Hobby Lobby and What's Next for Religious Freedom
No sooner had the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case been announced than a narrative began to take shape in the mainstream media. In this narrative, the victory for the Green and Hahn families was a defeat for untold numbers of American women.
In a particularly egregious example of this narrative, Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted that she could not believe that “we live in a world where we’d even consider letting big corps deny women access to basic care based on vague moral objections.”
While, to be fair, Warren isn’t a member of the media, her take is representative of the misrepresentation of the Court’s decision. For instance, the “corps” she refers to are family-owned businesses, families that include women like Barbara Green who supported the challenge to the HHS mandate.
Furthermore, no one is denying anyone “basic health care.” The decisions involve a particular group of abortion-inducing drugs. In fact, as the Court noted, “the Hahns and Greens and their companies have religious reasons for providing health-insurance coverage for their employees.” They didn’t need the Affordable Care Act to do the right thing by their employees.
It’s not only healthcare. A recent Time magazine profile of the Greens noted that the starting wage at Hobby Lobby is $15 an hour, twice the minimum wage in Oklahoma, where the company is based. And they are, as one person quoted by Time put it, practitioners of a “radical generosity.”
All of which makes talk about “vague moral objections,” well, objectionable. The same beliefs that motivate their generosity prompted them, as a last resort, to challenge the HHS mandate.
An especially astute take on the case was written by Emma Green of the Atlantic Monthly. After recounting the basic facts of the case and the legal issues decided by the Court, she approvingly quotes John DiIulio of the Brookings Institution who said, “Love it or loathe it, the Hobby Lobby decision is limited in scope.”
He’s right. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of family-owned-and-operated companies for whom, as Time said about the Greens, “the business is the mission.” It did so in a way that explicitly foreclosed that kind of worst-case scenarios bandied about the most strident supporters of the HHS mandate.
What’s more, as Green writes, the decision doesn’t “necessarily prevent women who work at Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood, or other religious companies from accessing birth control through their insurance plans.”
Actually, they already could before the decision: the Greens and Hahns only objected to four of the twenty contraceptive methods listed by HHS.
What the decision means is that these families, and others like them, don’t have to pay for contraceptive methods that violate their conscience.
So what are Christians to make of the decision? For starters, we should consider a victory and be thankful for the decision. If HHS and the mandate’s supporters had prevailed, they would have created an entire class of people who would have to choose between following their conscience and availing themselves of the legal protections afforded by incorporation.
What the decision does is not so much advance the cause of religious liberty as draw a line beyond which government cannot go in a particular area, that is, health care. There are plenty of battles in other areas waiting to be waged.
So while the decision is a cause for celebration, its narrow scope is also a reminder that plenty of work remains to be done.
Yesterday, Eric Metaxas thanked the Green and Hahn families for standing up against the mandate. Amen to that. Thanks as well to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which argued the case so effectively before the Court. And thanks to the many organizations, including the Christian Legal Society and Prison Fellowship Ministries, that filed amicus briefs defending religious freedom. These organizations deserve our support.
For more on the Hobby Lobby case, come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: July 2, 2014