Seven states sued the Obama administration Thursday over its requirement that employers cover contraception in workers’ health plans.
The lawsuit, led by Nebraska’s attorney general, contends that the proposed rule violates Roman Catholic institutions’ rights under the First Amendment to express their beliefs and practice their religion. . . .
All seven attorneys general behind the lawsuit—from Nebraska, South Carolina, Michigan, Texas, Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma—are Republicans.
This lawsuit, of course, is entirely without merit. As Justice Scalia explained in a Supreme Court opinion more than twenty years ago, the Constitution “does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a ‘valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).’” Thus, because the new regulations apply equally to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, there is no constitutional problem.
Nevertheless, it is doubtful that the Republican AG’s lawsuit will even receive a decision on the merits because of a doctrine known as “standing.” Under Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff is not allowed to file a lawsuit unless they have in some way be injured by the defendant. But the states filing this lawsuit have suffered no legal injury whatsoever because of the new regulations, and they don’t even appear to claim that they law impacts them in some meaningful way. Rather, this lawsuit is simply seven state officials suing because they do not like the way the law impacts someone else — in this case, certain Roman Catholic institutions.
As the Supreme Court explained most recently in Massachusetts v. EPA the Constitution “prohibits” states from suing the federal government “to protect her citizens from the operation of federal statutes,” so a responsible judge will dismiss this lawsuit right out the gate. The states simply have no constitutional authority to be in court in the first place.
Sadly, however, there’s nothing in the Constitution preventing these seven AGs from wasting taxpayer money on a frivolous lawsuit.