WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) prepares to conclude its 2013 to 2014 term Monday and could issue rulings this week on six highly publicized and controversial cases--including one that could determine whether private businesses have religious freedoms.
The "Hobby Lobby case" challenges the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act's mandate that all employers, with the exception of religious organizations and non-profit groups with religious affiliations, provide insurance coverage for contraceptives. For-profit companies with religious objections to the mandate, like Hobby Lobby, said they want to have the freedom to be exempt from the mandate, as well.
Another case yet to be ruled on is a first-amendment challenge to abortion clinic buffer zones. The case challenges a Massachusetts law that restricts demonstrators from getting within 35 feet of abortion clinics. Fourteen years ago, SCOTUS upheld a similar law, but the current justices have tended to rule in favor of free speech.
SCOTUS also could issue a ruling regarding labor unions. Justices could decide whether it is constitutional for unions to collect dues from all private or public employees whom they are hired to represent. Eight home care workers from Illinois challenge a law requiring them to join a union.
Another case before SCOTUS could change the way many Americans watch television. Cable companies--including CBS, Fox, ABC, NBC and Univision--claim an internet startup called Aereo is unconstitutional and a violation of the Copyright Act. For a subscription fee, Aereo allows customers to hook up their television sets to available antennas and watch TV for free. This process allows Aereo to avoid paying re-transmission fees to the broadcasters.
Cell phone privacy is the topic of another controversial case up for ruling. SCOTUS will decide whether it is constitutional for police to search an arrested suspect's cell phone. The case questions whether cell phone searches violate personal privacy.
Monday, SCOTUS ruled five to four in favor of maintaining its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. But, SCOTUS took away some of the government's power to make emission standards stricter. The conservative justices have said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) changed the emissions threshold for greenhouse gases in the Clean Air Act. Only Congress can take this action, according to SCOTUS.
In another case ruling issued Monday, with unanimous consent, SCOTUS upheld the constitutionality of a precedent regarding class-action lawsuits. Investors will remain allowed to file class-action lawsuits for securities fraud, if they believe market prices have been inflated.
SCOTUS is expected to conclude its term by Monday, June 30 and then will dismiss for the summer. SCOTUS has scheduled an opening conference for its next session Sept. 29.