The Supreme Court has now adjourned until the first Monday in October. My only wish is that they all ride off into obscurity. Or at least the five of them who insisted on being on the wrong side of everything today.

The justices decided to wait until today to render their final two opinions – one that sticks a knife through the heart of organized labor in the US, the other further eroding the separation of church and state – and underscoring the second class citizen status of women in America.

The first decision offered this morning was in Harris v. Quinn (follow the link for the full decision).  

At issue:

(1) Whether a state may, consistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, compel personal care providers to accept and financially support a private organization as their exclusive representative to petition the state for greater reimbursements from its Medicaid programs; and (2) whether the lower court erred in holding that the claims of providers in the Home Based Support Services Program are not ripe for judicial review.

In plain English, what was at stake in this case:

  • Home health care workers in IL want the court to rule that public sector unions cannot collect fees from workers who aren’t union members.
  • The idea behind compulsory fees for nonmembers is that the union negotiates the contract for all workers, so they all should share in the cost of that work.

The court has been hostile to unions in recent years, and today’s ruling hasn’t altered that. Time magazine explains the ramifications:

The Supreme Court decided Monday that public sector unions cannot collect “fair share” fees from non-union-members, in a 5-4 decision that dealt unions a sharp blow.

The much-awaited decision limits, but does not reverse, the court’s well-trodden ruling from 1977, known as Abood. In that case, the court found that requiring non-union-members to pay “fair share” fees did not violate workers’ First Amendment rights, so long as those fees do not go to advancing specifically “political or ideological” ends.

The decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, marks a loss for public sector unions, which may see their coffers and power depleted in coming years, although it’s not the worst-case scenario that many labor activists feared. The ruling stopped short of finding all “fair share” dues unconstitutional. It also does not affect all full-time public employees, but only a category called “partial public employees,” which includes a growing sector of home heath care workers.

The decision also marks a victory for the anti-union group, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is backed by many hardline conservatives, including the Koch family.

As if the YouTube technical difficulty we had a the top of today’s show wasn’t bad enough! But wait, it gets worse!

The final opinion offered was in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby (follow the link for the decision). Ahead of the actual decision being handed down, we learned that Justice Alito had authored both of them, setting the stage for bad news on both.

Needless to say, the court ruled that

the government can’t require closely held corporations with religious owners to provide contraception coverage, though the government may provide alternative ways to obtain or access coverage.

Mother Jones quickly digested Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s “blistering dissent” and offers the 8 best lines from it:

  • 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.”
  • “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.”
  • To help put this decision in perspective, I was joined today by Greg Lipper, senior litigation counsel at Americans United for Separation of Church & State, who agreed that the recent decisions, including  Town of Greece v. Galloway are heading toward erasing that precarious line separating church and state.

    In the first hour, after dealing with those pesky technical issues while digesting the Supremely fucked up decisions, I spoke with Howie Klein of Down With Tyranny and the Blue America PAC about the relentless fundraising spam over the past few days (that will only get worse today!), and the Human Rights Campaign’s horrendous endorsement of Susan Collins over the awesome Shenna Bellows.

    Tomorrow, we’ll delve a bit more deeply into some of the Supreme Court’s recent attacks on women’s rights with RHRealityCheck‘s Jessica Mason Plieko, and we’ll lighten things up a bit with GottaLaff too… radio or not!