Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Thursday gave Wheaton College the injunction it wanted against the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.

But it’s not now deciding the broader question of whether Wheaton must follow the Obama administration’s so-called accommodation for religious nonprofits.

In the court’s dense legalese:

If the applicant informs the Secretary of Health and Human Services in writing that it is a non-profit organization that holds itself out as religious and has religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services, the respondents are enjoined from enforcing against the applicant the challenged provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related regulations pending final disposition of appellate review. To meet the condition for injunction pending appeal, the applicant need not use the form prescribed by the Government, EBSA Form 700, and need not send copies to health insurance issuers or third-party administrators.

The Associated Press translates that:

The court said it was not ultimately deciding the issue Thursday and noted that it is likely to take up the nonprofits’ cases at some point.

For now, though, it said in an unsigned opinion that the letter to [the Department of Health & Human Services] is sufficient and that the government can rely on the letter to ensure that women covered by Wheaton’s insurance can obtain emergency contraception at no cost.

See our previous coverage about Wheaton’s “community covenant” and the Justice Department’s claim that the Hobby Lobby decision actually goes against what religious colleges are asking for.

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The Department of Justice is trying to stop the religious-freedom logic of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby contraceptive-mandate case from spreading to religious colleges and other nonprofits seeking the same exemption.

The Associated Press reports that DOJ asked the Supreme Court Wednesday to turn down Wheaton Colleges’s request to get itself out of any complicity in the provision of “objectionable contraception”:

The issue in the lawsuits filed by Wheaton and other nonprofit groups is different because the administration already has allowed them to opt out of paying for the objectionable contraception by telling the government that doing so would violate their religious beliefs.

But they must fill out Form 700 that enables their insurers or third-party administrators to take on the responsibility of paying for the birth control. The employer does not have to arrange the coverage or pay for it. Insurers get reimbursed by the government through credits against fees owed under other provisions of the health care law.

The fight is over completing the form, which the nonprofits say violates their religious beliefs because it forces them to participate in a system to subsidize and distribute the contraception. …

“The decision in Hobby Lobby rested on the premise that these accommodations ‘achieve all of the Government’s aims’ underlying the preventive-health services coverage requirement ‘while providing greater respect for religious liberty,’” the Justice Department said, quoting from Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion.

Read the full article here.

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IMAGE: Department of Justice

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Free speech on college campuses scored an indirect victory in a Supreme Court decision this week concerning “false statements” in an Ohio congressional race.

Groups supporting student speech hailed the ruling in SBA List v. Driehaus, where the high court ruled unanimously that the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, has legal standing to sue Ohio even without being punished for its assertions in political campaigns.

That’s because the group has engaged in “arguably” protected speech and faces a “credible threat of enforcement” in the future under Ohio law, according to Justice Clarence Thomas’s opinion for the court.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which filed a brief supporting the pro-life group’s position, compared the enforcement threat to a campus group that risks punishment for advocating outside of “free speech zones” on campus. In a blog post hailing the court ruling, FIRE argued that such speech rules lead to students self-censoring instead of possibly facing punishment.

FIRE is all too familiar with such cases. At the University of Hawaii-Hilo, members of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) were prohibited from handing out copies of the Constitution outside of the designated free speech zones.

At the University of Cincinnati, which falls under the Ohio false-statement law, YAL was ordered to stay in a small free speech zone on campus, limiting the group’s ability to collect signatures for a “right to work” law.

The Student Press Law Center also applauded the ruling, saying it will embolden students who face threats of expulsion or lawsuits from their university.

The group argued in a brief that a ruling in favor of SBA List would likely change the current system, where students often avoid lawsuits against unconstitutional laws because possible expulsion from school will “deprive them of once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”

One immediate impact of the ruling, according to the Student Press Law Center, is in allowing students to create parody accounts of student officials. A North Carolina law that ostensibly targets bullying, signed by then-Gov. Bev Perdue (D) in 2012, also makes it illegal for students to “build a fake profile or Web site” if it’s done with “the intent to intimidate or torment a school employee.”

After the Supreme Court ruling, students will now have standing to file suit against rules limiting advocacy to free speech zones before violating public university rules mandating certain activities only occur within those zones.

As noted by the First Amendment Center, a project of Freedom Forum, Robert Van Tuinen of Modesto Junior College wanted to hand out copies of the Constitution on campus last fall but was told he would have to reserve time in the free speech zone, and time would not be immediately available. Under the Supreme Court ruling, Van Tuinen could challenge that rule without first violating it.

College Fix contributor Matt Lamb is a student at Loyola University-Chicago.

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IMAGE: Cameron Parkins/Flickr


OPINION: How can we truly move toward racial equality if we are treated as less than capable?

The Supreme Court recently ruled affirmative action is unconstitutional. Right on cue, the decision was lamented as a blow to racial equality. Some even accused the Supreme Court of racism.

After the decision, a peer wrote an op-ed in my school newspaper – Indiana University’s Daily Student– in support of affirmative action, paraphrasing President Lyndon Johnson who once said:

“You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair.”

Perhaps that sentiment was once relevant. It’s not anymore.

As much as I appreciate liberals’ concern for the welfare and success of black Americans, we are not hobbling around with crippled feet. We’re smart, capable, and successful. Yes, we need opportunities, just like every American! But opportunity and racial preferences are not the same thing.

Opportunity gives a chance to a qualified, capable individual. Preference grants someone favor. I am grateful for every opportunity I have been afforded in my life, but I don’t need to be coddled as if I am unable to succeed without special attention. Just look at Kwasi Enin, an African American high school student with a whopping 5.0 GPA who got accepted into every Ivy League college – a feat only achieved by few.CrystalHill

As black students, being treated as a special class of citizens is the worse thing that could happen, because we will not be held to the same standards as our white peers. The most relevant example is the ‘I,Too’ movement happening at different universities, in which minority students write down racial experiences they have had, whether negative or positive, as a response to the lack of diversity at their school. Many of their experiences had to do with, unsurprisingly, other students thinking that they were affirmative action placements. They felt demeaned and underestimated, two of the worst feelings in the world, yet they would just as readily fight for the very thing that undermines them.

How can we truly move toward racial equality if we are treated as less than capable? People like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas are castigated because they dare to believe that affirmative action policies do not achieve what they promise.

Affirmative action might give us the opportunity to get through the door, but once we’re there we lose the opportunity to be seen as equals. That is the only thing that is truly backward.

As for my university, the number of black students enrolled at my Big Ten school amounts to 4 percent of the student population. Many people say that the university is not trying hard enough. I am starting to think that diversity can only be fostered, not legislated.

If anything, a lack of opportunities and hindered progression has more to do with socio-economic status than race.

I come from a middle-class background, and have had chances and opportunities that many of my white peers from lower socio-economic backgrounds haven’t had. I would be dishonest to pretend that I was somehow less privileged than them, when I have been able to advance because of the opportunities given to me, some deserved and undeserved.

More often than not, it’s not intellectual and academic ability that is lacking, it’s the means to attend certain schools. There are only but so many scholarships and grants to go around.

When America was still a deeply prejudiced nation, African Americans needed affirmative action to ensure they wouldn’t be passed over for positions or rejected from schools simply because of their race. However, today we live in a society where political correctness doesn’t let us acknowledge the progress that has been made since then, lest we think we live in a “post-racial” society.

While I’ve never thought that, I do think we have reached the point where we can scale back laws demanding racial quotas. I have a hard time understanding why working to get rid of racial quotas is a step backward. If anything – it’s a step forward – because it acknowledges that, in a country where there are black professionals in every arena, as well as a black president in his second term, America is moving leaps and bounds ahead of its deeply racist past.

College Fix contributor Crystal Hill is a student at Indiana University.

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IMAGE: Crystal Hill


ANN ARBOR – In the wake of a Supreme Court decision this week that effectively bans affirmative action in Michigan, a small but vocal group of student radicals converged in the center of the University of Michigan campus on Thursday to protest, saying the ruling is akin to former Jim Crow racial segregation laws and the high court’s infamous separate but equal ruling.

“This decision is the Plessy vs. Ferguson of our lifetime, a decision that says ‘a white majority state has the right to vote on the political and educational future and rights of minority communities,’” the student protestors’ spokesman, Jose Alvarenga, declared to the crowd during the demonstration.

“And those decisions that cemented the Jim Crow in the Old South were not ended by legal means,” he continued, adding they “were ended by a civil rights movement, and today we see this as building a new civil rights movement in our lifetime to defeat the new Jim Crow and these legal policies that discriminate against minority communities.”

At the rally, the students demanded free tuition and race-based enrollment quotas to be installed at the University of Michigan, ground zero for the ongoing battle between affirmative action proponents and foes.protestUM2

The 30 or so protestors – all members of three extremist campus student groups whose official spokesman, Alvarenga, is a student in the country illegally – chanted phrases such as “double minority enrollment now, open it up or we’ll shut it down” and “they say ‘Jim Crow’ we say ‘hell no’” during the two-hour rally.

The members of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary also alleged University of Michigan’s admissions administrators are racist.

“With this campaign, we want to expose the racism in the admissions policies and present a real clear picture of who the actual people who are applying are, and to make it clear that the students are qualified, in fact, and should have the right to come to university as well,” said Alvarenga in an interview with The College Fix.

“If you’re not getting financial aid…that’s the same as getting a rejection letter from the University of Michigan, and so we are also fighting for an increase in financial aid for students to come,” Alvarenga said.

He also said the Supreme Court is racist.

“I think with this decision by the Supreme Court…it’s clear that, that um, like the re-segregation of higher education…is not just, um, like at the university, but also it is like, on the legal level, both at the state level and also at the national level that are discriminating against minority communities,” Alvarenga said in an interview with The College Fix.

“Not just the university,” he added. “We have seen just this past year the Supreme Court make, um, very conservative, um, very racist decisions, like one after another, um that are like, you know, direct attacks on the political and equality of minority communities in this country.”

Thursday’s rally was preceeded by another, similar one on April 16, held by By Any Means Necessary – this time to demand the admittance of high school seniors Brooke Kimbrough and Daisha Martin following both students’ rejection.

Kimbrough, an African American senior at University Prep in Detroit, had an ACT score of 23 and a GPA of 3.6, according to FOX 2 News. At Michigan, about 76 percent of students have a GPA of 3.75 or higher, while the mid-range ACT scores for accepted students are between 28 and 32.

But Alvarenga called Michigan’s admissions policies racist, inferring Kimbrough’s rejection was because she was black, not because she was unqualified.

“Some of the students who are here are students who are appealing their rejection letters…the university keeps saying that, ‘there’s not enough qualified students’ or that they’re letting students in but they don’t want to come here,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Detroit News reported that a BAMN attorney called for the university to drop ACT and SAT scores in admissions considerations, deeming them discriminatory.

And in response to Thursday’s protest, a campus official answered some of their questions after the group descended on an administration building. The official agreed to arrange a public meeting to listen to the groups’ concerns, according to the Michigan Daily campus newspaper.

However other students seemed less impressed by the display. There were only about a dozen or so onlookers.

At one point a black student walked by and asked what was going on. He was told it was a rally for affirmative action.

He responded he’s already at the University of Michigan, “so I don’t care what happens with this.”

College Fix contributor Derek Draplin is a student at the University of Michigan.

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IMAGES: Fox 2 News screenshots


The Supreme Court has issued its ruling today in the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The ruling could signal that the days of race-based affirmative action preferences in college admissions are numbered.

It was a 6-2 ruling, with the majority upholding a state-wide ban on racial preferences passed by Michigan voters in 2006. That ban was narrowly overturned by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012. The ruling today represents yet another reversal.

USA TODAY reports on the limited scope of the ruling:

The decision came in a case brought by Michigan, where a voter-approved initiative banning affirmative action had been tied up in court for a decade.

Seven other states — California, Florida, Washington, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma and New Hampshire – have similar bans. Now, others may follow suit.

But the ruling, which was expected after the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Michigan law, did not jeopardize the wide use of racial preferences in many of the 42 states without bans. Such affirmative action programs were upheld, though subjected to increased scrutiny, in the high court’s June ruling involving the University of Texas.

Civil rights activist Jennifer Gratz of the XIV Foundation, whose Supreme Court case Gratz v. Bollinger started the fight to end racial preferences in Michigan more than 10 years ago, had this to say about the Schuette decision: “Much progress has been made over the past 15 years in challenging discriminatory policies based on race preferences and moving toward colorblind government. Today’s ruling preserves this foundation and is a clear signal that states are moving in the right direction when they do away with policies that treat people differently based on race, gender, ethnicity or skin color.” reports that “National Education Association, the American Council on Education and the National School Boards Association — as well as chancellors of the University of California system — have publicly opposed the affirmative action ban. The Obama administration also urged that the ban be overturned.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. Justice Elana Kagan recused herself from the case for unknown reasons.