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Hobby Lobby wins for us all



Supreme Court, battleground of the Constitution, rules for Hobby Lobby. But is Neil Gorsuch a good candidate to sit here?

The Hobby Lobby store chain, and more particularly the family that holds all its shares, won their case before the United States Supreme Court. They do not have to give any good or service, as a benefit to those who work for them, when such giving would break their religious faith.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby opinion highlights

The usual Supreme Court mirror sites (Cornell University Law Library and The Oyez Project) have not yet published the full opinions on the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. But Christine Rousselle at,  and Bob Unruh at, both have weighed in. So did Laura Bassett and Ryan J. Reilly at The Huffington Post.

On this the three reports agree: the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that Hobby Lobby, Inc. does not have to provide particular contraceptives to which the owning family objects. The Becket Fund has this page on the Hobby Lobby case. The case turned on three oral contraceptive drugs, and one contraceptive device, that are not contraceptives at all. They are abortifacients. Stopping conception from beginning is one thing. Wantonly ending a life that has begun in the womb is quite another.

Supreme Court rules for Hobby Lobby

The United States Supreme Court, with several March for Life participants in the foreground. Photo: CNAV files

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services decided all employers must give contraceptives, of all types, to any woman working for them who asks. David Green, patriarch of the family that owns the Hobby Lobby chain, objected to four of twenty contraceptive drugs and devices the HHS “mandate” listed. They did not wait for HHS, or the IRS, to fine them, slap a tax lien on them, or otherwise make them pay. Instead they sued HHS. They asked for a declaratory judgment that the mandate, as applied to these three drugs and this one device, broke the Constitution. It broke the Constitution by forcing them to break their faith.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor. So the government appealed to the Supreme Court. The case named Sylvia Burwell as the certiorari petitioner since she succeeded Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of the HHS department.

Today Mr. Justice Samuel J. Alito wrote for the majority:

We reject the government’s notion that the respondents lose their religious liberty…merely because they choose to organize as a joint-stock corporation.

The Supreme Court today has a habit of insisting on the most narrow construction of their rulings. They do not want lawyers other than themselves citing their rulings as precedent in cases that don’t remotely resemble the cases they decide. So seven other petitioners, asking similar questions, must wait for the Court to decide their cases, if the Court is willing.

Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy joined Justice Alito in his opinion. Justice Ginsburg wrote a nineteen-page dissent, in which Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined.

What this means

Hobby Lobby came through the furnace.

The Three Hebrews in the Fiery Furnace”. From the Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome, Italy. Late 3rd century / Early 4th century.

Twenty-five hundred years ago, a powerful king and head of one of the great superpowers of his day, set up a golden statue of himself. He demanded everyone in his kingdom, and all its dependencies, worship that statue. Anyone who refused, he would have his soldiers throw into a brick-kiln, the kind his people used to produce the glazed colorful bricks for which his kingdom is still famous today.

Three men, whom this king brought to his capital some years before as hostages from a land he conquered, refused. He reminded them he would order them into the furnace if they did not obey. And they said they would walk into that furnace, and accept the death that would result, if their God did not see fit to deliver them from it. But they would not throw another god in His Face, and thus break the number-one Commandment God gave to another national leader, almost a millennium before this.

The king ordered them to enter the furnace. He then ordered the tenders to heat the furnace as hot as they could. Several men died that way, from the blowback. But those three men walked out of that furnace unscathed and unsinged.

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That incident would prove one more shock to this king’s worldview. He wouldn’t fully come around to abandoning the gods of his youth until much later. But this incident surely gave him a clue.

The name of that king is, of course, Nebuchadnezzar. The names of those three were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Today David Green and his family walked out of a legal furnace, unsinged, just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did. The blowback toward the Obama administration, no one has yet begun to measure. Coming as it does after three per curiam rebukes of the Obama administration on other matters of excession of executive authority, the Hobby Lobby decision is a signal of significant blowback.

Nor will it stop here. Devout Christians throughout the country already were telling one another, “Shop Hobby Lobby to support them as they stand against The Contraceptive Mandate.” Surely they will do so the more. Other companies, to whom this decision gives no relief, will lose business to Hobby Lobby, and to other “Hobby Lobbies” in other industries. Will they then gain standing to sue the government, alleging the injury-in-fact that satisfying The Contraceptive Mandate debases their image and makes them lose customers? Stay tuned.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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Fergus Mason

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services decided all employers must give contraceptives, of all types, to any woman working for them who asks.”

No, that’s rubbish. This is not about Hobby Lobby being forced to hand over things they find objectionable. This is about Hobby Lobby demanding control over the services women receive from their doctors. What next? A business run by Jehovah’s Witnesses insisting their employees don’t get blood transfusions? A business run by Christian Scientists demanding their employees don’t get any health care at all?

Fergus Mason

“This is about Hobby Lobby not wanting to pay for things they find objectionable.”

No, it’s about Hobby Lobby dictating what services people can get on their health insurance. Hobby Lobby is a corporation; it doesn’t have opinions or indeed religious beliefs. I also note that employee insurance isn’t going to be any cheaper just because some medicines are verboten, so the company wouldn’t be “paying” in any meaningful sense. Its management are just demanding the right to interfere with the religious freedom of their staff. Frankly I’m surprised you’re not as furious about that as I am. Hobby Lobby staff are Americans, right? Why should they be denied treatment just because some old cross-dresser in Rome says so?

Fergus Mason

“The shareholders of any joint-stock corporation have opinions.”

Sure they do. What they DON’T have is a right to force their religious beliefs on others. An employee’s health insurance is part of their compensation package, given in return for the work they do. Once the company hands it over they have no further say in what happens with it. Hobby Lobby are demanding that right. It’s like one of my clients saying “I’ll pay you your standard rate, but I insist that you don’t spend the money on beer.” Yeah, good luck with that.

Whether or not Hobby Lobby’s shareholders find birth control objectionable is irrelevant. Nobody’s making them use it. However they have no right to force their religious views on anyone else and, by making it difficult for their employees to access health care, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Fergus Mason

“What I see, is the government of the United States forcing atheism on them”

Not at all. Nobody is even suggesting that they can’t believe in whatever god(s) they like.

“forcing them to violate their faith by facilitating murder.”

Birth control isn’t murder. It could be convincingly argued that agitating against condom use in high-HIV areas is murder, but birth control isn’t.

Anyway, it’s entirely likely that the doctors of Hobby Lobby employees are still going to give them their treatment and bill it to the insurance companies as “hormone supplements” or something. The insurance companies will quietly go along because they love birth control; it costs them much less than birth does.

Fergus Mason

“Hobby Lobby never once sought to stop the flow of contraceptives other than four specific forms that cross the line separating contraceptives from abortifacients.”

Interesting. And is this a long-standing opinion of Hobby Lobby’s, or one they coincidentally developed a few days before deciding to sue the government over Obamacare?

Fergus Mason

“Of course it is a long-standing opinion of theirs.”

Uhuh. So why were they happy to provide Plan B on their health insurance scheme until the week before they sued the government?

Fergus Mason

“which contraceptives they would rather give their employees”

Hobby Lobby are a craft shop. I sincerely hope they aren’t giving ANY contraceptives – or other medical treatment – to their employees. That’s not their job.

What Hobby Lobby are doing is taking the tax breaks for providing health benefits to their employees then demanding a say in what medical treatment those employees get – and that is NONE of their business.

Fergus Mason

“for years they had a set of contraceptives they were willing to cover.”

Yes. It included Plan B and Elle, which are both morning-after pills. They are NOT “abortificants” of course, because they work by preventing a potentially fertilised egg from implanting in the uterine wall.

Fergus Mason

“Have you (a) any source(s) for that statement, and (b) an explanation of why I never heard it before today?”

Of course I have a source for it; I don’t make unfounded statements. My source, in fact, is Hobby Lobby’s original filing in civil case CIV-12-1000-HE. As for why you haven’t heard it before, you can’t reasonably expect me to answer that one. Perhaps the news sites you use aren’t giving objective reporting on issues like this?

Fergus Mason

I just discovered something interesting. According to SCOTUS Hobby Lobby employees will still be able to access all 20 FDA-approved contraceptives at no additional cost to themselves, including the four that wackos object to. The tab will be picked up by HHS. So basically Hobby Lobby are demanding government handouts to enable their behaviour. As a right-wing libertarian* I find that pretty repellent.

* – By global standards – US mileage may differ.


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