After a very bad Supreme Court session, a reporter asked new White House press secretary Josh Earnest how the “constitutional scholar” was handling the latest series of defeats and rebukes from the court. The question itself tweaked Barack Obama’s track record on constitutional issues, but either Earnest didn’t catch the nuance or decided to double down on Obama’s claims of constitutional-law expertise:
“As the constitutional lawyer who sits in the Oval Office would tell you,” Earnest replied, “is that he would read the entire decision before he passed judgment, in terms of his own legal analysis.” Maybe he should spend more time reading the Constitution first. As Business Insider’s Brett LoGiurato concludes, Obama has been on a pretty bad losing streak for much of his presidency, apart from the surprise win on ObamaCare:
There’s been little solace for Obama this Supreme Court term. In addition to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Obama administration and the causes it has supported have experienced a handful of high-profile setbacks before the high court.
Also on Tuesday, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to public-sector unions, ruling that some employees couldn’t be forced to pay dues. Last week, in a unanimous, 9-0 rebuke, the justices ruled Obama had overstepped his constitutional authority when he went around Congress and unilaterally appointed three members to the National Labor Relations Board.
Also last week, the high court unanimously struck down a law that had established 35-foot “buffer zones” at abortion clinics in Massachusetts. And earlier this term, the court dealt the most serious blow to campaign-finance laws since the landmark Citizens United decision in 2010. …
But other legal experts and the president’s political opponents have taken notice. Since January 2012, the Obama administration has suffered at least 12 unanimous defeats in cases it argued (not counting cases in which it filed an amicus brief), according to the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute.
The January 2012 case also rebuked the administration on religious liberty. In a 9-0 decision, the court reversed an attempt by the the Obama administration to pursue equal-employment enforcement on a Lutheran school that had terminated a teacher for not having a “calling” for teaching faith. The woman sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act and claimed discrimination, and the Obama administration argued that the long-held doctrine of “ministerial exception” to such laws should be set aside. Such a ruling would have allowed the government to force churches to accept teachers and ministers of its choosing rather than the churches’ choosing.
Michael McConnell wrote at the time:
… the Obama Justice Department has now asked the court to disavow the ministerial exception altogether. This would mean that, in every future case, a court — and not the church — would decide whether the church’s reasons for firing or not hiring a minister were good enough …
James Madison famously declared that the civil magistrate is not a “competent Judge of Religious truth.” Yet every discrimination claim about the hiring of a minister necessarily comes down to the question of whether the church had a bona fide religious reason for its decision. That places the courts squarely in the business of adjudicating the validity of a church’s claims about its own religious practice.
In a ver real sense, this is exactly the same issue we have before us in both the HHS contraception mandate and the so-called “accommodation.” Both have the same arrogance at their heart — that the federal government know more about religious doctrine than the church, and that it has the role to decide which doctrines are valid or not.
The constitutional lawyer in the Oval Office didn’t learn much from Hosanna-Tabor, did he?