Here’s the federal district judge’s ruling in Hobby Lobby’s suit against the HHS mandate. Non-religious corporations don’t have religious liberty under the First Amendment and aren’t persons protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Greens—owners of the privately held company—certainly are persons for RFRA purposes, but their religious liberty isn’t “substantially” burdened by the requirement that the company they own pay for drugs and procedures to which they are conscientiously opposed. As different judges have already come to different conclusions in substantially similar cases, this is not the end of the road for this very popular (at least in my neck of the woods) chain.

To my mind, the best defense of religious liberty is for government not to make laws that so directly violate the consciences of so many people. A government responsive to a citizenry that cared deeply about religious liberty would think twice before imposing such requirements. From what I can tell, the Obama Administration—by insisting upon the protection of rights which a corporation’s failure to subsidize doesn’t violate—is actively working to muddy the waters, creating a conflict between two rights claims when there need not be any. The practical consequence is to undermine people’s attachment to religious liberty. In other words, “objectively” (as my Marxist grad school colleagues used to say) the Obama Administration is opposed to religious liberty.

Would that it were not so.

Articles by Joseph Knippenberg

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