Home > Uncategorized > Citizens United v. Obamacare

Citizens United v. Obamacare

I’m not sure if I am the first to draw this comparison, I doubt it, but I haven’t seen it anywhere. At any rate, in Citizens United v. FEC the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protects speech not just at an individual level, but also when citizens form groups and associations, to include labor unions and corporations*. Liberals and a few other groups screamed like stuck pigs, but there you are.

“If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.”

Majority Opinion – Justice Kennedy

As Kennedy pointed out, the constitution doesn’t distinguish between who is and is not “the press”. Presumably the press is any organization engaging in mass communication. that’s just a bonus angle I thought I’d throw in. You’re welcome, I know few people actually read legislation and court rulings before bitching about them. Here is another bonus, this time from Scalia, love him or hate him, he has a point. He said that the First Amendment was written,

“in terms of speech, not speakers” and that “Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker.”

The comparison I want to draw here is that various courts have ruled in various way about whether or not businesses can be forced to provide insurance coverage that covers services they object to on a religious basis. I would argue that if citizens who are part of groups and associations don’t lose their right to free speech, neither do they lose the ability to operate their business in accordance with their religious beliefs. Their employees are not being forced to abide by their employers religion, employers are only asking to not be a direct party to things they have moral objections to.

Look, I’m morally opposed to abortion, and not just on religious grounds, in fact not even primarily on religious grounds. On the other hand, I’m not opposed to preemptive birth control, and I’m opposed to neither in the case of rape (I put the moral burden on the rapist, not on the subsequently pregnant victim). Even so, I don’t appreciate the idea of the government forcing people, anyone at all, to pay for something to enable (safer) participation is an entirely voluntary and avoidable activity: sex. The same logic could be used to justify peoples smoking habits. Why should the public at large and/or business be forced to cover the medical costs of one voluntary and potentially costly behavior and not another? There are still plenty of reproductive activity costs to be borne even if birth control is provided.

The administration is going to lose on this, it’s almost inevitable given that Citizens United referenced not just free speech, but the First Amendment as a whole. I doubt that was an accident.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that “conscientious objectors” have long been exempted from many government mandated obligations, not least among them, military service. The standard there has never been limited to religious beliefs but also to the individual conscience concerned. I wager that fighting in WW2 was a somewhat more important thing than birth control coverage, and we exempted people from the former.

What I would do is require plans, not to cover contraception, but to offer coverage as a rider that can be purchased separately if desired. Really I am against the whole malignancy called Obamacare, but if pressed for a solution, that’s what I would do. As it stands now, I don’t believe it’s going to survive the Supreme Court.

Lets keep in mind that in every case where the government can run roughshod over religious belief it can likewise run over disbelief.

*It amuses me that liberals in particular found the decision so distasteful. If the ruling had gone the other way, I fail to see what perverted logic would have kept the government from being able to censor video games and movies which are as unabashedly speech as election commercials are. The law regulated the types of speech corporations could engage in, the content in other words. There is no reason to think that other content couldn’t be disallowed as well. That’s probably just a loony right wing thing though, it’s not like anyone would really propose censoring movies and television… Right?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. 2013/02/08 at 18:23

    Why stop at associations (even though you’re ignoring that those associations are created and defined by the government)? Why not extend our First Amendment rights to taxes? After all, that’s what religions do: the government doesn’t tax them because that would infringe upon their ability to engage freely in their beliefs. Just the same, taxing businesses – which apparently have free speech rights – is an infringement upon their ability to spend money how they please on their right to speak freely and openly.

    Really, I see nothing in the constitution that says the government can’t make a certain type of business illegal. We do it with prostitution and casinos all the time, not to mention all the zoning laws out there, so what stops the government, in principle, from declaring that corporations are illegal? And if the answer is nothing (again, in principle, not practicality), then how is it that corporations are allowed free speech?

  2. 2013/02/10 at 22:10

    You are again arguing something that I know you understand is not the case. Religious institutions may choose to either pay taxes or to be tax free and have their participation in politics limited. They make a trade off, just as your “Atheists of Maine” will have to do if you choose to become non-profit.

    Incidentally, one can avoid paying certain taxes if one has a demonstrable moral or religious objections to the tax in question. It is so especially with the payroll taxes.

    The decision merely said that that the first amendment provides no grounds to exclude speakers, whomever they may be. I have no idea what you are talking about after that. We have freedom of association and the government can’t exclude those associations from using their pooled assets from engaging in speech. It might, as with churches and similar groups such as yours, offer them something in exchange for refraining from certain things, but it cannot say you cannot speak.

  3. 2013/02/11 at 23:01

    “Why stop at associations (even though you’re ignoring that those associations are created and defined by the government)?”

    And by the way, corporations are created by people. In so far as the government has a role, it ends at the mere recognition/registration of the entity in question, mostly as a matter of taxes. The government issues birth certificates, but it didn’t create the baby. Even if you really thought that was the case, the government (or a child’s parents) can’t restrict speech. Corporations are immortal, so unlike a child they are mature from the start, not once they turn 18 or whatever like people.

    Individuals doing business don’t need to incorporate if they don’t want to, they can do business under their own name with no additional hassles. If two or more owners exist, it’s usually required to, just like with a baby, to recognize the creation of a new “being”, they have to get “social security numbers” also.

  4. 2013/02/16 at 16:59

    Atheists of Maine will be choosing non-profit status on the basis of what the law offers generically to non-profits. We will not be seeking special rights by virtue of being a religion. Those are two different things.

    We have freedom of association and the government can’t exclude those associations from using their pooled assets from engaging in speech.

    If the government creates some new tax category for CorpoChariBusinesses, it can regulate that how it pleases.

    And by the way, corporations are created by people.

    Insofar as gangs are created by people, sure. But the definition of what a corporation is comes straight from Uncle Sam. I know you don’t like that fact, but it is a fact. Perhaps also distressing to you is that the government has defined what a charity, businesses, and religion is. Except where the constitution is explicit otherwise (which is only in regard to religion), the government can regulate those things and whatever else it specifically defines. Indeed, without the government, corporations would have no official existence.

  5. 2013/02/21 at 01:36

    They don’t have special rights and not all churches are tax exempt. Just like many other nonprofit organizations, some churches choose to not be bound by the restrictions of holding nonprofit status. I guess you are going to have to illustrate in what way churches would not qualify as nonprofit organizations if they didn’t get automatic tax exemption. The answer is: they are in no way different and are very similar to groups such as your own. The automatic exemption, really, only conserves resources by taking note of the fact that churches nearly always meet the requirements and the application process would be a waste. Singling churches out and barring them from holding a tax exempt status based on the fact that they are religious would be exactly the “special treatment” that you claim to abhor.

    Why should your organization be treated differently from a church? It fills the same social void they do and you want to engage in activities that are substantially similar. The power to tax is the power to destroy, as you damn well know.

    So, I ask again, in what way do you suppose churches do not generally meet the requirements they would need if being a church didn’t give them automatic tax exempt/nonprofit status? (again, provided they don’t wish to engage in certain political and other activities)

    As usual, your government definition argument fails to hold water. By your logic, the government would be able to chill speech on a mind boggling scale by just changing the definition. It’s like claiming that the government could keep blacks from voting by coming up with a definition that doesn’t include them under the word “people”. You have no rational argument as to why people should lose their right to free speech when they act as a group such as: Atheists of Maine. My suspicion is that you are ideologically and dogmatically against the concept of organizational speech, not logically so.

  6. 2013/03/12 at 13:38

    A church need not do charitable works. For example, the Westboro Baptist Church doesn’t appear to volunteer time and effort. For a 501(c)3, the primary purpose must be charitable. Moreover, we aren’t going to find ourselves shielded by all sorts of religious privileging laws, such as the ability to not declare a whole host of expenses. They aren’t the same, Nate.

    The government did keep blacks from voting by changing the definition of the word “people”. The problem, though, was that what constitutes a person isn’t particularly up for debate. That isn’t so with corporations, however. Again, what stops the government from creating CorpoChariBusinesses and defining the purpose of such organizations? The answer is nothing except the voter.

  7. 2013/03/25 at 19:54

    You need not do charitable works either, I think you are misinterpreting what seems pretty clear language to me.

    The church you mention, (I’m taking the same line with these people as many have, you and I included, with the mass shooters I’m not mentioning their name, it’s all about attention) advocates their ideas, however repugnant they may be. The KKK, NAACP, ACLU, all of these organizations, could be taxed out of existence with your view. The power to tax is the power to destroy, and it shocks me that you either don’t think that is true, or don’t care.

    The idea of the statute, and the language used, does not include any kind of test to determine whether the actions of an entity are charitable or not. The tests concern what happens with excess funds and additionally what political activities the entity wished to partake in.

    If you want to create a pile of new paperwork fine, but the IRS regularly strips religious, and other non-profit, organizations of their status regularly on the grounds of prohibited political or financial activities.

    I would have thought you would be more concerned with what business the government has defining what is and is not a church rather than using your imagination to try and call it favoritism. It might be, but not in the way you want to believe.

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