The Left’s Reaction to the Hobby Lobby Verdict

The American left’s reaction to the Hobby Lobby case ruling is a little strange.  It is not strange that they are disappointed.  Their side lost, so it is understandable that they would be unhappy about that.  It is strange, however, that they are so angry about it, and so ready to accuse the Court majority of behaving politically.

The ruling is based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  That law was designed on purpose–and in part by leading liberals of the time–to make the government carry the burden of justification when its regulations impose on people’s religious practices.  The law, in other words, was written to make it hard for the government to prevail in a suit like this.  Given that baseline, why should anybody be shocked that a majority of the Court found in favor of the people challenging the regulation.  In this light, you could as easily suspect the dissenting minority of behaving in a politicized fashion.


More sophisticated critics from the left have noted that the majority opinion seems to lack any clear principles, and that this makes it seem more like a political or policy judgment than a legal one.  After all, the Court said that the ruling only applies to closely held companies, and that it only applies to contraceptives, and not necessarily to other forms of “health care” that the government might mandate.  How, these critics ask, do you get genuine principles to justify such distinctions?

They have a point.  But they are also being highly selective in their criticism.  Huge swaths of the Court’s contemporary jurisprudence–in relation to civil rights, in relation to capital punishment, and in many more areas–depend on the Court’s making such judgments about particulars–and in a way that seems very unrelated to legal principles compelling a particular outcome by the force of their logic.  This kind of thing goes on all the time now, and liberals have in many cases cheered the outcomes it has produced.  The phenomenon is in fact troubling, but a real response to it calls for rethinking the modern approach to judicial review.  And this would require that both the left and the right get used to asking the Court to do less rather than more for them.  But this aim is not advanced by either side complaining about such things when it loses and only when it loses.

Also, the critics might want to consult the text of the relevant passages of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which are quoted here, at the beginning of the Court’s opinion).  If they do they will see that the law practically forces on the Court the kind of judgments that some have deplored.  It says that when government policy imposes a “substantial burden” on a person’s exercise of his religion the government must show that the policy advances a compelling government interest by the least restrictive means possible.  All three of the key concepts–“substantial burden,” “compelling governmental interest,” and “least restrictive means”–are highly vague and subject to endless manipulation.  It is no surprise if a Court that uses them sets forth lines of reasoning that look unprincipled.


Categories:Religious Liberty

  • Jacob Alvarez

    I think our courts are using less reason and more emotion these days.

  • Will

    There is the issue of companies having rights that were formerly only given to individuals. Be careful about celebrating that argument too much.

    • Bob

      I know that is popular to frame the resulting ruling in these terms but the courts opinion doesn’t reflect that stereotype. Principally the ruling says that the OWNERS of “closely held” companies (companies with 7 or fewer owners often made up of friends and family) have a First Amendment right that encompass their property. In the same way your home or farm cannot be used in violation of your religious freedoms, either can your business. This explains why the ruling only extends to closely held companies and not publicly traded or employee owned entities.

      I don’t think the argument that “companies are being given constitutional rights” holds any real water. Generally, it seems, the argument is used to rally a political group that is already sympathetic to a pro-choice agenda and not to substantially improve the debate.

    • Anthony Clifton

      A corporation is a group of individuals working together for some purpose.

  • morganB

    It might be interesting if a majority, not possible on the current Supreme Court, of women justices voted 5/4 against granting company covered insurance for a vasectomy. Now, that’s what I call equal justice under the law. Some might even consider it “religious freedom”.

    • faithandfamilyfirst

      Diana, you seem very angry for someone apparently in control of her life. You make so many false statements that it is hard to know where to begin, so I will focus on just one:

      “The religious right has succeeded in turning a generation or more of woman against religion.”

      First, who are the religious right? I don’t know them. They do not exist. If you mean the Catholic Church, then say that.

      Second, the Catholic Church does not just make up “rules” to oppress people. If you want an example of that, look no further than our current federal government. The so-called “rules” that the Church proclaims are really a recipe for the best, happiest, most free existence that you could possible imagine. Why, here’s a great post on that very topic that I highly recommend.

      Third, the Church’s only concern is for the salvation of your (and everyone else’s) soul. Nothing more. Nothing less. Although that is itself everything. You can either accept the path to salvation or reject it. Acceptance means indescribable joy (words can do nothing to express the amazing joy of heaven). Rejection means an eternity separate from God in the clutches of the evil one (and believe me you do not want that). To state that the Church’s teaching is turning women against religion is patently untrue. But even if it is true, then you are simply stating that women are rejecting God’s plan for their eternal happiness. (of course, I note that sadly it is not just women who are doing so; men are also rejecting God in droves, at least in the West — Africa and Asia are altogether different stories).

      If I could break down your post, I would say that you are really just angry that you cannot do whatever you wish. You are angry that God has established a plan for each of our lives, and it is a plan that looks the same today as it did two, three, or even five thousand years ago. Your argument is not about getting free birth control (although if it were, I would question the liberals who in one breath demand that the state stay out of their bedrooms while in the next demand that the state toss dollars into their bedrooms). It is about control. You want it to control everything — what you do and what you want other people to pay for. My guess is that you would also claim a “right” to free abortions. I don’t expect to change your mind, but I would like a little honesty. You want to do whatever you want, while ignoring the consequences. So you are really just trying to force upon the rest of us what you are accusing the rest of us of doing to do. It’s just that you want to be the one calling the shots.

      I can hear not just anger in your post, but despair. It doesn’t have to be that way. God has other, and much better, plans for your life.

      • Diana

        Project much? Typical – facts are so foreign to you that you can’t recognize them.

        I guess you can’t recognize the “relious right, as you appear to be one of them. But here, this will help you:

        The Catholic church has always made up rules to oppress people — lets start with women. NOt long ago, when men were beating their wives the church refused to help them and sent them home telling them it was their fault their husbands had beat them and they just needed to be “better” wives.

        How about all those little boys and girls the Catholic Priests have oppressed over the many decades sexually abusing them while covering it up?

        How about the babies taken from their unwed mothers in Ireland: “For those of you unfamiliar with how, until the 1990s, Ireland dealt with unmarried mothers and their children, here it is: the women were incarcerated in state-funded, church-run institutions called mother and baby homes or Magdalene asylums, where they worked to atone for their sins. Their children were taken from them.

        According to Corless, death rates for children in the Tuam mother and baby home, and in similar institutions, were four to five times that of the general population. A health board report from 1944 on the Tuam home describes emaciated, potbellied children, mentally unwell mothers and appalling overcrowding. But, as Corless points out, this was no different to other homes in Ireland. They all had the same mentality: that these women and children should be punished.”

        I’m sure these “so-called “rules” that the Church proclaims are really a recipe for the best, happiest, most free existence that you could possible imagine” made the mothers of these children and the children themselves believe they must have arrived at Disney Land, the “happiest place on earth.”

        Where are the women priests today? Apparently, not good enough to be priests.

        Based on the vast wealth of the Catholic church, I’m guessing they are far mored concerned with tithing and maintaining their power than with salvation.

        I have no desire to “do whatever” I wish. Nor do I wish to “be the one calling the shots.” Nor do I want the Catholic church, nor any religious zealot calling them either.

        There must always be rules — and the vast majority of our laws are built upon the infringemet of one person’s rights over another’s. You keep your nose out of my business, and I’ll keep mine out of yours. How’s that work for you?

        Quite clearly you have not bothered to learn the history of how the Bible was “created,” nor how it was written. Look up the Council of Nicea — a good place to start. It might give you some perspective.

        I am neither angry nor in despair — you must be projecting, again. God has no plans for me, he/she never has because that mythical person who lives in the sky who somehow was elevated above the Greek Gods of the time simply isn’t. The Catholic church and others have built their golden icons upon your “faith.”

        And having married into a family full of preachers, I DO KNOW what I’m talking about. My own minister came to my mother, not to ask how the church could help her care for my elderly grandmother and great aunt, but to ask her to pay her tithes so the church could install and new air conditioning system.

        Biggest scam in the history of mankind! LOL

    • Anthony Clifton

      I wouldn’t have a problem with that.

  • Diana

    So you somehow assume that any law written by or passed by a liberal somehow makes that an acceptable law? Democrats are no better than Republicans when it comes to writing bad laws and they can be colossal mistakes — NAFTA would be the first to come to mind. Or how about the bi-partisan colossal mistake of repealing Glass-Steagal?

    SCOTUS has now placed religion above of the laws for the those who may not agree with another’s religious beliefs — this is DIRECTLY in opposition to our Constitution wherein our founders deliberately refused to establish a state religion. They wanted neither papal nor the King’s religion in command of our laws. They knew, even in 1776, we were a nation of immigrants with a multitude of religious beliefs from the Quakers in PA to the Anglicans in VA.

    Contrary to the idiocy of Cardinal Dolan who believes birth control meds can be purchased at 7-11 and who apparently knows so little about women’s health care that he fails to understand their health care needs or their financial problems.

    I don’t see the Catholic church taking care of the children born of unwanted pregnancies. Where are your scholarships for these children? Do you feed and care for them each day? Provide free day care while their mothers work?

    What right should an employer have to to choose for their employee the type of health care they should receive? If I were Jewish and demanded you eat no pork as my employee — and that includes while you are NOT working, would that be acceptable to you? What if your employer was Islamic and required all women in his employ to wear burkas? Would that be acceptable to you? Of course not — that there is NO difference in forcing your employees to be held to the standards of their employers.

    And DO NOT tell me they can

    a) work someplace else, if they don’t like it, when there are still 3 people to every job out there,
    b) they can purchase their own insurance when they are not eligible for subsides on the exchange, if their employer provides coverage and could not afford to purchase it on their own. with $8 – $12 per hour wages.

    c) they can purchase their own birth control when NOT everyone can use the generics available at Target – that some women CANNOT take birth control pills due to side effects or if they are high risk cancer patients and an IUD costs $500 – $1000 to purchase. A months income for some of them.

    Give me a break -it is morally unacceptable to push someone else’s religious beliefs on another. Period.

    And when that law is repealed, the court’s decision on this will not stand, if that is their alleged basis for this decision, which is more than likely a garbage excuse for the worst Supreme Court in this history of the country. One bad decision by the court, such as Dred Scott, may have to take a back seat the the harm done in SO MANY decisions made by this court.

    The religious right has succeeded in turning a generation or more of woman against religion.

    As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Your coffers will begin to whither and as you delve more any more into social issues blurring the line between church and state, you will find yourselves being taxed as Italy has done.

    For all Pope Francis has to say, until he puts his money where his mouth is and starts divesting the church of their wealth to help close the wealth gap between the haves and the have nots, he will be nothing more than a hypocrite. He should demand all Catholic churches be taxed and sell their icons of faith that Jesus preached against.

    • Dan

      …….perfect illustration of the point of the blog post.

      Anger and not a little bit of hysteria.

    • Harry Smith

      Bravo Diana! How wonderful to hear from a woman on these issues.

  • Russell Lewis

    Get real, the Left’s reaction is no different than the right’s reaction would be if the decision had gone the other way.

    • Jacob Alvarez

      “And this would require that both the left and the right get used to asking the Court to do less rather than more for them. But this aim is not advanced by either side complaining about such things when it loses and only when it loses.”

      I believe the author realizes that both sides do this and that they need to stop.



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