The U.S. Supreme Court Monday afternoon rejected a request for a religious exemption for health care workers refusing to comply with New York State’s vaccine mandate. The state is requiring all health care workers to be vaccinated against the deadly coronavirus. Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied the request, but three conservative jurists, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, would have granted it.
The latter, Justice Gorsuch, cited an extremely narrow ruling in the Supreme Court case of an anti-gay Colorado baker, the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, in his dissent. The baker “won” his case because the court ruled local officials had displayed animus against the baker’s religion. Justice Gorsuch appeared to suggest New York’s requirement for all health care workers to be vaccinated was equally problematic.
“The legal challenge was filed by a group of 20 doctors and nurses who argued that the state’s vaccine mandate violates the First Amendment to the Constitution because it fails to include a religious exemption,” CNBC reports.
In what some may seem as a dangerous opinion and foreshadowing of similar ones to come, Justice Gorsuch says that those requesting the emergency exemption will suffer “irreparable injury” over their refusal to be vaccinated against the deadly coronavirus that to date has killed more than 800,000 people in the U.S. He made no mention of irreparable injury to the health care workers, to their families, co-workers, friends, or of course their patients should they contract and/or transmit the virus.
Justice Gorsuch writes: “no one seriously disputes that, absent relief, the applicants will suffer an irreparable injury. Not only does New York threaten to have them fired and strip them of unemployment benefits. This Court has held that ‘[t]he loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.'”
Here’s where Gorsuch appears to be paving the road for more faith-based decisions:
“The Free Exercise Clause protects not only the right to hold unpopular religious beliefs inwardly and secretly. It protects the right to live out those beliefs publicly in ‘the performance of (or abstention from) physical acts,'” he writes, citing case law.
“Under this Court’s precedents, laws targeting acts for disfavor only when they are religious in nature or because of their religious character are ‘doubtless . . . unconstitutional.'”
“As a result, where ‘official expressions of hostility to religion’ accompany laws or policies burdening free exercise, we have simply ‘set aside’ such policies without further inquiry. Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Comm’n, 584 U. S. ___, ___ (2018) (slip op., at 18).”
“But even where such overt animus is lacking, laws that impose burdens on religious exercises must still be both neutral toward religion and generally applicable or survive strict scrutiny. … To meet its burden under strict scrutiny, the government must demonstrate that its law is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. Applying these principles to this case, New York’s mandate falters at each step.”
Gorsuch is stating that protecting the population from a quickly mutating and highly deadly virus in a two-year long pandemic is not “a compelling state interest.”
Harvard Law assistant professor Ben Eidelson weighs in on Gorsuch’s tactics:
Gorsuch’s invocation of a “slight suspicion” standard here is one of the most brazen abuses of quotation marks in a SCt opinion that I can remember. Here’s a side-by-side (note “set aside” came on next pg in Masterpiece, after reviewing evidence & finding actual “hostility”) pic.twitter.com/napZXxiOoX
— Ben Eidelson (@beidelson) December 13, 2021
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FDR, JFK, and LBJ: White House (Finally) Takes (Cautious) Victory Lap on Biden’s (Huge) Successes
The White House is coming off a year of approval rating declines, thanks in large part to Republican obstruction and attacks, but President Joe Biden, Democrats, and the nation now have a lot to celebrate.
“We now have a presidency where the president has delivered the largest economic recovery plan since Roosevelt, the largest infrastructure plan since Eisenhower, the most judges confirmed since Kennedy, the second largest health care bill since Johnson and the largest climate change bill in history,” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, not known for bragging, told Politico’s Ryan Lizza. “The first time we’ve done gun control since President Clinton was here, the first time ever an African American woman has been put on the U.S. Supreme Court.”
“I think it’s a record to take to the American people,” Klain added.
Lizza and Eugene Daniels of Politico’s Playbook note, “At the start of the summer, this conversation would have been vastly different. Now, gas prices have dropped, and the last CPI report hints that inflation may finally be trending down after hitting a peak. Election forecasters are writing pieces at least entertaining the idea that Democrats might not suffer the long-predicted midterm wipeout. And there’s that burst of legislative victories that were squeezed out of Congress in July and August that had Biden, a lover of alliteration, calling this period ‘a season of substance.’”
The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly observes, “Klain’s references to historical figures chimes with Biden’s own interests. The president has regularly consulted historians, among them Doris Kearns Goodwin, Michael Beschloss and Eddie Glaude Jr, while Jon Meacham, a biographer of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and George HW Bush, has been a close adviser in shaping Biden’s effort to restore ‘the soul of the nation’ after the presidency of Donald Trump.”
Pengelly adds: “Democrats control Congress by narrow margins. Opposition parties commonly do well in the first elections of a presidential term, and Republicans remain favoured to take control of one or both chambers. But legislative successes, most recently the passage of a major domestic and climate crisis spending plan, the Inflation Reduction Act, have given Democrats hope.”
With just 80 days to Election Day – less, if you include early voting – FiveThirtyEight put the likelihood of Democrats retaining their Senate majority at 63 in 100 chances, but give Republicans 78 in 100 chances of taking over the House.
You can hear Chief of Staff Ron Klain on Politico’s podcast here.
Morning Joe Reveals ‘Disturbing’ Talk With ‘Washington Fixture’ Who Wants to ‘Destroy Our Country’ to Save Trump
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough revealed a pair of “disturbing” phone calls he had this week with a friend and family member calling for the destruction of the U.S. government as investigators move closer to Donald Trump.
The FBI search of Mar-A-Lago has spooked the former president and enraged his supporters — which Trump has tried to use as leverage to reduce the heat on himself — and the “Morning Joe” host said that included some previously “boring” moderates who were now willing to destroy the constitutional republic rather than hold Trump accountable.
“If people want to understand the depths to which this anti-American sentiment is running in the Republican Party, I had two conversations yesterday,” Scarborough said. “One with a family member and one with a Washington fixture, since the days of Ronald Reagan. Both were talking about how the FBI was the gestapo and they needed to be stamped out, spoke of revolution, and the Washington fixture, a guy who I always considered to be a mainstream conservative, a guy who, in the past at least, expressed concerns about some of Donald Trump’s extremities, said to me, ‘Joe, we can replace the U.S. government.”
“It’s not about the government, it’s about an individual,” he added. “Here’s a guy that said we can throw away Madisonian democracy, we can throw away the Bill of Rights, we can throw away the Constitution. We can just get rid of a government that has fed and feeds more people, that’s liberated more people throughout history, that’s keeping the flames of freedom alive right now in Ukraine and in Central Europe, than any other country on the planet, and we can replace the U.S. government. That is the depths to which this cancer has spread among mainstream Republicans, and Liz Cheney is right. These people are angry, and they want to destroy our country — the country where we have democratic elections and the winners who get the most votes are recognized as the winners, and the losers concede to those winners, and Donald Trump has changed all of that now.”
Cheney, who until last year was the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House and had one of the most conservative ratings in Congress, lost her GOP primary to pro-Trump candidate Harriet Hageman after voting to impeach the former president and serving on the Jan. 6 Committee investigating his attempt to overturn his 2020 election loss.
“Well, the hatred and the animosity spewed towards [president] Joe Biden from these people I spoke to yesterday, said — they said, he’s a moderate — like boring guy from Delaware,” Scarborough said of his friend. “Like, he used do do this to [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez], you used to do this to [Sen.] Bernie Sanders and used to do this to [House speaker] Nancy Pelosi, and now Joe Biden is the radical who is destroying them?”
“It’s just, it’s nonsense,” Scarborough added. “The problem is, it’s dangerous nonsense when they start talking about the FBI being the gestapo and how the FBI needed to be defunded and how the FBI needs to be wiped out, and how we can replace the U.S. government. That’s treasonous talk. Five years ago, that would be considered treasonous talk.”
Watch the video below or at this link.
Trump’s Weaponization of DOJ Notice to Pick Up His Passports Negates Claim He Will ‘Do Whatever’ to Tamp Down Anger
One week after the FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago mansion Donald Trump on Monday made what appear to be false allegations against the FBI, claiming the Bureau “stole” his passports in “an assault on a political opponent.” That same day he gave an interview to Fox News repeatedly mentioning the “anger” he says stretches across the country over federal agents’ execution of a lawful search warrant and confiscation of 20 cartons of materials that include highly-classified documents, while wrapping that in an offer to “do whatever” to help.
Monday evening Politico reported that FBI agents had taken Trump’s passports – swept them up unintentionally. The passports were found by a “filter team” that goes through everything that was confiscated to ensure items like privileged attorney-client communications are not assessed or included as part of their investigation.
The FBI notified Trump’s attorneys they had the passports, telling them they could pick them up.
“So Trump team now publicizing this email,” from the Dept. of Justice, Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports, “which shows: 1) DOJ obtained three passports (two expired, not one, as Trump said) and alerted Trump lawyers 2) They were recovered by a filter team, which weeds out privileged info. 3) Trump publicized this after DOJ offered them back.”
So Trump team now publicizing this email, which shows:
1) DOJ obtained three passports (two expired, not one, as Trump said) and alerted Trump lawyers
2) They were recovered by a filter team, which weeds out privileged info.
3) Trump publicized this after DOJ offered them back pic.twitter.com/lz8wneIQ0a
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) August 15, 2022
“Wow!” Trump declared on his Truth Social social media platform, after DOJ notified his lawyers and told them to pick up the passports. “In the raid by the FBI of Mar-a-Lago, they stole my three Passports (one expired), along with everything else. This is an assault on a political opponent at a level never seen before in our Country. Third World!”
Meanwhile, on Monday in an exclusive Fox News interview, which appeared to be more a transcription of a statement into interview form with no questions asked and no pushback offered, Trump said he was willing to “do whatever” to help tamp down the anger across the country, anger he and his allies have been fueling.
The Dept. of Justice did not publicize the raid on Mar-a-Lago to the press, Trump did. FBI agents did not even wear the usual blue and yellow outerwear and shirts that say “FBI” when executing the search warrant, and we now know they called ahead to notify Secret Service they were coming.
“Former President Trump said he ‘will do whatever’ he can ‘to help the country,’” Fox News said in its interview Monday, “after the FBI’s raid of his Mar-a-Lago home last week, telling Fox News Digital that the ‘temperature has to be brought down,’ while stressing that the American people are ‘not going to stand for another scam.’”
“The country is in a very dangerous position,” Trump told Fox News. “There is tremendous anger, like I’ve never seen before, over all of the scams, and this new one—years of scams and witch hunts, and now this.”
“There has never been a time like this where law enforcement has been used to break into the house of a former president of the United States, and there is tremendous anger in the country—at a level that has never been seen before, other than during very perilous times.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Trump repeated. “It is a very dangerous time for our country.”
Fox News also reported that “Trump said he had his representatives reach out to the Justice Department to offer to help amid outrage over the FBI’s unprecedented raid on his private residence last week,” and he “told Fox News that his team ‘has not heard yet’ from the Justice Department on whether they will accept his offer for help.”
“People are so angry at what is taking place,” Trump added again. “Whatever we can do to help—because the temperature has to be brought down in the country. If it isn’t, terrible things are going to happen.”
Peter Strzok, former Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, notes: “And it all resolves in a nothingburger. Small interesting note, the DOJ email confirms an expected filter team: that filter agents – not the investigative team – seized the passports. More proof FBI/DOJ are taking extra care to avoid privileged material.”
If Trump were interested in doing “whatever” he can do “to help the country,” why falsely claim the FBI “stole my three Passports” and call it an “assault on a political opponent at a level never seen before in our Country”?
Civil rights attorney Sherrilyn Ifill answers that question.
“So while saying that the ‘temperature needs to be lowered,’ Trump was elevating the temperature by accusing the DOJ on social media of ‘stealing’ his passports, when in fact DOJ lawyers are the ones who alerted Trump that they had the passports & had already returned them,” Ifill wrote on Twitter. “Awful,” she added.
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