Why a Hobby Lobby Victory at the Supreme Court is Important to Everyone

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the Hobby Lobby HHS mandate case to decide whether they have constitutionally guaranteed religious rights as a corporation.

Hobby Lobby is a Christian owned craft store chain. It is run by the Green family according their Christian values. It is closed on Sundays, pays employees far above the minimum wage, and limits store hours so employees can spend more time with their families.

Founder David Green says his “family cannot in conscience subsidize certain mandated drugs and devices that can cause abortion in early pregnancy.”

Why does this matter, especially for those who consider themselves secular or non-religious?

The Heritage Foundation’s Evan Bernick says it should matter to everyone.

All Americans should support Hobby Lobby, regardless of whether they believe in one God, 20 gods, or none at all.

Bernick explains how Supreme Court jurisprudence has dealt with this type of question historically:

All Americans should support Hobby Lobby, regardless of whether they believe in one God, 20 gods, or none at all.

The First Amendment to the Constitution stands as a bulwark against this sort of coercion. In Employment Division v. Smith (1990), the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment allows the government to pass “neutral, generally applicable” laws that impose substantial burdens on religious exercise. But in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah (1993), the court clarified that a law is not “generally applicable” if it regulates religiously motivated conduct while leaving similar, secular conduct unregulated.

Notably, that second case concerned a corporation. Never in its jurisprudence on free exercise of religion has the Supreme Court treated organizational persons differently from individuals.

“Federal law, too, protects the religious liberty of Hobby Lobby,” he adds. “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides that the federal government may substantially burden the exercise of religion only if it ‘demonstrates that application of the burden to the person (1) is in furtherance of a compelling government interest and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling interest.'”

Why should this matter to a secular individual? Bernick states:

So the Constitution and federal law protects the Greens against the HHS mandate of Obamacare. Is that something for secular folks to celebrate?

The answer is yes. Individuals are free to choose whether or not to become Hobby Lobby’s employees, and the Greens’ faith-based business practices are open and obvious. Employees also are free to work for the Greens and either pay for additional services out of pocket or purchase supplemental insurance.

The Greens, however, can’t escape the HHS mandate. It is not just an assault on religious liberty. It is an assault on an idea as old as the nation: that the government can’t lightly force us to give up our most deeply held beliefs as the price of earning a living. Every American has an interest in being protected from such assaults.


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