The US Supreme Court’s decision on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby announced on Monday produced predictable joy and angst from those on the political poles, but I must confess to some surprise at how many seem either surprised at the result or find the decision somehow innovative.
Part of the problem is that this case has been looked at in dramatically different light by folks from different ideologies. For those on the right, this has been a straightforward case about religious liberty. For those on the left, it’s about contraception and corporate greed/hypocrisy.
When looking at prior court precedent before the ruling, it seemed fairly obvious to me which direction this ruling would go, mainly because of this court’s prior decisions establishing precedents for corporations as (collections of) people and for exemption-based jurisprudence. That said, there are two main takeaways from this ruling:
1) The SCOTUS is still reticent to require religious groups to do anything that violates their conscience. I think that’s generally a good thing. This is a fairly easy example. There are other, more difficult examples, of course, such as a bakery’s refusal to cook a wedding cake for a union about which they disapprove. Not requiring a religious group to do something against their conscience is also distinct in court precedent from prohibiting religious groups from doing something they otherwise would—e.g. polygamy, ritual murder, etc.
2) This ruling has provided perhaps the best argument yet for decoupling health insurance and employment. It is simply ridiculous that an employer has any say whatsoever concerning an employee’s health care coverage or decisions. But that problem is unfortunately far less politically expedient to solve.