Wednesday, May 18, 2016

  1. A quiet, face-saving, non-precedent-setting defeat
  2. Dodging the more difficult task
  3. “Salt’n’Light” (and other incense offered Moloch)
  4. Couldn’t happen to a nicer pair
  5. Girls’ locker room as Edmund Pettus Bridge
  6. The priorities of the urbanized cosmopolitans
  7. Poetry snippet
  8. Naked Emperors & Emperesses

1

The crowing from defenders of religious liberty at Monday’s SCOTUS “punting” the contraceptive mandate back to the lower courts is well warranted.

As William McGurn notes (Big Win for Little Sisters), the justices vacated the lower-court rulings the sisters were fighting and “took away the administration’s tool for bullying: The government, it said, ‘may not impose taxes or penalties’ on those who refuse to authorize their plans to provide the contested coverage.” Vacating the lower court rulings is huge, since the rulings before the court all favored the government’s “our way or the highway” approach and those bad precedents are now gone. That’s what “vacated” means.

Even before reading McGurn, my heart soared at the Court’s own characterization of the status preliminary to the remand for compromise:

Petitioners have clarified that their religious exercise is not infringed where they “need to do nothing more than contract for a plan that does not include coverage for some or all forms of contraception,” even if their employees receive cost-free contraceptive coverage from the same insurance company. The Government has confirmed that the challenged procedures “for employers with insured plans could be modified to operate in the manner posited in the Court’s order while still ensuring that the affected women receive contraceptive coverage seamlessly, together with the rest of their health coverage.”

It looks to me as if all the “compromising” will come from the government, because the Little Sisters have all along said their religious exercise is not infringed where they need to do nothing more than contract for a plan that does not include coverage for some or all forms of contraception. (One of the reasons the case went to court was because the Little Sisters felt a religious obligation to employees to provide health insurance — though it could have just sent them to the exchanges.) They only objected to government forcing complicity by signing a document that triggered their insurer’s obligation to provide contraceptive coverage.

Better even than William McGurn, estimable pundit though he be, is Michael McConnell, one of the nation’s two top scholars on the Religion Clause:

The opinion states that the Court “expresses no view on the merits of the cases.” Therefore no precedent is set. But the decision was basically a quiet, face-saving, non-precedent-setting defeat for the government.

Shortly after the oral argument, the Court asked the parties for supplemental briefs on an alternative approach. In the Court’s words, the religious groups would have “no legal obligation to provide such contraceptive coverage, would not pay for such coverage, and would not be required to submit any separate notice.” Their insurance company would then “separately” provide contraception coverage to the employees — “not paid for by [religious groups] and not provided through the [religious groups’] health plan.” The Court asked the parties if this compromise would work, and both sides essentially said “yes” (although the government did so with much hemming and hawing).

As the Court noted in yesterday’s order, “Both petitioners and the Government now confirm that such an option is feasible.” The government has admitted that the regulations “could be modified to operate in the manner posited in the Court’s order.” This does not duckthe least restrictive means question. It answers it.

If the Court did not affirm the lower courts’ substantial burden holdings and the government admitted that it is feasible to achieve its purposes by a means less restrictive than the regulations, the Little Sisters won on both issues, unanimously. Contrary to most press coverage, this was not a “punt.” It was a compromise in which the Little Sisters won the case but no precedent was set for the future. This is unorthodox, but arguably solomonic.

Not until recent weeks have I become so furious with Team Obama that I want them humiliated, so I guess I can’t complain at SCOTUS for letting The Worst POTUS Ever On Religious Liberty avoid another explicit Supreme Court smackdown (darn it!).

2

I don’t often quote Michael Gerson, whose move (rise?) from Presidential speechwriter to Washington Post columnist seems to vindicate the Peter Principle, but:

In the category of credit where credit is due, Donald Trump has been exactly right in one important respect. He attacked the Republican establishment as low-energy, cowering weaklings. Now Republican leaders are lining up to surrender to him — like low-energy, cowering weaklings. The capitulation has justified the accusation.

It is humorous — in a sad, bitter, tragic sort of way — to see Republican leaders, and some conservative commentators, try to forget or minimize Trump’s history of odious proposals and statements. The argument seems to be: “I say tomato. You say Mexican immigrants are rapists. What’s the big difference?”

If Clinton is the ultimate evil, would anyone be better than she is? How about Trump’s ex-butler, who threatened President Obama on Facebook? How about Trump supporter Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty”? Of course not, a Republican would angrily respond. A prospective president needs to be morally and intellectually fit for the office. He or she can’t be guilty of demagoguery or mean-spiritedness, or talk nonsense all the time.

We have left the realm of half-a-loaf and you-scratch-my-back. We are dealing with a question of fitness for the highest office in the land. It is not enough for GOP partisans to assert Trump’s superiority to Clinton on this issue or that. They must justify that Trump has the experience, knowledge, temperament, judgment and character to be president of the United States. That is a more difficult task.

Because it would be impolite, he doesn’t name names. Among those he specifically does not name are Rick Perry and Peter King. It’s all here.

3

This is where the difficulty begins, because Christians have gotten soft. We’ve gotten used to our positions of power and influence. When faced with the choice of keeping their faith or their cultural relevance, an increasing number of Christians have been choosing the latter.

(An anonymous correspondent to Rod Dreher, introducing a more extended commentary on why “so many Christians are bound and determined to hate the Benedict Option”) These are the Christians who will send their daughters into public school bathrooms and locker rooms concurrently occupied by penis people, “reasoning” that their children will be “salt and light.”

Yeah. Right.

4

Hillary and I agree on something: Looking forward to her being in debate with Trump.

I think I’m looking forward to it, though I no longer watch literal bloodsport. I don’t doubt that Trump will land some solid smackdowns and that her efforts to respond in kind will be amusing, perhaps even effective.

It couldn’t happen to a nicer pair than She Whom I Dread in the Oval Office and He Who Terrifies Me in the Oval Office.

5

It’s all just like Jim Crow! The girls’ locker room is the Edmund Pettus Bridge! Etc.

The Rachel Held Evanses and the Katie Grimeses of the world will do their very best to aid and abet the mainstream culture drive orthodox Christians into dhimmitude. The only comforting thing to take from all this is that progressive Christianity is the last stage before apostasy. So their time is short ….

(Rod Dreher, on some theological silliness from two of his very deserving bêtes noire, one of whom has come down with a risible case of Selma envy, the other with a suspiciously convenient conclusion from the well-documented genetics of virgin birth.)

Reminds me of the late Col. R.B. Thieme, Jr., who preached in his military dress uniform about getting “doctrine in the frontal lobe” and on how he’d figured out that ova must be sinless (“the only sinless cell in any human body”) or else Christ would have been a sinner.

Q.E. freakin’-D.

6

Over the weekend, I ran into an old friend who used to live here, and who happened to be in town visiting. Hadn’t seen her in 20 years or more. I asked her if she was still teaching. Yes, she said; she’s now in a poor, rural public school district in another Southern state …

I asked her how prepared her school is to implement the Education Department civil-rights edict opening school bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams to transgenders. She had been traveling, and hadn’t heard of it.

“As if they didn’t put enough on us,” she said.

She started talking about all the different state and federal mandates that her school (and all public schools in her state) have to meet …

Tough. Such are the priorities of the urbanized cosmopolitans who run the Democratic Party.

(Rod Dreher)

7

Merciful one, save me from slight repentance.

(From the poem Ash Wednesday, Unshowered, by Anya Krugovoy Silver) It that isn’t in some liturgical service somewhere, it should be.

From Image.

8

Naked Emperors

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.