The argument that the Hobby Lobby decision is somehow a "liberal" decision never fails to amuse me, but that's what Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Brett McDonnell posits in his article this week, chiding the left for being "close-minded" to the "freedoms" that the decision brings.
Is RFRA a conservative power grab giving religious lawbreakers a “get out of jail free” card?
History suggests otherwise. RFRA reversed Justice Antonin Scalia’s 1990 opinion that denied protection to Native Americans who used peyote in religious ceremonies. The dissenters in that case were Justices Harry Blackmun, William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall — three of the leading liberals in the court’s history. Those liberals lost in court, but Congress vindicated them three years later by passing RFRA.
Democrats controlled both the Senate and the House at the time, and RFRA passed by a 97-3 vote in the Senate and unanimously in the House. That is not a typo.
Bill Clinton signed RFRA into law.
Thus, liberal titans on the court, in Congress and in the White House vigorously supported RFRA’s strong protection of religious liberty.
Why? . Because RFRA reflects the core liberal values of toleration and respect for diverse viewpoints. In a world with a litter of laws and a rainbow of religions, even well-intentioned laws sometimes seriously burden some believers. If we can ease that burden by modifying the law while doing little damage to the law’s legitimate purpose, we make it easier for diverse groups to coexist.
The court plausibly found that a modest extension of an already-existing accommodation for some religious organizations to corporations like Hobby Lobby would avoid burdening religious beliefs without hurting the company’s employees.
What we have in Hobby Lobby is an opinion grounded in corporate social responsibility and respect for diverse points of view. The Supreme Court’s five conservatives have delivered a profoundly liberal opinion. Too bad so many liberals don’t seem to realize it.
Here's the problem that Prof. McDonnell clearly does not understand: Hobby Lobby's religious freedom comes directly at the financial expense of female employees of the company. They will now have to pay full price for contraception, something the the company itself gladly chose to cover while RFRA was in effect. In fact, Hobby Lobby didn't change its tune until another law, the Affordable Care Act, was passed. Only then did it become a "religious burden" to the company.
There is nothing "liberal" about the Hobby Lobby decision. It penalizes financially only one class of employees -- women -- and does so in a way that allows multiple corporations to penalize employees at their direct expense, for a variety of reasons.
The decision has already been expanded to include all forms of female contraception, and leaves the door open for these "closely held" family owned companies to continue to push their beliefs upon employee at their monetary expense.
That's clearly unconstitutional, but what does an individual's right to freedom from religion? It apparently no longer matters.