Day One of life in Hobby Lobby America
How are things looking on our first full day of life in the Hobby Lobby theocracy? Red-faced liberals screamed that yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in favor of the crafting superstore would instantly transform America: crushing women like so many stickers pressed into a scrapbook, embroidering mere anarchy into the fabric of this great nation, and turning back the hand-painted sequin-encrusted clock to the dark days of 2009, when nobody had access to contraceptives. So what’s the word on the street from Day One of the grim sharia state imposed on us by Justice Sam Alito and his fellow patriarchs?
Well, for one thing, Hobby Lobby employees still enjoy employer coverage for 16 types of contraceptive, without co-payments. This will come as a shock to anyone who believes the crap spewed by high-end left-wing propagandists about how the craft superstore is trying to stage a coast-to-coast performance of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The owners of Hobby Lobby never objected to covering contraceptive benefits. They objected to four specific items, which is not the sort of detail progressive groups want to discuss in their fundraising letters.
So yes, liberals, your leaders have once again played you for fools. The people who told you the Supreme Court just “restricted access to birth control” lied to you. But I’m sure you don’t mind, because the point of all this never had much to do with anyone’s access to birth control. This was a political spectator sport, a moment of catharsis for a Left dejected by Barack Obama’s miserable performance. For a day or two, nobody’s paying attention to the VA, or the IRS, or Iraq. Instead, the old liberal team gets to have a big pep rally and posture as plucky underdog heroes out to battle the mullahs of Hobbilobbistan on behalf of oppressed women. So we’ve got that going on today, in spades. It’ll probably last until the Fourth of July holiday break.
How about that torrent of businesses owned by religious fanatics looking to violate all kinds of laws, which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned about in her goofy nervous breakdown of a dissent? Well, it turns out Justice Ginsburg lied to you too, liberals. She lied right into the pages of a Supreme Court decision, falsely asserting the Court “holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
In truth, the Court held no such thing, and Ginsburg knows it. Her dissent is a political tract, not an act of jurisprudence. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act – voted for by the likes of Senators Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and Harry Reid, before President Bill Clinton signed it into law – is in effect, the “settled law of the land,” just as it has been since 1993. Contrary to Ginsburg’s political screed, the RFRA creates a playing field tilted heavily in favor of government. Religious objections face stern tests before any sort of special exemption is granted. The government is given opportunities to make reasonable accommodations with religious conscience – something the Obama Administration could have done with Hobby Lobby and their fellow litigants, Conestoga Wood Specialties, but arrogantly refused to do.
That’s partly because collectivist ideology demands absolute submission from the private sector. The idea someone’s individual religious conscience could transcend the dictates of the almighty State makes the people we laughingly refer to as “liberals” physically sick. Who the heck do those Bible-thumpers think they are? The consensus has spoken, and everything it says is good for us must be accepted by all! Hobby Lobby picked a big fight by making a very modest demand. It’s a big fight because the stakes were small. The point of absolute submission is made even more effectively by commanding corporations (which people like Justice Ginsburg evidently think lose all of their rights when they enter the market economy, which is owned by the collectivist State in much the same sense that kings of old owned every square inch of their nations) to pay for what their employees can easily buy on their own.
The good news for fans of the Leviathan State is that its power to control our lives, and force “free” citizens to buy products the Ruling Class approves of, has not been greatly injured by yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling. ObamaCare is still there. Only a few closely-held companies enjoy any relief, and it’s very narrowly defined. Big Government remains the lead author of our fates. The government is still very much in our bedrooms, with a wad of other people’s money in its hands, exactly the way liberals wanted.
The other reason Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services went to war with Hobby Lobby is that tales of making reasonable agreements with nice people don’t persuade Democrat donors to write checks. A lot of fundraising email will be spawned from this Supreme Court decision, long after normal people have forgotten what the fuss was supposed to be about.
I tend to think “sweeping” Supreme Court decisions can be summed up in a single sentence, without the use of semi-colons. The Hobby Lobby ruling fails that test, but it seems like it will inject a dash of precedent into some other pending cases. For example, Catholic TV network EWTN won an injunction from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday – the day before they would have started paying big fines to the IRS for their defiance – because the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an emergency appeal on their behalf, and the Hobby Lobby decision seems to have made EWTN’s case look winnable enough to earn some temporary relief.
We’ll have to wait until cases like this run their course before we can fully measure the fallout from Monday’s ruling, but it’s not likely to be the society-altering neutron bomb it was portrayed as yesterday (mostly by critics with blood pressure issues, but also by some of its supporters.) It might lead to further trouble for ObamaCare’s mandates, but even in the best/worst case scenario (depending on your opinion of the Affordable Care Act) it’s not going to bring the whole thing crashing down. The aforementioned Becket Fund for Religious Liberty talked about possible future ramifications in their salute to the Hobby Lobby ruling yesterday:
“This is a landmark decision for religious freedom. The Supreme Court recognized that Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby. “This ruling will protect people of all faiths. The Court’s reasoning was clear, and it should have been clear to the government. You can’t argue there are no alternative means when your agency is busy creating alternative means for other people.”
The decision also has important implications for over 50 pending lawsuits brought by non-profit religious organizations, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, which are also challenging the mandate. In two different respects, the Supreme Court strongly signaled that the mandate may be struck down in those cases too. First, it rejected the government’s argument that there was no burden on the Green’s religious exercise because only third parties use the drugs. Second, it held that the government could simply pay for contraception coverage with its own funds, rather than requiring private employers to do so.
“The handwriting is on the wall,” said Windham. “The Court has strongly signaled that the mandate is in trouble in the non-profit cases, too.”
None of which means that anyone will be forbidden from purchasing contraceptives, or even paying for contraceptive coverage for their employees. But in the shriveled word of the modern status, that which is not mandatory is forbidden; that which is not subsidized is unaffordable.
And let’s not forget that some pending cases could be shaped by assertions made in Justice Ginsburg’s dissent, in much the same way Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent from the decision that partially overturned the Defense of Marriage Act has proven useful to suits against gay-marriage bans. That warning comes to us from… MSNBC. I wonder if next year might bring some rueful “second look at the Ginsburg dissent” pieces from pundits who are currently treating it like the collectivist version of the Federalist Papers.
One other observation about Day One in Hobby Lobby’s America: everyone still seems to be saying the same thing they said last week, except louder. Liberal enthusiasm for telling dissenters to pipe down after 5-4 Supreme Court decisions has faded considerably. They still carry on as if the sincerity of their opponents was in doubt. Much of modern “liberalism” is an effort to provide moral and intellectual cover to demands for free stuff, because the people who want free stuff don’t want to feel the tiniest twinge of shame about it – they need to believe they operate on a higher moral plane than those who provide what they demand. Part of that enterprise involves constructing fantastic, sinister narratives about anyone who is reluctant to pay for the free stuff. They have to be portrayed not as conscientious objectors, or even as people seeking reasoned protection for their own rights, but rather as mustache-twirling villains with improbable secret agendas… such as a black-hearted desire to prevent women from having access to birth control, because they think God wants more babies, or just because they’re mean and like seeing women cry.
In a better society, the arguments made in the Hobby Lobby case, and the decision reached by the Court, would dispel some of these caricatures, and convince even critical readers that the debate was serious. Instead, it’s causing the bigots to double down on their intolerance. Let’s finish up with one woman’s thoughts on that. Take it away, Megyn Kelly!