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Hobby Lobby: Government Can't Violate Religious Liberties Willy-Nilly

July 1, 2014 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

By now you’ve no doubt heard that the Supreme Court ruled corporations can fire women who use birth control and that religion trumps all other values in constitutional jurisprudence. At least that’s what my Twitter feed tells me.

But what was at stake in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby actually has nothing to do with the power of big business, the freedom to use any kind of legal contraceptive, or how to balance religious liberty against other constitutional considerations. Much like Citizens United (which struck down restrictions on corporate political speech without touching campaign contribution limits) and Shelby  County (which struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act because it was based on obsolete voting data that didn’t reflect current realities as constitutionally required), Hobby Lobby is doomed to be misunderstood. The case now enters the “war on women” echo circus—as if half the plaintiffs challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptives mandate weren’t women—or possibly some more bizarre corner of the Obamadämmerung.

Indeed, if you walked by the Supreme Court when its final opinions were coming down, you’d be excused for thinking that the justices were about to rule on some mega-case combining gay rights, abortion, and the death penalty. But no number of rainbow flags or “keep your rosaries off my ovaries” chants could change the fact that Hobby Lobby was actually a rather straightforward question of statutory interpretation regarding whether the government was justified in this particular case in overriding religious liberties.

The Supreme Court evaluated that question and ruled 5-4 that closely held corporations can’t be forced to pay for all of their employees’ contraceptives if doing so would violate their religious beliefs. There was no constitutional decision, no expansion of corporate rights, and no weighing of religion versus the right to use birth control.

It All Began With Government Aggression

Let’s unpack that. This case began when the Department of Health and Human Services included 20 contraceptives as part of the “minimum essential coverage” that all health insurance plans had to satisfy to comply with Obamacare’s employer mandate. A host of employers objected on religious grounds to four of the items on that list because these particular methods of contraception prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

Now, whether you call such devices and pills “abortifacients” or not is a question of semantics. I don’t have a problem with them, but David and Barbara Green, the founders and owners of the arts-and-crafts emporium Hobby Lobby Inc.—who …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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