election Day. "I don't want anyone to feel as if they wasted their their vote," he says, noting that keeping the polls open for six weeks is a financial burden. "I think six days is a reasonable step."
Granich argues that "if you are juggling two jobs and a family, six more days of bankers' hours does nothing for you. This is really a cynical attempt to confuse voters." Denise Lieberman, senior attorney at the Advancement Project, says that other states have demonstrated that early voting makes voting significantly more accessible, and voters aren't required to vote early. As for the argument that early voting could promote voter fraud, she says, "I find it flabbergasting."