The mantra after the announcement of the 5-4 Hobby Lobby decision on Monday, other than the Left’s shrieking over falling skies and theocracies, has been this: It was narrowly decided. That analysis springs from Justice Samuel Alito’s mention of Hobby Lobby’s status as a closely-held corporation, and the narrow number of contraceptive methods that the retailer chose to reject. That gave some hope that other cases involving broader rejection of contraception coverage might be more problematic in later cases.
A series of orders on lower-court rulings on Tuesday suggests to the Associated Press that Hobby Lobby might not be quite as narrow as some may think:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed that its decision a day earlier extending religious rights to closely held corporations applies broadly to the contraceptive coverage requirement in the new health care law, not just the handful of methods the justices considered in their ruling. …
Tuesday’s orders apply to companies owned by Catholics who oppose all contraception. Cases involving Colorado-based Hercules Industries Inc., Illinois-based Korte & Luitjohan Contractors Inc. and Indiana-based Grote Industries Inc. were awaiting action pending resolution of the Hobby Lobby case.
The court also sent back two more cases to an appellate court that had ruled in favor of the mandate, with orders to reconsider in light of Hobby Lobby:
The justices also ordered lower courts that ruled in favor of the Obama administration to reconsider those decisions in light of Monday’s 5-4 decision.
Two Michigan-based companies, Autocam Corp. and Eden Foods Inc., both lost their cases in the lower courts. The justices ordered the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decisions against the companies.
The ACLJ announced yesterday that the Court has granted a reversal for one of their cases, Gilardi v HHS, after a partial defeat in the DC Circuit:
In the wake of yesterday’s blockbuster Hobby Lobby decision striking down the HHS Mandate, today the Supreme Court granted our petition for review in the case of Gilardi, v. HHS, and denied the government’s petition in our case of Korte v. HHS. In Gilardi, the Court vacated the decision of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (see report of decision here) and sent the case back to the lower court to apply the Hobby Lobby decision to the facts of the Gilardi case. In Korte, the Court’s action today leaves in place the resounding victory we achieved at the Seventh Circuit (see report of decision here.)
The district court refused to order an injunction against enforcement of the mandate in Gilardi, which would have cost the business owner $14 million in penalties for refusing to provide abortifacient contraceptives to his employees (all of whom can buy them on their own, of course).
All of these orders make clear that Hobby Lobby is not just a fluke. The Supreme Court appears ready to apply the ruling on a broad basis with for-profit businesses, even those who refuse to cover any contraceptive method at all. That would suggest that any attempt to impose the mandate on explicitly religious organizations seems to have a couple of strikes against it at the Court already, even with the so-called “accommodation” offered as a compromise. The Supreme Court clearly takes the RFRA and the First Amendment seriously on this point.