GOP Gubernatorial Primary: A Final Word on Ken Block’s Vote for Obama

The most direct explanation offered by Republican Gubernatorial candidate Ken Block for his second vote cast for Barack Obama did not relate directly to Obamacare; as Mr. Block told Ian Donnis of Rhode Island Public Radio…

Ken Block:  I don’t want to see the balance of power in the Supreme Court shift any further right than it is.

Consider what a US Supreme Court shifted just slightly to the left might have meant in three recent Federal cases of significance…

  • Harris v. Quinn: In a 5-4 decision from this term, the Supreme Court ruled that independent contractors who accept government funds cannot be required to pay “agency fees” to a union. The four liberal justices joined an opinion that began from the premise that the courts not need consider any distinction between direct employees of government and independent contractors “deemed” by the government to be its employees, and therefore agency fees were acceptable.
  • Burwell v. Hobby Lobby: Also in this term, the court ruled 5-4 that Federal rules established to minimize the burden on religious freedom imposed by Obamacare mandates on religious non-profits could be extended to certain incorporated businesses. The four liberal justices joined a dissent saying that extending a process already established by the government as a way to minimize the burden on religious freedom was unnecessary; restricting religious freedom to “nonprofit organizations” that “hold themselves out” as “religious organizations” was freedom enough for government work.
  • D.C. versus Heller: Stepping back in time, in 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, again in a 5-4 decision, that there was a right to keep and bear arms for a range of lawful purposes including self-defense. Four liberal justices joined a dissent saying that, while the right to keep and bear arms was an individual right, it could only be exercised as part of service in a militia, and did not include a right to self-defense.

Rhode Island law has been and will be directly impacted by these cases.  The state recently passed a law that can be used to force child-care workers who take government funds to pay agency fees, even though they are independent contractors; if it’s not changed by the legislature very soon, it’s likely to be challenged.

Interpretation of state laws, by state courts, may also be necessary.  Rhode Island has its own religious freedom restoration act on the books, which will likely need to be interpreted in conjunction with Federal law, as the courts are asked to decide to what degree businesses who do not wish to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies can be compelled to. And Rhode Island’s state-level gun-rights precedents, which do not recognize a right to bear arms that “extends beyond the military context”, are right now in direct conflict with Heller and need to be untangled at some point in the future.

The Governor of Rhode Island, of course, appoints the judges who would make the interpretations at the state level. Would Ken Block want these cases to be decided in the direction of the 5 Justices who made up the majority blocs, or in the direction of the 4 liberal dissenters?

Now, it should be pointed out that two of three cases above were decided before Mr. Block made his statement about the balance of power on the court – and that is exactly the problem. When choosing a President based on the very legitimate criteria of his influence over the Supreme Court, had Ken Block considered what it might mean for basic issues of religious freedom, the right to bear arms, and economic rights?

Yes, in Tuesday night’s debate on WPRI-TV (CBS 12), Mr. Block told us that he thinks the liberal position in Harris v. Quinn is the wrong one. Fortunately, President Obama didn’t get to make a Supreme Court appointment approved by a Democratic Senate that would have tipped the balance of power away from his own position on the single issue.

Republicans want a leader who is going to do more than work around the strange ideas that liberals have, after they’ve been implemented in government. In the many months of this primary campaign, Ken Block hasn’t really shown that that is what he stands for…

To be continued…

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