Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Washington Beat: SCOTUS Sides with Hobby Lobby, Workers Against Paying Union Dues

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The Supreme Court delivered a blow to the Affordable Care Act and labor unions in two separate opinions Monday. Washington Bureau Reporter Geoff Bennett filed the following report for NY1.

Outside the Supreme Court Monday, conservative activists cheered an apparent victory for the religious right.

The justices ruled, 5-4, that family-owned corporations with religious objections to contraceptives can refuse to pay for them under the Affordable Care Act.

"Today's decision is a landmark decision for religious freedom. The Supreme Court recognized that American families do not lose their fundamental rights when they open a family business," said Lori Windham, the attorney for Hobby Lobby.

The arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby brought the legal challenge. Its owners say they want their company to reflect their Christian values.

They asked for an exemption from the Affordable Care Act mandate to provide certain forms of contraception, such as the morning after pill, which they consider to be the same as abortion.

The court's liberal wing, including its three female justices, denounced the decision.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned that if some companies can avoid covering contraceptives, others could seek religious waivers for vaccines or blood transfusions.

"As a pastor I take the Biblical scripture seriously, that calls us to stand on the side of the poor and the marginalized. And what the supreme Court just did is take healthcare decisions away from the people that are struggling to get by," said Rev. Rob Keithan of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

In another case that received less attention but will still have a major impact, the Supreme Court ruled Monday government workers cannot be forced to pay union dues.

The decision is considered a major blow to public sector unions.

That case was brought by a group of home health care workers in Illinois, who argued they should not have to pay dues to a labor union they did not join, even though they benefit from its services and the union is required to represent them. 

Legal analysts say the ruling could lead to an exodus of members, who will have little incentive to pay dues if nonmembers aren't required to share the burden of union costs.

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