More Thoughts on the Civil Rights Act of 1964

As we approach the end of July, this writer has further thoughts on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was passed 50 years ago this month.

Consider two scenarios.

In 1950, a woman from Ohio travels to North Carolina to attend a wedding. Accompanying her is her 12-year-old son. When she arrives, she checks into a local hotel. She discovers that she and her son cannot stay in the hotel because of segregation. The woman, had she traveled alone, could have stayed at the hotel because she happened to be born white. Her son could not stay at the hotel because he was born black. The policy of segregation was widespread and not unique to this particular hotel.

In 1952, eight-graders from Indianapolis take a bus trip to Memphis to participate in a band competition. Along the way, they stop in Nashville to go to an amusement park. The amusement park is willing to admit half of the children and refuse admission to the other half. The half the park accepts are all white and the half it does not accept are all black.

In both scenarios, the public accommodations (the hotel and the amusement park) have made race-based decisions about whom to accept. Complicating matters is that you have an interracial situation where the mother, in the first scenario, is welcome to check in but her son is not and white eight-graders, in the second scenario, are welcome but their black classmates are not.

Such policies have created two classes of American citizenship.

Can the federal government act to remedy these and related situations? This writer believes the answer is yes.

The federal government has limited powers and cannot legitimately pass national legislation unless there is a specific grant of authority by the Constitution.

When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, the ability to prevent race discrimination in public accommodations was found in the Interstate Commerce Clause. This was a mistake. The Commerce Clause was not designed to combat race discrimination and to use it for this purpose would be to imprudently stretch its meaning. The Fourteenth Amendment was designed to combat race discrimination.

The first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment is:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

The Reluctant Conservative believes that federal government has the authority decide what it means to be an American citizen. This authority extends to deciding that businesses such as hotels and amusement parks cannot create two classes of American citizenship based on race.


Local Nuns for Immigration Reform

This writer just saw a sign at the entrance of a local college that said the following:

Sisters of Charity

Welcoming Immigrants since 1859

Immigration Reform Now!

By “Immigration Reform” this Catholic college is not talking about cracking down on businesses that hire those in the country unlawfully, or building a fence on the Texas border (which is currently the law of the land), or even streamlining the process for those lawfully applying for permanent legal status.

The school is talking about amnesty.

Some of us would like to know how making legal that which is illegal somehow qualifies as reform.

The Sisters of Charity certainly mean well. They, for decades, have been devoted to educating immigrants and the poor. However, granting amnesty – in the name of reform – will just make the migrant problem worse. The invasion at the southern border will continue if we do nothing to secure it.

Obama’s Border Crisis

The president in 2012 granted amnesty to some young people living here in the country unlawfully.  This sent a message around the world that if you are young and arrive here in America, you will not be departed and will eventually be granted amnesty.

In FY 2011 there were 6,000 unaccompanied children entering the United States; in FY 2012, the number rose to 14,000; in FY 2013, it rose again to 34,000.  Government officials estimate that the number will escalate to 90,000 in FY 2014.

This crisis at the border is of the president’s own making.

He claims he is “interested in solving a problem.”  He could solve the problem by sending the National Guard to the border.  He could solve the problem by implementing the Secure Fence Act of 2006 and build a fence along the Mexico-United States border.  He could solve the problem by not signally to the world that we do not have a secure border and that amnesty is on the table.

Attorney General Eric Holder Insults Blacks

The Attorney General feels that North Carolina’s new voter ID law is an “extremely aggressive step to curtail the voting rights of African-Americans.” 

The law requires all voters (not just black voters) to show photo ID at the polls, eliminates same-day registration for all voters (not just black voters), and cuts the early voting period from 17 to 10 days for all voters (not just black voters).

It’s hard to see how this law is facially discriminatory against black Americans when it applies to all voters of the state.  Holder seems to feel that blacks who may not currently have a photo ID are incapable of acquiring one, which happens to be free of charge.  Treating black Americans like children publically is not helpful for the reputation of members of this population segment.

It is fascinating to see how liberals like Holder insult blacks in the name of defending blacks.

Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Constitution

This week we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law on July 2, 1964. 

The Act prohibits state and municipal governments from denying access to public facilities on the basis of race; it expands the Commission on Civil Rights; it prevents race discrimination in any program receiving federal funding (including private colleges that receive federal money); and it prohibits race discrimination in public accommodations (such as hotels, retail stores, etc.).

The Act has been constitutionally justified under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and under Article One’s Interstate Commerce Clause. Specifically, the public accommodations portion of the Act was defended legally under the Commerce Clause; the Fourteenth Amendment supported the rest of the Act. The Commerce Clause authorizes the federal government to regulate commerce between and among the several states. The Fourteenth Amendment, among other things, prohibits states from treating people differently on the basis of race.

Let us focus on the public accommodations part of the Act.

Congress, in the wake of the Civil War, passed the Civil Rights Act of 1875. This Act focused on banning race discrimination in public accommodations. The Supreme Court struck down this law in 1883 claiming Congress exceeded its authority under the Fourteenth Amendment to regulate private, as opposed to state-imposed, discrimination. 

Due to this 1883 decision, the federal government, after the passage of the CRA of 1964, chose to find a different provision in the Constitution that would authorize the federal government to combat race discrimination by owners of establishments open to the public. The provision that the government found was the Interstate Commerce Clause.

It worked. When the Act was challenged in 1964, the Supreme Court upheld the public accommodations portion of the Act finding that it was valid exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause. 

This decision today is widely accepted. There is no growing movement in the country to repeal the Act. Politicians in both major parties embrace the law. Still, when the Act comes up in legal circles, there are some who feel that it was unnecessary to drag Interstate Commerce Clause into this discussion when there was, perhaps, a more straightforward way of addressing the issue of race discrimination in public accommodations.

Hobby Lobby

Yesterday, the Supreme Court released its final two opinions for the term. One case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, has generated a good deal of press coverage and reactions from the public.

The Court sided with Hobby Lobby in a 5-4 decision.

Some of the reaction: “an all out assault on access to contraception and to other reproductive health services” (Irin Carmon of MSNBC); “today is a sad day and a defeat for women, for healthcare, for freedom, and for religious liberty in this country” (Ilyse Hogue of NARAL Pro-Choice America); “the anti-choice movement wants to limit not just affordable access but all access to abortion and birth control” (Sandra Fluke, a social justice attorney).

These comments are not consistent with the facts.

The case is simply about the right of a “closely held” for-profit corporation to have a policy of not paying for any procedure that they feel ends human life. What “closely held” means may be the subject of a future case.

Regulations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employer health plans to provide coverage for preventive and screenings for women without any cost sharing requirements, which include 20 contraceptive methods approved by the FDA, including four that have the effect of preventing a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.

Hobby Lobby, a privately owned corporation, provides healthcare policies to its employees that cover 16 of the 20 contraceptive methods. Due to the Christian beliefs of the owners, Hobby Lobby would not provide coverage for the four methods that have the effect of preventing a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, which they feel is the equivalent to an abortion. It bears repeating: Hobby Lobby covers 16 of the 20 contraceptive methods. This case is not about Hobby Lobby not providing coverage for contraception.

You would never know that from the some of the public reaction.

Why the Left is complaining about the loss of access to contraception is quite strange. No one is taking away anyone’s birth control. It is a lie to state otherwise. The defendant in this case pays for many forms of contraception. The owners of Hobby Lobby have sincere religious beliefs. Forcing the owners to violate their beliefs to pay for something they find objectionable is selfishness.

What’s striking is that this was a 5-4 decision. The fact that there are four justices who would vote to have owners of corporations violate their religious belief is incredible. This is why presidential elections matter. We cannot afford a fifth liberal vote on the Supreme Court. One more reaction: “Which means that the…corporation employers can impose their religious beliefs on the employees.” (Hillary Clinton, one-time and possible future candidate for president). As stated earlier, presidential elections matter. No more liberal justices means no more liberal presidents.