On the News With Thom Hartmann: The Third Circuit Court of Appeals Has Ruled on a New Aspect of Corporate Personhood, and More

In today’s On the News segment: The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled on a new aspect of corporate personhood – a corporation’s right to the free exercise of religion; North Carolina’s Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed a controversial anti-abortion bill into law; and More.


Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled on a new aspect of corporate personhood – a corporation’s right to the free exercise of religion. Judge Robert Cowen rejected a company’s claimed that it should not have to provide birth control under Obamacare for religious reasons. Judge Cowen – a Reagan appointee – ruled that the for-profit corporation was not entitled to the First Amendment’s freedom of religion protection, distinguishing it from the freedom of speech protection afforded companies under Citizens Untied. In his opinion, Judge Cowen wrote, “we simply cannot understand how a for-profit, secular corporation – apart from its owners – can exercise religion.” He directly addressed the Citizens United ruling, which gave corporations the right of free speech under the First Amendment, but ruled that the Free Exercise Clause, which protects religious freedom, is an “inherently ‘human’ right.” This is the first time since Citizens United that a major federal court has asserted that some constitutional protections are meant for only real, human individuals. This case will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, and its fate there is far from certain. In a previous Supreme Court case, United States v. Lee, the Justices ruled that religious liberty does not permit an employer to “impose the employer’s religious faith on the employees,” however the current Roberts Court has a history of pro-corporate rulings. While this specific case centers on whether an employer has the right to deny contraceptive coverage, the larger point is whether corporations have the right to religious freedom. And, whether their freedom trumps the rights of their employees. Many Americans believe that corporations are not people, and should not have the same protections under the Bill of Rights as human individuals. The Supreme Court may soon have the opportunity to side with Americans, or they may choose to expand corporate rights to a level our forefathers never imagined. Stay tuned.

In screwed news… On Monday, North Carolina’s Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed a controversial anti-abortion bill into law. The legislation directs state officials to regulate abortion clinics like outpatient surgical centers, prohibits abortion coverage by city and county insurance plans, and allows any healthcare provider to opt out of participating in abortion procedures. Critics of the new law contend that it will force most of North Carolina’s abortion clinics to close. And opponents of the new law accuse Governor McCrory of breaking his campaign promises by approving the new abortion restrictions. Paige Johnson, spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said, “we will do everything in our power to let the women of North Carolina know they cannot trust [Governor McCrory] to stand up to lawmakers intent on denying women access to safe and legal abortions.” Similar measures have been blocked by the courts in other states, and abortion advocates in North Carolina are hoping this new anti-choice law will be thrown out as well.

In the best of the rest of the news…

President Obama will propose his own “grand bargain” today, in hopes of getting Republicans to compromise on deficit reduction. The President’s senior adviser, Dan Pfeiffer, said, “Today in Tennessee the president will call on Washington to work on a grand bargain focused on middle-class jobs, by pairing reform of the business tax code with significant investment in middle-class jobs.” The President’s proposal consists of lowering the corporate income tax rate from 35 to 28 percent, in exchange for imposing a tax on corporate money stashed overseas. The new revenue generated from foreign income and off-shore tax havens would be used to fund infrastructure projects to put Americans back to work. White House officials are hopeful that the plan will receive bipartisan support, because it includes the tax reform that Republicans have called for, and the infrastructure spending recommended by Democrats. However, if history is any guide, this will end up being another case of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. It’s doubtful that Republicans will support any plan introduced by President Obama, simply because he proposed it.

Fast-food and retail workers took to the streets in nine major cities yesterday to protest poverty wages. From New York to Chicago to Kansas City, workers took part in a one-day strike demanding a living wage, and the right to unionize. Although fast-food employees have previously mounted similar strikes in one city at a time, this was the first coordinated, nationwide protest in several locations all at once. The walk-out was part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness of the struggles minimum wage workers face, many of whom are trying to survive on incomes below the poverty line. Workers are calling for $15 dollars an hour wage, and the right to form unions without fear of retaliation. Protesters are recognizing that they have more power by standing together, and it’s likely that walk-outs will continue until low-wage workers are finally given the rights and wages that they deserve.

And finally… Ever since the best-selling erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” became a hit in London, police in that country have had their hands full dealing with the side-effects. In the three years since the book was published, a growing number of people have had to be rescued because they were unable able to escape handcuffs. The problem has become so common, that police have labeled it the “Fifty Shades effect.” Apparently, people trying to recreate sex scenes from the novel have ended up in precarious situations they can’t get out of. With nearly 80 recent cases of people needing to be rescued at a cost of about $300 bucks, Police and Fire Brigade officers have urged couples experimenting with handcuffs to “always keep the keys handy.” While they are not discouraging people from spicing up their love lives, a spokesperson for the department said, “Our advice is simple…common sense is needed.”

And that’s the way it is today – Monday, July 30, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.