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 Townhall.com, and Bob Unruh at wnd.com, 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.
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
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.
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.
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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