Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A refresher on the Hobby Lobby case

I'm quite late on this, but seeing as the argument in the consolidated Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases took place at the Supreme Court today, it seemed timely to bring up my prior thoughts on the matter.

Oral arguments seemed to center around whether the contraceptives objected to by the companies induced abortions. The scientific consensus is that the contraceptives do no such thing: they prevent fertilization in the first place. However, according to the New York Times' account, "Mr. Verrilli [the Solicitor General] said he did not question the sincerity of the companies’ beliefs". That, of course, is beside the point: sincerity is not the issue, fact is. Sincerely believing the Sun revolves around the Earth doesn't make it so. As such, the companies are wrong and their objections are without merit. This case should never have made it onto the Supreme Court's docket.

The tremendously disheartening thing is, the conservatives on the Court, including the putative "swing vote", Anthony Kennedy, seem inclined to agree with the companies' argument.

I shake my head in disgust, because the Court would be totally wrong to uphold the companies' position. The only conceivable basis for granting the companies a victory is an indefensible deference to religious sensibilities (and, as I argued before, holding that a corporation has religious sensibilities is beyond absurd). It would violate the First Amendment rights of affected employees. The principle of granting religious sensibilities extreme deference would make it impossible to legislate: nearly any law could be challenged by a company as an infringement on its owners' beliefs, and what would be the basis for contesting the challenge?

The observed attitude during oral arguments is ominous, suggesting the Court is going to make a pernicious and deeply wrongheaded decision in these cases. I hope I'm wrong, but if not, a pox on the majority.

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