The Supreme Court’s conservative justices sharply criticized part of President Obama’s healthcare law Tuesday, suggesting they will rule later this year that requiring Christian-owned corporations to offer their employees contraceptives coverage violates the freedom of religion.
“Your reasoning would permit requiring profit-making corporations to pay for abortions,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy told U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who defended the contraceptives provision of the Affordable Care Act.
The administration’s lawyer warned that the court would be adopting a “dangerous principle” if it gave employers a right to exempt themselves from federal laws based on their religious beliefs…
But the five conservative justices sounded as if they stood in opposition to the contraceptives mandate.
“The Greens [owners of Hobby Lobby] want out of their employees health care decisions,” Kiem told TheBlaze. “The Greens don’t want to pay drugs and devices. They are trying to get out of employees health care decisions and its the government that is dragging them back in.”…
“They cover 16 of the 20 drugs that are demanded under this mandate,” Scott said. “So really what the government is mandating is that it’s going to sell out freedom for four pills. You’ll hear over and over again from the left, NARAL [Pro-Choice America], these drugs do not cause abortions. Well FDA labeling begs to differ.”…
“Interestingly of course, when the mandate was first implemented and all the discussion began, what the Obama administration tried to do was make it the old Catholic bishops against women and their birth control,” he said. “It was really inconvenient that a Mennonite and an evangelical client are at the Supreme Court right now. So that narrative is off the table. But it still has been the boss controlling whether women get control whether women get birth control or not.”
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg staunchly defended the coverage requirement. Sotomayor questioned under what circumstances a for-profit company can claim religious intent.
“Who says it? The majority of shareholders? The corporate officers?” she asked. “Let’s assume just a business that sells 5 percent of religious books, doesn’t play Christmas music… works on Sunday, does nothing else religiously.”
Justice Elena Kagan also vigorously defended the coverage rule, arguing that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga were not being forced to provide insurance coverage and could simply choose not to by paying $2,000 per year per employee—an amount far lower than the cost of health insurance…
“One religious group could opt out of this and one religious group could opt out of that, and everything would be piecemeal and nothing would be uniform,” Kagan warned. “Religious objectors would come out of the woodwork.”
[A]llowing private employers to excuse themselves from health insurance and employment law could go much further than just contraception and reproductive health services. Allowing any private employer to dictate which laws fit inside its religious beliefs could upset the necessary balance of both religious liberty and employee health and safety laws. Depending on the exact ruling, any for-profit corporation could cut off its employees’ insurance coverage for blood transfusions, vaccinations or HIV treatment — all of which some Americans have religious objections to. Any critical health coverage the boss doesn’t agree with could be eliminated.
Moreover, we cannot pick and choose which religious beliefs should be allowed to overrule laws the rest of the public must follow. Although this country predominantly descends from a Judeo-Christian tradition, our valuable religious protection laws ensure that anyone is free to practice any religion they want, including religions whose belief systems and practices many of us would disagree with vehemently. In fact, far-ranging beliefs that are not associated with any organized religion could be used to justify a corporation’s practices as well. All sets of beliefs should be treated equally, but allowing any belief to override insurance law opens the door to many more extreme beliefs being able to do the same.
We are at risk of giving any person or group with a religious qualm the legal ability to refuse to comply with numerous critical employment laws, not just those related to health insurance. Americans could ultimately lose protections against employment discrimination, guarantees of equal pay and on and on.
The New York Times’ Adam Liptak puts it right there in the first sentence: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments in a case that pits religious liberty against women’s rights.” This could not be further from the truth. Women will have the same constitutional rights to acquire and use contraception regardless of whether Hobby Lobby wins or loses. More than that, they’ll have the exact same rights as they had before the contraception mandate was a gleam in Sec. Sebelius’ eye. What women won’t have is the right to force other people to pay for their contraception, but that has never been a right recognized by the Supreme Court.
In the Bizarro World of the newspapers, not paying for someone else’s contraception is the same thing as prohibiting them from purchasing and using them themselves. This is an obviously false equivalence, but one that leftists are bent on telling themselves. No matter how many times you point out that the business owners in these cases aren’t preventing their employees from purchasing and using contraception, a smug leftist will smile and say “but women’s rights, you see,” as if these magic words excuse the lie…
When all else fails, expect leftists to portray something they don’t like as harmful and new, even if it’s really old and innocuous. That’s just what Talking Points Memo’s Sahil Kapur did when he suggested that a ruling in favor of religious liberty would be “a slippery slope to lawlessness.” In fact, the plaintiffs in these cases are simply asking for things to go back to the way they were in 2009, when they weren’t compelled by law to violate their religious consciences.
It is not a radical departure from the norm for businesses to pick and choose what health coverage they provide. In fact, that was the norm for decades.
The government’s argument is that because corporations are distinct legal entities from their owners, they should be judged separately and differently, as corporate bodies rather than as individuals with traditional individual religious freedoms. Basically, the owners might be religious, but the corporation isn’t, and couldn’t be.
But both Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are closely held, family-run businesses. What that means is that any requirement for corporate action is also a requirement for individual action. The corporation may be legally distinct in some ways, but it can’t do anything without at least one person—one individual—making a decision to do it. And in the case of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, those particular people clearly have deeply held religious convictions.
Those convictions don’t disappear when making business decisions. As Cato’s brief says, “those individuals do not check their religious values at the door.” Those people should have the freedom to conduct their personal and work lives in a way that reflects their own deeply and sincerely held religious beliefs. When the government compels a business to do something, it’s compelling individuals to do something as well.
At oral arguments today, Roberts may have “appeared to tip his hand,” as the Wall Street Journal’s Jess Bravin put it. While the government claimed that allowing Hobby Lobby to exempt itself from laws based on a religious claim would have far-reaching implications, Chief Justice Roberts in his questions appeared to be searching for a way to distinguish this case from claims that could be brought by a larger publicly traded company. We could, he noted, “simply say that it’s in this type of Chapter S Corporation that is closely held. Whether it applies in the other situations is—is a question that we’ll have to await another case when a large publicly traded corporation comes in and says, we have religious principles, the sort of situation, I don’t think, is going to happen.”
Guessing about decisions based on questions from the Supreme Court is a risky exercise, but we shouldn’t be surprised if the opinion comes out as a narrow victory for Hobby Lobby that tries to curtail the scope of its ruling to not included publicly traded companies.
The decision certainly would be problematic; it would entangle the Supreme Court in having to determine which religious convictions are genuine enough from a corporation to warrant exemptions to laws. However, it would not be the kind of far-reaching assertion of corporate rights that liberals are dreading.
Despite the parade of horribles invoked by Justice Sotomayor regarding religious objections to blood transfusions and vaccines, at least five justices seemed to recognize that religious-liberty claims are meant to be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis – maybe six given Justice Breyer’s lukewarm and infrequent interjections…
As I left the argument, I had a bit of spring in my step, even as the snowstorm that greeted me lacked any spring whatsoever. The Court is likely to stop this callous, arbitrary, and needless bending of the will of a small religious minority to the federal grindstone. But alas that’s just this case; the more that the government expands and takes over areas properly left to civil society, the more clashes of conscience will result. Today it’s religious belief, tomorrow something else, but all these liberty-destroying mandates come with the collectivized territory.
The truth is that the Obama administration wants to bring Hobby Lobby to heel as a matter of principle. In its pinched view of religion, faith should be limited as much as possible to the pews. In its attenuated regard for civil society, it believes government should overawe any person, business, or institution whose beliefs run counter to officially sanctioned attitudes.
Make no mistake, the culture war is alive and well, and the aggressor isn’t Hobby Lobby. The Greens will be happy to go back to minding their own business — if the federal government sees fit to permit them.
More important, Haidt notes, this is about the sacred on both sides. Christian conservatives think marriage is a sacred bond, tied up with family formation. Christians also believe in the sanctity of life from conception. Secular liberals, Haidt has concluded, hold sacred the plight of the traditionally oppressed — including women and gays.
Feminist Marcotte was explicit about this: “Hobby Lobby is angling to deprive women of their religious liberty to use their own health care plans as they see fit,” she writes in the Daily Beast.
The Pill is not just a pill to them. It has become something holy. And they won’t tolerate any burden between them and their Blessed Sacrament…
Here’s one rule to make it even simpler: If there’s a serious debate over a religious exemption to a proposed law, the proposed law probably reaches too far into people’s private affairs, and should be scrapped.
By getting government out of people’s lives — how they run their business, whom they love, and what pills they take — we could accomplish peace in the Culture Wars. The question is: Does the Left want peace?