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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hobby Lobby Works In Mysterious Ways


[T]he fact that the managers of the Hobby Lobby never noticed that the contraceptive coverage in the insurance they offered to their employees intolerably contradicted their Deeply Held Religious Principles until the Republican Party decided that the  Affordable Care Act was the greatest threat to freedom in known human history tells you what you need to know about how seriously we should take these legal arguments.

Indeed.  Apparently politics influences religious beliefs.


March 26, 2014 | Permalink


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From what I can tell, no court has ever ruled on the validity of Hobby Lobby's opinion about the contraceptives in question: that is, does the sincerity of their belief depend on the validity of their factual claim (that IUD's, Plan B, and Ella are abortifacients?). Or is sincerity of belief a magic shield that stops further inquiry?

The 10th Circuit remanded to the trial court on issues related to a preliminary injunction, which means no final determination of Hobby Lobby's position on the facts was made by a trial court. So all the Supremes are deciding right now is whether or not Hobby Lobby can take this case to trial; or, more accurately, I think all they are really ruling on is whether or not Hobby Lobby has standing on these facts to seek injunctive relief.

I don't think, IOW, there are enough facts here for the Supremes to grant relief. All they can do is remand to the trial court in accordance with the 10th Cir. opinion, which remanded for more work on the injunction issue consistent with the appellate opinion; or overrule the 10th Cir. and say Hobby Lobby can't sue under RFRA, and is barred by the 1st Amendment from bringing a claim; or that the 10th Cir. erred in part, and remand to them for further consideration (this is the least likely outcome, I have to say).

I don't see the Court granting Hobby Lobby the relief they seek, in other words, because the facts are not all in, and no court has yet ruled on whether Hobby Lobby's sincere belief outweighs their mistaken opinion about contraceptives (Kennedy's bewilderment notwithstanding).

Anyway, it explains why the case is before the Supremes on what seems to be a strange set of facts (or, rather, non-facts). And, ultimately, I think that's where the decision really has to turn: is a sincerely held religious belief that is contrary to scientific fact still to be held superior to the science when the determination affects third parties adversely? I mean, it's fine if the Green family wants to declare the earth flat based on sincerely held religious beliefs; but if that clearly erroneous factual belief affects their employees adversely, are they still entitled to impose it on them?

Posted by: Rmj | Mar 26, 2014 8:41:07 AM

I didn't realize they needed facts to make a decision. Weird.

Posted by: NTodd | Mar 26, 2014 8:44:02 AM

Facts determine what law applies, and what relief is granted (or not).

So far, the Supremes are only considering a legal issue: can Hobby Lobby bring a claim under RFRA, and can that claim be valid under RFRA for a corporation? If so, we're back to the facts of Hobby Lobby's claim, and whether or not they can be granted relief on the facts presented.

Just because they can validly make a claim, doesn't mean they are entitled to relief by the courts.

So I respectfully disagree with LGM: the facts haven't been determined yet, and the legal issues are still validly under consideration. But their determination won't decide that Hobby Lobby wins in the trial court. It just means they go back there (or not, depending on whether their RFRA claim is allowed or not) and start presenting facts.

Which is where I think it gets really interesting.

Posted by: Rmj | Mar 26, 2014 9:13:53 AM

"Just because they can validly make a claim, doesn't mean they are entitled to relief by the courts."

Yeah, that's where I think I originally misread Scalia...

Posted by: NTodd | Mar 26, 2014 9:23:17 AM

Well, perhaps this case will clear up a little theological question.

"Corporations are people, my friends", said Romney

BUT: Corporations do not breath, they cannot feel pain or joy, no one even claims that they have a unique, individual soul. In principle, they are immortal, and can be present and acting in many places at once.

That's not a human, not a person.

Is it a DEMON?

Massachusetts might even still have laws on the books about what to do about Demons. I doubt they get equal rights.

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki | Mar 26, 2014 11:00:46 AM

It still blows my mind that a statutorily created entity like a corporation, designed to pool money and act as a shield against the personal liability of the principals of said entity cannot be governed by the same statutory framework whence their existence came, is beyond the reach of Congress because the SCOTUS decided that these entities are "people".

How can that be a constitutional principal? and even if it is a constitutional principal (the rights of a person are not in doubt), why can't a statute be passed that says, no, a corporation is not a person, it's a statutory creature that is not entitled to any constitutional rights of its own unless we, the creators of the statutes, say it is, and is entitled to only those rights we say it has?

I haven't heard this argument made, never mind being rebutted. Maybe it's just too stupid to be considered, maybe it's way off the mark, but geez, don't it make sense?

Posted by: Howlin Wolfe | Mar 27, 2014 11:58:23 AM

Mixed up "principal" and "principle" again. Don't hate me.

Posted by: Howlin Wolfe | Mar 27, 2014 11:59:28 AM

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