The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear two big cases crying out for legal clarity. The first is whether the government can force nuns to provide contraception for their employees against their religious beliefs. The second is whether states can penalize so-called faithless electors in the Electoral College.
The case of the Little Sisters of the Poor should be easy. In 2016 the High Court forbade the federal government from imposing the draconian fines it had threatened and sent the case back to the lower courts for reconsideration. In 2018 the Trump Administration announced a new rule that broadened exemptions for religious nonprofits such as the Little Sisters.
But states such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey sued the Administration, and this past July a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a nationwide injunction against the new rule. These states need a re-education in religious liberty.
Meanwhile, the Court also agreed to consider two cases from Colorado and Washington involving so-called “faithless electors,” i.e., Electoral College participants who choose to vote for a candidate other than the one their state voted to elect. In the 2016 election, one Colorado elector voted for
while in Washington state three faithless electors voted for
over Mrs. Clinton.
In Colorado the state nullified the vote of its faithless elector while Washington fined their three rogue electors. The difference is that a federal appeals court has ruled that under the U.S. Constitution the Colorado elector had the right to vote for whomever he wanted, while the Washington state Supreme Court ruled that the state could fine a faithless elector for flouting the state’s requirement.
Both cases deserve clear legal direction. The Little Sisters are asking the Court to uphold once and for all their religious liberty so they can end their years of litigation and spend their time caring for the elderly poor. Given the controversy over the Electoral College, the Court is also wise in advance of November’s election to stipulate the rules of the road. The election could be close, and the last thing our polarized nation needs is a President chosen by faithless electors.
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