The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its ruling in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby on June 26, and the closer we get to that date the more frantic liberals become. Their fear of a decision in favor of the arts and crafts chain, whose owners have challenged the constitutionality of Obamacare’s contraception mandate on the grounds that it violates their religious liberty, has reached such a pitch that they are making claims that transcend the merely portentous. Their warnings concerning the consequences of a high court win for the Green family, the company’s owners, have now become downright apocalyptic.
The supporters of Obamacare’s contraception mandate seem to believe that a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby will turn the sun as black as sackcloth and the moon blood red. The four horsemen of their imagined apocalypse will burst forth upon the nation thus: There will be a catastrophic curtailment in the reproductive rights of women, the de facto nullification of various anti-discrimination laws designed to protect workers from venal employers, a dramatic reduction in employee access to a long list of essential health care benefits, and the destruction of Jefferson’s fabled “wall of separation” between church and state.
The first and most ominous of Hobby Lobby’s four horsemen is, of course, the reduced access to contraceptives that millions of women will allegedly endure if the Supreme Court decides the case in favor of the Green family. But would anyone really lose access to contraception if the justices so rule? Of course not. As the company and its lawyers have repeatedly pointed out, “The Green family has no moral objection to the use of 16 of 20 preventive contraceptives required in the mandate, and Hobby Lobby will continue its longstanding practice of covering these preventive contraceptives for its employees.”
In other words, the owners of Hobby Lobby are perfectly willing to provide and pay for contraception coverage for its employees. What they refuse to do is pay for several life-threatening drugs and devices: “These drugs include Plan B and Ella, the so-called morning-after pill and the week-after pill. Covering these drugs and devices would violate their deeply held religious belief that life begins at the moment of conception, when an egg is fertilized.” They haven’t even tried to prevent their employees from accessing these drugs. They simply don’t believe the government has the right to make them pay the bill.
Another of the horsemen whom the left claims will be unleashed by a Hobby Lobby victory is the dark knight of discrimination. And, for them, any compromise on the mandate will give him free rein. Media Matters for America recently denounced my suggestion in this space that the Court might differentiate between closely held private corporations and large publicly-traded entities. I merely noted that, during oral arguments, Justice Roberts hinted at such a compromise. Meagan Hatcher Mays, the author of theMedia Matters post, responded by shrieking that such a ruling would “open a ‘Pandora’s Box’ of discrimination.”
According to this line of reasoning, there are countless small corporations whose mean-spirited owners anxiously await a Hobby Lobby win so they can launch a reign of terror on lesbians, gays, HIV victims, etc. That there is no evidence to support this nonsense is evidently lost on Mays. But, then, it isn’t clear that research is her strong suit: “[A] ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby would be unprecedented because the Court has never held that the Free Exercise Clause applies to non-religious, for-profit corporations.” Mays is obviously unfamiliar with other unprecedented rulings involving such things as “penumbral rights.”
In addition to denying women access to contraception and unleashing a wave of employer discrimination, our liberal friends tell us that a ruling in favor of the arts and crafts chain will set us on a slippery slope that will lead to the denial of insurance coverage to countless workers for health services unrelated to birth control: “Taking the Hobby Lobby's argument to its logical conclusion, what if you're a plumber whose company happens to be owned by Jehovah's Witnesses: should your boss have the right to determine that your health insurance won’t cover any surgeries or procedures that involve blood transfusions?”
Predictably, this general issue was raised by Justice Kagan during the March 25 oral arguments. She asked why the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), upon which Hobby Lobby based its arguments before the Court, could not be similarly used by companies who claim their religious beliefs prevent them from obeying sex discrimination, family leave, and child labor laws. Justice Scalia countered by asking how many such cases had been brought during the 25 years RFRA has been on the books. The answer was, “Very few of these cases have been brought.” The slippery slope evidently isn’t very slippery.
The final horseman in the left’s apocalyptic stable is the threat Hobby Lobby poses to the separation of church and state. If you think this claim is so hysterical that even progressives would hesitate to make a big deal of it, consult Professor Joel Paul of the Hastings College of Law at the University of California. Last week Professor Paul wrote a piece for the Huffington Post in which he declared, “[A] decision in favor of Hobby Lobby would undermine both corporate law and the separation of church and state.” Oddly, he fails to explain how a victory for the arts and crafts chain could produce such an implausible result.
Yet, like Professor Paul, numerous church-state separation groups have perversely interpreted this case as an attempt to foist a state religion on an unsuspecting populace. The better funded of these have mobilized to do battle with this harbinger of theocratic rule: “Americans United’s senior litigation counsel, Greg Lipper, joined representatives from fellow members of the Coalition for Liberty and Justice (CLJ), which unites faith-based and non-partisan organizations in defense of a robust wall of separation between church and state… to deliver a congressional briefing on the potential consequences of a Hobby Lobby victory.”
The potential consequences of a Hobby Lobby victory have nothing to do with the left’s apocalyptic prophecies of doom. The four horsemen described above are merely chimeras conjured by the fevered imaginations of panicky progressives. Here is how Hobby Lobby views this fight: “The Green family respects the religious convictions of all Americans, including those who do not agree with them. All they are asking is that the government give them the same respect by not forcing them to violate their religious beliefs.” This seems a good deal more reasonable than the wild claims of Obamacare’s hysterical supporters.