A recent post in a well known online publication caught OneOldCop’s attention. It was a rather hyperbolic and hysterical response to the Supreme Court’s decision concerning Hobby Lobby. If the piece was totally satire, it would have been an amusing read and that would have been the end of it. However, writers, including this one, often reveal truths about themselves inadvertently. The writer of the piece in question made such a revelation in the opening paragraph of the essay.
The author made the statement that the plaintiffs in the Hobby Lobby case did not pursue their complaint in the proper manner. The author charged that in a nation of laws, one does not resort to the courts, one petitions to have the law changed. One can draw several possible conclusions from the author’s charge. The author is either ignorant of the way a “nation of laws” functions, has little integrity or was carried away by emotion.
This writer does not know the author of the essay in question. Therefore, this writer will assume the author misspoke out of passion or does not know much about the way a “nation of laws” actually works.
The government of the United States of America was established with a balance of power doctrine. That means the government is made up of three equally powerful, theoretically, branches of government. For readers who slept through their government classes, this means there is an executive branch, a legislative branch and a judicial branch. Each branch has certain constitutionally defined powers and responsibilities. The founders hoped the balance of power doctrine would prevent the government from being completely controlled by a small group of people.
The bottom line is this. Two branches of government joined together to pass a law sometimes known as Obama Care and sometimes know as the Affordable Care Act. That is often what happens when one political party controls two branches of government, as was the case when the law in question was passed. Since that time, there have been numerous attempts to change the law without success because control of the legislative branch is split between Republicans and Democrats.
This left Hobby Lobby and anyone else who opposed the particular law in question with only a few options. One, the one that has been chosen by many entities throughout the history of this great country, was the federal court system, or judicial branch of government. This was a legitimate exercise of the rights given individual and corporate citizens in the United States. It was not, as the writer of the essay mentioned above suggested, a misuse of the court system.
The author who accused Hobby Lobby of acting outside the boundaries of a nation of laws ignored the rich history of law that has been established in the same manner. Many rights and privileges in this country were birthed in the courts. The right to an abortion, the right to legal representation and the right to avoid self-incrimination were all matters decided by the Supreme Court because the law was insufficient or not clear enough to insure someone’s rights.
To be fair, critics on both sides of the political spectrum are often quick to condemn the use of the courts to decide issues of this nature. However, that is exactly why the founding fathers and their supporters established the government as they did. If one branch of government, or one agency for that matter, is out of control, the other branches can be utilized to stabilize the situation, at least theoretically. If the legislative and executive branches are acting in a fashion that seems contrary to a citizen’s rights, he or she, has the right to challenge them in the courts. That is exactly what Hobby Lobby did.
Disagreeing with the Supreme Court’s decision is one’s right. Even accusing the owners of Hobby Lobby of being wrong to pursue their case is one’s right. Claiming the way they did it was wrong is as silly as claiming Ernesto Miranda should not have sued the State of Arizona for failing to advise him of his right to remain silent. Hobby Lobby felt their rights had been abridged, as did Miranda. The Supreme Court agreed in both cases.
© S. E. Jackson – 2014
I enjoyed your careful explanation of the process and balance of power in our system of law. I believe people are reacting emotionally to the decision because they expect something approaching Solomonic wisdom to issue from a body named the Supreme Court. But that body is like any other institution of government, historically subject to political cronyism, and not necessarily staffed by the best or brightest legal minds of the age.
They estimate the constitutionality of laws based on what they interpret to be precedent, but there’s more than one school of thought about the precedents. The fact that their appointment is “for life” is supposed to free them from political bias. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it frees individuals to be MORE politically biased and activist in rulings.