Hobby Lobby: The First Martyr Under Obamacare?
"All they [Hobby Lobby] are asking for is a narrow exemption from the law that says they don't have to provide drugs they believe cause abortions," Hobby Lobby attorney Kyle Duncan told CNN affiliate KFOR before Sotomayor's ruling. "Our basic point is the government can't put a corporation in the position of choosing between its faith and following the law."
In support of Hobby Lobby, this past Saturday was designated Hobby Lobby Appreciation Day. Thousands of supporters were expected to shop online or at a store location on January 5 in a show of solidarity with the owners' pro-life stand.
Yet, the health care mandate treads heavily not only on reproductive matters, but even more so on religious freedom. Regardless of one's position on either abortion or national health care, this particular application of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—the requirement by the federal government that a privately owned business be required to purchase goods that violate the owners' demonstrably long-held religious convictions—should trouble all who value religious freedom. No, it should trouble all who value freedom, period. (Full disclosure: My employer, Liberty University, has also filed a lawsuit against other provisions of the health care act; in addition, Liberty is one of many recipients of the charitable giving that characterizes Hobby Lobby's business practices.)
Neither national health care nor abortion is an issue close to being resolved in our nation. Now it appears that long settled, essential matters of religious freedom are being opened up to controversy again, in ways not seen since the decades of our country's founding.
First, the mandate requires private citizens who are also employers to purchase private goods (health insurance services) with private money from non-government companies. Failure to do so places them under penalty of law sufficient to deprive them of their private property. Some might argue that the mandate is no different from requiring pacifists to support war with their tax dollars, but the analogy doesn't hold. Requiring private citizens to pay for abortifacients is more akin to requiring the Amish to use their own money to purchase weapons from a private gun dealer or be forced into bankruptcy. Or kind of like forcing anti-pornography legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon to buy pornography for her law students.
Second, the contraception/abortion mandate fundamentally violates freedom of religion. It is equivalent to the old Virginia church tax that paid the Anglican vicar's salary and was deemed to violate the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom of 1786, which disestablished the Episcopal Church as the state church and defended freedom of religion and conscience.This statute was one of the sources that Congress drew from in 1789 while drafting the Bill of Rights, which grant to citizens the free exercise of religion and prohibited Congress from abridging the freedom of religion.