By now it is not news: on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that all states must license same-sex marriages. Many people heralded this decision as an historic win for equality and freedom. While that claim may have philosophical merit, the decision is a radical departure from the Supreme Court’s usual legal analysis. And the underlying reasoning may affect much more than marriage. This ruling may guide the Court to strike down Texas’s new abortion restrictions, effectively keeping open dozens of abortion clinics that would have otherwise shut down.
Religious liberty is “the condition in which individuals or groups are permitted without restraint to assent to and, within limits, to express and act upon religious convictions and identity free of coercive interference or penalty imposed by outsiders, including the state.” The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta was June 15, 2015, and Magna Carta set forth, for the first time in Western law, the revolutionary idea that all people are subject to the rule of law. Magna Carta propounded 63 distinct liberties, first of which was the freedom of the English Church: “In the first place we grant to God and confirm by this our present charter for ourselves and our heirs in perpetuity that the English Church is to be free and to have all its rights fully and its liberties entirely.”
Next Tuesday, April 28, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in four consolidated cases, all of which deal with the issue of same-sex marriage. It promises to be a "landmark case," whichever way it is decided. In all likelihood this will be the Roe v. Wade of the current generation.
I want to follow up with a few thoughts related to my earlier post on King v. Burwell, the rule of law, and original sin. There, I dealt with certain legal nuances in the King v. Burwell case and extrapolated those into the broader culture. Eventually we ended up, like many times before, at the Garden of Eden. But there is more to this case—and the underlying principles—that warrants investigation. First, let's start with a question. Why was King v. Burwell so highly politicized? Statutory construction isn't one of the hot-button wedge issues between the Left and Right. Yet this case made front-page news for days. What did the media focus on? Was it methods for determining the meaning of a sentence in a statute? "Republicans are strongly committed to the historical-grammatical approach, but Democrats have been calling to use the narrative context approach." No, that didn't happen. What happened was that the media—and the political narratives—focused on the results of both possible outcomes of the case.
On March 4, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the case that will determine whether subsidies provided for under the Affordable Care Act will be available to plans purchased on the federal health care exchange. The outcome of the case could have sweeping consequences for people who relied on federal-exchange funded subsidies to pay their healthcare premiums under the ACA. Aside from the pragmatic implications on everyday citizens, the underlying issue in this case illuminates a much deeper problem in the way our country (and culture) relates to the “the law.”
King Solomon “excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.” (2 Chron. 9:22) King Solomon’s wealth and wisdom was so impressive that “all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom.” (2 Chron. 9:23) And while King Solomon developed his wealth through various means, certainly one of the chief means for his wealth came by his fleet of merchant ships, which carried gold, silver, and ivory from foreign lands. (1 Kings 10:22) King Solomon exercised wisdom and generated wealth through international trade.
“Responding to an evolving hospitality industry, the Texas Hotel & Lodging Association recently started crafting legislation that would give property owners reason to pause before opening their homes and apartments to temporary guests.” The Houston Chronicle reported this story on December 10, 2014, which details the THLA’s attempts to introduce legislation that would regulate innovative short-term lodging businesses such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO. In my last article on government regulation, I dealt with the Houston City Council’s similar attempts to regulate ride-sharing services Über and Lyft. This story is the same old story.
Recently in Houston, news broke that Mayor Parker's pro bono outside counsel subpoenaed five area pastors' sermon notes (among other things) on topics related to HERO (the “Houston equal Rights Ordinance”), gender identity, homosexuality, and Mayor Parker. A swift outcry soon erupted from the Christian sphere, decrying the subpoenas as an abuse of governmental authority and serious threat to religious liberty. I covered that topic here. The reaction from prominent Christians, such as Senator Ted Cruz, was swift and stern.
The Houston political scene has seen its share of hot-button issues lately. In June, I wrote about the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which the City Council passed in May. In the intervening months, the City has undergone a public debate concerning two separate industries and whether to allow certain forms of competition in the marketplace. First, there’s the restaurant industry’s battle with Mobile Food Units (food trucks). As anyone who has lived in Houston for a while knows, food trucks have become increasingly popular in the last five years or so. These culinary caravans hop from spot to spot serving up interesting and unique food choices—mostly dishes that you can serve in a plastic bowl or in a paper bag. Food trucks must be permitted, inspected, and follow similar health regulations as brick and mortar restaurants. They are also subject to other requirements but generally permitted to serve food wherever they want—except for downtown, which boasts a bustling daytime population and, therefore, an opportunity for increased revenue for the food trucks.
Two recent legal developments significantly impact Constitutional liberties. The first is the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision. The second is John Boehner's decision to sue Obama. Like Ulysses' Trojan horse, both developments appear to be victories for liberty. Beneath their surface, however, both developments carry significant threats to liberty, particularly religious liberty.