Top Five Liberal Myths About the Hobby Lobby Case

Bob Barr
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Posted: Jul 09, 2014 12:01 AM
Top Five Liberal Myths About the Hobby Lobby Case

Judging from the seething reaction by liberals to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the “Hobby Lobby” case, one might easily forget that just two years ago they were singing the Court’s praises after it refused to declare ObamaCare unconstitutional. Then again, such extreme emotional swings should not be unexpected when one’s perception of justice is based not on law, but on politics and emotion. Therefore, in spite of a ruling that was far more limited in scope than could easily have been the case, the Left’s over-the-top reaction to Hobby Lobby is based on myth and delusion. Below are the top five liberal myths about the Hobby Lobby case, and how one might explain why they are wrong.

Case Overview

In a 5-4 decision on June 30th, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that the “contraceptive mandate” in ObamaCare violated the religious freedom of certain for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby, which are morally opposed to such forms of contraceptives. While the Court recognized that contraceptive coverage was a “compelling government interest” (as a matter of law), it did not consider that forcing business owners to pay for such coverage was the “least restrictive” way of fulfilling this interest because of the impact on the free exercise religious freedom. In short, the Court extended to “closely held corporations” the same protections under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) afforded currently to non-profit corporations.

Myth 1: “The Supreme Court just declared a war on women.”

For many liberals, the notion of a “war on women” underlies most conservative legislative or legal victories. It is therefore not surprising the Hobby Lobby decision precipitated indignant howls from feminists and liberals. Even though the Court ruled that business owners did not have to pay for coverage, the majority stated the government could pay for such coverage directly, or utilize the same accommodations afforded to RFRA-exempted non-profit organizations currently applicable. The party who pays for the cost of covering contraceptives, not access to contraceptives, is the only aspect changed by the Court’s ruling. Thus, if the Left’s true concern was access to contraceptive coverage, then its outrage over the decision would be entirely unwarranted; but, of course, it is not.

Myth 2: “What is next, blood transfusions and vaccines?”

Even before the Court decided the case, liberals were sliding down the slippery slope of what else was next on the chopping block should the Justices rule in Hobby Lobby’s favor. Perhaps this is why Justice Samuel Alito directly confronted this paranoia in his ruling; noting that the Court’s narrowly-tailored opinion applied only to the contraceptive mandate, and “should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates . . . must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.” Suggesting the ruling affords religious business owners a license for denying all other types of coverage is not only a gross misreading of the case, but contradicts what the Justices explicitly stated.

Myth 3: “The LGBT community should be concerned.”

Once again, such a claim falls well outside the intentionally narrow scope of the ruling, and directly contradicts the Court’s opinion. In the majority opinion summary, Alito wrote that the ruling does not “provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.” The intention of the Court with regard to the decision’s application to discriminatory practices could not be any clearer, which is why this myth is pure fear-mongering. Sure, a company might try to challenge anti-discrimination laws based on this ruling (courts cannot anticipatorily stop people from making frivolous challenges), but it is highly doubtful such a challenge would make it out of the lower courts based on this decision alone.

Myth 4: “Corporations don’t have a right to religious expression.”

The legal concept of corporate “personhood” dates back more than a century, and is the basis of much of modern corporate law. The concept of personhood protects individual shareholders from the actions of the business; so, for example, a person owning just a few shares of stock in General Motors cannot be sued directly if a Chevy Volt catches on fire. Furthermore, the courts have recognized certain fundamental protections for individuals should also be extended to corporations; preventing the government from seizing company assets without a warrant, or shutting down companies for speech with which government officials might disagree. The RFRA protects individuals from being compelled by law to take actions that violate their religious beliefs. This protection was then (naturally) extended to non-profit corporations, such as religious organizations. It seems unreasonable, as the Court stated, that a for-profit corporation ceases to be entitled to hold religious views simply because it makes a profit. After all, were not liberals protesting Chick-Fil-A two years ago for the company’s “religious expression” of Christian values?

Myth 5: “Employers can now mandate health decisions for their employees.”

When an employee agrees to work for a company, he or she agrees to certain salary and incentives as compensation. A mandate is not much of a mandate when it is a part of a voluntary agreement between two parties. Therefore, if an employee does not like the type of coverage offered by an employer -- the same as he or she might not like the salary offered – they are free to find employment elsewhere. Hired employees have no more right to demand customized insurance coverage than they do a corner office.