It is one thing to be ignorant of a law. There are so many out there that none of us can keep track of them all, including the lawyers. It is quite another matter to be behind the curve on a statute you are debating.
While the outcome of the Hobby Lobby Stores v. Burwell case is still heavily debated, it remains important to consider why the Supreme Court ruled the way it did in this controversial case.
This issue received considerable attention at a recent Feminist Majority conference in which the importance of creating a women’s history museum in DC, the alleged gender pay gap, sexual assault, and female inequality in developing nations were also discussed. “This sets a dangerous precedent for the future of religious liberty and women’s rights,” Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal stated on the day of the decision, before the conference even began.
Actually, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 says it “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless “that burden is least restrictive to means of further compelling governmental agreement.” The question that the court debated was whether “RFRA allows a for-profit corporation to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by Federal Law, based on the Religious Objections of the Corporation’s Owners.” Clearly the RFRA provided the basic structure for the whole court case, which both sides must have realized.
Unfortunately, this point was not brought up by anyone at the Feminist Majority Foundation’s DC Conference. When I asked for further questions about whether they agree or disagree with The Religious Freedom Restoration Act on For-Profit Corporations, the speakers offered no input on whether RFRA was applicable or even what the act entailed. It was quite disconcerting. When asked for further questions, they offered no comments.
(Actually, the Hobby Lobby did cover contraceptives in its employee health care plan—more than a dozen, in fact. The company drew the line at providing the ones that doubled as abortifacients, which induce abortion.)
The court ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby stores. However, the media presented the case simply as a women’s rights issue over a Bible thumper’s ignorance. Yet and still, the case must be examined from a rational legal perspective. While the RFRA was applicable to a family-owned for-profit corporation, an examination should determine if it is applicable to other corporations and small businesses. That was the main argument of the case. It was not simply about women’s issues, Obamacare, and/or religion; it had a deeper meaning- the meaning is structured, based on the liberty and freedom for businesses.