Saturday, October 4, 2014

On Hobby Lobby, Justice Ginsburg was Right

Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker, On Hobby Lobby, Justice Ginsburg was Right

In Hobby Lobby, a narrow five-to-four majority of the Court held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 gave the proprietors of a chain of retail craft stores the right to exempt themselves from certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, the A.C.A. requires firms with more than fifty employees to provide insurance that includes birth-control coverage, or else pay a fine. There was an exemption already for religious institutions. Hobby Lobby, a closely held corporation, is a secular, for-profit business, but the Court held that because the owners of Hobby Lobby held a sincere religious belief that certain forms of birth control caused abortions, they could deny employer-paid insurance coverage for them. Justice Samuel Alito insisted, in his opinion for the Court, that his decision would be very limited in its effect. Responding to the dissenting opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who called it “a decision of startling breadth,” Alito wrote, “Our holding is very specific. We do not hold, as the principal dissent alleges, that for-profit corporations and other commercial enterprises can ‘opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.’ ” Ginsburg, though, wondered where the guidance was for the lower courts when faced with similar claims from employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others).

 

The exchange between the two Justices gets to the heart of the issue in Hobby Lobby. When do religious convictions allow individuals (or corporations) to excuse themselves from obligations that are binding on everyone else?

 

A sampling of court actions since Hobby Lobby suggests that Ginsburg has the better of the argument. She was right: the decision is opening the door for the religiously observant to claim privileges that are not available to anyone else.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2014/10/on-hobby-lobby-justice-ginsburg-was-right.html

Religion, Reproductive Rights | Permalink

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